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From Part One of  "OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addiction":

 

An 1865 base ball game

 

People from all over town streamed through Titusville's dirt streets toward the meadow at Oil Creek. Throngs of wagons, buckboards, carriages, saddle horses and bareback mules drove meandering hordes of pedestrians to the muddy roadsides.

 

A festive crowd came together at the near sides of the grassy expanse on which a playing field was laid out: A diamond of narrow dirt paths in the grass from base to base, a four foot by twelve foot dirt pitcher's box at the center, a flat disc for the home plate placed nearest the crowd where the striker would stand. Immediately behind the striker's plate at the margin of the crowd and the edge of the playing field was a wooden table with three empty chairs, and behind it a raised platform with two chairs on it. At a distance from and on each side of the table and running up the first and third base paths were long, bench-like logs.

 

In the distance beyond the infield and outfield, away from the crowd, were the boundaries where empty horse-drawn vehicles of every size and description were parked, their horses and mules tethered and grazing in the field on the other side.

 

Dandily appointed gentlemen escorted ladies in silk and satin finery to hastily improvised bleachers of stacked rough logs and planks behind the benches along the base paths. Overflowing from and standing all around the so-called bleachers, rough workingmen in open collared shirts and baggy trousers and their spirited women in gingham and homespun mill, chattered, bickered and noisily anticipated the upcoming contest. Throngs of barefoot children in overalls ran, screamed, wrestled, whined and celebrated the joys of childhood and game day.

 

Pushcart vendors hawked treats amid the throngs, selling balloons, taffy and cookies to the children and pickles, jerky and nuts to their elders. Behind the bleachers barmen filled mugs from kegs and dispensed bottles to the very thirsty. 

 

Amid the vendors and drinkers was a tent-like booth. There Stonagall's partner, the short, stocky Sheriff sat, his ignorant eyes more glowing than ever as men in a long line stepped up one at a time to the booth, each in turn depositing money with him. At his side was the bank's gaunt bookkeeper and inner office door monitor, Ashleaver, more fervently bent over his books than ever, as he furiously recorded and issued a receipt to each man who deposited a cash bet with the Sheriff.       

 

Down Perry Street now came the sound of a joyous approach and then marching men singing, accompanied by a gaggle of admirers clapping and cheering them along. Theresa, her brothers and many of the farmers who faced off with Barrett and the teamsters at the sycamore grove were in the pack. Ten of the men wore matching green flannel shirts, though they displayed a wide array of worn work trousers and footwear ranging from boots to bare feet. Five carried rough, handcrafted baseball bats. The other five tossed stained, leather covered, hand re-stitched baseballs back and forth.

 

The procession arrived, to cheers and jeers from the gathered crowd, and made its way to the log bench along the first base line. The flannel-shirted ballists took to the near half of the field, throwing balls back and forth, taking warm-up swings and limbering up. Their co-marching admirers faded into the crowd nearby. Theresa walked to the table behind the striker's plate.

 

Now came another procession down Perry Street, a small marching band playing spirited tunes followed by a pair of wagons, each carrying a half dozen rough and ready looking athletes in natty black flannel uniforms, "Titusville" stitched in white across the shirts and white stripes stitched down the sides of the trouser legs. The wagons were followed by a loud gang of open-collared, baggy-trouser men chanting "Go, city team, go!" and then "City team, city team, win-win-win!" to a precise cadence beat out by a lean, unshaven, fiery-eyed leader. An expensive carriage followed at a short distance, carrying Stonagall and a companion, Chick Rath, a very large, pudgy man with flowing black hair, thick mutton-chop sideburns, a proud handlebar mustache and huge, wild, blue eyes.

 

At the meadow, the ballists climbed down and made their way to the log bench along the third base path while their supporters and the band took places in the crowd behind them. As the wagons moved away, the ballists in black and white trotted over to the third-base side of the field and emptied burlap sacks of clean new bats and balls for warm-ups.

 

 

Copyright 2006 Herman K. Trabish. All Rights Reserved.