The mascot for the Apopka Spuds baseball team was helping the team prepare for the season opener. The hated Zellwood Zephyr was in town. Irwin “Sport” Cotes, a twelve-year-old fan, was the mascot for the upcoming 1905 season. He functioned as the batboy, errand boy, and did whatever was asked of him.
Team manager Hiram “Ducky” Dooley took roll call in the dugout. There was no answer when he called out for third baseman Twiddle Johan. Dooley eyed his seventeen players and his assistant coach, “Do any of you rusty guts know where Johan is”?
Everyone shrugged their shoulders, no Twiddle.
“Sport, put down that jockstrap and go to Twiddles apartment. He probably got heavy wet last night and is still sleeping it off. Wake him up and get him moving.”
Sport raced to the boarding house where Johan lived. As he knocked on the door, it opened slightly. The mascot looked inside and saw Johan sprawled on the floor. There was blood under his head and a baseball bat next to the body. Sport quickly closed the door and ran back to manager Dooley.
“Ducky, I think Twiddle is dead. His head was bashed in.”
“Son, did you call the police? And you may not call me Ducky.”
“Sorry, sir. I came right back here. The game is about to start.”
Twiddle was now in his thirties, having had a cup of java in the bigs with a St. Louis team. He now had worked his way down to a D-class team. In Apopka, he was the best player on the Spuds and hated throughout the league.
“All right, Sport, do you know what suicide looks like? Did you notice a suicide note? Johan was upset when we cut his salary to $10 a week and may have taken the easy way out of his debts.”
“Sir, someone had taken batting practice on his head.”
“Okay, it’s not suicide. Young man, go back to his room and have the landlady call the police.”
“But Ducky, I mean sir, the game is about to start. Who will pick up the lumber if I’m not here?”
“Boy, just go and get the police. Make a note of everything out of the ordinary. I want to know if the Zephyr starting pitcher, Crusty Fitzgerald, did in Twiddle. Those two have hated each other for years. Crusty goes tail down when Twiddle comes to the plate. He knows his guys have gotten so fat they look like gollyfluff. They wouldn’t be able to catch Twiddle’s line drives in a month of Sundays. Now, git.”
Young Cotes took off again. He got the zaftig landlady, old lady Barbeau, to call the police to her boardinghouse. Sport then inspected Twiddle’s room. He didn’t find a suicide note. As the batboy, he knew the bats of each Spud. The one next to Twiddle belonged to the backup infielder, Toes Jackdaw. The police questioned the mascot and let him go back to the game.
Sport arrived just as the game ended. The Spuds beat the Zephyr, 8 – 0. Fitzgerald struggled in the first inning, unable to control his pitches. He soaked batters, walked four, and gave up six hits in the first inning. Once in the second, his control returned, shutting out the Spuds the rest of the way. But Spuds starting pitcher, Buckets Beevers, threw a shutout, allowing just five knocks and a walk.
Ducky Dooley asked the mascot what he had learned.
“Ducky, sorry, Sir Ducky, there was no suicide note, but I had to tell the police the bat used to kill Twiddle belonged to Toes Jackdaw.”
“How can you be sure it was Jackdaw’s lumber”?
“His bat had a lot of pine tar on the handle. He says he needs it for a better grip.”
“Jackdaw can’t hit or throw the ball worth a plug nickel. Would you believe today he had three hits and was perfect in the field? If his bat was used on Johan, check who’s club did he use.”
Sport Cotes replied, “Ducky, sorry, I mean Sir Ducky, Jackdaw used Twiddle’s bat.”
“Well, that takes the bellows right out of you. He hit and fielded better than ever before. I guess I need to turn Toes over to the police. All he needed was a stick without any stickum. Go look for the police.”
While waiting for the police, Sport asked, “How did the game go”?
“Crusty Fitzgerald couldn’t control the ball in the first inning. He bounced pitches in the dirt, hit our guys, and almost underhanded the ball to plate. He wouldn’t even swing the bat when at the plate.
It was weird, Crusty didn’t even leave his mitt on the mound. He claimed it was stuck to his hand due to sweat. That was a bunch of fimble-famble. In the second, he got his control and shut us down the rest of the game.”
“Ducky, I mean Sir Ducky, let’s take the police to the Zephyr’s locker room.”
“I’m not sure what you have in mind. I just hope it is honor bright. I’ll follow you.”
The mascot led the police and Ducky Dooley to the opponent’s locker room. He pointed at Fitzgerald, “Officers, arrest this man. He used Toes Jackdaw’s bat to kill Twiddle. Crusty hoped Toes would be blamed.
The proof is in his mitt. He got stickum on his hands. He got the stuff on his hands when he clubbed Twiddle with Toes lumber. That’s why he pitched like a cabbage head in the first and couldn’t get his glove off. You’ll find more stickum in the mitt.”