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When I had the courage to open them again, things were different. Lester had got a grip on himself. Instead of a bum, I found I was married to a hero. He pitched six scoreless innings, yielding only four hits, and slammed out three hits himself, with two runs batted in. All the New York sports columnists wrote it up the next day. Lester made history as the first member of the New York Stock Exchange ever to pitch in organized baseball.
The game ended on a memorable note. In the closing inning, the catcher handed Lester a peeled orange that had been coated with white lime. My hero husband took a mighty windup and let it fly, right down the middle. The batter, unaware of the switch, connected squarely for what he thought was surely a home run. It cost us a fine of $185. It's expensive even to laugh in the minors.
But even though we won the Governor's Cup?a trophy which exists in spirit only?the season was financially a disaster. I was sure that Lester would call it quits now. Once again, however, I misjudged him. He looked around for a while and then blithely announced one day that he was transferring the whole works?team, deficit and all?to Bristol, Conn.
Bristol, it seemed, was itching for a professional ball team. We got some wonderful publicity; Lester spoke to the Elks, Lions and the Rotary clubs, and we were allowed to rent a beautiful municipal park, Muzzy Field. The seats even had backs on them, and part of the stands were actually covered. Our hopes went soaring.
For our opening day, we arranged a pre-game cocktail party and buffet. I had figured things out nicely with the caterer: the beautiful roasts which backed up the platters of sliced meat, he was sure, would survive the buffet and he would use them for the Automobile Club the next day. Just give them all plenty to drink, we told each other. We did. When game time drew near, one local official after another lifted the roasts from their various platters and departed, still chewing away. Lester, of course, made it up to the caterer.
At the ball park, we were confronted with catastrophe. The manager met us, screaming. "The uniforms!" he sobbed wildly. "They forgot to ship the uniforms! We're naked!"
The uniforms were in Boston, 115 miles away. We couldn't put the team on the field in their underwear. It looked hopeless?until we spotted Tom, a young man who spent his spare time hanging around the ball park when he wasn't out flying in his private plane. Tom burned up the road to the airport and rocketed into the sky, Boston bound. He must have flown on wings of grace, for he was back with the uniforms in time for us to start only half an hour late.
Altogether it was an exciting opening. We drew 2,671 paid admissions and a total of 5,000 spectators?the usual ratio. But we won from Waterbury 7 to 6, and the crowd loved us.
In the weeks which followed, we developed all sorts of gimmicks to step up our paid attendance. I hawked programs with lucky numbers, with prizes for the winners. On Mother's Day we decided to give away an orchid to the oldest mother, until it dawned on me that this was a terrible idea because no orchid is worth the truth about a woman's age. I quickly switched that one to giving an orchid to the mother with the most children. It made me feel like Mussolini launching an up-the-birth-rate program, but everybody was happy.
Constant huckstering took its toll of me, but how my husband survived that summer I will never know. In the morning he drove from Westchester to Wail Street. After a full day at the office he drove back, collected me and a clean shirt and then drove two hours to Bristol. Once he arrived he never sat still. I traced him by the cigaret butts littering the places where he had been. Usually we didn't get home until 3 or 4 in the morning?and the next day he started all over again.