When You Were a Boy
WHEN YOU WERE A BOY
|I||The Match Game||11|
|II||You at School||39|
|IV||In the Arena||91|
|VI||When You Ran Away||135|
|XI||The Sunday-School Picnic||239|
|XII||The Old Muzzle-Loader||257|
|XIII||A Boy’s Loves||277|
THE MATCH GAME
FAT DAY was captain and pitcher. Hewas captain because, if he was not, hewouldn’t play, and inasmuch as he owned theball, this would have been disastrous; and hewas pitcher because he was captain.
In the North Stars were other pitchers—sevenof them! The only member who didnot aspire to pitch was Billy Lunt, and ascatcher he occupied a place, in “takin’ ’emoff the bat,” too delightfully hazardous forhim to surrender, and toopainful for anybody elseto covet.
The organization of theNorth Stars was effectedthrough verbal contractssomewhat as follows:
“Say, we want you to bein our nine.”
“All right. Will youlemme pitch?”
“Naw; Fat’s pitcher,’cause he’s captain; butyou can play first.”
“Pooh! Fat can’tpitch—”
“I can, too. I can pitch lots better’n youcan, anyhow.” (This from Fat himself.)
“W-well, I’ll play first, then. I don’t care.”
Thus an adjustment was reached.
A proud moment for you was it when yourmerits as a ball-player were recognized, andyou were engaged for center-field. Of course,secretly you nourished the strong convictionthat you were cut out for a pitcher. Next topitcher, you preferred short-stop, and next toshort-stop, first base. But these positions, andpretty much everything, in fact, had been preempted;so, after the necessary haggling, youaccepted center-field.
Speedily the North Star make-up was complete,and disappointed applicants—those toolittle, too big, too late, or not good enough—werebusy sneering about it.
The equipment of the North Star Base-BallClub consisted of Fat’s “regular league” ball,six bats (owned by various members, and insome cases exercising no small influence in determiningfitness of the same for enlistment asrecruits), and four uniforms.
Mother made your uniform.To-day you wonderhow, amidst darningyour stockings and patchingour trousers andmending your waists, sheever found time in whichto supply you with theadditional regalia which, according to yourpursuits of the hour, day after day youinsistently demanded. Butshe always did.
The uniform in questionwas composed of a pair ofyour linen knickerbockerswith a red tape tackedalong the outside seam, anda huge six-pointed blueflannel star, each pointhaving a buttonhole wherebyit was attached to abutton, corresponding, onthe breast of your waist.And was there a cap, ordid you wear the faithfulold straw? Fat Day, yourecollect, had a cap upon the front of which waslettered his rank—“Captain.” It seems asthough mother made you a cap, as well as thestriped trousers and breastplate. The cap wasfurnished with a tremendously deep vizor ofpasteboard, and was formed of four segments,two white and two blue, meeting in the centerof the crown.
All in all, the uniform was perfectly satisfactory;it was distinctive, and was surpassedby none of the other three.
Evidently the mothers of five of the NorthStars did not attend to business, for their sonsplayed in ordinary citizen’s attire of hats, andof waists and trousers unadorned save by thestains incidental to daily life.
The North Stars must have been employedfor a time chiefly in parading about and seekingwhom they, as an aggregation, might devour,but as a rule failing, owing to interfering house-and-yardduties, all to report upon any oneoccasion. The contests had been with “pickednines,” “just for fun” (meaningthat there was no sting indefeat), when on a sudden itwas breathlessly announcedfrom mouth, to mouth that“the Second-street kids wantto play us.”
“Come on!” responded,with a single valiant voice, theNorth Stars.
“We’re goin’ to play amatch game next Tuesday,”you gave out, as a bit of important news, atthe supper-table.
“That so?” hazardedfather, who had been flatteringlyinterested in your bluestar. “Who’s the other nine?”
“The Second-street fellows.Spunk Carey’s captain and—”
“Who is Spunk Carey?Oh, Johnny, what outlandishnames you boys do rake up!”exclaimed mother.
“Why, he’s Frank Careythe hardware man’s boy,”explained father, indulgently.“What’s his first name, John?”
“I dunno,” you hurriedly owned; “Spunk”had been quite sufficient for all purposes. “Butwe’re goin’ to play in the vacant lot next toCarey’s house. There’s a dandy diamond.”
So there was. The Carey side fence supplieda fine back-stop, and thence the grounds extendedin a superb level of dusty green, brokenby burdock clumps and interspersed with tincans. The lot was bounded on the east by theCarey fence, on the south and west by a highwalk, and on the north by the alley. It wasa corner lot, which made it the more spacious.
The diamond itself had been laid out, in thebeginning, with proportions accommodated toa pair of rocks that would answer for first andsecond base; a slab dropped where third oughtto be, and another dropped for the home plate,finished the preliminary work, and thereafterscores of running feet, shod and unshod, hadworn bare the lines, and the spots where stoodpitcher, catcher, and batter.
A landscape architect might have passedcriticism on the ensemble ofthe plat, and a surveyormight have taken exceptionsto the configuration of thediamond, but who cared?
“We” had promised that“we” would be there, readyto play, at two o’clock, and“they” had solemnly vowedthat “they” would be asprompt. Tuesday’s dinneryou gulped and gobbled; inthose days your stomach waspatient and charitable almostbeyond belief in this degenerate present. It wasimperative that you be at Carey’s lot immediately,and despite the imploringobjections of thefamily to your reckless haste,you bolted out; and as youwent you drew upon yourleft hand an old fingerlesskid glove, which was of somepeculiar service in your center-fieldduties.
Your uniform had beenput on upon arising thatmorning. You always woreit nowadays except when inbed or on Sundays. It wasyour toga of the purple border, and the bat thatyou carried from early to late, in your peregrinations,was your scepter mace.
At your unearthly yodel, from next doorrushed out your crony, Hen Schmidt, and joinedyou; and upon your way to the vacant lot youpicked up Billy Lunt and Chub Thornbury.
The four of you succeeded in all talking atonce: the Second-streets were great big fellows;their pitcher was Doc Kennedy and it wasn’tfair, because he threw as hard as he could, andhe was nearly sixteen; Hop Hopkins said he’dbe “empire”; Red Conroy was going to play,and he always was wanting to fight; darn it—ifFat only wouldn’t pitch, but let somebodyelse do it! Bob Leslie could throw an awfulbig “in,” etc.
The fateful lot dawned upon the right, aroundthe corner of an alley fence. Hurrah, therethey are! You see Nixie and Tom Kemp, andHod O’Shea, and Bob Leslie, and Spunk, andScrew Major, and Ted Watson, and Slim Harding,and the