Blind Mumbling

A compilation of writings that never got anyone excited.

Name:
Location: N. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, United States

Former teacher, co-editor of Total Football and the author of more than 20 books and over 200 articles, most about sports history. His credits include Pro Football: When the Grass Was Real, The Hidden Game of Football (with John Thorn and Pete Palmer), Baseball Between the Lies, The Importance of Napoleon, and the Battle of Stalingrad. He is presently Executive Director of the Pro Football Researchers Association.

Friday, October 28, 2005

COSTUME BAWL

It was one day before Halloween and I was mad at my mother.

"Why don’t you go as a clown?" she asked. "I could get a good clown outfit together. You know, with a red nose?"

I reminded her I’d been a clown the year before.

"I thought you were a cowboy," she said.

"That was the year before last!" I yelled. "In first grade!"

Aunt Nell was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. "You know," she said without looking up, "they repealed that law."

"What law?" I asked.

"The one against wearing the same costume more than once."

There was never such a law I told her.

"Sure there was. But the people who went out dressed like office workers petitioned to have it changed so they could keep going out as office workers." She smiled. "Well, I’ve got my costume."

My mother gave a little laugh.

Aunt Nell was an office worker. I didn’t know exactly how she did that except that she knew how to type. She was my mother’s youngest sister. When my father went off to beat the Nazis, Aunt Nell moved in with us to help my mother cope with the housework and me. My mother took my father’s job at my grandpa’s wholesale candy store. I liked having Aunt Nell around because she said funny things. I didn’t always understand the jokes, but my mother laughed. She didn’t do that a lot since my father went away.

This time though I was a little annoyed when my mother smiled at what Aunt Nell said about office workers wearing costumes. I didn’t want my mother to forget how she’d let me down. I decided to stomp off to my room.

As I left the kitchen, Aunt Nell called, "If we got some grapes, you could go as a winemaker."

All the kids in the neighborhood went out Halloweening. We didn’t call it "Trick or Treating" because we never tricked anyone. We just got dressed up and then walked around collecting goodies.

It was one of the best times for my grandpa’s candy business. Leading up to Halloween, we sold boxes and boxes of candy to stores around town. Then parents bought the candy, and we kids got it when we went around Halloweening. Since my mother’s job was to get all the candy orders together and then deliver them to stores, she was really busy. That’s probably why she forgot to bring me boxes.

I’d had this wonderful idea which my mother spoiled. Before we went out Halloweening, all the kids met at our school for a costume show. Kids got prizes for costumes! Some girl always won for the prettiest costume; some bigkid would win for most patriotic. I’d set my sights on the prize for most original – a super box of 64 crayons.

I knew that Halloween sales would produce plenty of large, empty cardboard boxes at our store. I asked my mother to bring some boxes home. She forgot.

At the costume shows before, I’d seen cowboys, dancers, soldiers, ghosts, clowns, sailors, football players, and more animals than you’d see in a zoo. The same year I went as a cowboy, a different cowboy won for most original – I think because he carried a lasso. I knew for a sure win I’d have to have a costume that was really different. I decided to go as a cannon.

"A cannon?" my mother said. "Did you say cannon?"

Aunt Nell said, "He thought he’d give it a shot."

"No, really," I explained. "I’ll take boxes and build the base. Then I put this big piece of pipe I found on top for the gun barrel. Another small box can be the place where you put the shells in."

"Certainly high caliber thinking," Aunt Nell said.

My mother asked, "How will you keep the pipe on the box? Glue won’t work."

I had it all figured out. We had tape in one of the kitchen drawers and under the sink was half a can of black paint. Once my cannon dried, I’d get inside and have the most original costume they ever saw at that school.
I could hear them now. "Who’s the cannon?" and "How original!"

But then my mother forgot to bring the boxes home and my idea was all over. Even if she brought them home the next day – Halloween – there wouldn’t be time for the paint to dry. I told my mother that I wouldn’t be going out Halloweening this year because I didn’t have a costume.

In school the next day, everybody was talking about the costume show. I didn’t have much to say. When I got home, I went straight to my room and listened to the radio. I wouldn’t go to the costume show or out Halloweening later. That would show my mother. After a while Aunt Nell came in carrying a piece of plaid cloth.

"Put this on," she said.

For about an hour, Aunt Nell and my mother worked on the costume. Aunt Nell found some red hair she called a fall that wasn’t exactly a wig but that worked like one when it was pinned to a hat. They even painted my face so that I couldn’t even recognize myself.

At the costume show, teachers and kids looked at me funny. At first they thought I was a stranger who didn’t have a costume, and then they’d realize I was me and I did. Then they’d laugh. I even won a prize – a Hershey Bar. Some kids said it was for the prettiest costume, but it was actually for Best Costume Using Only Things Found at Home. That meant nothing on it was bought new.

I got the usual amount of treats when we all went out Halloweening after the show. Some people just thought I was some kid’s sister without a costume. The next day, only Mickey said anything about me "being" a girl, but he changed his mind when I hit him in the arm.

I guess my mother’s old dress turned out to be an okay costume. Aunt Nell said I made a "real cute girl," but she was just being funny. I still think a cannon would have been better.

Friday, October 21, 2005

RAVENS NOT THE FIRST

By Dr. Charles T. Gregory (Guest Blogger)
Professor of Leisure History and Comparative Phrenology, Mountebank University

APRIL 1, 1996 [IMP] When Art Modell proclaimed "Ravens" the name for Baltimore’s new pro football team, several newsmen insisted it was the first time a sports team had ever been named after a bird in a poem. Apparently they were unaware of the lines scrawled on a wrinkled sheet of foolscap found in a Baltimore attic last August by Earl (Slick) Gimcrack. The composition not only belies the "first literary sports bird" contention and sheds new light on the name of the city’s baseball team, it also reveals a more poetic side to legendary manager John McGraw than had heretofore been suspected.

Dr. Charles T. Gregory, identified by Gimcrack as a baseball expert and author of A History of Balls of the Base Variety, authenticated the poem, stating that he believed it was written in the early 1890s shortly after McGraw was named interim manager of the then-Baltimore "Crabs." Dr. Gregory added that he was certain the work was completely original and any slight resemblance to any other poem was purely coincidental.

The Oriole
by John J. McGraw

Once upon a midnight foggy,
While I sat there feeling groggy,
Thinking ‘bout the night so soggy,
Soggy with the mist outdoor --
While I slouched there deeply scowling,
Suddenly there came bow-wowing,
Much as someone loudly howling,
Howling at my chamber door.
"‘Tis our catcher drunk," I muttered,
"Howling at my chamber door;
Only him and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I recall same.
Only last year in the fall came
On the eve of our big ballgame
All those horrid wails of sorrow.
"You there! Comes the ‘morrow!
Go and have a midnight snack at
Home. Then sleep, else lack that
Blessed rest you’ll need to score.
One-ten percent and nothing more!

"While the dawn is nearer creeping,
All the Giants lay home sleeping,
Resting up to set Crabs weeping
O’er tomorrow’s final score.
Meanwhile, you’re out midnight prowling
Making that unholy yowling.
Why in hell are you bow-wowing
Loudly at my chamber door?
Cease you now your late night tour!"

But the howler kept on wailing,
Like the whole wide world was ailing,
Like the whole wide world was failing,
Failing to come up to snuff.
Fin’ly, I rose up and trotted,
With my tummy muscles knotted,
To my doorway dank and rotted,
Shouting in a voice quite gruff,
"Darn you, Howler! That’s enough!"

I expected, I should say here,
I’d discover our drunk player
To be leaning blurred and grayer
Than a dead fish at my door.
Or, perhaps the dog was real there,
Barking for a bone or meal there
With a real dog’s angry zeal there.
Which might be in truth in store?
Either way, it made me sore.

Here I opened wide my portal.
Came a strangely high-pitched chortle.
Laugh demonic, just the sort’ll
Raise the hairs upon one’s back.
No drunk catcher in the fog there;
No yap-happy sappy dog there;
I stood startled, stared agog there
At a birdie orange and black.
Quoth the birdie, "What’s up, Mac?"

"Listen you, you noisy birdbrain,"
I yelled in a most absurd vein,
"In your howling I have heard pain,
Heard a world of ache and rage."
"Bosh!" he boldly snapped his fingers
(Or perhaps I should say ‘wingers’)
And, as I’ve seen opera singers,
Took command of my room’s stage.
"Grow up. Mac, and act your age.

While it’s true my bird-heart’s achin’
O’er a lost love all forsaken,
I’ve come here to save your bacon.
Never mind my broken heart."
Coldly I said, "You’ve been parking
On my doorstep loudly barking,
And unless I’ve been mis-harking,
Bow-wows ain’t a birdie’s part."
"Oh," he chuckled, "that’s my art.

"Imitations to perfection.
Timbre, tone, the right inflection!
Now that we have made connection,
Mimicry can win the round."
Hopped he then with feathered flutter
On a jar of peanut butter,
Next these words the bird did utter,
"I’ll ape every Giants’ sound
And send them sadly homeward bound.

"Imagine my ‘I got it’ yell,
Ord’ring batsmen ‘take’ as well,
Or tell the ump to go to hell!"
"I do that all the time," I said.
"The other stuff, though, might confuse
And mess ‘em up enough to lose.
It seems, indeed, a winning ruse."
But then the birdie shook his head.
"Of course, I could help them instead."

"Name your price!" I shouted out.
"I want to win. There is no doubt.
Pretty please with sauerkraut!"
The birdie preened his scrawny neck.
"A simple thing I ask of ye.
By game time, a new name I see.
Re-name your Crab team after me.
And I New York will gladly wreck."
Quoth I, McGraw, "Well, what-the-heck!"

We were ‘Orioles’ one and all
And won most of our games last fall.
Our clever bird could fool them all
With his mimicry so queer.
We all loved that clever sinner
‘Cause he made our team a winner,
But a cat had him for dinner
In October of the year.
Rest in peace, oh Birdie dear.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A DASH OF ADAGES

Never let your left hand know what your right hand is doing – especially when you’re sitting between two women.

History teaches us that we never learn from history.

If your name is Lulu, expect to be insulted when you visit Tokyo.

What do they call someone who gets paid to crastinate?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, you’re Karl Rove.

Anyone who speaks in absolutes is wrong 100 percent of the time.

Build a better mousetrap and PETA will picket you.

The early bird catches the worm; smart worms sleep late.

What goes around, comes around. Buy boomerangs!

Only a few Italian-Americans are in the mob, but if a stranger named Nunzio wants you to take a ride in his car, you might consider waiting for a bus.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Gunplay at Rickety Fork

"Oh boy!" Billy yelped happily in my ear. "What'd I tell you!"

Back down the dusty street, past where our fellow passengers scurried wildly for doorways like panicked sheep, a man I'd never seen before in all my seventeen years raised his rifle to his buckskinned shoulder and fired again. At me!

"C'mon!" Billy shouted, grabbing my arm. We hightailed out of the middle of Rickety Fork's main street and hunkered down behind a water trough. I wished to heaven we'd stayed on the train. Horace Greeley was crazy!
Another shot and a woman screamed! I figured it was the young lady with the blue parasol. She'd got real excited in the coach this morning while Billy was entertaining everybody by telling the way "Two-Gun Bob" Jamison got shot. When Billy explained how the bullet came out right where "Two-Gun's" left eye had been, the lady nigh fainted.

The water trough was big as a coffin and about twice as high. I started to peep up over the edge, but another shot put me nose down in the dust. I was no hero. Last spring when a couple of my friends wanted to join the army and fight the Spanish in Cuba, I told 'em to count me out. I remembered the Maine my way -- in my prayers.

All of a sudden, Billy started cussing like a sailor. "Are you hit?" I asked, afraid to look.

"No! I stepped right in a mess o' road apples! Look at that!"

His shiny new boots showed they rode horses in Rickety Fork.

"Billy, why is that man shooting at me? I don't even know him."

Billy was on his haunches, trying without much success to scrape his boot in the dirt. "Probably never get the smell out," he said.

"Billy! Why's he shooting at me?"

A know-it-all smile spread across Billy's freckled face. "You greenhorn! He ain't shooting at you. He's shooting at them!" He pointed up the street at the saloon. There, peeking from doors and windows, I saw maybe a half dozen more men with rifles. As I looked, they started banging away at the fellow in buckskins down at the depot. "Shucks, boy, they don't even know you!" Billy laughed. His blue eyes flashed in excitement. "What did I tell you about Rickety Fork?"

He'd started in bending my ear about Rickety Fork almost from the minute he got on the train at St. Louis and sat down beside me. "Wildest little town in the whole Wild West!" he'd crowed. "We might see some real gunplay there, all right."

He was decked out in brown leather chaps and a neckerchief only slightly redder than the shock of unruly hair peeking from his snow white ten-gallon hat. A silver six-shooter rested trimly in the holster he wore low at the hip. I guessed him at eighteen, a year older than me, but a whole world wiser.

I'd never met a real cowboy before -- never even seen one except on the cover of a dime novel -- but I always thought they were supposed to be stand-offish and close-mouthed. Not Billy. He could have talked the wheels off a bicycle.

He figured I was heading West to become a cowboy because he started in educating me about everything from coyotes to trail bosses and back to cayuses. Rickety Fork was going to be the best part of the trip, he said.

When I told him I was riding all the way to San Francisco and my Uncle Harry's Emporium where I had a clerk job waiting, and I sure wasn't going to stop off in Rickety-whatever-it-was, he was real disappointed. "Where's your spirit, Son? How are you gonna make your fortune in this cruel world if you're 'fraid to take a chance?"

"I don't need a fortune," I said. "Just enough to go back to Harrisburg and start a little feed store."

"And you got a girl waiting too, I'll bet."

I could feel my face starting to redden. "What makes you say that?"

"Shucks, that's the way it always is. A man has the opportunity of a lifetime spread out in front of him -- a chance to really be something. That's what the West is, Son. But he decides he'd rather play it safe and close to the vest. And why? Because his head's all a-twitter about some female!"

He thought for a minute and then brightened. "Well, anyhow, we'll be stopped for a couple of hours at Rickety Fork. I asked the conductor 'fore I even got on this train." He leaned back against his seat like he'd just won something. "Yessir, I hear there's a shooting in ol' Rickety almost every day."

"I think I'll stay on the train," I said.

The trip was long, dirty, and hot, but Billy made the time pass with his exciting lectures on western history, geography, and customs. If there'd been a college of the Wild West, Billy would have been head professor. I noticed others in the car were listening and some even changed their seats to hear better. When he saw that, Billy began to talk louder.

His best subject was gunfights. He knew all the details of famous shootings in near every town and village we chugged through. "This is where Dry-Gulch Charlie Mathewson got his," he'd say, waving his hand at some dirty shacks we were passing. "He was an ornery cuss who'd shot one of the Bar-X boys in the back." Then he'd recite chapter and verse down to poor Charlie's last words.

He taught me the difference between bushwackers and straight-shooters. "It's an attitude. A straight-shooter is a feller you can turn your back on. You can depend on him to play square with you."

Right after he told a John Wesley Hardin story, Billy got bushwacked by the anvil salesman. He was a big, bluff fellow wearing a nifty store-bought suit, sitting there two seats away, more interested in the young lady with the blue parasol than in Billy's stories. It was hard to tell whether the one good smell in the coach was her perfume or his after-shave. I guess he didn't much like the way she kept looking admiring-like at Billy because he said in a voice like a snake coiling itself, "You know, fella, I been drumming this territory for near five years now. It's funny I never run into you."

"Well, it's a big country," Billy said easily.

"But someone who knows as much as you, why, I'll bet people come from miles around just to hear you spout. Yessir, you must be famous, I don't know why I can't recollect you. When was the last time you were in Dodge?"

"Well --"

"Or was it Abilene you come from? Where was it you said?"

Billy mumbled it so low I wasn't sure I heard him right until the anvil salesman repeated it so loud everybody in the car heard. "Philadelphia? Well, now stop me if I'm wrong. I'm just a drummer. I don't know all about shootings and such, but ain't Phil-a-del-phi-a somewhere back East?"

"Why, I've been to Philadelphia," the young lady with the blue parasol said. She meant anybody and everybody had been there.

"Do they punch many cows in Phil-a-del-phi-a?" the anvil salesman sneered. The young lady laughed.

Billy didn't say anything, and I watched an empty horizon go by out the window.

"I believe I would like a breath of air," the lady said, rising. The anvil salesman trailed after her toward the open platform at the rear end of the swaying car.

After sitting quiet for the longest time since I met him, Billy said, "I'll hazard I know more about the West than any fellow born and raised there. I've read everything in the whole Philadelphia Public Library. And I bought books."

I tried to think of something that would help. "Once I heard our preacher say he didn't have to visit heaven to know its streets were paved in gold," I told him.

After a while the anvil salesman and the lady came laughing back from the platform. They were so busy talking together they must have forgot about Billy. And after a longer while, he seemed to forget about them. We passed through another little town, and he told me briefly about a fourflusher who was called out by a German immigrant who couldn't talk English but could shoot like a native.

The nearer we got to Rickety Fork, the more Billy got stirred up. He kept checking to see his six-shooter was loaded okay. "A good man don't look for a fight," he told me, "but it never hurts to be ready."

He was itchy as a chigger waistcoat. When the train huffed to a stop beside the worn-out depot with its fresh-painted, red and green Welcome-to-Rickety-Fork sign, he just about leaped for the door. And like fool, I was right behind him.

The whole dusty stretch of Rickety Fork's main street was no more than a hundred yards of clean store fronts and old hitching posts, with the depot at one end and a big, orange and white saloon at the other. That's where we'd hear all about the latest shootings, Billy insisted, pulling us way ahead of the other passengers. We still had thirty yards to go when the "latest shooting" started.

We crouched behind our water trough. The bullets didn't seem aimed at us, but the thought that my life hung on how well some stranger could shoot scared me like hell. "Maybe we ought to make a dash for it, Billy."

He drew his six-shooter. "You go ahead," he said. "I'll cover you."

"Billy, don't!"

He took aim up the street. "Six to one odds don't seem fair to me," he said. Billy's six-shooter boomed and splinters flew from a hitching post near a shooter standing wide open on the plank sidewalk in front of the saloon. The feller had been exchanging shots nice as pie with the rifleman at the depot for quite a while, but a new partner in the fight seemed to rattle him. He dropped his rifle and scrambled back into the building.
"That evens things a little," Billy laughed.

Something slammed me in the back, knocking me flat into the dirt. For a split-second I thought I'd been shot. But no! Some old coot was standing over me, hollering to beat the band.

"What are you doing? Stop that! Stop that!"

A fat old man -- red-faced, gray-bearded, in a black suit and a purple rage -- stood there in the middle of a gunfight, bellowing at me. His yelling was scarier than the bullets. Even Billy went sheepish and stammered an apology.

Gray-beard glared, snorted, and pointed to a nearby doorway. "Get in there!" he roared.

We got. Gray-beard trudged through the door behind us. "You young idiots! Don't you know you could kill someone with that fool gun?"

"But -- but -- out there -- they were --" Billy sputtered.

A high-pitched peal of giggles made me turn. A thin man in tie and shirtsleeves was near collapsed in laughter against the wall, his green eyeshade slipped down over his nose. I looked around the large room. The long counter with its caged windows said "bank". So did the sign on the front window, only backwards: KNAB. While

Eyeshade giggled, Gray-beard -- the banker, I realized -- was busting a button. "That --" he waved his arm toward the street, "-- that is a private affair. You have no right to -- to --"

Eyeshade sat down, he was laughing so hard. I asked nervously, "Is it a bank robbery?"

"A bank robbery?" Gray-beard stared at me; then he stared at the wall and counted to ten while Eyeshade shook his head. When Gray-beard spoke again, he sounded almost friendly. "Look, boys, I'll explain later. You can watch the shoot-out from the window, but keep that gun holstered. Promise?"

Billy mumbled an agreement. We went meekly to the window. Shots still crackled outside. After a minute, I looked back. A calmer Gray-beard and Eyeshade were both laughing together in the rear of the bank.

"Look at that!" Billy cried, clutching my arm.

Through the window we saw a powerfully-built giant step from one of the buildings across the way and stride to the center of the street. A metal star glittered on his chest. Like Moses parting the water, he raised his right hand and the shooting ceased.

"Golly!" I gasped.

"The man with a star," Billy whispered, admiration dripping over his voice like syrup on a sundae.

Suddenly, a single shot came from the saloon. The sheriff clutched his chest and a splash of red gushed through his fingers. He staggered, almost fell, staggered again, raised his bloody hands to the sky, and then -- like a big tree -- fell over on his star.

"They shot the sheriff!" I screamed. Gray-beard, leaning against the counter at the back, nodded curtly.

"We gotta help him," Billy said. "He'll bleed to death out there."

"Billy, he's already dead."

His blue eyes flashed angrily. "Did you ever see a man shot?"

"No."

"Well, then you don't know, do you? You just don't know!"

"Uh -- boys?" Gray-beard called, his voice rising.

"You got a handkerchief?" Billy asked me.

"Yes, but --"

"Boys!"

Billy had a white handkerchief out. "Follow me!" he cried and dashed out the door. My handkerchief was blue and Billy was a fool and it wasn't my fight and the sheriff was already dead and Billy was going to get me killed and Gray-beard had hold of my shirt and Billy was crazy! But I followed him anyway.

In a second we were beside the body. I heard shots and yelling from the saloon. Billy heaved the dead man over onto his back. The whole front of the sheriff's shirt was drenched bright red, but his eyes flew open.

"Get away!" the sheriff whispered hoarsely

"Don't worry, Lawman!" Billy shouted, putting his hands under the sheriff's shoulders. "We'll take care of you!"

I grabbed the sheriff's feet. He kicked at me, no doubt crazy with pain. Somehow we lugged him, squirming, kicking, and cussing across the street and into the bank. I tore at his shirt. The awful bleeding had to be stopped. The wet cloth came away easily.

With a sudden burst of strength, the sheriff pushed me aside and jumped to his feet. Then he ran to the rear of the bank and disappeared out the door. I still held the shreds of his bloody shirt in my hands.

Gray-beard cleared his throat. "Well," he said, "I guess he wasn't hurt too bad after all."

"He wasn't hurt at all," Billy said, gaping.

"He didn't have any bullet wounds," I said.

Gray-beard looked at the floor. "Uh -- no, I guess --"

"What in blazes is going on?" Billy yelled.

"Look, boys, there's no harm done." He smiled weakly. "A little show. That's all."
Billy stared at him coldly.

Gray-beard cleared his throat again. We waited. Outside, shots continued. "Well, two years ago, the railroad threatened to quit stopping at Rickety Fork." He shrugged. "That would have been the end of the town. We would've just dried up and blown away."

"So you put on sham gunfights," Billy said bitterly. "Fakes!"

The old man nodded. "Son, you got to understand. It put us on the map. Folks wanted to stop at Rickety Fork so they could see the Wild West. We gave 'em what they wanted."

"A show!" Billy was near tears.

"So, after the -- uh -- gunfight, the train passengers go to the saloon for a while, buy a few drinks, maybe some souvenirs. No harm's done."

"No harm!" Billy spat on the floor.

The old banker ignored that and smiled his friendliest. "I hope we can keep this our little secret, boys. I'm sure we can make it worth your while."

"But -- but what about all that shooting?" I asked.

"Blanks," Eyeshade said.

"Blanks!" Billy echoed.

"We couldn't take a chance on anyone getting careless. So every gun in town is loaded with blank cartridges."

"Except one," Billy`s eyes were big as silver dollars as he leveled his six-shooter at the banker. "Stick 'em up," he said.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

ME AGAINST PETE'S TEAM

"So you think your team can beat mine," Pete said.

"What team?" I asked.

"Mickey told me," Pete said. "You said your team could beat my team."

"I don’t have a –"

"We’ll see. Four o’clock, down at the tracks."

He walked away. My stomach turned over. Even if I had a team – which I didn’t – Pete’s Team would have been better. I should know. I was on Pete’s Team!

Pete was our hero because even though he was a bigkid three classes ahead of us in sixth grade, he’d still treat us decently whenever there weren’t any other bigkids around. When we were playing baseball, he’d get right up there and show us how to hit. If we were playing war, he was the captain. Pete taught us a lot. Especially football.

Pete never played in our usual three-against-three games. Having him on one side would have made the game too uneven. But when we had enough players for a whole team, Pete was in charge. Naturally we called ourselves "Pete’s Team."

The lineup went like this: Pete was the coach and quarterback; Pee Wee, a bigkid a year behind Pete, played left halfback, and Billy, who was a fast runner, played right halfback. Ross, Chuckie, Jimmy the Fat Kid, and Mickey made up one side of the line. If the Drew brothers or anyone else showed up, they were put on the other side of the line. I was the fullback. That meant I ranked just behind Pete and Pee Wee.

The only trouble with Pete’s Team was that it never played any football games.

We kept hoping to get a game with a team from another part of town. Pete said he talked with a couple kids but "they’re too scared of us." So, for the time being, we just practiced to get ready. Pete would line us up and tell each of us what to do on "Hike!" My job was usually to run out and block the imaginary defensive end who otherwise would put an imaginary tackle on Pete or Pee Wee, whichever was running the ball. At least once in each practice I got to run the ball on a play and Billy blocked the imaginary defensive end.

Most days, Pete wasn’t there to run practice so we just chose up sides of two or three and played a game. That was fun, but it wasn’t like a real team.

One evening, Mickey and I had a game in my back yard. We took turns -- four downs to gain the length of my yard to the hollyhocks at the far end. We were in rare form. For whatever reason, we ran better and tackled better than usual. Naturally, we began telling each other how good we were.

Mickey said we were better than the high school team. We were kidding. We’d never seen the high school team play, but they were all bigkids and we sure knew eleven of them could beat me and Mickey. We were just giddy.

"I’ll bet we could beat Pete’s Team," I yelled. We laughed. Shortly after that, we decided we could beat Notre Dame, a team I’d seen in a newsreel at the State Theater.

The next morning, Pete stopped me on the way to school and challenged me to bring my team to the tracks at four o’clock.

What team?

All day, I couldn’t get near Mickey to find out what he’d told Pete. Obviously I couldn’t hit him in class, and during recesses he stood next to Miss Lake, our teacher. At lunch, he disappeared completely. Finally, during an afternoon recess, I walked up to him even though Miss Lake was there.

"What did you tell Pete?" I asked.

"Just what you said." He managed to keep Miss Lake between us, but by that time I’d decided not to hit him anyway.

"I never said we could beat Pete’s Team!"

"Yes, you did!"

"That was kidding1" I said.

"Don’t yell in the hall!" Miss Lake reminded. "This is your last chance to go to the bathroom until school is dismissed."

At four o’clock, I walked to the tracks. That was a place where there were two siding tracks running off the regular B. an O. track. We sometimes played football or baseball in the area between the two sidings.

Pete saw I was alone. "Where’s your team?"

"I’m it," I said.

It took a little more convincing, but Pete finally believed I hadn’t built a team behind his back. Mickey admitted he might have misunderstood me, but that was mainly so I wouldn’t hit him later.

Because we were already there, Pete decided there’d still be a game. He put Ross, Chucky, Billy, and Jimmy the Fat Kid on one side, and me, Mickey, and the Drew brothers on the other. Mickey took one look at the sides and remembered his mother needed him.

The only thing Harold, the older Drew brother, could do was center the ball to me. His younger brother couldn’t do that much. When the score got to 36-0, we stopped. Pete came over to where I was lying and put his hand out. "That took guts," he said. "From now on, you’ll always be my fullback."

He said "always!" I think I know how some of those players feel when it’s announced that they’ve won the Heisman Trophy.

Pete’s Team never did get to play a game, but I was the fullback for practices -- always.