catcher, is up next. "Henry runs the feed store in Blue Cut," O'Reilly
whispers to me. "You ought to see him toss hundred-pound sacks of corn
around." Brown gets two strikes on Big Henry, then delivers his slowball,
which Pulvermacher waits on and slaps cleanly for a single. The Iowa Baseball
Conferacy has its first run. The fans pound their feet on the bleachers, making
a rumbling, earthquakelike sound.
The crowd buzzes
as the Cubs come to bat in the fifth. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy has held
what may well be the best team in the world hitless for four innings. But that
ends quickly. Wildfire Schulte pounds the ball to deep right center. Grady can
only wave at it as it lands 20 feet deep in the spectators' territory. The
pro-Iowa crowd parts like water and Grady skips over blankets, picnic baskets
and babies to retrieve the ball. But Schulte is across home a full stride ahead
of the throw and the game is tied.
threatens over the next three innings and, as the ninth begins, a single pillow
of a cloud floats across the sky; it covers the sun, darkening the afternoon. I
stare up at the cloud, which shows a black center like a deep smudge of dirt
and a fierce, electric fringe where the sun prepares to reemerge. But what I
notice, which no one else seems to in this moment of relief from the brazen
sun, is that the shadow, coasting slowly across the ballfield and seeming to
stop briefly just back of second base, is in the form of a profile with an
Indian headdress, like the image on an ancient coin.
It looks as if
the Cubs will wrap it up in the ninth. Brown doubles down the right-field line.
Slagle singles him home. Sheckard walks. Evers triples to deep left and scores
on a soft grounder to the right side by Schulte. Four runs across in under four
Chicago Cubs 5,
IBC All-Stars 1.
Chance kicks dirt
around first base and shouts encouragement to Brown. After fouling off six
pitches, Dean draws a walk to start the inning for the Confederacy. Chance
growls at the umpire. Flynn pops out. Swan doubles. Pulvermacher singles,
scoring Dean. It's 5-2. Grady, the amiable rightfielder, is hitless today; in
fact, he has not had his bat on the ball. "Just watch my fire," he
says. He has taken a few steps toward the plate when O'Reilly calls him back.
"Get in there and hit," he says to my friend Stan, whom I have
introduced as a ballplayer with great experience but a past that does not let
him reveal his real name.
Stan swings two
bats, does some stretching exercises, heads for the plate. He takes a ball,
then wallops the next pitch about 12 picnickers deep in right centerfield. We
are all gathered at the plate as Stan scores. He gives me the high five, which
draws a few stares.
innings the game is tied 5-5. Each team scores a run in the 13th. The players
are red-faced and red-eyed as the sun fries down. The lineups for iced drinks
and food are long. Fans are irritated and snap at each other. Sunburned
children whine and cling to parental legs. The lineups for the two slant-roofed
privies are at least a block long.
After 18 innings,
the game is over four hours old and the crowd is thinning because of the heat.
We pass a bucket of water with a white-enameled dipper up and down the bench. A
number of players have taken to pouring water on their heads. Frank Luther Mott
calls everyone together and suggests the game be called.
"This is just
an exhibition game," he says. "You've fulfilled your obligation, you've
given the fans 18 innings of good baseball. Let's call it a day. There's a
dinner at the Big Inning Community Hall, a dance, fireworks. What do you