Oh my God, you mean Blockade Billy. Nobody’s asked me about him in years. Of course, no one asks me much of anything in here, except if I’d like to sign up for Polka Night at the K of P Hall downtown or something called Virtual Bowling. That’s right here in the Common Room. My advice to you, Mr. King—you didn’t ask for it, but I’ll give it to you—is don’t get old, and if you do, don’t let your relatives put you in a zombie hotel like this one.
It’s a funny thing, getting old. When you’re young, people always want to listen to your stories, especially if you were in pro baseball. But when you’re young, you don’t have time to tell them. Now I’ve got all the time in the world, and it seems like nobody cares about those old days. But I still like to think about them. So sure, I’ll tell you about Billy Blakely. Awful story, of course, but those are the ones that last the longest.
Baseball was different in those days. You have to remember that Blockade Billy played for the Titans only ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and the Titans are long gone. I don’t suppose New Jersey will ever have another Major League team, not with two powerhouse franchises just across the river in New York. But it was a big deal then—we were a big deal—and we played our games in a different world.
The rules were the same. Those don’t change. And the little rituals were pretty similar, too. Oh, nobody would have been allowed to wear their cap cocked to the side, or curve the brim, and your hair had to be neat and short (the way these chuckleheads wear it now, my God), but some players still crossed themselves before they stepped into the box, or drew in the dirt with the heads of their bats before taking up the stance, or jumped over the baseline when they were running out to take their positions. Nobody wanted to step on the baseline, it was considered the worst luck to do that.