The Redheaded Outfield and Other Baseball Stories - Zane Grey - ebook

The Redheaded Outfield and Other Baseball Stories ebook

Zane Grey



A collection of stories about the start of baseball by Zein Gray captures the spirit of American baseball during the First World War. Includes stories such as The Redheaded Outfield and The Rube’s Pennant.

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Liczba stron: 270

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1. The Redheaded Outfield

2. The Rube

3. The Rube’s Pennant

4. The Rube’s Honeymoon

5. The Rube’s Waterloo

6. Breaking Into Fast Company

7. The Knocker

8. The Winning Ball

9. False Colors

10. The Manager Of Madden’s Hill

11. Old Well-Well


There was Delaney’s red-haired trio–Red Gilbat, left fielder; Reddy Clammer, right fielder, and Reddie Ray, center fielder, composing the most remarkable outfield ever developed in minor league baseball. It was Delaney’s pride, as it was also his trouble.

Red Gilbat was nutty–and his batting average was .371. Any student of baseball could weigh these two facts against each other and understand something of Delaney’s trouble. It was not possible to camp on Red Gilbat’s trail. The man was a jack-o’-lantern, a will-o’-the-wisp, a weird, long-legged, long-armed, red-haired illusive phantom. When the gong rang at the ball grounds there were ten chances to one that Red would not be present. He had been discovered with small boys peeping through knotholes at the vacant left field he was supposed to inhabit during play.

Of course what Red did off the ball grounds was not so important as what he did on. And there was absolutely no telling what under the sun he might do then except once out of every three times at bat he could be counted on to knock the cover off the ball.

Reddy Clammer was a grand-stand player–the kind all managers hated –and he was hitting .305. He made circus catches, circus stops, circus throws, circus steals–but particularly circus catches. That is to say, he made easy plays appear difficult. He was always strutting, posing, talking, arguing, quarreling–when he was not engaged in making a grand- stand play. Reddy Clammer used every possible incident and artifice to bring himself into the limelight.

Reddie Ray had been the intercollegiate champion in the sprints and a famous college ball player. After a few months of professional ball he was hitting over .400 and leading the league both at bat and on the bases. It was a beautiful and a thrilling sight to see him run. He was so quick to start, so marvelously swift, so keen of judgment, that neither Delaney nor any player could ever tell the hit that he was not going to get. That was why Reddie Ray was a whole game in himself.

Delaney’s Rochester Stars and the Providence Grays were tied for first place. Of the present series each team had won a game. Rivalry had always been keen, and as the teams were about to enter the long homestretch for the pennant there was battle in the New England air.

The September day was perfect. The stands were half full and the bleachers packed with a white-sleeved mass. And the field was beautifully level and green. The Grays were practicing and the Stars were on their bench.

“We’re up against it,” Delaney was saying. “This new umpire, Fuller, hasn’t got it in for us. Oh, no, not at all! Believe me, he’s a robber. But Scott is pitchin’ well. Won his last three games. He’ll bother ‘em. And the three Reds have broken loose. They’re on the rampage. They’ll burn up this place today.”

Somebody noted the absence of Gilbat.

Delaney gave a sudden start. “Why, Gil was here,” he said slowly. “Lord! –he’s about due for a nutty stunt.”

Whereupon Delaney sent boys and players scurrying about to find Gilbat, and Delaney went himself to ask the Providence manager to hold back the gong for a few minutes.

Presently somebody brought Delaney a telephone message that Red Gilbat was playing ball with some boys in a lot four blocks down the street. When at length a couple of players marched up to the bench with Red in tow Delaney uttered an immense sigh of relief and then, after a close scrutiny of Red’s face, he whispered, “Lock the gates!”

Then the gong rang. The Grays trooped in. The Stars ran out, except Gilbat, who ambled like a giraffe. The hum of conversation in the grand stand quickened for a moment with the scraping of chairs, and then grew quiet. The bleachers sent up the rollicking cry of expectancy. The umpire threw out a white ball with his stentorian “Play!” and Blake of the Grays strode to the plate.

Hitting safely, he started the game with a rush. With Dorr up, the Star infield played for a bunt. Like clockwork Dorr dumped the first ball as Blake got his flying start for second base. Morrissey tore in for the ball, got it on the run and snapped it underhand to Healy, beating the runner by an inch. The fast Blake, with a long slide, made third base. The stands stamped. The bleachers howled. White, next man up, batted a high fly to left field. This was a sun field and the hardest to play in the league. Red Gilbat was the only man who ever played it well. He judged the fly, waited under it, took a step hack, then forward, and deliberately caught the ball in his gloved hand. A throw-in to catch the runner scoring from third base would have been futile, but it was not like Red Gilbat to fail to try. He tossed the ball to O’Brien. And Blake scored amid applause.

“What do you know about that?” ejaculated Delaney, wiping his moist face. “I never before saw our nutty Redhead pull off a play like that.”

Some of the players yelled at Red, “This is a two-handed league, you bat!”

The first five players on the list for the Grays were left-handed batters, and against a right-handed pitcher whose most effective ball for them was a high fast one over the outer corner they would naturally hit toward left field. It was no surprise to see Hanley bat a skyscraper out to left. Red had to run to get under it. He braced himself rather unusually for a fielder. He tried to catch the ball in his bare right hand and muffed it, Hanley got to second on the play while the audience roared. When they got through there was some roaring among the Rochester players. Scott and Captain Healy roared at Red, and Red roared back at them.

“It’s all off. Red never did that before,” cried Delaney in despair. “He’s gone clean bughouse now.”

Babcock was the next man up and he likewise hit to left. It was a low, twisting ball–half fly, half liner–and a difficult one to field. Gilbat ran with great bounds, and though he might have got two hands on the ball he did not try, but this time caught it in his right, retiring the side.

The Stars trotted in, Scott and Healy and Kane, all veterans, looking like thunderclouds. Red ambled in the last and he seemed very nonchalant.

“By Gosh, I’d ‘a’ ketched that one I muffed if I’d had time to change hands,” he said with a grin, and he exposed a handful of peanuts. He had refused to drop the peanuts to make the catch with two hands. That explained the mystery. It was funny, yet nobody laughed. There was that run chalked up against the Stars, and this game had to be won.

“Red, I–I want to take the team home in the lead,” said Delaney, and it was plain that he suppressed strong feeling. “You didn’t play the game, you know.”

Red appeared mightily ashamed.

“Del, I’ll git that run back,” he said.

Then he strode to the plate, swinging his wagon-tongue bat. For all his awkward position in the box he looked what he was–a formidable hitter. He seemed to tower over the pitcher–Red was six feet one –and he scowled and shook his bat at Wehying and called, “Put one over –you wienerwurst!” Wehying was anything but red-headed, and he wasted so many balls on Red that it looked as if he might pass him. He would have passed him, too, if Red had not stepped over on the fourth ball and swung on it. White at second base leaped high for the stinging hit, and failed to reach it. The ball struck and bounded for the fence. When Babcock fielded it in, Red was standing on third base, and the bleachers groaned.

Whereupon Chesty Reddy Clammer proceeded to draw attention to himself, and incidentally delay the game, by assorting the bats as if the audience and the game might gladly wait years to see him make a choice.

“Git in the game!” yelled Delaney.

“Aw, take my bat, Duke of the Abrubsky!” sarcastically said Dump Kane. When the grouchy Kane offered to lend his bat matters were critical in the Star camp.

Other retorts followed, which Reddy Clammer deigned not to notice. At last he got a bat that suited him–and then, importantly, dramatically, with his cap jauntily riding his red locks, he marched to the plate.

Some wag in the bleachers yelled into the silence, “Oh, Maggie, your lover has come!”

Not improbably Clammer was thinking first of his presence before the multitude, secondly of his batting average and thirdly of the run to be scored. In this instance he waited and feinted at balls and fouled strikes at length to work his base. When he got to first base suddenly he bolted for second, and in the surprise of the unlooked-for play he made it by a spread-eagle slide. It was a circus steal.

Delaney snorted. Then the look of profound disgust vanished in a flash of light. His huge face beamed.

Reddie Ray was striding to the plate.

There was something about Reddie Ray that pleased all the senses. His lithe form seemed instinct with life; any sudden movement was suggestive of stored lightning. His position at the plate was on the left side, and he stood perfectly motionless, with just a hint of tense waiting alertness. Dorr, Blake and Babcock, the outfielders for the Grays, trotted round to the right of their usual position. Delaney smiled derisively, as if he knew how futile it was to tell what field Reddie Ray might hit into. Wehying, the old fox, warily eyed the youngster, and threw him a high curve, close in. It grazed Reddie’s shirt, but he never moved a hair. Then Wehying, after the manner of many veteran pitchers when trying out a new and menacing batter, drove a straight fast ball at Reddie’s head. Reddie ducked, neither too slow nor too quick, just right to show what an eye he had, how hard it was to pitch to. The next was a strike. And on the next he appeared to step and swing in one action. There was a ringing rap, and the ball shot toward right, curving down, a vicious, headed hit. Mallory, at first base, snatched at it and found only the air. Babcock had only time to take a few sharp steps, and then he plunged down, blocked the hit and fought the twisting ball. Reddie turned first base, flitted on toward second, went headlong in the dust, and shot to the base before White got the throw-in from Babcock. Then, as White wheeled and lined the ball home to catch the scoring Clammer, Reddie Ray leaped up, got his sprinter’s start and, like a rocket, was off for third. This time he dove behind the base, sliding in a half circle, and as Hanley caught Strickland’s perfect throw and whirled with the ball, Reddie’s hand slid to the bag.

Reddie got to his feet amid a rather breathless silence. Even the coachers were quiet. There was a moment of relaxation, then Wehying received the ball from Hanley and faced the batter.

This was Dump Kane. There was a sign of some kind, almost imperceptible, between Kane and Reddie. As Wehying half turned in his swing to pitch, Reddie Ray bounded homeward. It was not so much the boldness of his action as the amazing swiftness of it that held the audience spellbound. Like a thunderbolt Reddie came down the line, almost beating Wehying’s pitch to the plate. But Kane’s bat intercepted the ball, laying it down, and Reddie scored without sliding. Dorr, by sharp work, just managed to throw Kane out.

Three runs so quick it was hard to tell how they had come. Not in the major league could there have been faster work. And the ball had been fielded perfectly and thrown perfectly.

“There you are,” said Delaney, hoarsely. “Can you beat it? If you’ve been wonderin’ how the cripped Stars won so many games just put what you’ve seen in your pipe and smoke it. Red Gilbat gets on–Reddy Clammer gets on –and then Reddie Ray drives them home or chases them home.”

The game went on, and though it did not exactly drag it slowed down considerably. Morrissey and Healy were retired on infield plays. And the sides changed. For the Grays, O’Brien made a scratch hit, went to second on Strickland’s sacrifice, stole third and scored on Mallory’s infield out. Wehying missed three strikes. In the Stars’ turn the three end players on the batting list were easily disposed of. In the third inning the clever Blake, aided by a base on balls and a hit following, tied the score, and once more struck fire and brimstone from the impatient bleachers. Providence was a town that had to have its team win.

“Git at ‘em, Reds!” said Delaney gruffly.

“Batter up!” called Umpire Fuller, sharply.

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