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Smokey Joe and the Time Bandit: Chapter 15

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Ryan O'Malley heads to New York for Game 1 of the 1912 World Series as Smokey Joe and the Time Bandit continues.


The Red Sox returned to Fenway to find that the park had undergone a whirlwind makeover in the days following the game against Walter Johnson. Seats had been added up the third base line and in right field. The bleachers on Duffy's cliff and the expanded press box were made more permanent, though their idea of permanent was hardly what it would be today. The new additions were rushed wooden constructions that would support the fans just fine but had little else to recommend them in the way of structural integrity.

Read More: Smokey Joe and the Time Bandit- Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

The few remaining games were inconsequential since the Red Sox had already clichéd the World Series berth, leaving the fans and manager Jake Stahl to turn their attention south to New York.

For the fans, the focus primarily revolved around the struggle to secure tickets for the Series. Led by Mayor Honey Fitz and McGreevy, the Royal Rooters put the full weight of their influence into securing tickets.

The Giants had plenty of reasons to be resistant to the idea of handing over tickets to McGreevy and company. The Rooters were known throughout the game as the most irritating and unnerving group of fans baseball had ever known. Their effect on Wagner in the 1903 series was legendary, thanks in large part to McGreevy's constant re-tellings. The two leagues had managed to negotiate enough of a peace to ensure the World Series would take place every year, but every other aspect of the series was a new battle. A commission of the two team owners, the two league presidents and Reds owner August Herrman, who was named the National Commission president--a precursor position to that of the modern commissioner--would set the schedule, hire umps and find some way of getting tickets to fans, which would turn out to be a massive problem. No one was more concerned with the issue than Michael "Nuf Ced" McGreevy.

Before the double-header against the Highlanders, the day after I got back off the road, the barkeep's booming voice found me on my way to the press box.

"O'Malley," he called out through the tunnels leading to the seats. I was caught off guard by his appearance. The leader of the Rooters didn't show up to games as early as I typically did. He preferred to lead his crew through the streets with great pomp and arrive at the game just a few minutes before the start. But there he was.

"O'Malley," he called again as he closed the distance between us with a light jog. "Any word on the World Series tickets?" He asked as he caught his breath.

"Nothing yet, the National Commission should make an announcement Thursday or Friday," I told him. This was clearly not new information for the bartender.

"Yes, yes," he replied, "of course, I was just hoping maybe a man in your position might have some sense of how the issue will be resolved."

McGreevy looked at me hopeful through the dim light and the dusk of the unpaved tunnel but before I could even speak he read the apologetic look on my face.

"No, you wouldn't have heard, I suppose," he said. "You don't think they would go back on the rain checks though, do you?"

The Red Sox had promised fans who saved their Fenway rain checks could send them in to get a voucher to buy World Series tickets as a way to prevent scalpers from extorting the public and locking out real fans. The system was ideal for McGreevy and the rooters and I suspect it was designed specifically for them. Not only did the Rooters attend almost every game, but McGreevy had offered fans a pour of house whiskey for rain checks, making Third Base probably the largest holder of them and giving McGreevy the power to put tickets in the hands of his people. If the National Commission insisted on controlling the sale of all Series tickets, no one would be harder hit than McGreevy.

"I can't image McAleer would let them go back on that," I told him, offering some false comfort. This seemed to pick up his spirits some and he cracked a half smile.

"Right. Good. Good. I suppose you're right." He slapped my arm in thanks and shuffled away.

Privately, I wasn't so sure the commission would be so honorable. McGreevy himself had explained to me how bad the scalping had been for the 1911 Series when I first asked him about the rain checks and later in the season, after I had developed some contacts in Ban Johnson's office, I heard the same thing from people there.

However, two days later, the commission announced its decision. The commission settled on alternating games everyday except Sunday in Boston and New York and the Red Sox lost the coin flip, giving the home-field advantage to the Giants. The Series would therefore start at the Polo Grounds on October 8th and run until the 15th. The commission decided to handle sales of tickets at the Polo Grounds and to allow McAleer and the Red Sox to handle their own ticket sales.

The decision would please the Rooters and I had it off-the-record from my man in Johnson's office that the American League president had gotten several calls from Mayor Fitzgerald. The World Series was coming to Boston and the Royal Rooters were taking no chances.

Securing tickets in New York would be more difficult for the Rooters. They had little pull with the National Commission and the Giants would be openly hostile to a raucous gang of Red Sox fans invading their own beloved home field. Here again, Honey Fitz was persuasive though and McGreevy and his merry band scored 300 seats from the advance sale, a show of power that had McGreevy beaming.

With little else but a few unimportant games remaining on the schedule, I started frequenting Third Base regularly again, gauging the odds, the action, and the speculation. I learned that Sullivan had indeed taken my bait and was one of a few listing the Giants as favorites. I could hardly bet the opposite line without it getting back to Sport, but I was happy that at least he'd be screwed over in the end. Gambling on the series was booming and the Rooters were thrilled to get better than even to bet on their Red Sox.

As thrilling as it was to know that Sport Sullivan would get his, hanging around Third Base had me lamenting the fact that I was locked out of the action. I had counted on winning big on the Series but at that point I couldn't risk laying money anywhere around town. Sullivan's reach didn't extend to every corner of the city, but Boston was still something of a small town and word of a bet from me getting back to him was too big a risk. It was like being the designated driver at the wildest New Year's Eve party you could imagine and all I could do was sulk in the corner and hope that I'd have a chance to find action in New York.

Fortunately, the schedule the commission set up worked in my favor. The Red Sox final game was on Saturday, October 5. I pitched the idea of going to New York early to write about their fans take on the Series to Ellis and he bought it. I'd have a little more than a day in New York City and that would be more than enough time to find some action.

I got to the City on October 7, well ahead of the Red Sox and the Royal Rooters Special, the train car Fitz and McGreevy had arranged for their boys. The Red Sox would land in at Penn Station around 5 p.m. and I had strict orders to cover both the players' arrival and that of the Rooters, who would be there shortly after. I immediately hailed a cab up to the 85th and Broadway hotel I would be staying at and then backtracked down to Hell's Kitchen where I was sure to find my fair share of bookies.

Jimmy Hagerty had given me the scoop on New York before I first ventured there in early September for a one day doubleheader against the Yanks. Hell's Kitchen was a rough area then, controlled mostly by an Irish gang Hagerty called the Gophers. They controlled gambling and prostitution in their neighborhood and in many of the more polished back rooms around the Great White Way. I had no way of knowing if the Gopher bookies knew Sport Sullivan or some of the other Boston bookies, I guessed that Sport would stick close to the Rooters and the inner circle Irish of Boston would hardly dare to wonder into the slums of Hell's Kitchen. I also wanted to make sure I was outside of the Tenderloin- which is now Times Square more or less. That would have been the easiest place in America to find a bet, but it was also where Hagerty claimed Arnold Rothstein operated and I couldn't chance that connection.

Hell's Kitchen was a depressing array of tenements, shacks and shanty's. Kids played wild, rough games of stick ball up and down the side streets and hard-looking men shot me distrusting looks as I walked down Ninth Avenue to a place called Madden's. It was too early to expect much of crowd and just a few old bar flies were still around, sipping large black drinks. I ordered a whiskey and took a small slip to boost my courage.

"You excited for the Series?" I asked the ancient bartender as he was sorting through some bottles.

"What's that now?" he coughed in a nearly incompressible brogue.

"I asked if you were excited about the World Series? The Giants and Red Sox, going to be a heck of battle," I offered.

"Oh, right, the baseball," he managed, "sure, sure. Not much of a fan myself, grew up with curling, gotta like that McGraw though, fine one, he is," may well have been his next remark, though I'll never be quite sure. I pressed on.

"Baseball's always been my game. I've done fairly well with it actually," I said. He didn't follow.

"Did you play now?"

"No," I gentled corrected, "I've had a good bit of luck betting it though."

He flashed a sly, knowing smile, much to my relief. "You must have a mind for it then, ehh?"

"You might say that." I sipped a bit more of my drink so as not to rush the issue. "You know of anywhere a man can find a little action on for the series," I whispered.

"Yah. D'ers a fellow be in later, has a book on all that." He stopped and gave me a hard look. "You're no cop are you?"

I laughed it off. "When will he be back?"

"After six"

I told him I'd be back and finished my drink. After I left the bar, I was suddenly very aware of dozens of eyes watching me. I hustled back to the subway and uptown.

After a quick lunch and a change of clothes at the hotel, I went back to Penn Station to catch the arrival of the players. There was little fanfare for the visitors. A few kids rushed Smokey Joe and Speaker and there were a few New York beat writers there tossing some softball questions towards a terse Jake Stahl, but overall it was hardly worth my showing up.

The Rooters' arrival was a different story. Their train pulled up pack with even more than the 300 fans Mayor Fitzgerald had secured tickets for. Led by Fitz and McGreevy, they paraded through Penn Station regaling the crowd with "Tessie" now changed to feature lyrics like "Matty, we're coming for you Tuesday" to taunt the presumed starter Christy Matthewson. The men were done up in the finest clothes and they sported straw hats with "Go Red Sox" printed around the crown. Some carried flags and pennants and other backed the rowdy chorus on drums and horns. At full volume, they marched through the grand structure and out onto Seventh Ave. With Tessie still ringing in my eyes, I rushed back to Madden's.

The dive had been transformed into a busy, loud nightmare of dock workers, thugs and drunks. I pressed my way to the bar and found the old man still there, accompanied behind the bar by a slight young man who had to his son. I reminded the bartender of our earlier encounter, a task that end up being quite difficult and finally learned that the large red-headed man in the Irish-knit sweater at the back table would be happy to take my money.

"You Liam?" I asked as I reached the place where the bookie was holding court.

"Ei," he said. "Kerry send ya?"

"He did" I told him. "I'm looking to bet on Boston"

The big man had a good laugh at that, which sent him coughing. He soothed his throat with most a pint of a think brew and slammed it down hard. "Well, I'm looking to take your money then," he announced. He gave me his odds, which even better than what I heard Sport was giving. I laid down $5000 on table.

He looked at the money for a long time, then back at me. The whole table quieted down. He picked the money up and flipped through it. "I suppose you will want a ticket for that"

I nodded. He signaled to a thin gnarled man on to his right and the man went to the bar. He returned several minutes later with a laundry ticket with "5 coats- Boston cut, 3-1 days" scribbled on it. It was a crude system, but it was word enough for me. Straight robbery wasn't typical of bookies then, at least in Boston. I wasn't willing to take a chance that the custom would hold.

With my bet placed, I went back to the hotel and wrote up a piece on the players and the rooter arriving in town and a little bit of drivel I had picked up from fans at the station to fulfill the conditions of my early arrival. I went to their telegraph room and had the two stories tapped out to the Crier office. The Morning Edition would be well stocked with baseball reporting for a day when no one actually played.

The next day the World Series would begin. With my bet in place, I was now focused entirely on the game. I was at the Polo Grounds early and set up in the press box by the time the Rooters paraded into the park, drawing a lusty chorus of boos from the home town crowd.

John McGraw lived up to his reputation as a sly opponent right from the start. He had done everything he could to imply that his horse, Christy Matthewson, would start the first game, but at the last minute, he started spitballing rookie Jeff Tesreau. It was exactly the type of theater the Giants skipper was known for, but it wasn't much more than just theater. Jake Stahl would trust Joe Wood and his regular line up regardless of McGraw's gambit.

Wood's fastball had responded well to some extra rest and he was throwing hard, but he started the game out wild and in the second inning, he gave up two runs, thanks in large part to Duffy Lewis losing a catchable fly ball in the sun. Terseau had a nasty spitter and he controlled it well, cruising through the early innings without allowing a hit. He got in trouble in the sixth, however. Tris Speaker hit a shot that fell between Fred Snodgrass and Josh Devore who collided on the play, giving him a triple. Duffy Lewis brought him in with ground out.

In the seventh, Larry Wagner and Hick Cady single to bring Wood up to the plate with a runner in scoring position. This time it was the Giants defense with the miscue. Larry Doyle, probably the best player in the National League that season, muffed a grounder that would have been an inning ending double play and the Red Sox were still alive. The Rooters went wild and struck up their anthem as Harry Hooper stepped in. Hooper delievered with a double and Steve Yerkes followed that with a single, giving Wood a 4-2 lead to take into the bottom of the inning.

Given the lead, Wood was transformed. He breezed through the bottom of the seventh and then through the eighth. Wood faltered some in the ninth, allowing back-to-back singles to bring up Chief Meyers, the Giants hard-hitting catcher. Meyers belted a double that would have tied the game if it hadn't been fielded by Hooper, whose arm was enough to hold Buck Herzog at third. That made it 4-3 with the tying run on third and the winning run on second. Wood shook it off, though and bounced back to strike out Art Fletcher and blew the final strike of the game by pitcher Doc Crandell for the win.

The World Series had begun and Wood and the Red Sox were up by one game headed back home to Fenway.

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