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Old 06-12-2019, 10:31 AM   #1
legendsport
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The Ballad of the Brothers Barrell - A Figment Story

Our story begins in 1890 when a young man named Rufus Barrell decided to leave his family farm outside the small town of Egypt, located in Effingham County, Georgia. You see, Rufus didn't want to be a farmer - he had bigger dreams. Dreams of being a professional baseball player. His father - the third generation of Barrell to farm in Effingham County - thought his son's dream was a foolish fantasy. But Rufus had a brother named Robert and if Rufus wouldn't follow in his father's footsteps, Robert was more than willing to do so. So Rufus packed a cardboard suitcase with his (extremely limited) wardrobe, and headed for Savannah. Rufus was 16 years old.

Savannah was not only the closest city to Rufus' home, it was also the home of the Syracuse Sycamores, a team in the newly-minted, independent Coastal Association - a baseball league that hoped to develop and eventually sell its locally-born players to the Dixie League, or maybe even one of the three "major" leagues: the Century League, Border Association and the brand-new Peerless League. Like Rufus himself, the Coastal Association had grandiose dreams.

Rufus appeared at the ramshackle wooden structure that the Sycamores called home on an early May morning in 1890, suitcase in hand. He walked around the building and found a door beneath a sign reading "Club Offices" and knocked. No one answered his knock. Or his second, or third knock. But Rufus wasn't easily deterred and walked to the ticket booth where he found a bored young woman seated on a stool.

"Hello, miss, I am hoping you can help me," he said with a small grin.

The young woman frowned a bit and looked him over. "Is that so?" she asked and narrowed her eyes. Rufus thought she had very nice eyes indeed while noticing that she did not speak in the slow, easy tones of a native Georgian.

"Yes, I hope so," he replied and then quickly added, "I'm a ballplayer and am hoping to see the manager so I can show him what I can do."

"That's probably not gonna happen," the young woman replied. Rufus was now sure she wasn't a local.

"Why not? I know this is a brand-new club and will need players. I can play," he said and then after a pause, added "Really, I can."

She still looked skeptical. After a moment she said, "OK, bub, wait here a minute. I'll run back and ask Mr. Reid if he wants to see you."

Rufus smiled and asked, "Is Mr. Reid the manager?"

The young woman had stood up. Now she arched an eyebrow. "Well," she began, "yes, I suppose he is. He's also the owner, the general manager.... and my father." Then she was gone through a door at the back of the booth, disappearing into the darkened interior of the ballpark.

Rufus grinned despite himself. The young woman was pretty - a bit more direct and gruff than he was used to, but he had pegged her as a Yankee and they were... different. Or so he had heard, having never really met one before.

Ten minutes passed, though they seemed to be an eternity to Rufus as he waited. Then the young woman (Miss Reid?) returned with a thin man, wearing a shirt but no jacket, thumbs hooked into his suspenders, with an unlit cigar in his mouth. He flipped the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other and said without introduction, "So you're a ballplayer, huh?"
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:28 PM   #2
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Two months later, Rufus was a professional ballplayer. Well, he admitted, the token amount he was paid barely covered his room at the boarding house, but he was being paid - so yes, he was a professional ballplayer. He certainly didn't have enough money to take Miss Reid out to the theater, which he dearly hoped to do... someday.

Back in May her father, Joe (that'd be Mr. Reid) had liked what he'd seen enough to give Rufus a spot on the club. He discovered that Mr. Reid had played professionally himself, with the highlight of his short career being a two-year stint with the Dixie League's Atlanta Crackers. "It was there that I discovered I liked Georgia a whole lot," he explained.

Joseph Reid (he used his full, formal name while playing, though most everyone who knew him called him Joe) himself had just four seasons in "organized" ball. Before (and for a bit after) that he had played with various touring clubs, including, for one summer, with the Cincinnati Monarchs while they were between spells in organized ball. He had opinions too: James Tice was "a genius" and William Whitney "a windbag" (rumor had it that Joe had failed in a tryout with the Chiefs and held a grudge). After trying his hand at coaching "back north" by which he meant the East Coast Association and not the Border or Century outfits, Reid had headed back south, daughter in tow and wife left behind. "She hates the South," he explained, offering the additional tidbit that she found it too hot and too boring. "She puts on airs," he said and wanted to remain in Philadelphia, their erstwhile hometown.

It was in Philadelphia that Peaches had been born. "Peaches" was what Joe called her - her actual name was Alice. As for the young lady herself, she allowed her father to call her Peaches, but Rufus was told in no uncertain terms to refer to her as "Miss Reid" though he hoped to eventually call her Alice. She was nearly 18 years old, and thus a bit more than a full year older than Rufus himself, which when coupled with the fact that she had traveled all over the country as a child, made her monumentally more worldly than Rufus. "You're a rube," she told him flatly. That one hurt, but it didn't dampen his growing affection for Joe's standoffish, spoiled and utterly captivating offspring.

Reid seemed to like Rufus. For one thing, Rufus hadn't been bragging - he really was a decent player. He could pitch, he could hit and he wasn't half-bad in the field either. Reid opined that Rufus was "a solid bushleaguer." Rufus just shook his head - the Reids, both Joe and Peaches, certainly didn't seem to mind hurting a fellow's feelings.

Rufus had been with the Sycamores since his impromptu appearance in May and as Savannah baked under the mid-July Georgia sun, he had become the team's best pitcher... or at least the fastest. Joe - a former catcher - reminded him constantly to back off his power just a bit and he'd "find some control." Then he added, "before you kill someone."

So Rufus worked at it - and going not-quite-full-bore did seem to allow him to control his location a bit better. In one June contest with Greenville he hit three batters - in one inning. Joe, cursing a blue streak, pulled him from the game immediately. As he walked to the dugout red-faced he saw Peaches grinning at him from the stands.

Over the next few games, reminding himself to back it off a bit, he actually pitched well and the Sycamores began, as the local newsman put it, "to make their fans less Syc, instead wanting a-more." No one said the guy was a great writer.

By August, Rufus was pitching every third game and playing right field the others. His strong arm was a weapon in the outfield and the other Coastal clubs quickly learned not to challenge him on the bases. At the plate he was respectable too, and his name started appearing in print fairly regularly.

On August 20, the Charleston Maroons came to Sycamore Park for the first of a three-game set. Rufus was set to pitch and was playing long toss in the outfield when Joe called from the edge of the outfield grass, "Barrell! Get your tail over here!"

Rufus trotted over and found Reid scowling at him, cigar drooping dramatically from the corner of his mouth. "You remember what I said about backing off the speed, right?"

Rufus nodded - they'd been over that particular nugget many times. "Sure," he said. "I've been doing just that for the last month now."

Reid returned the nod. "Good, good," he murmured. And then he leaned forward and whispered, "You see that fellow there behind the backstop?"

Rufus craned his neck. There was a well-dressed man standing in the first row, almost directly behind home plate. "Yes, I see him. Who is he?"

One corner - the one without the stogie sticking out of it - curled up in a half-grin as Reid said, "That's Sam George - used to play. Spent time in both the Century and Border outfits. Now he's working for his hometown team."

Despite the butterflies he now felt, Rufus forced himself to calmly ask, "And what's his hometown?"

Reid took the cigar out of mouth. "That'd be Brooklyn," he said with a slight grin. Then he added while shaking his head slowly as if in disbelief, "Sam George is the top scout for the Brooklyn Kings. He's here to see you, the damn fool."
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Old 06-13-2019, 10:01 AM   #3
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Barely 17 years old, and nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, Rufus Barrell went out and pitched a heck of a game... well, almost.

The leadoff man for Charleston, a fellow named Dan Tanner, was one of the few hitters in the league who could hit Rufus well. Rufus, geared up with nerves and adrenaline, fired the first pitch right over Tanner's head. The ball, sizzling with speed, hit the screen Reid had installed behind home plate, just above where Sam George was watching. To his credit, George didn't even flinch.

The Sycamores' catcher, Rollie Daniels, called timeout and trotted out to the mound. "Whew... I tell you son," (he called Rufus son, despite being only 19 himself), "It's hotter than a goat's butt in a pepper patch out here." Then he grinned and added, "So why don't you try to go easy." Then he winked at Rufus and returned to his spot behind the plate.

Rufus did settle down and got Tanner to ground out to short. From there he cruised through the first five innings. Unfortunately for Rufus, he and his team mates hadn't scored either, and the game remained scoreless. Some of that was due to the fellow pitching for Charleston - his name was Johnny Cross and he'd go on to have a decent career with the Chicago Chiefs and Detroit Dynamos. But on that day in 1890, he was just a 17-year-old kid throwing darts for the Charleston Maroons.

In the top of the sixth, the Maroons' best hitter, a Californian named John Jones, came to the plate and, on the first pitch, ripped a liner into the gap in left. As Rufus went to back up third, he noted just how fast Jones was - the guy was flying around the bases. As Jones headed for third, the shortstop took a throw from the centerfielder, turned, and fired the ball over the third baseman, over Rufus, and into the stands. Jones, grinning, trotted home and it was 1-0, Charleston.

Cross kept putting up zeroes - as did Rufus, but the damage was done and the Sycamores lost, 1-0. After the game, Rollie patted Rufus on the shoulder and noted, "Don't let it get your goat. That Jones boy was faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition, son." Rufus felt his mouth curl in a little grin, shook his head and replied, "Rollie, you sure do have a way with words."

Joe Reid was standing on the top step of the dugout, and next to him was Sam George. As Rufus passed by, Joe held up a hand. "Rufus, you pitched a great game. One, or two, mistakes, but sometimes that's all it takes." He paused and then pointing to George, added, "I'd like to introduce Mr. Sam George of Brooklyn, New York. Sam and I scratched around in the same batter's box a few times in the bygone days of yesteryear. Now he's a scout."

George stuck out a hand. "Rufus, nice to meet to you. Everything Joe said about your performance today was true."

"Thank you, Mr. George," Rufus replied.

"Listen, I know Joe probably told you why I was here. You're only part of the story - I also needed to get a look at Cross and Jones. All three of you looked like ballplayers. Still raw, but the potential's there. Keep doing what you're doing and you'll be seeing me, or someone like me, again soon." Then he turned to Reid, patted him on the shoulder and said, "See you around, Joe. If you ever get back up North, look me up."

Rufus watched as George crossed the infield towards the Charleston dugout, where he would no doubt give a variation of the same speech to Cross & Jones.

Rufus started to head for the clubhouse when Reid called him back. "Walk with me, Rufus," he said and headed towards the backstop.

Reid stopped and pointed at the net. "Look up there, Rufus. You damn near tore a hole in my screen."

"Sorry, Joe, that one just got away from me."

Joe nodded and said, "Listen, you have to learn to rein it in sometimes. When you throw your hardest, you lose your control. And a pitcher without control will soon be a pitcher without a job."

Rufus was nodding again when someone else shouted, "Oh, leave him alone - that little bit of danger is what makes him exciting."

Joe shook his head, "Apparently my daughter doesn't know when to mind her tongue."

Rufus looked over at Peaches, who waved at him before turning and disappearing into the tunnel. He smiled and winked at Joe before heading for the clubhouse, whistling softly. Before he started down the dugout steps he turned and said to Joe, "She thinks I'm exciting."

Joe just shook his head and muttered something about kids.
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Old 06-14-2019, 06:54 AM   #4
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Scouts showed up twice more before that 1890 season came to an end. One of them, according to Joe Reid was Wash Whitney, son of "that no good liar William Whitney." When pressed for details, Joe would not provide them. Rufus noted that "You know, Joe, most baseball fans think Whitney's a genius." Joe turned away, a stream of profanity pouring from his mouth. His daughter shook her head and said to Rufus, "You know, he won't tell me why he hates Whitney so much, either, so don't feel bad about it."

Rufus was surprised to find that the 23-year-old Wash Whitney was actually a rather pleasant fellow, if a bit young to be scouting ballplayers (having never been one himself). Wash was cognizant of this as well, telling Rufus, "Heck, I know that if I wasn't William-By God-Whitney's son I wouldn't be out patrolling the country watching young ballplayers." He smiled sheepishly and added, "I'm not all that sure I'm really good at it, but I can say that you're one of the better looking players I've seen so far in this league. And I will tell my father as much when I get back to Chicago." Rufus thanked him, and wondered again just what Whitney Senior had done to make Joe dislike him so much.

When the season ended, the players were expected to clean out their lockers. Joe had booked a circus for the ballpark and the performers needed the clubhouse. Rufus hoped they cleaned up after the elephants - he didn't want to accidentally encounter any six-month-old droppings in the outfield next spring.

It was a melancholy moment - some of the guys knew they would not be back in the spring. In her role as her father's assistant, Miss Reid was there to help the players with turning in their uniforms and equipment. Rufus saw this as an opportunity to speak with her without her father looming in the background.

"So, Miss Reid, what are your plans now that the season's over?" he asked as he bent into his locker to pick up a broken belt he'd thrown in there back in June.

She made a checkmark on a list she was carrying and without looking up, said, "Oh, I will probably return to Philadelphia to see my mother. I hear she has found a potential suitor for me. I may be married before you see me next spring."

Rufus froze - still bent at the waist in front of his locker. He felt his face redden and before he could control himself, he spluttered, "What?!?"

He heard her laughing, so he stood and turned.

"Ha! I pulled the wool over your eyes, didn't I, Mr. Barrell?" she asked while still laughing.

"How much of that was a tall tale?" Rufus asked.

"Oh, all of it. My mother is too busy entertaining - and being entertained - to worry about finding me a husband, so I'll spend the winter with my father."

Visibly relieved, Rufus said, "You really gave me a start there, Miss Reid."

She tiled her head to one side. "You know," she began, "maybe you should call me Alice."

He smiled, "I'd like that."

She held out her hand, palm up. Rufus frowned in confusion.

"The belt?" she said, pointing.

He handed her the belt as she said, "I hope you have a working belt. You'll need something to hold your pants up when you take me to the theater."

Rufus felt his face redden again. "Uh, sure I have another belt. I broke that one sliding into home back in June," he stammered and then added, "Alice."

That winter, as he began a relationship with Peaches (he had to concentrate on remembering that he was supposed to call her Alice), was one of the best of his life. And this was despite hearing several pieces of news that would normally have left him deeply depressed.

First, Sam George left the Kings to become the manager of the New York Gothams. The so-called "Border War" now had a new front as a third major circuit, called the Peerless League, was announced. The Gothams roster had been hit hard by the Peerless League's New York Imperials and George was brought in to provide both name-recogition and stability.

Then after George took over the Gothams, his first move was to purchase the contract of John Jones from Charleston, though he promptly loaned him back to the Maroons. "That's common," noted Joe Reid, looking up from his Sporting News. "Good as Jones is, he's not ready for the big time yet. So you'll get to pitch to him again next season." He raised an eyebrow and added, "Try to overcome the impulse to bury your fastball in his ribs, okay?"

Johnny Cross got a job too. And his was in the big time - the Century League's Cincinnati Hustlers signed him after a bidding war with the Chicago Chiefs (Wash Whitney - like Sam George - had really liked what he'd seen of Cross during his scouting trip through the Coastal circuit).

All this and Rufus Barrell was still stuck in Savannah. Ultimately he decided that being stuck there was okay by him - as long as Miss Alice Reid was there too.

Their relationship developed despite a somewhat lukewarm reception from Joe: "I don't want my daughter marrying a ballplayer," he said, adding, "Especially one who's so dumb he doesn't realize he doesn't need to try to throw the ball through a brick wall on every pitch."

The best sign of his new status came when he was invited to Philadelphia for Christmas. Joe and his estranged wife had decided on a "family" celebration. On the train ride north, Alice informed Rufus that the real purpose of the trip was for her mother to meet her new beau. "So try not to be such a rube," she said, and punched him in the shoulder.
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Old 06-15-2019, 07:54 AM   #5
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A very interesting winter behind him, Rufus faced the 1891 season with a spring in his step and a song in his heart. He wouldn't turn 18 until June, but he felt as if he held the world in the palm of his hand. When he showed up at Sycamore Park in late March for a workout, Rufus was pleased to find Rollie Daniels sitting at the locker beside his own.

"Hoo, son, I tell you - it is go-oo-od to be back," he said as he slapped Rufus on the back. "I spent the winter on my Pappy's farm and we are so poor, I had to sell my hound dog and get a tumbleweed for a pet."

Rufus chuckled and replied, "It is truly great to see you Rollie."

Rollie leaned in and said in a stage whisper, "I hear you and Miss Peaches are courting now and I got to say, that just dills my pickle, son."

Rufus, confused and unsure if that was a good thing or bad, just bobbed his head and said, "Thanks."

The 1891 season got off to a rollicking start. The home opener at Sycamore Park was against the Greensboro club. Greensboro had a player-manager named Jim Cox. Cox had been a hotshot pitcher for Brooklyn before his greed drove him to barnstorming. Still just 28 years old, he now managed and pitched for Greensboro and he and Joe Reid had bumped against each other in the past and did not like each other. Rufus, playing right field after pitching the day before in Greenville, came to bat with a man on and two out in the first. Cox sneered at him and tried to slip a fastball past him. Rufus, expecting the pitch, turned on it and connected solidly. The ball, on a rising liner, cleared the fence in the left field corner. As he headed towards first, Rufus heard Rollie in the dugout, shouting, "That possum's on the stump!" And that had Rufus laughing as he rounded first - which was noted by Cox who thought Rufus was showing him up.

"You bushleague so-and-so!" Cox shouted. When Rufus failed to respond, or even take note, Cox expounded further, unleashing a stream of profanity that brought Joe Reid to the top of the dugout steps.

"Hey! There are ladies present!" Reid shouted as his daughter sat above the dugout with a smirk on her face. Reid's shout caused Cox to turn to him and spew a few more choice words, the gist being that Reid was a bushleaguer, running a bush ballclub and couldn't even teach his players to respect their opponents. By the time Rufus crossed the plate, Cox was on the baseline, and Reid out of the dugout and the two were five feet apart shouting at each other.

Rollie popped out of the dugout too, incensed at something Cox had said, and yelled, "Why, you egg-sucking dawg!" And then he jumped Cox.

An all-out brawl ensued. The pair of umpires, in trying to break it up, each got a black eye. Rufus received a fat lip, was knocked flat on his back, and then someone stomped on his throwing shoulder, which made him miss a week's worth of games. Rollie ended up with both a black eye and a missing tooth. Surprisingly, Joe looked none the worse for wear. He had given better than he'd gotten apparently. "You boys just don't know how to tussle properly," he noted wryly in the clubhouse after the game.

Also in the clubhouse after the game, Rollie said to Rufus, "That Cox is a Yankee loudmouth. And you know what they say about Yankees... they're like hemorrhoids. Pain in the butt when they come down and always a relief when they go back up."

As spring turned to summer, Rufus was hitting over .350 and pitching the best he ever had; taking Joe's advice to heart he had stopped trying to throw as hard as could - now he focused on putting the pitch wherever Rollie put his mitt. And it worked.

A suprise appearance by his parents and brother Robert at a game in July was a high point of the season for him. He introduced Alice to his family and she avoided calling anyone a rube (which had been Rufus' biggest fear). Even Joe was nice, going as far as showing 15-year-old Robert the proper way to bunt, though he added, "Your brother still can't do it correctly."

Scouts showed up too. Just after his 18th birthday, Rufus pitched a shutout while going 3-for-4 at the plate with a scout of the Peerless League's Buffalo club in attendance. Joe, acting like he wanted to douse any enthusiasm Rufus may have had, noted that, "Buffalo is by far the worst team in that league." Then he shrugged and finished, "Just saying."

Rufus began wondering if perhaps the Peerless League was his path to the big time. The Brooklyn Bigsbys sent a scout as well. His name was Bill Wells and he had played for the original Brooklyn club in the Century League. He spoke to Rufus after the game, telling him that he liked what he had seen and that he would give "a good report to Mr. Bigsby upon my return to Brooklyn." Rufus grinned; Joe frowned.

Rufus went to see Joe after Wells had left.

"What was wrong with what Mr. Wells said?" he asked as Joe worked a cigar around his mouth.

"Ah, the Bigsbys - I wouldn't want to work for them, that's all," he replied.

"Why not? I thought they hated William Whitney as much as you do?"

Joe sighed. "Just because two people dislike the same person doesn't mean they're going to be friends themselves, you know."

Rufus thought this over and asked, "So what's the story with the Bigsbys then?"

"To put it plainly - they're crooks," Joe explained and then went on to give some examples of the Bigsbys and their relationship with the shadier elements in New York. "They have dirty cops and dirty politicians on their payroll."

Rufus ruminated on that one a bit before replying, "OK, but that doesn't really impact their baseball clubs." The Bigsbys had founded the Peerless League and owned two of the eight-team circuit's clubs: New York and Brooklyn.

"True. But I'd rather not have my future son-in-law working for criminals, ok?"

Rufus was about to reply when what Joe had said sunk in. "What do you mean future son-in-law?" he asked softly.

Joe rolled his eyes. "Oh Rufus, I love you like a son, but you've got a thick head sometimes."

Rufus waited and then Joe continued, "Peaches has told me that you two will be married. And I've learned that what Peaches wants, she usually gets."

He stood up and took the cigar out of his mouth. He pointed it at Rufus and said, "So you probably should start thinking about getting a ring."
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Old 06-16-2019, 08:33 AM   #6
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The rest of the 1891 season passed in a blur. Rufus finished the season with 23 wins against just 7 losses and an ERA of 1.93 while also doing fairly well at the plate, hitting .341 in just over 300 total at-bats.

As the season was winding down, Bill Wells returned to Savannah for another look at Rufus. Rufus, by now much more comfortable with performing with scouts in attendance, and carefree due to his recent engagement, turned in a three-hit shutout against Charleston (his arch-nemesis John Jones had all three hits for the Maroons).

As he finished shaking hands after the last out had been recorded, Rufus saw Wells waiting near the dugout. He headed that way.

"That was one brilliant game, Mr. Barrell," Wells said by way of greeting as he shook Rufus' hand.

Rufus wiped the sweat from his brow while saying, "Thanks," and adding, "It's good to see you again, Mr. Wells."

Wells smiled and said, "I have here a telegram I think you'll be interested in reading." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the familiar yellow Western Union slip.

Rufus took it and read: To Bill Wells, Grand Hotel, Savannah, Georgia. You are authorized to offer Mr. Rufus Barrell the sum of $300 to sign a contract for the 1892 season with the Brooklyn Bigsby club. Signed Miles Bigsby.

Rufus felt his mouth widen in a large smile. "Well, now, that's the best news I've had all week."

Rollie had come up behind Rufus and read the telegram over his shoulder. He whistled and said, "Son, I reckon right now you're happier than Ol' Blue layin' on the porch chewin on a big ol' catfish head!" Then he slapped Rufus on the back, looked at Wells and asked, "You got one of them telly-grams in your pocket for me, Mr. Wells?"

Wells shook his head and said, "Sorry, Rollie, I only have the one telegram."

"Well, shoot. I heard that Mr. Bigbsy's so rich he buys a new boat when he gets the other one wet. You'd think he could peel off a few greenbacks for ol' Rollie."

Wells looked both dumbfounded and speechless. Rufus was still smiling - he knew Rollie was just "getting his goat" but Wells might not have known.

Rollie draped an arm around Rufus' shoulders and drawled, "Son, when you get up to Brooklyn, you tell them Yankees that without me around to set you straight you wouldn't know whether to check your butt or scratch your watch."

Chuckling, Rollie headed off to the clubhouse. Wells looked after him quizzically and said, half to himself, "That guy is really something else, you know?"

Rufus nodded. "That he is," he said and then added, "You know, he's not a bad player. Maybe you could put a good word in with Mr. Bigsby?"

Wells shook his head and said, "I can't wait to get back to Brooklyn."

As Wells climbed the grandstand steps, Rufus noticed that Joe Reid was not in the dugout. And Alice wasn't around either. Usually one, or both, would be waiting to talk with him when a scout was around.

He headed for the clubhouse, whistling happily.

As he walked through the door, someone dumped a bucket of water over his head.

Spluttering, he turned and saw it was Rollie.

"Now that you're about to get to the big time, I wanted to make sure you wouldn't drown with your nose stuck so high in the air," he said with a smile. Rufus noticed that the rest of the team, including Joe and Alice were laughing at him.

He feigned anger and pointed a finger at Rollie and said, "Rollie, you're as windy as a sackful of farts!"

Rollie laughed and said, "Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit! I knew I was rubbin' off on you, son!"

As his team mates crowded in and began slapping him on the back and congratulating him loudly, he saw that Joe looked less than thrilled. Once he managed to extricate himself from his friends, he wandered over towards the Reids.

"OK, what's wrong?" he asked, trying - and failing - to keep the smile off his face.

Joe shook his head. "I knew that Bigsby would make an offer. I was hoping you'd have the good sense to turn it down."

The smile dropped off his face and Rufus asked, "Why would I do that? This is my chance, Joe. Now that Peaches - I mean Alice - and I are getting hitched, I can use a steady income."

Joe nodded, though he was still frowning and Alice looked uncertain.

"That's true, Rufus. But I warned you about the Bigsbys and their dirty money. And Brooklyn is an entirely different world than what you're used to, you know."

"Aw, shoot, Joe, money's money. I can't turn down this opportunity."

Joe sighed and said, "I heard that the Chiefs might make an offer. Maybe you should wait before agreeing to the Bigsby offer."

Rufus was surprised - "The Whitneys might make an offer? Are you sure about that? I mean, Wash said he liked me, but..." He petered out, as he was struck by the thought that Joe, of all people, would prefer he work for William Whitney over Miles Bigsby.

He looked at Alice. "And what do you think? This decision will impact you just as much as it will me," he asked.

She shrugged and said, "Well, my father has a point about the Bigsbys. They're not trustworthy. And I wonder too how you'll like Brooklyn. You've spent your whole life in Georgia - even our road trips haven't taken us farther north than South Carolina. One week in Philadelphia isn't the same as living in Brooklyn."

Rufus shook his head. "I thought you'd both be happy for me. This is my chance - I don't see how I can turn it down on the chance that the Whitneys will make an offer." He turned to Joe - "And I thought you hated William Whitney, what's changed?"

Joe shrugged, "Nothing's changed. All I will say about Whitney is that he runs a first-class organization. Bigsby's always looking for an angle. Whitney might have done me wrong, but maybe that was an isolated incident."

Rufus threw up his hands and said, "I plan on signing the contract with Brooklyn."

Alice nodded grimly and said, "And I will stand by you. If we're to be married, we need to trust each other." She took his arm and he felt his heart swell with love for her.

Joe hung his head and said, "I hope it works out for you, Rufus. You know I love you like a son and only want the best for you and my Peaches."

Then he turned and grabbed his hat and trudged towards the exit.

- Rufus Barrell, 1891 Savannah Sycamores
- Joe Reid (as a player with Toledo, circa 1887)
- Rollie Daniels, 1891 Savannah Sycamores
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Old 06-16-2019, 06:00 PM   #7
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That winter, as Rufus and Alice prepared for their wedding (which would take place in February to allow them time to honeymoon before Rufus had to report to Hot Springs for the "boil out" practices with his new team), William Whitney changed the landscape of professional baseball.

Whitney called it the "Federally Aligned Baseball Leagues" and with a few strokes of a pen, it erased the Brooklyn Bigsbys from existence. Miles Bigsby and his nephew were now the owners of the New York Gothams and Brooklyn's Peerless League club had been folded into the Border Association's Brooklyn Kings. Of course, the Border Association itself was also no more - it was now something called the "Continental Association" and the Century League was likewise gone, replaced by the "Federal Association." For Rufus, what it added up to was a whole lot of uncertainty.

"I knew that Whitney would foul this up," Joe pointed out as he shook his copy of the Sporting News. The fact that he'd said nothing of the sort came to mind for Rufus, but he was too stunned to say anything. Rufus and the Reids were sitting in the kitchen of the small home Joe and Alice shared on Habersham Street in Savannah.

"Dad, you know that the three leagues were killing each other, and the sport," Alice pointed out. She had a suprisingly insightful mind for business. "What Whitney did was save the sport from itself."

Joe waved a hand, "That's bull. What he did was put over a hundred ballplayers out of work," he retorted.

Rufus said, "I hope I'm not one of them."

Joe looked at him and said, "You know you have a spot with the Sycamores for as long as you're playing, Rufus."

"I know, and I appreciate it. I just wish I knew what was going to happen next."

The answer came in late January, via telegram from the offices of the Brooklyn Kings.

"To Mr. Rufus Barrell of Savannah, Georgia: The Brooklyn Kings County Baseball Club wishes to inform you that it will exercise the option to retain your services as contracted with the Brooklyn Bigsby Baseball Club, pursuant to the contract signed by Mr. Barrell on October 22, 1891. Please sign and return the contract you will receive in the post and report to official team practices starting March 30th at the Kings County Baseball Grounds. Signed Jack Pinkerton, General Manager, Brooklyn Kings County Baseball Club.

"Whoo-hoo!" Rufus shouted, waving the telegram. "The Kings are going to honor the contract! I have to sign the new contract they're sending and then report to Brooklyn in March!"

Joe smiled and said, "And you won't be working for those Bigsbys either - I've heard good things about Malcolm Presley."

Alice clapped in delight, the relief obvious on her face. "If I ever run into William Whitney, I might just kiss him on the lips!" she exclaimed.

Joe laughing, said, "Not if I get to him first!"

So it was that in late March of 1892, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Barrell sailed into New York harbor aboard a steamer from Savannah. Rufus stared open-mouthed at the mass of humanity as the pair debarked from their ship.

Alice smiled at her husband and said, "Close your mouth, Rufus, before something flies in there and makes a nest."

Rufus forced himself to stop staring and began looking for a hansom cab. "This is incredible," he said. "Who knew that there were so many people in one place?"

Alice just shook her head and then pointed Rufus towards a line of cabs. "Let's get to the hotel, I'd like to freshen up," she said, gently pushing Rufus towards the cabs.

Rufus' wonderment continued all through the ride, particularly as the cab crossed the enormous Brooklyn Bridge - "What an engineering marvel!" he exclaimed as he peered up at the towers and the web of supporting cables. Eventually they arrived at the hotel, Rufus still dumbfounded by the sheer number of people on the streets.

The hotel was a temporary home for them - Alice had taken charge and would find them a "suitable" home while Rufus concentrated on baseball.

Rufus was met at the ballpark by the Kings' General Manager, Jack Pinkerton. Pinkerton, Rufus knew, had played for both the Century League's Brooklyn Unions and the Kings as well as for the Keystones and Cleveland Cuyahogas. He was surprisngly young, and looked like he could still play. He shook Rufus' hand vigorously.

"I know Bill Wells, and he knows a ballplayer when he sees one. So we're happy to have you on board," he said with a smile.

"Thanks, Mr. Pinkerton, I am thrilled to be a part of the Kings."

Pinkerton waved him off, "Just call me Jack."

It turned out that Pinkerton knew Joe Reid. "We did some barnstorming back in the early 80s. I also remember Peaches - she was a feisty little girl, let me tell you. I assume she's mellowed with age?"

Rufus laughed and said, "Not a bit. She's probably more feisty than ever now. Once we've found a place to live, you should join us for dinner. Alice enjoys hearing stories about her father's playing days."

Things were going very well for Mr. Rufus Barrell and continued that way until the first exhibition match of the year.

The game, at the Bigsby Oval in Manhattan, was against the New York Gothams. The proceeds of the contest between clubs in opposing circuits (Brooklyn was a Continental club, the Gothams a Federal outfit) would go to support the New York Police's Widow & Orphan fund.

When Rufus came out onto the field to warm up he was amazed at the size of the ballpark. It had started out as a racetrack and the "Oval" in the name was nearly literal. There was a lot of foul territory - good for the pitchers - but also short porches in both corners - not so good for the pitchers.

The Kings manager, Joe Johnson, was also the club's first baseman. He was a serious sort, as was the catcher, Amos Gatlin. Rufus grinned a little as he mentally compared the stoic Gatlin with the outsized personality of Rollie Daniels. Johnson penciled Rufus in as the starter, though he would only pitch two innings before giving way to the team's incumbent ace, Jim Cross (who Rufus had found was -not- related to Johnny Cross).

The Gothams were a good team - they had merged with the New York Imperials, and gotten back most of the talent they'd lost when the Peerless League first started up. John Jones was not with the team - but he had been moved from Charleston to another independent league club in Hartford, Connecticut (Rufus had to look at a map to find Hartford, having never heard of it before). The Gothams did have a young infielder named Ossie Julious who would play a bit, but the star of the team was outfielder George Blankenship, who had won two batting titles and was one of the few players who didn't abandon the Gothams for the Imperials, making him a fan favorite.

Julious did play - in fact he led off the game - and Rufus set him down on a grounder to shortstop on a nice change-of-pace pitch. He also set down Denny Fuller, getting him to pop out to right field. That brought Blankenship to the plate.

Gatlin wanted to start Blankenship with a fastball. Rufus remembered Joe's advice but thought he'd dial it up just a bit to show Blankenship what he had. So he gassed the fastball up there. It was high, but Gatlin snatched it - ball one.

Gatlin shook his mitted hand a bit and put down the number one again. Rufus reared back and fired, this time holding back just a bit.

He awoke an unknown time later, hazy and with a pounding pain in his head. He opened his eyes and saw Alice sitting beside him, worry creasing her brow and tears in her eyes.

"You're awake!" she nearly shouted and then took his hand. "Oh, Rufus, I've been so worried!"

Rufus felt as though his mouth was full of cotton, but managed to croak out, "What happened?"

A man in a white coat leaned over him and looked into his eyes, "Ah, that's a good sign," he said to Alice.

Rufus again croaked, "What happened... where am I?"

The man - a doctor, Rufus finally realized as the haze lifted just a bit - looked down at him. "You were hit in the head by a baseball. You're at Kings County Hospital and you're lucky to be alive, son."
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Old 06-17-2019, 08:51 AM   #8
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George Blankenship had connected solidly with Rufus' second fastball, zipping it straight back at him with ferocious velocity, where it hit him on the forehead as he was in his follow through, too fast for him to react. Of the impact, he had no memory (and never would) - in fact, he didn't remember the game at all for nearly a week and even when he did remember the last thing he recalled was thinking that he'd take a bit off as he delivered the fateful pitch.

Rufus had fallen as if shot, lying immobile on the mound while the crowd fell into a hush, save for a lone woman screaming from the first base stands (that turned out to be Alice Barrell). Blankenship quietly retrieved Rufus' cap from where it had landed halfway between the mound and second base.

Rufus had been carted off the field and delivered via ambulance to Kings County Hospital where an examination revealed a skull fracture. The doctor, Stanford Miles, had performed a trephination - in other words, he had cut a hole in Rufus' skull to relieve the swelling of his brain. Though no one said so at the time out of concern for his mental state, Rufus Barrell's career as a baseball player was over.

A slew of telegrams came to the hospital during Rufus' extended stay - including one from William Whitney, whose team had indeed offered Rufus a contract which had arrived less than an hour after he had sent a signed contract back to the Bigsby club. Joe Reid also showed up - he had left the Sycamores in the hands of Rollie Daniels as acting manager: "I half expect him to have renamed the team the Possums or something," Joe said with a grin. He added, "Rollie did say, and I hope you understand this, because I sure as hell don't, quote: 'Getting hit in the head like that is a thumpin gizzard.'" Joe shrugged, "I think maybe it just means bad luck. I wish Rollie spoke English, sometimes."

To his credit, Malcolm Presley, the Kings owner was a man of good morality possessing a kind heart. He would not abandon young Mr. Barrell whose playing career was over before his 19th birthday. Presley, on the advice of Jack Pinkerton, informed Mrs. Barrell (during a visit to the hospital) that Rufus would have a job with the Kings for as long as he wanted one. Pinkerton had suggested a scouting role - Presley, a businessman smart enough to not interfere in the baseball operations of his ballclub, agreed. Mrs. Barrell, bleary-eyed and unkempt from days spent at her husband's bedside, thanked him.

So it was that as the 19th century gave way to the 20th, Rufus Barrell was a 27-year-old "birddog" working for the Kings County Baseball Club, scouting hopeful young ballplayers - just as he himself had been just a decade earlier.

"Happy New Year, darling," Alice said as she kissed Rufus as the grandfather clock, an anniversary gift from Mr. Presley, rang in the year 1900.

"Brand new century, I suppose," he said, adding, "I heard someone at the office saying that 1900 is actually the last year of the 19th century, since if you count 1 to 100, this would be the 100. There was quite a bit of back-and-forth on that one. I lean towards this being the first year of the 20th century, myself."

Alice shook her head. "I swear you fellows just have nothing to do in the offseason but talk about nonsense."

Rufus chuckled and said, "Well, if I were a player, I'd have an offseason job. I'm thankful that the Kings, at least, keep paying me in the winter, even when I have very little to do."

Alice harrumphed. "You could be here more, helping with the children, you know."

Rufus loved his kids, but he wasn't sure he could handle spending as much time with them as Alice did. There were three little Barrells - all boys. Joe (named for his grandfather) was the oldest, at six years old, and quite a little hellion. Roland (or Rollie) was four, and fittingly for a boy named after Rufus' friend, was a bit of a prankster. Their youngest (for now) was named John (for Rufus' father), who had just turned two and his personality hadn't manifested itself just yet. Alice was pregnant with a fourth child, one they were both hoping would turn out to be a girl. The baby was due in March, just before Rufus would have to head out on the road to start his spring scouting swing through the south.

"You two need to keep it down or you'll wake the youngsters," came a new voice. Alice's mother, Vera, had moved in with them several years back to help with the children. Alice noted wryly at the time, that "the real reason is that she was bored with Philadelphia parties and hopes the ones in Brooklyn are better." Regardless of the reason for her arrival, both Rufus and Alice were glad for the help and Rufus doubly glad for the company she provided Alice during his long absences.

Rufus smiled at his mother-in-law and said, "It is about time to go to bed. I get a headache if I stay up too late." In reality, Rufus had frequent headaches, a near-constant reminder of the line-drive that had ended his career before it had begun.

"Before you go, I would like to remind you to have a word with Joseph," Vera said. Rufus rolled his eyes - this was becoming a familiar topic. Joseph (or Little Joe, as Rufus called him), was a bit of a rough-and-tumble type. "He's like his namesake, quick with his fists," said Vera. Alice, for her part, was sanguine about it: "No one will take advantage of him at least," she pointed out to which her mother had said, "Fighting causes more problems than it solves."

Rufus promised to talk to Little Joe the next day and went for bed. And though he did talk with Joe about not fighting, it didn't really take.

By the time Rufus was packing for his trip in late-March, Alice was very pregnant and very irritable. Vera groused, "Thanks for leaving me alone with that hellcat." To which Rufus' reply was, "Well, she's your daughter." Vera shook her head and blamed it on Joe Reid as she walked away.

Rufus would be seeing Joe while on his trip. Joe Reid's Savannah endeavor had gone belly-up along with the rest of the Coastal Association back in the recession of the mid-90s. Still, he had proven himself capable of running a ballclub and had been hired to as General Manager of the Atlanta Peaches. Which was a sort of homecoming since he had played there and enjoyed it so much he called his only child "Peaches" (and which only he was allowed to call her, lest her formidable temper be put on display).

He'd also make time to stop and visit his parents at the farm outside Egypt. Robert was now 24 and doing the bulk of the work on the family farm. He was unmarried, which worried their mother and Rufus had steeled himself for a barrage of "can't you find a wife for Robert" questions from her.

And finally, and what he most looked forward to, was seeing Rollie Daniels. Rollie was still playing ball, though he now was with an independent club in Huntsville, Alabama. Rufus couldn't wait to hear some of Rollie's homespun homilies.

The trip went very well - Rufus watched the Peaches for an entire weeklong homestand, writing up reports on some of the Dixie League's top talent to send back to Brooklyn. His visit home went by the numbers - Robert was quiet, his father was restive and his mother wanted him to play matchmaker.

Which brought him to Huntsville in late April. Rollie Daniels was happy to see him and slapped him on the back just like he had in the good old days. "Son, it is good to see you!" He even introduced him to his players - Rollie had been named manager of the Huntsville Colts - as "the finest pitcher I ever caught, and never got too big for his britches... you hear me, Robertson?" And he pointed at one of his players, a tow-headed kid of about 16 who grimaced and nodded.

After watching the Colts lose both ends of a doubleheader, Rufus was sitting with Rollie in "his office" which was just a corner of the locker room with a ramshackle table and a couple of chairs.

"Son, I am going to let you in on something, or rather, someone..." Rollie said. He had a cigar hanging out of his mouth, something he had picked up from Joe Reid, apparently.

"Uh-huh, what's that?" Rufus said, not trying to hide the skepticism.

"I wouldn't pee down your back and tell you it's rainin' son, this here's the real McCoy," he said and managed to look serious while doing it.

"OK, so what is it?"

"You need to head down to a town called Ragland. It's south of here, east of Birmingham," Rollie said.

"And..."

"And nothin - just go watch their town team. You'll know it when you see it."

So Rufus did go to the town of Ragland, Alabama. And there he saw the future of baseball. Too bad the future was only 13 years old...

His name was Powell Slocum and he was about the best hitter for a kid that Rufus had ever seen. Long and thin, he was a scrawny thing, but he could swing the bat and was fast too. Rufus had to hand it to Rollie - this kid was quite a find. But at 13... too young for Rufus to do anything about. He'd have to file it away and come back in a few years.
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Old 06-19-2019, 08:50 AM   #9
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The fourth Barrell child turned out to be another boy. They named him James. It took a long time for Alice to forgive him - she was convinced it was his fault all their children had been male. So his stay at home in June was cold despite the warm weather.

The time between Jimmy's birth in 1900 and the birth of Rufus and Alice's fifth child (yep, another boy, whom they named Daniel) in September 1904 was, from a professional standpoint, a mixture of good and bad for Rufus. He unearthed several prospects who turned out to be good, long-term players for the Kings. The foremost amongst these was third baseman Jim Gerhart. Gerhart spent a decade as the starter at the hot corner for the Kings and while never a star, he was a good, solid player. Similarly, Rufus inked centerfielder Jack Gilmore to a contract in 1903. Gilmore also spent a decade as a Kings regular and spent all but five games of his 1628 FABL games in a Kings uniform. There were some misses too. The Cleveland Foresters signed pitcher Jim Cathey while Rufus was stuck waiting on a cab to take him to the ballpark from the Buffalo train station. Rufus traveled to Rochester in 1900 where Woody Trease wouldn't even speak to him - George Theobald had come to see Trease personally and also had the benefit of a good friendship with Lynwood Trease, Woody's father. Those were two big-time pitchers who probably could have helped win a pennant or two for the Kings down the road.

And then there was the biggest fish of all... Rufus missed Danny's birth that September of '04 because he was back in Alabama, trying to get Powell Slocum's signature on a Brooklyn Kings contract. But, Slocum, who had just turned 18, was reluctant to leave home and had caught the eye of both the nearby Birmingham club in the Dixie League as well as the Baltimore Clippers, Montreal Saints and New York Stars. Slocum was the worst-kept secret in baseball; Rufus might have been first to see him, but he was fighting a losing battle and knew it.

"You'll love Brooklyn, Powell," he said. "Heck, I'm from a small town in Georgia, and I've lived in Brooklyn for twelve years now."

Rufus had watched as Slocum's father, a sour-faced farmer named Judson, ran off both the Saints' and Clippers' scouts. The Stars' scout, Henry Harrington, was a southerner himself (from Titusville, Florida), and even he looked nervous as he watched the elder Slocum frowning at Rufus.

Rufus continued to preach the virtues of both the borough of Brooklyn and the Kings' organization. Finally, as Powell was about to open his mouth and reply, the old man put his two cents in: "You don't need to go play for some Yankee ballclub. Go with Birmingham, son."

So Powell Slocum signed with Birmingham - after politely listening to Harrington's equally useless pitch for New York. By June of the following year, the Clippers had traded for Slocum (apparently the elder Slocum found Baltimore close enough to the Mason-Dixon line to be acceptable). And of course, as Rufus could have predicted, the kid went on to be the greatest hitter in history.

"So he's the one that got away. Don't fret about it, son," was Rollie's advice when Rufus stopped in at Huntsville on his way back north after failing to sign Slocum.

In that summer of 1905, Rufus was in Baltimore (while Alice was back in Brooklyn - pregnant for a sixth time, with both parents convinced another boy was in the offing) en route to a scouting swing through Virginia and decided to take in a Kings-Clippers game since his trips didn't often overlap with his club's schedule. After desultorily watching Slocum go 4-for-4 against his Kings, he watched a local semi-pro contest where the second baseman of one of the teams caught his eye.

He turned to the man sitting beside him in the warped bleachers and asked, "Who's the guy playing second?"

The man, with a decidedly Germanic accent, said, "Ah, that's Edvard Seal." Or at least, that's what Rufus thought he said. "He's wunderbar," he added. Rufus concurred - the kid was a good one.

After the game, he called out to one of the players, "Hey, kid, I need to talk to your second baseman, Seal."

The kid started laughing, and said, "Seal? We don't have a Seal on this team, mister - go check the aquarium."

Rufus rolled his eyes - everyone was a comedian these days. "Come on kid, I'm a scout for Brooklyn. Just get the guy, whatever his name is, huh?"

The kid shook his head, still chuckling, and went over to the second baseman as the latter was putting his glove in a canvas bag, preparatory to leaving the field.

The second baseman looked up and Rufus could see him staring at him across the field. Eventually he ambled over, in the loose-limbed walk common to good athletes.

"You wanted to talk to me, mister?" he asked.

Rufus sized him up. He was about 5'8 and thick, but not fat. The kid had some muscle on him; he had forearms like Zebulon Banks - and also had shown some nice agility in the field, rare for a strong kid. Rufus introduced himself.

The player squinted at him and said, "Brooklyn, huh? Well, I had a guy here from the Gothams the other day."

Rufus got a nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach. The Gothams had a lot of money - the Bigsbys, crooked or not, were far wealthier than Malcolm Presley's Brooklyn Kings.

"I don't want to bad mouth anyone but I'd watch out for the Gothams, if I were you," Rufus said, feeling terrible while doing it. Even nine months later, losing Slocum stung - and now he was trying to subvert other scouts.

The kid looked skeptical. "So you don't want to bad mouth them, but you'll do it anyway, right?"

Then the kid said, "And why on earth haven't the Clippers been to see me? I'm playing right under their noses! You'd think they'd want some homegrown talent!"

Rufus, sensing a rant in the making, sighed and said, "Look kid, I can get you a contract offer by the end of the week. I promise you that you'd be happier in Brooklyn than New York - or Baltimore. I played at the Bigsby Oval, it's not a great place to play ball."

Now the kid's indifference had dropped a notch. "You played?"

Rufus nodded slowly and said, "Yes, a bit. I had an injury and my career was very short."

Rufus hoped the kid wouldn't ask for details - his two-thirds of an inning as a King wasn't something he liked to dwell upon. The kid didn't seem interested though, saying, "That's too bad, mister." Then he added, "Well, look, I'll listen to any offer you make, but the guy from the Gothams... Mr. Wells? He seemed really excited."

The kid started to leave. Rufus realized he still didn't know the kid's actual name.

"Hey kid!" he shouted and when the kid turned, asked, "What's your name?"

The kid laughed and said, "Ed Ziehl. Make sure you spell it correctly on that contract offer: Z-I-E-H-L. Thanks mister!" And then he trotted off to where his team mates were waiting to do whatever young ballplayers did after a game in Baltimore.

By the end of the week, Bill Wells had gotten Ziehl's John Hancock on a contract to play for the Gothams. Rufus had struck out again.
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Old 06-22-2019, 08:00 AM   #10
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It was a boy - again. That made six-for-six. Joe Reid, freshly arrived in town in time for the child's September birth, cracked a smile and said, "If you were hitting, that'd be hot stuff, Rufus."

Rufus, puffing on a cigar that made him feel light-headed and sick to his stomach, just grumbled in reply. Joe slapped him on the back and added, "A few more and you can have your own team!"

"Joe, you're not helping," Rufus groused and then, flashing the reflexes that had made him a good player, snatched Little Joe (now 11 years old and as pugnacious as ever) by the collar as he zipped past chasing his brother Rollie, fists raised. "No fighting!" he snarled, and noted with first pride, and then embarrassment, the fear on his son's face. "Sorry, Joe, but please try to act civilized. Mama needs her rest."

The elder Joe was puffing on his own cigar and pointed it at his grandsons. "You boys want to try a new game with me?" he asked.

Rufus frowned, wondering just what was coming - Joe was a doting grandfather, but he lacked what both Vera and Alice would call "common sense" when it came to children.

Little Joe and Rollie both nodded. Rufus waited for the other shoe to drop.

"It's called golf. The Scottish invented it..." Joe paused, blinked twice while thinking and added, "I think.... anyway, you hit a little white ball with a club and try to make it go into a hole. It's a lot of fun."

Little Joe made a face, and said, "Sounds like baseball for babies."

Joe chuckled. "It's not like baseball, trust me. But it is fun."

Rufus shrugged, thinking "Why not." And he noticed that while Little Joe was ambivalent, Rollie had a thoughtful look on his face.

They named the new baby Frederick - after Alice's grandfather. Rufus realized they were going to run out of male relatives if this continued much longer. When he mentioned this to Alice, she made a face, called him a rube and punched him in the shoulder. It made him smile - it was just like the good old days.

In honor of the new child's birth, Mr. Presley presented Rufus with a brand-new Kodak Brownie camera. "I want a photo of the whole Barrell clan," the old man told him. Rufus noted that he hoped they'd all fit in one photograph, which made Mr. Presley laugh.

So on a seasonably warm morning in early October, with baseball season over (the Kings had finished a disappointing sixth with the New York Stars winning the pennant), Rufus arranged his in-laws, his wife and his six sons, looked through the camera to make sure they all fit, got into the shot himself and had his next-door neighbor take three photos. One he gave to Mr. Presley, one to Joe and the other he kept for his family.

That next summer, 1906, Rufus finally signed a legitimate prospect - or at least he though so. He was a 20-year-old right-hander playing in a small-town in Wisconsin. Rufus had been tipped to him by Johnny Cross of all people. Cross, after a brilliant start to his career, had fallen victim to a dead arm and was done by the age of 27 in 1900, though he did briefly come back (with poor results) for Toronto in 1906. It was after his release, as he was looking for work, that he came upon the young pitcher and mentioned him to Rufus in a restaurant in Chicago.

"He's a little bit short for a pitcher, but he's got a good arm," Cross explained.

Rufus, chewing on some steak, nodded. It had been a while since he'd found a gem, so he was always willing to listen to others, like Cross, who had played and knew what a legitimate ballplayer looked like.

"He's a bit thick too, but not what I'd call fat." Cross stopped to take a bite of his own steak. Nothing beat a good steak in Chicago, fresh from the slaughterhouse.

"OK, so this kid have a name?" Rufus finally asked.

Cross chuckled. "Of course he does. All I want in return is a promise you'll put in a good word for me with Presley."

Rufus waved his fork and nodded, saying, "Of course, no problem."

"Fair enough. The kid's name is Danny Goff. You need to go take a look. Town's called Middleton, it's just outside of Madison. I think he's actually enrolled at Wisconsin, but plays semi-pro on the side."

Rufus frowned - this was technically illegal according to collegiate rules. He'd need to tread carefully.

It turned out that Goff was playing semi-pro, but while he was a student there, he was not playing for Wisconsin. Rufus spoke with the solidly-built right-hander after a game between a local dairy (Goff's team) and another local dairy (they seemed to have a lot of dairies in Wisconsin).

"I was kicked off the college team for fighting," the kid explained.

Rufus shook his head. "Why were you fighting?" he asked.

"Ah, the coach said my girlfriend looked like a cow."

Rufus raised his eyebrows. "So your fight was with the coach?"

Goff nodded. "Yep. Punched him right in the nose."

Rufus started to laugh, then gained control of himself. "That would get you kicked off the team, I would have to say."

Goff looked contrite. "Look, Mr. Barrell, I have no problem with authority. But I don't take kindly to people saying bad things about someone I care for," he paused and seemed to screw up his courage, then added, "I'd do it again in an instant, too." He looked defiant - but also incredibly young and naive.

Rufus put a thoughtful look on his face - he was remembering how intense his feelings for Alice were when he was in Savannah. Heck, they still were. "I understand. I was young and in love once and might have done the same in your situation."

Goff smiled and looked relieved. "So this won't mess up my chance of playing pro ball?"

Rufus said, "Absolutely not. I'll have to talk to the boss when I get back to Brooklyn, but I think we'll be in touch very soon. This is your correct address, right?" he waved his notebook.

"Yes, sir, that's correct."

Rufus was smiling when he left Wisconsin and still smiling when he returned home. The Kings sent Danny Goff a contract offer, he signed it, and then they promptly loaned him out to an independent club in Kansas. It'd be a few years, but Goff would eventually carve out a solid career in the FABL.
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Old 06-26-2019, 08:28 AM   #11
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Brooklyn, NY: February 14, 1908:

"Seven's supposed to be lucky, isn't it?" Rufus asked Joe Reid as they sat in the waiting room at Kings County Hospital. Child number seven was on its way and Rufus, even though he'd done this several times before (and missed a few of them as well) was nervous just the same.

"In your case, I sure hope so. I expect Peaches won't let you touch her again if this one's another boy," Joe said with a grin.

Rufus sighed and then said, "You know, I've wanted a girl for a long time, but right now I just want the kid and Alice to both be healthy."

Joe smiled, "That's the right attitude, Rufus. It really doesn't matter if it's a boy or a girl - a good parent just wants the best for their children."

Rufus remembered this when a short time later he held his son - yep, another boy - for the first time. They named him Thomas, and Rufus noted to his wife when he kissed her as she lay exhausted in her hospital bed, "he was born on St. Valentine's Day."

Alice, looking radiant - tired, but radiant - replied softly, "I hope that means he'll be a lover, not a fighter. One of those is just about all I can stand."

They both laughed and Rufus had that moment in mind when he returned home that night and looked in on his older sons. Their home in Brooklyn was cramped. The four oldest boys shared one room, two to a bed, while the two youngest shared a bed in what was, technically, Vera's room. Rufus and Alice would keep the new baby with them for a time, but eventually they'd like to regain their privacy. This issue was one they'd have to deal with, but Rufus pushed it out of his mind as he entered the house and went to look in on his sons.

Little Joe, now 13 years old, looked peaceful in sleep with his arm curled over his brother Rollie. Rufus also realized that he didn't need to worry during his absences - Joe would watch out for his little brothers, and beat to a pulp any kid who tried to hurt them. He thought of Powell Slocum, whom he had first seen when Slocum had been just 13 - Joe was bigger than Slocum had been then and showed plenty of athleticism but he wasn't going to be a ballplayer. He was a decent player, but nothing special because he didn't have that fire that separated the great ones from the also-rans. What he seemed to enjoy most was sliding hard into second and hoping whoever covered the bag would scrap with him.

Thanks to his grandfather's introduction, Rollie had taken to golf - he too had little use for baseball. At 11 years old (he'd be 12 in June), he frequently pestered Alice into letting him ride the subway to Dyker Beach, where a course had opened in 1897. He played whenever the weather - and his parents - would allow him. Rufus didn't know much about the game, but he seemed to be developing into a good player, according to Mr. Presley, whose grandson was 15 and frequently played with (and lost to) Rollie.

Jack and Jimmy shared the other bed. Jack had just turned ten. He was a rough and tumble sort, similar to Little Joe but less outwardly agressive. Joe Reid described him aptly as "someone who won't start a fight, but sure can end one." He was probably the best all-around athlete of Rufus and Alice's sons - at least amongst those old enough for that to be discerned. He played baseball, football, occasionally golf (when Rollie succeeded in dragging him along) as well as tennis (thanks to Vera). But what he liked best was hockey, of all things. Joe had visited Montreal and seen a hockey game. He brought back some ice skates, hockey sticks and pucks and took his three oldest grandsons out to try the game. Jack had taken to it immediately.

Jimmy was just seven and wouldn't turn eight until June. He had become stuck in the middle - he was nearly four years older than Danny, and did his best to keep up with Jack, whom he idolized. Jack, to his credit, often tolerated Jimmy's "tag-along" wishes and so Jimmy too, had become something of an all-around athlete.

The youngest kids, Danny and Fred, were separated by just over a year in age - Danny was three and Freddy two - and Rufus felt, though he couldn't really explain why, that these would be the ballplayers in the family. Danny had already claimed possession of a small bat Joe Reid had had made for Little Joe (and which Little Joe had mostly ignored). Tommy would likely get lumped in with Dan and Fred, just by virtue of being the youngest.


Dighton, MA: September 9, 1908:

One thing about being a scout - you got around the country and saw places you'd never even heard of, let alone thought you'd see. Dighton was just such a place. Rufus had gotten an earful about the town from a fellow passenger on the train from Providence. Dighton was in what Rufus thought of as the "tail" of Massachusetts and apparently it was once both a port and shipyard, though this was about two hundred years in the past. Now it was the home of a whip-thin pitcher named Stuart Pick. The 17-year-old was supposedly in favor of going to college and pitching for Yale. Rufus was there to try to talk him into becoming a Brooklyn King instead.

Rufus watched as Pick mowed down the opposition from nearby Rehoboth. He threw hard, and had good control (better than what Rufus himself had at 17, he thought with a rueful grin).

Pick stood about 5'8, so he was a few inches shorter than Rufus. Surprisingly, he knew who Rufus was when he introduced himself after the game. "I remember hearing about you from my uncle," he said as he shook hands.

Rufus was confused - uncle? Pick must have noticed the confusion on his face, because he smiled and said, "You don't know, do you?"

Rufus shrugged and smiled sheepishly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Do you remember John Jones?"

Rufus raised his eyebrows, then laughed aloud. "Heck yeah, I remember him - that guy flat killed me every time we played. You're kin to him? I thought he was from San Francisco."

Pick was nodding as Rufus finished and then said, "Yes, he married my mom's sister when he was playing for Boston in the 90s. We're not blood, but he's my uncle."

"Ah, ok. I hope he didn't run me down too much. We had a bit of a tense relationship," Rufus said.

Pick shook his head, "Nah - he told me he really respected you and that it was a real tragedy what happened to you."

Rufus was touched - and amazed - that Jones had remembered him, let alone felt bad for what had happened in New York.

"He was there that day. Did you know?"

Rufus shook his head. "No - I thought he was in Hartford then."

"Oh, he was with Hartford, but the season hadn't started yet so he and some of his team mates caught a train and came down to watch the game. He wanted to see how you handled his future team mates. He was sitting behind the Gothams dugout and saw the whole thing."

Rufus just shook his head. "Well, that's something," he said quietly.

Pick raised a hand, palm-out and said, "Now, I know you're doing some scouting for the Kings. But my parents are determined that I go to Yale. Honestly, I agree with them - I think an education is extremely valuable."

He cast his eyes down and added, "I see what happened to you and know there are no guarantees in life, so I want to have a fallback plan."

Rufus frowned a bit, but nodded at the same time. "I can see that. You're a smart fellow, Mr. Pick. I suspect you'll fit right in down in New Haven."

Pick smiled and stuck out his hand. Before Rufus shook it, he asked, "I have one question though - why Yale and not Brown, or even Harvard?" Dighton was close to Providence and Harvard was the crown jewel for most natives of Massachusetts.

Pick laughed out loud and said, "My father went to Yale. I'd be disowned if I so much as mention Harvard in his presence. And Brown? I shudder to think what he'd do if I wanted to attend Brown."

"All right, I can understand that. But before I go, I just want to say that I will be back to see you in a few years when you're a college-educated man. Hopefully you'll still have some baseball in you."

Pick was still smiling. "Oh, I suspect I will have plenty of baseball left in me."

Rufus was surprisingly light-hearted given that he had failed in his mission. He had reserved a room in Providence and planned on seeing if he could find the next Fred Roby - the "Rhode Island Ripper" having been that state's most famous ballplaying son.

But as he was checking in, the clerk frowned and picked up a telegram, saying, "Mr. Barrell, a telegram arrived for you earlier today."

He handed the telegram form over and stood impassively behind the desk as Rufus read the message:

To Mr. Rufus Barrell, guest, Providence Biltmore Hotel. I regret to inform you that your parents and brother were killed in a fire at the family farm. Request you travel to Egypt asap to handle estate. Contact Effingham Cty Sheriff John Carter.

The clerk said softly, "I am sorry sir, is there anything I can do to help?"

Rufus didn't immediately reply, but instead simply stood with a distant, vacant stare.
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Old 06-28-2019, 09:25 AM   #12
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The Barrell clan had packed up, lock, stock and seven sons, and headed to Georgia. Rufus, tears in his eyes, had stood in Malcolm Presley's office and resigned his position as a scout with the Kings. The death of his family had shocked him to the core. When he suggested to Alice that they all move to Egypt, she had been astounded, but agreed.

"I'm going to rebuild the farmhouse, even bigger and better than before," Rufus said, and then added, "There'll be plenty of room for all the Barrells."

Vera was shocked. "You're leaving Brooklyn!?!" she exclaimed to Alice after Rufus had gone to see Presley.

"Yes, mother, this is what Rufus needs right now."

"But, what will he do? He's not a farmer, you know. Rufus has been about nothing but baseball since he was 16 years old."

Alice sighed and said, "Yes, I know, but he's in shock right now. We'll get by - you know Dad is right there in Atlanta. If the worst comes to worst, he'll give Rufus a job."

Vera shook her head. "You know I won't be coming with you. I simply loathe the country."

Alice smirked and wryly said, "Yes, I know mother. I do appreciate all you've done for us. You can keep the house - we own it and perhaps Rufus might want come back someday. He may have been born a country boy but all these years in Brooklyn left a mark."

So on a bright and clear October morning, Vera found herself alone in the now too-empty Barrell home in Brooklyn while Rufus, Alice and their sons went to Georgia.

Rufus broke down in tears when he saw the blackened remains of the home where he'd grown up. He had avoided going to the farm when he had come down from Providence to handle the funeral arrangements and sign the legal documents giving him ownership of John Barrell's 100 acre farm.

Alice shepherded the boys back onto the wagon - she wasn't sure she wanted them to see their father in his current state. Around them were acres of crops - Alice wasn't even sure what they were - that would soon need to be harvested. She had no idea how a farm worked, and knew that Rufus had some experience, but had rejected his father's designs on making a farmer of him, instead following his dream of being a ballplayer. That dream too, had ultimately failed. Her heart broke at the sight of her husband, disconsolate, weeping while standing before the ashes of his childhood.

Eventually, Rufus raised his lowered head, took a deep breath and turned to his family. "This is where I was born, boys. And this is where we're going to live now." Then he squared his shoulders and with an effort that was obvious to Alice, smiled and said, "Well, at least it will be after we get the new house built. Until then, we'll be staying in Savannah."

Little Joe raised a fist and shouted, "The Barrells shall rise again!" Alice started to shush him but Rufus just laughed and said, "Spoken like a true son of Georgia, Joe - which you ain't just yet, but I reckon you might be eventually."

Jack turned and looked over his shoulder. A rattling, wheezing sound could be heard from around the bend. Rufus grinned and looked at Alice, who had raised her eyebrows. She asked, "What now?" just before a battered Model A Ford slowly and sputteringly rolled into view.

Rollie Daniels was sitting in the right-hand seat and driving. Beside him, holding his hat onto his head with his left hand and chewing on an unlit cigar was Joe Reid.

"It's Gramps!" should Little Joe as he leaped from the wagon, with Rollie, Jack, and Jimmy right behind him. Alice quickly grabbed Danny and Fred to keep them from falling out of the wagon themselves. Tommy, oblivious, was somehow sleeping in a basket shaded by the wagon's bench.

"Hoo boy! That's a fine passel of younguns you got there, son!" Rollie Daniels bellowed as he braked to a stop. The car's engine sputtered three times and died.

"Well, at least it got us here," Joe Reid muttered as he stepped out of the vehicle and hugged his grandsons, one by one.

"What is this?" Alice asked.

"Well, Miss Peaches," Rollie began and grinned a gap tooth grin when Alice flared up, "Rufus here asked me to help, so I am here to help."

Alice turned to Rufus who was standing sheepishly beside her. "Well?" she asked.

"Rollie knows how to run a farm. I've offered him a job. He accepted and is going to run the farm for us. I don't know how to get these crops harvested - but he does."

Alice turned to her father, "And just what are you doing here?" she demanded.

"Our season's over Peaches," he said. "I wanted to see my grandsons and my favorite daughter... heck I even wanted to see Rufus too."

"I'm your only daughter," Alice said, but she was now smiling.

"And that's a good thing," Joe replied with a chuckle.

Jack was tugging on Rufus' jacket. "Hey Pop, can we get a hound dog?"

The elder Rollie hooted and shouted, "That's a grand idea, son! With seven boys, one hound ain't gonna be enough... y'all probably need to get two or three!"

As Jack and Jimmy began jumping up and down in excitement (a dog had long been atop their wishlists), Alice just shook her head and asked Rufus, "Just what have you gotten us into?"
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Old 06-28-2019, 12:09 PM   #13
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NOTE: I screwed up and skipped a post in my story when posting this morning. So you get a bonus post - if you already read this morning's post, this one is identical and you'll want to read the one above it as it contains important background on what follows...

Egypt, GA: June 1911:

Nearly three years passed in a blur. The Barrells did indeed get not one, but two hound dogs. Big Rollie immediately picked up one of the wriggling pups in his gnarled paw and said, "This one's name is Blue. Can't have more than one hound and not have one of 'em be a Blue, son." Blue followed Rollie around while the other hound, which Jack named Buster, followed the boys around. The boys, deciding that two Rollies were one too many, started calling Big Rollie by his occasional baseball nickname of Possum. The former catcher turned farm foreman didn't mind. "Y'all can call me anything you like, except late for dinner." Before long, Rufus and Alice noticed that the boys were starting to use "Rollie-isms" in their speech. Rufus found this hilarious, Alice less so.

There was also a new addition to the family. In July of 1910, an eighth son was born. Alice suggested naming him Robert, and Rufus tearfully agreed, remembering his stoic, loyal brother. "But we'll call him Bob or Bobby," he said softly.

Rufus also remained steadfast in his self-imposed exile from baseball. For three consecutive Aprils, Malcolm Presley had sent telegrams to the Barrell Farm, requesting that Rufus return to scouting, even offering to allow him to base himself in Georgia. Each time, Rufus politely thanked him, but refused. Alice sensed however that her husband was getting restless. She wondered if the April 1912 telegram (assuming one arrived) would get the same response.

The boys were growing like weeds and Little Joe was now approaching his 16th birthday. He had filled out quite a bit while working on the farm and was strong as an ox, and stood slightly taller than Rufus, who at 5'11 was among the taller men in Effingham County.

One morning, just after breakfast, Joe surprised his parents by informing them that he'd be leaving after his birthday in August.

"What do you mean, leaving?" Alice asked sharply. Rufus had narrowed his eyes and his mouth tightened into a thin line, but he remained silent.

Joe took a deep breath and began to explain, saying, "I'm not cut out to be a farmer." He looked at Rufus and added, "Like you."

Rufus mulled this over and said, "Fair enough - but what are you going to do?" Alice, her anger apparent in the color rising up her neck, looked ready to add something herself but Rufus put his hand on hers and she bit back her reply.

"I'm going to be a fighter."

Now Alice couldn't be kept silent. "Oh no, you're not," she said, her voice rising. Rufus rubbed his chin - he had suspected this was coming.

Before Alice could continue, Rufus said, "Do you know anything about that... about doing it for a living, I mean."

Joe nodded. "I spoke with Possum about it," Alice rolled her eyes and shook her head angrily, but Joe plowed on. "Now Ma, I know you think he's crazy, or dumb, or both, but he's been around and knows a lot."

Rufus muttered, "That's all true."

"He said there's a fellow down in Atlanta who could take a look at me, and see if I have what it takes to be a boxer. And if I do, he'll train me and set me up with some bouts, starting here in Georgia, but eventually all over the South."

Alice was shaking her head vigorously throughout Joe's entire statement. "You could get yourself killed, or worse, you know."

Joe asked, "What's worse than dying?" but before Alice could reply, Rufus had chimed in: "Where are you going to live in Atlanta?"

"With Gramps, of course," was the expected reply. Joe Reid was still with the Atlanta Peaches, and was now club president. He was also nearing his 60th birthday and not as vigorous as he had been.

Rufus asked Joe to step out so he and Alice could discuss this and his eldest son left the room, a silent plea in his eyes as he locked gazes with Rufus on his way out the door.

"We have to let him go," Rufus said. Alice's cheeks were completely red, a sure sign that her temper was about to boil over, so Rufus calmly added, "If we say no, he'll just sneak off anyway. Better to let him go on good terms so he knows he can always come home if he needs anything."

Alice teared up and moaned, "This is a terrible idea, Rufus."

Rufus shrugged and said, "He does know how to fight, that's for sure." In the time the Barrells had been in Georgia, Joe had whupped any boy who gave him - or his brothers - any guff. "Who knows, he might actually be able to make something of it."

As tears continued running down her face, Alice reluctantly agreed. Rufus went out to tell Joe the news. Rufus decided not to dwell on the clashing sounds of his wife's sobs and his eldest son's whoops of joy. He knew from his own idealistic youth that short of chaining Joe to a post in the yard, there was no way to prevent him from following his dream.

Of the other children, Rollie was the saddest to see Joe go - as the next-oldest, he was closest to Joe and though he often ended up on the wrong end of Joe's aggressive nature, Rollie felt he was tougher for it - and he just genuinely liked his brother, too. Before Joe left, he helped Rollie finish his pet project - some golf-related thing called a "driving range" that Rufus had allowed Rollie to cut out of some of the back forty.

Rufus drove Joe down to Atlanta in the family's new Hupmobile. Joe Reid convinced him to take in a game while in town, and Rufus enjoyed watching baseball again. Reid noticed this and said, in a nonchalant tone, "I have heard some interesting news, Rufus."

Rufus, concentrating on watching the form of the Knoxville pitcher, Eddie Farris, mumbled an 'okay' in reply and was only half-listening when Reid said, "A fellow from Robert Owings' office came down to see if the Peaches would be receptive to direct affiliation with a Fed or Continental club."

Rufus gave his father-in-law his full attention - Owings was the President of FABL. "Direct affiliation, eh? I remember some folks bandying that back and forth a few years ago. The general conclusion was that the minor clubs wouldn't go for it because they'd lose their autonomy."

Reid nodded once and said, "Yes, that is a factor, particularly for the higher level clubs. The little guys who operate on a shoestring? It would be a god-send for them to get some funding out of the big boys. But for a Century League club - or even some of us Dixie outfits? It'll be a tougher sell."

"So what's your stand on this issue, Mr. Club President?" Rufus asked with a grin.

"I think it'd be a great thing, but we'd have to phase it in over time, I think."

"And what does Mr. Reynolds say?" Rufus asked. Josiah Reynolds was the Peaches owner and known to be fiercely independent.

"About what you'd think, but I believe he can be persuaded. From a business standpoint, there could be some financial advantages, if things are structured the right way."

Rufus nodded - and in his head, the wheels had started turning.
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Egypt, GA: October 17, 1911:

The idea, which as Rufus had told Joe Reid, had been discussed several times in recent years, was formally put forth by Baltimore Clippers' owner Tim Hillyard at a Commission meeting following the Championship Series. The 16 FABL clubs would select amateur players in a yearly draft, held each winter. These players, and any others signed by the organization beyond the active-roster limit, could then be assigned to an affiliated minor league. Each of the FABL clubs would have three affiliated minor league clubs, one at each of the AAA, AA and A levels. Getting it past the rest of the FABL Commission was not easy, but it did pass. The second hurdle was getting the partner leagues to agree to having their clubs become directly affiliated with a single FABL club. Prior to the new change, these "minor" clubs would often sell, or trade, players to the "major" clubs and turn a tidy profit doing it. Many details needed to be worked out (and they were) but in the end, Hillyard's idea came to pass.

"This will change scouting," Rufus told Alice as he ate breakfast.

"Which means that the Kings will be trying to hire you back.... again," she replied.

Rufus chewed on some bacon and said, "Maybe."

Alice waved a hand dismissively, "You know they will. The real question is, what are you going to say when they do ask?"

Rufus was quiet. Alice shook her finger at him and said, "I know you miss it. And it's fine that you do, but you need to be honest with yourself about it. Then you can be honest with the boys and me, too."

She rose and left him at the table, thinking.

October 30, 1911:

Rufus was in the barn, chewing the fat with Possum when Joe Reid rolled up in his Model T.

"Hey there, boys," Reid said as he entered the barn. Possum nodded, Rufus waved a hand and said, "Joe. What brings you by?"

Possum smirked and said, "I reckon whatever it is, it'll make your liver quiver and your bladder splatter, son!"

Joe Reid just shook his head.

Rufus asked, "This isn't about Joe, is it?"

Reid smiled and said, "Naw, he's up at the house saying howdy to Peaches."

"OK, so what is it?" Rufus asked.

Joe rubbed a hand over his chin and then he smiled and said, "You know the Peaches are affiliated with the Eagles, right?"

"Sure."

"Had an interesting phone call yesterday with Thomas Brennan."

Rufus cocked an eyebrow - Brennan was the owner of the Washington Eagles. Like Presley, he had been around a long time and was well-respected amongst FABL insiders.

When Rufus didn't say anything, Joe smiled and continued, "He asked me to quote 'take your temperature' about working for the Eagles."

Rufus was surprised. He expected the Kings to ask after him, but not another organization, especially considering aside from teaching Danny how to correctly swing a bat (and that one game in Atlanta) he hadn't been around the game at all in three years.

"Really? That's a bit surprising," Rufus replied.

Possum interjected with, "Naw, it's no surprise. You're nobody's fool, son and the smart fellas know it when they see it."

Rufus smiled and said, "Thanks, Rollie." Then to Joe he said, "And, so... what did he mean 'take my temperature?'"

Joe shook his head, "And there you go, proving Rollie wrong. He wants me to see if you'd be interested. Now I know why Peaches call you a rube," and then he chuckled.

Rufus sighed and then replied, "Well... I feel I have a debt to the Kings. So it would really boil down to what I'd be doing... and money, of course."

Joe laughed again, "Of course." Then he rubbed his chin again and said, "I can tell you what he'd have you doing at least."

"And what would that be?"

"Scouting, of course. But more specifically, scouting the Dixie League. You'd be based out of Atlanta and could probably do most of your scouting from there too. I'd expect he might want you to take a gander at some youngsters in the general area, but that's about it. Money... we didn't talk about."

"Hmm, well, I'm interested I suppose. Just pass along what I said about the Kings. I can't make a decision on this right now."

Joe nodded his understanding and then said, "There's one other thing we should discuss."

Rufus raised an eyebrow again. "What?"

"Oh, I wanted to talk about Joe," was the reply.

Possum smiled and said, "Cooter told me the boy's a natural. Gonna be a champ someday, son!"

Rufus, frowning, turned to Possum, "Who is Cooter, exactly?"

Possum slapped Rufus on the arm and said, "Cooter's my brother! He's the trainer I found to work with Young Joe."

"Your brother trains fighters?" Rufus asked with more than a bit of skepticism in his voice.

Joe chimed in: "Actually, Cletus - that's his real name - seems to know what he's doing. I asked around and he's got a good reputation."

Possum was nodding and muttering, "Yep, yep, yep."

"And he does say that Joe's got a lot of talent."

With a wry grin Rufus replied, "Well, I already knew he had a hard head and liked to hit things, so I guess that's no surprise."

Possum slapped his arm again, "Now, son, don't be like that... there's some skill involved in being a fighter, you know?"

Joe Reid laughed and said, "Yes, there is. And really Rufus, the boy can handle himself. He might be able to go places."

Rufus scoffed a bit, but then considered that maybe he was being too skeptical. One thing was certain - he had a lot to think about.
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Old 07-09-2019, 11:43 AM   #15
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Egypt, GA: November 20, 1911:

Alice turned out to have been correct (as she usually was) - the Kings did contact Rufus again. But this time, it wasn't via telegram and it wasn't April when the Kings reached out to Rufus. This time they took a more direct approach.

The Kings new manager, Bill Williams arrived at the farm in person and on behalf of Malcolm Presley to offer Rufus a job. Williams, a Canadian-born outfielder, had enjoyed a decade-plus career in the Century League with Providence and Washington before joining the Peerless League's Boston club where he finished his career. He was also a former scout, having scouted for Boston prior to becoming the Philadelphia Sailors' manager back in '08. He had turned in a pair of seventh-place finishes for the Sailors and been fired. After two years as a coach for the Pittsburgh Miners, Mr. Presley had hired him to skipper the Kings.

"Well, Rufus, it's been a while," he said as he shook hands. He and Rufus had scouted some of the same bushes before Williams went to Philly. "Nice spread you have here."

Rufus had a wry smile on his face, "Thanks, Bill. It's good to see you. Congratulations on the job - you'll love working for Mr. Presley."

Williams nodded. "Yes, he seems like a true gentleman in the classical sense of the word." Williams wasn't one to beat around the bush, so he got right to it: "Mr. Presley sent me here to get you back on the Kings payroll, Rufus."

Rufus chuckled and said, "I figured as much. But you might have made this trip for nothing - I'm not sure I want to go back." He hesitated just a second before adding, "I told the Eagles the same thing last month."

Williams frowned at the mention of Washington's job offer, but then he recovered and smiled before saying, "Well, the late November weather here sure is much nicer than it is in Ontario, so I figure I'm ahead on that score at least."

Rufus smiled, thinking about what Williams would say if it were, oh, July.

Williams continued, "Before you refuse outright, let me spell out the position."

"OK."

"Well, it's like this - Mr. Presley knows you want to spend more time with the family. So he's offering you a role as the team's Dixie League scout. He wasn't able to get Atlanta as his affiliate - Washington beat him to it. But he did get Knoxville, and that will be the base of operations for you, when you need to be at the office, which won't be often. Otherwise, he'd like you to watch the Dixie clubs, looking for possible trade options and also keeping an eye on our Knoxville players."

Rufus raised his eyebrows, "Just the Dixie League?"

One corner of Williams' mouth curled, and he said, "Well, I suspect he'll want you to keep an occasional eye on the high schools and colleges in the area."

Now Rufus smiled - this sounded pretty good to him.

Williams returned the smile and said, "I thought that might appeal. No offense, but you never struck me as the type to be happy on a farm. I have a contract here, so you can review the important stuff... like salary." He winked.

"I'll have to talk this over with Alice, of course," Rufus said.

"Of course, no problem. I'm passing through - you can call or telegram the offices in Brooklyn with your decision. I will contact them myself as soon as a I can - when I tell Mr. Presley that Washington is trying to snipe you too, after taking Atlanta, he might just up his offer." He grinned wolfishly.

Williams went on to explain that he had just come from Knoxville where he had met with the Knights' coaching staff and was now heading to Houston to do the same with the Bulls, the Kings' new top affiliate. He gazed around at the now barren fields and asked, "I heard you hired Possum Daniels to run the farm. Is that true?" The way he asked made it plain that he found the idea somewhat preposterous.

Rufus grinned - "Oh, yes, he's around here somewhere. Probably filling my boys' heads with his unique brand of homespun wisdom!"

Williams was laughing and exclaimed, "Ah, yes - he's got what, eight possible disciples now? You'd better watch out Rufus!"

Rufus was laughing too. "Well, it's down to seven - my oldest is down in Atlanta trying to make it as a boxer."

"Hmm, that must be the Reid in him. I swear I saw Joe knock out three guys - one of them was the umpire, the other two were my team mates - in a brawl in Atlanta back in... I think it was '85. I was with Providence and we were playing exhibitions on our way north. When we played the Peaches one of our guys took one in the ribs. He went to fight the pitcher and Joe came out from behind the plate and... he just laid waste to everyone who came near him. The umpire caught one trying to break it up - he was laying there in front of the mound, out cold."

"Oh, I saw him in action once in Savannah. Afterwards we were all banged up and looked like we'd come through a war and there was Joe, not a scratch on him - and he had been right in the middle of it, believe me. And he's standing there laughing at us."

Williams was shaking his head with a wide grin on his face. "Well, if your kid is anything like Joe, he'll go places as a fighter."
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:05 PM   #16
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Tampa, FL: November 23, 1911:

The Ybor City Assembly Hall was a flat, rectangular structure northeast of downtown Tampa, Florida in an area known - as the name would indicate - as Ybor City. Founded about 30 years earlier as a focal point for the production of fine cigars, Ybor City was populated almost exclusively by immigrants. To Joe Barrell, this was a change from his recent experience in rural Georgia, but having spent the bulk of his life in Brooklyn he was not uncomfortable surrounded by people speaking languages other than English.

The Hall itself was fittingly enough shaped like a cigar box and held about 1500 people. Tonight - fight night - it was packed. Joe pegged the actual attendance as something north of 2000. If there was a fire, that would be bad news. And, it being Ybor City, the entire place was obscured by a slowly swirling, incredibly dense cloud of cigar smoke. So... hopefully the place wasn't particularly flammable.

Joe was standing outside the door to the backstage area, watching the crowd - most of whom were busily making wagers on the upcoming bouts. As a kid in Brooklyn, watching crowds was something he had done frequently - he found humanity in general to be endlessly fascinating. He had envied his father who traveled all over the country, meeting all kinds of new people. Now, just 17 years old himself, he figured he was about to embark on a career that would - assuming he could hack it - take him all over the country and maybe even beyond where he could meet a bunch of interesting people - and punch some of them. Boxing was big business in England and while it hadn't quite caught on in the States just yet, it was definitely growing. And Joe planned on being in the forefront of making his chosen sport a popular one in his home country.

He was also scanning the crowd for a particular purpose - well, two of them actually. First, he was looking for his family. He knew that his parents were out there somewhere - as was Possum and supposedly at least three of his brothers. The second reason was one he was thus far keeping to himself - her name was Edna Farmer, and he had managed to get her from Atlanta to Tampa without the knowledge of her father, which was quite the trick, since he also happened to be Joe's cut man.

Joe's trainer, Cooter Daniels, brother of Rollie 'Possum' Daniels, tapped him on the shoulder and said in his husky voice, "We need to get back there," a nod over his shoulder towards the backstage area, "and get you rubbed down."

"Yeah, alright. I was trying to find my parents," he said, trying to keep any disappointment - or worse, nervousness, out of his voice.

Cooter smiled and patted him on the back, "They're sittin' ringside, son. Too many heads between us and them. But you'll see 'em just fine when you get into the ring." Then he put his arm around Joe's shoulders and added, "Now let's get you all stormed up so you can rain all over that boy from Mississippi, son."

Joe smiled - Cooter often sounded just like Rollie.

The past three months had gone by in a blur. A blur that smelled of sweat and old leather. Joe had spent a lot of time in the hole-in-the-wall gym Cletus 'Cooter' Daniels owned in Atlanta. The place looked like it might have been one of the few buildings to survive when Sherman had torched the city during the war. Certainly it looked like it had survived at least fifty years... fifty hard years. Inside, the roof leaked, the wooden floor creaked and the chains that held the bags squeaked. And grown men pounded heavy bags and speed bags and oftentimes each other while Cooter and his partner Reuben 'Rube' Farmer watched over the festivities, offering some strangely effective combination of ridicule and encouragement to the would-be pugilists under their tutelage. And in this environment Joe Barrell had slowly learned to put the natural ability he had fostered since childhood into a scientific approach to both hitting an opponent and successfully avoiding being hit in return. Results so far had been somewhat mixed in training, but there had been definite improvement. And now it was time to put what he had learned to the test.

The gym was also where he had met Rube's daughter. The obvious parallel to how his own parents had met was something of which he wasn't even aware. Right now he knew he had to put away his thoughts of her and concentrate on the task at hand - a middleweight from Mississippi by the name of Mike Wilson.

Cooter had trained Joe hard to keep him at middleweight. Joe was six feet tall and the middleweight limit was pegged by the American Boxing Federation at 160 pounds. Joe showed up to the gym in August weighing eight pounds over that limit. Cooter had told him that he'd probably be a heavyweight someday, and a light heavyweight someday sooner than that, but he wanted to start him at middleweight, and called Joe a "lunch puppy" - which he learned meant he was too heavy (he wasn't - at least in his own opinion) and that he was as "lost as last year's Easter egg" when it came to boxing. Luckily, he (Cooter) would set him straight. Joe shook his head - he hadn't believed that there could possibly be anyone like Rollie Daniels - until he met his brother.

Back in the dressing room, Rube Farmer was straightening his tie. He was wearing a white shirt and a black tie and he looked in the mirror and said over his shoulder, "Don't go getting any blood on my white shirt, ok, Joe?"

Joe smirked and said, "Stand back so you don't get spattered when I clobber Wilson."

Cooter grinned, pointed at his partner and said, "Heck, son, ol' Rube must be confident if he's wearing that particular shirt."

Rube turned and glared a bit, saying, "So I'm confident. Joe's ready, isn't he?"

Cooter's grin grew even wider, "Is a five pound robin fat? Hell, yes, he's ready."

"I'm so glad you guys can talk about me like I'm not standing right here," Joe groused.

Cooter slapped the table, "Well I aim to remedy that - the part about you standing there anyways. So let's get you ready. Lie down and I'll give you a rub, son."

The fight card for the evening featured ten bouts and was topped by the ABF's heavyweight championship. Joe's fight was the first event on the card - six rounds of middleweight action to warm up the crowd. He was hoping to meet Ken Phillips, the defending champ, but so far hadn't even caught a glimpse of him. When he mentioned this to Cooter, he was told that Phillips was the kind of guy who kept to himself. "He lets his fists do the talkin' son - and you should do the same."

Fifteen minutes later, just about the time Joe was tiring of Cooter's advice about the fight, a knock came on the door: "Time!"

Joe shrugged into an ill-fitting cotton robe of unknown provenance that might have been white once upon a time (he figured he shouldn't ask) and followed Cooter through the door and then out into the main hall, down an aisle where the ring slowly appeared like a desert oasis through the cloud of cigar smoke. He saw his parents as he climbed the steps beside the ring and smiled at his mother as he ducked under the ropes. Alice Barrell looked worried but Rufus looked surprisingly comfortable. Joe figured that as a former athlete himself, his dad might have been nervous for his son, but wouldn't show it. His grandfather sat beside Alice and was patting her hand while saying something Joe couldn't hear. Then Cooter appeared next to him and they watched as Mike Wilson climbed into the ring in the opposite corner.

Wilson was shorter and thicker than Joe. Cooter had told him that Wilson was about 5'8 and 155, and he looked strong. He was 25 years old and had a few fights on his resume. His record thus far wasn't impressive: 6-7-1 but he did have three knockouts, so he had at least some power. Joe rolled his head side to side and bounced on his toes. His nervous energy was off the charts and he was eager for the opening bell. At the center of the ring the referee called the fighters over and gave them both the expected spiel about the rules and a clean fight; a bunch of things Joe barely heard.

Then it was back to the corner where Cooter slipped through the ropes, said, "Nothing fancy, son. Just whup his tail so we can get back to Georgia and line up the next one." Joe was surprisingly relaxed by his trainer's confidence. He nodded, looked at Rube and nodded again as Rube said, "The nervousness will go as soon as the first punch is thrown," and then realized he had no idea where Edna was sitting. Then the bell rang. Showtime!
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Old 07-12-2019, 06:16 PM   #17
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Tampa, FL: November 23, 1911:

Rufus Barrell was nervous - upon reflection he figured he was more nervous watching his son than he had been when he had been playing baseball. It was a different experience, certainly. Beside him Alice was visibly a bundle of nerves, her father speaking softly to her and holding her hand.

The whole experience thus far had been surreal. Rufus had done plenty of traveling and this wasn't his first trip to Tampa. But this time he had both his nervous, high-strung wife and father-in-law in tow. He silently, and guiltily offered a silent thanks that they hadn't brought Possum and the three older boys along - as had been the original plan.

Rollie, now 15 and still a big admirer of his older brother, was visibly upset when told he wouldn't be going. Jack, 13, was disappointed more by missing a trip to someplace new than any other reason handled it more equitably. And Jimmy, at 11, was feeling guilty at being the cause of the cancellation of the trip for the boys - he had gotten sick.

Rufus had tried putting a pleasant spin on it, pointing out to Rollie and Jack that they would be able to continue working on Danny and Freddy's baseball skills. Though neither Rollie or Jack had a love for the game like Rufus himself did, they were capable players and first Danny (age 7), and now Freddy (age 6), were like baseball sponges - they had the bug and Rufus wanted to encourage it.

Rufus snapped out of his reverie and watched as his first-born son, barely seventeen years old, prepared to fight an older, more experienced man in his first professional fight. Joe looked confident - talented youth was always confident, in Rufus' experience. He knew that if you were young and an athlete and were not confident, you wouldn't make it.

He was facing a man eight years his senior, with more practical experience at the sport. And Wilson looked like a fighter: wiry, muscled and tough like old jerky. Rufus had trouble seeing Joe as anything other than a tow-headed boy. He reached over and grabbed Alice's other hand as he watched Cooter give Joe his final instructions.

All the pent-up anticipation and nerves released in the instant that the bell rang and Joe took three quick steps forward. He met Wilson in the center of the ring and he unleashed a powerful left hook into Wilson's ribs. The other fighter's eyes popped as he took the blow and he winced in pain, stepping back involuntarily. As Joe stepped towards him again, Wilson reached out and wrapped him up. The crowd started booing as the referee stepped in and separated the fighters.

Wilson circled into a neutral corner where Joe came at him with a wild left that missed. Undaunted he followed the miss with a flurry of punches that did land - but Wilson had tucked his arms and all the blows fell on Wilson's arms as he protected his ribs.

As though Alice were a conduit, Rufus could feel the kinetic energy of his father-in-law's total immersion in the action in the ring. There was no doubt that Joe Barrell's fighting instincts came from any place other than Joe Reid's combative nature. Reid's right hand was balled into a fist and he looked as though he wanted to climb into the ring himself.

In the ring, Wilson shoved Joe back, then stepped in and blistered a right to the jaw. Rufus winced and Alice sucked in a breath as Joe bounced back into the ropes, stunned. But he recovered quickly, stepped to his left and tagged Wilson with a jab to the face. The two then traded blows before Joe split Wilson's gloves with a straight left and landed a flurry at the bell.

The first round was in the books and to Rufus' admittedly unpracticed eye, he felt that one went to his son. To his left Alice was staring at their son, looking for any hint of an injury. To her left, Joe Reid was nodding and shouting attaboys at his grandson.

The second round unfolded much like the first - Joe was aggressive and chased Wilson around the ring, frequently landing strong punches. The referee admonished Joe after he had landed a punch that definitely came after the bell. "He looks good," Joe Reid said to Rufus as Alice chewed her fingernails quietly.

In the third, Wilson threw a nasty punch that Joe somehow slipped - it missed by a fraction of an inch. Then Joe hooked another left into Wilson's ribs. Joe had consistently worked the body and the results were starting to tell. Wilson made a good, and mostly successful effort at avoiding Joe until the younger man trapped him in a corner and whistled a combination to the chin. Wilson staggered and then fell on his back on the canvas as the referee shoved Joe towards a neutral corner and began his count.

Beside Rufus, Alice was counting along with the referee and then groaned as Wilson rose on five and nodded to the ref that he was okay to continue.

Joe aggressively pursued Wilson for the rest of the round, but the older fighter managed to hang on until the bell rang ending round three.

Cooter greeted him with a wide smile. "You've got him, son. That knockdown took the starch right out of him. Now just finish the job!"

And Joe did exactly that when the bell rang to start the fourth round. He stormed out of his corner and immediately went to the body again. But Wilson protected himself, even as the force of Joe's punches pushed him back. Finally, he was stuck in the corner and Joe rotated his torso and delivered a vicious cross to the jaw that folded Wilson like an accordion. He fell to the canvas for a second time - and this time he didn't get up. Rufus grinned as his wife counted along again, shouting "Ten!" and jumping up and down beside him. Joe Reid pulled his cigar out of his mouth, struck a match with his fingernail and lit up with a smile, saying, "Nothing beats a victory cigar, Rufus!"

Alice stopped jumping up and down, turned to Rufus and threw her arms around him. Smiling, he kissed her warmly and said, "I'm going back to work - but for the Eagles."
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Old 07-18-2019, 11:01 AM   #18
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Atlanta, GA: December 3, 1911:

Joe had won his first professional fight - and by knockout. He had spotted Edna while the referee was holding his arm up as the winner. She had been standing at the back wall of the hall, smiling shyly and she had waved, just slightly as if unsure he had seen her. He smiled and winked and though it was far away and there was a lot of smoke between them, he thought she blushed. Luckily she managed to get back to Atlanta without her father finding out she had been in Tampa. For now, their secret remained safe.

After showering, Joe dressed and joined his family. It turned out that Jack had gotten sick and Possum had stayed back at the farm with the Barrell boys. So only Joe's grandfather had joined his parents in Tampa. Still, it was a nice reunion, made sweeter by victory. Joe had watched some of the other fights on the card, staying for the title fight between Ken Phillips and Paul Anderson. That had turned out to be a particularly nasty fight - Phillips was winning, but he ended up losing by disqualification in the fifth for continually hitting Anderson below the belt.

Joe had found out that night that his father was going back to scouting. But Rufus had surprised him when he told him he'd be working for the Washington Eagles.

"It's because of the Atlanta affiliation," Rufus had explained. "I love Mr. Presley like a father, but if I can work out of Atlanta I'll be close to home, close to you," he smiled at Joe, "and get to work with your grandfather again."

Joe thought this sounded good - he'd always found his father to be a fun guy to be around. He didn't take himself too seriously and usually had let the boys run on a long leash - which could not be said for his mother (or her mother for that matter). Alice, for her part, had agreed that the Eagles job was better "geographically" but was unsure if this would be seen as a betrayal by Presley who had always been very good to the Barrells.

Now, back at Cooter's ratty gym in Atlanta, Joe was training for his next fight, which would be in January. Cooter had told him the fight would be local - there was a watering hole called Ty's Tavern that hosted fights on Saturday nights and Cooter had booked Joe there with an opponent yet to be determined.

That morning Joe had earned a rebuke from Cooter. Standing on the scale, he saw with dismay that his weight was 162 pounds. "You better watch out you don't get spread out like a cold supper, son," Cooter said. Joe frowned and replied, "I'm not getting fat - and I have time to take it off before the next fight."


That same day, Rufus was visiting the offices of the Atlanta Peaches downtown. Specifically, he was chewing the fat with his father-in-law, who just happened to be the Peaches' Club President.

"Well, Joe, there ain't nothing worse than sitting around in the winter waiting for it to be spring," Rufus opined.

Joe Reid squinted at his son-in-law. "You're not wrong. Nothing's sadder than an empty ballpark in December."

As the Peaches prepared for their first season as an affiliate of the Washington Eagles, the Club President and the Eagles' newest scout were discussing the upcoming amateur draft - the first one in FABL history.

"The buzz I've heard is that the Eagles are going to draft a kid from Nebraska with their first pick - assuming he's available at the twelfth pick," Joe Reid said.

"Hmm, that's Art Murphy, right? Second baseman. Polman scouted him I think..." Rufus flipped through some papers and then tapped one. "Yep, here it is - Polman did scout him. He's pretty high on him too, so I guess that's where that rumor got started."

Noting the frown on Rufus' face Joe raised an eyebrow as he said, "You look like you disagree."

The frown deepened. "Well... I've been out of it for a while now, but I never really thought much of Bill Polman's scouting abilities."

"Ha, I'm sure that will go well when and if he becomes the scouting director... which is another rumor I've heard."

Rufus waved his head side-to-side, "I can work with him if necessary. Being the director might be the best spot for him - instead of eyeballing these kids personally, he just can evaluate the reports sent in by better scouts." He grinned wolfishly and added, "Like me."

Joe chuckled and replied, "Feeling a bit full of ourselves today, aren't we?"

"Naw, I think my portfolio speaks for itself."

Now Joe guffawed and exclaimed, "Portfolio! You been reading the dictionary lately, Rufus?"

The grin changed from wolf to sheep. "Naw, but Jimmy's been trying to improve my... what's it called? Vocabulary?"

Joe laughed. "Ah, yes - James is the Barrell boy most likely to not be just a dumb athlete. Maybe the milkman snuck one in on you while you were out on the road."

"Very funny - that's your own daughter you're slighting there." Rufus pointed a finger and added,"Besides, he looks just like me, so that seems unlikely. But I will admit he probably gets his smarts from Alice."

In point of fact Jimmy was every bit as athletic as his brothers - but he did have a more academic bent than they did. Certainly his grades were better (and in the case of Jack, much better). And he - with Alice's prodding - was making an effort at improving Rufus' knowledge of things outside of baseball. Alice called it "rubbing off the rube."

Joe grabbed the scouting report on Murphy from Rufus. "Let me see that... if we draft this kid he could end up playing here."

"Bah - you know who the Eagles should draft? Newell Winn. He's the guy I'd peg as the best second baseman in this group." Rufus tapped the pile sitting before him.

"We won't get Winn - I've heard the Keystones are going after him. And before you mention Mark Robinson, he'll probably go early too. You need to remember - we pick twelfth."

"Where do you get your information, anyway?"

"Ah, I've been around a long time. My grapevine is pretty long. Not always right, but..." he waved a hand. "This whole thing is new to everyone. It's all guess work."

Rufus shrugged and then smiled, saying, "You know, this draft stuff might be new, but it already sure is fun to speculate about."
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Old 07-26-2019, 07:49 PM   #19
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Atlanta, GA: March 8, 1912:

Joe Barrell was now 3-0 as a professional fighter. His second fight, which occurred back in January, was with a fellow newcomer by the name of Albert Adams. Adams was from Savannah, and the fight was held in his hometown. This theoretically put Joe at a disadvantage. "The hometown folks'll be rootin' for their boy," Cooter had told Joe before the fight began. And yes, there were some hoots and boos when he climbed into the ring. But once the action started, Joe turned those boos into cheers.

Cooter later told him he had counted how many times Joe had been hit by Adams. "Just twenty-one times, son! Over nearly five rounds!" he exclaimed. Joe had already learned that Cooter measured success more by how well Joe avoided being hit as he did with how well Joe himself did with his own punches. "Shoot, son, I know you can hit hard. Good fighters avoid getting hit back!" This scored some points for Cooter with Joe's mother who told him she died a little every time he took a punch. He replied that he had yet to take one that did anything more than wake him up. "Save your bluster for the ring, buster!" was what she fired back at him.

Joe had dominated the fight from the opening bell. He knocked Adams down twice in the fourth and twice more in the fifth before referee Martin Cochran had seen the vacancy sign in Adams' eyes and stopped the fight. Joe was impressed that Adams had gotten himself off the canvas four times and told him so, though Adams was clearly out on his feet and it was unclear whether he understood what Joe had said to him.

Cooter had determined that he wanted Joe to fight once every six weeks. "Enough time to take the shine off your apple, but not long enough for the worms to start moving in," is how he explained it in his typically Daniels-esque manner.

So the third fight had just taken place the night before. This time, Cooter had lined up a fighter with more experience - and a winning record.

His name was Steven MacIntosh and he was 33 years old. Because the American Boxing Federation itself was only five years old, his official pro record was 10-9-0 with four knockouts. But according to Cooter, MacIntosh had been fighting since back in the bare-knuckle days and he had a "head as hard as a knot in a hickory tree." Rube later explained that what Cooter really meant was that Joe probably wouldn't be able to knock MacIntosh out. Which was both advice and a challenge, the way Joe saw things.

The fight was at Auburn Sweet's, a large and often raucous club, sometimes called a honky tonk, on the outskirts of Atlanta. Because of the nature of the venue Joe had convinced Edna not to attend, though he smartly used the risk of her father seeing her there as the reason.

This would essentially be a hometown fight for Joe - MacIntosh fought out of a gym in Birmingham, but was originally from Boston.

Cooter was quickly proven right about one thing - MacIntosh could take a punch. In the first round, Joe came out as he had in his previous fights - fast and hard - and he walked right into MacIntosh's jab. Thirty seconds later, Joe had taken several shots to the ribs and for the first time, was on the defensive in the ring. Rufus, watching with Possum at ringside (Alice had stayed home this time), leaned over to his friend and said, "This is where that stubborn streak of his Reid side comes out, you watch."

And sure enough, Joe quickly readjusted his tactics - he backpedaled away from another straight, took a step to the side and hooked a strong right hook into MacIntosh's midsection and then followed that up with a barrage that had the older fighter backpedaling himself. As the seconds ticked down in round one, Joe unleashed a vicious shot that landed flush on MacIntosh's jaw, rocking him back. And that was when Joe knew that Cooter had been right: both Adams and Wilson would likely have dropped after taking a shot like that one.

Back in the corner, Cooter grinned as Joe took deep breaths on his stool. "I told you that boy had a hard head. Hit him in the breadbasket, let's tenderize us some ribs, son!"

Joe wasn't fast enough to employ Cooter's new tactics and the result was the first lost round of his pro career. Cooter shook his head, and remained quiet. Rube cocked an eyebrow at his partner and then told Joe, "Stick to the plan. Hit him in the body and go to the head only when he leaves it open."

Both fighters earned rebukes from referee Clarence Barron over the next couple of rounds. Joe got a warning for hitting after the bell at the end of round three (which he dominated) and MacIntosh got two in round four - once for rabbit punching and once for hitting below the belt. "Good thing Alice isn't here," Rufus muttered to Possum after seeing his son's reaction to the low blow. The fight developed an ebb and flow - round four had the two fouls handed out by Barron and not much action and the crowd began to get restless. But round five had both fighters trading leather with regularity, going toe-to-toe with abandon - and the alcohol-fueled crowd loved that. Cooter began to relax a bit - Joe was winning and seemed to be pacing himself better than MacIntosh. With five of the eight rounds in the books, the older fighter was already starting to look tired.

Joe dominated the sixth round, but there was a lot of clinching going on - forcing Barron to separate the fighters and the crowd to crank up the booing again. Back in the corner after the sixth, Cooter poured water on Joe's head. "Stop dancing with him, son. Time to start creaming his corn!" Joe figured this meant it was time to go all out.

He came out quick at the bell, dipped a shoulder to get MacIntosh thinking a body shot was coming and then quick as a snake, he went upstairs and drilled a hook to the side of the head that rocked MacIntosh. But rocked or not, the veteran fighter would not go down. His defensive abilities also frustrated Joe as he fired off flurries that MacIntosh either slipped or took on the arms. By the end of the round Joe was winded and impressed by how tough his opponent really was.

"OK, one more round. No need to go for the kill, this fight is yours," Rube told him. Cooter remained quiet until near the end of the break when he said simply, "Go finish it."

Joe tried to get the knockout, but MacIntosh wasn't having it. He leaned on Joe's neck, earning a point deduction because Barron had already warned him about just that the round before. Joe missed more than he landed and took a few good shots from his opponent as well. Both fighters were visibly exhausted as the seconds ticked away. Joe, a natural southpaw, switched to orthodox briefly just to see if he could get MacIntosh off balance, but it didn't work.

After the bell rang, Joe tapped gloves with MacIntosh and the older fighter grinned and said, "Kid, you've got a helluva punch. I'd say you're going to be a good one. Keep up the good work."

Flattered, Joe smiled and said, "I've never hit anyone as hard as I hit you in the first round. You must have iron in your backbone, Steve."

MacIntosh nodded to him, said hello to Cooter and Rube and then joined his cornermen as the announcer stepped into the ring with the judges' cards.

Joe won by unanimous decision, 78 to 76 on all three cards. A win, but a close one. And a win that most importantly included some lessons learned as well.
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Old 07-30-2019, 11:47 AM   #20
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Atlanta, GA: June 17, 1912:

"We're terrible," was what Joe Reid was saying to his son-in-law as they sat together watching the Atlanta Peaches get manhandled by the visiting Nashville Chieftains.

Rufus smirked and replied, "You ain't wrong, Joe."

"I swear Skerry is probably the best player we have and he's already washed out with both the Sailors and the Eagles," the cigar in his mouth wagged as Reid spoke, his right hand waving towards right field where the player he was talking about, Zeke Skerry, was kicking at the grass.

"He better pay attention before he takes a line drive to the face," Rufus said, shaking his head. As a former pitcher, he still had great disdain for fielders who didn't keep their eyes on the bump in the middle of the field - or at least the general vicinity of the mound or plate.

"Probably thinking about his next at-bat. That boy's never been what anyone would call a deep thinker."

At 26, Skerry's big league career might be done. But he was a capable player at this level - two steps down from the big time. As Rufus knew full well, not everyone could cut the mustard. He was ruminating on where that particular bit of wordplay originated when he realized Reid had asked him something.

"Hmm? What was that, Joe?" he asked.

Reid shook his head, pulled the cigar out of his mouth and pointed it at Rufus, "You've been here for almost every game this season, Rufus. I believe the Eagles expect you to go out on the road at some point. I saw the list of bushers they want you to look up. You going to get out there any time soon?"

Rufus frowned. "Well.... I like being around Atlanta. I can keep an eye on Joe and get home to see Alice and the boys too. That list has some guys as far out as Texas."

Reid shook his head. "Traveling is part of it, Rufus and you know it." His face shifted and he gave Rufus a thoughtful look, continuing, "Listen, I know Joe's on your mind but I suspect you might be afraid to get back out there."

Rufus bristled and shot back, "I ain't afraid. I was on the road for the better part of twenty years, I got nothing to be afraid of."

Reid tipped his head to the side and said, "Well, I know it's not Joe. You've seen him enough to know that boy is going places as a fighter. He doesn't need you holding his hand."

Joe Barrell's pro record was now 5-0. Both Rufus and Joe Reid had seen every fight. Cooter Daniels was slowly raising the quality of the opposition and Joe Barrell's innate talent continued to shine. Within a year, he'd likely be ranked and able to start working towards a championship fight.

Rufus grumbled something that Reid couldn't quite make out. He ignored it and added, "Just get out there - you're a born birddog, Rufus - do what you do best."

Rufus decided to change the subject and give a little grief back to his father-in-law at the same time, asking, "What do you think about Vera's latest decision?"

Now it was Reid's turn to grumble. His wife, who still refused to come to Atlanta, had suggested closing up the house in Brooklyn so she could move to Montreal. She had heard the French-Canadian city was "cosmopolitan" and wanted to see for herself.

"Ah, she's putting on airs again. Her French - which she thinks is fluent - is pretty terrible, but she's got herself convinced that Montreal will cure her restlessness."

Rufus wasn't thrilled to leave the Brooklyn house empty, but Vera had long been flighty and he could see where Montreal might be more interesting than a formerly-full-but-now-empty house in Brooklyn.

Now Reid added with a wry smile, "Jack wants to go with her."

Rufus was caught off-guard and said, "Jack who?"

Reid raised an eyebrow as he replied, "What? Your son Jack, you idiot. He wants to go to Montreal. You know that boy loves hockey, right?"

"Hockey? Who likes hockey?"

"Spoken like a true Southerner, Rufus. There are other uses for ice than putting it in your tea... and there are probably a few million Canadians who love hockey."

"But Jack's not Canadian, Joe."

Reid laughed. "I am aware that he's not Canadian. There are many Americans who play too, you know. I hear it's big in Minnesota."

Now Rufus shook his head and said, "Minnesota? I'm not surprised with the winters they have up there. Still... Jack's only 14, what does he know?"

"Alice is willing to let him go. I'd say you're likely to get outvoted on this one, Rufus. And to recap," he continued and ticked off on his fingers as he said, "Your oldest boy is a fighter. Rollie's going to be a golfer - that boy's been routinely hustling suckers at the Savannah Golf Club - he probably has more money now than you do. And... now Jack wants to play hockey. You think any of your kids will play baseball? You'd think it'd be in their blood, given both their dad and granddad played."

Rufus waved a hand at his father-in-law as he spat back. "You're the one who introduced both golf and hockey to my sons, Joe. And, your... um, combative nature is probably where Joe got his boxing bug too."

Reid harrumphed as he turned his attention back to the field where the Nashville hitter shot a liner past the half-asleep Skerry and into the right field corner. "Ah, for cryin' out loud - he didn't even move!"
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