It was chilly for September, and all the ladies in the front row wore fur coats and earmuffs, while the gentlemen graciously offered their jackets, knowing they would be refused, but too cavalier not to play the game. As the gray clouds began to blanket the Chicago sky, a hushed whisper rippled through the crowd, and they all leaned slightly forward on their bench seats. A brief handshake, and then ...
The Chicago Whales were playing their last homestand of the season, and maybe of their short existence. Charlie Weeghman had simply spent too much money on their new park. $250,000! Sure, the outfield bleachers were as nice as they come, and the grass was imported from Panama, but ... a quarter of a million. Everyone thought he had gone nuts. But Charlie was simply excited about baseball. He didn't know much about it, but he was a solid businessman. His restaurants did well all over town, and like his restaurants, Charlie figured a 3rd team in Chi-town would be good competition. Everything Charlie touched turned to gold. That's just the way it was.
Ace Prendergast stared in at the sign, nodded, and delivered. Strike three! Two down. Prendergast just shook his head in disbelief. In 1913 he had been playing for $25 a week in the Virginia mountains with a bunch of coal miners and teenaged runaways. Now he was making almost $350 a week ... plus per diem! His mouth watered at the thought of a nice porterhouse .. strike one .. just waiting for him back at the hotel, calling his name .. strike two .. before the big trip out to St. Louis .. strike three! As he walked back to the dugout, he broke into stride with Art Wilson, the catcher. "They got good beef in St. Louis, Art?"
Charlie hadn't spared any expense in signing some of the best players from the other circuits, either - Max Flack, Three-Finger Brown, even Chicago legend Joe Tinker came over at the chance of managing his own team. Of course, finding a few superstars at bargain-bin prices in Prendergast, Dutch Zwilling, and Wilson had been kind of nice, too. Charlie applauded as the Whales headed in to get ready to bat. In the back of his mind, though, he did some quick calculations.
Let's see, we're 83-65, the Rebs are 86-64, and the Terriers are 85-64. That means we've gotta sweep the Terriers to have a chance. Not to mention winning here. And the Rebs are just gonna have to have some bad luck. Damn it, this is worse than last year!
Charlie was right. Last year, the Whales had swept the 3rd-place Baltimore squad to finish the season 87-67. But the Indianapolis Feds had already won 88 games, and only had one game left, so the Whales were out before the last day even started. Here it was all in the Whales' hands. At this, Charlie grimaced; the Whales had buckled under pressure in late innings a little too often recently for his tastes. Charlie's thoughts were interrupted by the crack of a bat. He looked up just in time to see Dutch's fly ball sail out and into the foul seats. A lucky fan scooped up the ball and waved it to the crowd, who clapped appreciatively at the new souvenir. Mr. Weeghman smiled; over in the National League you were required to hand back foul balls or face arrest. Weeghman didn't like that philosophy - he had plenty of money for baseballs - and so the very first day of 1914 he had given every fan in attendance a baseball, and told the press that any ball hit into the stands could be kept by the fans. Of course, Charlie's gesture wasn't entirely altruistic: attendance those first two months had outpaced the Cubs and Pale Hosers nearly two to one.
Two pitches later, and Zwelling was standing on second with a nice double to the left field gap. Mrs. Weeghman turned to her husband and pointed at the star. "What's his name again, dear? I am so terrible with names."
"That's Dutch Zwelling. He plays rightfield. He is the best hitter we've got."
"What about Joe? I thought he was your favorite."
"Joe is my favorite dear. But that doesn't mean he's the best hitter. He's our smartest player, that's for sure. That's why I let him run the squad. He knows what he's doing."
On cue, as if to prove Charlie's point, Tinker, who was standing in the batter's box, laid a perfect bunt down the first base line. The Brooklyn hurler scrambled for the ball and barely reached the bag before the hustling veteran did. One out, runner on third. Joe smiled and waved to the Weeghmans, sitting in their seats right by the field. To top it off, he winked mischievously at the Tip Tops first baseman, who just stared dumbly, hands on his hips.
Tinker's sacrifice paid off, as the 6 spot Harry Fritz punched a high deep flyball near the leftfield wall. The fielder made the catch, and Zwelling raced home. 1-0, simple as that. Joe loved the fundamentals. What he loved even more was good pitching. He had convinced Charlie to sign his old Cubs roommate Three-Finger, along with trading for a relative unknown named Dave Black from Baltimore, who had blossomed into a strong starter in the middle of the season. Tinker knew what he was doing, but the season was still too close. Every win counted, every run, every hit. Now was no time to choke.
Ace Prendergast was just the kind of guy Tinker wanted on the mound right now. Confident - some would say cocky - he threw hard, worked hard, and drank hard. He didn't have many friends on the team, and more than once he had heard various mutterings about ripping off Ace's trademark sideburns. But Ace could really mow 'em down, and did so inning after inning ...
8 innings later, Chicago was still clinging to their 1-0 lead. They'd need Prendergast to close out the season, so Tinker pulled him in favor of his protege Black. It was his first relief appearance, but he didn't appear to rattled by the situation. He calmly walked to the mound, delivered his three warmup pitches, and settled in. He got the sign from Art, reared back and ..
The ball sailed for what seemed like miles. It landed out on Addison Street, bouncing into one of the open warehouse doors that lined the sidewalk. The lead vanished, just like that. Black simply shrugged. Tinker came over from second to give him a lecture.
"Now, Dave ..."
"Joe, I know. That pitch was terrible. High, middle of the plate, no pep. My grandmother could've hit that one."
"Hey, kid. These guys ain't your grandmother. So don't pitch to 'em like they are."
Black just nodded silently. He looked over at Art, who pushed his hands to the ground, the international symbol for "calm down, kid, you only just blew what might be our only chance at the pennant." The Tip Tops were all standing idly by in the dugout, laughing and patting Al Halt, the victorious batter, on the back. Black's nerves nearly broke him up laughing, too - Halt was 160 pounds soaking wet! And he'd really clobbered that thing, too. Maybe enough to count two runs. Black turned back to the plate. Focus, focus ...
Four pitches later, Fred Smith had been issued a pass to first base. Four more pitches and another walk. Black barreled down. Strike one with a whistling fastball low and away. Then, another perfect strike, only Grover Land, the Tip Tops catcher, got a piece of it. It floated down into shallow center. Max Flack came charging and fired a decent throw to home plate, but Smith's quick feet easily beat the throw home. 2-1, in the books. Game over. Black looked like he could cry.
First baseman Fred Beck came over to console him. "Nice going, kid. We don't win this pennant, you think we're gonna be around next year? Hey, Coach, how'd the Mutts do today?" And he was off, leaving Black alone on the mound, wondering if he had eliminated the team from contention. It was gonna be a long night ...
Ace pushed the plate away. "Not another bite!" he exclaimed. "I'm stuffed!"
The porterhouse was all but gone, and Ace was satisfied. He was a little dejected about the loss today, but he knew the real test was down in the City of Saints. That kid Black, he'd be an okay pitcher if he'd just get his act together ...
As Ace headed out the lobby, Dutch stopped him. He had the smell of liquor on his breath. "Ya know, you betta not let ush down this Sunday." He stuck an accusatory finger under Ace's nose. "I don't like you and your attitude, acting like you own the team. I'm the star! Not you, right?"
"Hey, Dutch, why don't you go stick your thumb in a dike?"
Dutch grabbed Ace by his shirt lapels. "What'd you say? I'll make sure you don't play Sunday. Or ever again!" He took a wild swing at Ace, but Ace easily sidestepped it, and as Dutch fell to floor, put his foot firmly on Dutch's back.
"Get out of here, kraut. You're too drunk and I'm too nice."
Ace lifted his foot, and Dutch took another swing, batting it away from him. He stood up and walked off, but not before turning and yelling at Ace, "You better watch your mouth, kid!" Ace just smiled and turned away to head for his room at the Palmer House.
Before he got to the stairs, a smile caught his eye. He turned for just a quick glance, and boy! What a knockout! "Hi," he stammered. "W-what's your name?"
"My name's Ginger. What's yours?"
"Ace." Ginger looked him over once then flicked her hand towards the stairs.
"Just back to my room, why, you want to come up for some booze?"
Ginger gave Ace a crooked glass smile. "Sure, that'd be ... delightful."
"Great! C'mon then!" Ace grabbed Ginger by the hand and scurried up the steps, the dame tripping to keep up. By the time they reached his door, she was out of breath. Ace had hardly broke a sweat. He unlocked the door and turned to Ginger. "Ladies first."
Ginger grimaced and stepped into the room. "So, where's this booze I was promised?" She turned and batted her eyelashes innocently at Ace. He grinned goofily and ran over to a cabinet, pulling out a decanter and two overpriced shot glasses. He poured one for each of them, handed Ginger hers, and swallowed his in one fluid motion. Ginger stepped back for a moment, then smiled to herself. Ace quickly poured himself a drink.
"So, kitten, you ever watch the Whales?"
"Oh, I'm afraid I've never been to the ocean ..."
"Ha ha ha! That's a good one, 'never been to the ocean'... naw, I meant the Whales baseball team, right here in Chicago."
"I .. I can't say that I have. That's an awfully abrupt question, though."
"Oh, yeah. Well, you see - I guess you wouldn't know, huh? - I pitch for the Whales. Pitched today as a matter of fact."
"You do! Well, I never would've guessed. I always thought baseball players were the scrappy type, but you are 100% man." Ace blushed. "So, did you win?" Ace's guffaw quickly faded into a dour pout. "No. I was winning when I left the game, but some other guy couldn't hold the lead."
"Aww, that's too bad. Well, there's always another day, right?"
"No! That's just it, we've only got three games left. I'm gonna be pitching the last one, but it's gonna take a mighty intervention for us to win the pennant - the championship - now." Ace lifted his glass and again downed the whiskey.
"Oh. Well that's just terrible! Well, now that I know, I'll come root for you!"
Ace smiled. "I'd like that, Ginger. Say, you haven't touched your drink ..."
Smirking, Ginger took a small sip of the whiskey while Ace looked on approvingly. He poured himself another drink, and Ginger could see his eyelids starting to droop. She scanned the room, spotting the telephone on a drawer by the bed. Now it was just a matter of time ...
"Missing, sir. The maid said no one was there when she cleaned up this morning. All of his clothes were still there, nothing packed for the trip."
"He's probably out lying in a ditch somewhere! Jefferson, hire a private detective! Hire two! Find Prendergast and have him in St. Louis by Sunday!" Weeghman slammed the phone down. He was nervous, really nervous. The Terriers had swept a doubleheader against Newark, eliminating the Peppers from the championship and improving to 87-64. Luckily for both teams, Pittsburgh had squandered an early four-run lead, falling to the Buffalo Blues 6-4 in ten innings. Chicago wasn't out of the clear yet. And now Prendergast was off doing God knows what when they had a series to play! Weeghman was fuming. He picked up the receiver again. "Operator? Get me River Grove two six one four one."
A mumbling Joe Tinker picked up the line. "Joe? Joe? It's Mr. Weeghman. Sorry to wake you, but we've got a bit of a situation here. Ace Prendergast has vanished."
Joe asked the same questions Weeghman had asked Jefferson: who had seen him last? was he in his room this morning? who was going to pitch the third game if Ace didn't reappear? And like Jefferson, Weeghman didn't have any good answers.
"Some barfly says he saw Ace talking up a lady friend in the lobby around ten. Says they went up to his room. He also says he saw Ace get into it with Dutch. Now listen, Joe, I don't want you to worry about this now. Don't tell the team - tell 'em something came up, Ace's dear old mother has had a stroke, and Ace just had go to see her. We've got Mordecai and Claude to get us through the first two games, and hopefully by then Ace will have turned up."
"Okay, boss. Gee, I hope Ace is okay, wherever he is. Can't afford to lose that arm forever."
"Good luck, Joe. See you in St. Louis."
"Thanks, Mr. Weeghman. Looks like we'll need every bit of it you can spare."
That night, as the Whales sat in the dining car, their heads bowed in prayer for Ace's stricken mother, Joe had one eye open, keeping an eye on his team, looking for any signs of defeatism. All of the players were fairly nondescript, except Dave Black, whose lip seemed to quiver ever so often. "Amen," Joe said, and the players all got ready for dinner. Joe motioned to Three-Finger, who slid down a seat and let Tinker in between him and the young hurler.
"So, Dave ..."
"If Ace doesn't show up, game three's going to be your start."
"But coach! Why can't I just start game two? Leave the big one up to Claude."
"I don't want Claude. I've seen your stuff. The Terriers, they've got a stacked lineup. Bunch of lefties. And you're a lefty. Claude's a righty. So I want you to pitch the last game, ok?"
Dave was practically bursting with pride. "Coach, I won't let you down again, I promise! I promise!"
Joe smiled and patted Dave on the back. "Sure, kid, I believe you. Now what's for dinner? I'm dying here!"
As the Whales took the field in the bottom of the sixth, trailing the Terriers 4-1, the public announcer came on through the stadium speakers. "In Pittsburgh today, the final score: Kansas City 10, Pittsburgh 1." The crowd let up a roar: the Terriers were still in the race! Inside the Chicago dugout, excited murmurs escaped from nervous lips. As Joe ran to his position in the infield, he yelled to his pitcher, "Hey, Three! If you hold 'em this inning, we'll win it all." Mordecai tipped his cap, imitating the young vaudeville sensation Fred Astaire: "I shall do my untiring best."
Mordecai did just that, striking out the side in 11 pitches. Leading off the seventh was Max Flack, who promptly hit his 14th triple of the season. After the Terriers walked Zwelling, Tinker made an interesting move: he took himself out of the game, replaced by the young Mickey Doolan, who had only recently joined the team but showed a lot of promise at the plate. The move paid off as Doolan hit a line drive single, scoring Flack and moving Zwelling to second. Two outs later, Zwelling was at third, and Doolan at second.
Now up to bat was Mordecai Brown. The 38-year-old pitcher had never batted well when he was in the National League, but he had done remarkably well the whole year, with a relatively scorching .291 batting average. Still, Doc Watson, the opposing pitcher, was no pushover, and he quickly roared two strikes past Brown. Brown bared in, and although the pitch was nearly 8 inches outside the strike zone, he took a mighty swing and sent a looping shallow fly to right field. The first baseman and right fielder converged in a big hurry under the ball, but neither one could stop it from dropping in. Zwelling and Doolan both came around. The game was tied! The Whales' morale was sky high.
Later in the bottom of the seventh, with Doc Watson long gone and the score now 8-4 and the Chicago bats showing no sign of cooling off, Tinker took a moment to think about Ace. Maybe he wasn't just off drunk somewhere. Could the Terriers have pulled this off? It didn't seem very likely. All they had to do was win one out of three, and if they got caught, it would be disastrous for the League. What about the Cubs? Or even Major League Baseball? They had a lot to gain if they could submarine the Federal League. During the last offseason they had offered some outrageous sums of money to the Federal owners if they'd just close up shop. The Feds had refused; they were simply making too much money at the ticket booth to quit now. Joe knew a few executives at the top of the majors, and he wouldn't trust them as far as he could throw them. Or maybe Ace really was just off drunk somewhere ...
Baseball was still relatively young, and there was a dangerous element to all sports in 1915. Off the field, there were a number of incidents involving players. Back in 1903, one of Tinker's few true baseball friends Ed Delahanty had mysteriously "jumped" from a moving train. Everyone in the know suspected Ed's gambling problems had finally caught up to him, in the form of two big guys with guns. Some were saying teams were being paid to fix games, and being paid big. One rumor going around was the reason Chicago's own Max Flack had crossed over to the Federal League was to avoid some creditors of his who wanted him to throw games to "pay off" his debt. And if Flack the superstar was in deep, who knows what some of the everyday journeymen were up to ...
Tinker shook his head, and looked over at Dave Black. Hope the boy holds up on Sunday ..., he thought as the never-ending inning finally ended. The game was mercifully quick, and the Terriers limped home, 9-5 losers.
Things were looking up for the Whales. Pittsburgh had started their game an hour earlier and were trailing Kansas City by 7 runs in the 8th. Claude had been particularly dazzling in the first two innings, and the Fish had capitalized on two early Terrier miscues to score three runs. Tinker had benched himself in favor of the clutch Doolan for the day.
The night before, he had received a phone call from Jack Jefferson, Mr. Weeghman's traveling secretary, who told him what Joe had feared the most: the front office had received a ransom note for Prendergast's safe return. It came at a dear cost: $20,000. Weeghman was distraught; he barely had enough operational money to run the daily finances of the team. Twenty grand would practically bankrupt the franchise. He'd have to sell one of his restaurants to come up with that kind of cash.
Jefferson had taken the midnight train to the Mound City. He had brought two Chicago detectives with him, Lucas and O'Donnell, who wanted to ask the players and Tinker a few questions.
"The usual, Joe. Did Ace have any enemies? Anybody who might want to harm him? Anybody ever talk about something like this? Frankly, Charles is convinced that whoever did this was hired by those goons at the White Sox organization. They're practically run by the mob these days!"
Tinker met the trio at the station and they took a taxi back to the hotel. The detectives did ask the usual, and Tinker gave him what he knew, which wasn't much. The cops showed him the ransom note. Tinker strained to read the blurry and smeared letter, finally resorting to his reading glasses. It read:
TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS OR YOU'LL NEVER SEE PRENDERGAST AGAIN. TEN O'CLOCK, SHAW'S TOMB, LEAVE THE MONEY THERE. NO FUNNY BUSINESS.
"Doesn't help much. Sorry, boys. I'll let you talk to the rest of the squad after tomorrow's game." The cops thanked Joe, and he went to bed, still puzzled by the whole affair. Kidnapped? And the guys wanted the money in St. Louis. So they were in town ... but he didn't want to risk cops tipping off the criminal and putting Ace's life in danger. Before he went to sleep, Joe said a small prayer for his star pitcher ...
The game continued on, with the crowd once again applauding wildly at the Pittsburgh loss. It was the final game of Pittsburgh for the season, and they were now mathematically eliminated from the championship. It was down to the last two games in St. Louis. Claude continued to pitch handily for the Whales, and they put together three meaningless runs in the eighth inning for a 6-0 shutout. One game. One game ...
That night, at 9:45, Jefferson received a call from Weeghman: do the deal. He took a light stroll down to the tomb of the famous St. Louis businessman, and carefully set down a small black suitcase. He looked around, hoping that he could catch a glimpse of evidence - a car, a face, a shadow - but all he saw was darkness. He slowly turned and walked away, leaving the bag in front of the tomb.
At 10:10, Lucas and O'Donnell, disguised as vagrants, entered the area around the tomb. The bag was gone. They looked at each other, and both thought the same thing: Hope they bring the kid around in time for tomorrow...
10:30. Tinker awoke to the shrill ringing of the telephone.
"Any news about Ace?"
"Nothing yet. But the cops said something interesting to me."
"They said that it looked like an inside job."
"What? An inside job? How do they know?"
"Well, they said that the note wasn't postmarked."
"So it means somebody who knew where the mail at the front office is taken stuck it in there with it, instead of mailing it."
"Well, who knows that kind of info?"
"Well, Mr. Weeghman, myself, Mr. Thomas, the vice-president. Oh, and of course, all of the players. It's where you go to pick up your paychecks on off days..."
Suddenly a light went off. "I'll call you back, Mr. Jefferson. I think I know who kidnapped Ace Prendergast." He hung up, grabbed his coat, and ran out the door.
BANG BANG BANG
"Who's there? It's late, I gotta game to play tomorrow, you know!"
"It's Joe. Open up!"
"Alright, hold on."
The door opened and Joe stepped inside. "What is it, Joe?"
"I got good news. Ace's mom is doing a lot better. So he's coming on the early morning train here to St. Louis, along with Mr. Weeghman. I'm running around telling everybody. Why don't you come help me?"
"Ace ... is coming? But .. but how can that be? I thought ..." A stiffening breeze coursed through the room.
Joe's false smile faded away into an icy glare. "Thought what? That Ace wouldn't be coming at all? Because Ace couldn't come, right? He was going to be detained quite indefinitely."
"I'm guessing you know what I mean. The ransom note, the drop off, the suitcase full of cash. Mr. Weeghman was convinced it was gangsters, just simple extortion. But then I learned something very interesting. The cops on the case said the note wasn't postmarked. So it had to be hand delivered to the front office. And the only people besides Weeghman and Jefferson who know where that is, are the players."
A slow exhalation.
"So, I thought back to who might not want Ace around. And then it hit me. The ransom note. It was so smeared I had to pull out my reading glasses to catch it all. You know how I hate to use my reading glasses. But why was it so smeary? Whenever I write anything, I don't have any problems with smearing.
But that's because I'm not left-handed. Left-handed people, see, they still gotta write left to right, and their hand just drags over their words. Makes them real smeared. I had the same problem with the payroll guy with the Cubs. The banks wouldn't take my check because they couldn't read my name on the check."
A visible gulp.
"How could you do it, Dave?"
Without answering, Black reached into his pocket, and pulled out a revolver. He crept backwards to the bed, and reached over the side, grabbing the incriminating suitcase in his right hand.
"I didn't want the money. You gotta believe me, Joe. I just wanted the chance. The chance, Joe! After I blew that game, I knew I was done for in this league. Unless I got another chance! And Ace, well he didn't need it, he's gonna be around forever, no matter what. This was my break! My whole dream in life was to play baseball. If I was out, I didn't have nothing. When I was growing up on the South Side, I watched you and Evers and Chance and Mordecai whenever I could. I just wanted to be you guys, it drove me crazy. And I finally make it and .. aww, gee, Joe, it was like an explosion! The crowds roaring, the pressure, the glory - I got hooked, and hooked bad. I just couldn't go out like that. Not with a whimper. Not like that, Joe..."
Dave took some steps towards the door. Joe moved aside slowly, and Dave opened the door. As he did, O'Donnell leapt and tackled him. The gun went flying to the back of the room, and the suitcase crashed to the ground, springing open.
Inside was nothing but a small note. It read:
PLEASE DO NOT HURT MR. PENDERGRAST. CANNOT MEET YOUR DEMANDS. NEED TO NEGOTIATE BETTER TERMS. WEEGHMAN.
As Dave was led away, he stared dumfounded at the note. The commotion had woken many of the players.
"What happened, Joe?" Art Wilson asked.
Joe grinned meekly and replied, "I guess I just worked myself out of a jam."
Soon after Dave had handed over Ace's whereabouts, the final game of the season began. 42,000 people jampacked Handlan Park to see who would claim first place. The Terriers struck first, getting three straight hits off the obviously sore Three-Finger Brown, and then culminating with a base-clearing triple. It was 4-0 before he got out of the first inning.
In the bottom of the first, the Whales loaded the bases with one out, but they failed to score when Joe hit into a inning-ending double play. "Tinkers to Evers to Chance!" a heckler announced from the bleachers.
By the fourth inning, it was 5-1 and it looked like there was no relief in sight. Suddenly, Joe heard a familiar tinny voice edging its way towards the dugout, nervously yelling, "Timeout!" to anybody of authority who looked his way. "It's alright, ump, Jefferson's with me. So what's the story?"
"I'm the story!"
Behind Jefferson stood Ace Prendergast in the flesh.
Everyone in the dugout crowded around their star pitcher, slapping him on the back. No one was happier to see Ace than Three-Finger. He promptly left to get some ice from the concession stand for his aching elbow.
"You feel ready to pitch, Ace? We need you."
"Coach, you can count on me!" As Ace raced out onto the field, Dutch stopped at the mound.
"Win this one, ok? And no hard feelings about the other day. I deserved everything I got."
"Save it for the victory party, Dutch." Ace smiled as he said it, and Dutch grinned like an embarrassed schoolboy before heading out to right.
Ace was in top form, mowing down the Terriers left and right. He pitched a perfect fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, while the Whales scored two more runs to make it 5-3.
In the seventh, Ace got into a sticky situation. With no outs, he had walked Tom Garber and given up a single to Henry Brewster. The count was full, and the batter was waiting for the pitch with an evil glint in his eye. Ace cocked his arm and fired a rocket to the plate. The batter connected with a smash. Ace closed his eyes, expecting the worst ...
Suddenly, Joe made an entirely inhuman leap, stabbing at the ball as it rose and rose over his head. At the top of his grasp, he stretched even further ... he caught it! Brewster, expecting an easy run to third, stopped dead in his tracks in front of Joe, who tagged him for the second out. Garber was so caught up in the hit, he didn't even notice Joe had caught it, sliding into home with the zeal of a sandlot kid. Joe nonchalantly walked over to second base and tapped it for the third out. An unassisted triple play! The crowd was stunned. And even though several of his teammates confided in him that they knew he could do it, they, too, were amazed at the 34 year old. As he entered the dugout, the same heckler from earlier gave another cheer: "Tinker to Tinker to Tinker! Hurrah!" and the crowd echoed his "Hurrah!" through the entire stadium. Surely they were in the presence of greatness.
Fresh off the inning-ending save, Joe came out to bat and led off the inning with a double. That started another two run rally, tying the game at 5 runs apiece. Ace continued to dominate, throwing a perfect eighth. In the top of the ninth, Art Wilson came up and lined a lazy shot into left field. For whatever reason, on October 3, 1915, the trickster gods of geometry decided to favor the Whales. As Tom Garber raced the ball to the wall and Wilson (not a particularly fast baserunner) charged towards second, the ball took an off-kilter skip off a rock in the grass and caromed behind Garber. The ball continued rolling to the wall, and when it hit, instead of bouncing straight off, took a dastardly spin away from the field and over into foul territory. Wilson continued running, egged on by his teammates. Garber chased the ball into the far corners of the field, scooping it up as Wilson rounded third. Obviously winded, every step seemed to take place in slow motion for Wilson. The throw came sailing in, cut off by the third baseman Tex Westerzil, who turned and fired to home plate. Wilson slid, the ball arrived, and the dust rose, enveiling the entire scene forever in the mysterious lore of baseball.
When the dust cleared, the umpire frantically pushed his hands away from his chest. "Safe! Safe! Safe! Safe!" The crowd booed as loudly as it had ever booed before. The catcher took up immediate protest, while the Whales lifted up Wilson and carried him back to the dugout - whether for celebration or to save the poor man's life, this author does not know. The Terrier's manager came and protested as well, but to no avail: the run stood, and the Whales were ahead 6-5.
Showing no signs of slowing down as he entered the ninth, Ace coaxed the first two batters into weak infield grounders. Two down, and the only man standing between the Whales and glory was Westerzil. Westerzil had played virtually the whole season for the Whales, only to be traded over a payment dispute in late August. He still had a grudge against the Whales. Ace took careful aim, throwing pitches that Westerzil couldn't hit. With the count two and two, Westerzil let loose with a swing that connected squarely with the ball. Luckily for Ace, the pitch had been sinking and the ball went just left of the third base foul pole. The crowd gasped, but Ace and the Whales were still alive.
Ace stared down hard, and fired. Westerzil's eyes widened, and he took a mighty swing ...
"Strike three! You're out!"
The Whales rushed onto the field, dogpiling on their star pitcher and hero at the mound, as the dejected Terriers looked on. Everyone except Joe Tinker, who just stood in the dugout and smiled and let the glory of the day sink into his weary bones. His mind was already on a little vacation spot in Palm Beach, where he could spend time with his wife and baby daughter. He certainly had earned his vacation.
Talking to reporters after the game, Ace rehashed his magnificently weird story: after getting drunk and passing out, he awoke to find himself bound and gagged in a dark room. He finally figured out it was a bathroom, but couldn't get any more details than that. He tried vainly to work himself free, and for a few hours he was convinced he was being left to die there. Luckily, Coach Tinker had helped the police catch the bad guy, who had led them to him.
Meanwhile, Joe was having a celebratory dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Weeghman.
"Well, Joe, I can't thank you enough for everything you've done. Besides helping the team - and that spectacular play today! - you've helped save me a lot of money in the process."
"Saved you a lot of money? I don't see how. There was nothing in that bag but a note asking for a better price."
Mr. Weeghman shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
"Mr. Weeghman, I don't like the idea of you putting a price on a person's head. If that's what the bottom line is, you can count me out. I'm taking my trophy and I'm retiring."
"Now, hold on, Joe, let's not be hasty..."
"Forget it, Charlie. You're just going to have find you another manager."
Mr. Weeghman stammered for a moment. "Now see here! I'll do just that! Find me another manager, and win the pennant again! Don't think I won't! You see, the majors finally brought an offer to the table us Feds can't refuse. $600,000 to each owner! We'll all be rich. In fact, I might even use my money to buy one of the Major League teams. I think I already have an interested seller."
"You do, dear?" Mrs. Weeghman interjected.
"Yes, I do. The Taft family has graciously offered me ownership of the Chicago Cubs. And the first thing tomorrow I'll sign the papers. I'll sign the papers and win so many championships that this one will be a worthless token by the time I'm through!"
"Well, Mr. Weeghman, if that's how you see it. But I hope you never win a championship. When I won in 1908 with the Cubs, that meant something. We earned that. But you. You think baseball's all about the bottom dollar, bringing people into the seats. You just buy your victories and your success. You don't respect the game, and so the game will never respect you. Or your team. Goodbye, Chuck."
In June of 1923, a 31-year-old journeyman named Dave Black pitched two innings of shutout baseball for the Boston Red Sox, upholding their 8-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The next day, his hotel room was empty. He was never heard from again.