Spider squatted down and picked a blade of grass. It was the quick movement of a veteran infielder who, at 41, is as lean and agile as when he was playing at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. He was still active as a player-coach with Vancouver in the Pacific Coast League as recently as 1959. Artesia is his second managerial assignment.
Spider glanced up at Strutz, a good-looking 195-pound six-footer who is easily the most sophisticated man on the Artesia roster. He spent almost two months of last season with St. Paul, then in the American Association, and never tires of telling his teammates about the high level of living in that rarefied baseball atmosphere.
"Funny you should ask about garters, Strutz," said Spider. "It just so happens that I sat up until 3 o'clock this morning making garters. But doggone it, I just now remember that I came off and left them scattered all over the bed. Run in the clubhouse and take the keys to my pickup and drive over to my apartment and get them."
"Listen, Spider, a busted garter is nothing to kid about," said Strutz.
"Who's kidding?" said Spider. "Didn't you hear the inside story of why Joe Gordon was fired as manager at Kansas City? He let himself run out of garters, that's why."
"O.K., Spider," said Strutz, "I guess I'll have to try to find a safety pin somewheres."
Out in center field, one of the Artesia pitchers who had worked the night before climbed up on the scoreboard and took a seat on a folding chair. His job was to keep an eye out for balls hit over the fence during hitting practice and direct one of several small boys who are retained (at $2 a night) to chase after them.
Underneath the grandstand, the man in charge of the concession stand rented two seat cushions to a customer and sold a hot dog and a bottle of Squirt, a popular soft drink in the West, to another man. The concession man, who works on a straight salary, is V. R. Hickman, principal of one of Artesia's elementary schools.
Tonight's opponents of the Artesia Dodgers were the Hobbs Pirates. They would not take hitting practice because they did that before setting out from Hobbs, 90 miles away. After the game, they would drive back and have their midnight supper when they got there.