at Ebbets Field
The one event Alistair Harrington Bland had promised himself not to
miss on his first trip to America was a baseball game about which he
knew absolutely nothing but had been fired up to see by the Yanks he
had served with in the recent war against the Kaiser. Though from a
family of uppercrust connections, Bland was one of those agape young
Englishmen who regarded the world from a constant state of surprise
and vacuous delight, forever taken in by its fabrications. When one
of his American buddies informed him that the houses in California looked
so colorful because their owners used striped paint, Bland couldn't
believe it but did.
Now, finding himself climbing the stone steps of Ebbets Field, the stadium
where the irrepressible fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a.k.a. "Dem Bums,"
awaited the opening pitch, his excitement mounted. These were the fans
that put their team only second to God but abused it like the devil.
They came to the games prepared to commit mayhem and murder at the slightest
provocation, such as a successful bunt by the opposition or a decision
by an umpire against their team. It was happening all around him on
this hot July day and the game hadn't even begun yet. Amidst the cries
of the frankfurter vendors, "Hot dawgs, hot dawgs, mustid and sauerkraut!"
and the calls of the lemonade dispensers, and the peanut sellers, the
crowd yelled, "Come on out and play, bums!"
a high crowned beige summer hat, a white jacket over an open-collared
shirt and a light ascot, Bland searched for a seat high up in the rapidly
filling stands. He spotted one next to the occupant of the aisle seat.
pahdon," he said in his lofty, clipped accent. "May I?"
leathery, suntanned fellow in an undershirt wore a soiled white cap
angled sharply over his suspicious, the very short end of a butt thrust
out of the corner of his lips. "Hunh?" he inquired staring up at Bland's
lanky figure and long faced, innocent look.
"I say, may I acquire the adjacent accommodation?" Bland asked
"That seat? Is it vacant?" "I don't see nobody sittin' in it. It's yer
cherce if ya want it."
"Pleasure!" Bland said, crossed by him and before he sat down surveyed
the field. "Rather a splendid convocation, wouldn't you say?"
"Hey. Wait a minute. Yer an Aussie, ain't ya?"
"Oh, no, no, no, no! British."
"Yeah, well, I knew right away you wasn't normal. I had an Aussie in
my cab last week. He didn't speak English eeder. I bet ya never seen
a baseball game before."
"Veddy perceptive of you, I must say!"
"Does dat mean ya did or ya didn't?"
"Did or didn't?" "Yeah! See a baseball game."
"I must apologize, you know. I did mean to see one."
"Well, if yuh ain't seen one, yuh come to duh right place. Yuh know
who's pitchin' tuday?"
"Pitchin'? No, what's that?"
"Yuh know dere's a pitchuh and a catchuh, don't yuh? One guy trows and
de udder guy catches."
"Oh, yes. Yes, although my knowledge stops theah. Tell me, what is the
numerical content of each team?"
"I'm not sure of dat, but dere's supposed to be nine men on each side."
"And are theah?"
"Never. Nine on ahs but ten on deirs."
"My word! What an unusual arrangement. That sounds rather unfair."
"That's duh way it is. De umpire's always wit' dem." He stood up and
put his hands to either sides of his mouth and bellowed, "Watch out
youse umpires! Because we're watchin' youse!" This received a raucous
agreement from the surrounding seats and brought on a spate of additional
threats and handclapping.
"Is that customary?" Bland asked.
"Widdout doubts. Day and night," the chap in the cap assured him. "Y'see,
if yiz don't let dem umps know youse is watchin' 'em, dey'll rob duh
pants off yuh. By duh way, what's yer moniker?"
"I don't believe I have one. What is it?"
"What yer old lady calls when she wants yer."
"Oh, my, how natural! Pussycat."
"Pussycat? Dat's yer name?"
"Actually, 'tisn't, you know. You ahsked what my mother calls me. That's
Pussycat. Sometimes when she's in a rosh, just Pussy. My name is Alistair
wonder she call yuh Pussy."
"Ha ha ha. That's veddy amusing. I'll have to mention that to her."
"Jack's my moniker. Short n' sweet. Jack Stack, if yuh want duh whole."
"Pleasure," Bland acknowledged. A roar from the crowd accompanied the
appearance of the teams on the field from the clubhouse.
"By the way, who's the man in the iron mahsk?" Bland inquired.
Jack, who was concentrating on a newspaper clipping with the team lineups
replied without looking up, "I ain't sure. Probably Douglas Fairbanks."
"Not really!" Bland exclaimed. "Talented isn't he. Plays baseball as
well, does he?"
"Who plays baseball as well?"
"I never hoid dat," Jack said, shaking his head. "Ah, dere he is! Greatest
pitchuh in duh woild! Hey, Dazzy! Dat's Dazzy Vance! Watch him warm
up! He got a spitball could kill ya! Attaboy, Dazzy!"
"And what do the others out theah do?"
"Well, see dat guy just in back and to duh side of Dazzy? He's duh short
"He is rahther small."
"Yuh don't get it. He stops duh ball short, see?"
"And aren't his colleagues also supposed to stop the ball short?"
"Yeah, of course. Dat's duh whole idea."
"Then they are all short stops, are they?"
"Whattaya talkin' about? How can they all be short stops? Over dere
is duh foist baseman. Duh foist baseman stays on foist base to trap
duh runner. Nex' is duh sekin baseman who does duh same on sekin. Then
dere's duh thoid baseman, duh same on thoid. Hold on! Here comes duh
foist pitch!" The multitude suddenly became still as if some holy moment
had occurred, and then breathed a sigh as the umpire made his call,
strike one. Then came the second pitch.
"Ball one!" the umpire cried, raising a finger on both hands. "One and
"Booooo!" retorted the crowd.
"What happened?" asked Bland, startled.
"The umpire said he trew a ball, dat's what!" Jack said.
"What was he supposed to throw if not a ball?" Bland demanded.
"The pitchuh got two cherces. If he trows it not so good, it's called
a ball. If he trows it good, it's a strike. Well, he got a toid way,
too. He can trow it and hit duh batter in duh head."
"I say, I wouldn't call that cricket, would you?"
"No. I'd call it hittin' the batter in duh head. He gets on base for
free for dat. Den he could take his revenge by stealin' a base. He could
steal all duh bases."
"But there are thousands of witnesses. Shocking. What does he do with
"Are you a cuckoo? It means sneakin' from foist to thoid under duh nose
of duh pitcher who tries to catch him in between. If he doesn't catch
him, he runs home."
"He runs home? That early in the game? I say, that's odd!"
"Wait a sekin! Dat's Hank Cotter at bat dere. He's duh Cubs lead-off
dis game. He's liable tuh get a hit." And the crack of the bat hitting
the ball brought the stands to its feet. Cotter ran to first base as
an outfielder scooped up the ball and threw it to the first baseman.
The ball and Cotter both seemed to arrive at the base together, Cotter
cried the umpire. The crowd howled in despair. "Ya blind as a bat ya
bum!" Jack shouted, backed up by the stands. "Did ya see dat?" he demanded
of Bland. "He wuz so far out, ya coulda run a truck between him and
"What would have been the purpose of that?" Bland asked. "And which
one of the short stops would drive it?"
By the fifth inning Bland had acquired a tangled version of the rules
the way Jack Stack interpreted them. At the seventh inning stretch,
during which Jack stepped into the aisle and did twenty pushups, they
indulged in refreshments.
"Hot dawgs is duh angel's food of baseball," Jack informed him, while
Bland insisted on standing treat on behalf of all the information he
"My regimental commahnder was a duke," Bland confided, "and inadvertantly
I discovered frankfurters were his favorite. He would have been delighted
with these although he used catsup."
"Catsup on hot dawgs is a sin. But I'll tell ya somepin'. I had my cab
filled wit' oils last week."
"How often do you do that?"
"It just happened. I was outside duh Plaza hotel droppin' off a fare
when dese tree guys, dressed real fancy get in. Each an' every one of
'em was an oil, would yuh believe it? All oils."
"Each and every one a dem, a business man from a family of oils."
"Remarkable. Standard Oil?"
"I didn't aks them. I didn't aks 'em nuttin. Dey sounded a lot like
youse, only woise. I didn't get dat dey was in de earl business, but
yuh never know."
In the ninth inning with the score tied, each team with two runs, Zack
Wheat, the great Brooklyn outfielder, hit a home run and won the game.
The cheering crowds departed hugely satisfied after a roaring sendoff
to their beloved Dodgers. Jack had his cab parked in a lot and insisted
on driving Bland to a more distant subway station to avoid the mob.
"Your taxis are veddy different from the London cabs, you know," Bland
said from the back seat.
"I seen pitchers of dem. Dey look more like a hoise than a taxi."
a quaint observation! You Amedicans have always been a riddle to me.
But some day I'm going to catch on to you."
As the cab moved slowly through the traffic, Jack cocked his head back
and asked, "How'd yuh like tuh hear a real Brooklyn riddle before yuh
retoin to Egypt?"
Bland corrected, politely. "I would be utterly delighted to take that
back with me. Please."
"Okay, dis is it: It ain't my fodder, it ain't my mudder, it ain't my
sister, it ain't my brudder. Who is it?" Jack waited, chuckling at the
wheel as the cab rolled on and Bland, laughing in the back seat, tried
to guess the answer. Finally giving up, he admitted his failure.
"No, I cahn't guess. Who is it?"
"It's me!" Jack cried, victoriously. "Jolly good! Jolly good, old man!
Oh, I'm certainly not going to forget that one, I promise you!"
At the station, they shook hands. "Pleasure making your acquaintance.
I would never have known anything, including foist, sekin, and thoid,
as I now do and will explain it all to my ignorant companions!"
"Have a great trip!" Jack called in parting and shouted back as he pulled
away, "And don't hit any iceboigs on the way back!"
"Ice what?" Bland cried. But the taxi was too far away for him to be
heard. He took the subway back to his hotel.
When he arrived in London his friends accorded him a grand reception
and at a spate of parties he was the featured guest, everyone demanding
accounts of his adventures. But he was so full of stories about tours
of New England, and especially of Valley Forge, where a local man sold
him a bottle from the original water over which Washington had crossed
the Delaware River, that it was not until a few weeks later when he
recalled the riddle at a boisterous gathering of most intimare friends.
They insisted he tell it to them at once.
It happened at a boisterous gathering of his most intimate friends.
They insisted he tell it to them at once. "Now you must listen quite
closely, you know, chaps, because this will give you an academic headache
in your effort to elucidate the ahnswer. Are you ready? Here goes: it's
not my father, it's not my mother, it's not my sister, it's not my brother.
Who is it?" He beamed at his audience standing around him holding their
cocktails and smoking their cigarettes in positive ignorance, looking
at each other and giggling. Hunching their shoulders and finally demanding
he tell them.
"Come on, Alistair! You must tell us! We can't get it? Who is it?"
"Some bloody cab driver in Brooklyn!" he cried.
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