We figured it this way. The opposing pitcher knew that The Shrimp could not hit the side of a barn, and would suspect that we were hoping for a base on balls. He'd become overcareful and wouldn't be able to put one across the plate.
It worked. The Shrimp walked, and Gene Saddler went down to coach at first base. Again we played it smart. In a clear, loud taunting voice Gene kept yelling to The Shrimp, "Remember now, he's up in the air, go down on the first pitch. You can steal it, kiddo."
War of nerves
I don't have to tell you that the pitcher, alert to the developing threat, made a hurried throw to the bag, that it was wild (we'd foreseen the possibility of a bad throw, of course) and The Shrimp scooted to second.
Along the first base line, the Ironclads en masse, including the recently stricken Art Timmons, were screaming insults at the opposition, while at the plate stood the next batter, Billy Mason, waving his bat menacingly and calling to the pitcher to put one over (also part of the overall strategy).
I was coaching at third. Now I got into the act. "Come on, Shrimp," I called through cupped hands, "the second he lets go, steal." The pitcher let go, the ball was in the dirt in front of the plate, and The Shrimp, sliding unnecessarily but with typical Ironclad finesse, was safe.
The winning run was now at third. There was one ball on the batter. Again we called time. Billy Mason was instructed to swing at the next ball pitched. He was to swing (to confuse the catcher), but he was to miss. For on the pitch The Shrimp would attempt to steal home.
Like Art Timmons before him, and like so many people in this world who refuse to play the lesser role even though it serves the greater good, Billy was reluctant to go along with the overall strategy. He felt that he was entitled to a good healthy cut at the ball. So we had to reason with him. We were not in any position to jump him, pin him to the ground and have someone pinch-hit for him, someone amenable to authority. We didn't have the someone, amenable or otherwise. Instead we fell back on the intellectual approach, explaining that we were operating according to a master plan, that victory was within our grasp if only he made this single and selfless contribution, and anyhow, who did he think he was? Ty Cobb?
Now I don't want to record in print that Billy Mason doublecrossed us, or that it wasn't his sincere intent to swing and miss as he had been instructed. But he didn't miss. He caught hold of one, and there was the ball winging its way into Mr. Dakin's rose garden (an automatic home run according to previous agreement), and The Shrimp was over with the winning run. Mr. Dakin copped the ball.
Yelping with joy, we rushed to the plate, expressing the moment's ecstasy by piling on The Shrimp, pummeling him and each other with such indiscriminate enthusiasm that Manny Gold and Gene Saddler squared off in earnest, and had to be separated by the more peace-loving members of the team.