October 10, 1924
The top of the Washington Monument turned out to be a great place to hide from Butterworth. I knew the last thing he wanted to do was waste time on the long elevator ride or climb even twenty of the steps. When we got back to Washington Rachel and me stayed with Benny in a rooming house in the colored section of town, also a great place to avoid Butterworth, and we spent most of yesterday's day off playing cards and reading my Game 5 story in the New York Sun over and over.
But today was Game 6, and it might be the end, so we couldn't hide forever. Rachel wanted me to go face him already and put this baby business behind us but I chose to just find a space to stand out in back of the left field stands so I could watch the game and not have to think about it. Rachel wanted a real chair, though, so she broke away and went who knows where as soon as we got into the ball park.
Benny was off getting us food when Cal suddenly appeared out of nowhere, his face all red like he was going to spout lava out of his ears.
"Thought you could get away with that, didn't you?"
"You mean my game story? You're right, I did!"
"You cost me twenty-five dollars yesterday, son. And now Mr. Munsey won't use either of us!"
"Gee, Cal. I'm sorry about that. I just—"
"You're just an insufferable little snipe, is what you are. If you were my son I'd give you a thrashing right here you would never forget!"
"Good thing I'm not then, huh?"
His cheeks puffed out and he raised a hand and then Benny was there, dropping his sausage rolls and separating us with all the muscle he had.
"C'mon, you two, cut that out! Can't we all just get along better?"
Cal and me looked at him, then at each other. Benny's line did have a nice sound to it. He forced us to shake hands with all these ball fans standing around watching, and then the Senators taking the field and all of them cheering, and then he had another question for us.
"So who's going to write today's game story?"
ONE MORE SHOCK FOR THE ROAD
By Rachel Stone Spanelli
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Before a tumultuous, terminally mad throng bursting every crack in Griffith's ball yard, an unforgettably enthralling spectacle was performed for Game Six of the 1924 World Series this afternoon. When it was complete, nary a fan was without a thumping heart or sliding tear.
The contest matched the same Game Two moundmasters Meadows and Mogridge, but this had no resemblance to that one-sided sleep-inducer. The Senators were fresh off their exciting final triumph in western Pennsylvania, and eager to get an early advantage to calm down their recently unsteady ball-thrower.
And so they did. Here was Goslin leading the 2nd with a free pass, and Rice singling him along, and Harris singling him back into the home dugout, a golden run clutched in their hands. In the 3rd it was Pirate right roamer Barnhart helping them out, dropping an easy Tate fly for a two-base gaffe. A single by Judge, double by Goslin and two successive wild heaves by Meadows brought home three runs, and sent the gathering into seizures of joy. Another hideous Pittsburgh misplay by Wright with two outs in the 4th brought Harris in with another run, it was 5-0 for Washington, and Walter Johnson was already sitting comfortably in the shadows, planning his opening pitches for Game Seven.
But this reporter hails from the fair city of Brooklyn, a place of base ball disappointment I am very accustomed to, and something never felt correct or sure about this five-run lead. These Pirates are just too professional and utterly dashing to belly up and die on us, and when seldom-used Jeff Pfeffer took over for Meadows and squirreled out of two straight runner-jams, it seemed very likely a shift in the fates was coming.
And so it did. Heinie Mueller batted for Pfeffer with one out in the Pirate 6th and blistered a double. Barnhart singled him home. Local hopes surfaced again as Grimm bounced an easy double play roller out to Bluege at third. But the Lord saw fit to drop a stray pebble in his path. Ossie reached as the ball abruptly changed course, then kicked it will-nilly, and it was suddenly second and third.
It was here that Harris made a fateful decision, one that may resonate in the sport's history for time evermore. With the lefty-butchering Traynor due at the dish and Mogridge on the verge of collapse, judging from the sweat I could make out glistening on his thick neck, right-hander Marberry was summoned to take his place.
But Pie baked him instantly, clanging a monstrous triple off the left-center wall, bringing home both runners and thrusting the Swashbucklers back into the fray. The Nats got one back on a Judge single in the last of the 6th, but with Mogridge now vacationing, the Washington bullpen was forced to save the game, a not-very-frequent occurrence in these parts of late.
What's more, the Pirates would have been happier getting their teeth extracted than having to face The Big Train in a climactic game.
And they suddenly played that way. Grimm and hot Traynor singled to begin the 8th, bringing in Alan Russell. Carey walked. A single by Wright and walk to pinch-sticker Smith brought home two and made it 6-5. Fans were turning their backs to the field, women were clutching their men or if none were with them, the nearest ones. After Leibold was left on second by the Senators in their 8th, it grew quieter than the Vatican for the top of the 9th. Barnhart led with a walk. Grimm singled him to second. Traynor finally made an out with an easy fly, and when Carey grounded into a force there was just one out left.
How could it not be Kiki Cuyler striding to the plate now? Seriously, how could it not? Russell stared in, the grandstand shadow tickling his big shoulders, likely shut his eyes and whipped in a fastball. Cuyler cracked it into left to tie the game! Cursing and wailing erupted around me. Glenn Wright was next, and took a gentler approach, looping a ball into center that dropped in front of the onrushing Leibold. Wright scampered in and before he could even look up the Pirates had the shocking lead!
And then we were left with Babe Adams, sweeping the debris off Griffith's soiled floor. Rice popped to third. Bluege singled, to at least save him from arsenic after his earlier stooge-moment, but not even manager Harris could muster a hit this time, grounding into an easy force for out number two. Peckinpaugh was lifted for young Lance Richbourg, triple-hitting star of Game One, for it is the young and fiery that always produce hope.
But Richbourg bounced right back to Adams, who floated the ball over to Grimm, who threw the ball and his mitt and his hat so high it still hasn't come down and the Pirates charged onto the field and lifted Adams on their shoulders and no one could believe what had just happened.
And yet it did. And we are all richer for having experienced it. For it is the fate of many a tragic ball hero to die on his home battlefield, his brother-in-bats lying about him, staring at the cold autumn sky and already dreaming of spring.
PGH 000 003 022 - 7 10 2
WAS 013 101 000 - 6 14 1
W-Adams L-Russell GWRBI-Wright
Well, Rachel let me read a copy of her story as we got back on the train, and I was pretty knocked out by it. I told her it was a good thing she was giving up novel-writing because it seemed she had a better future with this kind of thing, but that sort of insulted her so I apologized right away.
Cal and me and Benny ended up watching the second half of the game from a pretty good spot near the left field pole, and Benny even met a girl ball fan from Philadelphia who he got onto the return train with him. Butterworth was my friend again, because the game was so gripping that by the end we'd even forgot we'd had an argument. All in all, it was an incredible Series, with three of the games decided by one run and not even one homer being hit. He was taking a different train back to Detroit so we gave each other hearty handshakes and wished him the best for next season, even though he wasn't clear what he was going to be doing yet.
I didn't either, but then I thought maybe me and Rachel picking up different baseball writing gigs wasn't the worst idea. "Uh-uh," she said, as the express back to New York started pulling out, "I don't think all the train travel and late nights would be the best thing for me."
She squeezed my hand and looked in my eyes. "Because I'm with child, Vinny."
I stared at her a long second, then looked around the train car. "A child? Where?"
"No, dummy. " She put my hand on her belly. "In here."
I couldn't breathe. I know this sounds real weird, people, but suddenly, at that moment, I just wanted to be back in Mrs. Crackerbee's class, reciting my multiplication.
As the Rolling Stones have sung, time waits for no one, but for over a year now it's been a daily pleasure to lose myself in 1924 and report the daily adventures of Vinny Spanelli, Calvin Butterworth, and the major league ballplayers of that memorable era.
At some point a few months ago I began copying all my posts into a Word file, and now have two of them totaling around 800 pages. Neither of the two novels I wrote before this were more than 320, so I guess I had a lot to say here, and I hope you all enjoyed your visits to my reinvented Jazz Age world. I hope to make a trimmed-own version of the full saga available online or elsewhere in the near future, but that will happen when it happens.
Thanks go out to Tom Baker and Lou Siegel, Tom for his early belief in the concept and coming up with the name Tuggerheinz, Lou for his constant tweaking tips and heartfelt devotion to the site. Web scribes Mike Lynch and Craig Calcaterra provided early encouragement by linking their readers to the site before anyone else, and Scott Simkus deserves a special mention for creating the magical Negro Leagues card set that helped get me through a season largely devoid of a pennant race, and for enduring an online interview with me. Google and their endless archive of fabulous images also deserve thanks.
Last but not least, 1924 would not have been possible without the love, support, and tolerance of my incredible wife Carmen, who actually designed a desk extension just for my Strat-O-Matic games when we built our new office.
That said, I'm afraid I must journey back through the time portal now, but not quite to the modern age. Beginning later today, I will be launching my next unique "blog novel," Play That Funky Baseball, featuring the almost-best teams of 1977. (What can I say? I've been two-timing you.) An array of noteworthy baseball writers and bloggers are on board to "manage" the teams, and it should be mighty mighty righteous indeed.
And so, to Vinny, Cal, Rachel, Benny, Mama, the Over-the Rhine Boys and kids outside Navin Field, to Cy, Rube, the Babe, Kiki, Goose, Walter, and I suppose even Ty...it's not been real.
—J.P., Culver City, CA