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Birdie shook his head wearily and went out through the kitchen. He walked the few blocks along the snowy road to his own house. Mary came in a little later, and as she started to prepare dinner Birdie went down to the basement to his "wine cellar," a locked closet from which he extracted two bottles of a delicate pink vin ros�. In the basement were stacks of scrapbooks covering his career in sports, and before bringing the wine upstairs Tebbetts poked through a couple. He stopped at a photograph of himself, catching for Detroit, blocking Ted Williams with his left leg as Williams slid for home plate. Beyond them, Joe Cronin, then manager of Boston, watched the play with anxiety all over his face.
"That's the greatest action picture I ever saw," Tebbetts said. "Look at the way Teddy's leg is twisted against mine. You can see how a man's career could end in a split second." He studied the picture with distaste. "He could have torn all the ligaments in his leg. And the hell of it was, I didn't have the ball. Williams bounced off me and rolled past the plate, and he had to crawl back to touch it. The throw came in then and I jumped across the plate and tagged him. Cronin came over to me and—my God, here was his great ballplayer just missed breaking his leg—and he said, 'Birdie, what were you trying to do to him.' I said, 'Joe, I don't know his name. All I know is he was trying to score.' "
Tebbetts reached in his mouth, loosened the bridge and took it out. "Boy, what a nuisance," he muttered.
In an older scrapbook was pasted a sports column from a 1929 Nashua newspaper. Part of the column read: "The element of surprise and the ability to pull the unexpected is the most valuable requisite that a coach can find in his quarterback, and only one schoolboy in the entire state possessed that qualification this fall. That boy was George 'Bird' Tebbetts, master showman of the gridiron, and probably the most daring and fearless quarterback that Coach Ray Pendleton has produced in his seven years of coaching football teams here.... Small wonder that a team will play inspired football when they know they are being quarterbacked by a boy who has faith in their ability."
"It takes a lot more than faith and inspiration," he said. "It takes players."
Suddenly, despite the fact that he was in a cellar in New Hampshire with snow drifted high all around his house, Tebbetts was back in the world of baseball.
"Take the Redlegs. Everybody's talking about them for the pennant this year. Now down in Lowell I said we'd win the pennant. Well, what do you want me to say? I don't even know if they were listening to me, and maybe we will win it. But, my Lord, you've got to be realistic. Pitching is still the big thing in baseball. And in our league Milwaukee and Brooklyn have the pitching, deep pitching, strong pitching. Everyone talks about our hitting. All right, we have power. But it isn't sustained. It seems to me we'd go weeks at a time last season without putting together three base hits in a row. We need another good, steady right-handed hitter, one who can hurt the left-handers. Now take Wally Post. First of all, for some strange reason, he doesn't hit left-handers well. And it didn't make any difference to him if a man was on first base or third, because he'd either hit a home run or strike out. And he struck out a lot more often than he hit home runs. We had power, sure, but we used it inefficiently. And with our pitching we can't afford to waste runs." He stood up, and the chances seemed good that he was thinking of ways to avoid wasting runs. "We have to finish third," he announced. "We should finish second. And we may win."
He worked the bridge back into his mouth, bit on it, grimaced and went upstairs, carrying the wine.
"I'm going to leave it in," he stated, setting his mouth. "I'm going to leave it in. I'll beat it."