Old fashioned base ball game

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1860s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the WarVolume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family.

David heard the music in the crowd, the fiddles sounding out a dance tune. He looked up on the knoll on the third base side. There stood Grace and Emilene, next to Miss Vasbinder, plus a handful of other players, a whole fleet of fiddlers, playing a happy tune as though it were a sunny, bright June late afternoon.

It was as though the trees and foliage were swaying in time, and wild flowers were dancing in bloom; as though a whole community of families and friends were sitting together, having enjoyed homemade many things from picnic baskets; as though Mansfield were not being clobbered by Cincinnati, 40-3!

“What are they playing for?” Birdlegs asked. “This isn’t concert, it’s a massacre.”

“Maybe they’ll start a rain dance and wash the game out,” Gopher suggested.

“Who is that, anyway,” Spider asked, looking that way.

“Hey, Kid, ain’t that your family?” Jacob didn’t have to look.

“‘Fraid so.”

The team was silent a few moments.

“Well, at least they’re good,” Spider said.

“And they ain’t getting beat by 37.”

“Maybe that’s a war dance,” Ice Wagon suggested.

“Yeah, maybe they are putting the fear in those RedLegs out there. Maybe it’s our battle cry.”

“We need a war dance down here,” Smokey said. “Who’s going to lead us in a dance? I mean, nothing else has worked.”

Jacob looked at David.

“Here’s your chance, Little Brother. Dance for the crowd.”

Why not?

David started tapping a foot on one beat, then tapping the top of a bat on the ground with the other beat, with simple, quiet steps that became more pronounced with each measure. The fiddles picked up the pace and volume, and the crowd began to notice a 10-year-old in miniature baseball uniform dancing in front of the home team bench.

Clapping in rhythm began to filter from the crowd and the crowd began singing: Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay. Tune up the fiddle, doodle de day With a rump and riddle and a high tuc-ka-haw Strike up that tune called "Turkey in the Straw."

The Cincinnati Red Stockings stopped their warm-ups from the field and just took in the concert. The Mansfield players turned and gazed at the crowd. The referee looked over at Smokey who just shrugged his shoulders. The referee gave a half smile.

“Usually, the crowd would be ready to run us out of town,” Ice Wagon said. “At this point, we would be worried about a riot. It would be one giant mess.”

“Maybe David is slaying the giant,” Smokey said, dryly.

Ice Wagon thought a moment, then chuckled, then laughed out loud and slapped Smokey on the back.

“Come on David, dance away,” Ice Wagon said. “Take on Goliath with those little legs.”

David was dancing at full speed now, spinning, with legs kicking up and down and right and left, and arms high in the air, then by his side. The whole field seemed like a festival.

“Do you think the other team is upset that the music is interrupting the game?” Mama asked Papa, as the girls continued their jig.

“They seem fine with it. Look, the infielders are standing together; two of them are tapping their toes,” Papa said.

I hope David isn’t mad at us for taking some of his spotlight away, Grace thought.

What am I saying? He’s down there in the middle of the field with everyone watching!

The music continued for a full five more minutes, which is an eternity between innings of a base ball game. Grace glanced down at Martin and Cassie, who had come to the game, but just because of Jacob.

She knew their heart was not in it, after what had just happened. Still, to her surprise, toward the end, Martin hopped up, and pulled Cassie to his side, and the two started dancing, their own sort of couple dance. Not a Turkey in the Straw sort of dance, but a simple, joyful stroll that even showed a smile on Cassie’s face at the end.

It will all be all right.

Miss Vasbinder, still playing her violin (like a fiddle!) turned and faced her team of fiddlers, nine in all, and nodded her head that this was the last chorus.

They embellished the last line as they had planned and abruptly ended the tune. Everyone erupted in applause. Even the Red Stockings acknowledged the musicians, then trotted back to their positions.

The referee looked to Smokey, who realized he was smiling much bigger than someone should be whose team was down by 37. He cleared his throat, put on a steely-eyed stern expression, and marched to home base.

David, sweaty and out of breath, walked over to the bench, which erupted with pats on the back and congratulations for their little water boy, who for a few moments made everyone forget how lopsided this game was. He sat on the bench.

They can get their own water this inning. I’m too tired.

Tired, but smiling.

Middle of the seventh: Cincinnati, 40, Mansfield, 3.

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