Base Ball player

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.

The last half inning ended the game quietly, as many in the crowd probably hoped.

When your team is down by 35, it is easy for a spectator to be thinking more about how his horse is doing and whether it will take forever to follow everyone out of the pasture they were using for their carriages.

Still, the Independents added one more memory.

After Bull was hand dead following a weak grounder to the third baseman, Ice Wagon blasted a double to right field. That brought up Jacob, who was surprised to hear many in the crowd shouting to him, “Let’s go Kid, one more Kid, bring him in Kid.”

They know him now, David thought. Wonder if that makes him not a “kid” anymore?

Jacob called for a low throw, and swung at nothing but air when it came in. He asked for another, but despite a hard swing, it trickled foul down the first base line.

Still, he asked for another low throw, and this time, he golfed the ball down the right field line, and the crowd erupted. Ice Wagon scored easily, and the thrill of the cheers drove Kid to turn at first and head for second. It turned out to be less than a wise decision, and Cincinnati’s right fielder, a tall stick named McVey, threw a bullet to Sweeney at second, and Jacob was out by several feet.

“Gutsy move, Kid,” Sweeney said. “But not so smart.”

With two hands dead and no one on, Gopher’s pop out to the third baseman, Waterman, was hardly noticed and the game ended with but a whimper.

Final score: Cincinnati 48, Mansfield 14.

+ + +

Still, the crowd was not disappointed. Many cheered, for their own hometown team, but also in respect for the dominating Red Stocking visitors. The time following a game says much about the teams that played and the towns they represent. In heated rivalries, it is not unusual for the visiting team to have to rush away under protection of one sort or another, especially if they won.

But this game found both teams shaking hands and chatting amiably with each other, while spectators congratulated the Red Stockings. Those who wanted to jeer the professional team were shushed by others who wanted Mansfield to appear more “gentlemanly” in their defeat.

Harry Wright, the Cincinnati hurler and captain of the team, was complimentary of his opponents. He was especially complimentary of Jacob’s fielding.

“Ya got good hands, Kid,” he said.

How does he know Jacob’s nickname?

“You didn’t burn up the base paths, but you do show promise.”

Jacob’s eyes got wide.

“Do you think I have what it takes?” Jacob asked.

To do what, Big Brother?

“To do what, Kid?” Wright asked.

“To play, all the time. Good enough that someone would pay me.” Wright smiled, shaking his head.

“You are a long way from that. Maybe one day, but many days away,” he said, then paused in thought.

“If you are serious, Kid, I do have an idea. We need an equipment manager and someone to take care of moving the team from one place to the next. It won’t be glamorous, but it will keep your belly full, you’ll see a lot of the country, and I promise we will teach you as much as you can handle about the game,” Wright said.

“What do you say, Kid?”

“I’ll do it,” Jacob said without hesitation.

What?

“Great, we leave in two hours from the B & O downtown. See you then.”

Jacob was smiling. Big smile. Then suddenly his eyes grew big as he realized what he had just done. And he noticed his family that was approaching from the right.

What are you going to tell Mama?

“What am I gonna tell Mama, David? I’ve got to get everything ready. I’ve got to say good-bye.”

To say that the family was shocked is to understate it. Mama was sad, Papa was adamant, Grace was crying, Levi was shaking his head, Emilene was sad, Cassie was angry, Philip was full of questions.

“It will be a great opportunity,” Jacob was saying. “It is a job. I’ll be learning as I go.

“Someday, lots of players will be paid; I want to be one of them.

“Philip and Levi and Nate, even Papa, got to see the country during the War. They got their adventure. This is my chance!”

Finally, Nate came to his rescue.

“He’s right, everybody. He is 19 and ready to see the world. Give him that chance. At least, he won’t have to watch out for Johnny Reb trying to blow him up.

“Besides, there is no better time to do that than before he is married and raising a herd of Jacob Juniors.”

There were still plenty of protests, mostly from Mama and the sisters, but no real objections from the brothers.

Even Papa recognized that it could be short-term and he would be back, or long-term, and he would be successful.

Suddenly the major task was for Jacob to get home, throw some things into a suitcase, and rush to the train station, saying quick good-byes and hopping on the train before he or the rest of the family could talk him out of it.

As the train started out, with the family on the platform, and female tears flowing freely, Mama put her arm around David’s shoulder, and said to him, “You are the only little man I have left.

“Try not to grow up too quickly.”

Can’t promise anything, Mama, but I’ll do my best.

“I promise Mama. I’ll do my best.”

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