The bench of the Oshkosh baseball team. Spring, l886. Two ballplayers are seen giggling. Another is reading a small book, his lips moving. A fourth is lazily eyeing the "ball field." They are all attired in various bits of base ball uniform, but in general, rather rough hewn. A fifth man is dressed a bit more formally and he, too, is looking off toward the "field." He speaks.
SELEE: What the hell's the matter with you? Ain't you ever held a bat in your life? Get in here! It ain't as if I ain't got enough problems trying' ta manage a new team in a new league. In Oshkosh. Look at this! (SELEE grabs the book WOODROW has been reading.) Whattaya think this is, a library? What is this?
SELEE:(He flips open the book and reads.) Hamlet. What is this, some kind of cookbook? (By this time TOMMY, cornet in hand, and MUTT have entered.) And you, Gabriel, with the horn. You play that thing lousy. And you know what? You're a better horn player than an outfielder. Bookends, that's what I got. I got Gabriel and Omelet, bookends in left and right field. And where the hell is Cannavino?
TOMMY: He's right--he was right behind--
SELEE: That's just great. Shoot, if I didn't have this bum shoulder I'd show all you dubs how ta play ball. This league's got its first game in two weeks and there's a million new rules . Press! What happens if ya hit a batter with a pitch?
PRESS: Ya get respect.
SELEE: Well, maybe that's the case in Fond du Lac, Press, but in this league, you hit a batter, he's on first.
PRESS: You're kiddin'.
TYLER: They're takin' all the fun outta the game.
SELEE: Maybe so, but if we're gonna be competitive with the American association and the National League, we gotta change, too. Guys like Cap Anion and Harry Wright are winnin' 'cause they're playing' scientific ball.
MUTT: What's that mean?
SELEE: Here's what it means. Tommy. If there's a base hit ta center, whattaya do?
TOMMY: I'm in right field.
SELEE: That's right. So whattaya do?
TOMMY: We don't have a center fielder.
SELEE: When we get a center fielder, and there's a base hit out his way, what are ya gonna do?
TOMMY: I thought I was in right field.
SELEE: You are in right field! But when there's a hit ta center, you run behind the center fielder in case he misses it. That's called backing up. That's scientific base ball. And I'm gonna teach all of you cabbage heads how ta back each other up.
TOMMY: But who's gonna play center field?
SELEE: How the hell should I know? I'm only the manager here! Two weeks before opening day and I ain't got a center fielder. All I got is bookends in left and right.
TYLER: What about that guy Dooley says he seen in Milwaukee? Ain't he supposed to come here for a tryout today?
SELEE: Dooley. Now there's a real genius. The guy thinks he's John D. Vanderbilt, he's gonna make us a mint. In Oshkosh. He was the one who said Barnum and Bailey here (indicates D.S. and PRESS) was the battery that was the answer to our prayers. I think St. Paul and Duluth were praying' a lot harder than we were. I think Des Moines musta done a whole novena. 'Cause you galoots ended up here in Oshkosh! So now Dooley's found us a center fielder. I can hardly wait.
PRESS: But Dooley said this guy is special. Maybe he's a phenom. A real Brutus.
SELEE: If he's a phenom, then why'd Milwaukee let him get away? Huh? If he's a real Brutus, then why ain't Minneapolis got him? (TYLER surreptitiously kicks the bat that D.S. has been leaning on and D.S. takes a tumble. MUTT laughs.) That's what I'm talkin' about, Mutt!
MUTT: What did I do?
SELEE: Look, I'm goin' in to have a chaw. Let me know when Dooley gets here. And if this clam walks in with a violin case, there better be a base ball bat in it. (Exits.)
TYLER: What's his problem?
PRESS: Tune deaf.
D.S.: Maybe Grover Cleveland's gonna be here on opening day and he'2s afraid we're gonna embarrass him.
TOMMY: President Cleveland's gonna be here?
D.S.: Sure. He'll be sittin' right behind Napoleon.
(TOMMY plays his cornet and TYLER snatches it from him.)
TYLER: It's bad enough we gotta put up with this on the train.
TYLER: Catch, Mutt. (Tosses it to him.)
MUTT: (Using the cornet as a baseball bat) Hey, Tyler. Pitch one in here.
WOODROW: All right, Mutt.
MUTT: C'mon, Tyler, put a little mustard on it.
WOODROW: We get the joke, Mutt. Now give me the cornet.
MUTT: (Tossing it back to Tyler) I don't have it, Woodpecker.
WOODROW: Tyler, give me the cornet. (To MUTT) And you know my name.
PLAYERS: (Chanting in unison.) Woooooodrooooow!
D.S.: Could ya spell that for us?
PRESS: We wanna get it right for Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide.
TYLER: I thought it was Tommy's horn, Peckerhead.
WOODROW: C'mon, Tyler, fun's fun, but why don't you pick on someone more...uh...you know.
D.S.: Please don't hurt us, Woodshed. We'll behave if ya read us a story. (Has WOODROW's book.)
WOODROW: Get your dirty hands off of that book.
D.S.: Hey. I just washed 'em last week.
PRESS: C'mon, Woodrow, don't be such a stick in the grass.
TYLER: Hey, Mutt, come here. Since we're bein' so scientific on this team, I want to try a little experiment. (Produces a flask.) Lay down.
MUTT: Uhn uh. (He starts to leave but D.S. and PRESS grab him and hold him down on the bench.)
TYLER: Now, this won't hurt a bit. (He holds the cornet, bell up, to MUTT's mouth. He starts to unscrew the cap on the flask.) I wanna see if this will go around all those tight little turns
(In a flash, TOMMY jumps up and grabs the instrument.)
TYLER: Whattaya know? He ain't nailed to the bench. How 'bout an eyeopener, Tommy.
PRESS: Take it easy, Tyler.
TYLER: That's exactly what I'm doing, Preston. Hey, you're my pal, Tommy. You didn't think I was gonna ruin your horn with all this good bug juice, did ja? Hell, no, I wouldn't do that. This stuff cost too much. You're still my pal, ain't ya, Tommy? Ain't ya?
TOMMY: Well, yeah.
TYLER: See? Tommy knows I was just kiddin'. Don't ya, Tommy. Now let's all have a friendly little drink like pals do. Okay, boys?
D.S.: Sounds good ta me. If Dooley don't show up, we're gonna knock off, anyway.
TOMMY: No, thanks.
TYLER: Okay. Pecker?
WOODROW: I'll pass.
TYLER: You're sure now. Last call.
WOODROW: It provoketh the desire, but it taketh away the performance.
TYLER: Oh, oh. I think he just showed me up.
D.S.: Ya better up stakes.
PRESS: Before he hits ya with some more a them ten gallon words.
TYLER: A little nip ain't gonna hurt nothin'. Sweet dreams, Woodhead.
(ALL but WOODROW and TOMMY exit.)
TOMMY: Thanks, Woodrow.
WOODROW: Sure. (Pause.) I worry about you.
WOODROW: If you were me and I were you, you'd understand.(He goes back to reading and muttering.)
TOMMY: What are you doin'?
TOMMY: What are you doin'?
WOODROW: Committing to memory.
WOODROW: What what?
TOMMY: What are you committing?
WOODROW: Oh. Just a few speeches.
TOMMY: Can I hear a speech?
WOODROW: I don't think so.
TOMMY: Why not?
WOODROW: You wouldn't be interested.
TOMMY: Yes I would.
WOODROW: All right. A short one. (He positions himself, and begins.) "There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be not now, it is--" no, wait. "There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, then it-- Wait, wait, wait. I know this one. "There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it is not to come...then...it's...not...
(There are noises from off stage. A harried DOOLEY enters, followed by the rest of the team.)
TYLER: Excuse me?
MUTT: What'd ya say?
DOOLEY: All right! Pipe down! (To WOODROW and TOMMY) Where's F.G.?
DOOLEY: Don't you start that with me, too! I wanna know where F.G. is.
TOMMY: He's around someplace.
DOOLEY: Well, find him. (Grabs TOMMY and pushes him off.) Tell him his new center fielder is here.
TYLER: Yeah, the phenom.
WOODROW: So where is he, Dooley?
DOOLEY: He'll be out in a second.
PLAYERS: What? Huh? What'd ya say? Pardon?
DOOLEY: I thought I told you boys to pipe down!
TYLER: C'mon, Dooley. We're just trying' to get into the spirit of things.
MUTT: Yeah, we want him to feel at home.
TYLER: We all want ya to know how much we appreciate the fine scoutin' job you been doin.' And if ya hurry, you can still catch the 4:15 for Peshtigo.
WOODROW: What are you talking about?
TYLER: We are talking about Tom Tout here, ain't we, boys?
(TYLER is answered by a chorus of "What?'s" and "Huh?'s")
DOOLEY: I told you fellahs--
SELEE: (Off stage.) Well, it's about time.
TYLER: Just tell it to the General, Dooley.
DOOLEY: Now, you fellahs just keep your mouths shut.
D.S.: How 'bout our ears?
(SELEE enters with TOMMY.)
SELEE: Where the hell--a
DOOLEY: Train was late. Now I want to tell ya about this fellah--
SELEE: I just wanna see what he can do. Where is he?
0 DOOLEY: That's the point. I want you to see what he can do. But you have to keep an open mind about this fellah. It's different, he is.
TYLER: That's for sure.
MUTT: He's a might different, he is.
DOOLEY: That's why I sent you the telegram first.
SELEE: All right, all right, so he's special. So ya told me. Where is he?
DOOLEY: God a'mighty, what a try out in Milwaukee! This kid is some pumpkins.
TYLER: So why didn't they keep him?\
DOOLEY: And he's smart. Real smart. He's worth the hundred.
SELEE: Hundred? For a kid Milwaukee turned down? For a kid nobody's seen?
D.S.: Or heard, neither.
DOOLEY: They didn't turn him down, F.G. He turned them down.
SELEE: Sure, he turned them down. Their whole outfield don't make a hundred dollars. Well, call him out here.
TYLER: Yeah, call him out.
D.S.: We'd all like to hear that.
DOOLEY: You can't do that, F.G.. You see, William is--
(DUMMY enters, traveling bags in hand.)
SELEE: Whattaya mean, we can't-- (Sees DUMMY.) You William? (DUMMY nods. SELEE turns away.) Grab a bat and take some cuts. (DUMMY doesn't move.) Press, give him your best stuff.
DOOLEY: F.G., you can't do that. That's what I've been trying to tell you. He's special.
SELEE: Whatsamatter with you? Grab a bat!
DOOLEY: F.G., you have to look at him when you're talking to him. He can't hear.
(Suddenly there is a rushing sound, maybe the ocean, perhaps the wind through the trees or the low, muffled wail of a train in the distance. The actors continue to move their mouths but we do not hear voices. It as if they had suddenly entered a "silent movie".)
SELEE: (Not heard.) What?
DOOLEY: (Not heard.) He can't hear. He's deaf.
(As this dawns on SELEE, the others watch him, waiting to see what his reaction will be. SELEE does not move. Finally, DOOLEY takes it upon himself to motion PRESS to the mound offstage and DUMMY forward. Then he motions to DUMMY to pick up a bat and go out to "home plate". DUMMY looks around. There are no extra bats, and each player is protectively holding on to his own. DUMMY surveys the scene for a moment, then moves down the line of players to MUTT. He taps him and indicates that he would like to borrow his bat. MUTT stares at him. D.S. steps forward and offers his hand. DUMMY starts to shake but D.S. pulls it back and smooths his hair, smiling. PRESS offers him a bat but when DUMMY takes it he ends up with only the handle, as it is a trick bat sawed in half. DUMMY inexplicably looks up and begins examining the sky. The players begin to look up, too, and DUMMY deftly grabs a bat from D.S. and runs toward the field, turning and flashing the "thank you" sign. PRESS gives the others a grin and heads out, too. After several moments, a sound is heard, the clearly recognizable crack of a bat. Then another. And another. Another. It is the only sound other than the rushing noise that is heard. The eyes follow each hit out and then return to "home plate." SELEE finally tells DOOLEY to wave DUMMY over. PRESS enters to the derision of his teammates. DUMMY tosses the bat back to D.S., once again flashing "thank you", and heads to DOOLEY and SELEE.
SELEE waves him into the "outfield". For a moment DUMMY is perplexed and, giving DOOLEY a look, goes into the squatting position of a catcher. DOOLEY, a bit desperately, mimes the outfielder's catching of a ball and also gestures toward the"outfield". DUMMY gives a little shrug and runs off. SELEE takes the ball from PRESS and signals for someone to give him a bat. He is stopped by TYLER, who indicates that SELEE doesn\'92t want to re-injure his "bum" shoulder. SELEE agrees and TYLER runs off to hit fungoes to DUMMY himself. This time, the players look toward the "outfield". The crack of the bat is heard again and the players mime DUMMY's fielding and throwing, which are obviously as credible as his hitting. TYLER enters and slams the bat on the ground. That sound is heard, as is the dialogue once more.)
TYLER: We don't need another dummy on this nine.