It was in order to preserve the spirit and the letter of the Rules and Regulations and to prevent the situation with Gil Gamesh from getting completely out of hand that General Oakhart turned to the finest judge of a fastball in the majors, in his estimate the toughest, fairest official who ever wore blue, the man whose booming voice had earned him the monicker "The Mouth."
"I have been umpiring in the Patriot League since Dewey took Manila," Mike the Mouth Masterson liked to tell them on the annual banquet circuit after the World Series was over. "I have rendered more than a million and a half decisions in that time, and let me tell you, in all those years I have never called one wrong, at least not in my heart. In my apprentice days down in the minors I was bombarded with projectiles from the stands, I was threatened with switchblades by coaches, and once a misguided manager fired upon me with a gun. This three-inch scar here on my forehead was inflicted by the mask of a catcher who believed himself wronged by me, and on my shoulders and my back I bear 64 wounds inflicted during my 'years of trial' by bottles of soda pop. I have been mobbed by fans so perturbed that when I arrived in the dressing room I discovered all the buttons had been torn from my clothing, and rotten vegetables had been stuffed into my trousers and my shirt. But harassed and hounded as I have been, I am proud to say that I have never so much as changed the call on a close one out of fear of the consequences to my life, my limbs, or my loved ones."
This last was an allusion to the kidnapping and murder of Mike the Mouth's only child, back in 1898, his first year up with the P. League. The kidnappers had entered Mike's Wisconsin home as he was about to leave for the ball park to umpire a game between the Reapers and the visiting Rustlers, who were battling that season for the flag. Placing a gun to his little girl's blond curls, the intruders told the young umpire that if the Reapers lost that afternoon, Mary Jane would be back in her high chair for dinner, unharmed. If however the Reapers should win for any reason, then Masterson could hold himself responsible for his darling child's fate. Well, that game, as everyone knows, went on and on and on, before the Reapers put together two walks and a scratch hit in the bottom of the 17th to break the 3-3 tie and win by a run. In subsequent weeks, pieces of little Mary Jane Masterson were found in every park in the Patriot League.
It did not take but one pitch, of course, for Mike the Mouth to become the lifelong enemy of Gil Gamesh. Huge crowd, sunny day, flags snapping in the breeze, Gil winds up, kicks, and here comes that long left arm, Americans, around by way of the equator.
"That's a ball," thundered Mike, throwing his own left arm into the air (as if anybody in the ball park needed a sign when The Mouth was back of the plate).
"A ball?" cried Gamesh, hurling his glove 25 feet in the air. "Why, I couldn't put a strike more perfect across the plate! That was right in there, you blind robber!"
Mike raised one meaty hand to stop the game and stepped out in front of the plate with his whisk broom. He swept the dust away meticulously, allowing the youth as much time as he required to remember where he was and whom he was talking to. Then he turned to the mound and said—in tones exceeding courteous—"Young fellow, it looks like you'll be in the league for quite a while. That sort of language will get you nothing. Why don't you give it up?" And he stepped back into position behind the catcher. "Play!" he roared.
On the second pitch, Mike's left arm shot again. "That's two." And Gamesh was rushing him.
"You cheat! You crook! You thief! You overage, overstuffed—"
"Son, don't say any more."