The Mysterious Bookshop

Lieutenant Jones and the All-Stars

 

For once Lieutenant Jones knew where he was, and when.  He was riding on the ‘El’ in the ‘Loop’ and when the sensation overcame him it was much milder than usual. He’d simply gone from where he’d been to 1933, judging by the newspapers, and outside the window of the train car things hadn’t changed much.  The tracks were still rickety and wooden, and still swayed in the wind.  The passengers were dressed more formally, the fare was only a nickel, and the train as a whole was slower, but all in all, a less jarring journey than the norm.  The only thing was, he’d been coming into the North side from Evanston, and now he was headed the other way, on towards the giant ballpark on the South Side. Disembarking at the 35th Street stop, the Lieutenant found himself in the midst of a giant crowd, pouring out of the taverns and beaneries of the neighborhood and sweeping him along with the tide. Desirous of escaping the mob, he ducked into Ma McCuddy’s place for a bowl of ‘Century of Progress’ stew, and perhaps a beer, since Lt. Jones understood that alcohol had recently been made legal again.  Shaking his head at the folly of man, the Lieutenant was able to sit in a booth since the place was nearly empty and put in his order.  Just what was the ‘Century of Progress,’ anyway?  Picking up a discarded newspaper from the seat, he found that it was a festival celebrating the city’s centennial with exhibitions of scientific breakthroughs, new inventions, and the ever-present stockyards.  Lost in thought, it was a few minutes before the conversation from the next booth seeped into the Lieutenant’s field of hearing. And seep it did!

‘We’ll get rid of that big monkey yet, you’ll see!’  

Now this was interesting.  What big monkey were they talking about?

‘Do you know, that Ruth cost me eighty grand when he beat the Cubs last fall?  At last, I’ll have my revenge!’

‘Listen, Sully, he didn’t beat them by himself, you know.’

‘He might as well have, the bum.  And now they’re having this ‘Game of the Century’ with the players from all the teams, so this is our chance!’

‘We’d better get going.  Do you have the tickets?’

The man they called ‘Sully’ patted his front suit pocket. ‘Right here. Do you have the instrument?’  ‘Right here,’ was the reply, for the other man was carrying an attache case. And out they went.  The Lieutenant wolfed down his ‘Century of Progress’ stew and finished his coffee (no beer at Ma McCuddy’s) and followed the two men out at a discreet distance.  

It didn’t take long to get to Comiskey Park, since it was right across the street, but it was a tall order to keep up with the two gangsters in the huge crowd. The Lieutenant caught a break when they all ended up in the same men’s room.  Never is a man more honest, or more vulnerable, than when he is standing at a trough at the ballpark. The would-be miscreants exchanged meaningful glances and trooped out as one. But, as Lt. Jones tailed them, they did not return to a seating area, or even to the exit.  They slipped past a flimsy fenced-off section and made their way to the stadium’s roof. But Lt. Jones knew the park well, as his father and grandfather had both been rabid White Sox fans. He bypassed the staircase and ran to the freight elevator, where he bribed the operator with a fin to take him to the roof, where with any luck he could get there before the mobsters. It was obvious that they had it in for Babe Ruth, and that the briefcase contained some sort of weapon.  From the way they were talking in Ma’s place, they’d lost a lot of money betting on the previous year’s World Series, which the Cubs had lost in four straight.

It sounded for all the world as though they were planning to murder Ruth, who wasn’t the leading hitter in the Series (Lou Gehrig was) and who didn’t even have the most home runs in the ‘32 Fall Classic (Gehrig hit three; Ruth and Tony Lazzeri, two apiece).  It must be because of the symbolism of ridding New York of a rival at such a high-profile event, mused the Lieutenant.  He made it to the roof before the nefarious duo, and took stock of his surroundings.  The game was well under way and there was a runner on first.  It was hard to see, but it looked like the Detroit Tigers nonpareil second sacker Charlie Gehringer.  The Lieutenant had a soft spot for Gehringer, as the All-Star took care of his mother.  Lt. Jones liked those who were kind to their mothers. But now the crowd was roaring, standing, cheering!  Straw hats flew everywhere as the multitudes greeted the one and only Bambino as the colossus strode to the dish.  The bat looked like a toothpick in his hands as number 3 took his stance in the left handed batter’s box.  Lost in rapt attention, the Lieutenant only now noticed that the two men in silk suits had arrived on the roof and had assembled the rifle that was indeed in the briefcase. Sully was sighting on his target and there were only seconds to act!

As the Lieutenant looked around for something to throw at the sniper to ruin his aim (he shunned firearms), another roar swelled up from the stands, even louder than the first.  CRACK!  The Babe had connected with a Wild Bill Hallahan pitch and sent it soaring high above the playing field. What a mighty drive!  All three men on the roof watched, mesmerized, as the home run ball came hurtling right at them--smashing the rifle out of Sully’s hands!  Yes, hot on the heels of the first home run in All-Star Game history came the Bambino’s revenge!  THAT will teach those bums to target one of the most beloved figures in American sporting history!

As Lt. Jones rounded up the now meek gunsels, he reflected,  let that be a lesson to one and all--let the only shots in our lives be mighty,Ruthian blasts to the deepest reaches of the outfield.



Happy Fourth of July!  Your friendly blogger will be away for the holiday weekend and will return to this space Thursday, July 7.  Remember that Monday, July 11, is the 105th anniversary of the one and only known unassisted triple play---by an outfielder!  That’s hard to do.

 

Check out some of these titles having to do with the Windy City:

 

It's 1950 Chicago at the time of the very first official investigation into organized crime. Author Collins blends fact and fiction in this Nathan Heller tale. Check out Max Allan Collns' newest, Better Dead, below.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/collins-max-allan-chicago-confidential

 

More corrupt than New York, less glamorous than LA, the mythical city of shadows as described in the work of Sherwood Anderson, Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, and Patricia Highsmith, all of whom are featured in this collection of short fiction.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/meno-joe-editor-chicago-noir-the-classics

 

A woman disappears from downtown Chicago, while at the same time a mysterious woman appears in a beanery an hour outside the city. Coincidence?

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/mary-kubica-dont-you-cry

 

It's not only gangsters that kill folks in Chicago; sometimes women do it, too!

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/perry-douglas-the-girls-of-murder-city

 

It's not Comiskey, true, but the North Side has its share of lowlifes too!

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/soos-troy-murder-at-wrigley-field

 

Chicago detective Nathan Heller has got himself mixed up with Senator Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Bobby Kennedy, and even Dashiell Hammett!

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/max-allan-collins-better-dead



Questions/Comments/Nice Fat Pitches?  mike@mysteriousbookshop.com

Written by Ian Kern — June 30, 2016

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