He explained the rules of the game. Everyone agreed, except for one man.
One morning in the 1840s, a group of men stood on a dusty field. They were there for a singular purpose: to get out of their houses.
Usually, their pastimes on Saturday mornings were either going to a funeral, or shooting at each other. Often, these two events were related. But everyone had run out of bullets, and no one they knew had died that week.
Still, nobody wanted to go back home to their wives. Wives were always saying things like, “Can you please stop drinking?! It’ll kill your liver!” Everyone knew that alcohol helped livers, or at least that’s what Dr. Morgan always said.
Dr. Morgan got his medical degree after walking from one end of the hospital to the other the fastest. Yes, he was the authority, until one day he dropped dead, a bottle of whiskey beside him. But they couldn’t let the women know they might be right.
So here they were. Their leader was Alexander, a firefighter. Firefighting in the 1840s consisted of ringing a bell and sternly telling a fire that it had to be out, right now. It gave a man a lot of time to think, and on this day, he had a bright idea.
“Fellas,” he said, “I’ve thought of a game.”
He pulled three items out of a bag. They were: a white ball, the size of a fist; a wooden stick; and an oversized glove.
Everyone stared at them in wonder. They couldn’t say these items were the “best thing since sliced bread.” Sliced bread hadn’t been invented yet.
At that time, people tended to say things were “the best thing since fire was discovered,” but no one wanted to say that to Alexander.
After a very uncomfortable but marvelous silence, a man named Casey ventured, “Where did you get these?”
“Well, I had my wife sew the ball and glove. As for the stick, it fell off a tree.”
Everyone nodded approvingly, because things falling off trees was a sign.
“I don’t want to touch them,” said one man, who was called Ol’ Complain’ Avery. “Women touching things is bad luck.”
There was a small murmur of agreement. Women could not work outside the home, unless they were helping other women deliver babies, sewing, cooking, cleaning, teaching, nursing the sick, or running entire farms, schools, or hospitals. They simply couldn’t be trusted.
“You wanna go home, then?” said Alexander. “I didn’t think so. Just for that, the first time you hit a home run, we won’t speak to you!”
Everyone was afraid to ask what a “home run” was, but they listened.
Alexander explained the rules of the game: throwing the ball, hitting it, and trying to strike out your opponents. Everyone agreed, except for one man named Fred.
Fred was what they called, in those days, a cake. Meaning, he crumbled. A fork could cut right through him. He was a good-for-nothing, a n’er-do-well, and a rarely-even-do-OK.
So when he raised his hand, everyone sighed theatrically.
“Yes, Fred?” said Alexander.
“Um, yeah, so there seems to be a flaw in the game. If there’s a tie, you just keep going?”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“So in theory, instead of 9 innings, we could play 18?”
“If it comes to that, then yes.”
“Instead of 9, we could be playing 33, or until the players die of exhaustion!”
“Now, listen,” Alexander cut in, his voice rising. “We are men! And if we have to keep playing until we win, we’ll do it. Sleep be damned, seeing our families be damned, everything be damned!”
“But — ”
“Casey, you’re at bat, Avery, you’re catching, I’ll pitch, and Fred…” The firefighter stared him down. “You’ll be handing out the hot dogs, and I don’t want to hear one more squeak about it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.