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But I had found something pretty amazing. Something from the days when organized ball was as young as I was when I became a fan of it. The days when baseball was so young that almost anything could happen. I had found not only the first time but surely the last time that a pitcher picked a man with a .343 lifetime batting average off first base without making a throw.
...suddenly Bushong [the catcher] signaled; and Foutz dashed over toward first base with the ball in hand, touching Browning before the latter knew what had happened. Such a play was never before seen, and the spectators howled with delight. Pete was mighty mad, and, as he has a faculty for being caught napping, the play was
"Pete Browning," mused Mac Farlane with relish. "An odd fellow. He didn't slide. Wouldn't slide. Another thing, he thought every bat had a certain number of hits in it, so when old Betsy got 19 hits he'd hang her up in his cellar. Had old Betsys hanging all over the place. He also thought it was smart when riding a train to open a window, stick his head out and catch soot from the smokestack. In his eyes. He thought that made his eyes water and cleaned out his sight."
"Wow," I observed. I had not observed "wow" in a number of years.
Pete Browning stories! Oh, I knew Browning was the guy who got Hillerich and Bradsby into the bat business when he brought them a wagon tongue or something and asked them to see what kind of old Betsy they could turn out on their lathe. It was the birth of the Louisville Slugger. But I had never heard any other Pete Browning stories.
"Neat," I observed, nearly aloud. The last time I had observed "neat" nearly aloud was when I took my son John to the Hall of Fame and he stood in Babe Ruth's actual locker and he observed "neat" aloud. It isn't easy to get young people to observe "neat" aloud about something that you think is just as neat as they do.
Now I am not in Babe Ruth's locker, but I am in a place just as wondrous. I am in the cubbyhole of Paul (Mac) Mac Farlane, 66, official historian of The Sporting News . I am unscrolling the Bible of Baseball. And as I do so, it is annotated by a high priest.
Mac Farlane used to pitch batting practice to Joe Cronin!
Mac Farlane had hung around with Hugh Duffy! One of the first things I remember learning in life, on my own, was that Hugh Duffy hit .438, the alltime major league standard, back before the modern era. Never in my wildest dreams—even when those dreams included being a baseball immortal myself—did I expect to hang around with anybody who had hung around with Hugh Duffy!