We called the Tenants Union team the “Saint Paul Riff Raff” and what an eclectic group we were: Barefoot Nina played second, pg Gail was our catcher, we had a great shortstop named Maggie, nobody was forgettable. Because I knew a little baseball and because I insisted that our men players not steal plays from our women players, I was anointed team captain – and we won the league – mostly based on teamwork.
By mid-season we had all become best of friends. When a Sunday afternoon game got rained out, we couldn’t stand the thought of not being together, so we decided to go to a matinee movie. Skippy paid the $1 with dimes we all donated and then opened the side door so the rest of us could sneak in. After the show we went to the closest bar. After drinking and dancing to the jukebox we walked back to our cars, crossing over a railroad bridge. There was a freight train stopped underneath with an open box car door. I said “Who wants to hop a freight?”
About seven of us did (folks who didn’t have a regular job to report to come Monday morning). Before the train pulled away the caboose man actually came upon us and invited us to stay aboard – “Next stop is Willmar,” he said. It was a great 100 mile ride singing songs and banging the sides of the box car, building camaraderie for the ages.
When we all got off in Willmar the caboose man invited us to his girlfriend’s house to spend the night. His girlfriend still lived at her mother’s house and her mother actually made supper for all of us. The next day we hitchhiked back to the Twin Cities in separate groups – saying we would meet at outfielder Kava’s house (who couldn’t hop the freight because she was a late shift nurse). The first to arrive told Kava this amazing story and eventually the whole team was reunited, each with a different version of the whole last 24 hours. It was that night Kava first asked me to spend the night.
After we broke up Kava and I stayed friends, but I did ask for my Eddie Murray baseball back – “Don’t know if I got it,” she said. That summer I’d been at the Twins game when Baltimore Orioles’ Eddie Murray made history by hitting grand slams from each side of the plate and I caught the second one – and knowing Kava hailed from Baltimore – had given it to her. Come on Kava, it’s a valuable ball!
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