This is Robert Franklyn "Spud" Hale again. Some memories.
Art Hartung was a championship ping pong player. If you have seen any
ping pong championships you will know something of what he could do with
a little bitty ping pong ball. He had a special paddle with about a half
inch of hard rubber with pimples like a golf ball that let him put
english on a ping pong ball you won't believe.
He hit with his foot in the bucket so far that everything he hit went
foul or just down the left field line. He hit a lot of baseballs, but
most of them went foul. He would come back to the dugout muttering
"foul, foul, foul."
Fred de Falco had a Mr. America body. I am not kidding about that. He
had actually won a body contest before coming to Union City.
Joe Hauser was indeed a character. He owned a sporting goods store in
Sheboygen, WI. He wasn't particular about what we did after the game. I
will go no further but I was early in my alcoholism in those days and I
thought taking one of the guys to the rip-roaring town of Cairo Ill was
the only thing to do after a game. Of course it would be after 3:00 AM
when we got in.
Once Joe fined me for missing a take sign but I got a base hit. Ronnie
said, shucks Joe, he got the hit. Hauser said: oh **** **** fines off.
Another time I got fined for missing a sign but I bought a big cigar and
gave it to Joe and he said: Of **** ****, who can fine a guy like that.
Fine is off.
I played right field a lot when I wasn't pitching, which was often. I
wasn't a very good right fielder, but we did not have a lot to pick
My third day with the team was a road trip to Paducah. Joe was mad at
Hartung, who was in a slump, so he asked me if I could play first base.
I said sure, I always played first in college when I wasn't pitching.
That was a lie. I played second. I hit left handed so.Joe said: They are
pitching a left hander Spud. You know those left handers throw pretty
hard I said: "Yeeeeah Joe, some of them do". It was a smart alect reply
but when I went to hit I was guessing curve ball all the way and hit the
first pitch thrown me into right center. The pitcher cussed and I
laughed. We both knew I was guessing.
When we went to the infield they got a man on first. I went over to the
bag and stood with my left foot on the bag and my right foot down the
baseline toward second. When the pitcher threw to first you took the
ball and slapped it behind you onto first base just like they did in
high school. Joe called time and walked very slowly all the way from the
third base dugout to first base. He took my right foot and put in on the
bag, took my left foot and put it on the baseline toward home. He simply
said: "This is the way to do it." And he took his time going back to the
dugout. That was all the coaching I got that year---but it was more than
Along toward the last of the season, when a shortage of funds left us
with no bus, we took our own cars to games. Joe was having a beer party
after a game. He had the beer iced down in the bathtub with the
watermelons. We were invited up to his corner room in the old hotel
after the game to drink his bathtub full of beer. I was further along in
my drinking than beer, so I had gotten a couple of bottles and was wild
drunk by the time we got to Joe's room He was mad because we didn't want
his beer and eat his watermelon, so I picked up the watermelon and
dropped in down three stories between 4-5 five of our non-drinking
players who were hanging out on the sidewalk---splattering them all with
watermelon. Joe didn't like that any more than they did.
Even with a D league status some of the parks were pretty nice. The
infield was well done and the grass cut. Not so when the funds ran out
at Union City. I remember playing right field when the grass was up to
my ankles. You had to charge the dickens out of anything hit short
because it wasn't going to roll in that grass. It was a sad ending for a
francise that had send some great guys to the majors. Note: That
outfield wall was made of stone. The stone was not even, it was rough. I
never saw an outfielder run into the wall at Union City.
Being a bush leaguer I did not know how to act. So one day it rained
pretty good while I was pitching and Stammen was catching. We were both
gripping like kids and got together to sabotage the game. We thought the
umpires should call the game becasuse in our minds the owners were pore
mouthing us by not cutting the grass. I would throw every other pitch
over Stammens head, and it would roll to the screen and get muddy. The
ump would give Stamman a fresh ball and Stammen would roll it to the
mound through the mud and wet grass. We did this five or six times
running. The ump got mad. The manager got mad. Even the other team got
mad. I am not sure but my recollection is that they finally called the
game. It was a bush league thing to do, but then....
Joe Hauser did not just hit 60 homers. He hit 69 one season. That was in
AAA. He used a little short bat that weighed only about 33 ounces. Of
course I took to using it in order to "suck up" to Joe.
Since I made one reference to drinking, I will make another. No
alcoholic stops at just one!!! It seems that Bennie Bland and I were in
Fulton one sunny afternoon for lunch. It was at the old restuarant in
the corner of the highway into Fulton and the highway that went up to
Kentucky. We had our lunch and decided to have a beer. Perhaps two. I
don't know how much Bennie drank but I had a beer every fifteen minutes
or so and nobody drank a coke.
We stayed there 3-4 hours---till we were late for the ball game. We
jumped into my convertible with the top down and roared toward Union
City. It wasn't long til we had company---a highway patrol car. We
outran him to the ball park and ran into the dressing room hollaring for
everyone to cover for us because the cops were coming. They did. We
threw our clothers in the corner and jumped into the shower. The cops
came over but did not push the deal and we played ball that night. Yes,
it is true that a slow fly ball fell rather strangely between Bennie in
center and myself in right. It was a horrible outing for us, but we told
ourselves that the lights were bad and we were tired. Heck, if you drink
as much as I did, you stayed tired.
Good things happen to pitchers who deserve them so I have to tell you
about going to Mayfield. I was to pitch that night. The home town had a
bar-b-que and "Happy" Chandler gave a political talk.The stands were
running over. The Mayfield Clothiers were leading the league in home
runs but I knew they had a lot of upper cutters and that high fast balls
left them helpless. So I went to the hill with the attitude that I was
really going to have fun blowing these guys away in front of all their
Result: With two men out in the second inning they had us something like
9 to 0. When I went to the bench with my head between my legs Ted Kazek
patted me on the shoulder and said: Some days you just don't have it.
Ted was nice. there may have been more popular guys on the team, but
Kazek had class. He knew how to keep his head above the water when the
storm clouds were blowing.