Digressions of J. Charles
© June 2004
J. Charles Cheek
“Tell ya what kid, I’ll give ya 250 a month plus 5 a day per diem while on the road, and ya start in the bullpen,” said Hub Kettle, the manager of the Class B baseball team. He paused to spit a mouthful of tobacco juice to the side then added, “Whatah ya say, kid. Deal or no deal?” More juice as he stared at me while awaiting an answer.
My mind rushed around his words as the true meaning came through to me. He was offering to pay me money to PLAY baseball. Not work. PLAY. Most of my time would be sitting in the bullpen awaiting a chance to save a tight game. Save the game, and if its a home game, the home girls will be cheering and awaiting a move from me after the game. And if its an away game, some home girls may still be there, or maybe the rebellious away ones. The Bears were a Class B professional baseball team owned by San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. The Bears were one of the hundreds of bush-league teams playing baseball around the country in 1950 managed by someone who couldn’t make it in the big leagues themselves but wouldn’t give up the game and get a real job. I already knew I didn’t have big league pitching talent but what the hell. I idolized Whitey Ford and copied his pitching moves but I was not at Whitey’s talent level. But, bumming around on a bush league team for a couple of years would probably be a lot of fun. Plus, the girls at home games, and maybe some in other baseball towns.
“Whatah ya say kid?” demanded Kettle as his stare turned to a glare the followed up with an extra big mouthful of tobacco juice spit annoyingly near my shoes.
Feeling rushed, I quickly reverted to the bottom line reality – the money+. I already had a job offer to work in a fruit warehouse beginning right after graduation from high school. The pay was one dollar per hour and one-fifty per hour for time over 40 hours per week. The warehouse work would pay for 70 hours per week including overtime so that would be nearly $300 per month. I could earn enough to do the three things that mattered most to me at that time – buy a car, drink beer and chase girls. Maybe there wouldn’t be as many girls eager to be chased by me as the baseball uniform might attract but there would be more time at home and a little more money. Decisions, decisions.
“Last chance, kid. Whatah ya say?” I outwitted coach Kettle and pulled back my foot just as he aimed some juice at it. He grinned ever so slightly and said, “Got a quick foot there, kid. Goes good with your curve ball.” I didn’t really know what he meant by that remark other than I had been told that my curve ball would cause a tight pucker from most batters.
My mind raced. What should I do? Baseball – car, beer, girls? Warehouse – car, beer, girls? I blurted out, “Can I think about it for a couple of day, coach?”
“Sure, kid, but let me give you some life advise. You sweated like a dog pooping a peach seed trying out for the team by pitching an hour of batting practice. Now you wanna think bout it. My advise is, if ya gotta think bout it, forget it!”
E – N – D
 Mr. Cheek has written dozens of short stories under the general heading of Digressions of J. Charles. He is also the author of the novel Stay Safe, Buddy – A Story of Humor and Horror during the Korean War,300 pages, Publish America ISBN # 159286631X