Chapter 12: Men on a New Mission

“Lunch will be served, gentlemen.” One by one we file into the presidential dining room, trying not to laugh out loud at our good fortune.

Despite being our youngest President at age 39, Langston Hughes looks as calm and distinguished as your average single and aging law professor. His stories and poems became so wildly popular during the 30s that it was only a matter of time before his colleagues urged him to run for political office. Some people still scoff at the idea of a writer being President, but as far as I can tell he’s done a bang-up job so far.

It probably would’ve made more sense for us to visit the Beige House on our way back down south next week–Louisville being about the halfway point to Birmingham—but there seems to be something urgent about this lunch, because Commissioner Greenlee is also there.

Ted Williams adds to our scroll of autographs as President Hughes looks on.

The President stood before us, and we knew another one of his spontaneous poems was coming.

“Clean up the bases, boys!…Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Birmingham, Newark, Detroit…The dust on urban basepaths…and the smoke from swinging bats…and the misery of unfair laws…Hey boys!…A bright base is beautiful to behold…Like the parchment of good King Solomon…Like the righteous eyes of the Lord…With grace your cleats imprint it…”

He smiled, we applauded, and he continued. “First off, I need to commend you boys on your bravery, and competitive spirit. Now I did catch wind of a friendly wager you’re having with some others over finishing in third place, but being born in Joplin, Missouri, I must confess I’m a Kansas City Basies fan at heart.” This gets a chuckle out of us, but minutes later, after our lunch of wild quail and homegrown squash is served, the more serious dish hits the table.

“Mr. Greenlee and I have discussed this for a while, and I’m thrilled to announce that when the Memphis Hamptons are fully recuperated from their unfortunate team-wide illness and return to the league for the 1942 season, one of you Dorseys will be chosen to play for them.”

Stunned silence. Forks frozen in mid-air, mouths in mid-chew.

“That is right. We’re talking about the first official white player in the major league.” I share a glance with Cullenbine, who quickly spears a quail thigh. Tommy Dorsey’s glasses are fogging up nearby. “Excuse me, Mr. President, but how will this player be chosen?”

Greenlee butts in with the answer. “Athletic ability, sportsmanship, what you’d expect.  None of you have gone running home to mommy yet after thirty Bragging Rights games, so I don’t see self-confidence being an issue.”

“Individual talent and performance will certainly help,” continued Hughes, “but the first white major leaguer must be someone America’s fans will respect and support.”

“Well, I guess that rules out most of you bums!” roars Ted Williams from the far end of the table. Ted has certainly been our best player, except I think he’s a little lacking in the character department. All I know is that the air on the bus as we drive out the Beige House gates later is thicker than the humidity outside. Bad enough we have to battle these super-tough teams every week, now we might be battling each other.

* * *

Home to play Detroit after our long trip, girlfriends, wives and familiar pillows are the last things on our mind. You can say that for the Calloways too, because we turn in our most vacuum-brained series of the year. First Arky Vaughn makes two killer errors, the second igniting a four-run 7th inning and putting us behind 6-2. Ted wallops one off Roosevelt Davis in the 8th to cut it to 6-4, but a Mize error gives them another run and we go down easily before Dizzy Dismukes, a reliever who’s gotten practically no one out all year. Me? I’m so putrid, with two DPs and a whiff, that I make Appling take me out to give us a chance.

Gave 2 is just a Calloway meat parade. Their 22 hits include three doubles and three triples, and we do our part by making three more errors as Ruffing gets mangled in his second straight start.

Game 3, which is probably the best BRL game all weekend, still knocks us further into the basement, and we deserve it. DiMaggio gets a rare big hit with his second homer of the season to put us up 2-0 early, but a single and three straight Calloway doubles off Wyatt in the 6th put us behind again. Hayes ties it with a sac fly, before Slim Jones clamps down and shuts us out the last five innings so Martin Dihigo, who starts at third here after pitching the second game, can pop one into the bleachers in the 11th to ice it. Just to make the cake in our face even creamier, Williams ends the game and series with a lazy fly to Cool Papa Bell with the bases loaded.

So we’re now a lowly 5-13 on our Chicago field. The home fans don’t know a thing about the President’s announcement, and probably wouldn’t care if they did, because they let us have it good on our way into the clubhouse tunnel. I’m just numb. At least next week we’ll be back in Alabama, where I hope to be holding Blossom’s soft hand and thinking more about kisses than sinker balls.—J.G. Heath

DET 000 110 401 – 7 7 2
CHC 000 020 020 – 4 10 3

W-Davis L-Riddle SV-Dismukes HRS: H.R. Johnson, T. Williams GWRBI-Marcelle

DET 150 110 250 – 15 22 0
CHC 000 011 000 – 2 9 3

W-Dihigo L-Ruffing HR: none

DET 000 003 000 01 – 4 11 1
CHC 002 001 000 00 – 3 6 3

W-Jones L-Wyatt HRS: Dihigo, DiMaggio GWRBI-Dihigo

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

JORDANS 5-8-0, at ELLINGTONS 4-6-0
JORDANS 5-8-1, at ELLINGTONS 4-10-0
JORDANS 8-12-0, at ELLINGTONS 3-8-0
This here second half has flipped over like a waffle, or a sunbathing lizard or Wonderland looking-glass. Rhyme or reason? They ain’t home! Nine times road clubs took the field, nine times they won.

Let’s start where I was, in recently jolly Newark, where five combined homers from the dead and long-thought buried Buck Leonard and Rap Dixon did in the Ellingtons in a miraculous sweep by the Jordans. Maybe it wasn’t too heavenly, Pittsburgh being a hefty 12-6 away from Greenlee now, but the first two bouts were nail clippers indeed, Cockrell pitching all the way before Mathis threw three shutout reliever innings for Salmon on Saturday. Newark’s Josh Gibson resumed his disappointing ways, smacking a homer early in Game 1 before going 1-for-7 the rest of the weekend. Off to K.C. now, where the schedule calls for us to thankfully miss Satch-man of Doom.

BASIES 6-12-2, at ARMSTRONGS 5-14-2 (11 innings)
BASIES 3-11-0, at ARMSTRONGS 0-6-0
BASIES 6-11-2, at ARMSTRONGS 1-4-1
Whatever good luck charms the Armies were wearing in their briefs have slipped out uniform cuffs and vanished in basepath dust, because they have COMPLETELY STOPPED HITTING. True, Paige mowed them like a golf course fairway in the final match, but Birmingham couldn’t even nick Ted Trent. (Satchel in his last four complete game starts, by the by: 4-0, 1.50 ERA, 8 BB 34 Ks) Best Armstrong chance for a win was against Webster McDonald in the opener, but after five early runs off him their bats became linguini until Jud Wilson worked a bases-filled walk in the 11th off William Bell for the KC win. Three straight days Louie’s men had a chance to close in on losing Newark but soiled themselves, and they’ll attempt to reclaim cleanliness vs. those less-than-mighty stowaways from Chicago. Rumor has it the Dorsicans made a detour stop in Louisville this past week, so this babbler will be quick to bring you any further verified rumoring.

Until next week from out west, baseball bees and flowers!


1.125 Ted Williams, CHC
1.075 Cristabel Torriente, KC
1.064 Oscar Charleston, BRM
1.063 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
1.042, Spoony Palm, KC
1.022 Cool Papa Bell, DET
1.017 Home Run Johnson, DET

.404 H.R. Johnson, DET
.373 C. Torriente, KC
.362 C. P. Bell, DET
.362 Dandridge, NWK
.359 O. Charleston, BRM
.349 T. Williams, CHC

12 Beckwith, DET
10 Williams, CHC
10 Palm, KC

45 Beckwith, DET
30 Williams, CHC
28 J. Wilson, KC
27 Charleston, BRM

5 Charleston, BRM
5 Gibson, NWK
4 Stearnes, PIT
4 Beckwith, DET

37 Bell, DET
28 Wright, NWK
27 Gibson, NWK
24 Pennington, PIT

27 Gibson. NWK
23 Williams, CHC
19 Foxx, CHC

2.79 Redding, DET
2.94 Paige, KC
2.96 Foster, BRM
2.99 Davis, DET

1.17 Davis, DET
1.19 Paige, KC
1.25 Manning, PIT
1.28 Winters, NWK

7-0 Winters, NWK
6-3 Foster, BRM
5-2 Dihigo, DET

66 Paige, KC
61 Jones, DET
59 WIlliams, NWK

And per usual, Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

Newark Ellingtons 21 12 .636
Birmingham Armstrongs 19 14 .576 2
Detroit Calloways 16 17 .485 5
Pittsburgh Jordans 15 18 .455 6
Kansas City Basies 15 18 .455 6
Chicago Dorseys 13 20 .394 8

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Holy cats and jiminy christmas…where are the B-Ham bats? Maybe one of the Armies can borrow one from Heath?

  2. As long as Heath’s glove doesn’t come with it…

    Nice to see you back here, John!

  3. Quite a plot twist.

    • To elaborate, with the Dorsey player.

      • Never underestimate the power of The Twist.

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