The X Collection, Part 6: More Baseball Pulp Fiction

Baseball has always been the most writer-friendly sport, and nobody knew this better than the editors at pulp publications.

What drives a man to collect mountains of vintage publications? I have no idea, really, and no idea where to begin finding out -- other than asking the mysterious collector himself. Since that avenue is not open to me, I must continue focusing on the items themselves rather than on the motivations behind their accumulation.

My first report on the collection amassed by this anonymous accruer delved into the world of pulp magazines. Much to my surprise, then, I found myself back where I started my tour, sitting at a wide table, surrounded by even more pulps.

"To be honest," one of the many curators explained, "We forgot these were in the collection. They're kept in a room so remote that it takes an hour to get there by motorized jitney." And so, once again, I found myself gingerly leafing through crateloads of these, the most ephemeral of all publications. What follows are my most dramatic finds, along with a brief clip from the most-prominent feature story in each.

Exciting Baseball
"It takes a real man to hit a ball that high," remarked the Skipper when Lightning Green sent one skyward one sunny afternoon in May. "So what if it's an out? Look how long it takes to come down! That has what you call a debilitating psychological effect on the other team. Now they're thinkin' that maybe the next one might go just as far -- only outwards ‘stead a' upwards."

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Small Ball Magazine
Nobody expected it. Not one of the ten thousand in the stands or any member of the opposition. Trailing by five in the home ninth with bases soaked, the last thing anyone on earth anticipated was a bunt - especially from Whomper Stevens, the brawniest fellow in the lineup.

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Man's Magazine
Dawson City was nursing a 3-2 lead when White Horse put the first two men on to start the eighth. Lefty Elms summoned his catcher, Eddie Miles, to the mound. Milesy trudged through the drifting snow, sliding the mask off his face.

"It's my toes, Eddie - I can't feel ‘em," said the diminutive fireballer, stamping his feet.

"You mean you still got ‘em? You're way ahead of me on that count, Lefty."

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Exciting Sports
Squats McTierney was all in. He'd caught both games of twin bill on Thursday and done same on Friday. He'd hoped there'd be at least some relief on Saturday with only a single tilt on the docket, but there was no such luck. It was now the top of the sixteenth inning. The game had been tied since the fourth and neither team seemed capable of breaking the deadlock.

Ever since Big Mike Hanniford had taken that bat splinter to the groin, all the catching duties had fallen to Squats. Specs had promised they'd find someone to help him out, but that hadn't happened yet. In the meantime, things were getting a little fuzzy. Squats could swear there were things darting back and forth across the line that separated the sunlit part of the field from the area covered in the shadow of the light tower; little, blurry things that moved on tiny, unseen feet.

And if all that hunkering down wasn't enough, Squats reminded himself he still had to hit! As he clenched his fists around his trusty wagon tongue, Smoker O'Bay let fly with a...what?

"That wasn't a baseball," thought Squats as the umpire registered the count as one-and-oh. He stepped out of the box and rubbed his eyes. He blinked heartily and dug in for the next offering. Here it came again - something right out of a Saturday afternoon serial show.

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Jack Dempsey's Fight Magazine
The last meeting on the undercard featured a third sacker named Mike Lopanski against welterweight Buzzsaw Kinney. Not surprisingly, Lopanski fared well in the even-numbered rounds where he was allowed to bring his bat into the ring, but repeatedly took it on the chin in the odd-numbered frames when all he had on him was his hat.

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Man's Life
Use the high walls to your advantage. Play shallow. Remember: You may hate them for keeping you in, but you'll love them for keeping your opponents' long flies in, too. You'll be surprised how many hitters will assume they've smacked it far enough to clear the yard, only to end up getting tossed at second after a well-played carom. When batting, shoot the gaps. Go for two- and three-baggers and let the big galoots on the other team frustrate themselves trying to hit for four bags.

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Aryan Sports Monthly
Heinrich toed the slab and stared in at Manteufel for the signal. Fingers flashed and he nodded in agreement. Good old Fritzie - Heinrich could always count on his superior mind to have all the angles figured out. The batter wagged his bat with attempted menace. Heinrich could tell by the shape of the man's skull that he lacked the native instincts to understand basic pitching strategy and he was sure that Fritzie Manteufel could see that, too. So it would be another curve ball and another swing and miss from a batter so primitive in his thinking that he assumed every pitch would be straight and true.

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Weisenau blocked the roundhouse with a well-placed forearm. "Nobody blackens my baby blues!" he said to himself as he counterattacked with a jab-and-hook combination.

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Sporting Detective Stories
The Chief told Slattery to have a seat. He offered him a cigarette, which the strapping detective took with gratitude.

"Slats," said the Chief, "Norgamo and his gang are running a white slavery ring out of that girls ball loop and I need someone to go incognito and blow the lid off the whole thing."

Slats stopped in mid-drag. "You mean dress like a dame? Why me?"

"According to your file, you were the only boy in a family of eight kids. You should be right at home amongst all those broads."

"I flew on an aeroplane once, too, but that don't make me Amelia Earhart."

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Sport Story Magazine
"What's the matter with that busher? He got the Saint Vitus or somethin'?" demanded Grover, our aged coach.

"Calls it break dancing," said I, acting worldly, as though I knew of such a thing all my life and not just the twenty minutes since the busher clued me in.

"That's a good name for it," said Grover, scowling, "cuz it looks sure that he'll break something doin' it."

"Says he invented it," I added, just to needle Grover, who had played his ball back when automobiles still had tillers.

"Well," said the old backstopper, "it might come in handy at that, dodging a pitch or avoiding a tag."

You could have slain me with a paper clip! Old Grover, the man who dismissed radios and any motorized appliances as being "too new-fangled," buying into something not invented before the dawn of time? Next thing you know, he'll be shaving with a disposable blade.

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New Love Magazine
Little did Sergeant Willys know what the day had in store when the Lieutenant challenged the dock swabbies to a ballgame and named him team captain.

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Jim Baker's latest book is The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History. You can follow him on Twitter @jimbaker1066. There are five previous installments of the X Collection; see them here.

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