Mighty Casey Fans
Slugger Didn't Arrive Till Seventh Inning Beautiful, Evil Woman Seen In His
WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT
Sun Still Shining Bright At Undisclosed U.S. Site
scrambled to grab Richard K. Fox's bag when he arrived at New York's Grand
Central that bright Thursday morning, May 31, a century ago. " Boston"
was all Fox said, and the lucky fellow who had ended up with Fox's valise
rushed ahead to the Pullman car. Fox was not handsome, with a mustache too
bushy for his little head, a nose too big by half and cold, hooded eyes. But if
he lacked the sleek looks of his animal namesake, he was every bit as clever.
Like so many men who have succeeded in his profession—Fox was an editor—his
strength lay in the deployment of better men's talents. On his cravat he wore a
horseshoe pin of gold, studded with diamonds, open side down.
Fox settled in
his seat and turned to the paper he'd brought onto the train. The Democrats,
party of the incumbent president, Grover Cleveland, were about to convene in
St. Louis and go through the formality of renominating their man. So the press,
its priorities ever straight, was much more interested in what the President's
young bride, the 23-year-old beauty, Frances Folsom, had worn the day before,
Memorial Day. Quickly then, Fox skimmed through the pages until he came to the
sports section. He was home now.
The sports pages
in the '80s—the 1880s—had become a popular force. For the cranks (as baseball
fans were so aptly known), there were the major-club box scores telegraphed
from all over. There were even line scores from the burgeoning minor leagues.
If Fox had looked closely, for example, he would have seen the scores from the
Bay State League, which included this doubleheader result: Mudville 16, 8—Lynn
5,2. And there were stories on boxing for the fancy (as the pugilistic world
was called), horse racing, crew, tennis, cricket and many other games. No one
was more responsible for this boom in sports reportage—or for the profit
derived from it—than Fox, who had made his magazine, The National Police
Gazette, a successful institution largely because of sports.
An item down near
the bottom of the Tribune's sports page caught Fox's eye: CHAMPION RETURNS FROM
EUROPE. John L. Sullivan, the report said, had arrived back in Boston last
month and would be engaging in some stage exhibitions. "Champion," Fox
muttered, crumpling up the paper. "Fat Mick lout." Sullivan was Fox's
b�te noir, for he was one man in sports Fox could not control, and everything
he did to thwart the Boston Strong Boy only served to enhance Sullivan's
reputation. It was Fox who had put up Paddy Ryan to fight Sullivan in '82, and
Sullivan's victory established him as America's first great athletic hero.
Sullivan would not do Fox's bidding, would not defend his title again. Instead,
he went about making a fortune fighting in exhibitions—"My name is John L.
Sullivan, and I can beat any sonofabitch in the house!" he would
bellow—plus eating everything in the house, gulping bourbon from beer steins
and whoring his time away. Frustrated, Fox made up a magnificent
"championship" belt for the pretender. Jake Kilrain. So the whole damn
city of Boston gave Sullivan an even grander bejeweled belt, and the Great John
L. grew greater still.
The train pulled
out of Grand Central, billowing smoke. Fox was on his way to Boston to
personally goad—somehow—Sullivan into action. "The Great John L.," he
muttered. "My arse."
About the time
Fox's Pullman was passing through Bridgeport, Chester Drinkwater was escorting
a handsome young couple into the amazing Cyclorama on Tremont Street in
Boston's South End. The couple quickly became bug-eyed, for there before
them—all around them, really, in a circular vista 400 feet in circumference and
50 feet high—was a painted re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg. Timothy
F.X. Casey didn't have to have it explained to him, either. He hadn't been born
till '67, but his father had fought in the war, and an uncle had died at
Antietam. Casey knew his America.
And America was
aboomin'—the West filling, the cities bursting their seams, trolleys (some
electric!) carrying the middle classes out into these new things called
suburbs. Industry. Commerce. Science. Inventions. Wires were everywhere:
Telegraph lines, telephone lines, electric lines. Yet America in '88 was still
closer to Gettysburg than to the Ardennes, closer to Jeb Stuart than to
Sergeant York, closer to Abraham Lincoln than to, uh, Babe Ruth.
had heard about Gettysburg, but because she hadn't crossed the ocean from Cork
until '84, she was more impressed by the scope of the Cyclorama than by the
scenes it depicted. So Casey took it upon himself to fill her in. Here's Little
Round Top, there Culp's Hill.... Pickett's Charge is over.... Uh, oh. His hand
went out, and it grazed against Flossie. Grazed. Lingered. Then it passed on,
and Casey was telling Flossie about the cavalry, but she didn't hear a word.
How many times had she whispered to Father O'Reilly in the confessional that
she had sinned by hoping Timothy F.X. Casey might touch her...and now he
had...and now they would be alone tonight. Chaperoned, of course, by Mr.
Chester Drinkwater and his sister, but alone at beautiful, alluring Nantasket
Beach. Different rooms in the hotel, of course. But still.... There was so much
about this that left Flossie uneasy.