MY SURPRISE DINNER WITH THE COOLIDGES
August 16, 1924
By C. Jedediah Butterworth
Base Ball Freescriber
WASHINGTON—Minutes after witnessing another in a season-long series of tight dramas with the first-place Senators (to be documented below), I receive a sealed, cream-colored envelope at my writing station in the Griffith Park press row. A few local reporters notice it and linger nearby to watch me open the mysterious pouch. The note inside is neatly folded, of the same creamy hue, and stamped with what could only be a presidential seal:
Dear Mr. Butterworth,
Grace and I would be honored if you could join us for dinner tonight at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
John Calvin Coolidge
I gaze at the words for probably a full minute, in utter disbelief. My invitation to Henry Ford's mansion recently was shocking enough, but this? I quickly pocket the note and gather my things, my pale face and excited eyes making it clear to those around me what has just occurred.
An hour later, after returning to my hotel room to done crisper clothes, the taxicab delivers me to the gate of the magnificent White House, where I am ushered through with a mere showing of the letter. One would think there would be more security to keep interlopers out, but it is apparently a mark of the President's easygoing nature.
The lovely and charming Grace Coolidge greets me in the large entrance hall, and I follow the First Lady down a long hall and into a smaller but lavish family dining room, where President Coolidge stands by a window. For some reason I expect a taller man, maybe because we imagine all important figures to have added height in our minds to fit their stations in life, yet he is exactly 5 feet and 10 inches, the same as myself, and wears a smart navy suit and burgundy tie. After shaking his hand I ask him right away why I've been invited, and he just smiles.
"Because of your unparalleled feats of heroism, of course," he says. "Lost in Vermont? I was born there, you know, and was briefly lost in the woods myself as a boy. Then your daring flight with that Smith fellow all the way to Philadelphia."
"Not to mention your brave letter to Mr. Rutledge the other day," adds Grace, "calling for Negro integration in our sport." I correct her that it was really just a suggestion to try it with one team as an experiment, but the pleasant silence that follows cues me to keep my mouth shut. "Shall we dine?" she asks, and we repair to the nearby table.
As we feast on wild quail and French potatoes, the President seizes a pause in the conversation to lean over and say "'Stay Cool With Coolidge'. What do you think?" I realize this is his new campaign slogan for the upcoming election against Democrat John Davis of West Virginia. Coolidge took office when Warren Harding died suddenly last summer, and it is clear he's a bit nervous about his standing with the American people.
"I think it sounds...rather modern," I tell him. He seems to like that answer, and pats my wrist. "And what to you think of our fine local ball team this year?" I go on to elaborate on my absolute admiration for Bucky Harris' outfit, how they combine air-tight fielding, speedy running and on-the-bases frequency with sterling mound work from Johnson and a maddening penchant for the timely blow. The President's head seems to swim for a moment, and then he nods in agreement to his wife and sips from his glass of flavored soda water.
After dinner it is still light out, so we move to the vast front porch for some cool late summer air and one of the Coolidges' most treasured activities, waving to passing citizens. "Living up in Northampton, where I was the mayor you know, I would use my porch frequently. It has to be one of the nicest ways to pass the time." Two families stroll by on the distant sidewalk and wave, and the Coolidges wave back. I tell them how delighted I am to have been invited, and how I especially liked the warm apple peach tart that was served for dessert.
"Yes," says the President, "It was baked with Mr. Cobb in mind, but he phoned to say he'd be late so we just proceeded without him." My mouth nearly drops open. "Ty Cobb was invited?"
"Of course," says Grace, "Isn't he your club's living legend? Why...there he is now!"
I turn in my wicker chair to see Tyrus Raymond himself, dressed to the nines, standing at the foot of the steps with his straw hat in his hand. He sees me, fumbles with his words until nothing at all comes out, then pivots and scurries back toward the gate as if he'd forgotten to tag second.
"Poor man," says Grace, "He must have taken ill."
Yes, I can only imagine. Ill in the head.
DET 010 001 100 - 3 11 1
WAS 000 300 01x - 4 7 4
Seeing his mortal enemy on the White House porch may have been the capper on Cobb's long miserable day. The Tigers outplay the front-runners for most of the game, making only one gaffe to Washington's four, and outhitting them 11-7. Yet Heilman bounces into two early double plays off Mogridge to kill rallies, the Senators plate three off Syl Johnson in the 4th thanks to a huge triple by the diminutive Peckinpaugh, and after Detroit ties it in the 8th on doubles from Haney and Heilman, Bluege and Harris do the same off Bert Cole in the last of the 8th to edge us again. It is a crushing loss, for the series here is but two games, and we are even missing the Big Train in the process. Suffice to say, we are in dire need of help from others.
Other American League games today:
at YANKEES 3-8-1, WHITE SOX 1-6-2
Things are so bad in Chicago now that the Sox can't even beat Sad Sam Jones and the evaporating Yankees. Sheely's boot and singles by Pipp and Meusel give New York two runs in the 1st and make a loser of the once-untouchable Red Faber.
INDIANS 9-12-1, at ATHLETICS 4-9-2
The battle of cellar-dwellers goes to the Tribe, as Coveleski wins his second straight after dropping ten in a row, and Riggs Stephenson smashes four hits in the cleanup hole in place of the injured Speaker.
at RED SOX 6-12-1, BROWNS 1-9-2
The piping hot Brownies are cooled by the even hotter Bostons, as Ehmke easily outpitches Vangilder and Ike Boone amasses four hits.
|AMERICAN LEAGUE through Saturday, August 16|
|Chicago White Sox||59||57||.509||14.5|
|New York Yankees||57||58||.496||16|
|St. Louis Browns||57||60||.487||17|
|Boston Red Sox||54||62||.466||19.5|