FanPost

rain delay reading

UPDATE: This fanpost has been canceled and rescheduled for tomorrow. -Nico

Ah, what the hell. Jennifer's Ryan-filled post aside, I thought I would throw caution to the wind (translation: risk my reputation) on a non-A's, non-family, non-photo post. All with my right shoulder smothered in Ben-Gay (have no idea what I did to it) and no beer left in the fridge. Shit.

A little intro is in order (and I would love for you saber-studs to offer how I can bring George into this century). But first... 

George LaHahn was the first fantasy baseball player ever. And if you’re thinking, "who’s he?", well, that’s the point.  That’s because George LaHahn came from the world of make-believe, conjured up by the talented, not quite demented, mind of my brother John.  Back before video games stripped a generation of having any kind of imagination, John and my cousin Paul would entertain themselves with nothing but a tape recorder and their God-given wit.  And it was during one of their staged nightly news broadcasts that George LaHahn was "born".  John introduced him as the "Who’s-He Kid".  A far cry from the "Say-Hey Kid", for Willie Mays, he was not.

Without further ado:

Charlie Brown had nothing on George LaHahn.  Or better put, he had everything on George LaHahn.  What’s that you say?  “Who?”  Exactly. 

The Legend of George Augustus LaHahn is not well-documented.  In fact, his actual records are not documented at all.  Erased from the books like a bad memory.  His career was one giant asterisk; alas, Major League Baseball won’t even allow him that much (if only they’d do the same with one Barry Lamar Bonds).  But George LaHahn did exist.  And hopefully after you have read what is written here, you will come, maybe not to fully believe, but to wonder.  As is the case with Babe Ruth’s Called Shot (and by the way, that truth will be revealed here also), LaHahn’s accomplishments transcend myth and go way beyond the stat sheet.  But for good measure, we’ll cover the stat sheet, too.  You won’t believe your eyes.

George could never catch a break (or anything else for that matter, but he was the first and only guy to break a catch).  He was the ultimate loser.  And yet he had a hand (or foot, or head, or…) in some of the most recognized moments in baseball history.  Some of those moments would not have happened without him.  Most of them happened despite him.

We will uncover the “What, Why, When, Where, and (of course) Who” of the man whose initials spelled GAL (fitting since he often threw like one).  Loved by none, despised my many, recalled by only this author (and a few friends), he’s George LaHahn, “The ‘Who’s He?’ Kid”.  Go ahead.  Mention his name, it’s always the same.  “Who?”  Exactly.  But when all is said and done you will know who, exactly.  And maybe, just maybe, you will come to adore him, too.

Then again, maybe not.

Chapter 1: The Early Years

Almost from the start, George had baseball in his blood.  On a few occasions he had blood on his baseballs. 

He was born George Augustus LaHahn on April 1st 1919 in Cooperstown, New York.  Poor Mrs. LaHahn spent an agonizing 19 hours and 27 minutes in labor before George emerged at 7:14pm.  The two nurses on that evening’s shift differed in opinion on the infant’s weight:  one had him at six pounds exactly; the other at six pounds, two ounces.  Finally the family physician, Dr. Frick, settled the dispute and marked LaHahn down at 6, 1*. 

George’s father, Herman Eugene LaHahn, was of German descent and raised in upstate New York.  (He loathed the nickname “German Herman” and he pulverized anyone who dared to use it). Herman had two younger brothers, Henry and Aaron.  George’s mother was born Ruth Regina Calzone, and was the youngest of eleven children.  The “Bambina” was always known as “Babe” to her siblings.  Herman and Ruth were wed in 1898 (but were heard to have partied like it was 1899).  They owned a farm in Cooperstown where George and his four younger brothers grew up: Louis (Lou), Joseph (Joe), Reginald (Reggie), and William (Billy). 

George displayed a talent for the game at an early age.  When he was eighteen months old, he gathered up a plastic ball that had rolled underneath his playpen.  First the toddler tried to stick the ball in his mouth.  As Ruth rushed towards him, at the same time urging her husband to separate the ball from the baby, little George wheeled back with that slobbery orb and fired it at Herman, who was a step or two ahead of his wife.  At the last instant, the ball took a weird dip and struck the shorter Ruth square in the bottom lip.  Herman was ecstatic.  “Did you see that?” he shouted as his spouse’s lip swelled up like a balloon.  “With that arm and that drool, he’s going to be the next Burleigh Grimes!”  Alas Herman’s dream ended long before it began.  No more than a week later, Major League baseball banned the spitball, allowing only pitchers who had already made a living throwing the “wet one” (Grimes included) to continue to use the pitch as part of their repertoire.  But not even Ruth LaHahn, fat lip and all, could deny her son’s unlimited potential.  He first picked up an actual baseball at the age of two, tossed it in the air and caught it with his forehead. His mom promptly nicknamed him “The Dambino”.  A couple weeks past his third birthday, George slid chin first into home base (which doubled as the kitchen floor in the LaHahn’s home) and bit his tongue in half.  When he turned four, he found a plastic ball out in the cornfields.  As he ran to show his father, earwigs emerged from a tiny hole in the ball.  Awakened from their slumber and surely frightened, the bugs left pinch marks all over George’s right hand.  The frequent trips to the hospital began to take its toll on the LaHahn’s already limited budget.  Even before George was born, they had their share of struggles…

Herman LaHahn couldn’t even afford to buy shoes in 1919.  When it came time for his wife Ruth to deliver their first-born son, the couple was not allowed entrance into the hospital until he found suitable footwear.  Lucky for him a traveling all-star baseball team was passing through the tiny city of Cooperstown that late evening and had decided to check into a hotel across the street.  Desperate, Herman waltzed into the lobby where some of the players were stretching after a long bus ride.  He then noticed that some of them were lounging around in their socks.  Knowing that his pregnant wife was across the street and in dire need of medical assistance, the quick thinking Herman shouted “fire” and as the players scattered, he calmly slipped on an unoccupied pair of cleats and made his way back to the hospital.  As the ball club reentered the hotel lobby, one of the players- some guy named Joe Jackson- began asking his teammates if they had seen his shoes. 

A sentimental change of heart led to even deeper financial woes for the LaHahn’s.  Herman- not one to take chances- was about to take one on the Cincinnati Reds, World Series novices matched opposite the heavily favored Chicago White Sox in the 1919 Fall Classic.  But as he went to place his bet, LaHahn noticed that the odds had curiously tilted in Cincinnati’s favor.  “Got to go with the underdog”, he said before putting all his green on white (Sox), only to see baseball’s Biggest Prize turn red.  Or red-faced.  Cincinnati won in eight games, and it was that same number of Chicago players who would later be charged with conspiring to fix the Series, in what became known to all as the Black Sox Scandal.  The most famous South Sider to confess, despite a brilliant display in the Series?  Joe Jackson. 

The year 1920 would be the Shoeless One’s final season in a Major League uniform.  Perhaps the only positive drawn from Jackson’s ban from baseball (at least in his eyes) was that he and Herman LaHahn had crossed paths for the very last time.  Meanwhile LaHahn, having worked endlessly to pay off his debt from the year before, seemed to have fortune smiling down on him for a change.  His beloved Brooklyn Robins reached the World Series for the second time in five years, and the boys down at the local pub pitched in to buy him a pair of tickets to the fifth contest.  To top it off, Burleigh Grimes was scheduled to take the hill for the National League champions.  As Herman relayed the exciting news to his wife Ruth, the only decision he faced was which friend to invite.  Ruth made the decision for him, telling her husband that she had a hair appointment that day, so he had to take George- sixteen months at the time- with him.  Herman tried to object, but in the LaHahn household, Ruth called the shots. 

The best-of-nine series was knotted at two games apiece and Burleigh Grimes, a 23-game winner during the regular season, had already shut out the Clevelands 3-0 in Game 2.  That tenth of October, history was made three times- twice at the expense of Grimes. Herman’s hero was lucky to survive the first inning; as it was, he was in the past tense before the fifth.  The first three Indians reached base against him, setting the stage for Elmer Smith who struck the first grand slam in Series history.  The LaHahn’s had barely plopped down in their second-level seats on the third base side and already the Robins were four runs to the ugly.  More bad news came in the bottom of the fourth when opposing hurler Jim Bagby rocked Grimes for a three-run homer (the first by a hurler in a Fall Classic) to push the score to 7-0.  One batter later, the spitballing Grimes was gone.  Then came the fateful fifth. The first two Robins- Pete Kilduff and Otto Miller- reached base on singles, as Herman (one of the few Brooklyn fans in Ohio that day) finally had something to cheer about.  Up to the plate strode pitcher Clarence Mitchell who hit a line shot up the middle.  Both runners took off from their bases.  LaHahn, holding George, leapt in the air at the possibility of a run-scoring single.  But second baseman Bill Wambsganss, born and buried in the city whose name he wore across his chest, speared the screaming sphere, touched second, and tagged the on-coming Miller for an unassisted triple play, the only one of its kind in World Series lore.  Both Kilduff and Miller claimed afterwards that neither of them saw the ball being caught; instead they were temporarily blinded by an intense light coming from the direction of where the LaHahn’s were sitting.  An inning earlier, Herman had given his watch to George to keep him entertained while he devoured a hot dog.  When he leapt at the crack of Mitchell’s bat, the sun’s reflection off the watch that George still gripped in his tiny hand was brilliant enough to stop both runners in their tracks.  No one else in the park that day saw- or at least admitted to seeing- the bright light.  That was the beginning of the end for Brooklyn, who suffered shutout defeats the next two games to bow out in seven…                

By the time George LaHahn had blown out the candles on his fifth birthday cake, word had gotten around of his awe-inspiring batting feat, albeit on the streets of Cooperstown, not on an actual playing field.  No window, large or small, stood a chance with little LaHahn at the plate, as several thrown bats made their way into neighbors’ living rooms.  When George turned six, Herman LaHahn decided the time was right to introduce his gifted son to organized baseball.  In a season that saw Rogers Hornsby bat his way to the Triple Crown for the 1925 St. Louis Cardinals, George did some pretty amazing things on the diamond, too.  It was Hornsby who once said in defense of his distaste for golf, “When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it.”  The only thing opposing fielders had to worry about chasing when George batted was sheer boredom.  In thirty T-ball at-bats he struck out twenty-nine times and was also hit by a pitch. (A violent wind knocked the ball from the tee on LaHahn’s last plate appearance of the season and landed on his left foot.  After fifteen minutes of rolling around on the ground in pain, the slugger got up and started towards the tee.  His first-base coach and two teammates had to restrain him before he finally took his base to the loud approval of his proud parents.  The euphoria lasted all of two minutes as George, who had moved up a base on a fielder’s choice, was thrown out at home trying to score on a triple.)  On defense, LaHahn played catcher. Coach felt that was where he could help the club the most.  Or hurt it the least.  The six-year old set two records behind the plate that may never be broken: he allowed more passed balls and was called for more catcher interference calls than all the other teams combined. On one unforgettable play late in the season, the three winning runs scored while LaHahn looked furiously for a ball that had gotten away.  Finally, the opposing third-base coach graciously removed Mr. Spalding from George’s mask.  Having killed his team’s shot at its first victory of the year, the oldest son of Herman LaHahn became the first player in T-ball history to be designated for assignment.  He was later traded for a catcher’s mask and two batting helmets.  His former ball club promptly won its last three games, while George saw no action for his new team.

Ernesto Marques, the coach who got stuck with LaHahn at season’s end: “As long as I live, I’ll never be able to figure out why Mr. Bean (the club was sponsored by W.L. Bean) traded away such good equipment for that kid.  Like I didn’t have enough automatic outs and rally killers on my team.  And I’ll tell you something else.  That boy was a jinx, a curse.  No way in the world was I going to play him, but it didn’t matter.  Having him on the bench did us in.  All we needed was one lousy win to make the playoffs and we folded.  And to top it off, his pops asks me before the last game to let his kid act as a bat boy.  Well, shoot, what harm could he do?  Stupid me.  First inning, he goes out to grab a bat, and the nerd comes back with one from the other team’s dugout!  I tell him, ‘Not that one, damn it!’  Later, he’s coming back with a bat as my cleanup hitter walks towards the plate and for some reason he decides he’s going to swing it.  He whacks my best player right across the snot box and knocks him out!  Out cold!  I don’t even bother watching the rest of the game.  I go for a long walk, smoke two, three cigarettes.  We don’t even score.  The kid has the hardest hit all day, probably best one of his life.  The day Lohan walked into my life was the day I should have quit that stupid game.”

Pablo Villalobos, LaHahn’s first coach whose club’s fortunes turned immediately after the trade: “I felt kind of sorry for the kid.  I kept thinking he was going to break through at some point.  A couple of times he almost fouled one off.  But as they say, close but no joint.  It got to be whenever he was at the plate I’d curl up in the dugout with my eyes shut and my ears plugged.  I couldn’t watch.  Until the time he threw his bat and nearly took my head off.  Bad enough he knocked over my forty.  Alcohol abuse, man.  LaHahn had no business on a ball field.  Every time he struck out, I’d curse under my breath.  Sometimes I’d yell ‘Trade him!’ while he was still batting.  But in the end it worked out.  Even though one of those batting helmets we got in return for him was cracked, it still worked out for us.”

Herman LaHahn was working on his farm in Cooperstown later that summer, his son’s first season of T-Ball still lingering.  He was distraught.  Thoughts of whether the game of baseball was in the cards for his boy George consumed him out in those lonely cornfields where he labored.  Even if it was, there was very little room in the LaHahn budget to support it (he had reluctantly refused generous offers from several teams not to sign George up; in the end his alarmingly talented wife, under the name Ruth Kent, helped offset the family’s financial woes by appearing in the Broadway musical, No, No Nanette).  Herman was desperate for a sign.  Then came The Voice.  It said: “Yer Out!”  (Not really).  The Voice said: “He’s the one they’ll call Whoooo”.  Well good, ol’ Herman, he was deaf in one ear, and couldn’t hear out of the other.  So what resonated through his listening chords was this: “He’ll be called the next Babe Ruth”.  And with that LaHahn registered his son for another year of T-Ball.

George fared no better the following Spring of 1926.  Once again he led the league in strikeouts.  Twice his own coach tried to get away with batting out of order to avoid the horror of watching LaHahn at the plate, but the opposing team was only too quick to notice.  One ball club intentionally walked the eight batters before him just to get back to his spot in the lineup, where he promptly made the third out.  On another occasion, George showed up to the tee without a bat, and the umpire told him with a chuckle, “Kid, you might have better luck without it!”  Meanwhile, Herman LaHahn was through taking advice from voices, but he refused to give up on the one thing his oldest son truly loved.  They would play catch until it got dark, sometimes ignoring Ruth’s dinner bell.  (Mom: “Georgie, it’s getting late out!”  Son: “Wait Momma, I haven’t caught one yet!”)  Herman set up a tee for George to hit off at home, although the homemade invention had a glitch. The ball kept falling off the tee so LaHahn’s little brothers took turns holding the ball in place. Broken fingers aside, such dedication ultimately paid off.  In LaHahn’s third season of T-ball, he finally made contact!  Unfortunately the ball was in the catcher’s hand at the time, and after retrieving the ball, his throw sailed over the first basemen’s head, allowing George to reach base.  LaHahn’s inexperience on the base paths was evident as he was thrown out at second trying to break up a double play; in doing so he slid a record 44’, 8” short of the bag.  The next year he pinch-ran at second base (his team was out of players and the umpires ruled the club mascot ineligible), and he was thrown out trying to steal…first.  In an unprecedented fifth season of T-ball, George saw little action but he did manage to earn a small amount of respect from his teammates.  The only thing he couldn’t figure out was why they kept referring to him as “Ace Roofing” (turns out he had his jersey on backwards).  But the kid from Cooperstown didn’t care.  At least they noticed him.  When it was his turn at bat, his buddies would yell “Roooooof”.  (Herman thought they said “Ruuuuuuth”).

Speaking of the Babe, during George’s eighth year of T-ball in 1932, his team was invited to a Fall tournament in Chicago, Illinois.  As fate would have it, the Yankees were in town for Game 3 of the World Series.  The day before, Babe Ruth Himself had wandered over to see LaHahn’s team play.  The 13-year old George, whose hero up to that point was Charles (Charlie) Edward Brown (he of the famous 1897 Cleveland Spiders and former teammate of Cy Young), found another player to idolize that glorious afternoon.  It was after LaHahn hit for a variation of the cycle- a pop-up to first, second, third, and catcher- that drew attention from Ruth.  “Kid, you suck”, boomed the Bambino.  “But I like you, you kind of remind me of me.  Well, except I can play, and you should be doing something else.  Like, I don’t know, something other than playing sports.  Seriously some of the kids in the hospital that I dedicate homeruns to can hit better than you.  But I do like the way everyone pays attention when you’re at bat.  Just like they do for me.  So maybe it’s for entirely different reasons, but who cares?  Want a hot dog kid?  I got an extra one in my coat pocket here.  Anyways, how about coming to see me play tomorrow?  I’ll put on a show for you.  Between you and me, I don’t care all too much for that Chicago team.  Bunch of loudmouths over there.  But me and Louie, we’ll take care of business tomorrow.  We got ‘em 2-0 already and we’ll win the next two and that will be that.  It will be nice to wear the crown again, know what I mean, kid?  Been four years, which is like forty around here.  And who knows, maybe it’ll be my last time in the Series.  You just never know what’s in store, George.  Hey, my first name is George, too.  How about that?  You going to eat the rest of that hot dog, kid?”

And so Herman LaHahn and his son George sat in the centerfield bleachers at Wrigley Field, courtesy of the Greatest Showman on Earth.  Babe delivered in grand style in the very first inning with a three-run homer off Charlie Root.  Ruth faced Root a third time in the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging to a 5-4 lead.  In anticipation, George stood up…and proceeded to drop his glove over the fence, and onto the playing field.  Taking no chances at missing a Ruthian souvenir, LaHahn climbed over the fence to retrieve his glove.  No one noticed until after Root fired a called first strike past the Babe, who then spotted LaHahn on the warning track gathering up his mitt.  Not wanting the youngster to get tossed from the ball park, Ruth motioned towards the Cubs bench with a raised hand and an extended finger.  (“I was just trying to call time”, said Babe afterwards, “but I didn’t want anyone to know why”.)  Root missed with the next two pitches as LaHahn struggled to make it back over the centerfield wall.  With the despised Ruth at bat, everyone one in the stadium- except Ruth himself- was oblivious to the teenager on the field.  The Sultan of Swat took strike two as the crowd exhorted and the taunts from the Chicago dugout grew louder.  Again Babe tried to draw attention away from the “other George”.  He raised his hand at the Cubs players a second time, extending two fingers in their direction.  He looked out at centerfield once more, and with two strikes on him, realized he had no choice but to point out his guest to the home plate umpire.  But just as he began to gesture towards the bleachers, he saw Herman LaHahn pull his son- feet first- into the stands.  Relieved, Babe Ruth crushed Root’s next offering for his fifteenth- and last- World Series homerun.  (George missed a chance to catch the legend’s last hurrah because he couldn’t figure out which hand to put his glove on.)

Surely inspired by the presence of Babe Ruth, LaHahn, at age 14, in his ninth- and final- season of T-ball, recorded his first base hit.  It was a soft liner to second base and George beat the throw by a half step.  In the process he bowled over the opposing first baseman, Walter (Wally) Pipp, Jr.  The six-year old Pipp, whose arm broke in three places under the weight of the onrushing teenager, never played organized ball again.  For George LaHahn, having his first base hit behind him, it was only the beginning.  But before bidding adieu to his T-ball career, LaHahn stole second and third base, and then ran all the way home.

Literally.

Chapter 2: Adolescence

George had an inauspicious introduction to middle school in September 1931.  His locker combination was an eerily familiar 0-0-0, which he forgot twice during that first day. 

And then there was gym class:

Coach: Wagner?

Kid: Here

Coach: Cobb?

Kid: Here sir

Coach: Gehrig?

Kid: Yep

Coach: Ok. Looks like everyone is here. I’d like to…

Cobb: Coach?

Coach: Yes, what is it son?

Cobb: You forgot LaHahn.

Coach: Who?

Cobb: LaHahn. You forgot LaHahn.

Coach: Who’s he?

Cobb: George LaHahn. He’s right here.

Coach: I’m sorry I don’t have a George LaHahn on my list – Oh wait a minute he’s on the back.

LaHahn? LaHahn? George LaHahn? LaHahn!!!

George: Me sir?

Coach: Are you LaHahn?

George: Umm…hold on (takes off his shirt and looks at the tag)…Here!

Coach: Son your jock strap does NOT go on your head!!  Jackson! Take LaHahn back to the locker room and show him how to dress properly.

Jackson: Who’s he?

Coach: “In all my years I never saw anyone with less athletic ability than that kid, LaHahn.  There wasn’t one thing he did well.  Not one.  He stunk at everything: baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, tetherball; hell, if it had “ball” in it, he stunk at it.  Then there was tennis, golf, bowling, and ping-pong.  Kids would be dressed and heading to another class before LaHahn would finish his jumping jacks.  Of all things, he stuck with baseball, even though that may have been his worst sport of all.  I would tell him ‘George, maybe there’s something out there for you, but baseball is clearly not it.  Give it up, kid, before you end up hurting somebody or yourself.’  But Herman’s boy was as stubborn as a mule, and about as dumb as one, too.”

If there was anything George loved more than baseball it was R.A. Steinhagen.  Known to her classmates as Annie, she was LaHahn’s first crush, a fact not lost on the sultry brunette from the Bronx:

“Yeah, I knew he liked me; he was always drooling after me.  ‘Walk you to class, Annie?’  ‘Carry your books, Annie?’  ‘Do your homework for you, Annie?’  He would have done just about anything for me.  But I didn’t go steady with nobodies like George.  I was attracted to guys with clout, guys that turned heads when they entered a room.  George was invisible to most people.  My girlfriends would ask me, ‘Who’s that boy we see hanging around you all the time?’  And I’d tell them, ‘Oh that’s just George LaHahn’ and they’d give me these strange looks and say, ‘Who?’  They sounded like a bunch of owls.  I wasn’t exactly Miss Popular, which is how I liked it. But the boys in school, they knew me.  I loved contests of skill; I think it was an obsession with me.  And if there is one thing about teenage boys, it’s that they will go to great lengths to impress a girl.  I will have you know, I never settled for second place. I made sure to latch on to the one that was best; I relished the opportunity to put a chink in his armor.  Poor boys; they had no idea what hit them.  George simply wasn’t good enough to draw my attention that way; he had as much skill as a drunken raccoon.  But he was sweet; he’d never hurt a fly, so in turn, I could never hurt him.  I’d let him buy me lunch though.  I’m no fool.  Besides, a girl’s gotta eat, even one with my figure.”

George was your typical teen; that is, he was prone to juvenile frivolities like everyone else.  He and his buddies would often sneak into Ebbets Field, where the Brooklyn Robins played.  The boys also developed a fondness for swiping baseball equipment from local sporting good stores.  During one shoplifting spree, the clerk recognized George and ran after him, shouting “What do you need a bat for?  You can’t hit anyway!  Leave it for the kids who can play!”  When George got home with his new hitting stick, Herman immediately sent him on a mile-long walk to return it.  He threatened to keep his son from playing T-ball the following year, but the LaHahn’s ultimately settled on something else for punishment: he would work one week- without pay- at the store in which he pilfered the bat.  But the clerk, fearful that George would scare off potential customers with his uncanny knack for doing the wrong thing, graciously declined.

Carlos Berber, the longtime employee at Hit N’ Run: “Are you kidding me?  I couldn’t let him work at the store.  Even the day he stole the bat, it took him forever to find it.  I guess the big “Bats” sign in the middle of the store wasn’t enough of a clue for him.  If you ask me, I always thought he was on something, you know?  Not that I’m an expert, but come on, no one is that dumb.  And then to run out of the store with it, no more than a minute after he asked me where the bats were, geez…how stupid can you be?  So when his dad offered to let him work the store, I said ‘thanks, but no thanks’.”

“No thanks” was a familiar phrase at the school’s “Meet Me at the Ball” that September, although some of the girls left out the “thanks” part when George asked them to dance.  (“I don’t even know you?  Who are you?”)  He looked around for Annie as his one shot at female companionship, but she was clinging to Edward Waitkus, who had moved from Massachusetts over the summer.  Waitkus was everything George was not, naturally gifted and not at all afraid to flaunt it.  One thing Waitkus wasn’t: R.A. Steinhagen’s first choice.  She actually had her eyes, if not her heart, set on Lawrence Columbus (Crash) Davis.  But Davis, both talented and keen, saw right through Annie’s charade.  For some reason Crash liked LaHahn, even though he rode him as hard as anybody.  That night he even introduced him to his shy cousin Judy, who was serving drinks.  When a clumsy classmate knocked his cup over, Crash grabbed George and shouted above the music, “That’s my cousin, Judy.  She’s upset because some moron treated his drink the way you do a fly ball.  So I need you to watch her and the punch.  You got that kid?  Take care of the punch and Judy!”  George nodded.  “Thanks meat”, said Davis, already scanning the other end of the gym for available partners.  For LaHahn, his first dance was like being on the diamond: nothing but strikeouts.  Even shy Judy forgot his name within the first five minutes.                  

The middle school that LaHahn attended did not have an actual baseball team (though it was part of the gym class curriculum), so he and his friends played the next best thing: stick ball.  They wanted to be like the pros so they all came up with nicknames for each other.  There was Tony “Garbage” Hunter (whose family was poorer than the LaHahn’s), Bobby “Stinky” Fingers (don’t want to know how he got that nickname), Jimmy “Sea of” Green (who threw up before every game), Johnny “Which Way” North (got confused on the bases on which way to run), Henry “Grassy” Knowles (who always got a rash when he played the outfield), Timmy “Don’t Turn” Blue (who held his breath whenever he got two strikes on him) and, of course, George.  Because he was always getting forgotten either by teachers, or classmates, or even by his friends, they started calling him “Who’s he?”  It was because of this that George was more determined than ever to make a name for himself in the grand game of baseball. 

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