In my novel releasing on Kindle July 1 – The Lost Lineup – Charles Henry is tracking down some forgotten ballplayers of history, who want just one more opportunity to play ball. In this scene, Charles and his adventurous companions witness a snippet of history – the 1870 assassination of black voting rights leader and ballplayer Octavius Catto, who only has one final wish.
“Octavius,” he called. “You have to come. The Irish are gathering down by the polling station. They’re intimidating everyone trying to vote, and the constable is doing nothing to stop them. And I saw Frank Kelly.”
“Kelly? He doesn’t scare me.”
“You gotta be careful, Octavius.”
“We’re right, aren’t we Jess? We have righteousness on our side. We have been granted the right to vote, and no one is going to stop us.” Octavius turned to the class, half of which had already returned to their seats while the other half milled around the three guests. “Class. Attention. Class dismissed for today. I will see you again tomorrow. Please go home and encourage your fathers and uncles and grandfathers and older brothers to vote. It’s the only way forward for us.” He turned to his bewildered guests. “I’m sorry, Winnie and Charles, but events are escalating. I have to go with Jess.”
Without another word, he turned and exited the building, Jess right behind him. The three followed them out onto the street. The busy Philadephia street had a glow about it. Cars whizzed but there was a veneer of light over the street, a filter which illuminated a mob on the far street corner, the place where Octavius headed. The mob chanted slurs. Angry slurs. Racial slurs. Some carried baseball bats, others raised fists that shook and mirrored their outward emotions. Some walked into the street, oblivious to traffic and the modern sights and sounds around them.
A man with a bushy mustache, wearing a derby hat and long overcoat, approached Octavius and Jess. He looked at Octavius closely, hand in his pocket, and walked past him. Then he turned around, pulled a pistol from his coat, pointed, and fired once into Octavius’ back. Octavius fell immediately to one knee and turned around to see his assailant. Frank Kelly walked up to him, pistol still pointed. Jess backed away, terror on his face. Octavius tried to move. He scooted a few feet away, still turned toward the tip of the gun. Kelly stood over top of him, and without a word, executed the teacher and ballplayer in cold blood, in broad daylight, in the middle of the street. Octavius fell to the pavement. Kelly placed the pistol in his pocket, glanced once at Jess groveling in the background, then walked past them both as if strolling for pleasure on a Sunday afternoon.
Charles and Winnie ran to Octavius’ side. Jess was gone, as was the angry mob on the corner. Other Philadelphians walked by in their 1980s garb. No one paused to look at the man bleeding and dying on the street.
Charles knelt over him.
“Can you help me, Doc Henry?”
“We need to stop the bleeding.”
“No, doc. I’m dead. It’s not the bleeding. It’s the baseball.”
“Can’t you see? I want to play again. Just once more?”
“But how can I help?” Charles asked.
“Don’t leave it alone. Promise me. Promise me you’ll try.” Octavius pleaded and reached up with his left hand. “Just one more game, Charles. One more.”
Charles reached down for him, but he was gone. His arms searched for the man, but the pavement presented itself, and the sights and sounds of a late afternoon in Philadelphia took over. Charles sighed audibly. Winnie grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet. He felt a knot in his chest and Tommy clung to his side.
“What happened, Grandpa? Where did he go?”
“I think we just saw a snippet of history, Tommy.”