There were two more tryouts. After the second one, all the boys sat in the bleachers and the head coaches of the Blues and the Reds took turns making picks.
Always in the past, by design, the Blues’ team was made up of the boys who lived in the country club section of the township called Founders Stream or ones of influence and prominence. The Reds’ team was made up of the boys left over and from a section of the township disparagingly called Dogpatch. This all seemed to be worked out by the coaches ahead of time when the day came for the coaches to choose their teams, it seemed to fall on economic and social credentials—Founders Stream or Dog Patch. The selection meeting was no more than a pretense. There was always a hope that somehow one or two from Dog Patch might exhibit the talent to cross the barrier.
The coaches of the Blues, Mr. Workman and Mr. Coleman picked their sons, Wade Workman and Larry Coleman. Mr. Moss and Mr. Hawk picked their sons Jim Moss and Bert and Butch Hawk.
Mr. Workman made the next two picks “The second was a first baseman, not Rich, but Ernie Kirkland. Rich was picked next by Mr. Moss. The picks continued until the only one remaining was Howie and Mr. Moss picked him.
Instinctively the boys clustered in respective teams.
Rich pretended to be happy, but his friends Tom, Will, and Larry Coleman were on the Blues.
Larry motioned for Rich. They walked to the backstop.
“I was hoping we would be on the same team this year,” Larry said.
“Yeah, me too,” Rich said.
“My dad wanted you,” Larry said. “But Workman didn’t. Wade ‘s got something against you.”
“I’ll be darned if I know what it is. Who’s coaching the Blues the Mr. Workman or the son?” Rich said. “I think I’m going to quit.”
“Don’t do that,” Larry pleaded.
“Don’t sweat it,” Rich said and walked back over to the Reds.
Mr. Moss announced the first practice would be the next day and the players dispersed. Mr. Coleman called out Rich’s name and motioned to join him at the backstop.
“Larry says you’re going to quit,” Mr. Coleman said.
Rich nodded, ashamed to look Mr. Coleman in the eyes. “I wanted to play on the same team as my friends,” Rich said.
Mr. Coleman put his arm around Rich’s shoulder. “Play your best and make Workman regret not picking you.”
Rich nodded his head. Mr. Coleman smacked Rich on the bottom and said, “Go get ‘em.”
Rich walked away and turned to Mr. Coleman, “How come Workman didn’t pick Howie?”
“You tell Howie to make Workman regret not picking him too,” Mr. Coleman said.
“Thanks, Mr. Coleman,” Rich said.
“You and Howie have a good year,” Mr. Coleman said and winked.
“You too, sir,” Rich said.
Howie and Rich walked to their bikes. “It ain’t right,” Rich said to Howie. “They didn’t pick me cause Workman’s boy doesn’t like me and didn’t pick you because you’re black.”
“Yer black ole buddy, but just don’t know it yet,” Howie said and laughed.
They got on their bikes and Mr. Hawk trotted toward them. “Hey you guys, wait up. Don’t go anyplace yet. I want to talk to both of you.”
They kicked down the kickstands and walked a few feet from everybody else. Mr. Hawk faced them and said, “Boy am I glad Workman didn’t pick you two. Rich, I’m going to ask you to play third base. Can you do that?”
“I can try,” Rich said.
“I watched you,” Mr. Hawk said. “I know you can! We picked a lefty to play first base. And when they picked Kirkland instead of you, me and Moss about peed our pants. We were just wondering what we would do if they picked you to play first base for them. The only place Kirkland can play is first and he can’t hit for squat. Howie, those idiots passed up the only guy that’s willing to play anywhere and play it pretty good. I picked you last because I knew they wouldn’t pick you at all. If I thought they were going to pick you, I’d have picked you before I picked my own son. I don’t know whether to put you in the outfield or catch. What about you? Where do you want to play?”
“I’ll play anyplace ya put me,” Howie said.
“See what I mean,” Mr. Hawk affirmed. “We wanted to pick Dickman to play the outfield, but he said if he didn’t pitch he wouldn’t play. He’s got a fastball that can’t break a glass window. We didn‘t figure to do much this year, but I‘m sure glad we got you two.”
Howie and Rich smiled broadly with a renewed sense of worth.
“That ain’t the way I heard it,” Rich said.
“They got their reasons and I got mine,” Mr. Hawk said. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”