Buttered Side Down: Stories
4. A Bush League Hero
This is not a baseball story. The grandstand does not rise as one man and shout itself
hoarse with joy. There isn't a three-bagger in the entire three thousand words, and nobody
is carried home on the shoulders of the crowd. For that sort of thing you need not
squander fifteen cents on your favorite magazine. The modest sum of one cent will make
you the possessor of a Pink 'Un. There you will find the season's games handled in
masterly fashion by a six-best-seller artist, an expert mathematician, and an original-slang
humorist. No mere short story dub may hope to compete with these.
In the old days, before the gentry of the ring had learned the wisdom of investing their
winnings in solids instead of liquids, this used to be a favorite conundrum: When is a
prize-fighter not a prize-fighter?
Chorus: When he is tending bar.
I rise to ask you Brothah Fan, when is a ball player not a ball player? Above the storm of
facetious replies I shout the answer:
When he's a shoe clerk.
Any man who can look handsome in a dirty baseball suit is an Adonis. There is
something about the baggy pants, and the Micawber-shaped collar, and the skull-fitting
cap, and the foot or so of tan, or blue, or pink undershirt sleeve sticking out at the arms,
that just naturally kills a man's best points. Then too, a baseball suit requires so much in
the matter of leg. Therefore, when I say that Rudie Schlachweiler was a dream even in his
baseball uniform, with a dirty brown streak right up the side of his pants where he had
slid for base, you may know that the girls camped on the grounds during the season.
During the summer months our ball park is to us what the Grand Prix is to Paris, or Ascot
is to London. What care we that Evers gets seven thousand a year (or is it a month?); or
that Chicago's new South-side ball park seats thirty-five thousand (or is it million?). Of
what interest are such meager items compared with the knowledge that "Pug" Coulan,
who plays short, goes with Undine Meyers, the girl up there in the eighth row, with the
pink dress and the red roses on her hat? When "Pug" snatches a high one out of the
firmament we yell with delight, and even as we yell we turn sideways to look up and see
how Undine is taking it. Undine's shining eyes are fixed on "Pug," and he knows it,
stoops to brush the dust off his dirt-begrimed baseball pants, takes an attitude of careless
grace and misses the next play.
Our grand-stand seats almost two thousand, counting the boxes. But only the snobs, and
the girls with new hats, sit in the boxes. Box seats are comfortable, it is true, and they
cost only an additional ten cents, but we have come to consider them undemocratic, and
unworthy of true fans. Mrs. Freddy Van Dyne, who spends her winters in Egypt and her
summers at the ball park, comes out to the game every afternoon in her automobile, but