Chapter One: Smelly

© The Baseball Bloggess

Smelly was small enough that he could turn himself sideways and wedge his shoulder between two of the gate’s metal bars. This allowed him to push his cheek so hard into one metal bar that his ear was almost – almost – inside the park.

This was how Smelly, the little neighborhood kid, listened to baseball.

Smelly? His name?

Smelly didn’t smell bad. Honest.

But, Smelly had the runniest nose in the neighborhood. He was constantly sniffling and snorting and wiping snot into the elbow of his shirt sleeves.

One day, on one of Smelly’s particularly snorty-snotty-runny-nose days, a no-good kid from another block said to him, “You’re a disgusting snothead.”

“I’m not a snothead,” Smelly replied. “I am smelling.” And, he took a long and deep and wet snotty-snorty inhale in the other kid’s direction. “And, I smell you.  And, you stink.”

From that point on, he became Smelly, which was, everyone agreed, a much better name than Snothead.

Smelly would always show up at Baltimore’s Camden Union ballpark on game day early. It was just six blocks away from Smelly’s house, he could run it in five minutes. (Unless he stopped for a bomb pop, which was worth the detour.)

With no fans allowed in, a game could start whenever both teams were ready. A two o’clock game could start at noon … or not until four. It all depended. It didn’t matter.

Daytime games saved the teams money; no need to turn on expensive lights. The game would be broadcast at night or whenever someone called it up on their “HV” Home Viewer. There were no announcers, just trails of information running continually at the bottom of the screen. No one cared that the games weren’t aired live. It didn’t matter.

It mattered to Smelly. Continue reading

If Pearce Chiles Could Talk …

Allentown PA Leader, 10/4/1900

Pearce Chiles, an infielder/third base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, was born in 1867 in Deepwater, Missouri. I think it’s fair to say he was an all-around no-goodnik – although thieving miscreant is probably more accurate. Phillies’ backup catcher Morgan Murphy, fellow no-goodnik, devised a system where Murphy, using binoculars, would stand beyond centerfield and steal the signs from the other team’s catcher. Murphy would forward the signs via a telegraph wire buried under the field and connected to a buzzer in the third base coaching box where Chiles stood. The buzzer would vibrate under Chiles’ foot, and he would signal to the batter what pitch was coming.  It was 1900.  

Pearce Chiles

Chiles never spoke publically about the scheme … but if he had …

Those idiots think the DTs ‘smaking my leg twitch.

It ain’t booze.

I hold my likker better ‘n any of ‘em.

Buffoons.

I can stand out here all day in this goddam third base box. And, see, we paid a guy to lay down a wire and it’s buried right here where my right foot stands. I have to stand just so. But, if I do, Murph’ out there just beyond that centerfield point, puts his spyglasses on the other guys’ catcher, and from out there he pushes a button and presto – I get a jolt of pure electricity right through the wire, right to my damn foot.

Mansfield OH News-Journal, 9/19/1900

Curve ball? Fast ball? Murph’s a catcher, he knows all the signs. I know from the buzz he sends me exactly what that pitcher’s gonna throw next.

One buzz, fastball. Two buzzes, something else.

Can you beat that? Continue reading

Mom, Babe Ruth Came To Thanksgiving Dinner Again.

(Here’s a Thanksgiving story for you … )

November 28, 2019

Dear Mom,

I told him not to, but Andy brought out that damn baseball again and set it on the table before dinner.

He did it while I was in the kitchen trying to keep the turkey from drying out. (You have to tell me again … I brined it for days. I set an alarm and basted it every 15 minutes when it was in the oven, just like you said. My hand is numb from all the basting. That’s not permanent, is it?)

Andy was threatening to deep fry again. He’s going to set the neighborhood on fire with that turkey deep fryer. So, I went out to the garage covered it in dish soap and the kids’ school paste last week. (Thanks for the idea.) I blamed the neighbor kids. Halloween prank, I said. It saved Thanksgiving, but he’ll have it cleaned up before Christmas unless I figure out how to make it disappear for good.

I told Andy this year we needed a peaceful Thanksgiving. Leave the baseball alone. The thing is disgusting – it smells of dead mouse. (If we all die of the plague, you’ll know why.)

“But, it’s tradition,” Andy says.

I can’t even grab the ball off the table because my hand is still numb from all the turkey basting. (Not permanent, right?)

It’s too late, anyway. There’s the knock at the door.

The knock that comes as soon as the Thanksgiving meal is set out. As soon as the turkey is carved, the potatoes mashed, and the Tofurkey is on a plate for Lily, who has suddenly decided she’s going vegan this year.

“Don’t answer it.” I say that every year. I might as well be talking to the cat. Lily and Sam hear the knock,  sit up straight, eyes lighting up. Sam yells, “YESSSS!” and Andy smiles because he thinks he’s raised them right.

Right enough to know you always answer the door on Thanksgiving when the baseball that smells like a dead mouse is sitting on the Thanksgiving table.

Even when I say, “Don’t answer it.” Because we all know who it is.

It’s Babe Ruth.

Who’s going to believe that Babe Ruth comes to our house every Thanksgiving, when he’s been dead for 70 years? Continue reading

Baseball Changed. Didn’t It?

Friday night, for the fourth time out of the past six games, Virginia baseball was interrupted, delayed, or postponed by rain and storms. With nothing else to do, this got me to thinking about the future … 

© The Baseball Bloggess

There came a time when the doomsayers were proven right.

The weather had changed.

The rain now came in floods instead of showers, the storms were stronger and more frequent. Outside was not bucolic; outside was a battle, something to conquer as you went from one indoor space to the next. It was too wet or too dry. Too hot or too cold. Too much. Always just too much. Continue reading

Worst Place

Editor/Husband thinks it’s important to tell you, before you go any further, that I had a migraine. He thinks this is the headache – and the headache sleep – talking. (Maybe. Maybe he’s right.)

A line of trees curved around the outfield. Trees where the fence would be. Should be. But, this outfield was lined only with trees.

And, in the trees, high up, with their legs splayed over the thicker branches like they were riding ponies, were men. Fans. All sorts of men, at different heights among the tree branches. Different ages, but none too young, and none too old. And, every one, with legs splayed over the branches. Tree riders.

And, some were smoking. And, some hadn’t shaved. And, each one held a rolled-up newspaper that he beat in rhythm – along with the others – against the branches, rattling the leaves. They all seemed angry. Or, maybe they were just irritated that nothing had happened yet in a game that had yet to start.

And, there was an umpire explaining the ground rules. Explaining them to me, perhaps, but mostly to the players.

Explaining why the third base line that ran in from left field, was not a line but a crick of running water. But, not quite a crick, exactly, but something narrower than that. What would you call it? Would you call it a rill? OK, that’s what it was. A rill. And, the water in the rill bubbled and ran from the left field line, cut through third base, and flowed to home, and continued past home, extending into a wide field well behind where the game would be played and out of sight.

Continue reading