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I didn't know it then, but 1913 was to prove the beginning of my career—as a clown, not a baseball player.
A friend of mine named Bob O'Donnell got me a tryout with Newark of the International League, then managed by Harry Smith, one of the most comical and best liked managers I met in baseball; he was a good catcher, too, but he was hopelessly addicted to practical jokes. I was just 19 then, the youngest rookie in camp. It took Smith about 10 minutes to size me up and establish me as his favorite and number one victim.
In a good-natured way, life was horrible around the Newark club. You never knew when you were going to pop into bed with a covey of garter snakes or come back to your hotel room and find all the furniture missing.
One day, when I was due to pitch in Buffalo, I decided things had gone far enough. On the way to the ball park I noticed a horse and vegetable wagon drawn by an old Italian.
"How much you make a day selling vegetables?" I asked the driver. He told me three dollars.
"Well, you have just earned three bucks and a free pass to the ball game," I told him. "Let me borrow your horse for a few minutes."
We unhitched the nag, which was skinny, sway-backed, flea-bitten and droopy-eyed, and led her under the bleachers. Then I got hold of a small boy and gave him my last two dollars to carry out my instructions.
I warmed up before the game as usual, then ducked back into the clubhouse. When our side was out in the first inning, they took the field and waited for me to come out. In a moment, the park was rocking. For here I came from under the bleachers, wearing a lady's print dress with a bright red ribbon around my head, aboard a broken-down horse, led by my tiny boy. At the mound, I slid off my steed, removed my queenly robes, discharged my attendants and bowed to Harry Smith, who was catching that day.
"This is for your benefit, my dear sir," I crooned.