Chapter 6 The Dreamers
I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good. I must have talked myself to sleep. That was a night I hope to forget real soon. I jumped out of bed and cracked the bedroom door open a little. I could hear Gus and Mary talking down in the kitchen. I grabbed my things and ran down to the bathroom in only my underwear. I quickly shaved and showered, dressed, and went down stairs.
Mary had breakfast waiting. She had placed boxes of cereal on the table: Wheaties, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and Rice Chex were the selections of the day. She had prepared a small plate with buttered toast and English Muffins. Mary set a jar of strawberry preserves off to one side. A bowl with the required compliment of eating hardware were set at my and Mary's places. Gus was just having his usual coffee.
"Bill," Mary spoke as she saw me enter the kitchen, "I hope you don't mind cold cereal this morning? I must get down to the church right away and help with the spring cleaning of the Fellowship Hall. Our Ladies' Auxiliary is in charge and it wouldn't look good for the Chairwoman to be late, now would it?"
"Mary, this will be plenty," I reply. "It's almost too late to be eating too much for breakfast. This is great. Usually what my Grandmother puts out for me anyway. Grandpa always had to have his Kellogg's Corn Flakes."
"Gus said to let you sleep in a little," Mary continued. "He felt your trip may have had you a little tired out. That is a lot of driving to come all the way out here from Chicago in only 36 hours."
Gus immediately looked over the top of his newspaper right into my eyes and gave me this big Cheshire cat grin. He knew it wasn't the drive that had me freaking out last night; right up there is All American Bob's bed. How embarrassing. Come on Gus, speak to me and break the ice, I thought. You caught me all right.
"Come on Bill, sit down and eat," said Gus finally. "We've got to get to the ballpark on time. It would not be good to keep Red waiting on your first day. We've got alotta things ta do and alotta people to meet. Step on it, will ya?" Gus was still smiling that big grin.
"Say, if we can't find Dr. Freud, will Dr. Ruth do," said Gus starting to laugh?
"No, Gus, sorry to disappoint you," I replied, "but I don't have a problem in THAT area. Maybe you could set up a couch in YOUR office and make a few extra bucks. God knows we ball players can afford it NOW!"
"What's going on here," said Mary jumping into the conversation. "You leave the boy alone and let him eat his breakfast. You're both gonna be late you keep this up."
I started eating a piece of toast as I poured Wheaties into my bowl. I was glad to get out of that. Last night was funny, though, I think? Mary and I finished eating, cleared the table and made our way to our cars. The sky was partly cloudy with temperatures in what felt like the high 60's. Gus had warned me how it could be in New England in the spring or in the fall. It could be near 70 one day and snow the next. Gus quoted someone, he forgot who, who said, "If you don't like the weather, just wait a day". Who ever it was he could have been a weatherman for Channel 9 in Chicago. The wind off Lake Michigan can cool down a body as well.
We arrived at the ball park at ten minutes to ten. There were a lot of cars in the small fenced parking lot next to the entryway to the ballpark marked "Authorized Personnel Only". There was an old man. Maybe seventy or eighty years old sitting on a stool reading a paper. He was wearing a Monarch cap and didn't have much to do today. As we pulled up he squinted to see into the car and checked out the passengers. The sun was coming right off the hood directly into his face. He was forced to use the paper to shield his eyes.
"Hey, Jocko, It's me, Gus, and Billy Alan, The new player you wanted to meet." said Gus very loudly. Jocko must not hear to well, either, I thought.
"Hey, Gus," yelled Jocko back. "Good to see you." Jocko reached into the car to shake my hand. "Good to make your acquaintance Mr. Alan," said Jocko. Obviously he felt like he was meeting some celebrity or something.
"Jocko," I said, "please call me Bill and it's nice to meet you. Can I trust you to take good care of my car?" Gus and I got out of the car with the motor running, but in Park. I reached over the seat and snatched a small athletic bag from the rear seat.
"You bet, Bill," said Jocko with a big smile. "I'll take good care of your wheels. Don't worry about it. We run'em out of here if they get too sloppy."
"Jocko, between you and me, you can let any pretty ones hang around a while if you want." I gave him a little nudge with my elbow and a wink. He smiled a small smile back.
"Gotcha covered, Bill, you and Gus have a good day," answered Jocko. He quickly moved into the driver's seat and went to find a suitable parking spot for my wagon. "I'll see you guys later," he shouted out the window.
Gus turned to see who was behind us. "That's Jon Tavy. California boy if there ever was one," said Gus sarcastically. "He has a hard time finding room for his uniforms with all his clothes and hairspray crowding up his locker. What a waste that guy is," continued Gus shaking his head. "This makes his third year he will have been here, his last, no doubt unless he gets with the program and moves up to Triple A quickly," finished Gus with great disgust in his voice.
"Stay away from him," offered Gus. "I got it in my mind he is nottin but trouble waitin to happen. Booze, women, poor attitude, what ever. He's just some rich professor's kid from USC. Thinks he's God's gift to the world, I guess," finished Gus.
There was nothing for me to say at this point. We stood and watched Tavy pull his car up and wait for Jocko to come back. We started walking into the player’s entrance under the stadium stands.
"Come on Gus," I said trying to get his mind on something else. "Forget about him if he is just going to get you worked up. It's not worth it. Life's too short to spend it being aggravated. Let's get on inside. I'm anxious to get started with my new career." Gus snapped out of it and walked into the entrance. Our eyes met.
"You're right," said Gus. "Let's accentuate the positive, not the negative on your first day. Let's get to the tack at hand. Where would you like to go? Hall of Fame? Or, would you like to make a brief stop in New York first?"
"Well, Gus," I replied. "I'd settle for a trip to the men's room, if that's alright with you? I need to take a leak real bad. Let's get moving, O.K?"
With that said we move into the clubhouse area located under the stands on the third base side of home plate. We traveled down a cement block hallway which branched off into a "T". The right went down toward first base and the visitor’s clubhouse area. The left hall way went down to the Yankees' areas. This is the area where I first met Gus my first night into town. We both stood in the hall way for a brief moment.
"This is where it all begins, Kid," said Gus. "Let's go stir things up a bit. Just remember you are the equal of any jock in this place. Don't be intimidated by anyone or anything. Everything will fall into place, believe me."
"O.K. Gus, let's do it," I reply. We surged down the hall way and burst through the double doors entering the locker room foyer area.
Red Dodge was standing in the middle of the room with most of the players in the room listening, hanging on every word he said. As Gus and I entered the room Red stopped speaking. Everyone turned to see who the intruders were.
"Hey Gus," yelled Red. "You and Bill come on over here." We did as we were instructed. We moved to the center of the room near Red.
"This gentleman with Gus is Bill Alan, Boys, high school phenom from Chicago-land. God knows we could use some real talent around here after last season. Bill's is a good, young, ballplayer. I don't want any of you giving him a bunch of crap. That goes double for you Bolton. He can use all your help in just getting settled. Some real team work would be appreciated. Understood!"
Everyone seemed to nod and mumble some form of agreement. I looked around the room. Jack Meyers, another pitcher, smiled and winked at me. Dave Bolton, our catcher, gave me a mean look at first, and then it melted into a warm smile as he made his way into the center of the room. He reached out toward me to shake hands. I extended mine, but Bolton never broke stride as he walked right passed me, brushed his hand right through the side of his hair and went to a chair behind me and took a seat, all in one smooth motion. Everyone started laughing, first the players, then Gus, then me, and lastly Red. I had to admit it was a great fake. Red just left the room shaking his head. The players led by Jack Meyers came to my rescue.
"Bill, Jack Meyers, glad to meet you," he said warmly. "Forget about Bolton. He's brain-dead anyway. He pulls that gag on every new guy that comes in here."
Bolton now forces his way through the group, finally getting to the front. He extends his hand again.
"Please have mercy on me, Masta," says Bolton in a pitiful Southern accent. He pauses as he raises a finger to the temple area of his head as his eyes scan the ceiling as if in some deep thought. "Ya see," he continues, "I only have an I.Q. of...," Bolton pauses again as a voice from the back of the room shouts out, "That's it Dave right beside your head!"
Dave pulls his finger from the side of his head and looks at it. He studies it for a moment, a moment too long.
"One, Bolton, an I.Q. of one," shouts the voice. The room breaks out into laughter. A grin breaks out on Bolton's face as well, and then he starts laughing.
Through the din of laughter Dave speaks as he taps me on the arm. "Hope you didn't mind me having a little fun at your expense," he asks. "It's tough trying to be as funny as our pitching staff was last year, right Jack?" Dave turns and looks to Jack Meyers with a big grin on his face. There was, unfortunately, too much truth hidden in that smile.
"Sure Bolton," Jack shot back, "we were just trying to give you some practice, some opportunities to throw out at least one runner trying to steal a base last year. We wasted a whole year trying to work with you and this is the thanks we get, cheap sarcasm? There will be no more help for you this year." It was all Jack could do to keep from giving it up in a smile. Voices from the back of the room kept taking turns lobbing insults at Meyers.
"Only double-digit ERA in the league last year," shouted one voice.
"Highest percentage of base runners to runs scored in the league," shouted another.
"Set back the art of pitching one-hundred years," said someone else.
"So bad, your Mama stopped comin to the park," laughed Ross Jones, the teams fleet-footed Center Fielder. Jones led the League with stolen bases with 85, and the team in hitting with a .310 average. He was only back here with the Monarchs because of his broken leg in the off-season and they wanted to bring him along slowly. If by the end of April he seemed healthy he would be promoted, maybe even to New York. The New York club had the slowest and oldest outfield in the Eastern Division last year. Also, being from Brooklyn wouldn't hurt his chances either.
By now everyone was feeling pretty loose and comfortable, even me. Each player took his turn at a personal introduction:
Mike Adams was the second baseman. An excellent fielder with a good hit and run bat. A very steady player. Just pencil his name in the line up and he was ready to go.
Reggie Bond, our black power hitter who played Right Field. Reggie was a Preacher's son from Mobile. Biggest player I had ever seen, six foot-six inches and 250 pounds of pure muscle. He shook my hand while standing in only is jock-strip. He had more muscles in more places than I had ever seen before.
He looked like he could have come from the NFL. He had the biggest smile full of perfect, white teeth that seemed to stretch the full width of the room. Reggie had a big year last season with 42 homeruns and 131 runs batted in but hit only .244. If he could maintain those production numbers and get his average up to near .280 he would be in the show pronto.
"Glad to have you with us," said Reggie. "With you here maybe we won't have to score 9 or 10 runs a game like last year. Seems like some times we could never score enough runs. Even with a lead going into the ninth I was always nervous. I hear you may just be able to do something about that!"
"Nice to meet you Reg," I replied. "I never played on a loosing team before, so I hope I can contribute to a winning season here. Maybe some time we can go have some dinner and you can fill me in on this team and the league."
"Sure thing, man," said Reggie. "You got it. Stay loose; I'll catch your act later, dig?"
"No problem," I replied. "Any time." Reggie walked back to his locker.
Scott Andrews, the Madison shortstop, was over talking to Gus and pointing to his left wrist. Gus motioned for me to come on over.
"Bill, I want you to meet Scott Andrews, our Shortstop," said Gus. We shook hand and briefly conversed how he had sprained his wrist doing some work on his Dad's farm in Missouri. He and his wife Marilyn and spent the entire off season there trying to help his family keep from loosing the farm. The previous year's flood had devastated their crop and they needed a good year to get them selves back on track. Scott and his wife were expecting their first child in July. You could tell by the way he talked about his wife and her condition he was eagerly awaiting his chance at fatherhood.
"I hear you have quite a challenge a head of you, Bill," said Scott. "Trying to play third base and be a starting pitcher will be quite a challenge, a first in this league I think. Kind of like having two careers."
"I know it will be quite a challenge," I reply. "I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life, and with concentration and commitment I'm going to do my best to pull it off. I may not make the all-star team, but I won't be a bust either."
I let Scott know right then and there that this was not some publicity stunt trying to just attract fans to come out to the park. If everyone was as committed to doing their job, we could have one heck of a season. This could work out for everybody, and, bring success to a team that could surely use some.
"Bill, I didn't mean to imply that you couldn't do it," replied Scott, "only that it would be quite a task. I didn't mean to sound insulting or imply you would fail."
"That's O.K.," I replied. "I just want everyone to know this is no joke, that's all. I'll see you at infield practice in a little bit."
With that said we both headed back to our lockers to finish getting dressed.