Issue 149, Winter 1998
The Indians’ play had much in common with the colored teams of the time. We were hustlers. We liked to bunt. We loved to steal third and home. We utilized the squeeze play, and the hit-and-run. We knew about sacrificing.
Sometimes our aggressiveness cost us runs. But often, against the better teams—colored teams and semipro squads out of Aberdeen or Jamestown or Dickinson or Mobridge or Chadron or Stillwater—we often made up the difference between losing and winning through hustle alone. This with only an hour or two of bad sleep in the car and just nine players—no one on the pine. Job Looks Twice had to pitch the entire game and even double headers some Sundays. Sometimes the winning was so easy we put one of the Elk brothers on the mound to restjob’s arm. Some days we played our hearts out and won. Other days a different luck would pick up a bat and knock us into the next county.
Close calls always went to the other team. Called strikes were unheard of. Job never argued with umpires because he knew it was fruitless. The umps had the support of the fans, who sometimes resembled angry mobs. The other teams either had to go down swinging or hit the ball into play so we could glove it.
Our vested interest in winning games went well beyond pride. When we didn’t win we didn’t get paid. We were in high demand. Our name was hoodoo. Many people believed that beating the Indians would bring a break from the dust. As well as being the catcher, I also arranged the Indians’ schedule, which usually meant wiping the layers of dust from my face, tucking my braid down the back of my collar and hustling into town while the rest of the Indians scrounged up supper by the river. Except for Job. We’d find the local watering hole and speak with the mayor, the sheriff, barkeeps, the undertaker, the men who planned the games. They ran ads in the local newspapers, cartoons of feathered savages with big teeth and tomahawks running bases. Word of our winning preceded us and opposing teams shot beanballs at our heads in the early innings. Sometimes it was a hard sell to get the men interested in playing us at all. “Beat us and maybe it will rain,” I told them, their eyes on Job and the arm that wasn’t there. Hell, their faces would say, if we can’t beat a one-armed-lndian baseball team, we don’t deserve rain.
“You shouldn’t sell us on rain,” Job said to me once on the way back to the river camp. “It will come back to hurt us.”
“Sometimes it’s the only way I can sell us,” I said. The more I sold the Indians as Rainmakers, the less Job accompanied me to town, until finally he stopped altogether.