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"But it's the third out, Dad. We won the game."
"I know that. You don't have to point that out to me. Why' ntcha get the guy at third?"
"It was easier to go to first."
"Easier! Easier ??!!"
The 10th son, Paul, had a gimpy right leg but still tried to please his dad and sat in the dugout and kept statistics (1.29, for example, and .452 and .992), but E.J. never looked at them. "That's history," he said, spitting, "I am interested in the here and now."
So his sons could never please him, and if they did, he forgot about it. Once, against Freeport, his oldest boy, Edwin Jim Jr., turned and ran to the centerfield fence for a long long long fly ball and threw his glove 40 feet in the air to snag the ball and caught the ball and glove and turned toward the dugout to see if his dad had seen it, and E.J. was on his feet clapping, but when he saw the boy look to him, he immediately pretended he was swatting mosquitoes. The batter was called out, the third out. Jim ran back to the bench and stood by his dad. E.J. sat chewing in silence and finally he said, "I saw a man in Superior, Wisconsin, do that a long time ago but he did it at night and the ball was hit a lot harder."
What made this old man so mean? Some said it happened in 1924 when he played for the town team that went to Fort Snelling for the state championship and in the ninth inning, in the deepening dusk on Campbell's Bluff, Lake Wobegon down by one run, bases loaded and himself the tying run on third, when the Minneapolis pitcher suddenly collapsed and writhed around on the mound with his eyes bulging and face purple and vomiting and foaming and clawing and screeching, everyone ran to help him, including E.J., and he jumped up and tagged them all out. A triple play, unassisted. What a sick trick, but there they stood, a bunch of rubes and all the slickers howling and whooping their heads off, so he became mean, is one theory.
And he was mean. He could hit foul balls with deadly accuracy at an opponent or a fan who'd been riding him or a member of the fan's immediate family, and once he fouled 28 consecutive pitches off the home-plate umpire, for which he was thrown out of the Old Sod Shanty League.
"Go! Hence!" cried the ump.
"For foul balls?"