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After the hitting practice, Hornsby got the boys lined up to catch flies he hit to them. "Get 'em running in," he yelled to a boy who stood motionless waiting for the ball to reach him. "Catch it on the first hop. Try once more, then let the other boys. Do it turnabout." After several boys didn't seem able to run, Hornsby dropped the bat and walked out to them.
"Say, fellas," he said, "you gotta run real fast like this," and he ran briskly after an imaginary fly. They nodded, and he returned to his batting position.
Sooner than either the teacher or the pupils wished, baseball school was over for the day and Hornsby and the other men started handing out the Seven-Up booklets How to Play Baseball by Rogers Hornsby. Each boy quickly folded back the cover to the inside where the Hall of Fame plaque with Hornsby's face and deeds was reproduced.
"Sign here, Rog," they begged. He laughed and looked pleased. Somebody handed him a pencil, but he insisted on a pen.
Some of them asked him to sign their gloves, and one little girl backed up and asked Hornsby to autograph the back of her shirt. "These kids are impossible!" exploded one of the men, but Hornsby said: "That's all right, now. You're only a kid once."
Finally the last booklet and glove were signed, and the children began drifting away.
With a tired sigh, Hornsby walked slowly toward his car, reluctant to leave for the day the world of baseball he had precariously clung to after he last played major league ball as player-manager with the old St. Louis Browns in 1937. He seemed to be through in the majors then; but he stayed with the game in the minors, drifting in and out of managerial posts until 1945 when he undertook a teaching program for Chicago youngsters similar to the one he directs today. The minor leagues got him again in 1950, and two years later he was up in the big leagues again, as manager of the Browns. But he had not learned to curb his tactless tongue, and he was dismissed in midseason. Cincinnati then took him on as manager for a brief spell that ended in 1953. Two years later he started his present job, directing the Mayor Daley Youth Foundation at $15,000 a year, probably the most placid occupation he has ever had.
As he started talking about his present job on the drive back to the Edge-water Beach Hotel, Hornsby was so interested in what he was saying that the car came dangerously close to colliding with a truck. His famous rage boiled over. "Did you see that fella, now," he yelled indignantly, "what he was doing?
"Well, as I was saying, the idea, don't you see, of the mayor's program is that the more boys keep busy, the less trouble they get into. Kids playing ball won't be hanging around on corners, won't be in taverns. (Now, I never drank or smoked in my life and I'm too old to start now.) But it's a strenuous job. By the time I do two hours of instruction I'm worn out, and I have to travel about 50 miles a day to get to the different parks. But the kids don't know the right way to play. They jump up and catch with one hand because they see the big leaguers do it. But professionals only do it when they can't do anything else and, of course, the kids don't know that. The TV commentators get the kids all excited, saying 'a sen-say-shenul catch.' I guess that's what they call color, but professional players don't pay any attention. Commentators say, 'going, going, gone,' and it's just a little pop fly.