Still, they made their contributions. We had the best cheering section in the league. And one sportswriter, who I know ached to get into the game, was a genius at charting the other teams' tendencies against our starting pitcher. Sam even sketched a series of cartoons illustrating our signs. I never did get around to telling him that we changed them every game. It was a good bench. In fact, the only problem I had with them, ringers and nonringers alike, was keeping their language cleaned up around the preacher.
Of course, I'm not going to tell you what the ringers got paid. Let's just say they got more "gas money" than anyone else, as well as an almost unlimited supply of Horlock's product.
Well, the season rocked along, and it quickly became obvious it was between us and Xerox. We were in first place going into our final game with Conoco, but we lost it on a throwing error by our playing manager/third baseman. That led to a playoff with Xerox.
It figured to be a tight one because we played hit and run. By that I mean a hit batsman, take your base, steal second, steal third and come in on anything. Prevatt had standing orders to run anytime he could. Gray had been an intercollegiate broad jumper, and he could sprint. My second baseman could run and I had once run a pretty good 100 in college. So our game plan was to turn a walk, or anything, into a triple.
But Xerox had a new face at shortstop, a guy we had never seen before. He was listed on the lineup card as George West. We had always been able to steal on their catcher, but we couldn't steal on George. It didn't matter if the ball was high or wide, he would catch it, do a flip in the air and tag you out. And if the throw was on the money, you were not going to dislodge George, no matter how hard you slid.
So they took our entire game away from us. And forget about getting the ball to the left side. George would cut in front of the third baseman, do a pirouette and throw you out.
I'm talking swift and strong. The final score was 2-1, in Xerox's favor. George scored both of their runs. Prevatt hit an inside-the-park home run for our only score. But it was I who won the championship and claimed the trophy that still resides inside a glass case at the Houston Press Club. And I did it without getting a hit.
The next day I went down to the League office and filed a protest that Xerox had run in a ringer on us in order to win the championship. The director looked over their roster, which had been filed at the beginning of the season, and George West was not listed. My protest was upheld, and we were declared the winner.
That sounds pretty chicken, doesn't it? And my soul still burns about what I did. But in my defense, I already knew that George was a "loaner" from a Major City League team, and I ask you to judge me with that in mind.
The next day the manager of the Xerox club called and asked me to meet him for coffee. We sat there in the restaurant of a Holiday Inn, not saying much until he finally blurted out, "How could you do that? File that protest? You hypocrite, you had a field full of ringers. Hell, half your team couldn't read, much less write! Explain that!"