Diamond Memories

With baseball starting another season this week, I thought it was high time to reprint one of my favorite baseball stories. It was originally slated to be in the classic baseball book How We Played The Game by Finneran O’hannerhin but was edited out in the final draft. It was eventually printed in the July 1967 issue of Argosy Magazine in an article entitled Champs and Chumps: baseball in the early years. Here is an excerpt.

Jimmy “High Pockets” Muldoone
“ Yeah, well I was nine years old and working on my parents lint farm in Grote, Arkansas. Times were tough, it was 1901 and it was me, my pa and eleven brothers. My ma ran off with an ether salesman when I was four. I heard that the Stubville Turnips where looking for players and I said what the heck and gave it a shot. I made the team as a second baseman and bat whittler. Back then we didn’t have fancy factory made bats, on days off we’d go out into the woods and chop down a likely tree. Then me and some of the younger fellows would chop up the tree into bat sized pieces and whittle them into bats when we were sitting on the bench. I whittled a bat for a young man named Ty Cobb and he beat me black and blue with it, proudest moment of my life. I made real money too, $3.18 a month. Minus the room and board I ended up with $1.00 enough money to get into a heap of trouble, believe you me. I played with the St. Louis club most of my career but was traded to the Giants in 1913 for a penknife, two weevil pies, and President Lincolns death mask. The death mask turned out to be a fake so the trade was called off and I went back to St. Louis. Then World War One started or as we used to call it “the first world war” and all the able bodied joes were shipped off to fight Johnny Kaiser. This left the lame and the simple minded to play baseball. I myself tried to volunteer but got refused on account of my third ear. I thought it would help listenin’ for germans and whatnot, but the army disagreed. Baseball was still a grand game, don’t think it wasn’t. The St.Louis club now had “9 fingers” Flynn who had nine fingers on one hand and none on the other, thank goodness the nine fingers was on his throwin’ hand. He had a pitch called the “osh kosh b’gosh” and it kind of curved two different ways at the same time if you know what I mean. Too bad he was only three feet tall, the ball never reached the plate. A taller man might have had better luck. We tried a few things to fool the umpire. My favorite was we’d stick “9 fingers” on the shoulders of Frankie “Clams” Kasino who was another stumpy fellow. We got a big uniform and stuck them in it. It worked until we played the Red Stockings and their slugger Ingmar “the Swede” Bergman hit a ball back to the pitcher and “9 fingers” fell off “Clams” shoulders. Well at first they thought the ball split a man in two and there was a great outcry. The umpire got wise and we forfeited the game. We also had Spike, he was a dog. That’s right a dog, back in the hard times lots of teams filled up their rosters with dogs. One game in Brooklyn the Dodgers fielded a team of all dogs, of course they lost 134-0 but they did it. The great manager Mister John McGraw said “Give me five strong mutts and I’ll win the pennant” of course he was on a drunk then but he did have a fondness for the hounds. Spike was a shortstop. Not much of a hitter but a good fielder, nothing got by him and everyone on the team liked him. There was a game I’ll never forget. We were playing the Athletics. It was a tie game in the seventh inning and Spike bit “Longshanks” Thompson when Thompson was stealing second. Well Their manager Connie Mack was fit to be tied and he got so angry that he went out and shot Spike dead right there at second base. We couldn’t do nothing because Mr. Mack had a gun and owned the police force. Of course Spike was rabid and the bite on Thompsons leg eventually killed him so I guess everything evened out.”

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