It'll be midnight in the hotel bar when they start telling Billy Scripture stories. One baseball man will set down his margarita and say, "Remember when ol' Billy Scripture stormed out of the dugout with a gun and shot that seven-foot rattlesnake on the mound in Sarasota?"
"Yeah, and he turned up the next day wearing a snakeskin belt and hatband!"
Another will say, "Did you hear about the time in Columbus when Billy climbed the tower in rightfield and did chin-ups from the light rack?"
The laughter will bring the waitress over to find out what's so funny, and a baseball man will say, "Sweetheart, we're talking about a fellow who was so tough he used to bite the covers off baseballs. He was so strong you could put six 200-pound ballplayers on a table and he'd lift the whole load on his back."
"I've heard of him," she'll say. " Paul Bunyan, right?"
And that'll prompt them to tell the original Billy Scripture story: How when he was an All-America outfielder at Wake Forest University, he heard that cutting wood was the best exercise for a hitter, so he went out into the North Carolina woods and felled giant white oak trees by moonlight. Chunk...chunk...chunk....
"You talk about hot water! By the time they caught him, Billy had cut down half the hardwoods in the campus preserve."
"He couldn't pay for the damage, so as punishment they made him cut the trees into firewood for the faculty. He about got expelled!"
Billy Scripture: baseball manager, woodchopper, world-class trapshooter, hunting guide, champion cusser. Spent nine years as a player in the Orioles and Mets organizations; became a minor league manager for the Royals, got fired; joined the Pirates organization, didn't like the contract they offered and disappeared. "Think he's got a gun shop in Virginia Beach," says a writer covering the International League. "Last I heard, he was managing someplace in New Hampshire," says an ex-player, "but he may be out of baseball now."
And still the stories. How Scripture would straddle home plate and let a pitching machine bounce fastballs off his chest. How he would have several ballplayers hold one end of a fungo bat while he twisted the other end till the bat splintered.