This league is in the very early stages of development. We are currently recruiting a team of passionate writers, baseball enthusiasts, and history nuts to compose an alternate version of baseball history in the United States.
For those of us viewing from forums outside OOTP, this league is a fantasy baseball simulation league, with the PC game “Out of the Park Baseball” (OOTP) as a medium. OOTP is an incredibly intricate, engaging, immersive, and customizable baseball league simulation engine. Think of it as a combination of Fantasy Baseball and a Role Playing Game.
What makes this league different?
If you’re familiar with OOTP, you know that there are hundreds of leagues to choose from–and historical leagues rise and fall each month.
See our core philosophy here. We are a community of baseball nuts/history dudes/enthusiastic writers looking to share a collaborative community.
What makes this league unique is the scope of the project, the selective nature of the Board, the focus on writing, role playing, and immersion, and passion of the administrative team. This is the pet project of many passionate, talented, and experienced writers looking to use this wonderful baseball simulation game as a medium for their many interests and hobbies.
How do I join?
This league is open to players of all levels of experience–whether you’ve never played a single season of OOTP, or you’ve been playing for 20 years.
For now, we are looking for all interested parties to join our slack channel and contribute to the formation of the league. Simply join the slack channel and introduce yourself on the forums–the more you participate in the project, the better your shot at managing a team!
The staff at the Tribune has been working on a novel idea in support of our home town baseball team, the Missouri Tribune Graphic Artists. Mr. Peter Steiner has created a few picture baseball cards of some of our team players. Here is the photo of first one Mr. Steiner created for 27 year old Virgil Johnson. Virgil has played ball for the Good Earth Flour Mill team and has recently joined the Graphic Artists ball club. Let the paper know if you’d like to see more of these. Currently this one is in the display window at our printing office on Main Street.
The sun had just risen in the east, and the clouds hung low. It was barely light enough to see but the group would need to leave soon to be on time. The young men gathered round the large flat bed horse and carriage. The commune was happy to assist them in getting to the train station. All their necessary belongings, never much to begin with, were stowed away in small trunks, and in some cases, cloth sacks. They have already said good bye to members of the dissolving community.
This was not a time for not sadness as the young men had already accepted their new life weeks, ago. Joy, mixed with some trepidation, abounded through each of them. It is chilly out and all the young men are donning their heaviest coats. Their heads are kept warm with caps pulled down tightly over their ears revealing only a partial view of their faces.
Jason, not wearing any gloves, blows air into his hands to warm them. His breath leaves a vapor that quickly dissipates into the chilly morning air. As they climb aboard the horse drawn carriage Jason does a head count. Upon finishing he repeats the count making sure the count of 16 is correct.
“Hey guys, I’m counting sixteen. What gives? Did somebody new decide to join us?
A small voice from the back says, “I did.”
“I didn’t get that”, calls out Jason, “who is talking?”
A short person gets up off the bed of the wagon and standing up, replies, “It’s me, Jason. Here in the back.”
“Who….what the….is that you, Jessica?”
“It is I.”
“But, what did you do to your hair. It’s..well, it’s practically gone. And, those clothes? Whose clothes are you wearing? I’ve never seen you in pants like that. Those are men’s trousers.”
“How do I look, then?”
“Well, um, you. I hope you don’t mind me speaking frankly Jessica but you look just like one of us.”
“Then you think I can pass?”
“Pass as what?……oh, no, Jessica, this here excursion is for baseball players, not women.”
“You forgetting I struck you out the last….let me count….six times you faced me on the field? Do I need to refresh your memory Jason? Because I can tell you what pitch I threw each time. I can do that, y’know. Let’s see first time it was a curve, next time”…
“No, we don’t need to relive those brief moments of batter ….batter fatigue that I was struggling with at the time.” Are you saying you want to go with us to St. Louis? Work in the mill and play ball, too. Is that what this is all about?”
“Pretty much sums it up, Jason. Do you have any questions? If not, I suggest you get this wagon rolling so we don’t miss the 10:15 to St. Louis.”
Jason, for maybe the first time in his life, was unable to formulate a response. He blinked a few times, cleared his throat. Started to speak but not much was coming out.
It was then he noticed that the other 14 boys were all smiling and looking down. Trying to hide their amusement. A few elbowed each other which elicited some muffled giggles.
“Well, I….um”. He broke into his own smile. Shaking his head he called out, “You heard Jessica, Adam, lets get this cart a rolling.”
Sigurd Olsen had a great career in front of him. At the age of 19, the Philadelphia Quakers offered him cash to play baseball. The great Harry Wright became the manager and heard of a raw diamond somewhere in Wisconsin. This was in 1884.
After the great collapse of 1884, when the National League and the American Association folded, the contract offer was off the table. Olsen returned to his parents’ farm in the middle of nowhere, about 20 miles northeast of Madison, Wisconsin, where he had to hear it all from his father. His father warned him more than once that a game doesn’t secure a living. He and his father never got along, and the comeback only lasted one year. Because in 1886, baseball enthusiasts in Milwaukee announced a semi-professional league and Sigurd Olsen signed up immediately.
The Madison Mad Hats welcomed him with open arms. Because of his boyish appearance, everyone called him Kid. Or Sick, because Sigurd was challenging to pronounce. And a few called him Sick Kid Olsen.
It was time for the first road trip of the season. The Mad Hats suffered six losses. Three against the Oshkosh Farmers and three against the Saint Paul Pigs. The biggest ballclub of the Northern Central League wanted to extend their six-game winning streak. It would be difficult to beat the Milwaukee Sailors this season. Because so far, they were 6-0.
Their team name was more or less a joke, Olsen chuckled. Although the ballpark was next to the Menomonee River, it was more or less sewer for the slaughterhouses on the other side who dumped their waste in the river. This is what his teammates smelled as they approached Fowler Street.
The Ballpark at Fowler Street
“Not bad,” Hershel Hackman, the Mad Hats’ first baseman coughed in a quick moment of amazement. Hackman was a butcher by trade and 44 years old. It’s said that he was in the war as well, but he never talked about it. Often, he was considered the grandfather of the team. He voluntarily took over this role. “A fine ballpark it is. The first season for these grounds.”
The first three seasons of NCL baseball, the Sailors had a few homes. It all started in 1884. The Milwaukee Grays, a Northwestern League team constructed a stadium which drew many people to their games. At the same time, they hoped that the numbers might lead to an offer by the National League or American Association. But the Big Collapse of 1884 ended the dreams. The Northwestern League folded just weeks after the major leagues, and no new league filled the vacuum. A year later, the city demolished the Wright Street Grounds after prospects for a new league continued to look bleak.
City officials regretted their decision when they approved a request to construct a new ballpark only eleven months after flattening the Wright Street Grounds. From 1886 until 1888, the Sailors used old and smaller ballparks, but nothing met the requirements of the front office. Now, the group of players stood with awe in front of the Ballpark at Fowler Street like a school class with their teacher, who would be Hackman in this case.
Finally, someone welcomed the team and pointed to a gate on the northern side of the ballpark. The Kid almost forgot about the disgusting smell, but it was nearly gone when they disappeared in the inside of the ballpark. As they walked through the hallway, the scent of piss tickled his nose hairs.
“The Milwaukeeans placed the away team’s locker room where it’s supposed to be,” he commented on the hospitality. “Right next to an open room with a tiled wall and a drain. An open urinal.”
The same smell penetrated the locker room, too. One more reason for the team to quickly put on the uniforms, maybe have a quick glass of whiskey or other spirits to numb the taste buds.
On the field
Warming up was something different to the tiny ballpark in Madison which theoretically held 1,000 people, but the attendance averaged at 800 in the first games. Milwaukee had a population of way more than 100,000 and about 2,500 can squeeze into the stands, which they might as well did.
One curiosity was the Bulge. On both corners of the outfield, the distance measured 320 feet. Centerfield had a 435 feet distance, left-center field 360 feet, right-center field 350 feet but there was an anomaly in the wooden left-center-center-outfield barrier. One industrial building along the river had some piece of infrastructure sticking out which caused the fence to lose its round appearance for 30 feet before it continued towards the deep center. Outfielders on both teams would have to find a strategy for it.
Rip Johnston stepped up to the plate. Originally from Milwaukee, he found employment in Madison before the NCL came alive. Excellent legs and eyes, but Otto Dell struck him out with four pitches.
“Watch out for his slider, Hersh,” Rip told Hershel Hackman, who would bat after John Dahlem. Johann Dahlem, a young Dakotian and son to German immigrants, knew how to swing a bat. Although his fate was the same as Johnston’s. Two quick strikes, a foul ball, and a nasty slider.
Olsen paid close attention to Otto Dell’s pitches and Hershel’s batting. The old butcher was a smart man. He knew how to play the pitcher.
And he knew how to do it this time. In the Kid’s time with the Mad Hats, he hadn’t seen Hershel swing left-handed often, which was a rarity in the Madison ballclub. Today, Madison’s pitcher Dick Hartmann was the only natural left-handed batter in the lineup. The first pitch was a ball, then two strikes right down the middle, and the curveball was too low for the 2-2 count.
Another low curve and Hershel trotted to first base. The crowd didn’t like the walk, Hershel, or Sigurd. It was tough to understand them, although the stands where relatively close to home plate.
Now it was time for the Sick Kid. Could he send Hershel home? Dell started his motion, and there was a high and inside fastball. Olsen had to dodge the pitch.
“Welcome to Milwaukee, buddy,” the catcher snarled. Thanks, Olsen thought but ignored him otherwise.
The next pitch painted the inside beautifully, the Kid thought, but the umpire ruled it another ball. 2-0. He would bring one in now. Patiently, he waited for the first strike. Another fastball which hit the same spot and, finally, the first strike.
Olsen took a deep breath and glanced at the Milwaukeeans who followed the game. Mostly workers with their kids, he noticed. And most workers had a beer with them. Probably some kids, too. Isn’t it a beautiful game, he thought.
Dell tossed the ball. The Kid could read the ball, and it seemed that everything happened in slow-motion. Olsen swung at the ball and knocked it hard to center. The wind drove it slightly to leftfield. No outfielder would reach it. It bounced once, twice, and it hit the Bulge.
The centerfielder almost got to it, but the ball now sprang back to centerfield. Hershel was already rounding third base, and Olsen just touched second when the centerfielder slipped. The rightfielder, who barely moved in this play, dashed towards the ball. By the time he picked it up, Hershel picked up Olsen’s bat, and Olsen easily beat the throw at the home plate.
As the Kid jogged back towards the bench, he noticed people battling just behind the Mad Hats dugout. “What happened?” John Dahlem looked at him, then at the crowd, and answered, “Minor leagues, man. Someone said something about us, one of our followers said something about them, and then the fight began.” Olsen sat down on the bench. People behind the dugout began hammering on the wooden boards dividing the players and the crowd. Insults over insults. Isn’t it a beautiful game, he thought.
“Members of the community I have an announcement to make”, said the aging and bearded John Humphrey Noyes. He had the full attention of the one hundred and fifty or so members of the Oneida community. Numbers had been dwindling for the past ten years as the current membership was about half the amount of the peak years.
“The commune, as we know it, will cease to be in the very near future.” A murmur spread through the crowd. A few knew this was coming and they sat quietly on the ground looking around to gauge reactions hoping their advanced knowledge did not give them away. Many gasped and looked at each other with bewildered looks. Some of the younger men, gathered near the back of the ground, wore the same expression as before John Noyes began speaking.
‘We are going into the business of making silverware. That will be our new focus. We will be the Oneida Silverware company.”
The leader of the community continued, “You are all welcome to help in this new ‘family business’, but from this point on all of you will be entering society and living by their rules. For some of you, this is old stuff. You younger folk, well, this will be a new experience. Our Relocation Committee, headed up by Edna here, will help you with logistics.”
Edna Parsons stood up and nodded at the crowd. They were accustomed to her leadership inside the commune. She was smart, and could be trusted, which is why John Noyes asked for her leadership.
Noyes went on about the accomplishments of Oneida, as well as the new direction, trying to muster excitement tempered with the sadness of dissolution of the Oneida community. But there was no disguising the sadness etched into his voice as the founder of the commune knew that his community was forever changed with this announcement.
Some of the faithful hung on every word. Others were so shaken; they hardly heard a word. Both men and women fought back tears during the very poignant portions of Noyes comments. At the very back of the group the young men, one by one, closed ranks and formed a small circle of 18 to 20.
“It’s like I told you brothers, this decision has been in the works for pert near two months. We knew it was coming. Now, I’m going to ask you to think about something. I don’t want you making no snap decision. This is about your life and what you are gonna do with it. You have at least two options, as I see it.”
Jason Evans stood five feet ten inches and weighed about 175 pounds. He was old enough to vote, and young enough to cut and chop wood nearly all day long. His sandy brown hair was long, tucked behind his ears, and he sported a full beard as did many of the men in his circle. His bright blue eyes seem to be forever smiling, even as he addressed this splinter group.
‘Nothing wrong with making silverware gentleman. It’s respectable and will earn a man and his family a decent income. I’m not asking any of you to leave the only thing we’ve known all our lives, ‘the big family’.”
“Tell us more about that baseball game you saw when you were in the big city”, chirped one of the younger boys. “The one in the ballpark. I don’t want to be no silverware maker.”
A few voiced agreements with the young man, but they all were waiting for Jason to share the second option. The chance to do something other than make silverware.
‘All right, you all know about the game of baseball. We’ve been playing a little right here in our community for almost two years. Some of you have gotten quite good. We’re no strangers to the game of baseball, but the game of baseball doesn’t know of us.”
Jason scratched his beard and looked around at his brothers. He was not an eloquent speaker, by any means, but he always spoke from the heart. He loved these guys and couldn’t imagine a life without them. They had built houses, planted crops, raised farm animals together their whole lives. He knew the commune was coming to an end but that didn’t mean he would have to lose his brothers.
“Here is the deal. You guys all know Jacob, right? He left Oneida just last year.” The men either nodded or verbally confirmed. “Okay, Jacob and his group have been playing ball just outside of St. Louis for fun and exercise. Most of em work a day job, but, then they get together and play ball on weekends and some weeknights. They are playing a few other ball clubs that have their own teams.”
“That’s how they make their money?”, yelled out one of the young kids.
“Jason quickly answered, “No, they are not getting any money for this. They are doing it for fun. It’s not the big league, you see? But, some of the scouts of the teams in the big league, well, they come out and watch these games. And the fella’s they like, they signed them to contracts. Those guys are the ones making the money.”
“So, you have to kind of work your way up”, confirmed Adam, one of the older boys who had chatted with Jason many times.
“Adam is right. The thing is, this group Jacob is part of, well, they want to grow. Add more teams. They are looking for good ball players.”
Jason had the complete attention of the group at this point. If John Noyes was still talking it would have been news to any of the young men. Their imaginations starting to create visions in the minds. Visions of a new life, outside the commune, playing this new game called, baseball. It was both exhilarating and frightening. Many wondered how they could survive outside the security of the commune.
The group was now seeing the white, almost perfect teeth, as Jason allowed himself a big smile. He was going to enjoy this next part. “You know what guys?”
‘C’mon, Jason, don’t tease us.’
‘Yeah, how is this gonna work?’
Jason spoke, “So, the name of Jacob’s company is the ‘Good Earth Flour Mill?”
‘We know that, Jason.’
‘What’s that got to do with us playing ball?’
“Well, guys, the Good Earth Flour Mill is just finishing up a new expansion to the old mill. It’s going to be three times larger than what it was last year. They are going to double the mill workers.” Most of the young men let out sounds of either awe or surprise.
“I got word from Jacob that the mill will hire all able bodied and hard-working men in the next two weeks who appear to fill out a formal application. All we got to do is hop that train to St. Louis and Jacob will practically guarantee the mill hires all of us.”
Adam said, “Geez, we could make good money and play ball.”
Jason had only planned out one line of his talk to his brothers. If the conversation went well, and, he judged that it went extremely well.
In his best inspirational voice, he posed the question, “What’s it going to be? You want to make silver in Oneida, or earn money and play baseball in St. Louis?”
was a quiet evening along the Baltimore waterfront. The air was still, humid, and
suffocating. A sharp note of decay,
drifting in off the water, perfumed the air.
clomped along the evening streets and the lamps lit the cobblestone a ghostly
yellow. Without the steady sound of the
horses outside, one may not have known that time was passing. Nevertheless, the past, slippery as it was,
was being swallowed up by the present.
the old, dusty saloon—itself a bit of a tomb with its cold stone walls—a large,
mountain of a man did his best to drown out the sound of hoofs. He sat at the bar, his elbows guarding the
whiskey in front of him, and stared at the bottom of his glass.
ain’t you…” a patron started.
“No. Not me,” he
replied abruptly—too abruptly to hide the truth but abruptly enough to end the
Washington Park, Brooklyn
April 20, 1885
Jonas had finally made the major leagues at 30 years old.
former farmhand with the jerky left-handed swing had bounced in and around
baseball for his entire adult life. Before Baltimore found him, he had played in Alabama,
Mississippi, New York, Texas, California, and Pennsylvania. Wherever somebody would let him play, he
would play. In that regard, he had
become a bit of a folk legend among professional scouts. It seemed that, no matter where there was a
game of baseball being played, there was a good chance that Chick Jonas was
catching in it.
tall, lumbering catcher, whose body was already starting to break down—after so
many innings and so many years in the baseball desert—looked the part of a
major leaguer. His broad shoulders and
intense stare suggested an All-American athlete. Unfortunately for Chick, he was not blessed
with the natural talent his appearance suggested.
Chick’s game was built on the edges of the rulebook. His hustle on every play, and his desire to
win-at-all-costs, were as obvious to any spectator as was his inability to hit
a baseball. However, the scout who finally
signed him recognized where his true abilities lay.
talents for bending the margins of the game of baseball to his favor were not immediately
obvious–which, in any given game, worked in Chick’s favor. However, the scout saw Chick’s genius
composed; Chick cheated.
so, Chick had willed himself to the very top echelon of ballplayers.
his first major league at bat, on Opening Day against the Brooklyn squad, he
struck out on three pitches. In his
second major league at bat, he struck out on four pitches. In his third major league at bat, Chick laid
down a bunt and reached safely when the catcher bounced his throw to the first
baseman. 0 for 3, but he was on first.
The game between Baltimore and Brooklyn was tied when Chick touched first base. Neither team had a natural advantage over the other. So, of course, Chick was determined to change that.
next batter knocked a ground ball between first base and the defender. Looking over his shoulder, Chick noticed that
the umpire’s attention was on the ball and not on him. So, he took off running as fast as his
oversized frame could move—directly for third base—skipping second along the
Brooklyn’s protests, there was no remedy available. The umpire had not seen Chick’s gambit, and Chick
broke the tie on the next at bat—another ground ball through the infield. Brooklyn again erupted in anger, but there
was no obvious recourse available.
smiled, devilishly, as he reached the dugout and shook hands with his teammates.
In his fourth major league at bat, Chick’s season ended abruptly when he was hit in the head by a fastball.
The major leagues dissolved shortly thereafter.
Fells Point, Baltimore
of the line,” a big, round drunk said to Chick, louder than he probably
do you mean,” Chick replied, anxiously. The defensiveness in his voice was palpable. His large frame and rigid angles, which had
previously served as a warning to those who might choose to approach him, had
become less austere and more uncertain with each new drink. The degree to which his presence dominated
the space around him had lessened.
poet died here,” replied the rotund drunk, “in this bar. Poor bastard probably did not even know he
had written his last word.” He paused and took another sip of ale.
“Or, not here, here, but certainly from here,” he continued his meandering, less-than-intelligible train of thought while correcting himself for a record that no one was keeping. “Or, maybe not from here, but this is where he had his last drink. And what’s the difference, then, anyways?” The man turned red as he guffawed maniacally. His inebriation had the pleasant effect of causing the laughter to slosh out of him.
here and they found him wandering the streets in somebody else’s clothes.
He was ranting and raving like a lunatic.
Didn’t even get to go out as himself.” The drunk paused again to
take another sip of his drink.
grinned, enjoying the sodden spectacle of the man, and thought to himself, “I
wonder if he’s wearing someone else’s clothes?”
say the devil finally came to collect his keep,” he said as leaned in towards
Chick. “Don’t matter who a man was. If he runs with the devil, it’s
only a matter of time before the devil catches up.”
if a man’s faster than the devil?” Chick asked.
no man faster than the devil,” the man replied, confidently, and stood to
leave. His feet were seemingly less sure than his mind as he stumbled
into Chick, knocking Chick’s drink over.
if a man doesn’t play by the devil’s rules?” Chick asked.
“It would take a helluva man to cheat the devil,” the drunk yelled back as he stumbled to the door.
“Helluva man,” Chick repeated to himself. He noticed, for the first time that evening, that he could not hear the sound of horses.
She was not shy of being the center of attention. After all, she became the capital in the 60’s, the largest city in Georgia in the 80’s, and the new Georgia School of Technology had just opened to make Atlanta the center for higher education in the 90’s.
But none of that mattered to the Cooper family. The Cooper’s lived on a quiet street that had been peach groves between the Civil War and two months ago. Alexander Cooper moved to Atlanta from Virginia to work in the new Pemberton Medicine Company that attracted anyone with a pulse. He brought his wife, Barbara, and the only son left in the house, a twelve-year-old named Archie. The Cooper residence was filled with optimism, love, and disagreement.
Alexander Cooper was an aging 38-year-old with the American Dream emblazoned across his chest. He was hopes and aspirations personified. Barbara balanced his optimism with her harsh reminders of reality and risk-aversion. She hated the idea of moving to help work in a factory distributing a beverage. The two disagreed on almost everything, from how to spend their little money, to how to educate Archie, to if even they should have been married in the first place. But there was always one thing they agreed on: the disapproval of their eldest son’s actions… twice.
“Listen,” Nails spoke with a bellow that spawned from his bulging gut. “You sons of bitches are gon’ play for me now, ya hear?”
The boys nodded in mandatory agreement.
“I’m the manager ‘round here, and from the looks of it… this all ya got.” Nails turned to fire a missile of brown juice onto the dirt. “This ain’t your National League, here in Atlanta. This is Southern Ball. We run faster, and hit… well faster too.”
“Do you mean, harder, sir?” A young boy with parted brown hair was propped up on one knee with the look of unbridled joy on his face chimed in.
“I said what I said,” Nails stepped closer to the front row of the boys and their equipment, “And I always mean it.”
“This is Gregory Smith, and you boys can call him Nails,” A voice came from an approaching man in a nice blue business suit. “I apologize for my late arrival.”
Nails fired another missile onto the ground.
“From my understanding, you boys will be playing for us here in Atlanta’s new Southern Ball ballclub,” The man in the suit looked over the crowd of a newly-formed Atlanta baseball team that ranged from 15 to 30-year-olds. “Well, you will all have to hold off on being paid until we turn a revenue, but I’m sure you all can bring us an entertaining product, yes?”
The boys sat expressionless in the roofless dugout of a dirt field.
“What he means is that you boys won’t get paid unless you listen to me,” Nails broke in. “And you know how I know if you’re listenin’ to me?”
The boys waited for the answer.
“I know you’re listenin’… if we’re winnin’.” Nails let out a laugh that quickly turned into a miner’s cough.
“Yes, well I should be going,” The suit turned to leave, but remembered one last thing. He turned back around, “Mr. Smi—er, Nails, you shall be expecting one more gentleman soon. The name is Cooper. I hear good things.” He turned and left quickly to escape the sun.
“I’m sure,” Nails scoffed at the team that started to look a little sore from kneeling. “Alright, let’s get this show on the road. We got our first game tomorrow, and I ain’t even seen ya’ll throw a damn thing.”
“Sir?” A voice from the back of the dugout interrupted with a nervous crack. “What time is the game tomorrow? I’m gon’ have to try to leave work early.”
Nails turned his back to the team and looked out over the dirt field. He let out another spit.
The signs that appeared to erect overnight across Atlanta were colored and obnoxious. In a mix of cursive, bold, and eccentric fonts, the words “Traveling Show, Now in Town” smacked every passerby in the face and told them to look.
About four-hundred feet into the outfield of the all-dirt Atlanta baseball field, the travelling act featured a bright red wagon that seemed to explode into a number of tents that varied in sizes. Some had magicians, others had people to observe and ogle, and others had games for the children to play. Luckily, Hamilton Cooper assured everyone in the company that this was where they could park, since there was no fence in the outfield that dictated a safe zone away.
“There ain’t no Harry Stovey out here,” Hamilton told his fellow circus acts.
“Who? Harry what?” A woman who can bend in all shapes asked.
“Stovey led the league in Home Runs. They say he can hit it two miles on a hot day.” Hamilton spoke as if he were a bard telling stories of Greek gods.
“Ok, Ham. Help me with this tent.” A man holding two sticks motioned over with a shake of his head.
As the sun came up and shined a light over the city, the people started to arrive and split down the middle. The mothers and children flocked towards the outfield, while the men took seats behind Homeplate and along the side-fences.
Hamilton Cooper asked to perform as early as possible. He was a 20-year-old magician who played hidden coin tricks, card tricks, and specialized in any other sleight of hand that he could create or learn. He had the quickest hands that the traveling company had ever seen. Hamilton tried to tell them that he was even better at playing shortstop, but none of them knew what that meant.
After a few hours of entertaining the early-to-arrive families, he quickly escaped to behind the wagon and changed into his favorite black stockings from his glory days of playing in the league, and ran to sit in the empty dugout along the first-base line.
Hamilton watched the families continue to arrive when finally, he saw men in Levi Strauss jeans throwing a ball near the third-base dugout. A feeling of sheer joy and comfort came over him as he watched the ball go from person to person.
A deep, voice interrupted Hamilton’s meditation, “You, boy. You’re in the middle of our dugout.” Hamilton turned around and saw a round man with a striped baseball cap with a large block letter A in the middle.
The man stood over Hamilton, “You can watch from over there,” he pointed at the men who were starting to take seats behind home plate.
Hamilton stood up and removed his own old baseball cap that was black and empty of any design or logo. “I apologize, sir. I am Hamilton Cooper. I am to play for the Atlanta ballclub,” he reached out for a handshake from this large man.
“Ah,” Nails spit on the ground, almost making contact with Hamilton’s right shoe. “So you’re the boy that played in the league?”
Hamilton looked up at the tall man that had a white mustache and yellow teeth. “I did play in the league, yes. I hope to play again.”
“Well, I’m Nails. I run this ballclub. I’ll tell ya when to hit,” Nails stepped past Hamilton and onto the field where there was little-to-no foul ball area. “These damn travelling shows. Always gettin’ in the way.”
“I, uh,” Hamilton turned around, “I told them to park out there. Figured it would bring some more people to see the game.”
Nails didn’t turn to face Hamilton. He wiped his mustache and snorted, and looked out over the crowds of people that were arriving for the show. “You’ll bat second. Need you on base.”
Hamilton nodded three times before words came out from behind his blinding smile, “Yes, yes, sir.”
Nails quickly turned back toward the young ex-ballplayer, “And tell your freaks out there not to bump into my center fielder.”
Hamilton Cooper laughed and ran passed Nails to the outfield where his old company performed in front of dozens of women and children.
By the third inning, the Atlanta ballclub was down three men. Two had to start their shifts at work, and one decided that the day was being wasted not fishing.
Hamilton Cooper sat on the bench watching men flail at balls that were bouncing two feet in front of the plate. He couldn’t help but laugh. When the 8th batter came back to the dugout after another strikeout, Hamilton put his arms around the man named Jimmy. “Listen, don’t swing out of control. You have to see the ball the entire way.”
Jimmy’s frustration tried to pry him away from Hamilton’s embrace, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
“I’m serious. It’ll help you on defense too. Never look away from that beautiful little ball.” Hamilton let Jimmy go slouch on the end of the wooden bench.
Nails talked to himself under his breath as he watched strikeout after strikeout, error after error.
“Hey, skip?” Hamilton approached the right side of Nails and put his hand on the fence.
Nails snorted and kept his focus on the play in front of him.
“Put me in at shortstop. I know you don’t know me from the hole in your right shoe, but let me see if I can stop these guys.” Hamilton Cooper sat back on the bench next to his new Atlanta team and waited for the inning to end.
The ballclub from Charleston was not much better in terms of talent, but their lineup made sense. They had fielders where they should be, and hitters where they should be in the order. At least it was baseball, thought the majority of fans.
Nails noticed that Hamilton Cooper not only got on base every at-bat, but stole his way to second and third every time as well. When the fourth inning finally ended with a score of Charleston’s seven runs to Atlanta’s zero, Nails stopped Hamilton on his way to the bench. “Alright, I’ll move you and Dee around in the field. Stop these damn grounders.”
Hamilton nodded and reached up to pat Nails on the shoulder, “You got it.”
The game was stopped once in the seventh inning due to the crowds at the traveling show getting a little too close to the outfielders, but the outfielders adjusted and moved in a few ten feet to continue play.
Charleston stopped scoring once Cooper’s hands were at shortstop. His range was the widest, and his hands were the softest either manager had ever seen. Nails went so far to even admit that Cooper might be better than Ed Caskin, Arthur Irwin, and even maybe Jack Glasscock of the old league.
Hamilton continued to get on base his fourth time up, but was once again stranded at third with a big smile on his face.
Nails grabbed Hamilton by the spare fabric on his chest on his way to the bottom of the ninth, “Why the hell you always smilin’?”
Hamilton Cooper laughed, and pat his manager on the chest, “Because I’m playin’ baseball.”
The warbling call of the Tonawanda Express bade farewell over the fanfare of a bustling Seymour Street, overburdened with the canal pilots and lumbermen who shuffled about the river town like so many insects consigned to an insatiable American industry. It was a particularly sweltering day, wrought with all the humidity the Niagara could muster from her balmy depths, and yet Mr. Thomas James Lawson stood upon the boardwalks between Seymour and Niagara Street in his three-piece tweed, sweating profusely, fanning his crimson cheeks with a large bowler. He frowned, puffing his large and bristling moustache as he checked a silver-chained pocketwatch with some annoyance.
“You need to calm down some, Grover-boy,” Kirby Spencer chided with a facetious and patronizing tone, garbed in a dirty shirt and suspenders like a suspect saloon keeper. He leaned on the railing of the Lumberman, indistinguishable among a dozen Seymour Street saloons, save its corner proximity to the Eerie Canal and a large, amateur sign nailed above the door.
Mr. Lawson’s frown grew deeper as he scowled at his poorly dressed compatriot, lifting his chin. The two days aboard the New York Central-Buffalo Express had been, by all reasonable accounts, miserable with this frontier mercenary—this drunken, card-playing criminal with his unruly hair and poorly shaven face. William Shakespeare could not assemble two more opposite characters to share a corner of this canal town—the portly Virginia gentleman and his wiry, frontier antagonist, who had taken early in the journey to calling Mr. Lawson nothing but “Grover Cleveland,” which the Virginia man objected to in both a physical and political fashion. The only similarity the two men bore seemed to be their age—both settled beyond undeniable middle-life, perhaps fifty-five each, with all signs of youth departed from the pair.
“Are you certain the gentleman telegrammed for this specific saloon?” Lawson asked, ignoring Spencer’s jibe as he scanned the busy street. A wagon conveyed a towering assembly of wooden planks before the pair, with several young and exhausted boys riding atop. Lawson watched them pass with a wary eye.
“He’ll be here,” Spencer replied, thumbs in his suspenders as he leaned on the wooden railings. He sniffed loudly and spit a thin stream of tobacco juice into the street. “he’s on the village council, so I’m told. Says he’s got a catcher that can land a summer pea with a nurse’s thimble.”
“I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.”
“Lots of folks can catch a baseball,” Spencer continued, ignoring his companion as he looked about the street. “But finding one with the spring to guard a bunt, who can hit the average, that, Grover, is as rare as a cabaret in Dakota territory.”
“Ah yes, another reference to your intrepid life on the frontier,” Lawson answered sardonically. “One must wonder, Mister Spencer, why one would abandon such a wondrous adventure in the west.”
“Had my fill of the cavalry life,” Spencer answered with a shrug. He produced a flask from his shirt that caused Lawson to scowl dubiously.
“The Confederacy may have lost, Mister Spencer,” Lawson said, “but under General Jackson’s command, an officer would have been flayed alive for the sort of impertinent debauchery so embedded in your archetype.”
“Well, it’s a damn good thing I wasn’t in General Jackson’s command,” Spencer answered with a humorous grunt. “Tell me, what was the good General’s stance on gluttony?”
“I was not always an old man,” Lawson replied, straightening his suit jacket. “In the First Virginia, a gentleman’s honor still meant something.”
“Sure it did, so long as you was a pasty plantation boy with six or seven good house negroes.” Spencer laughed to himself. “Yes indeed, I know all about you gentlemen and your honor.”
“I won’t reduce myself to a debate with a failed drunkard.”
Before Spencer could reply, a tall and well-dressed man with an oiled moustache and splendidly fashionable mutton chops appeared, approaching from around the corner and taking off his hat as he looked from the saloon to the two men.
“Pardon,” the man, perhaps thirty-five, said politely, removing his bowler. “I am searching for Colonel Spencer, of Monroe Tobacco?”
Lawson was unable to withhold a scoff, to which the man frown and turned his head with a confused expression.
“At your service,” Spencer replied, spitting a bullet of brown juice into the steps. The fashionable man looked between the pair, still perplexed. “I’m sorry, you mean, you’re–”
“Indian Jack,” Spencer replied with a short and dramatic flourish. “that’s me, pal. Who are you, the Bonnie Prince Charlie?’
“Lattimer,” the man answered, dipping his head. “Horace Lattimer, gentleman. Of Lattimer Mill.”
Stepping forward with an annoyed expression, Lawson reached out his hand to the man. “Thomas Lawson, sir, practitioner of law and representative of Mr. Michael Monroe, of Monroe Tobacco Enterprises.”
“So, this is Kirby Spencer,” the man said, stupefied, shaking Lawson’s hand absently as he gazed at Spencer. “They say you rode through a dozen Lakota braves at Rosewater to save a captured Soldier.”
“It was more like two dozen,” Spencer replied, spitting again and pushing off from the column impatiently. “Now listen, mister, I just spent three days in a cheap train car with this nothing but this fat confederate bastard to keep me company. Are you gonna show me a damn ballgame, or what?”
“Of course,” the man said, lifting from his haze. “Of course, sir. Please, follow me. The game is on Goose Island.”
“It isn’t really an island,” Lattimer explained as the trio crossed the wooden bridge over the Eerie canal. A low-bearing freight boat drifted along under the bridge, with a tip of the wide-brimmed straw hat from the negro pilot that ferried the goods westward. “It’s just the tip of the town that they cut off when the Eerie was built.”
“How fascinating,” Lawson said flatly, chewing on a cigar as he watched a pair of rouge-cheeked women in cheap dresses eye Spencer with coy expressions, fanning themselves. Spencer, for his part, seemed oblivious to them, frowning at the narrow boats that drifted across the shallow canal.
“it’s not the—ah—most reputable corner of our fair town,” Lattimer explained as they walked, a bit embarrassed. “mostly Irish and Italians. They don’t let the darkies stay in the boarding houses, but they run about like cats.” He turned an eye to Spencer. “Say, Colonel, if you don’t mind, I’ve always wondered—why is it exactly they called you ‘Indian Jack’ in the papers, years ago?”
“I killed Indians,” Spencer replied flatly, scratching at his stubble. “Kill enough Indians, they start calling you one. I believe that’s called a paradox.”
“Ah,” Lattimer answered, paling. “Ah, yes, of course. Well, gentlemen, if you’ll follow me.”
The three men entered a weaving and largely disorganized corner of the river town, wrought with lopsided shacks and rotting canvas. Near the shore, where a small, rolling flood plain gave way to the rolling waters of the Niagara, an impromptu set of viewing stands were erected on either side of a poorly kept field. The resonant crack of a bat filled the air with exhilaration—as through the impoverished commotion of Goose Island, a large and rambunctious crowd cheered a ballgame into the afternoon. A pair of marked deputies leaned against a handful of crates near the stands, watching the game.
“They call him Fat Man Rogers,” Lattimer said, nodding toward the game. A defense garbed in faded white uniforms with a bright blue “D” over the breast hollered and whopped as an enormous man, perhaps two hundred and fifty pounds, emerged from the crowd with his bat—not unlike an ape—nearly dragging it as he approached the plate. He had a wide, slackjawed face, with small eyes and a hawkish, aquiline nose. He seemed twice the size of a normal man. The crowd grew unruly, cheering the heavy striker on, as the outfielders all turned on a heel, shouting to each other and running near to the banks of the river.
“We had to fashion a custom uniform for him a the mill,” Lattimer explained proudly, rubbing his black moustache.
The pitcher, visibly shaken, threw out his leg in a corkscrew motion and delivered a splendid pitch—a powerful fastball that would have seared beyond any normal man before he could even raise his bat.
However, Spencer cursed in pure wonder as this enormous man came to life, delivering a punishing blow upon the ball that could be heard, perhaps, in Buffalo. The crowd erupted into salvos of joy, and the baseball arced like a shooting star well into the river. Even the deputies clapped politely from the crates, smiles across their features.
“best player in the Lake Leagues,” Lattimer said proudly, his hands behind his back. “Most clubs refuse to play Tonowanda unless Fat Man Rogers sits it out. And he is shockingly limber, for his size. Watch how he grazes the bases.”
Indeed, both Spencer and Lawson were speechless as the massive man ran the bases with surprising speed.
“Any experience in the major leagues?” Spencer asked. Lattimer shook his head.
“Not even a day, sir. The man emerged from the Minnesota wilderness like a work of fiction. Found his way down the canal last year looking for work. I pay him five dollars a month to hit the ball.”
Spencer turned, with a suspicious eye, to the lanky businessman.
“So what’s in it for you, Lattimer?” Spencer asked. “Every city from St. Louis to Louisville’s looking for hidden gems. Why Monroe? Why us?”
“Well, normally, a customary finder’s fee would be in order for these sorts of discoveries,” Lattimer replied. “I have, as I’m sure you surmised, some experience as a chaser in the National League. I own one of the textile mills in Buffalo—but to be frank, I make more money selling tickets to come watch Fat Man Rogers hit balls into the Niagara.”
“Go on,” Spencer said.
“Gentlemen, I believe I have lost my taste for the textile industry. Send a telegram to your friend, Mr. Monroe. His endeavors in Richmond are no secret among the old scouts. Tell him that if he will have me as his Head Scout, I will show him a new frontier of baseball talent, waiting just out of sight of the old guard.”
Folding his hands behind his back, Lattimer smiled politely at the pair.
“That would be highly irregular,” Lawson answered hotly, puffing his moustache. “Mr. Monroe has already hired Mr. Spencer to conduct our scouting, sir—hence our presence in this sweltering town. The idea—”
“It’s a deal,” Spencer replied, extending a tan hand to Lattimer. The younger man smiled warmly and took it. “Grover, wire Richmond and inform Mr. Monroe we require a one-hundred-dollar advance for Mr. Lattimer.”
“One hundred dollars?” Lawson demanded. “That simply will not do, sir. This is Monroe Tobacco, not some slipshod Hoboken financier’s hobby cart.”
“Two hundred would be sufficient,” Lattimer replied, “we’ll be gone quite some time, and I shall have to advance some subsidiary costs here.”
“Of course,” Spencer replied.
“That will not do at all,” Lawson continued, red in the face.
“It’ll do fine,” Spencer answered. “Now, Mr. Lattimer—if you find the terms agreeable—where shall I tell Mr. Monroe to wire funds for tickets?”
“Oh, it’s right up your alley, Mr. Spencer.” Smiling, Lattimer rubbed his mustache again, eyeing the pair. “Gentlemen,” he said, removing an envelope from his suit jacket, “we’re going to Montana.”
Donal stopped inside the door of the saloon, stamping the snow from his boots and allowing his eyes to adjust to the gloom of the club. A quick scan of the room found the man who’d asked him to come sitting in a quiet corner at the back. If it was meant to mask his presence it wasn’t working. His slight frame and pale face were too well known in Boston, his name rarely spoken without a spat gob immediately following.
The old ball player couldn’t imagine why he’d received this invitation. They’d never been friendly, only rarely crossed paths, and this certainly wasn’t a place he could afford to patronize. Finally, he eased around the carefully cultivated cobwebs in the center of the room, sitting heavily across from the notorious industrialist. “So, why is it I’m here?”
“And a hawareya to you, too. Fine then. I’ve heard the rumours of a new league forming, I want in, and I want the Brotherhood behind me… quietly.” His voice was a sharp contrast to Donal’s, second generation American versus first, soft and sardonic rather than Donal’s harsh, guttural rasp, and honeyed with an upper class affect far from anything he’d uttered in his adolescence. is voice,
Donal snorted, stared silently across the table for a moment, and chuckled again. “You’re nowhere near this stupid. The Brotherhood is done, same as the leagues. Himself overplayed our hand. What are you really after?
“A new story, for both myself and the game. It will survive, and I want to be its saviour, at least here.”
“The big bugs who allied with himself stabbed us in the back, the big bugs who already owned teams never stopped stabbing us in the front, and whoever the new big bugs shall be, sure they’ll be more o’ the same. We’ve lost.”
“If I own the Boston club, I have intentions of getting you every concession possible. And intentions of getting every concession possible from you.”
“I mean to broker the biggest bastard of a compromise the world has seen in years. I want both sides to absolutely despise it, and be forced to vote yea besides.”
“So they have us down for a count and you want to throw us a lifeline at your own expense? Pull the other one, it has me bolls attached.”
With a snigger, he gestured out the window. “Do you know what once stood there, across the street and down that way a bit?”
“Aye, the Dragon. Are you now to help the bloody English find a better compromise as well? I think you’ve left that too late.”
“Shut pan and think, friend. There began a revolution. And fifteen miles that way, a Quaker convinced a Puritan jury he should have freedom of speech, damned if we didn’t all get it as well. Down that way, Reverend Parker put pen to paper and convinced the men of Massachusetts they’d be willing to die to free the southern Negro. Now, the world turns under our feet again, and men want kinder livelihood.”
“You must realize you’d be the shitehawk everyone will be throwing over in that instance? You’d be defenestrated the first day of that revolution.” He paused a moment, began to speak, and stopped again. Finally, “Ara you want us to help you convince everyone you’re suddenly the new Fiach, leading the people to freedom?”
“Despite your sarcasm, I quite like the comparison.”
“You’re mad. You’re a villain, despised!”
“That’s easily handled. Sure, now they say I’m a hypocrite, making my fortune off the people maimed in the factory and freezing in my holey, unholy homes.”
“And that’s easily handled, is it?”
“I’m to be the holy deacon. The man who ran a base ball team as a shining beacon of what the world can be. Who ran it at no profit, using every penny to fix up those homes and that factory. The man so good his works couldn’t match his faith until he had a fortune with which to better the world. That’s to be me.”
Donal shook his head. “So you’ll put yourself at the fore of the reforms and hope everyone believes you a general rather than a charlatan?”
“Aye, and what remains of your Brotherhood can be the first to benefit from my new munificence. “
“Sure, all know you’re a sleeveen. And why do you need us?”
“Because I don’t know who is involved, or where it’s to be. Moneyed men don’t like me anymore than do the poor. You have the connections to make me involved.”
“I’m sobbing for ye.” Donal sighed. “I’ll take it to him. But he’s not very trusting of your ilk these days.”
“Do your utmost to convince him. It’s not likely you’ll find another ‘of my ilk’ with as much impetous to help your side.”
“Aye, and that’s the only reason I’m taking this to him. If we’re doomed to a devil’s bargain, better the devil we know.”
“Why was it you were never the top man? You’re quicker than he. You’d have never made his mistakes.”
“He’s the inspiring one. Good looking, star player, well spoken. People want to follow. One like me, and you as well, we may be better at the machinations, but no one wants to follow an ugly culchie riding a bench. So himself is himself.”
“And you do all the work in the shadows, he get all the credit, and then fate gets the blame when he fails?”
“As ever it’s been.”
“Just keep this close. Get me in that room. I have the coin, and a reputation to assure your other owners will never see me coming, unless someone’s gob spoils it.” He stood and took his hat from the table. “Stay, order a meal and a drink before you go. They know to put it on my bill. No need for thanks, you can save them for when I’ve made it so you can afford the custom yourself.”
“Cute hoor. I should order enough hamburger eels for fifty and feed me whole street.”
“Sure, just let them all know who their new benefactor is. Never too soon to start building a legend, is it?”
He was out the door before Donal could formulate a reply, a waiter immediately hurrying over to take his place by the table.
“Settle down, class. You are high school seniors and you need to carry your self with a little more civility and a little less horse play. You will be graduating next week, if you manage to pass your final exams, so it’s time to get serious about your life and your career. And, the upcoming final exam that commences next Thursday.”
The final bell rung, and the class abruptly left the room like a herd of cattle on a Colorado cattle drive. The young men in the class grabbed their hats and caps off the hooks, the few who owned a baseball glove snagged them, while the best player, Joseph Sumption, secured the bat and ball from his coat hook area.
Most of the students had exited the room by the time Joseph turned to his teacher and asked, “Say, Mr. Evans, sir, we’ve got a little ball game going out in the field in back until supper time. If you’d like, that is, if you are not too busy, you could come by and watch us. We’d be glad to show you how the game is played.”
“Well, thank you Joseph, that is mighty kind of you to offer. I have to grade the essay papers first, but, if I get done before the game ends, I’d be very interested in watching you boys play the game of baseball.”
“I’m pitching today, Mr. Evans, so those 11th graders better look out.” Joseph smiled at his teacher and headed out the door to catch up with the rest of the team.
Mr. Evans waved good-bye to his star pupil and called out, ‘have fun’, before his eyes dropped to the stack of 20 single paged essays sitting on the corner of his desk. He let out a deep sigh, adjusted his spectacles, and took the top one from the stack, and began reading. Half-way down the page he decided the room was stuffy. Stifling, in fact. How could he expect to concentrate on the essay’s when he was so overwhelmed by the heat? Not to mention the humidity.
He walked over to the window and turned the lever on the window so that he could push the glass open. Initially, it was stuck, but using the heel of his hand, he was able to force it open. The hot air gently rolled in the window. Before heading back to his desk, he heard one of the boys in the distance, ‘second base, throw it to second base.’
He lingered at the window trying to see the source of the voice in the distance. But, the trees outside the classroom obstructed the makeshift baseball field in back. Stifled in his attempt to see the game, Franklin Evans headed back to his desk and resumed his attempt at reading the first essay.
Reading the essays of the kids was something that Franklin always enjoyed. He loved the way that the kids would share their thoughts about anything from tending to wheat fields to training a horse, to why the Constitution is important.
It was different today. He couldn’t stay engaged. He decided to loosen his tie. Unbutton his collar. How could he expect to grade an essay being in such discomfort?
“He was out for by a mile.”
“What are you talking about it, he missed the tag. He still hasn’t tagged me.”
Again, Franklin went to the window. This time he stuck his head through the opening and peered around to the back. There it was. The right field corner of the playing field. He could see one kid standing out there. No glove. Squatted down a bit, with hands on his knees, he was ready in case a ball came his way.
It occurred to Franklin that he didn’t have to finish the essay’s right now. He could take them home and read them tonight. After he had dinner with his family. He could sit in the family room and grade the essays. It would be cooler. Less stuffy. And, he could get rid of this stiff shirt and jacket.
After he locked the classroom, Franklin headed to the rear of the building and towards the baseball game just past the dirt road out back.
When he reached the field, he saw Joseph standing in the pitcher’s position getting ready to throw the baseball. He looked in towards the catcher and threw the ball towards home plate. The batter swung and missed. ‘Strike three!”, someone called.
“Mr. Evans. You made it”, shouted Joseph as he made his way toward his side of the field near home plate. “Did you see that fastball?”
“Mighty nice pitch, Joseph. Mighty nice.”
Franklin watched Joseph’s team bat the while under the shade of the big oak tree next to third base. The first batter up for Joseph’s team was a young man named, Robert. He was a big kid, the same one that Franklin saw in right field. On the second pitch of the inning he took a vicious swing of the bat and screamed a ball towards third base. The ball took a wicked hop and bounced right into the chin of the third baseman. He dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Franklin rushed out to assist the injured player and saw the gash on the lip. Immediately, it was starting to swell. It was decided the young man would leave the game so that he could walk home and have his mother apply first aid treatment.
After some discussion about how to proceed without one less player it was Robert who came up with the idea that would allow the game to continue.
“Say, Mr. Evans, could you fill in at third base for their team? You can play the outfield if you want, but we really need another player to keep the competition fair. Please?”
“C’mon Mr. Evans, we’d really appreciate it.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know how to play”.
“That’s not fair, we need a real ball player to take Jake’s place.”
These are some of the comments that Franklin heard as he was pondering the decision to join the boys. Ultimately, he decided, ‘why not’.
He removed his jacket and headed over to third base politely refusing the offer to assume the easier position in right field.
When the game resumed, the batter hit a ground ball to the second baseman who couldn’t find the handle. Runners on first and second with no one out.
Franklin could see the next batter talking with the player that would bat after him. They were smiling as they looked towards their teacher while sharing their little secret. The two shared a smug look on their faces.
The batter squared around on the first pitch and bunted the ball. “Run” his teammates yelled.
Franklin broke towards the plate using small, but efficient steps, that carried his lean frame quickly to the ball as it was falling to the ground. The surprise to everyone was that it never made it to the ground. It was a mere one inch from the tall grass before the large hand of Franklin Evans slid between the ground and the sinking baseball as he squeezed it securely in his palm.
The force of his body propelled him forward so that after catching the ball he did a roll and landed on his feet holding the ball for all to witness. Without pause, he rifled the ball to second base where it was caught by the second baseman. Franklin kept running towards first base and as he passed the out of position first baseman, he yelled, ‘back to first, throw it back to first.”
The second baseman, ‘Johnny on the spot’, tossed the ball back to Franklin thus completing the rarest of putouts, the baseball triple play.
“But…how….where did you learn how to do that Mr. Evans?”, called out Joseph as he stood with thirteen other stunned young men.
They were gathered around their teacher now. The game all but forgotten. The focus on the amazing play of their…..teacher, of all people.
Franklin looked at the young men without any apparent emotion and thought about how he was to answer that question.
“Let me put it this way Joseph”, but he was looking at all his students now, “I wasn’t always a schoolteacher.”