I guess he just couldn’t stand Chicken Coop being a better player than his son. And in hindsight, I’m sure Chicken Coop’s being black —and dirt poor— just rubbed it in.
After the Presidential Train left and the crowd went back to daily routines, the sandlot players gathered as always. Matchsticks put Frank, Gus, Larry, and Billy on one team: Chicken Coop, Willy, Charles, and me on the other. A coin flip gave Franks’ side first at bat.
Larry objected when we wanted Chicken Coop to pitch. “Aw, come on,” he said, “we wanna git some hits.” “What’s the point havin’ a good pitcher if you won’t let ‘im pitch?” I said. A compromise, the result of practice in negotiating Chicken Coop’s special skill, allowed him to pitch every other inning. When Frank decided to bat first, I made Chicken Coop start. He struck Frank out, then Larry. Gus hit a bouncing infielder I swooped up and threw to first for the out. At the bottom of the first inning we stood aught-aught.
Though not the best pitcher, Frank insisted on a revanchist shot at Chicken Coop. For our part, we agreed Chicken Coop should bat last to bring in anybody who had gotten on base.
Willy got on first with a hit off a low fly that landed between Larry at second and Billy on first. Charles struck out with a hit straight to Gus, then I knocked a grounder past Larry he had to chase down. That gave Willy time to get to third and I got to second. When Chicken Coop’s turn came two runners were on base–just like we planned. Frank decided to try a fast ball that Chicken Coop easily knocked over the center field fence where a large colored man stopped chopping wood long enough to throw it back.
We would start down the lineup again with one out and a score of three to nothing.
This time Willy got on first with a fly to left field. Charles popped a fly to Gus who dropped it letting Willy reach second. I bunted and the ball fell fair in front of the plate. Frank was closest, but he hesitated and I got to first, loading the bases with Chicken Coop again at bat. Frank was furious. He stalked around the mound, finally going to Chicken Coop and shouting in his face, “You think you’re smart, doncha!” Chicken Coop didn’t move. He didn’t back away, but he didn’t challenge Frank. “Can we jes play?” he said.