Monday, October 22, 2012
No Girls Allowed
No Girls Allowed
Reggie kept his promise to the baseball team. He knocked on Lucinda's door on his way home from the Springer house. Lucinda was delighted the children would have a place to play baseball and gladly agreed to let them use the land.
“Have your crew build a fence around it too. Let's make it look like a real baseball field. I wish we had thought about this before. We could easily have purchased the boys the equipment they needed. No, come to think of it, they will appreciate this more coming from Samantha.”
“Don't forget about Jennie Mackenzie. The fellas say she is their number one home run hitter. It will be fun watching the youngsters. Speaking of youngsters, how are you feeling Lucinda?”
“I'm doing just fine Reggie. Nick and I can't wait for the baby to arrive. Cassandra is getting a little impatient for his or her appearance. I saw Josie earlier today and she was full of energy. It won't be long for either of us.”
“Speaking of Josie, I'd better get home. I'm late tonight after making two stops along the way. Have a nice evening Lucinda and tell that husband of yours he's working too late.”
Reggie noticed his sister-in-law's carriage in front of the house. It wasn't unusual for Julie to drop in after her shift at the hospital. The sisters had a special bond now that both were expecting babies.
“Josie I'm home. Where are you two ladies?”
“In the bedroom darling. Why are you so late?”
“I have some exciting news. It's a long story but Camden Corners will soon have its own junior baseball team.”
“I have some exciting news for you too but you'll have to come in the bedroom.”
“What are you doing in here?” Reggie asked as he opened the door and gazed at his wife holding his newborn son.
“Is that our baby?” Reggie asked dumfounded.
“He certainly is and he couldn't wait for his papa to come home. He decided to start life without him.”
“He's a boy? Oh Josie, thank you. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a boy to play baseball with his friends.”
“Come closer, I want you to meet your son. Jonathan Reginald Blackburn, meet your papa.”
Reggie couldn't believe how tiny he was as Josie put him in his arms.
“Why didn't you tell me? I wouldn't have made all those stops along the way. I wanted to be here for you.”
Julie spoke up, “There wasn't time. One minute Josie was sipping tea and the next minute she had a cramp and the baby started coming. She barely made it to the bed before little Jonathan entered the world. He must have heard about the new baseball team. I'm going to leave you in your husband's care. Get some rest while you can Josie. When Mama finds out she and Father will be here to welcome their new grandson.”
Reggie sat in the rocking chair holding his son and watching him sleep. Josie was sleeping too. He couldn't remember a time when he had been this happy. He thanked his lucky stars that Jamison Bentley recommended his company to the Hightowers when they were building their home. If he hadn't taken the job he would never have met Josie and he wouldn't be here right now enjoying his little family.
Word spread quickly that there was a new baby in town. Mary McMillan came first thing the following morning to sit with her daughter and help care for her new grandson.
“Reggie, Mama is here and she can watch over me. You go to the site and help out the boys with their ball field. We will be alright. Jonathan and I aren't going anywhere and if we need you we can send Daniella Marino to get you.”
“If you are sure. I don't like leaving my family, but I know you're in good hands. I'll check back in a couple of hours.”
O'Sullivan's Pub delivered sandwiches to the hungry boys. “It's the least we can do, the Mackenzies and Burkes make up more than half the team.” said Mack.
With so many hands, building was complete before sunset. They had enough material to build a concession stand along with the bleachers, storage shed and scoreboard. The boys had even found numbers and letters in the box Samantha bought.
Everyone stood back and admired their work. Grizzlies Field was ready for practice. After a few trips to the Springer's porch all the equipment was in the storage shed. James Robinson and Jack Mackenzie offered their services as coaches. The team planned to meet first thing in the morning.
Jennie and the boys practiced baseball every chance they got. School was out for the summer and they spent every day and evening practicing. All children who showed any interest in the game were allowed to participate regardless of their skill. With all the practice, there wasn't a bad player in the bunch. Jennie Mackenzie had a natural talent for the game and was named captain by her teammates. Their first game was against the Wembly Wildcats. Most of the town rode in the carriages and buckboards to Wembly to watch the game.
The teams were in their places in the dugout. Jennie's pigtails were poking out from under her cap.
“What's with the long hair?” said Coach Stover from the Wildcats.
James looked up and said. “That's Jennie Mackenzie, she's our best players and captain of the team.”
“A girl? We can't have a girl playing baseball. What kind of a wimpy team do you have?” said the coach.
“We have a great team and Jennie being a girl has nothing to do with the game. Let's get going Coach.” said James
“Hey fellas,” Coach Stover yelled to his team “we don't want to play against a team who let's a girl play with them do we?”
“No Sir!” came back the response.
“Unless the girl goes. We aren't playing ball today.”
James and Jack both tried to reason with Coach Stover but to no avail. The team talked about it and decided if Jennie couldn't play, nobody would play.
“Wait fellas,” Jennie called out to them. “we have worked too hard to give it all up now. I don't want our team to forfeit this game. I'll sit this one out and cheer you on from the bleachers.”
They all argued with her but in the end they did play the game. The Wildcats were leading 3 to 2 in the top of the ninth.
The bases were loaded with two outs. Catcher Marty Burke was up to bat. He was the team's worst hitter. It was going through his mind that he would be the one to win or lose this game. He could hear Jennie in the stands rooting him on. Suddenly the ball came towards him and he got so mad that Jennie couldn't play he swung that bat with all his might. The ball went over the fence and landed in the canal just behind the field.
The next hitter struck out with the score standing at 6 to 3.
The Wildcats were up. The first two hitters struck out and the third hit a fly ball directly into the glove of Peter Springer.
Jennie continued to practice with the team after that. The rival teams agreed with the Wildcat coach. Girls didn't have any business playing baseball no matter how good they were. Her fellow teammates and most of the town encouraged Jennie to fight and they would fight right along with her.
Jennie realized Camden Corners was a special place. They didn't judge people or expect them to fit in their proper place. Jennie had always liked playing sports and doing the things boys liked to do. Even as a young girl she had little interest in dolls or tea parties. Her family never made her feel as though there was anything peculiar about her, they just accepted her the way she was. The fellows on her team were happy to have her there and it never occurred to her that she wouldn't be accepted in other towns they played.
She told her teammates and coaches and several of the townspeople that she was not going to fight to play baseball.
“I love playing baseball and it seems like the natural thing for me to do, but it's obvious there are others who don't agree. Maybe someday people will change their minds about girls and their abilities. Playing baseball is minor compared to owning property. Mrs. Rossi owns property all over town including our baseball field. She has been able to do some wonderful things with the inheritance and made our town a better place to live. What if the Hightower brothers had said they didn't want her to have any share of their uncle's money? They would have won in court just because they are men and she is a woman. Even with all her money she still isn't allowed to vote for her choice of any elected official. In fact, she can't even be an elected official. Woman simply do not have rights that are very important to themselves and their children.
“I'm afraid if I began fighting for injustice now when I'm considered a child, it wouldn't have much of an impact. I think I can be a better advocate for my gender if I get a good education and learn how I can help make changes in the laws and attitudes of our country.”
Oscar Crowley stood up and applauded Jennie. Everyone else joined in. Oscar turned to Nettie who was beaming at Jennie with pride. “That young lady is going to make a difference in this world. I just know it.”
The team went on to win several more games. Jennie was always in the stands rooting the team on.
Near the end of July, James Robinson told Jennie to suit up for the game against the Brenton Braves. He told her because it was one of the last games they would be playing for the year she should look like a teammate. They were playing at home and Jennie showed up at the game expecting to sit in her usual spot in the bleachers.
James walked up to her with a player from the other team. Both were smiling as James said.
“Jennie Burke I'd like to introduce you to the Brenton Braves star pitcher Nancy Richards.”
Nancy took off her cap and her long pony tail fell to her shoulders. The Brenton Braves coach walked up.
“Hi Jennie, Nancy was treated just as you were. Since your coaches and I think girls make excellent teammates, we would like both of you to be in the game today.”
Nancy and Jennie shook hands and wished each other luck. They knew it wouldn't make any difference who won the game that day. They were both just happy to be playing ball with their team.