Another Crack At the Baseball Facts

NOW that I have been deservedly, but softly, spanked for getting Connie Mack's American League baseball team mixed up with the poor Phillies, I will just add that it was a lapse rather than an error, and that I had no idea our Home Forum family had so many old-time fans. Would you believe that some even knew about Jack Coombs?

Chastised, I found myself sitting vacantly with my eyes a-cock out the window, dreaming of long-gone baseball here in New England, which is to mean Boston. This was long before TV and radio, when the Red Sox were the new boys on the street and nobody doubted that the Boston Braves would go on like Tennyson's brook. Back when you went to the park in the afternoon to see a game - unless you went to Newspaper Row to see a reenactment on the two-story scoreboard the Boston Post provided. A telegrapher at the game dot-dashed the progress play by play, and while the position of the players and the location of the ball were moved about, a bull-voiced baritone replayed the game through a megaphone.

In our little town up in Maine (I was wee, then) the menfolks would watch that same Post to see when the A's would be in town, and if Jack Coombs were to pitch, some 15 or 20 of them would go on the morning train for a day in Boston. There was a supper-time train for coming home. But it was to watch Coombs.

The biggest athletic event in Boston in those times was the Harvard-Yale football game, although in the decade of world war, baseball was big - Boston won five World Series, one by the Braves. However, I'm sure a Patriot's Day celebration that I saw in 1917 deserves consideration.

Patriot's Day is strictly a Greater Boston exercise that the rest of the United States successfully ignores. On Patriot's Day, the Red Sox always schedule a forenoon game so the fans can get over to watch the finish of the marathon, which tells us something, but the big thing of the day is the reenactment of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Booted and spurred, he rides from Charlestown to Concord yelling, ``Twarms! Twarms! The dirty British are coming,'' or words to that effect.

The rider, usually an equestrian from an ancient and honorable memorial regiment of horse from South Boston, now rides in the daytime so schoolchildren can be turned out as spectators, and all morning the teachers in the several towns involved can be seen leading the little ones, two by two, each with a flag on a stick, toward the village squares. It is a stirring spectacle.

On the morning I recall, the patriot riding as Paul Revere was a Colonel Moynihan, and at the proper time beacon lights flashed from the Old North Church. The Colonel bounded to the saddle, clutching his tricorn with one hand and spurring his steed down the Medford Road from Charlestown. Along the way, the citizens long abused by rascally George III cheered, the schoolchildren waved their flags, and the cry preceded the hurrying hoofbeats of that steed flying fearless and fleet: ``Here he comes!''

At Medford Square, all was ready. The children were arranged by their teachers in order serviceable, flags in hand. On the buntinged platform was Mayor Billie Haines, his staff and suite, the mayor ready to give again the same speech he had given so many times; Mayor Haines was also like Tennyson's brook. The band, having completed the pre-program selections, was now ready for the downbeat of Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, which traditionally brought galloping Paul to a halt before the platform.

But along by the Wellington clay pits, Paul Revere had a bit of trouble. His horse took the bit in his teeth, leaped in panic, and went sky-tailing toward Medford Square while Paul helplessly called whoa! whoa! The schoolchildren in Medford Square cried, ``Here he comes!'' and then they cried, ``There he goes!'' and an aide began clapping Mayor Haines on the back to stop his hysterics. It was indeed a day to remember. Another such day was the one on which I got a hit off Jack Coombs.

He had come home as an elderly veteran to pitch an inning in our high-school game against the Old Timers. He struck out two batters with six pitches, and then I was up. I closed my eyes and swung. From first base, I saw Jack call time, and he walked over from the pitcher's mound and shook my hand. He said, ``Good many boys never got one of them!'' Then he went back to the mound and threw three more pitches.

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