Friday, March 12, 2010

Romance Of The Diamond Field (A Baseball Tragedy In Four Parts)

I pass this along for no other reason then I liked it.

[From Harry Harley's Oil City Derrick.]

Chap. I. "This, then, Miss Bangs, is your final answer?" "Irrevocably so," was the proud reply.

Chap. II. They made a pretty picture standing in the doorway of her father's mansion; he, the Captain of the Melon Stealers, tall and strong in limb, and the hero of his little first base in many a hot contested game. She, the fair daughter of the banker who had wagered the entire assets of the bank and the deposits of many a poor man on the return game between the Moth Eradicators and the home club on the following day. Our hero's answer came hot and quick: "Then," cried he, "to-morrow's setting sun will shine upon the beggar daughter of a ruined man. It rests with me to throw the game on which your proud father's wealth is staked. You have to-night settled your own fate. So be it. Good night;" and turning himself seven times round on his heel, at the same time boring a large hole in the hall carpet, Mose Fitz Allen was gone.

Chap. III. Prominent among the immense crowd assembled on the ground is the pale face of Amelia Bangs. The Moth Eradicators are at the bat on the last half of the ninth inning, with two men out and one man on the third, and the score stands 53 to 53. "Will that man get in?" is the breathless question which pervades the scene. Mose Fitz Allen, standing on the first base, mutters, "Now for revenge! Now do I give the thing away! Ah!" and his face was distorted with passion like a mud-ball dried in the sun. "Two strikes!" yells the umpire. The batter must hit it next time. He does hit it, and a fly mounts and descends beautifully to Mose. "Take it, Mose," goes out from the throat of Banker Bangs and hundreds of his friends. "Not if Mose is thoroughly acquainted with himself," is his low response, and the ball passes through his hands and the man on third goes home. Score, 54 to 53.

Chap. IV. Two months later finds Amelia Bangs taking in plain sewing, her father the janitor of the Oil Exchange, and Mose, though somewhat troubled in mind, still takes his beer.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 22, 1876

Mose Allen is Snidely Whiplash. Amelia Bangs is Nell Fenwick. We just need a Dudely Do-Right character and we have ourselves a nice silent film. The sad thing is that we'll need to rework the ending because we can't have our hero fail to stop the dastardly Mose Allen and our heroine having to take in sewing.

But, besides the fantastic stock characters, my favorite part of this story was the denouncement. It makes for a nice piece of tragedy. If Miss Bangs had simply given in to the demands of Mose Allen, her father would have won his bet and the family would not have been destroyed. However, because of her purity and virtue, Amelia was incapable of compromising her principles and, the next thing you know, her father's a janitor.

Amelia Bangs was guilty of hubris and it was Nemesis that directed the pop-up to Mose Allen in the bottom of the ninth. Note her "proud reply" in Chap. I. That's hubris. She's doing what she believes is the correct thing, according to the mores of her time, but, setting aside the question of whether or not she actually was doing the correct and principled thing, by reacting with pride she has invited the wrath of Nemesis. If Amelia had set aside her pride for the sake of the greater good and given in to or reacted humbly towards the demands of Mose Allen, tragedy would have been avoided.

If we included a Dudley Do-Right hero in the story, we would have lost the richer tale.

And I've now officially thought way too much about this.


David Ball said...

You've brought out some of the the complexity underlying a seemingly simple story. How many wrongs does it take to make a right? You're saying Amelia Bangs was wrong to refuse Fitz Allen's extortion. Fitz Allen was certainly wrong to throw the game, and banker Bangs arguably did the worst wrong of all in wagering the entire assets of his bank on a single baseball game (and where, I wonder, would the profits have gone had he won his bet?).

But the fact of the matter is, the score was tied in the ninth inning. If Fitz Allen had caught the ball, the chances are still about 50-50 that Miss Bangs' sacrifice of her virtue would have gone for naught. There's only one thing about these events we can know with certainty, and that is that one does nothing wrong in working at honest labor such as taking in sewing.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

This is what a liberal arts education produces. Kids, stay in school and study engineering or mathmatics.

And I wish I could find someone to take in some sewing. I have too many shirts that need buttons replaced and I lost my sewing kit the last time I moved.