THE FIRST-EVER HILLDALE/DARBY WHITE-COLORED CLASSIC
August 10, 1924
By Vinny Spanelli
Phillie Batboy and White Stars Coach
Well, the nice, quiet trolley car I took out here yesterday was nothing but a big, rolling crazy house today. It seemed like every real ball fan, every nearby sports reporter worth his salt and a few more hundred curious types were making their way southwest to little Darby to see how Rube Foster's Colored Stars would fare against our Whites.
Chester and Cedar Avenues were so packed it took me and Rachel fifteen extra minutes just to find where the entrance gate was, Benny and Roy ran out of tickets to sell by ten o'clock this morning but the mobs wanting to get in wouldn't let up and they finally decided to let folks in for free. The Hilldale Park grandstand was puny, so they put ropes up out in the outfield, there were people up in a big tree planted inside the park in deep right field, and at least a hundred more people sitting and balancing on gravestones in the Holy Cross Cemetery past right field.
The great thing was that the crowd was a complete jumble of both races, and everyone seemed to be getting along, making bets and laughing and just happy to be part of such an amazing thing. Rube and Cy had decided to try a two-out-of-three series, and when they flipped a coin, it came up tails to make the Whites the home team for the first and third game, if it went that long. I was wearing my Phillies jersey and cap, and joined Cy in front of our bench to pep talk the players.
They sure didn't need one. There was the Babe, right in front of me and slapping Hornsby's behind. Tris Speaker spat into his hands and worked a bat handle. Goslin and Fournier and Eddie Collins and Heilman and Zack Wheat were sitting a few feet away and I was so dizzy just watching them I didn't hear one thing Cy was saying. The great Walter Johnson hadn't shown up, which didn't surprise anyone, and Mays and Vance were coming late because they had to start in their teams' early afternoon games today.
Looking over at the other bench, where Big Rube was holding court, I could see the colored players were wearing K.C. Monarchs uniforms because Rube won the Negro National championship with them last year. None of them seemed to mind.
Then two umps, a white one and a colored one, called the players out from home plate, the crowd went nuts, and old Pete Alexander grabbed the cleanest ball he could find and headed to the mound.
The great Oscar Charleston led off for the coloreds, and Pete got him on a short fly to left. Half the crowd cheered, the other half booed. A black Cuban guy named Cristobal Torriente lined a single to reverse all the cheering, and after Bullet Joe Rogan flied out, Mule Suttles, as scary a hitter as I've ever seen, singled Torriente to second. Turkey Stearnes grounded to Hornsby, the Whites were coming up, and there I was running out to coach third base.
It was kind of scary being that close to the action. Joe Beckwith was taking ground balls at third base, singing under his breath in between throws. I turned and caught Rachel's face behind our dugout, smack in the middle of three or four fancy-dressed colored ladies. She looked as excited as me.
Cy noticed how bouncy the Babe had been all morning, and to get him up to bat as much as possible and put the jeebies into the opposition, he stuck him in the leadoff spot. Smokey Joe Williams, a blazing fast righthander, looked about as scared of Ruth as he would be of an ant, took a big windup and whipped one over the plate.
The Bambino swung. The ball went soaring, up and up and completely over the big tree, bounced off a dozen or so gravestones and finally stopped when two fans fell on top of the thing. Ruth took the slowest home run trot of all time, waving at the stands and winking at Smokey Joe. If he didn't get his chin buzzed the next time it'd be a miracle.
The homer rattled Dobie Moore, who muffed a grounder out to short by Speaker. Hornsby then singled Speaker to third, and after Fournier forced Tris out at home on a grounder, Goose Goslin did what he's been doing all year and lined a 3-run homer right down the line for a 4-0 Whites lead! I'm telling you, you never heard such a happy and angry ruckus.
Beckwith tripled to lead off the Colored 2nd and scored on a Moore fly, but our big rally had taken all the steam out of the park. It got worse in the 4th when with two outs and nobody on, Alexander singled, Ruth crushed a double and Speaker singled them both in. Torriente golfed out a solo homer in the 6th, but then Traynor singled, Ruth kept his mashing fever going with a triple and Speaker doubled to put this massacre to bed.
Rixey and Adams gave Alexander some late relief, but there was no softening up the truth. Us Whites had whipped those Coloreds bad.
010 001 000 - 2 8 1
400 202 00x - 8 13 0
W-Alexander L-Williams HRS: Ruth, Goslin, Torriente
By C. Jedediah Butterworth
Base Ball Freescriber
It is close to 5 o'clock in pleasant little Darby, and after the unexpected bludgeoning of the first game, few know what to expect in the second. A pair of southpaws, Herb Pennock for the Whites and Nip Winters for the Coloreds, will have at each other from the mound, with the darker team enjoying the home advantage. If anything, the number of onlookers has increased, the outfield ropes bulging at the seams, the back-and-forth cheering reaching an operatic crescendo.
The noise shakes the old wood grandstand I am perched atop when with one retired in the Colored 1st, Tubby Scales lofts a fly out to Ruth in right. Whether it is the late afternoon sky or his proximity to the big leafy tree, the Babe drops the ball for a two-base error! Bullet Rogan then pummels a Pennock pitch high and deep and gone out to left, nearly two-thirds of the mob erupts like it's New Year's Eve, and the Whites fall behind for the first time. The Coloreds then load the sacks with two out, but Pennock gets catcher Biz Mackey to line out to Dykes and end further bleeding.
Not so in the 2nd inning, a frame as horrific as anything experienced by this year's National League Boston club. Winters begins it with a sharp single and Jimmie Lyons matches him with another. Scales clubs a double. Rogan skewers a triple. After a Beckwith fan, Mule Suttles singles. After a force out Baby Doll Jacobson drops an easy fly in center. Wright kicks a ball at short and five runs are across with lightning speed.
There is little left to to discuss about this one. The Coloreds rack up five more doubles after that, Winters pitches the game's entirety, and the Whites trudge back to their bench inning after inning like scolded children. Meanwhile the stands throb with euphoria, and delicious smells permeate the late summer air as picnic dinners break out everywhere, even on gravestone taple-tops in the adjoining cemetery. The event takes on the air of a country carnival, with everyone eagerly awaiting tastes of the third and deciding match.
Between the contests I am visited at my viewing spot by two fine lads who helped Mr. Foster organize the spectacle, Vinny Spanelli and Benjamin Wzckoviczy. I instantly recognize young Ben as the one who absconded with my typewriter and writing pen on my last working trip through Philadelphia. Well, it is a pleasure to report that after issuing a heartfelt apology, he has made amends by presenting me with a new writing machine and two replacement fountain pens. Obviously, the boy has been blessed with a fine upringing.
001 000 001 - 2 5 3
250 120 00x - 11 17 0
W-Winters L-Pennock HR: Rogan
By Vinny Spanelli
Phillie Batboy and White Stars Coach
I made Benny give this Butterworth writer a new typewriter to replace the one he stole before, and even though it was used and bought at a pawnshop the guy didn't seem to care. The important thing is that he came all the way here on an airplane to report the games, so he must be something special, and it's important that the Colored players have a special person to write about them, and not just one of these dozen or so clowns who showed up from eastern newspapers.
Well, guess who joined us on the bench between games. Yup, Big Train Walter Johnson, straight from Chicago. Eager to show these Negro fellows his buggywhip fastball. I made a dope out of myself before he took the mound by asking him to sign a baseball, but he was actually quiet and friendly and hard to believe he's so competitive, too. Charleston got him for a walk with one out in the 1st, but when Oscar leaned too far off the bag, Walter turned and shot him down in one motion! No one on our bench could believe it even happened.
Dick Redding took the hill for the Coloreds. The big Georgia man played for the Brooklyn Royal Giants, had the nickname of "Cannonball" and sure threw like one. Watching his balls explode in catcher Beckwith's mitt it seemed like he was a perfect match for the Big Train, and he was. Both of them gave up a few singles, but the game was scoreless into the last of the 4th, when Hornsby worked a leadoff walk. Fournier golfed one the opposite way out to left but Turkey Stearns got all confused and dropped the thing for an awful 2-base error. Might as well have thrown some blood in shark water while he was at it. Cuyler hit a scoring fly, Myatt got hit with a pitch, Sewell singled, the Train drove in two with another single and the Whites were up 3-0.
Johnson then retired ten of the next eleven Coloreds, whiffing four of them, until Torriente ripped a homer down the right field line with one out in the 8th. Charleston came up, still miffed about being picked off, and started barking things under his breath to try and upset Walter. The Train's face didn't even twitch, but the first ball he threw knocked Oscar right square in the back! Both benches jumped up, along with the fans, but the umps ran in before anything violent could happen. Suttles fouled out to end the inning, and lefty Sam Streeter took the Colored hill.
He shouldn't have bothered. Speaker pinch-hit a walk. Hornsby singled. Fournier rattled the gravestones with a booming homer, before Cuyler hit a fly out to poor roasted Turkey, who dropped it for another error!
You get the idea. Dazzy Vance relieved Johnson for the 9th to keep the colored players from hitting liners at him, and got out of a small pickle to end the sad game and the little series. The sun was just about down, but strange enough, the folks didn't seem to want to go anywhere.
"Not so fast!" said Rube, hurrying over to Cy from the Coloreds' bench. "We spent a lot of dough to haul these searchlights down here, and we got a big old crowd none too happy about those last two innings."
"Well," said Cy, "Train didn't hit Oscar on purpose and you know it."
"Hey, my friend, never said he did. But a plunk's a plunk, and it's a sure sorry way to end a great day. How 'bout we make it three out of five?" Cy just gave him a funny look.
"C'mon," Rube said with a giant smile, "Ain't this supposed to be fun?"
Cy or me or Benny or Roy sure couldn't argue with the man.
TO BE CONTINUED...
000 000 010 - 1 5 2
000 300 04x - 7 8 0
W-Johnson L-Redding HRS: Torriente, Fournier