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THE GAME THAT TIME AND IOWA FORGOT
W.P. Kinsella
April 14, 1986
In this lyrical fantasy, the 1908 Cubs play the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars in an apocalyptic contest that lasts for 40 days and 2,614 innings, until death and the deluge at last lose out to sweetness and light
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April 14, 1986

The Game That Time And Iowa Forgot

In this lyrical fantasy, the 1908 Cubs play the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars in an apocalyptic contest that lasts for 40 days and 2,614 innings, until death and the deluge at last lose out to sweetness and light

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It appears that the game is about to end in the first inning of the day, which is, in fact, the 25th. The Cubs immediately load the bases against a creaky O'Reilly, who does not appear to be firing the ball the way he did yesterday. A double down the rightfield line by Chance scores three runs. The Cubs are only three outs away from victory, but they manage to kick it away.

The first Confederacy batter grounds out. But Swan walks, and third baseman Harry Steinfeldt makes an error on Pulvermacher's easy two-hopper. Bad News Galloway then lofts a fly to right center, which should be caught, but neither Wildfire Schulte nor Jimmy Slagle can decide who should take it. The ball falls and, as if it has eyes, rolls 50 feet toward the horizon. Galloway, Swan and Pulvermacher score. The game is tied at 9-9.

They have played nine more innings by 8 a.m., and at noon the game is still tied. The Cubs score single runs in the 36th and 40th innings, only to have the Confederacy come back each time and score. As the 51st inning ends, Mott lifts his hands and says, "Gentlemen, I suggest we adjourn for lunch."

It is at this point that Chance makes an important decision. He sends all his reserve players back to Chicago. "We have a league game to play tomorrow," he tells them. "If for any reason we don't get back in time, you fellows will give them a good game, I'm sure."

The teams play 34 more innings between lunch and darkness, for a total of 85. The game should have ended in the 84th inning. With two outs and Chance on second, Three Finger Brown slaps a single through the box and over second. Dean, the Confederacy centerfielder, charges the ball and makes a remarkable throw to the plate. Chance slides and his foot crosses the plate just as the ball is hitting Pulvermacher's glove. Pulvermacher puts the tag on Chance's thigh, and Mott, who is halfway between the pitcher's mound and home plate, gives the out signal.

Chance moves like lightning. He is face-to-face with Mott before the umpire moves a step. The Cubs all rush from their bench and surround Mott and Chance. We had all leaped to our feet after the call, first in surprise, then in jubilation. Chance backs Mott toward second base, a step at a time, nose in his face, mouth rasping out obscenities like coal pouring from a scuttle.

But Frank Mott remains silent, refuses to be drawn into the confrontation. The decision stands; the Cubs eventually retreat to the bench. O'Reilly strikes out the next batter. The Confederacy goes out in order at the bottom of the inning. But for the bad call, the Cubs would have won the game. Frank Chance knows it. We know it. And I suspect Frank Luther Mott knows it.

When play ends that night, Chance and the Cubs return to Iowa City, where Chance gets on the telephone, not to the executives of the Chicago Cubs, as might be expected; he ignores the batch of telegrams from them. He calls an old friend-enemy of his, begs, pleads, threatens, uses the ransom of friendship and finally hangs up with a half smile on his sunburned face.

A small, brisk man catches the night train from Chicago to Iowa City. He is white haired, might be a banker, or a preacher. Chance will pay for a cab at the station the next morning, and the incorruptible Bill Klem, the most honest umpire in the history of baseball, will arrive to take charge of the game.

Next morning, it is raining seriously—not the downpour of a shower, but a steady drill of chill rain. "Won't be anyone there," I say to Stan. "This is about the only thing I can think of that will get the Cubs back to Chicago; they're scheduled to play again this afternoon."

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