28 Chapters
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11 Drill, Baby, Drill!

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

The Spuds played nine baseball games in the fall of 1962 and won eight, though their success owed less to the coaching of Pete Gill than to the superior talents of Dave Small. This was no surprise to anyone. Since his early childhood on the farm, Dave had devoted almost as much attention to baseball as to basketball. In September 1962, he pitched complete-game shutouts three times and led the team in batting average. The only disappointment was the team’s one loss, which came in the season finale against Chrisney and cost the Spuds the conference championship.

Success on the diamond, however, earned the players no reprieves on the practice field. Pete Gill never relaxed his backbreaking workouts, and the players’ regard for their coach improved not a whit. If anything, it only grew worse.

Neither did Pete, for his part, make much effort to win the affections of his players. In his mind the days on which baseball games were scheduled served only as inconvenient interruptions from the task at hand—which was, of course, to get ready for basketball. Knowing this, the players—with the exception of Red Keusch, that is—hardly relished the start of basketball season. A sense of dread would have been a more accurate description of their feelings. Dave Small and Joe Lents, who more than others had tasted the good life during the Dimp Stenftenagel era, resigned themselves to the expectation that their senior year of basketball would be a protracted state of misery, imprisoned in the confines of a madman’s torture chamber. They could not bring themselves to understand how a coach could seem so hell-bent on sucking every bit of fun out of playing the sport they loved so much.

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3 Neither a Drunkard Nor a Bank Robber

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

As Betty was putting the second pin in Scott’s diaper and was about to go in search of Eric, she heard a loud, metallic knock at the front screen door and wondered if it was Eric trying to escape the confines of the house.

But Eric was sitting contentedly in his own wet diaper on the hardwood floor of the living room, holding his toy saxophone in one hand while quietly watching the pattern of sunbeams on the oak planks, fascinated by the play of light on the wood grain. When the figure of a man appeared knocking at the screen door, he instinctively stood up to stare at the dark outline of the stranger against the pale blue sky in the background. Then, raising his right hand to point at the man, he lifted the horn to his lips with his left hand to screech out a series of discordant notes.

“Hey there, little buddy,” the strange silhouette responded. Eric paused to gape, then blew on the sax again. “Ha ha! Real good!” the man exclaimed, then crouched and put his face next to the screen. “How about you play me ‘Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy’?” The man crooned the words Frank Sinatra style, in a surprisingly silky timbre compared to the rasp of his speaking voice, and Eric blurted another sour note in response. “Yeah! That’s it, in the key of E minor!” The man grinned, and Eric grinned back.

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15 Devil in Blue Jeans

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

Jim Roos was pleased to see a remarkable difference in the atmosphere in Ireland High School the following Monday morning. The pall of gloom that had hung over the building since the beginning of fall classes was gone, and in its place was a mood of sunny optimism, focus, and anticipation. Everything seemed brighter now in the light of the two season-opening wins. Students were more attentive and respectful of their teachers, the buzz in the hallways between classes was louder and more energized, and even janitor John Radke took greater pride in his work. And the generalized optimism was only enhanced by the Spuds’ third game, a road contest against nonconference opponent English, which offered no special difficulty and required no special strategy or stunts to motivate the players. The team cruised to an easy twenty-point win, 65–45, and now stood 3–0, although they faced next a challenging match with the Monroe City Blue Jeans, a home game on Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Rapidly Pete Gill was becoming the talk of the town. In these early weeks of the season, he began to make a habit after practice of stopping for coffee and friendly chatter at Ame Leinenbach’s cafe. Although, on occasion, Pete had privately sampled some of Morris Weidenbenner’s home brew or would sneak a beer at Wop Fritsch’s tavern in Jasper, he had so far carefully avoided public consumption of alcoholic beverages in Ireland. Roy Allen, on the other hand, while only a moderate drinker, never tried to hide his consumption of alcohol, and in fact he frequently tended bar for Ame as summer employment, which had caused Roy some difficulty when Tommy Schitter was township trustee.

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9 Ice Man

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

At the edge of a large pasture on a bitterly cold, snow-covered Saturday morning in January 1961, David Small was hopping rapidly up and down on his toes in an effort to keep himself warm, while his father, Herman Small, worked on the guts of the family’s orange Allis-Chalmers tractor, which had turned recalcitrant while in process of clearing dead timber from the field. To ease his boredom, Dave squatted and put his hands into the six-inch-deep snow to compress some into a frozen ball. Then he rose up in the studied manner of a World Series pitcher, selected a fence post about fifty feet away as his catcher, and looked for a sign.

Curveball? Nope. Dave shook it off. Change-up? Dave shook that off too. Fastball? Dave nodded. Then, slowly and deliberately, he went into his windup, in the mode of Sandy Koufax, his hero, first stepping back with his right foot, in the process bringing both hands together and lifting them high over his head, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on his target, then turning his body, rearing his right knee to the level of his chest, and extending the leg as far forward as possible while pushing off with his powerful left leg to fire a blistering overhand fastball that struck the fence post dead in the center about knee high, leaving a small circle of powdered snow where it splattered.

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4 Baptisms

Mike Roos Quarry Books ePub

It was 1939, and Petey Gill and his father stood before a Dayton judge in juvenile court. All the other gang members had already been sentenced to an Ohio reformatory, a youth prison upstate.

“Mr. Gill,” the judge said to Petey’s father. “I must admit I find your son’s case rather shocking.” Petey’s eyes wandered over the details of the courtroom—the judge’s black robe, his high wooden desk, his shiny wooden gavel, the grain of the wood panels behind him, the dual flags of Ohio and the United States, the bailiff’s pearl-handle gun and leather holster. Before their arrival, he had thought he would be afraid, but instead he found himself only fascinated. It was all just like a movie he’d seen, except now he was the star of the show, and he liked that feeling.

“Your son is only ten years old, Mr. Gill.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“At such a tender age, to be a member of one of the worst street gangs in our city. How could you let that happen?”

“I wish I knew, Your Honor.”

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