Take Me Out of the Ball Game - A Craven Danger Mystery
April 6, 1946
“Strike Three! Yer out!”
“What! Are ya blind?” said Craven Danger. “That ball was so far inside I thought it was tryin’ ta kiss me!”
Craven played first base for the Yorkville Travelers, a rag-tag team of neighborhood misfits whose only reason for being was the free beer and hot dogs provided by the Central Park Baseball League’s sponsor: the Knickerbocker Brewery.
It was their first game of the season against Hell’s Kitchen - who, by some strange force of nature, were all out on bail at the same time.
“Just be so kind as to remove your sorry rump from the batter’s box, Mr. Clueless,” said the umpire. “It’s bad enough with you pretending to be a detective, but to impersonate a ball player is a slap in the face to the American public, to God and to the memory of all the baseball greats! Of which you ain’t! Now scram! Okay! Batter up!”
“Don’t let him get to ya, Mr. Danger!” Betty yelled from the stands. “But try to keep yer eyes open next time! I can’t tell ya how much it’ll improve yer game!”
“Yer not helpin’, Betty!”
When their side was retired, Craven took his position at first base. He was feeling great and looking the part.
The smooth first baseman adjusts his cap. With one eye on the third base runner he slaps a rugged fist into his well-oiled glove and fields a hard grounder from the bat of the brutish slugger Big Ben. He then makes a miraculous catch with his bare hand, ending things with a spectacular throw to the plate for the last out of the World Series! Yorkville wins their first championship! The crowd goes wild! Craven jogs off the field, tipping his hat to the cheering throng and grinning like a schoolboy after his first kiss.
“Hey, Craven!” said his manager. “What are you grinnin’ at? You gotta stay awake out there. That’s a baseball uniform yer weain’! Save your dreams for your pajamas! Now get back on the field! Big Ben’s coming up to bat!”
“Hey!” a fan yelled. “Craven may be a lousy ball player, but he sure plays a good game of charades!”
The jeering crowd then laughed and tipped their hats back at Craven, who shot a hushing glance at Betty, but he knew she was going to say it anyway.
“Maybe dunkin’ yer head in a bucket of ice water would help yer concentration!”
“Again, Betty! Not helping!”
Big Ben of Hell’s Kitchen stepped up to the plate. Ben was as tall as mighty oak and had a snarl that could stop a clock.
“Hey, Craven!” he shouted. “This one’s for you!”
At that, Craven dug into his position at first base and waited for what seemed to be a good, long while. Then everything seemed to start moving in slow motion. The pitcher releasing the ball. The ball floating its way to the plate. Big Ben’s slow and mighty swing as his bat made contact. The loud crack of the bat as it split in two. The panic in Craven’s eyes as he focused on the ball. The raised glove positioned to catch the line drive. The sickening thud as the ball whizzed through the web of Craven’s glove and smacked him right between the eyes. His reverberated shout-out to Betty as he lay flat on his back, staring up at the clouds.
“Hey, Betty? Is there anyway I can float outta here on one of them clouds? This day ain’t goin’ too good. Or maybe ya can just bury me where I lay.”
“At least ya had yer eyes open this time, Mr. Danger. I’ll give you that much. But geez, maybe bowling wouldn’t hurt so much.”
Craven closed his eyes and wished for a cloud with his name on it.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons.