Chapter 13: A One-Ring Circus

Humiliation. That’s the only word I can think of for it. With Birmingham owner Louis Armstrong off on a concert tour in Switzerland, his publicity jerk, a guy name Mudgie Snickersham, decides to label us the “Dorsey Clowns,” plasters stupid racist posters all around town and wants us to perform comedy routines before each game to bring in more local fans who like that sort of thing. We scream at Tommy but he’s all deaf ears, says we have to “play along” with this nonsense if we want our shot at more of us making the majors.

Well, bunk to that. DiMaggio and Williams flat-out refuse, declare they’ll only play with other whites the entire rest of their careers if they have to. I tell him to stick it, too, but Ken Keltner and Jimmie Foxx give in, and take the field for a catch wearing ladies’ house coats and curlers in their hair. The Rickwood crowd hoots and throws coins and I can’t even watch. My only hope is that Blossom isn’t in the stands, and I’m afraid to even look around to see if she is.

By the time the first game is underway, none of us feel like playing, and Bullet Joe Rogan could beat us with his eyes closed. Mize knocks one out of the park in the 2nd for a short Chicago lead before a Charleston double and three straight singles are all the Armies need to beat Thornton Lee.

Needless to say, we pack into the first smoking joint we find in Birmingham’s Chalkie District, and we’re still a little fuzzy-headed when we walk in the clubhouse the next morning and see Bobby Doerr, Lou Boudreau, Mel Ott and Kirby Higbe waiting for us.

Seems that after yesterday’s embarrassment, Tommy wired Doerr to come and take over for the horrible Joe Gordon at second base, but when the news leaked about our lunch with President Hughes, Doerr suddenly had a couple of new friends to tag along. Commissioner Greenlee doesn’t give a fig how many players we have because of where we are in the standings, but what this means is less room in the bus and doubling up on some lockers, and more tenseness that we don’t exactly need. Plus, for all I know this Mel Ott, with his weird leg-up stance that makes him look like a dog at a hydrant, is going to take my place in right field.

And I’m right. I check the lineup card in the dugout and see that Appling has stuck him right in my second spot. I’m already fumed from having to witness Arky Vaughn being chased around the bases in diapers by Cecil Travis, and I walk up to Appling, tell him I’m going on an all-day vacation and storm right out the field’s exit gate in full uniform.

Blossom, bless her heart, tracks me down with a change of clothes and we have a nice long lunch in the Ensley neighborhood, take in a movie show, some police woman drama starring Hattie McDaniel, and an early evening stroll through the city’s nicest park. Blossom’s a little nervous about that one because she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to be seen with me, but I’m past the point of caring about it. And when we go by a newsstand and hear that the Dorseys took the locals 4-1 in the second game behind Elmer Riddle, Mel Ott getting a double and scoring a run in the process, it just makes me all the more headstrong.

“Can’t say how sorry I am about that clowning junk,” Blossom tells me over and over, and I suggest maybe she should tell her Governor father to do something about it. She’s afraid to even bring it up with him, us being a secret and all, which makes her feel even more guilty. I wait outside a dancing hall till around midnight, when she sneaks me into the Governor’s house through the white servant’s entrance and holds me close under soft pink sheets all night until I slip back out with the morning sun.

I believe I really love this Blossom, and when Appling breaks down and starts me in right again against the B-Hams’ Chet Brewer, everything feels back to normal. Even better, when every Dorsey refuses to do a clown act before the game, Mudgie Snickersham breaks down and has to offer the crowd free fried dough balls instead.

This new guy Kirby Higbe from the Brooklyn Honky Dodgers is pitching for us, and he looks pretty sure of himself. DiMaggio, who grilled me for a while about where I spent the night, singles to begin the 2nd and Mize, by far our best slugger in his short time with us, bashes one clear out of sight and we’re up 2-0 early. The Armstrongs get one back in the 3rd, but Higbe closes the door for a while after that. Unfortunately, Brewer gets tough, too, and I’m doing nothing at the plate, 0-for-4 with a whiff and double play.

I don’t know what happens to Higbe in the 6th, but it hits him like influenza. Ben Taylor leads with a walk and Rogan doubles into the corner. Oscar Charleston takes the first pitch and clobbers the second one, high over my head and the right field fence and boom—we’re behind 4-2. The crowd goes nuts, fires uneaten dough balls in my direction. We miss another scoring chance in the 7th but Feller, much better in relief than starting by the way, sets them down in order.

Mize and Travis single to start our 8th. Dickey whiffs but King Kong Keller hits for Doerr and walks to load ’em. My new friend Ott bats for Feller and gets one home on a force out. The stage is set for Jimmie Foxx, batting for Vaughn with two gone and two aboard. Jimmie is still steaming over his house coat and curlers humiliation, and the Rickwooders really let him have it. All this does is crank up his valve even higher. Brewer throws and Jimmy cracks the ball deep to left center. Charleston and Willard Brown give chase, but the thing is way gone for a 3-run homer! Fantastic!! The Dorseys pound him into pizza dough when he hits the dugout, and I’m so jazzed up I don’t even mind rolling out against new pitcher William Bell to end the inning and go 0-for-5.

Ott takes my spot in right for the last of the 8th, Al Benton the hill, Taylor fouls out for starters, and I shoulder up next to Foxx on the bench in hope some of his bat magic will sprinkle on mine. We barely notice when Rogan hits a sharp single. Charleston wastes no time, rips a line drive homer deep to right and over the same spot on the wall as his first one. Jimmie and me stare at the field in shock as Willard Brown blasts Benton’s next pitch over the wall in left. It’s the old Armstrongs, laying in the weeds until the 8th or 9th and jumping out with another mortal bite.

DiMaggio flies out deep to center in the 9th and Mize doubles with two gone, but Travis bounces out and we’ve lost our most heart-crushing game of the year. I know Blossom is feeling for me, but I don’t look for her after and creep back on the stuffed bus with everyone else.

Halfway out of town we hear crazy honking behind us, and our driver pulls over. An old pickup truck is there, driven by Ernie Lombardi with Dodgers slugger Dolph Camilli right beside him. Crammed into the open back, their hair wind-mussed and nutty grins on their faces are six more players: Lonny Frey, Benny McCoy, and pitchers Howie Pollet, Max Lanier, Tommy Bridges, and John Humphries.

“Heard you guys were needing help!” yells Lombardi.  Against the Ellingtons at home next week, you bet we do, and the number of Traveling Dorseys is now at 38. —J.G. Heath

CHC 010 000 000 – 1 5 0
BRM 000 020 02x – 4 8 1

W-Rogan L-Lee HR: Mize GWRBI-Radcliff

CHC 012 001 000 -4 11 1
BRM 000 000 001 – 1 5 0

W-Riddle L-Day GWRBI-Williams

CHC 020 000 040 – 6 12 1 
BRM 001 003 03x – 7  7  0

W-Bell L-Benton HRS: Mize, Foxx, Charleston-2, Brown GWRBI-Brown

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

ELLINGTONS 10-15-2, at CALLOWAYS 3-6-3
ELLINGTONS 7-13-0, at CALLOWAYS 0-6-2
ELLINGTONS 5-13-1, at CALLOWAYS 3-9-0
Those Newarkers stretched their first-place waistband to three games, first time all year. And the flopping Callows made it sweet and easy for them. Nip Winters picked up his eighth win without a loss in the opener, and Gibson roared out of his cave with a triple and long ball. Hilton Smith lullabyed Detroit to sleep in Game 2, Wild Bill Wright putting the game to bed with a 3-run crack in the 9th. Calloways had their chances in the final skirmish but just couldn’t muster the big hit off Double Duty Radcliffe. Detroit is one beezarre outfit, up near the top in team hitting and pitching, but can’t win a close one to save their necks and are now 1-8 against the Ellingtons.

at BASIES 5-9-1, JORDANS 3-6-1
JORDANS 7-12-1, at BASIES 4-10-0 (10 innings)
at BASIES 5-8-2, JORDANS 4-5-0
But I should be blabbing about losing close ones, huh? Didn’t even have to mess with Satchel on this visit and my Jordanaires still couldn’t take the series. Sure seemed like we might, coming back in Game 2 with a tying 3-run mash from pitcher Cockrell and winning it with three in the 10th. Turkey belted his own 3-run shot to open Game 3, but after scoring four times in the 1st we dropped deader than Jacob Marley’s doornail against Ted Trent, and the Basies tied it up eventually and won on a Pete Hill triple. So K.C. has the slim lead in the big Third Place Derby, and now we get to go home where we can barely win anything and face the Armstrongs. Think I need a new profession.

Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!

Per usual, Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (July 18) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 24 12 .667
Birmingham Armstrongs 21 15 .583 3
Kansas City Basies 17 19 .472 7
Pittsburgh Jordans 16 20 .444 8
Detroit Calloways 16 20 .444 8
Chicago Dorseys 14 22 .389 10
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Published in: on June 5, 2011 at 6:17 am  Comments (3)  

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sorry I’ve been a little scarce the last few weeks. I’m bummed that my B-Ham Armstrongs have been strong-armed out of first place.

    I think the Ellingtons need a femme fatale to jinx them. Can you see if you can work that into the plot?

    Seriously, good to be back. I’m really enjoying this with my Sunday morning cup(s) of coffee each week.

  2. Hello–

    We are a group of six 8th grade students from Eastern Middle

    School in Silver Spring, Maryland. We were interested in using your image in our school project, which is a documentary about mental health.

    Thank you for your time–

    Mika Yatsuhashi

  3. I’d be happy for you to use my image. If you can, please credit the name of my Web site. Thanks —Jeff P.


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