Only The Ball Was Dead
Conversations with Connie Mack's White Elephants
Fiction by C. B. Rothwell
(This document was found among receipts, contracts and other miscellaneous papers in a cardboard box stored in a warehouse after Shibe Park was demolished. Interestingly, the questions are not included, only the players' answers. The interviewer is also unknown.)
Tully Hartsel: "Now Plank, there was a specimen! Reminded me of a spider, all lanky and stretched out, with limbs goin every which way. And that's before he threw the ball! As a leadoff man myself, I can tell you he used to drive batters batty! Me, I had patience so's I'd wait out those kind of pitchers. But most guys were so anxious to hit, that by the time Eddie got ready to toss the damn thing, they were tight as a over-wound watch. Very deliberate fellow. Took his job as seriously like a banker. His smile muscles musta withered after childhood cause I never saw him smile. Like warm up pitches he hardly ever threw; why use em if ya don't have to?!"
John McInnis: "To lose Lajoie that way was like being forced to eat live grasshoppers. Collins? That was like having caramel poured over them."
Eddie Collins: "I really loved playing second base. It was like being in a tree where you're on the ideal limb and see through the branches like you'd pruned them. If a left-handed hitter was late you could hear it coming your way. All the hard stuff was down the line, and I didn't envy that other side of the infield anymore than the guy who catches cannon balls with his stomach at the circus! But God, I loved diving for those liners trying to get by on either side, leaving the ground and feeling that hard ball in your glove nest. Plank? Oh yes, he would wait until all the birds had stopped singing before he'd throw. Reminded me of my grandmother. Because she'd just sit there and rock and knit, rock and knit. Ed would knit his monogram on the ball before he threw it. Very effective since this game is all timing. Born pitcher. Suitable for framing."
Frank Baker: "Everything about this game is beyond our ability to appreciate appropriately. Mr. Mack was so shrewd at putting teams together. Thinking back, what other team could lose Waddell, Lajoie, and Joe Jackson and still be so powerful? The reason folks get dizzy thinking about the greatest teams in the history of this game is simply because, like women, not one can truly be compared to another because of the uniqueness of each one's beauty. I really think that's why people believe in God. Because it is the ideal source of all. The gavel lands...the brain rests."
Charles Bender: "Once I put on my bird cage and strapped on the leather, my pitches hitting the catcher's mitt sent smoke signals to the opposition to raise the white flag! What's a 'bird cage?' Our hats, of course. Where do you think Stengel got the idea with the bird? Mr. Mack was a real gentleman, a real man in the strongest sense. To win for him was a source of great pride. And to see those eyes twinkle! But he was deceptive. He knew the angles and of course there weren't all those umpires standing around like there are now. 'Cunning' is how I'd describe him. A real blue print for a manager. 'Statuesque' in the highest sense. Mr. Mack and McGraw were perfect twin opposites. But like Matty and McGraw the differences ended when it came to winning. In 1911 it was like two freight trains coming around the mountain from different directions on the same track. And when you beat McGraw you knew you'd beaten the best...you were also sure you'd outplayed someone who couldn't stomach losing. Anytime."
Harry Morgan: "I don't feel like saying nothin'. Ya play this game. Talkin' just makes trouble."
Jack Coombs: "Our staff was the best in the game. Ask Ira Thomas our catcher about that. But don't ask him which one was best! He'll never tell for fear of jinxing the others."
Danny Murphy: "Loved playing for Connie. Who doesn't love taking the field for a winner? When I saw Collins play, I was glad I could catch fly balls! I'd pull the local micks out for home games, and it was always somebody else's house for dinner those nights. But those Philadelphia fans could be tough, their Liberty Bells were all a little bit cracked! Winning almost spoiled them. Like an old man ya just can't please. Very demanding. I stuck to my crowd and had a ball. Oh, 1911. No question bout it. No question. Best."
Amos Strunk: "Baseball was like going to sleep and having your favorite dream! Its always new. Never the same. Always something. The fans acted like it was candy. Grown men whooping like five-year-olds at a party or crying like women over a cake that didn't rise. But we went through it all together, the cranks and the players in the big parlor called 'The Ballpark.' It was like being home. Never growing old or breaking down. And you were sure it was going to last forever. There was only right now. And it was always enough. Just enough steps to first base. Just enough time to double the guy off second. Just enough of what people want. Like a candle flame all pregnant with itself! Something beautiful in every way..."
Jack Lapp: "Just sitting on the bench with these guys was like having a perch on the throne."
Harry Krause: "Well, I don't believe in free will. Fate is everything. You don't have no say. Just kick some ass when your chance comes. That's what I did. The rest is up to your guardian angel, who I'm suing for lack of support!"
Rube Oldring: "Now hear me out. Nobody knows nothin they didn't always know. Been thinking bout this and seems like forever and I'm sayin that everybody knows everything, they just don't know it! Like baseball, the only security is knowing there is no security. Its like hitting a home run, or better yet, makin' love...you gotta touch all the bases before you're home free. This world's a perfect place. And if you're not confused, you're not thinkin' clearly."
Eddie Plank: "Technique? Get em' out! I didn't necessarily pitch fast or slow. I pitched according to my precise measurements, which is how I size up each hitter, in each situation, with each pitch and his reaction to it determining the next kind of pitch he deserves. If you've got the stuff, it becomes a battle for the hitter's mind. Once I got his attention, I ignored it and pitched the ball like I wanted, exactly where I wanted it...in my head...and then I threw it like I just thought. Right. Each pitch. Well, there's different ways a man can react in battle. General McClellen couldn't turn the final corner, go over the last hill or bring an end to a battle he had already won. The killer instinct must be there. Grant, for example, was behind the count almost all the time he was in against Lee, but it always stimulated his inner drive to get the better of his man. Which he did over and again 'til he won. It's you or him. And it was never going to be me with my teammates behind me out there. I would lead them in there and we'd take 'em 'out. And they'd die behind their eyes."
Harry Davis: "Mr. Mack and his prodigy, Mr. Waddell, were a strange couple. Rube was a very odd duck, and it was just a matter of time 'til he flew the coop. But Mr. Mack got the most out of him when he needed him most. A lot like his teams. He would keep them together, get 100% from them, and then it was like he went to see a 'Reader' who told him to fold up the tent and away they went. Could take one or two years or ten. He just knew when he had to do what he had to do. Even he would tell you it was out of his hands, he was just reading the handwriting on the wall, etc. But I can tell you Waddell was by far the hardest for him to lose! Oh yes. By far! But then Rube was the furtherest gone before he went than anyone else any of us ever knew. If he had a fraction of the ability to focus on his skills as he did the air he blew into those balloons that took him away...well...he reminded me of a child who was never told about death."