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The boys sought out Scout Greaves in Frankfurt last fall after learning from a ballplaying GI that he was in the area. Next time he went through Mannheim he had the boys throw, bat and field for him. He timed their runs to first base, took some movies and sent these back to Paul Richards. He took another look at them in December and last January 20 signed them to a contract, $300 a month each for the regular playing season. His scouting report:
"Hanjorg has amazingly good form, and his whip is really alive. His coordination on the mound is as good as any 17-year-old kid I ever saw, or care to see. He comes off the mound nice and low with a full follow-through. He throws every pitch in the book from a knuckle curve to a crossfire, and he knows where the plate is.
"The older boy [Claus] showed me a fast ball that a lot of boys aren't throwing these days. When I say this kid has a fast one, I want to give you an idea of what I mean. I have a pretty good recollection of Don Larsen's fast ball the year he came up to the majors. This right-hander's fast ball is right along in there with Larsen's. You can check me on this when you see him. I say he can slam it in there."
There were obstacles in the way of the Helmigs when they tried to learn baseball. Their soccer-playing German friends gave them little encouragement. German fields were filled with soccer and field hockey players. But GI ball park groundskeepers sometimes let the German boys play at dusk, after the soldiers were through. And they could not legally buy equipment—there's a government rule against selling or giving bats and balls to the German populace. The boys became expert at shagging fouls hit into the stands. They picked up cracked bats and nailed or taped them together. Torn, discarded gloves were sewed.
They played a mimicry of baseball because they did not know the rules.
"I remember," says Hanjorg, "we didn't know you had to tag up after a fly ball was caught before you could run."
Then, at the America House library in Mannheim, they discovered a book called Major League Baseball , by Mel Allen, the announcer. Hanjorg memorized it and pretty soon he was an announcer himself. He had organized a team, the Knights, as other German boys had done, and during their games Hanjorg would explain to the German audience what was going on.
GIs made Claus a batboy and let both boys run the scoreboard. The boys' idol during their learning years was Ernie Banks, stationed as a GI at Mannheim in 1951 and 1952. Intently they studied every move the Chicago Cubs infielder made at the plate or afield. When the Air Force ran a "baseball clinic" at Munich in 1954, the Mannheim GIs let the boys tag along. And Air Force Major Jack Glynn, who once played outfield for the now defunct Newark Bears, held a little clinic of his own at Mannheim.
The boys learned a lot and all over Germany other boys—in Munich, Marburg, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Wiesbaden—were learning, too. There are seven teams in the German Amateur Baseball Federation. The Mannheim Knights, with three American GI dependents on the team, won the federation championships in 1954 but next year the federation decided Americans couldn't play in the championships.
Last year Hanjorg batted .350 and as a pitcher won seven games, lost two. Claus, the fireballer, doesn't remember his batting average but he won 18, lost two.