Chapter 10: When Express Trains Collide

By Jupiter Dobbs
Special to the Bragging Rights League

Rode the Midnight Armstrong Superliner from Alabama to Newark for the big series, and who wouldn’t take my place? Both teams at 17-7 atop the pennant perch, and hotter than summer baby backs. High stakes chess and even some poker played up and down the train, Louie serenading the parlor car with his trumpetized “Stardust” while Pop Lloyd and Big Bill Foster slow danced with a pair of corresponding not-wives. Meanwhile the sweet brown happy smoke was so thick I could barely jot in my notebook.

Clubs only get twelve chances to slap each other this year, folks, just twelve, so you can bet every taste of this rivalry cake is tasty and moist and not to be missed. The Armies took the Ellies twice down south in their first collision, getting bamblasted 9-1 in the opener before taking Game Two and staging a dreadful ambush for their closing feat, scoring four in the last of the 9th. Thus, the jocular mood aboard the Superliner.

Big Bill was getting the first mound against fellow Texas speed-baller Smokey Joe Williams, so it was no revelation to see the lines of bleacher possibles roped around Ruppert Stadium like the morning wash. Even the white section in the right field corner was stuffed to its crown, no fans of the Bragging League wanting to be left out for skin reasons.

Well, Big Bill’s been better insurance than Smokey Joe all season, and this opening policy was no different. After a 420-foot Mule kick off Suttles’ bat staked Newark to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd, the Armstrongs just let out a big shrug. Ben Taylor smoked out a Smokeyball to tie her up, before Alec Radcliff, a snake in the weeds of the lower Birmingham order, cracked one out with Brown afoot in the 4th, and the B-Ham’s lead was 3-1. Big Bill poured himself a lemonade and laid back in his pitching hammock from there, as the Ellies mustered just two puffy singles the rest of the day. Late hits from Lloyd and pinch-hitter Dave Malarcher jumped that to 5-1 while the Ruppert crowd dwelled on their fingernails, hopeful thoughts of Game Two bubbling upward…

BRM 001 200 002 – 5 6 0
NWK 010 000 000 – 1 7 0

W-Foster L-Williams GWRBI-Radcliff

The unfortunate public enemy in these parts of late has been Ellington slugger Josh Gibson. FIFTY GRAND A YEAR FOR THIS?? and GOSH, JOSH!! screamed the Newark tabloids at dawn after he went 1-for-3, as if the world comes to an end when he doesn’t slam at least two homers, throw five runners out stealing and defat the Nazis in every game. I tell you, it is a curse and a burden to be a high-salaried crusher in these baseball-mad days.

After Louie’s bunch jumped on Nip Winters right away for two runs in the second affair, Gibson rolled into a double play to murder an Ellington chance and the more vocal and hotheaded Newarkites let him have it. Didn’t matter that Suttles and Dick Lundy tied it up with solo homers right quick. After Wild Bill Wright and Alejandro Oms singled in the 3rd, Gibson whiffed badly and I thought half of the press princes on either side of me were going to hurl their Olivettis at him.

A riot was averted when Josh struck a double down the line to put Newark up 3-2 in the 5th, Suttles followed with a 2-run single and many hats were tossed upward. But the Armstrongs are doubly dangerous when Bullet Joe Rogan is pitching and batting, and when the score is not in their favor and the hour late. Charleston ignited a 2-run rally in the 6th, helped by a wild pitch, horrifying Suttles error and Gibson passed ball that had the stands incinerating again. Reserve right fielder Spot Poles then began the 9th with a double, Rogan singled with two gone, Charleston doubled and like the evening moon rising, Birmingham had taken a late lead.

The Ruppertians cursed and howled. The Olivettis clacked out their new tragedies. And here was Neil Robinson pinch-hitting a walk. Wild Bill singled him over to third and all timepieces froze. The infield inched up and Oms’ grounder got men to second and third. Up strode Mr. Gibson, a whiff victim his last time but still jazzed up about his earlier double. The throng rose to its feets, shouting and praying with equal noise. Rogan looked in, threw, and Josh clubbed the thing high and deep and scraped the centerfield wall over Charleston’s glove. Both runners scampered in, Gibson lumbered and slid into third for effect and he was the King of Newark for a night!

BRM 200 002 002 – 6 9 1
NWK 011 030 002 – 7 11 2

W-Winters L-Rogan GWRBI-Gibson

The deciding game was unspooled on another broiling day, and the Armstrongs, still fuzzy-headed from yesterday’s ending, played as such, could get nary a stick-whimper going vs. Hilton Smith. Meantime the Mule hit his third circuit-breaker in three games, Oscar Heavy Johnson donated a triple, the crowd so ecstatic they didn’t even boo Gibson’s 1-for-4 showing. Seldom-used Bill Byrd came on to bail Smith out of an 8th inning Armie uprising, and Duke’s Ellingtons took the league lead at 19-8 as they boarded their A train to Kansas City for next week’s holiday series. The Armstrongs move on to Detroit, but the good news for them are the six remaining tilts they still have with their arch-enemies. This scriber finds it hard to fathom them escaping each other’s clutches.

BRM 000 000 000 – 0 5 1
NWK 000 210 01x – 4 11 0

W-Smith L-Day SV-Byrd GWRBI-Suttles

* * *

MEANWHILE, WAY OUT WEST…

KANSAS CITY—It’s our first time facing the great Satchel Paige, and I’m the only guy in the lineup who can hit him. Satch tried one of his “bee balls” on me my first time up (“because it be where I want it to be,” he says) and I guess I guessed right, as I almost hit the front porch of a house on the hill above right field. After I single my next time up, DiMaggio’s yelling “What did you do??” at me the whole next inning out in the field, and I wish I could tell him. Joe strikes out his first three times, something he almost never does, fouls out to the catcher his fourth time, and even though we drop the opener with Wyatt getting blasted, he stares at me in awe the whole evening.

I get a nice letter from Blossom delivered to me at our rooming house the next day that smells as sweet as her, and from there our stay in Missouri is one big treat. We get 14 hits off Sam Streeter in Game 2, seven of them singles by Joe and Ted Williams, and edge the Basies 4-3 behind Thornton Lee. Game 3 has the same score but this time we get all kinds of luck, including a homer from the mostly hitless Joe Gordon, as Benton comes on to save a bases-loaded jam Riddle gets us into in the 9th.

Count Basie proves to be a great sport, and buys us all dinner and spliffs at the Reno Club later. He plays us “One O’Clock Jump” on his Steinway, no doubt tuning up for the annual July 1st Band-Off with Duke Ellington next week, but he has another idea which we all kind of like. “Seeing all four of us bottom-feeders are tied at 11-16 now,” he says at our table during a break, “how about a nice wager to see who can finish third?” Appling’s game for this, and we know Dorsey will be. At the least, if we can’t climb out of the Pittsburgh-Detroit-K.C. pack and battle the Big Boys, the $2000 stake will make the second half of the season a lot more fun. Talk to you next week from Greenlee Field, where I hear Jupe Dobbs will be printing complete halfway statistics for every team!—J.G. Heath

at BASIES 6-10-0, DORSEYS 1-4-0
DORSEYS 4-14-0, at BASIES 3-9-0
DORSEYS 4-7-1, at BASIES 3 11-0

With Jupe up in Newark, he asked me to recount the Jordans/Calloways series, so I’ll do what I can from the box scores. Seems that Pittsburgh, a far better team away from Greenlee, edged out two of the games on winning homers from manager Turkey Stearnes, who’s been pretty much asleep till now. Buck Leonard and Rap Dixon still haven’t gotten going, but the poor Detroiters have really fallen on hard times since opening strong. Frog Redus has been so bad that Cool Papa Bell finally booted him out of the lineup. Anyway, there isn’t much separating us 11-16ers, so let’s hope we can make the first move on the pack.

JORDANS 6-9-1, at CALLOWAYS 5-9-0
at CALLOWAYS 4-9-1, JORDANS 2-6-2
JORDANS 6-13-0, at CALLOWAYS 4-10-1 (10 innings)

Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (June 24) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 19 8 .704
Birmingham Armstrongs 18 9 .667 1
Chicago Dorseys 11 16 .407 8
Pittsburgh Jordans 11 16 .407 8
Kansas City Basies 11 16 .407 8
Detroit Calloways 11 16 .407 8
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Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 6:11 am  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This stories are very entrtaining. Is like you are reading chapters of a book.how this teams selected are thye integrated teams? That is a great idea to do. Which ones Negro leagues & Hall of Famers?

    • The roster page for each team explains all…


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