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     The borrowed shoes rub her feet raw and the scrapbook under her arm grows heavy, adding to her uneven gait. But she keeps her pace, past Shibe Park’s award cases and the trophy stands, the silver urns burnished with the Toms, Dicks and Harrys—never a Jane, a Mary or an Adelaine. She catches bits of Philadelphia through the arches in the concourse. The skyline flat and low, dimensionless against the late fall sky. Adelaine—Addie to family and teammates, stops to salute the stars and stripes flying in left field, then rounds the concourse behind the centerfield stands, her heels damp, a mush of skin and stockings.

     Shibe is bland and unimpressive, a contradiction to the colorful Cornelius “Connie” Mack and his team, the Philadelphia A’s. She’d rather be meeting Connie today, he’s a hoot, but the A’s are already an institution, so she’s taking her pitch to the Phillies, the new team in town, and Connie has been kind enough to offer his office.


     At the next corridor, Addie hangs a left and pushes through the utility doors; they bounce against each other with a ting. She pauses to gather a breath of the ozone-like smell of cement and metal. With another breath she relaxes her features, it wouldn’t be the first time she sucked up to a man who knew less about the game than she did, she just didn’t need him to see condescension in the first thirty seconds.


     A quick nod to the secretary and Addie straightens her spine, driving open the door to one of baseball’s inner shrines. Wally Dreyfuss is parked behind Connie’s desk and as he rises, she notes narrow shoulders beneath his big-ticket suit.


     “Nice to finally meet you,” he says, extending a hand. She takes it, and the colognes favored by fancy men pummel her, the department-store aftershave and tobacco that drag the reality of the boardroom into the game. Left up to her, ballparks would only smell of hot dogs and sweat and that funky, earthy odor that shimmers off the pitcher’s mound.


     “You too, you too,” Addie says, approaching the desk. A dry cough heaves behind her, and she mutters a “dammit,” but smiles anyway and pumps Wally’s hand.


     “I believe you know Lyle,” Wally gestures to the cougher behind her.

     “Know of him, yeah,” Addie answers, forced to face the most polarizing human being in organized sports. Everything Connie had said about Dreyfuss led her to believe he was a decent man. How he had chosen retired pitcher Lyle Anderson as his General Manager mystified her. Lounging at the end of a copper-colored couch, flipping a stainless-steel lighter, Anderson pushes blue smoke through his nose while his eyes flit over her body.


     Addie adjusts her skirt, also on loan from a sister and a size too large, then curses herself for caring. She rolls her shoulders.


     Anderson smirks, then points to Addie’s scrapbook. “Get a load, Wally, the girl brought you reading material. Or is it homework?”


     Overriding the cutoff man, Addie addresses Dreyfuss, “I’m here to apply for a job with your Phillies.”


     “Ooh, or maybe she wants to play teacher,” Anderson continues. Addie crushes her molars into her tongue and prays Dreyfuss will ignore him.


     “Well, I didn’t peg you for office work, but you met Jeannie out front, she hires all the girls for—”


     “Not here for office work, Mr. Dreyfuss. I want you to hire me as a scout.”


     “Ha. First the negroes, now the women,” Anderson chuckles. “Suppose the Puerto Ricans will want their chance at the plate next.”


     Addie sways. A typewriter clicks in the outer office. Anderson hollers for Jeannie to bring him coffee.


     Somehow, Dreyfuss blocks out the peanut gallery. “A scout? Interesting. What, exactly, would you say qualifies you for such a position?”


     Anderson's lighter drops to the floor. “Jesus! Wally, you can’t be serious,” he roars. Dreyfuss holds up a hand to silence him but to no avail. “Missy, go home! Have yourself a gaggle of sons, send them here after you teach ‘em to play catch and I’ll take a look-see.”


     Addie imagines shouting: If I were a man with my kind of numbers, you’d have twisted your out-to-lunch ass off that couch and be over here begging me to lend my eye, shape your new team, you prick. Instead, she evens out her voice, hoists her album onto the mahogany desk, and says with all the bravado she can muster, “This qualifies me.” Then she steps back, raising her chin to the cheap seats, while sweat gathers around her wrists, chafing the skin under the wool hem.


     Dreyfuss stares at the cover, rather juvenile, with an appliqué of a baseball as large as a dinner plate. The binder is stuffed, and every newspaper article and clipping is organized, dated, numbered, and indexed in the top corner. Addie knocks her fist against her lips. Anderson coughs, Addie hears his lighter hit the floor again. She does her best to stand still. Dreyfuss’s eyes shift, processing both the weight of her book and her request.


     With deliberate slowness, he closes the cover. “Adelaine, no one doubts you can play the game. But scouting is a business. One that women don’t—”


     “Hold on,” she rocks back on heels that certainly need bandages, then hunches forward, inhales the lemon furniture polished ingrained in the desk—god bless her sisters, content with cleaning house and caring for kids. “If I were to evaluate Anderson back there, I’d report that he’s got a weak right ankle. He’s got it propped over his left and he hasn’t stopped kneading it with his palm.” She cocks her head over her shoulder and winks at the crimson-faced ex-player. He scrambles and the couch springs squawk. Raising her voice, she finishes with Dreyfuss, “He’s also let his lighter slip three times. Hands have gone soft; dexterity won’t be what it once was.”


     Anderson manages to stand, lets out a string of expletives. “Sit yourself down,” Dreyfuss says, rising himself. Addie exhales. Dreyfuss levels her, squints, no doubt gauging her demeanor under pressure. She doesn’t balk.


     “This isn’t a joke. You want me to hire you as a scout?”


     Addie digs in and jabs the scrapbook toward him. With the confidence of a .400 hitter she says, “I will find them. I will find them on the high school ball fields and playing pickup games in the sandlots. My boys will have a sense of timing, and a fluidity of movement that comes naturally. Don’t doubt that I know what can be taught and what can’t.”


     Dreyfuss removes his hands from his tweed pockets and lifts the green book, bounces it a few times across his fingers to assess its weight. He opens it again, flips through the pages, the letters and numbers in the corners dance in animation. “Before I consider this,” he begins, shooting Anderson a warning glare, “don’t you want a husband? Some children?”


     And there it is: the unfair question. “Your male scouts have spouses? Families?”


     “Yes, but this is unprecedented… you’ll need to travel, there’s a time investment in future prospects. Baseball will become your life.”


     Addie snaps, leans forward. Her hose catches on a snag of wood, and she hears the rip of a tear. Time to wrap it up and get out of this asinine outfit. “Doesn’t take an all-star to see it already is,” she says, sliding the album back across the desk and into her arms.

Autumn 1946

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