The Storytellers Ch. 09byParis Waterman©
"Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection." − Walter "Red" Smith
Getting to the Big Leagues
The large colored man whose body Bill now occupied sat down next to me. His breath reeked of both tobacco and whiskey, and I turned my face slightly to avoid his fetid bad breath.
"Like I said, we played every Sunday, and when Philadelphia was at home there wuz always one or two of their players come by to pick up some money."
Bill coughed, and a shrewd glint came into his eyes. "How much you think they got paid? I mean them bein' major leaguers and all," he asked.
"I'd guess about two or three thousand," I answered.
He cackled, and spat a thick stream of tobacco juice past my shoe in into the cuspidor he'd brought into the pew with him. "Ha! How's $750 tops sound?"
"That's all?" I stammered, thinking of how players of today made at least $15,000, and some like Ted Williams and Stan Musial, over $50,000.
"It was a small fortune back then. Four, maybe five years later when some ball clubs were taking in more at the gate, the better players started getting more; something around $1500 to $2000 for the season. Of course the season wuz longer too, that might have had something to do with it. It wasn't until some other fellers started fielding teams and brought some serious competition into the game that salaries went up. But with the teams folding left and right back then, salaries went up and down like one o' them Otis elevators in downtown Philadelphia.
"Anyways, the '72 season saw a lot of players changing teams. The Athletics picked up a good one in Cap Anson and a couple others, but finished fourth. Oh, I recall there wuz one rule change I found interesting in that the pitcher was allowed to bend his elbow, snap his wrist, or jerk his arm while delivering the ball to the batter. So now pitchers no longer had to throw the ball purely underhanded and soon enough there were changes underway in the pitcher's deliveries.
"For example, I saw Candy Cummings pitch against the Philadelphia team one afternoon, and my jaw dropped when he delivered a ball that seemed to curve as it neared the plate. The next day, I told our pitcher, Randall Beals what I had witnessed, and while he scoffed at me at the time, two days later he was throwing the ball sidearm, not underhand as was usual; and getting a tiny break to some of his tosses. He got better at it as the season progressed, and we won more than our usual share of games thanks to his new found curve ball.
For a time there, I thought Randall was a sure fire big leaguer. But he hurt his arm throwing the damn curve ball, and by the end of '73 he was watching us play from the sidelines, reduced to the role of a substitute.
I nodded as I studied Bill's countenance. "How did you make the jump to the Athletics?" I asked innocently, wanting to see if he would divulge his contact with Arthur.
"They called me, 'Yaller Bill,' he said in return, avoiding my question.
Not wanting to challenge his veracity at this point, I did not pursue the matter, but nodded for him to continue. I knew we'd come to Arthur eventually, and that when he admitted his encounter with the alien, I'd have a firsthand explanation that would be the foundation of my novel.
"Not Yellow Bill?" I countered.
"Nope," he said, and spat into the cuspidor once again. His uncanny accuracy was unnerving, as I fully expected him to miss and cover my foot or slacks with the indelible stain of tobacco juice.
"Yaller, cause I did a lot of hollerin' to the pitcher during the game. I found it perked Randall up, and it kept the infielders on their toes; least that's what they told me when we wuz up at bat one time. 'Course Bill was my name at the time. So it was natural that it followed 'Yaller,' understand?"
I nodded again. "So, did the Hartford team scout you playing for your local team?"
"Nope. Just before the '75 season they... well, twas Bob Ferguson, himself, come by my house and asked me right out if I cared to play for the Hartford Dark Blues. He said they wuz in need of a capable catcher, and wuz I interested? I said, "I seen you at the game the other day. I thought you wuz lookin' at the first baseman, Big Ned Fuller."
"No," he sez, "I wuz watchin' the way you handled that half-assed pitcher of yours. Don't know his name, and I don't want to know it. I couldn't figure out why the other team didn't tear into him for ten or twelve runs. But I got to watchin' the way you helped him with each batter, and realized you were probably much better than you were that time I played with you a couple years ago."
"How much money will I be playin' for?" sez I.
"You'll be a rookie, so I can't pay you more than $350."
"$350!" I yelled, doing my damnedest to sound disgusted with the offer. In fact, it was more money than anyone I knew had ever made in a year.
"All right," Ferguson said, "$400, and not a penny more."
"I accepted without saying another word, and the next day I wuz working out with the Hartford team. Working out... that's a laugh. They had each player run a quarter mile, then we exercised on the horizontal bars. That wuz followed by an adventure on the damn vaulting horse, and then of course we swung those Indian Clubs. We finished with the whole team pulling on the oars of the rowing machine. If I recall correctly, we rowed about a mile before ending the exercise at the bowling alley.
It wuz early in the season, May I think, when we walloped the Philadelphia Centennials 13-4. I remember 'cause they caught us using an illegal bat. See, the rules say the bat must be round, but some of us were using a bat wuz whittled down so as to be flat on one side. They took it out of the game, but that wuz all they did about it.
"Turns out I wound up sharing the catching duties with a fella name of Allison. I can't recollect his first name, but I played in 53 games, 30 some as catcher, but also a little at various infield positions, and a dozen or so in the outfield. I only managed to hit .240 for 200 at bats, and I was kinda pissed about that. But Allison was only ten points higher than me, and I had three triples to his none."
"Oh, it just come to me, we played what they called the best game ever at New York Mutual's place, the Union Grounds, when Candy Cummings beat the Mutual's 1 to 0. I caught him and he told me I'd done a good job behind the plate; I wuz strutting like a bantam rooster that night.
"A month later we battled the Chicago Whites for ten scoreless innings before Jim Devlin scored on a fly out by Paul Hines in the 11th to win for Chicago, 1-0. Guy named Zettlein beat our Cummings."
Bill laughed, and I had to ask him what he was laughing at. His reply had me smiling as well. "They always refer to this time period in baseball as the "Dead Ball Era. Well, it wuz and it wasn't. See, most games they put a ball in play and left it in for all nine innings. Only if it got lost or something wuz another ball put in play, and it wuz just as likely that ball would have been knocked around in an earlier game as not. But one day, I think it wuz over in Brooklyn in July; they kept putting new balls into the game. Don't ask me why, I wuzn't there. Anyway, the Mutual's edged the Athletics 16-13, with Joe Start smacking 3 home runs and a triple to lead the way.
Well it wuz the talk of the town, all them home runs. These days no one would think twice about it, but back then... well it wuz the bee's knees."
"How did you manage on that meager salary, Bill?" I asked, recalling his earlier comment about receiving $400 to play that year.
"Meager? Shit-fuck-man, I lived like a king!"
"I don't recollect the exact cost of things back then, but they wuz cheap by today's standards."
"Give me some examples," I asked, probing for details.
"I lived at a boardinghouse near the ball park. That cost a dollar a night, and included breakfast and dinner. After a home game, or a road game for that matter, I'd head for whatever saloon was all the rage, and have a few beers and some whiskeys. The beers were a nickel and the whisky two-bits. That's if the Hartford fans let us pay, which they mostly did not.
"I recollect laundry wuz cheap enough, might have been a nickel for clean underwear, maybe a dime for a starched shirt and collar."
"What about a suit?" I asked.
"What about a suit?" Bill replied, not understanding my question. "Oh, I had a summer suit, pale tan in color, it wuz too tight in some places, too loose in others, since it was picked off a rack."
"Sorry, Bill. How much did it cost to get a suit cleaned?"
"Gee, I don't recollect," he said. "I didn't get them cleaned but maybe once a year. I guess it musta been about two-bits. Don't know for sure. I bet you could look it up at the library, downtown. But I do recollect that a fella could get his ashes hauled for two-bits."
"I don't understand, what does that expression mean?"
"That wuz the going rate for a two-bit whore, get it? Fifty cents?"
I waved my hand indicating that I'd understood him, and went on taking notes.
"Did you frequent them?" I asked, curious about sex in the 1870's.
He spat another juicy gob into the cuspidor and smiled. "'Course I did. But there was free stuff around for the ball players to latch onto. Mostly young girls in their late teens, early twenties, some of 'em married; all of 'em wanting some excitement in their lives."
Ever the voyeur, I licked my lips and nodded, encouraging Bill to continue. He did just that.
"People talk about the Victorian Age like nobody ever got laid. Shit, it wuz like plucking eggs from under a hen with them women. I was gawking at some femmes' fatales in the stands during my first game with the Dark Blues, before Ferguson put me straight. They wuz mainly lookin' for a husband, or a meal-ticket, he says. But, then, Hartford, Boston, and Chicago... hell, all of 'em, had Tenderloin districts offering gambling, stage shows, and dozens of brothels.
On Ferguson's orders, our shortstop, Tom Carey showed me around the better brothels of Hartford."
He had a far-away look in his eyes, and I remained quiet, letting him relive the experience.
"The Tenderloin's only took up a couple of blocks in each city. Hartford had Lulu's Blue Saloon and the Opera House. They wuz on the fancy side of the tracks, on the south, or wrong side, was the lowdown, or better known as the 'fourth grade.'
The women they had working workin' the fourth grade wuz diseased, and dirty. The houses redolent of bad booze; and wuz patronized by the vilest of men. These, I wuz told to avoid at all cost, as they were not conducive to a ballplayer's well-being.
In other words, a fella could, or I should say would, get a dose of the clap, or worse. A player named Phinny McGinty come down with syphilis and went blind before anyone, including McGinty himself, knew he had it.
Anyways, Tom Carey took me into Lulu's and introduced me around. I remember the bartender wore a striped shirt with sleeve garters, and sprouted a handlebar moustache. The place offered a dance floor, and all kinds of gambling games. It had a stage for variety shows, although there wuzn't any there that night except for the dancing girls; and they wuz just whores who had to dance between fucks. They would flash their bloomers and give you a peek at their garters in hopes of luring you upstairs.
I learned that the girls working there didn't have to be whores if they didn't want to be. What I mean to say is, there wuzn't no compulsion, or white slavery. There wuz even those who disapproved of the selling of flesh as a degradation of the fair sex. But aside from the preachers, it wuz a rare man who shared this opinion; the exception being one's own daughter, sister, wife, or mother.
There wuz the usual distinction between good girls and bad, and for the most part, if you didn't consort with a soiled dove, you might have to wait a few years between having any woman at all."
His cackle reverberated through the small bedroom we were residing in. Then he added: "Except for us young, good-looking ball players, and stage actors who were damned near irresistible to the fairer sex."
"Anyways, Tom plied me with whiskey and beer. Didn't take much, I wasn't used to hard liquor, and I lost my cherry that night to either a sweetie name of Mindy-Sue Sullivan, or her girlfriend Corry.
Sounding more wistful than I'd ever heard him, Bill described the girl named Mindy-Sue as if it were yesterday.
"She was a year or so younger than the girl who had admitted me and Tom. Fairer and more expressive, more perishable, and a great deal more insistently feminine than any of the others. Her eyes were almost as dark as Corry's, but unlike Corry, hers were sweet, yet unrestful. Still they seemed to be looking for someone right behind me, you know? Like a long-lost friend, or lover.
"Mindy-Sue could have drunk me under the table, since she was downin' two or three to my one. Anyways, I must have shown how green I wuz, cause once we got to the boudoir, she asked if I wanted to play a game."
"Cards" I asked dumbly, and fumbling my glass of whiskey, spilling some on the knee of my brand new black and green checked pants.
She laughed, and said, "No silly, a game with me, and my best friend, Corry."
"Now, I would learn that these girls had a knack for making a fella think he wuz real special to them. Many a customer came back night after night to spend his hard earned money on them. A few were even known to have married some of 'em. Some of 'em were pretty enough to make you wonder why they wuz whoring, until you considered how good the money wuz, and the alternative, marrying some miner like their Pa; and between child-bearing and all the heavy-labor chores, dying young while living in one of them Pennsylvania mining towns, or a tenement in the city, and breathing the bad air from either place."
Mindy-Sue slipped out and returned a moment later with a plump little blonde who wuz introduced as "My best friend, Corry."
"Mindy-Sue says we should all play a game," I said genially, hoping the room would stand still for a minute.
"Is it the gamahuching you'll be asking of us?" Corry inquired brightly in her lilting Irish accent; obviously hoping it wuz.
Now gamahuching, well... I had heard of it in snide remarks by some of the older fellers in Philadelphia.
"No, darling, no gamahuching," Mindy-Sue quickly interjected. She turned to me and asked,
"Unless, of course, you want us to."
I paused, not wanting to slur my words, and more forthrightly, wanting to form the correct word to be uttered from my drunken mouth.
And after careful consideration I replied, "Can we just fuck?"
"Yes... we can do that..." Mindy-Sue replied, then hesitated, undoubtedly trying to recall my name; and when she did, she said, "Corry, Bill here is a baseball player for the Hartford Dark Blues."
"Really?" it seemed to impress her.
"Corry is a big baseball fan," Mindy-Sue informed me.
"Ya root for the Dark Blues of Hartford do ya?"
"Oh, no," she answered with a certain pride. "I'm for the Athletics of Philadelphia! They're in first place, don'cha know?"
Oh, I knew that well enough, we lagged three games behind them, and worse, they had been soundly trouncing us whenever we played each other. That would change soon enough, for we got to rolling pretty good in August. Actually it wuz just a few days after I met Corry and Mindy-Sue that Tommy Bonds one-hit the Mutuals, and we won, 1 – 0.
And a day or so later, and it's funny how clearly I remember this ... with the score 1-0 and 2 out in the last of the 9th inning‚ our Tom York hit a triple over the center fielder's head. The next batter‚ Bob Ferguson‚ fouled off about twenty pitches batting left-handed, and then turned around and batting right-handed‚ smacked a double to tie the score. Rain ended the game with the score Hartford 1‚ Mutuals 1."
I waited a second or so, and then reminded Bill that he had been telling me about his night in the brothel.
"Oh, right... well, we undressed, taking our time and hanging our clothing carefully on hangers and chairs so that after finishing up the girls could make a quick appearance downstairs in hopes of landing another customer.
"We sat on hard wooden chairs in what I came to realize wuz the boudoir. The bed was sound, and the sheets clean. I learned that they had maids in to clean each room after it had been used for illicit purposes.
"I began by kissing Mindy-Sue. We'd been kissin' for some time before her mouth opened and her tongue slipped out, inviting mine to enter. I hadn't tasted another's tongue since my wonderful afternoon with Julie. It was still a novel and exhilarating experience for me.
She seemed to be as excited as me, and the game went on with me begging her to let me have her, and she denying my advances by jabbering that she was only 14 and a virgin. But the both of us knew full well that she wuz a whore about twenty years old, working a customer for all the dough she could get.
"Surely you're at least 16," I countered, "A woman by any standard."
That seemed to delight her and Corry no end, as they took a fit of laughin' until Corry switched places with her, and began kissin' me with a vigor that Mindy-Sue lacked.
"You, on the other hand," I said," appear to be at least nineteen," at which Corry maneuvered her body against mine so that I had free access to her breasts, which I commenced to fondle.
"We're both twenty-one, mister smarty-pants," Corry laughed, as I raised her clothing up to her belly, my hand between her thighs. Then cried out, "No, no, Mr. Harbidge!" but so quietly I knew she meant for me to continue. I was still so big a rube as to think I wuz succeeding with them beyond my wildest expectations.
"I kissed Corry, and groped Mindy-Sue's arse; even pinched her cheeks at which, she shrieked so raucously that I made straight for her cunt and found as hairy a bush as I've ever seen to this day."
"Who to do first?" Mindy-Sue howled boisterously.
"Is that yer problem, Billy Boy?"
"I made a grab for Mindy-Sue and hugging her to me, gave her a long, wet kiss, and sent my saliva pouring into her mouth; a mouth that eagerly accepted it all, and signaled it was hungry for more. While I wuz manufacturing some more spittle, Corry took my cock out and dropped it onto her tongue.
"Whoa!" I yelled, as startled as I'd ever been to that moment. I swallowed my own saliva and began coughing. Mindy-Sue slapped me on the back, but Corry commenced to suck me off... and I don't mind saying that didn't take all that long.
My coughing abated and I came a load down the young thing's gullet. She swallowed it all effortlessly. Mindy-Sue wuz laughin' and giggling' at my surprise that Corry would do such a thing.
"It took maybe a minute for me to acclimate to the situation, then, holding my flaccid penis in one hand, I inquired of them just how in hell they were going to make it hard again. Still laughin', they mounted each other with their faces in one another's crotch, and set out a lickin' and a suckin' on the other.
'Gamahuching' it was called, and after I'd watched 'em going at it for several minutes, my dick was poking straight out ready for action again. I knew then that these gals knew their business... in more ways than one. But before I set out to fuck one of 'em, I decided to try this gamahuchin' for a spell.
I dropped to my knees and presented my face and mouth to Corry's petticoat covered cunt. But before I actually went down, I worked my fingers between her cunt-lips, twiddling and rubbing, and felt Mindy-Sue's tongue lick my fingers as it sought Corry's inner pink walls.