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
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

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
Published in: on June 5, 2011 at 6:17 am  Comments (3)  

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

Chapter 11: The Joints are Jumpin’

Our first game in Pittsburgh continues a theme we heard far too much when the Jordans visited us in Chicago, namely “Jumpin’ Behind the Woodshed.” Red Ruffing gets ruffed up something awful, as the three Jordans who’ve been stuck in the slump room all break out with vengeances. Rap Dixon homers, Buck Leonard drives in two, and Tank Carr rolls over us with two triples, two singles and five runs batted in during the 12-6 mashing.

I contribute nothing, except misplaying Tank’s first triple into an inside-the-parker, and go zip-for-four at the plate with two whiffs. Appling has me and six other lefties in there due to the one-foot-high cinder block “wall” and short wooden bleachers in right here at Greenlee, but only Mize and Reiser come near it with triples of their own. DiMaggio gets all huffy again because of Reiser taking his place, but I talk him into going with us to the Jordan Club later on Bedford Avenue so I don’t have to listen to him mope all night.

Not that the Jordan Club helps any of our moods. Two minutes after we find a table, the always-colorful Jupe Dobbs swings by for some more handshakes and choice words.

“It ain’t just the salad, boys. It’s the choppin’ and dressin’ and tossin’ you gotta do to get that business on your plate. See, everyone knows, and probably you Dorseys the most, that this is a tough journey you got handed, and it’s pretty please possible you’ll be finishing in last place. But I like your gumption out there. You’ve just about proven you belong.” He looks straight at me. “Just keep whatever choppin’ you do all nice and clean, and enjoy your ride.”

“Gee thanks, Jupe,” says Jimmie Foxx, grabbing a half dozen peanuts and opening the shells with a mere crunch of his hand. “Now why don’t you go tell your bedtime stories to someone else?” Jupe cackles, slips out a wink and wanders deeper into the club to no doubt repeat himself.

DiMaggio is out of our rooming house the whole first night and the next, short-sheeting with some fancy white waitress, so I don’t have a chance to go over things we might try differently for the last two games. Well, turns out the less we say the better. Whit Wyatt is just about untouchable in Game 2, dishing out three walks, two singles by Dobie Moore and nothing else. We hold a 2-0 lead on the tough Max Manning for eight innings until Ted Williams steps up in the 9th with two aboard and drives one over those wooden bleachers and halfway up the hill to a factory. It’s the first time we’ve beaten these guys in five tries.

Thornton Lee’s a little less spectacular on Sunday, but with me on the bench again we get four right away off Matlock with the help of a big Foxx triple, peck away for a few more and survive homers by Warfield and Superman Pennington to win fairly easy. So we go 5-4 on our first long trip, but we’re not going home to face the Calloways and kick off the second half just yet. Tommy Dorsey’s waiting for us as we board the bus with a huge grin on his face. Appling asks what’s up and Tommy pulls a folded up letter out of his pocket. We all crowd around for a look.

It’s on official government stationery, and signed by President Langston Hughes himself.

“Is that what I think it is?” asks Appling.

“We’re invited to the Nation’s Capitol, boys! Louisville! Lunch at the Beige House with President Hughes!”

None of us can believe it, and a fair amount of back slapping goes on. Guess we’ve been proving we can play with these major leaguers after all.—J.G. Heath

CHI 000 030 300 – 6 13 3
PIT 412 030 20x – 12 12 3

W-Salmon L-Ruffing HRS: Ruffing, Dixon GWRBI-Leonard

CHI 011 000 003 – 5 8 0
PIT 000 000 000 – 0 2 2

W-Wyatt L-Manning HR: Williams GWRBI-Dickey

CHI 400 011 020 – 8 13 1
PIT 002 001 001 – 4 7 2

W-Lee L-Matlock HRS: Pennington, Warfield GWRBI-Foxx

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

ELLINGTONS 10-11-1, at BASIES 9-12-3
at BASIES 5-12-0, ELLINGTONS 2-5-1
ELLINGTONS 10-14-0, at BASIES 4-11-1

Missed out on the annual First of July Band-off in Kansas City between team owners Duke Ellington and Count Basie, but what’s a holiday weekend without it? Thusly, here’s what I could jigsaw together from a few of my personal dispatchin’ emissaries out west…

First two battles were a fine set-up for the Event, with the Ellies outlasting the Basie-men 10-9 despite Double Duty Radcliffe getting pancaked most of the game, and then Satch Paige winning his fourth straight with a full domination show on Saturday. As is custom for the Band-Off, Duke’s entourage set up musical shop in the lower third base grandstand, with the Count’s band taking the first base side. The idea, for those not wise, is for each band to play a song at the end of each inning, with the owner who’s in the lead getting extra tunes at the half innings, and whoever gets the most hoots and hollers and people dancing by the 7th Inning Stretch and Shake is deemed the winner and Band-Off Champion for the year.

With smoky chicken and pork smells filling the place from every food stand, it was all Duke music at the start, “It Don’t Mean a Thing” leading into “C Jam Blues” when Spoony Palm made a big two-base error and the Ellies scored four times in the 1st. The Count countered with “Swingin’ the Blues” but Josh Gibson tenderized one over the fence to make it 6-1 Newark, and “Flamingo” serenaded the park. “One O’Clock Jump” was next for Basie, but a Wild Bill Wright tater (he went 4-for-4 and got hit his last time) made it 8-2 in the 4th and no one in the stands felt like dancing much. So roundabout the 6th, after Duke’s “Mood Indigo” tried lullin’ everyone to sleep, Satch Paige himself burst from the Basie dugout, the fine and limber Helzapoppin’ Cheerleaders in tow, and hit the dugout roof with Satch cookin’ his cleats right along with ’em and Muehlebach Field went berserk in a flash.

The local nine managed 11 hits off the now 7-0 Nip Winters, but couldn’t leave the yard like those Newark balls, and by game’s end the crowd was out on the field, just fine with Duke winning the Band-Off Cup but dancing up infield dust to that joint version of “Swingin’ the Blues” Ellington was graceful enough to play along with. The Basies might be tied for last at the half season mark, but fireworks and food and flying feet were all that mattered on this roaring First of July!

ARMSTRONGS 7-13-0, at CALLOWAYS 3-8-0 (10 innings)

Bound to happen, said the Lords of Bad Dice, as the Armstrong hitting slump continued until Game 3. Shutdown Man for Detroit was Slim Jones, while Home Run Johnson, John Beckwith and Chino Smith found their lost Calloway sticks. Callows also came within a bug’s breath of sweeping the Birminghamers, but Cool Papa Bell batted Candy Jim Taylor for the hitless Ghost Marcelle in a 2-2 tie with two aboard and two gone in the last of the 9th. Candy grounded out (Ghost would have pounded the pitch for a double, take it from me), and the Armies scored five runs in the top of the 10th on Charleston and Lloyd homers to win it. Sometimes, you saddle your horse just right and he still kicks you in the head.

BIG STATISTICAL TREAT! League leaders will post next week, but here are complete half-season numbers for each and every squad. BATTING: BIRMINGHAM, CHICAGO, DETROIT, KANSAS CITY, NEWARK , PITTSBURGH. And the PITCHING: BIRMINGHAM, CHICAGO, DETROIT, KANSAS CITY, NEWARK, PITTSBURGH. In the batting ledgers, the numbers below each player name are game-winning RBIs.

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

Newark Ellingtons 21 9 .700
Birmingham Armstrongs 19 11 .600 2
Chicago Dorseys 13 17 .433 8
Detroit Calloways 13 17 .433 8
Pittsburgh Jordans 12 18 .400 9
Kansas City Basies 12 18 .400 9
Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 6:25 am  Comments (4)  

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

* * *


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

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
Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 6:11 am  Comments (2)  

Chapter 9: Morning Cups with Joe

I was afraid this might happen. The second I complain about rooming with Cullenbine and his hopeless chess addiction, a light bulb goes off in Appling’s head and he pairs me up with DiMaggio for our first nine-game road trip. Joe’s at .338 but he’s been less than jolting, with only one dinger and eight ribbis backing it up. Foxx and Williams and now Mize have been carrying the load at win-or-die time, and Appling obviously thinks that Joe getting his own room everywhere and stewing in his failure isn’t helping the team much.

But what the heck am I gonna do for him? I’m just this big nutty Canadian guy with only one homer myself and about 1/16th of the fielding talent Joe has. Maybe it’s because Joe likes to laugh and Luke thinks I can loosen him up a bit.

Anyway, we hit the Newark bus station the night before our opener against the first place Ellingtons and all Joe can talk about is the manicotti at Vesuvius Restaurant. See, Newark has a little-known Italian neighborhood on Bloomfield Avenue, and Joe can feel relaxed there instead of getting pestered from all sides the way he does when his White Yankees are playing in the Bronx.

Naturally our Italian feast and after-dinner reefers are free, and Binky the owner gives us the biggest room on the second floor of his house to stay in. Joe is used to room service at the fancy mixed hotels, so Binky sends up his two saucy daughters bright and early with trays of eggs, scalloped potatoes and espressos for the both of us. The fact that Joe even lets me eat with him tells me he’s putting up with me so far, and when I come out of the bathroom there he is at the table, deeply reading a Superman comic book. He puts it away as I sit, but not before flashing me the cover.

“Doesn’t look anything like Pennington, if you ask me,” referring to the Pittsburgh Jordans third baseman with the same superhero name. “What’s he trying to prove?”

Joe’s snarly mood follows him onto the Ruppert Stadium field. After Monroe and Lundy both boot balls to begin the series, raining raspberries down from Ellingtons fans in the upper tier, Ted works a walk to load the sacks with nobody out and bring Joe up. He gets a run home with a grounder to first, screaming at himself. Then with nobody aboard in the 3rd, he hits a searing triple into the gap. It’s been going like this for him all season. Anyway Keller gets him in with a sac fly, and when Keltner bombs one off Nip Winters leading off the 4th, surprise, surprise, we’re up 4-0! How about 6-0 on a 2-run double by Frankie Hayes in the 5th? Thornton Lee can’t believe his good luck, and sitting out the game against lefty Winters, I wish I could get in there for some tasty licks.

Well, I get my chance in the 8th. Newark got two runs back in their 5th, righty Tom Williams is on for them, and after Ted’s second single and Joe’s second walk, Keller walks to load the bases and Appling jerks his head in my direction. I stroll up there, ready to put this one away, but some kind of dipsy-doodle pitch ties me up and I whiff with the bases loaded. Keltner pops up, we don’t even score and it’s written in the clouds that this is bound to mean something.

The Ellies scratch out a run to make it 6-3, but Keller singles in a piece of insurance for us in the 9th and we get our four-run lead right back. Al Benton bailed us out of the 8th when Bernardo Baro rapped into a nifty 3-6-3 DP started by Foxx, and now he can close this out.

Cue the daily nightmare whose name is Joe Gordon. Batting way under .200 and 0-for-5 today, toting a second base glove of iron, he lets a Ray Dandridge grounder skip up his arm to begin the Newark 9th. DiMaggio just drops his head out in centerfield, because he knows what’s coming. Wright singles. Josh Gibson, zero-for-4 on the day with a whiff and double play, singles. Oscar Heavy Johnson singles. Mule Suttles doubles. Bill Monroe ties the game with a single. If we had a better reliever he’d be in there on the express.

But we don’t. Dick Lundy skies one out to Williams in right, Suttles tags, runs in, slides under Dickey’s late swipe and the Ellington Trucking Company leaves our flattened corpse in the street. Whatever 9th inning miracle tonic Birmingham’s been drinking has obviously been passed around in Newark.

Joe cusses Gordon out in the locker room after, but he may as well aim his blue words at heaven, because the Ellies were just whacking one good pitch after another.

Coffee the next morning is even less pleasant. Joe has a lot of pride in his abilities, you see, and with the white players never being taken seriously before this year, you can say he plays with chips on both of his shoulders. And now there’s these new team members to get under his skin. “Luke ever talk to you about this punky Reiser kid?” he asks, a cigarette in his free hand.

I shrug, start in on my eggs. “What about him?”

“Just don’t like him snooping around my job, that’s all.” I remind him that Reiser has a hot batting average against righties, and Joe’s been struggling against them. “Well, Reiser can do that with pinch-hits. We don’t need him in center. If anything, he should learn second base and put Gordon out of our misery.” He snaps his Star-Ledger sports page to kill that part of the conversation. “Goddamn Ellies. 16-6 now. But we’ll take ’em today.”

Yeah, we sure should, with Riddle facing the hittable Hilton Smith. Both teams end up with ten safe knocks and it’s 4-4 going to the last of the 9th. The problem is that all of our hits are singles, DiMaggio with three of them, while Newark gets a double, triple and three home runs. And Appling must’ve heard us talking over breakfast, because he pinch-hits Reiser in the 9th with us down a run and we tie the thing on a two-out single by Ted.

So Spud Chandler takes over, and plunks Lundy with one out. Baro pinch-hits a single and Wild Bill Wright walks to load them up. Oms lines out, and Al Benton reappears to face big Josh Gibson. Now Josh is zero-for-4 once again, and the only reason Newark doesn’t have a five-game lead already is because he just hasn’t been getting any big hits. I’m already out of the game at this point and have a great view of Gibson from my shady perch in the dugout. I hear the cannon crack of his bat, sucking out the air and noise with it, and the ball jumps into space so fast that by the time I hop off the bench to see where it went the crowd is already deafening and Keller hasn’t even moved in left field.

A game winning grand slam that’s likely still going, and the Ellies have won six in a row and ten out of eleven. The only good thing is that the Newark crowds are pretty polite and well-heeled, and we don’t get the taunting we’re used to when walking off.

Our upstairs suite is empty this time when I get back. Oh Joe, where have you gone? Truth is he’s over on Eighth Avenue all night, and I’m out for a walk and diner breakfast before the sun’s even up so I never see whether he made it back to his bed. But there’s really nothing to talk about anymore.

Red Ruffing gets matched against Double-Duty Radcliffe in the finale, but not even Red, who’s been great for us, can get out of Newark’s way. They score three in the first, and it looks like another grim Dorsey day.

Then something happens, and it think it starts with my triple. Appling swapped my second spot with Joe’s fifth, and when Dickey singles me in we have one of those three runs right back, It seems to give Rufing hope, because even though he puts scads of runners on from here, three key double plays help him out and the Ellingtons just can’t score again. Meanwhile, none other than Joe Gordon ties the game with a 2-run shot in the 7th, Johnny Mize puts us up 4-3 with a solo shot leading the 8th, and Ruffing gets a chance to keep the bullpen from coughing up another one.

Baro starts the Newark 9th with another pinch single, and Red wild pitches him to 2nd. He gets Wright on a deep fly, Baro scampering to third with one out. Then Oms flies one fairly deep to DiMaggio. Baro’s got feet of lightning and he tags up. Joe races in for the ball, uncoils his arm and launches a perfect line drive throw. Baro hits home plate but Dickey is there to block it. Grabs Joe’s throw, nails Baro in the chest and we’ve won the game!!

“What’d I tell ya, Heath?” He shakes my hand after I pound his back and praise his heroic heave.

“You told me we’d win yesterday.”

“Yeah, well, we should’ve won all three, so at least I had the right feeling. Guess you can room with me in K.C., too.” Heading off to our bus, I realize it’s the first time all year I’ve seen Joe DiMaggio smile.—J.G. Heath

CHC 201 120 001 – 7 10 4
NWK 000 020 015 – 8 16 2

W-Hensley L-Benton HR: Keltner GWRBI-Lundy

CHC 001 002 001 – 4 10 0
NWK 000 101 204 – 8 10 1

W-Hensley L-Chandler HRS: Suttles, Wright, Gibson GWRBI-Gibson

CHC 010 000 210 – 4 9 0
NWK 300 000 000 – 3 11 0

W-Ruffing L-Radcliffe HRS: Gordon, Mize GWRBI-Mize

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

at ARMSTRONGS 5-14-0, JORDANS 4-9-0
at ARMSTRONGS 4-8-0, JORDANS 2-5-0
at ARMSTRONGS 7-8-0, JORDANS 6-10-2
It’s over, children. Not even at the halfway mark but old Jupe has a nose for this cadaver stuff and if you think our Pittsburghers are going to raise themselves from the muck and mire after starting the season 0-6 vs. Birmingham, I got some luxury acerage up Detroit way to interest you all in. What a stinkpot! While their first-place roommates were doing about the same thing at the same time to the Dorseys up in Newark, the Armstrongs got four in the last of the 9th off Matlock, Wickware and Donaldson to obliterize our 4-1 lead, winning on a pinch two-sacker by Bankhead with only a strike away from Jordan heaven…Two days of hell follow, first with Leon Day pitchforking us, then Alec Radcliff topping off their six-run 4th with a grand kabosh. We hit four out of the yard, but three of those were solists. The good clubs? They just seem to do things with men on bases. Now the Mighty Armies head north to Newark, for the second of their four showdowns with the Ellies, and don’t you know those ducats were sold out a month ago!

BASIES 6-15-0, at CALLOWAYS 1-14-0
at CALLOWAYS 11-15-9, BASIES 2-7-0
BASIES 5-17-0, at CALLOWAYS 3-12-0 (12 innings)
This series was like that dark chocolate stuff in the middle of an Oreo: You know it’s there and it tastes pretty good but it’s not what you remember about the vanilla cookie. Detroit turned in one of the worst offense displays in the opener, getting one less hit but five less runs thanks to magic beans tossed by Sam Streeter…Cool Papa Bell and Home Run Johnson went 8-for-10 on top of the Calloway order in Game 2, while Beckwith doubled, homered and knocked in five…The finale was a tooth-pulling party, men left floating, double plays taking care of the rest, before Sammy T. Hughes, the Basie second-baseman who’s actually hitting worse than Joe Gordon of Dorsey fame, stroked a two-run single off Dave Brown to win it in twelve.

Next week, I’ll be abandoning my hapless and hopeless nine to take in the Birmingham/Newark showdown at Ruppert Stadium, and the poor Jordan boosters will just have to understand. Until then, baseball bees and flowers!

1.124 Cristabal Torriente, KC
1.116 Ted Williams, CHC
1.109 Spoony Palm, KC
1.081 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
1.042 Superman Pennington, PIT
1.041 Oscar Charleston, BRM
1.014 Cool Papa Bell, DET
1.013 Home Run Johnson, DET
1.006 John Beckwith, DET

.419 H.R. Johnson, DET
.400 Torriente, KC
.375 Lloyd, BIRM
.374 Pennington, PIT
.360 Charleston, BRM
.356 Dandridge, NWK

8 Beckwith, DET
8 Palm, KC
7 Williams, CHC
5 Wright, NWK

32 Beckwith, DET
29 Suttles, NWK
25 Pennington, PIT
23 Charleston, BRM

4 Charleston, BRM
4 Gibson, NWK
3 Scales, BRM
3 Beckwith, DET

28 Bell, DET
24 Johnson, DET
22 WIlliams, CHC
22 Torriente, KC

5-0 Winters, NWK
5-1 Foster, BRM
5-1 Day, BRM
4-1 Ruffing, CHC
4-1 Williams, NWK

2.25 Riddle, CHC
2.33 Foster, BRM
2.44 Winters, NWK
2.57 Davis, DET

43 Williams, NWK
41 Jones, DET
40 Paige, KC
39 Matlock, PIT

Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

Newark Ellingtons 17 7 .708
Birmingham Armstrongs 17 7 .708
Kansas City Basies 10 14 .417 7
Detroit Calloways 10 14 .417 7
Pittsburgh Jordans 9 15 .375 8
Chicago Dorseys 9 15 .375 8
Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 6:25 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Chapter 8: A Blossom by Any Other Name

After our first winning series of the year, the Dorsey Boys are all jazzed up for the first Chicago visit by the 13-5 Birmingham Armstrongs. But I guess you can say I’m distracted.

As you might remember, I met Blossom Pickering, the Governor of Alabama’s pretty daughter, when I accidentally grazed her forehead with a foul ball on our first road trip. All that came out of that was a couple of exchanged letters, but it’s been over a month since I’ve heard from her and I’m still hoping she’s one of those fans who follows their team around.

So when Keller and Gordon and Reiser and Arky Vaughn invite me to play a little pepper before game time, I have to say no. Scouting the stands with my periscope eyes, the last thing I want is a ball off MY noggin. Cullenbine and Feller are the only team members wise to the situation anyway, so I set up a leisurely catch with Cully just outside our dugout.

It’s sticky hot, and the crowd for the first game already has their fans and scorecards flapping like butterfly wings. Cully is still whining about the cash he lost playing chess in Detroit, and I make a brain note to ask Appling for a different roommate for our upcoming three-city road trip.

It’s about then that a peanut shell skips off the top of my cap. I turn, see Blossom herself leaning over the box seat rail with a playful smile and Cully’s next toss thumps me in the chest. I stagger a bit, grab the ball and throw it back to him. Backpedal ever so carefully to the railing to talk to Blossom without looking at her, which is next to impossible.

“I thought I might see you here…How are you?”

“Just fine! We’re a game in front of the Ellingtons and hope to stretch that business.”

Cully rolls his eyes, glances around to make sure no one’s watching and fires the next ball harder at me.

“I guess we’ll see about that. We took two from the Calloways last time out…I’ve been um, thinking about you quite a bit…Been thinking about me?

“Mmmm…You crossed my mind.”

I sneak a longer look. She wears a beautiful black and yellow shirt with a fancy flower and plant design, a dark green shirt and cute little feather hat that makes her look taller than she is.

“You came to Chicago by yourself?”

“Uh-uh. Got a couple of girlfriends back up in the shade. Mary and Lucy. Maybe you’ll meet them later.”

“Well, I was hoping maybe…I could meet you later.”

She cracks open a new peanut, tosses the insides at me. I catch the nuts in my glove.

“You know you shouldn’t be doing that…”

“Of course I do. But I’m a chance-taker, Blossom. Why else would I be on this team?”

“Because you’re good. At least I think so. What’s your slugging average?”

“Got me there. Haven’t checked the newspaper lately.”

“Mmm-hmm. Tell you what…” She leans closer. “Have yourself a good day at the plate, make sure your buddies don’t, then meet me at the Painting Institute of Chicago between four and five. They have a very promising show of 19th century fusionists there.”

I’m about to ask what the heck fusionists are but she smiles and heads back to the shade at the same time Cully hurls a ball in the direction of my collarbone. “Did I just hear something about girlfriends?” he asks, but all I can do is shrug.

Leon Day pitches for Birmingham, who’s been just about unhittable so far, but from the first inning it’s clear that no one on our club got the telegram. We score a run on him right away on a Ted Williams DP ball, and then the 2nd inning happens. Travis, Dickey, Gordon and pitcher Riddle all single with one gone, Arky lines out, and then I walk to the plate.

I have no idea which piece of  shade Blossom is sitting in, and that’s a good thing because it keeps my eyes trained on Day’s pitches. On a 3-1 count he tries to sneak a fastball past and I rip it on a line deep to right. Bullet Joe Rogan races to the wall as I’m nearing first and I see him leap and hang his head. Yowee! A grand slammer! Only my second homer of the year but add that to my slugging average, Blossom!

The Armstrongs react like they’ve been kicked in the guts, and get nothing of Riddle but two singles and a double the entire game. Meantime we score three more times off Day and smack Rube Foster around for seven more in the 8th, long after I’ve been relieved for defense, and Johnny Mize whacks one that goes ten miles. We haven’t had an easy game like this all year, and it’s incredible that it happens against the first-place Birminghamers.

I’m the first out of the locker room and reach the museum by 4:15, but Blossom isn’t there yet. I spend the next hour reading about each fusionist painting, how the great African painters influenced the more primitive American styles a century ago, just so I’ll sound like I know something, but Blossom never shows up. The place closes at six and I’m wondering what happened. Okay, I did hit a grand slam against her team and we obliterated them, but what does that have to with us? Kind of childish, the more I think about it.

So I stop thinking. Just show up for baseball work the next day, collect two walks and a single off Chet Brewer and watch us squeak out a win after we have a 3-0 lead through five. Williams hits his 6th homer but the Armies hit themselves back to life by roughing up Ruffing with three runs in the 8th to take a 4-3 lead. We then knock Brewer out in the bottom of the inning with two walks and a single to tie the game. William Bell takes the ball and Dickey relieves him of it, planting a 3-run shot in the upper deck!

Except for the first game, though, it’s never easy against Birmingham. Al Benton relieves Ruffing, and after a Pop Lloyd single, wild pitch, walk to Rogan and double to Willard Brown, it’s 7-6 us with the go-ahead runs aboard. Benton bears down, gets the lethal Biz Mackey on a roller, and we have our very first pitching save of the year!

It’s bittersweet for me, though, because I don’t even see Blossom in the stands for this one and I bet she never even leaves the shade. I run into some Armstrong players later, make some crafty inquiries and find out from Oscar Charleston that Blossom and her friends are staying at the fancy Palmer House Hotel. I make my way over there and bribe a white luggage man to get her room number.

I take a maid’s elevator upstairs, knock on Blossom’s door. I hear someone inside, probably staring through the peephole, and call her name. Right after I knock a second time two security men grab me, haul me back down the service elevator and chuck me into an alley.

An hour or two at the Skunk Den eases the pain, and my head is still sweetly foggy the next morning when there’s a knock on my apartment door. I swing it open in my underwear and there’s Blossom standing there, holding a red rose.

“I feel terrible. Can we go on a picnic today?”

I tell her I have to play ball, but she reminds me that Big Bill Foster is going and I’d probably be benched for Keller anyway because my average vs. lefties is “less exciting.” Where did this remarkable woman come from?

Cully agrees to tell Appling I’m in bed with the flu, I wash and dress while Blossom hums to herself in the hall—still a bit nervous about being in my scary white neighborhood—and then we’re off in search of a picnic. It’s a beautiful day, less humid, and we spend the whole of it in Carver Park, strolling the lakefront, dining on sandwiches and root beer on a grassy lawn, even going out in a rowboat. I was so wrong about Blossom I’m ashamed of myself. She wasn’t angry at me because my team killed hers, she was crushed, because she really likes me and was thrilled for my grand slam but the loss was too much to bear and she didn’t want me to see her cry.

Anyway, her choice to come look me up pays off, because the rowboat guy has the last game going on his radio, and even though Keller and Williams hit back-to-back homers for us, Whit Wyatt has nothing, and Birmingham pulls out the 5-3 win pretty easy.

Blossom has promised to write while we’re bussing our way through Newark, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, because she knows how brutal these next few weeks through hostile territory might be. I get a taste of this while I’m walking her back to the Palmer House, when a well-dressed older man who reminds me of her father crosses the street, glares at us and whacks my leg with his cane as he passes. I swear he calls me a “bastard milkie” under his breath, but I don’t want to react. We’ve come this far in the Bragging Rights League, the Dorseys just a game out of third place now, that cool heads are really the only things we should have. —J.G. Heath

BIRM 000 000 000 – 0 3 1
CHC 151 002 07x – 16 18 1

W-Riddle L-Day HRS: Heath, Mize

BIRM 000 001 032 – 6 10 0
CHC 002 010 04x – 7 9 2

W-Ruffing L-Brewer SV-Benton HRS: T. Williams, Dickey GWRBI-Dickey

BIRM 300 001 001 – 5 9 0
CHC 002 000 001 – 3 10 1

W-Foster L-Wyatt HRS: Brown, Keller, T. Williams, Chapman GWRBI-Brown

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

BASIES 15-20-0, at JORDANS 8-15-2
at JORDANS 11-15-0, BASIES 7-17-2
BASIES 3-6-0, at JORDANS 2-6-1
Yep, our Jordannaires are a less-than-whopping 2-10 at old Greenlee now, so I say throw that home cooking out to the dogs and feed ’em train grub. Them and the Basies took turns pasting each other in the first two messes, Phil Cockrell not exactly being a rooster when he gave the K.C. men seven runs in the 2nd before we pounded Bill Drake for a 10-1 lead in Game 2 before Jud Wilson started hitting for them. In the finale Satch Paige finally found his magical stuff, struck out ten of us without walking one and gave up solo shots to Turkey and Rap most likely because he was just bored. Pittsburgh’s in the big 4-team hog pile, safely away from the two contenders, and with the sad way our biggest clubbers are still snoring, if it weren’t for Superman Pennington we’d certainly be the league caboose.

at ELLINGTONS 7-10-0, CALLOWAYS 3-10-1
Three easy Newark wins by nearly the same line score, as the Ellies took over the top spot with great pitching and timely hits, which isn’t all that difficult when you know what you’re doing. The poor Callows have fallen on very hard times, and their former loud blasting got reduced to mouse peeps here by the likes of Hilton Smith, Double Duty and Smokey Joe, complete game-throwers all. Those uppity white Dorseys will creep into Ruppert Stadium next week to try their luck, but I wouldn’t wager on them surviving. Visiting teams are a paltry 1-8 in that grand yard. Until then, baseball bees and flowers!

Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

Newark Ellingtons 15 6 .714
Birmingham Armstrongs 14 7 .667 1
Pittsburgh Jordans 9 12 .429 6
Detroit Calloways 9 12 .429 6
Chicago Dorseys 8 13 .381 7
Kansas City Basies 8 13 .381 7

Chapter 7: Whiteness on the Edge of Town

Cool Papa Bell wasn't all that.

Like I figured, DiMaggio, Williams and Appling check themselves into separate rooms in the nicest Detroit hotel that allows white people, while the rest of us have to fend for ourselves in the scariest neighborhood in the city.

Its real name is Brightmoor, but some of the smart-aleck locals call it “White-more” and others go for “Milktown”. Prostitutes. fake preachers, reefer-crazed insurance peddlers and unshaven banjo players loiter on every sinister corner, and me and Cullenbine find ourselves walking faster than usual on the sidewalk. At one point we even think we smell lager beer on a passing woman’s breath. We know Foxx and Mize and some of the others went looking for a clean enough house of sexual repute, but not us. We got a tough series starting at Mack Park the next day and need a decent sleep more than anything.

So Chatterton’s Chess Parlor at Fenkell and Greydale seems good enough, despite the grizzled, shifty-eyed rookheads milling around under its black and red neon sign. Now I’ve spent a number of late nights in smoke-filled chess halls, but this one has ten dollar rooms upstairs and jolly Bix Beiderbecke music playing on a phonograph, so it seems just fine. The beds are lumpy and we have to murder a few spiders before settling under the sheets, but sleep’s no problem on the first night.

Cully’s already gone when I wake up, though, and I find him drinking a gigantic cup of coffee in a breakfast place at the corner, a jazzy look in his eye. “Got a good feeling about Ruffing today!” he says, slapping my back and throwing down his two dimes for the coffee, “Let’s go!”

We’re facing Martin Dihigo first, one of those ambi-fielding major leaguers who can play any position and just feels like pitching today. At 8-7, the Calloways are in no mood to be polite, having just had their pants pulled over their heads down in Birmingham, and their fans don’t let up with their racial bleats from the time we take the field for hitting practice. It isn’t like we weren’t expecting this in a few places, but Detroit is especially horrible. Reiser even gets an artichoke thrown at his noggin while shagging a toss from me.

But you know what? All this does is get us going at the plate. Pistol Pete, in center against the righty for the slumping DiMaggio, rips a single with one gone in the 1st, Ted wallops one onto the next street and we’re up 2-0! After Mize flies out I line a single on a weak fastball and Travis leaves me there but it just feels good to shut the crowd up for a few minutes.

And a few minutes is all it is. Cool Papa Bell, the Calloways’ manager and usual leadoff man, has a look in his eye today I’d rather not remember. He dumps a single right in front of me to start Detroit’s attack, gets to third on a Home Run Johnson single and scores on a Chino Smith fly that backs me to the fence. But when Joe Gordon and his .125 average cracks a triple with one out in our 2nd, I know it’s going to be a good day. Yep, Ruffing and Appling follow with singles, Reiser sac flies in another one and it’s 4-1.

Back come the Callows, with a Frog Redus homer, Rev Cannady double and a scoring single by their pitcher. Then I get into the act for a change, doubling in Mize after his two-bagger. Back and forth we go, but when Home Run Johnson supplies his namesake leading off the 7th and a double and two singles follow, we’re down 6-5 going to the 8th. The dumbest fans are screaming bile at us more than ever, but even the well-heeled sections, stuffed with automobile executives in expensive suits–no doubt part of the Grover Edsel Family which runs this town—can’t leave us alone.

Even worse, Appling had taken me out after my fourth at bat to put Keller in for defense, so all I can do is just sit on the bench and watch. Mize singles with out, and up walks King Kong himself. WHAM!! That ball gets out of Mack like it skipped on its check. We’re up 7-6, and the place doesn’t even have a second to whine before Cecil Travis belts the next pitch off the foul pole in right! I tell ya, it’s like someone just put a cork in the crowd’s bottle. Dave Brown comes on to get the last five of us, but Ruffing rolls them from there, and we tear through those showers and out of that place before they realize what hit ’em.

Summer’s just started, by the way, and the balls should be flying out even more, but that also means sweatier nights trying to sleep. I wake up around three, and Cullenbine’s not in his bed again, but I’m too tired to look for him, pour some cold water on my head and just re-collapse.

Game 2 is like a June lightning storm. Whit Wyatt gets his second start and he’s fabulous, but Slim Jones is even better and we’re down 2-1 when Whit bats for himself and walks with two gone in our 8th. Appling beats out a hit and here’s Foxx, who tripled and scored our only run of the game so far. Cully’s dozing in the dugout next to me and I give him a poke, seconds before Foxx CRUSHES one high to left. Frog races back, looks up and it’s outta here! 4-2 Dorsey boys! Dizzy Dismukes tries his luck, Cool Papa anxious to get him out there again after the Armstrongs destroyed his brain in that extra-inning nightmare last time. But Dizzy is just wobbly, and we get him for two walks, Williams and DiMaggio singles and two extra runs in the 9th. Two in a row, folks, and we’re 6-11!

Of course what this does is put our lives in jeopardy. Heading back to Chatterton’s, we pass under two or three straw-filled white dummies hanging from nooses on lamp posts. Pickup trucks filled with angry Calloways fans rumble through Brightmoor, hurling fruits and vegetables at whatever they can. Cullenbine seems even more jumpy than the last few nights, and this time when loud nearby shouting wakes me up and I see he’s out of his bed again, I throw on some clothes and hurry downstairs.

A mob of yelling chessies crowds around a table in the center of the room, throwing dollar bills down, yelling at each other. I squeeze my way through and see Cully, with nothing but three pawns, a king and a knight left on his board, staring down Michigan Melvin, the fattest, dirtiest, smartest-looking chess player around. Melvin has his queen and both bishops zeroing in on Cully’s king. I shake my friend.

“What the hell are you doing??”

“I’m close, Heath! I’m close! I can beat him!”

“Don’t you know who you’re playing, you idiot?”

“Of course I do! But they’re close! Every game’s been close!”

God only knows how much of Cully’s hard-earned Dorsey pay is gone, and if I knew he was a chess junkie I never would’ve roomed here.

“He’ll kill you—”

The crowd hushes me as Melvin raises his hand. Pauses to scratch one of his mutton chops, then slides his queen across the board, topples one of Cully’s final pawns.

“MATE,” he utters, the floor and walls rattling with his thunderous proclamation. Cheers erupt, money flies, and Cully starts to fall off his chair. I catch him.

“One more game, Heath…Just one more—”

I slap him to his senses, drag him out of the hall.

We end up dozing the rest of the night on a pair of benches by the river. “Appling doesn’t play me enough, that’s why this happened,” he says, but I tell him that’s belunkey. He’s been a chessaholic since he was 18, and shouldn’t be within five miles of a knight-pit like Chatterton’s, let alone Michigan Melvin.

Anyway, we’re both wiped out for the last ballgame, and it seems to be Thornton Lee’s problem, too. Our best pitcher so far has nothing, giving up two runs on four hits in the 1st, then SEVEN runs in the 3rd after we give him a 3-2 lead, capped by a grand slam by backup catcher Bill Perkins. None other than Bobby Feller comes on to throw three shutout innings, but then the back end of our pen, Wagner and Chandler, ruin the day some more. It’s a shame because we smack around Cannonball Dick Redding pretty good, but the Callows plate six more runs the last two innings, and after we score four times in the 9th off Holland, including a pinch 3-run rocket off the bat of Mize, I get to fly out to Cool Papa with the bases loaded to end the series. Bell smiles for the first time in three days, the crowd serenades us off the field with their famous “Hi-di-hi-di-hi-di-ho” chant, and we manage to get our bus out of town without the windows being pelted with plums.

Hell, it’s our first winning series of the year, and we’re heading back home to take on the first-place Armstrongs—and hopefully, because I need to see a friendly face more than ever, my favorite lady fan from Birmingham will be there. —J.G. Heath

CHC 220 100 030 – 8 14 0
DET 120 100 200 – 6 14 1

W-Ruffing L-Dihigo HRS: Williams, Keller, Travis, Redus, H.R. Johnson

CHC 100 000 302 – 6 10 3
DET 000 011 000 – 2 7 0

W-Wyatt L-Jones HRS: Foxx, Young

CHC 012 200 104 – 10 16 1
DET 207 000 33x – 15 17 3

W-Redding L-Lee SV-Holland HRS: Mize, Perkins, Taylor

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

ELLINGTONS 8-15-1, at JORDANS 3-12-3
at JORDANS 4-12-3, ELLINGTONS 1-4-1
ELLINGTONS 5-10-0, at JORDANS 2-6-0
Yes, readers, weeders and leaders, you’re seeing right. After Double-Duty Radcliffe put our Jordans to sleep and the Dukers drowned Harry Salmon with a 5-run 4th, Greenlee Field saw its first victory after seven opening swan songs. Maxwell Manning, coming off his suffocating win in Chicago, was all the mightier here, snuffing Newark on just four hits…The glow lasted for just one full moon, though, as Nip Winters tucked us under the covers for the finale, and our “star” threesome of Buck, Rap and Turkey continue to be offensively vacant. Wouldja believe Leonard’s at .205, Dixon .224 and Stearnes just .289 with five errors already in centerfield? If you would’ve bet me that Superman Pennington would be our best hitter after 18 games with his .356, .988 OPS and 18 runs knocked in, I would’ve taken your money clip of Booker T. Washingtons any day.

at BASIES 6-9-0, ARMSTRONGS 5-8-2
at BASIES 3-5-0, ARMSTRONGS 2-11-1
ARMSTRONGS 7-16-1, at BASIES 6-13-1 (11 innings)
Yessir, pigs are living with snakes today, Adolf Hitler’s given up politics and gone back to art school, and the Birmingham Armstrongs went and lost a series. In Kansas City, no less, but naturally went down kicking and screaming. That first game? 4-0 Basies, on a 4-hit shutout by Bill Drake going to the top of the 9th. Which is when the Armstrong Alarm Clock Company tends to go to work. A Biz Mackey triple and Alec Radcliff homer made it 4-2, and after Ted Trent came on, Bankhead walked, Scales doubled, Lloyd walked and Ben Taylor cleared the sacks with a triple to give them the lead. Out of their minds, this team. The Lord finally took pity though, for with Rube Foster on the hill, Blackwell, Wilson and Torriente all singled. Judy Johnson hit a girly double play to tie the game, before Oscar Charleston, of all folks, dropped Spoony Palm’s easy fly to end it…More strangeness the next day, as the Armies collected over twice as many hits but with K.C. up 3-1 Trent sashayed in to quell an 8th inning uprising and yes peoples, give Satchel Paige Victory Number One on the year. He stunk like sulfur once more, issuing 10 of the 11 Armstrong hits but this time enjoyed the luck of an Irish whitey…Basie luck was gone with the wind for the final act, though, as K.C. came this close to sweeping Birmingham out of Missouri. Tied 5-5 after early ball-mashing by both squads, the Counts had five straight innings to get a winning tally against Bullet Joe Rogan but just couldn’t do it. A Pop Lloyd single, steal and Buck O’Neil double ignited a two-run rally in the 11th to end matters, before Rogan liquidated Wilson, Wells and Parnell with men afoot and kept the door-knocking Ellingtons one game behind….Our Jordans will host these same Basies at Greenlee next, so see you then, baseball bees and flowers!

Get your stats right here…

1.135 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
1.080 Ted Williams, CHC
1.060 John Beckwith, DET
1.059 Spoony Palm, KC
0.999 Home Run Johnson, DET
0.994 Oscar Charleston, BRM
0.988 Superman Pennington, PIT

.395 Home Run Johnson, DET
.380 Dick Lundy, NWK
.375 Pop Lloyd, BRM
.359 Ray Dandridge, NWK
.356 Superman Pennington, PIT

7 John Beckwith, DET
6 Spoony Palm, KC
5 Ted Williams, CHC
4 Wild Bill Wright, NWK
4 Bill Monroe, NWK

24 John Beckwith, DET
18 Superman Pennington, PIT
18 Chino Smith, DET
17 OScar Charleston, BRM
17 Mule Suttles, NWK

3 Oscar Charleston, BRM
3 John Beckwith, DET

16 Cool Papa Bell, DET
14 Josh Gibson, NWK
13 Ted Williams, CHC
13 Superman Pennington, PIT

FOR THE RECORD: Josh Gibson, NWK: .284/.398 OBP/.432 SLG, 2 homers, 8 RBIs

1.59 Roosevelt Davis, DET
1.97 Nip Winters, NWK
2.20 Big Bill Foster, BRM

1.03 Roosevelt Davis, DET
1.12 Nip Winters, NWK
1.16 Big Bill Foster, BRM

5-0 Nip Winters, NWK
4-0 Leon Day, BRM

35 Smokey Joe Williams, NWK
32 Leroy Matlock, PIT
32 Slim Jones, DET
30 Satchel Paige, KC

FOR THE RECORD: Satchel Paige, KC: 1-3, 4.21 ERA, 30/7 SO/BB ratio, but 57 hits allowed in 40 IP

Detroit +41
Newark +12
Birmingham +10
Kansas City –8
Pittsburgh –12
Chicago –43

Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

Birmingham Armstrongs 13 5 .722
Newark Ellingtons 12 6 .667 1
Detroit Calloways 9 9 .500 4
Pittsburgh Jordans 8 10 .444 5
Kansas City Basies 6 12 .333 7
Chicago Dorseys 6 12 .333 7

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Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 6:19 am  Comments (2)  

Chapter 6: Sweepers Creepers

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 10-19-1, CALLOWAYS 9-19-0 (12 innings)
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!

Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

Birmingham Armstrongs 12 3 .800
Newark Ellingtons 10 5 .667 2
Detroit Calloways 8 7 .533 4
Pittsburgh Jordans 7 8 .467 5
Kansas City Basies 4 11 .267 8
Chicago Dorseys 4 11 .267 8

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Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 6:10 am  Comments (2)  

Chapter 5: Nearly Down for the Count

Jud Wilson is no .216 hitter, and he proves it.

I’m sitting out our first game with the Basies at Comiskey, so scribble up a letter in the dugout just for good luck:

Dear Blossom:

I hope this gets to you, because I don’t know your address in Birmingham and am sending it to the Governor Mansion in Montgomery, but hopefully your father or one of his staff will be kind and deliver it to you.

Thanks for your nice note after my foul ball skipped off your head. I hope the gash you got is all healed now. I’ve been following your Armstrongs and it seems like they have the stuff to win this thing. Oscar Charleston is a good leader and they’ve been pulling out the close games.

I see that they’re scheduled to play us up here the second week of June so was wondering if you might be traveling to Chicago to see them. If so, I would very much like to have a lunch or a reefer or maybe even a dinner with you, if you’re open to that sort of thing. I realize this is something we need to keep very hush, but I have to admit I’ve been thinking about you a lot since my foul ball and even if we just met for a talk or something that would be okay, too.

Hope to hear from you,


“Better put that away, Lover Boy.” It’s Cullenbine, elbowing me as Appling glares in my direction. Thornton Lee gives K.C. a single and double in the 1st but gets out of the jam, and after DiMaggio grounds out our first four have gone down for Sam Streeter.

CRACK! King Kong Keller suddenly skies one deep to right…Red Parnell is back on the track and it’s gone! I can’t believe Keller hits one out before I do, playing a lot less time and all, but hell, it’s 1-0 us. Make that 2-0 us when Streeter curbs himself by walking four Dorseys in the 5th. Lee has been amazing so far, and takes a 2-0, 5-hitter into the 9th. Got a chance here to knock the Basies two games behind us.

But Willie Wells leads with a walk. Jud Wilson, their scariest hitter who is only batting .216 with no homers so far, then pops one over Ted’s head in right for a double and just like that the tying runs are on. The few of us left in the dugout get real quiet, but here’s Judy Johnson flying a ball out to medium left. Keller circles a little, puts up his glove and the ball clanks off it! Damn him! Both runs score and it’s 2-2 for no good reason. Not that I haven’t done that before but, but at a time like this? Brown singles Judy to third, Thornton out of his mind on the mound now, and Appling pulls him for Spud Chandler while the crowd just stares at the field in shock.

Spud ain’t mud, though. Gets Creacy on a liner and a 6-4-3 twin killer out of Streeter, who can flat out hit. Appling pinch-hits Sam Chapman to start our 9th. Sam, if you don’t know, is the only guy on the Dorseys who openly hates black persons, and Luke likes to trot him up there to get the other teams riled up and hopefully do the same for us. Anyway Chap gets in the box, throws out a few cusses at Streeter, gets a ball over his head before he swings at a bad pitch and grounds out and so much for that idea today. Appling and Vernon also make outs and we’re into the 10th.

Al Benton takes the mound with his usual wild problems and walks Pete Hill right away. Fats Jenkins singles before Benton gets Parnell and Wells, but then Jud walks, Judy singles in two, and we’re behind 4-2. Incredible. Ted singles to begin our 10th but Joe, in a bad slump all of a sudden, raps into a DP and kicks the stuffing out of the first base bag on his way back to he dugout. Keller walks, though, Hayes singles and Appling points his finger at lil’ ole me.

I grab my bat, hurry out there. Almost all the fans who haven’t bailed on us are standing. I try and see myself smacking the game-wining homer, my first of the year, cheers pounding in my head. K.C. manager Wells has brought in Ted Trent to face me. Trent’s a breaking ball man, who throws a “long curve, short curve, and shorter curve.” So at least I think I know what’s coming.

Except he starts with a fastball, I’m too anxious, give it a half-cocked swing and the ball skids out to Creacy at second, who throws to first and we’ve lost a real flamoozy. Keller’s so upset in the club house after he looks like he’s going to cry, and Jimmie Foxx has to talk him out of the showers.

We do our best to recover for Game 2. Appling starts our 1st with a single off Webster McDonald, before I smoke a triple between Torriente and Blackwell to put us ahead. DiMaggio hits one out to center with one out, I get the tag-up sign, but Spoony Palm blocks the plate perfectly and Torriente’s throw nails me by an inch. Still, we take another 2-0 lead for Sid Hudson through four, and then the Dorsey world explodes.

They get a sac fly in the 5th, a homer by Blackwell, triple by Creacy and homer by Palm in the 6th. A Jud Wilson grand slam in the 7th. Charlie Wagner comes on, Appling makes two errors in the 8th and they score four more. It’s a massacre of a slaughter, folks, and Tommy Dorsey kicks out the reporters later and slams the clubhouse door.

“We’re playing awful, boys. We know that. But it’s not all our fault. Those major leaguers are just too loaded and we need some help.”

“No changing league rules, Tommy,” says Appling, “Too late for that.”

“Well, Greenlee has to listen to me. They made it crooked from the start by keeping out our players from the National White League, right? Meanwhile they’re using everyone and their brothers-in-law to stomp our heads. If I threaten to yank us out of the league I don’t think President Hughes would be too thrilled, do you?”

Appling just shrugs, Dorsey nods to himself and leaves to get on the telephone and set up a meeting with Greenlee and league officials.

Meanwhile, we play the third game, and can’t hit a lick off Bill Drake for five innings while the Basies take a 1-0 lead. Then Drake botches and throws away an Appling grounder with one gone in our sixth. I step up there, 0-for-2 with a DP so far, and swing like blue hell at a second pitch fastball. I make good contact and the thing flies down the right field line. Blackwell to the fence and it’s in the seats for my first of the year! Not wanting to show up the Basies I keep my head down the way you’re supposed to, trot around the sacks real quick, shake Ted’s hand at the plate and hop into the dugout. Ted’s inspired, whacks one higher and farther than mine and we’re up 3-1!

After another Spoony Palm dinger in the 7th (the varmint has five already!) Spud got Ruffing out of a jam in the 8th and now it’s Al Benton’s turn again. And he falls on his face again. Torriente doubles when the ball lands fair by less than an inch. Blackwell creams one into the seats seconds later and we’re down 4-3.

Willie Powell comes on, but DiMaggio continues his horror movie with a flyout starting our 9th, another 0-for-4 day. Foxx whiffs. It’s up to Cecil Travis to avoid us getting swept. As he gussies up his bat, Stringbean suddenly appears from the dugout tunnel and hands Appling a telegram.

“He did it!” is all he yells at us, and we know right away what happened. Dorsey met with Greenlee, called his bluff, and got what he wanted. The commissioner is so sure his players are better than ours no matter what the hell we do that he set up a huge bet to prove himself right. We can now add five guys from the National White League, and if we win the Bragging League pennant, one of our players will get the call and become the first white to play regularly in the major leagues. Wow!

The news charges our dugout like nothing ever has. Travis rips a single, and so does Dickey to get him to third. Joe Gordon, who at .133 can’t hit a rock into lake Michigan, works himself a walk to load the bases. The Comiskey crowd is goo-goo! Mickey Vernon is our best pinch-hitter left. He walks up, picks out a Powell curve and slams it into right for a two-run single and the ballgame!

A double miracle, folks! All Dorsey and Appling have to do now is pick the right new players and maybe we’ll have a chance in this league. —J.G. Heath

K.C. 000 000 002 2 – 4 9 0
CHI 010 010 000 0 – 2 6 1

W-Streeter L-Benton SV-Trent HR: Keller BONEHEAD: Keller

K.C. 000 014 451 – 15 17 2
CHI 100 102 001 – 5 11 1

W-McDonald L-Hudson HRS: Blackwell, Palm, Wilson, Torriente

K.C. 000 100 102 – 4 11 1
CHI 000 003 002 – 5 8 1

W-Benton L-Powell HRS: Blackwell, Heath, T. Williams

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber


CALLOWAYS 5-12-0, at JORDANS 1-8-2
CALLOWAYS 8-13-0, at JORDANS 0-5-0
CALLOWAYS 4-7-0, at JORDANS 1-4-2
Got nothing to say. Can’t even utter a keystroke. All I know is they have to rename Greenlee Field Skid Row Stadium, because we are not just 0-6 in our home graveyard, but dying of run starvation like no one ever has or will. Two—I say TWO—crumb digits on our table in the last FOUR games! And these three were against Redding, Davis, and Dihigo, mind you, good pitchers all but not exactly a satchel of Paiges. Turkey Stearnes has no answers to my questions, being he’s the main culprit in this Jordanian heist of all things scoring. At 14-for-52 he’s .269, far better than Dobie Moore’s .229, Buck Leonard’s .212 and Rap Dixon’s .143, but he couldn’t get a big hit if you set the dang thing on a dinner plate and garnished it with parsley. Good news, meaning the ONLY good news, is that we’re off to Chicago now to take it out on those Dorsey boys. And yeah, I heard that rumor about them getting a few more players, but I don’t care if they get Moses Fleetwood Walker himself, they are about to take away our pain.

Well, we ALMOST had a 3-way tie for first, but those dastardly Birminghammers did it again, coming back on a 4-1 Newark lead in the last of the 9th in the last game to score four runs off Double Duty Radcliffe and two relievers, Oscar Charleston smoking a bases-loaded double to win it. This after Nip Winters had bamboozled them in the opener and Leon Day had returned the favor in Game 2. Anyway, the Calloways of Detroit have hereby hi-de-hoed their way into second place, just one floor under the Armstrongs, who they now pay a 3-game visit to down in the stickier environs.

More leaders follow below. Per usual, team hitting, team pitching and assorted miscellany can be accessed via handy Portable Document Formats. Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!

1.323 Spoony Palm, KC
1.163 Chino Smith, DET
1.152 Ted Williams, CHC
1.088 Biz Mackey, BRM
1.058 Home Run Johnson, DET
1.038 Oscar Charleston, BRM
1.035 John Beckwith, DET

.434 H.R. Johnson, DET
.396 Smith, DET
.391 Williams, CHC
.389 Blackwell, KC
.387 Torriente, KC

5 Palm, KC
5 Beckwith, KC
3 Wright, NWK
3 Monroe, NWK

19 Beckwith, DET
16 Smith, DET
11 Pennington, PIT
11 Suttles, NWK
10 Charleston, BRM

1.04 Roosevelt Davis, DET
1.33 Nip Winters, NWK
1.69 Leroy Matlock, PIT

0.88 Davis, DET
0.96 Winters, NWK
1.09 Lee, CHC

21 Smokey Joe Williams, NWK
20 Bob Feller, CHC
20 Slim Jones, DET

Foster and Day BRM,
Winters and Williams NWK
Dihigo, DET all 3-0

Birmingham Armstrongs 9 3 .750
Detroit Calloways 8 4 .667 1
Newark Ellingtons 7 5 .583 2
Kansas City Basies 4 8 .333 5
Pittsburgh Jordans 4 8 .333 5
Chicago Dorseys 4 8 .333 5

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Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 6:35 am  Comments (3)  

Chapter 4: Mr. Mackey Means Bizness

Seems that Biz Mackey and the Armstrongs got a leg up on everyone during their winter tours of Japan.

There’s maybe fourteen people at the Frederick Douglass Depot to welcome our bus back from Birmingham, but six of them are my cousins and three others are loaded up on cheap hemp.

Can’t say I blame them; we played like real pooters against the Armstrongs, and now they’ve gone off to kick the league’s behind. Meanwhile we get Josh Gibson and the Ellingtons here, and it’s about time I get my trusty bat oiled. I mean, I realize I’m not playing every day, but when Luke hits me in front of Ted and Joe I see more fat balls than a stallion groomer, and you’d think I’d be able to whack a few.

In the first game Appling’s got an even bigger surprise: I’m leading off against Hilton Smith. Guess old Hilton has a bit more trouble with the lefties, and Luke really wants me on base to kick things into gear. Of course that doesn’t help my fielding work. Wild Bill Wright lassoes one over my head to begin the game and by the time I track it down he’s on third with a triple. Alejandro Oms gets him home with a deep fly to me which I’m sure he aimed in my direction. Word gets around this league fast.

Anyway, I ground out to Mule Suttles my first time up, which is lousy because after Appling bounces out Ted walks and Joe singles and it amounts to nothing. But then I’m back up there with two gone in the 2nd, Dickey on third and our pitcher Hudson on first. Smith tries to slip a tough curve by me on a 1-2 count and I smack it into right to tie the game! Man, that feels good, and the crowd that’s been pretty quiet finally wakes up.

Hudson’s throwing great and in the 3rd we set off the fireworks. Ted and Joe lead with singles, Cecil Travis smashes them both in with a deep double past Oscar Heavy Johnson in left, and with two gone, Joe Gordon, who has done nothing but make errors for us so far at second, clubs one into the bleachers and we’re up 5-1!

The Ellies can’t even wet their whistles against Hudson. Gibson doesn’t leave the infield in his four at bats, while we chip away for three more single runs, one driven in by my pal and neighbor Cullenbine with a pinch single in the 7th. I rake a double my third time up before King Kong Keller takes over, and Al Benton finishes the enemy off the last two innings.

So we’re pretty jazzed afterwards and pack the Skunk Den, with just about everyone on the team in there except typically aloof DiMaggio. Tommy Dorsey’s band spins out some fun tunes, and Tommy even strolls past our booths to wish us well in the second game. We got Ruffing going and I’ll be leading off again, this time against Double Duty Radcliffe.

The reefer hangover keeps me focused, too, because I rip a single to lead our 1st. Suttles butchers Appling’s ball for a single and error, Ted and Foxx both single, and we’re up 3-1 just like that. Make it 4-1 after Ted ‘s two-out double in the 2nd, but then we just get sleepy for some reason. I whiff twice, we strand a bunch of men, and Ruffing starts to lose it. Suttles gets a 2-run single in the 5th, Bill Monroe homers in the 6th, and they pile it on in the 7th with four straight hits including a rare Gibson single and Heavy Johnson triple. Before you know it we’re down 9-4, the Comiskey fans are screaming at us and we’re back in our crummy cloud. Wild BIll Wright robs me of a home run my fourth time up, and after we load the bases with none out in the 8th, I ground into a 6-4-3 twin killer to mess that up, too.

Appling drops me to the fifth spot for Game 3 against Smokey Joe Williams to take off some pressure, and when Ted cranks his first homer of the season with Luke aboard in the 1st, I get some hope. But pitching for us is that wild kid Feller again, and believe me, he hasn’t come close to throwing a good inning yet, let alone a game. The Ellies pound him for five runs in the 2nd, started when he walks puny-hitting Dick Lundy and helped by Gordon’s second error in two innings, and we’re barely heard from again. I go 1-for-4, am now hitting .320 but with super low slugging, and our pitching overall has been dreadful. The Basies come to town next, and if we can’t handle them and their 2-7 record, there might very well be serious changes.

After his pitching nightmare, Feller looks like he wants to smoke himself to death, so I drag him away to a movie at the Ritz starring the great Canada Lee. It’s a romantic war drama set during the American-African Revolution, with lots of exciting battle scenes and a fair amount of kissing, but as usual the only white roles are given to ditch diggers, stable boys or prostitutes, and both of us are bored before long.

“I don’t know what my problem is, Heath,” Feller says in a whisper as we sit up in the white balcony, “but I just can’t put the dang ball where I want it.” I ask him if he’s nervous about being in the major league and he says no, thinks that maybe he just isn’t communicating good with Dickey or Hayes behind the plate. “Sure be nice if we had a real pitching coach, too,” he says, “Appling knows more about spitting seeds than he does fastballs.”

At that moment a pretty young actress appears onscreen, playing a fearless patriot in a big recreation scene of the Carolina Coffee Party. I stare her, and all I can think about is Blossom Pickering’s heavenly face.

“Did you hear me, Heath?”

“Uhh…yeah. Sorry. Hey Bob, when does Birmingham come to town, anyway?”

“June, I think. Why?”

I don’t answer him, just shake my head. Feller glances up at the screen angel, at the well-dressed crowd sitting below, then back at me with a bit of nervousness.

“Keep her in your pocket, Heath, or under your hat. You can do jail time for that kind of thing.”

I’m surprised he even knows about Blossom, but I guess Cullenbine told him. Tough to keep secrets on a 35-hour bus ride.—J.G. Heath

NWK 100 000 200 – 3 8 1
CHIC 014 001 00x – 8 16 0

W-Hudson L-Smith HR: Gordon

NWK 100 021 320 – 9 14 1
CHIC 310 000 030 – 7 15 1

W-Radcliffe L-Ruffing SV-Tom Williams HR: Monroe

NWK 150 030 010 – 10 11 0
CHC 200 110 020 – 6 12 3

W-Smokey Joe L-Feller HRS: Monroe, Ted Williams

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

ARMSTRONGS 9-13-1, at JORDANS 8-12-2
ARMSTRONGS 7-13-1, at JORDANS 6-11-0 (12 innings)
ARMSTRONGS 5-11-1, at JORDANS 0-4-0
Disgrace. Shame. Outrage. You name the nasty word and Jupe here will back it up. We opened our schedule at beautiful Greenlee Field and turned the place into a big latrine in just three days against the vultures of Birmingham. The first two games we just plain gave away, between rank pitching by Phil Cockrell, bad-timed fielding flubs and never getting a big hit when needed…In Game 2 we got five runs after Superman Pennington tied it with a 3-run rocket off Chet Brewer, and then we got hit with Kryptonite, unable to score the next nine innings off Rube Currie and William Bell despite a gamillion chances, until a dumb passed ball past Quincy Trouppe in the 12th did us in…Game 3 was so foul I can barely jab my keyboard, Big Bill Foster sawing our bats in half like cordwood. I know it’s early, but Manager Turkey Stearnes has been an awful role model, going 2-for 14 here. We go play those amusing white Dorsey boys in a couple weeks, but the Calloways are in town next, and they’re no pansies. Everything’s breaking right for Louie’s Armstrongs so far, and if we can’t clog up their horn somebody else better quick!

at BASIES 2-7-1, CALLOWAYS 1-8-2
CALLOWAYS 10-14-0, at BASIES 5-7-0
CALLOWAYS 6-14-0, at BASIES 0-7-0
Just another sorry display by the K.C. contingent. A tight Webster McDonald pitching display and Spoony Palm homer gave them the first game, but the Count’s band of baseballers went flat from there on. Bill Drake got nailed with six extra base hits in the second affair, before Satch Paige amazingly dropped to 0-3 with a terrible outing in the finale with Slim Jones busy polishing off his mates. One can see the Basies waking up against the white interlopers next week, but so far nothing has gone to plan.

As promised, here’s a few hitting leaders for your enjoyment. Click on my handy Portable Document Formats to view team hitting, team pitching and assorted team miscellany. Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!

OPS (on-base average plus slugging average)
1.413 Biz Mackey, BRM
1.256 Ted Williams, CHC
1.194 Spoony Palm. KC
1.130 Chino Smith, DET
1.073 Cool Papa Bell DET
1.053 Jimmie Foxx, CHC

.458 Mackey, BRM
.441 Williams, CHC
.410 Smith, DET
.410 H.R. Johnson, DET
.390 Lloyd, BRM
.385 DiMaggio, CHC

4 Beckwith, DET
3 Monroe, NWK
3 Palm, KC

13 Smith, DET
12 Beckwith, DET
10 Pennington, PIT

Birmingham Armstrongs 7 2 .778
Newark Ellingtons 6 3 .667 1
Detroit Calloways 5 4 .556 2
Pittsburgh Jordans 4 5 .444 3
Chicago Dorseys 3 6 .333 4
Kansas City Basies 2 7 .222 5


Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 8:03 am  Comments (2)