It was Mama's nutty idea. "There's no ball game today, right? So why not invite your friend Cy over for late breakfast or early lunch? Benny can come, too, and also those negro men you've been talking about."
She meant our friend Roy from St. Louis and Rube Foster, who we were in the middle of organizing a coloreds vs. whites exhibition game with. Cy Williams did tell me he wanted to get together, so why not give it a try? All Mama had to do was control herself around Cy and it would probably go fine, and our kitchen was probably the best place in town to meet and not be bugged in.
So I got ahold of Cy through Heinie and set the whole meal up for ten-thirty in the morning. What we didn't figure on, though, was Rube being almost an hour and a half late because he was in a negro church somewhere across town. That was sure fine with Mama, who got extra time to sit in the parlor with Cy and make eyes at him. I had to keep reminding her that things on the stove were burning and boiling in order to keep my head on straight.
Mama had baked hot muffins and fried eggs and bacon and even cooked a big pot of oatmeal. Rube was starved by the time he showed up, but the second he joined us at the table he took one look at the Cream of Wheat box with the old-time negro cook on the front and almost walked back out the door! "That's just the junk I've been tryin' to change!" he said, and Roy and Benny had to jump up and calm him down and lure him back to the table with a piece of Mama's yummy bacon. Mama apologized about six times and tossed the oatmeal box in the trash basket even though it still had a serving or two left in it.
And then we got down to this exhibition baseball business. I was dying to bring up what Cy said yesterday about Hornsby wanting to play, but kept the lid on the pot by asking Rube which colored players were on board so far. The big name I'd heard of was Oscar Charleston of the Indianapolis ABCs, who'd been around for almost ten years and could do anything on a ball field that was possible. Turkey Stearns of the Detroit Stars and Cool Papa Bell of the St. Louis ones were other fabulous outfielders who'd said yes, and some of the "hurricane-fast" pitchers I'd never heard of were Bullet Joe Rogan, Nip Winters and Smokey Joe Williams. Cy gave me a funny look about then, thinking the same thing I was, and said, "Well, all we got so far is Hornsby, so I'd better get on the telephone. Cuyler's coming into town this week to play us, so I can probably scratch his ear a bit." Benny couldn't believe what he was hearing, and didn't stop grinning and poking me for the rest of the meal.
It seemed more and more that we'd be using Hilldale Field in nearby Darby for the game, because one of the colored catchers Biz Mackey played on the Daisies team there, and he knew the Hilldale owner well. I asked how we'd be allowed to play on a Sunday with all the church laws in the state and Rube said they let that thing go in Darby sometimes and besides, ain't this thing gonna be secret?
Yeah, I thought, but this little secret idea was starting to blow up right in front of us, and I nervously poured myself another bowl of oatmeal. Mama kept coming over to refill Cy's coffee cup, asking how much money "my Vinny" can make on this. Rube only gave fuzzy answers about that, but I didn't care. We had a week to bring in as many good players as we could, and then if everything went okay we'd get to watch one of the best exhibitions ever played.
I asked Rube if I could batboy for both teams and he just laughed, swallowed down the last of his eggs and said, "Son, why you wanna batboy when can you be a damn coach?"
I don't even remember finishing my oatmeal.
Only National League games today:
PIRATES 8-12-1, at ROBINS 2-8-4
Right back down to business after losing two at the Polo Grounds, the Bucs beat up Art Decatur with their usual speed and big triples while the Robins are busy throwing balls over people's heads.
CUBS 11-15-0, at GIANTS 4-7-1
And McGraw's fools are at it again, as Jesse Barnes has absolutely nothing, Cliff Heathcote racking up five straight singles in the leadoff spot. Grimes and Miller also homer as Kelly grounds out four times with men on base for New York, his trademark.
|NATIONAL LEAGUE through Sunday, August 3|
|New York Giants||58||45||.563||9|
|St. Louis Cardinals||53||50||.515||13.5|