It was a snappy idea by Tommy Dorsey to add five players from the National White League to our roster before the series with the Jordans, but it did about as much good for us as fur-lined slippers on a horse.
Let’s go back a few days. Me and Cullenbine race out the clubhouse tunnel with everyone else, and here’s three of them stars taking batting practice. Big Johnny Mize from the St. Louis White Redbirds (see photograph), Pistol Pete Reiser from the Brooklyn Honky Dodgers, and even Arky Vaughn, a shortstop for the Allegheny Pillagers who seems to get on base more than anyone and never gets praise for it. Out in the bullpen, Cincy’s Elmer Riddle is getting some tosses in next to Whit Wyatt, the real tough Brooklyn ace who Appling’s already picked to replace Wild Bobby Feller in the rotation. How can these guys not help us win?
Here’s how. Game 1 is a great and rare pitching duel with Pittsburgh’s Max Manning, called “Dr. Cyclops” for his thick glasses, bamboozling us from the get-go. I manage a couple fly outs from the fifth slot in the order, the second one pressing Rap Dixon to the fence, but through four it’s the new guys with our only two hits, a leadoff single by Arky in the 1st and a leadoff double by Pistol Pete two innings later.
Then Cecil Travis opens our 5th with another leadoff hit, this one a crackling triple. The infield comes up and Dickey and Gordon ground out, but then good old Whit Wyatt says enough of this bunk and slams one into the upper deck in right! 2-0 Dorseys! I pound his back so hard when he hits the dugout it’s a miracle my wrist doesn’t break.
Appling thinks we have the game at this point and yanks me for the usual Keller defense, which judging from our last series is no sure thing. It doesn’t really matter, because Wyatt takes his 4-hit shutout into the 7th and falls apart on us.Two singles, two doubles and a sac fly later we’re down 3-2 and Dr. Cyclops has his nasty sidearm stuff back. Sure enough, after Wyatt’s blast, Manning gives us a measly Joe Gordon single in the 8th and nothing else.
In Game 2 it’s Leroy Matlock’s turn to torture us. I sit this one out and have to watch our lineup walk seven times and not score even one of the bums. Ted crushes a 2-run homer but that’s our only thrill, because Thornton Lee throws his first bad game and the Jordans rake him for 14 hits. Amazingly, we’re only down 4-3 to the 9th but our “fireman squad” of Charlie Wagner and Spud Chandler just plain hose themselves by giving up three more runs.
Game 3’s more of the same. Appling’s gotten so desperate he leads Ted Williams off, and he walks twice and homers, but except for three useless Johnny Mize singles, no one else can touch Phil Cockrell. Including me. I get on base thanks to a boot by Buck Leonard in the 6th, then have to hear the boos raining down when Dickey hits into a DP to kill another threat. Riddle keeps it close for us, and again we’re only down by one going to the 8th but reliever Al Benton soils the mound this time. Six Jordan singles, a Hurley McNair double and two awful shortstop plays by Arky end our day, our week, and maybe our pennant chances. Losing three straight at home to a team that just got swept by the Calloways themselves is not a hopeful sign.
JORDANS 000 000 300 – 3 9 0
DORSEYS 000 020 000 – 2 5 1
W-Manning L-Wyatt HR: Wyatt
JORDANS 000 040 003 – 7 14 0
DORSEYS 001 020 000 – 3 6 0
W-Matlock L-Lee HR: T. Williams
JORDANS 000 021 060 – 9 13 1
DORSEYS 001 000 101 – 3 6 3
W-Cockrell L-Riddle HRS: Pennington, T. Williams, Foxx
All of us trudge off in our own directions when it’s finally over, and I know where I’m headed. There’s no better place to smoke your troubles away than the Skunk Den, and believe me, we got enough trouble to earn us a free yearly membership.
The place is packed as usual, and some skinny Italian singer named Frank something croons away next to a piano player but no one seems to be listening. I guess I’d be even more blue about being here if I don’t spot none other than Pittsburgh owner Louie Jordan himself, parked in a rear hookah booth with famous column writer Jupiter Dobbs and a very off duty waitress. They recognize me, nudge the waitress away and wave me over for a Tunisian nightcap.
“You cats didn’t look all that scratchy,” says Jordan, dressed in the most expensive shiny suit I’ve ever seen, “Maybe you oughta get some more players!” He laughs at his own joke, gets out of the booth to make room for me, then nudges my side with an elbow. “Say, there’s a nasty rumor boat sailing around that one of you Dorsey snowboys is courtin’ Blossom Pickering. That true?”
I give him an awkward shrug. “Umm…Not as far as I know.”
“Good. ‘Cause I been trying to woo her with flowers once a month for two years and I don’t like competition.” He cracks up, heads off to the restroom and I slide into the booth.
Now Jupe only took in the final game of our series, and I figure he’d be barking on and on about his Jordans’ sweep, but there’s a heavenly gleam in his eyes and face that seems to have nothing to do with the series, the waitress, or even our late-night refreshment.
“Heathrow? You ever bear witness to something so incredible that it changes your whole perspectus on things?”
“You mean like seeing a comet?”
“Nuh-uh. Let’s keep things basebally here. I mean, I saw Moses Fleetwood Walker’s 4000th hit. I saw the ball Josh hit in Memphis that landed on that barge bound for the Gulf of Mexico.” He takes a long draw on the hookah, lets the black Tunisian dust settle. “But I have never seen a game like the one at Rickwood Field yesterday…”
“Really? I know the Armstrongs won, but—”
“They didn’t just win, Heathrow. They slit those Calloway throats from ear to ear. All my years of following this major league and I have NEVER seen a team play as creepy-good as Louie’s Birmingham Armstrongs are right now.” He takes another long draw, the smoke obscuring his head.
“So what happened?”
He starts to tell me, then just chuckles to himself. I pull out a secret flask of Nova Scotia Ale, hand it to him and he pushes it away. “Damn!” he blurts out, “You trying to get us thrown out of here?”
“Sorry, I thought you might need it. Will you tell me about the game already!”
He leans back in the booth and sighs. Cocks his fedora back on his head, thinks about it more deeply and the gleam comes back in his eyes.
“Well, it was like this…”
* * *
with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber
at ARMSTRONGS 3-9-3, CALLOWAYS 0-4-0
at ARMSTRONGS 10-19-1, CALLOWAYS 9-19-0 (12 innings)
at ARMSTRONGS 4-10-0, CALLOWAYS 3-3-1
First game was just Big Bill Foster suffocating the Callows with a pillow. Birmingham makes three errors, two by Pop Lloyd in the same inning and nothing comes of it…Game 2 I’ll be telling my great grandkids about so they can tell their great grandkids…Cannonball Dick Redding got the ball for Detroit against Bullet Joe Rogan, and manager Cool Papa Bell wanted a win bad. Led off for the Callows and ended up with four hits in six at bats, started a game-tying rally in the 8th. Beckwith crushed one out of Rickwood in the 10th, and after a single and double Bullet Joe was sent packing. William Bell escaped the jam and we all knew what was coming. Yup, Ben Taylor doubled, Oscar Charleston singled him in, and we were tied up again. Dave and Ray Brown pitched five pretty swell relief innings for Detroit before the Callows went plum batty off Bell in the 12th. Beckwith homered again, and with two gone six straight men reached base and five runs were across the rubber pentagon. They were cheering in Michigan for certain, the Birmingham lead about to drop back to one, and as much of the crowd filed out we were folding up our notepads in the press porch. In to finish off the easy win was Dizzy Dismukes, college boy and submariner extraordinaire. Santop pinch-hit a single, and Lloyd followed with another. No big deal, the infield was back for two. Except Ben Taylor walked. Bullet Joe, moved out to right field after ending his mound work, then singled home two. Holland was the only Calloway left in the pen, but Dizzy was determined to finish this. Charleston singled. Willard Brown singled and it was 9-8, still nobody out. Fans who had started to leave were blocking exits, roaring like madpeople. Cool Papa finally hailed in Holland to face Biz Mackey, and once more, we all knew what was coming. Biz smote the first pitch between Bell and Chino Smith, the ball skipping to the wall, both runners flew home and the impossible, absurd, ridiculous, cockamamie comeback was over. Nobody but nobody and their cousins and uncles could not believe it. Detroit had scored five, and Birmingham went and plated six without making an out…Callows actually took a 3-0 lead for Roosevelt Davis in the finale but were still shaking from yesterday. Armies scored two in the 5th, two in the 6th, Leon Day stopped giving up hits and that was that.
at ELLINGTONS 6-19-0, BASIES 4-8-1 (10 innings)
at ELLINGTONS 5-11-0, BASIES 4-6-0 (10 innings)
at ELLINGTONS 11-15-1, BASIES 8-14-2
Three barneaters up in Newark, and the poor Basies come up short-sheeted each time…Satch Paige continued his awfulness in the opener, allowing 14 hits in his six innings, but it’s a 2-run Mule Suttles walk-away homer in extras that won it…Josh Gibson does a similar trick in the second affair, mashing a winning triple…Final tilt is 3-3 in the 4th when Alejandro Oms hits a grand slam off Webster McDonald to put the Ellingtons on their A Train. Don’t forget, when these clubs meet out in K.C. next time right before Half Season Day, the Duke and the Count will stage their traditional “Summer Band-Off” during the action. Ducats are going quick for those who want in…Until next week at winless Greenlee Field, baseball bees and flowers!
|BRL STANDINGS (May 28)||W||L||PCT||GB|
|Kansas City Basies||4||11||.267||8|