Baseball season is upon us!
To celebrate this “National Pastime” I’ve decided to share an excerpt from my book—
“Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia.” http://tinyurl.com/j4qbpsz
(From Chapter Twenty – 1916)
Out in the crisp air of the sixteenth of April, after leaving the station early that afternoon, Dave forgot the morning’s row and felt a bit like his old self. He began to whistle “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” as he waited for Howard and Johnny on the corner outside of Baker Bowl, the ballpark on Huntingdon Avenue.
“How’re ya doin’ Davey,” Johnny greeted him with his usual enthusiasm. “Damn, look at this crowd. They’re even up on the roofs! Lucky for us you got them tickets. Where’s Howard? Not here yet?”
“No, but I hope he gets here soon. The owners are going to give presents to the players for winning the pennant last year, and I don’t want to miss it,” Dave said.
He spotted Howard trying his best to rush through the crowd.
“Here he comes, Johnny. Over here, Howard!”
Howard spotted Dave, and waved back with both arms.
“Shit…I forgot how bad that limp of his is,” Johnny said. “Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I saw him.”
Howard’s broad face shone with anticipation and perspiration when he met up with them.
“Hello, Johnny! How’re you doing, Dave?”
They joined the large throng entering the ball field.
As they took their seats, the announcer on the field started naming the players as they entered, each one to louder and louder cheers. Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Phillies’ star pitcher, appeared last. Dave and his two friends joined the other rooters as they stood to give the pitcher his well-deserved ovation.
Everyone sat down again, anticipating the start of the formal ceremony. The owners presented each of the Pennant-winning players of 1915 with a monogrammed gold watch. At the end, the crowd stood again and cheered.
To start the opening game of the season, Mayor Thomas B. Smith threw out the first ball, which got picked up by the catcher who tossed it to Alexander. The Phillies’ twenty-nine-year-old right-handed pitcher’s uniform hung like a potato sack on his slim six-foot-one-inch frame and his cap looked like it belonged to a child, but he didn’t take notice. He curled into his windup and let fly.
“Can’t they afford to get their players uniforms that fit?” asked Howard. “He looks like hell!”
Grover Cleveland Alexander, Phillies star pitcher, 1916 “Old Low and Away”
“Who gives a shit how he looks as long as he beats the Giants?” Johnny replied.
About that time, a beer hawker came through the bleachers to where the friends were seated.
“Over here—three!” Dave called.
As he passed the beers to the other two, he said, “Beating these bums’ll be no problem—they were dead last, last season.”
In the first inning, however, the “bums” made a game of it thanks to a wild throw by the normally steady shortstop, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft, which allowed two Giants to score.
“Son of a bitch! What the hell are ya doin’?” Johnny yelled.
“Take it easy. Here, have some peanuts.”
“I’d like some more.” Howard reached into the sack Dave held, and grabbed a handful. He brushed peanut shell fibers from the front of his shirt. “Wish this damn wind would settle down. I think it’s throwing their game off.”
“It ain’t the wind—they just stink,” Johnny replied.
The Phillies answered with one run in the first, and two in the second. Johnny calmed down.
The Giants managed another run in the third inning. Johnny and Howard both cursed.
In the fifth inning, Dave worried Johnny would have a heart attack. Alexander tossed a rare hanging curve to Fred “Bonehead” Merkle, who smashed it 272 feet over the right field wall.
Johnny’s face turned purple. Howard held his head between his hands and moaned. Dave ordered three more beers and some more peanuts from the hawkers.
The sixth inning saw both teams score, bringing them to a tie at four each.
By the ninth inning, the tension became so great the three friends were not talking. They were leaning forward on their elbows with their beers gripped tight.
Then it happened. Ninth inning, Phillies up, with two outs. Stock, the third sacker, grabbed a free pass, stole second, and scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch. Final score: Phillies—5–4.
It all happened in a flash. Johnny and Howard and Dave stood in place in shock, along with about 21,000 other rooters. Then, as if on cue, they all began to cheer and laugh and hug and spill beer over each other.
“Damn, Davey…that was the best baseball game I ever seen!” Johnny said. “Thanks a lot for bringin’ me along.”
“Yeah, Dave. That was great!”
“Nothing like a ballgame with your buddies,” Dave said. “Let’s get the hell outta here. I’m starved.”