1.03.2010

AN ALL-DAY BATTLE INTO THE WET AND DARK


August 27, 1924

I was tossing and turning all night, and it wasn't because of the nearby factory smoke coming in my Schenley Hotel window. Fletcher wanted Rube to bring the colored stars to Pittsburgh for the last game of the trip and put the dang Bucs in their place. To me and Benny it was a great idea, but also a completely nerve-cracking one, which is probably why my friend was down at Muzzy's Pool Hall most of the night distracting himself. If the Black Phillies even showed up who knew what the white ones would do, or how the Pirate fans would feel, or if Judge Landis would kick our team out of the league!

Cy was the only real quiet player at breakfast, so I knew he hadn't told any of the others what was going on, and Fletcher wasn't there because he was at the train station waiting for Rube. That crazy kitchen girl Gretchen who I almost got into trouble with on my last time through here was staying far away from my table, but I was so twisted up over the upcoming game I almost asked if I could hide out in her river cabin the whole day and make possum stew or something.

But no, I am a professional batboy and emergency third base coach after all, and whatever players ended up taking the field were gonna need their bats. So I got off the trolley at Forbes and South Bouquet, walked through the side gate and into the visiting club house ready for anything.

And anything's what I got. Rube was in there with a team of his best stars, going forehead-to-forehead with George Harper and Fletcher between. "You HAD your playin' time already, boy!" is all Harper kept saying, and Rube came back with "Then how come you invited us back? Maybe 'cause you lillies beat these Pirates twice all year." To which Wrightstone butted in with his goony face all red, "WE wasn't the ones who sent the invitation, and you haven't beaten 'em ether!" The other players milled around but none of them jumped in until Cy finally separated the mess and yelled at the room.

"No one's taking your job, George! That goes for all of you! We just don't want to leave Pittsburgh knowing they got their 80th win against us, that's all. And what's wrong with seeing them get their teeth knocked out for one day? Forget what color these guys are, they got our big winning steak going, didn't they? Seems to me we owe 'em a little encore."

Harper, who'd already dressed for the game, ripped his uniform off, marched over to a trash barrel and stuffed it inside rather than give it to one of the coloreds. Wrightstone did the same thing, but the other players felt dumb with Oscar Charleston and Mule Suttles standing there looking at them none too happy, and handed over their uniforms.

The Forbes crowd went wild in a good way when the Black Phillies took their field. They'd been reading in the papers about how the Pirates were hoping to play and beat them again, and sure enough, every Buc in the home dugout had a big smirk when they saw Smokey Joe Williams lead the pack onto the field. Bullet Joe had started for us last time instead of the smokey one, and the Pirates cuffed him around for 13 hits. We all knew Smokey meant business because he had a bigger Cuban cigar in his mouth than usual before he left the dugout.

The game started on the later side to fit all the Pirate and colored fans into the park, and there were folks standing everywhere. The air was real humid and green-black clouds seemed to be getting together on the horizon. Ray Kremer was going for the Bucs and even though Torriente walked to start the game and Mule got him to third with a single, Charleston fanned to help Kremer get out of the jam and set off the crowd. Turkey Stearnes singled off him to begin the 2nd, went nowhere, but Smokey Joe was all-game-faced and got the first six Pirates without a hitch, whiffing Traynor too.

Then Wright booted Torriente's grounder on the hard Forbes infield to begin the 3rd. Pop Lloyd and Oscar both skied out, but Mule crushed one high off the left wall that just missed going out and Torriente ran in all the way from first, giving me a pretty nice breeze in my third base coach box when he went past. Wright made up for the boot with a lead single off Smokey in the last of the 3rd but he was left high and dry. Smokey bounced into a double play to kill a little rally in the top of the 4th, and then the bottom of the 4th happened.

It started kind of quiet with an infield single from Carey. Max danced around off the bag more than he usually does, which I figured was his way of making fun of the colored style. Smokey threw over there a bunch of times, which got the crowd all angry and lost him his focus. Yup, there went Eddie Moore whacking a single into left and bringing up the dreaded Cuyler. Kiki helped us out with a roller out to Dobie Moore, but the shortstop tossed it wide to Pop for an error and the bases were loaded!

One thing's been clear all season with this Buc team: make one mistake and they'll bash your brains into oatmeal. Mama? Serve it up! Big and tough Earl Smith walked to the plate, spit on his hands and put the first pitch high and long over the brick wall in right for a grand slammer! The Forbesians went crazy (except for the colored fans), Smokey Joe hung his head with a hand on his hip and didn't even watch Smith roll around the bases. He walked Traynor, but then got the next three guys and re-lit his cigar when he got in the dugout and just sat there with his legs crossed, like he'd just been taking out the trash.

Kremer, meanwhile had gotten even tougher. He put us down in the 5th and 6th with only a Turkey single in the way. Smokey got the side 1-2-3 in the same innings, back to his old self, but he knew he couldn't stay in the game if we weren't scoring. So Cool Papa Bell batted for him with one out in the top of the 7th and ripped a single. Torriente got him over to third with another one, which was when I whispered in Cool Papa's ear to tag up on a deep fly. Bell brushed me off like I was a bug and said, "Son? I'm comin' in on a sneeze." Lloyd then popped one halfway out to Cuyler in left and Cool Papa was across the plate in a dust cloud before I could even turn my head.

Cannonball Redding took over for Smokey and got Kremer to bunt-pop into a double play with Wright on first, killing their 7th. Then Mule clubbed his second double to start the 8th. Jud Wilson knocked him home with a single to make it 4-3. The stands got nervous. The dark clouds were closer now and had erased the sun. With Turkey at the plate, Smith let a ball dribble off his mitt and Wilson went to third. Stearnes grounded out to hold him there but Dobie picked out a fast ball and cracked it into center to tie the game! Whoa, boy.

Redding threw two more scoreless innings, giving up two singles in each one but getting out of the jams, and on we went into extra innings. Not one person had left the park, also because the exit tunnels were so jammed with standers that no one could move down them if they wanted to. A few drops of rain were falling and rumbles and lightning flashes were kicking in.

Arnie Stone, who took over for Kremer, got the first two Black Phils in the 10th but then Turkey worked himself a walk. Willie Wells batted for Dobie and destroyed a ball into the left gap between Cuyler and Carey. I windmilled my arm, jumped around in the coach box and yelled at Turkey, but he didn't need any help from me. The problem was that Kiki had already picked up the ball and uncorked it toward home. Turkey almost ran into me rounding third, started sliding on his belly four feet from the plate but Smith was waiting there like a good-sized tree, the ball waiting in his hand and Turkey ramming into his gut couldn't knock the thing loose. OUT! ! No one could believe we were still tied.

Redding gave up two more singles in his 10th, one to Cuyler of course, but he got Smith on a deep fly to send us to the 11th. Beckwith hit for Cannonball in the 11th and whiffed, and Bullet Joe Rogan came on to pitch. Traynor, Wright and Rabbit couldn't touch him, and we went to the 12th.

It was almost too dark to play all of a sudden, and the umpires had a meeting to talk about it. But the crowd started yelling and they kept the action going, which was definitely the best plan. Tubby Scales agreed, as he hit for Lloyd and creamed a triple to begin the 12th. Up came Oscar, who was zero-for-five with two whiffs and in no mood to be the game's goat. Stone threw him a big curve and he whacked it high and deep to center. Carey caught the ball and Tubby skipped home clapping his hands. Mule celebrated the lead with a second triple, but Stone got a couple of grounders to end the inning.

It was up to Bullet Joe to save this thing. He got pinch-hitter Gooch and Carey, but then Rev Cannady at third let Grimm's grounder play him and the Bucs had a man on first. Eddie Moore was up, with Cuyler on deck. If everyone in the place wasn't screaming, they sure were inside themselves. Moore worked the count up, then sent a hot grounder out to Willie Wells at short, who stepped on the second bag for the force. It was never close to being easy, but we'd beaten the Big Bad Bucs!

The Pirate fans were so stunned by what they'd seen they forgot to throw things on the field, and we were off it and into the dugout before they could breathe again. The thunderstorm exploded over the park right then, too, and by the time it ended about a half hour later, the Black Phillies and dark clouds were gone forever, and there we were boarding our train back to Philly, ready to roll out the rest of our sorry season with a victory twinkle in our eyes.

—Vinny

BLACK PHILLIES
001 000 120 001 - 5 13 2
PIRATES
000 400 000 000 - 4 10 1

W-Rogan L-Stone HR-Smith


Only other National League game today:

at CUBS 7-11-1, CARDINALS 6-14-1
Another great one, not that anyone noticed who wasn't at Cubs Park. With both teams tied for 5th place with the exact same record, it's a back-and-forth teeter totter game between Dickerman and Aldridge, finally won on a two-out, bases loaded single by Cliff Heathcote in the 8th. Hornsby tried hitting in the third spot and went 0-for-5, so don't expect him there again tomorrow.










NATIONAL LEAGUE through Wednesday, August 27
Pittsburgh Pirates7943.653
Brooklyn Robins7253.5768.5
Cincinnati Reds7154.5689.5
New York Giants6756.54512.5
Chicago Cubs6163.48419
St. Louis Cardinals6064.48820
Philadelphia Phillies5273.41128.5
Boston Braves3490.27446

1 comment:

  1. It will be great to watch Pittsburgh Pirates, i have bought tickets from
    http://ticketfront.com/event/Pittsburgh_Pirates-tickets looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete