The Last Year of My Life

compiled from the journals of Patrick McGinty, 1919

Travel this spring is different. I am not long for this world. That old sawbones in Denver should be able to tell me something next week. At least he’s honest, not like that croaker in Lamar. Sure, I’ll just get lots of rest and stay away from whiskey. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Did he have to go to medical school back east for two years to figure out that remedy. I think all these doctors should go off somewhere together and search for a cure for stupidity. They could start within their own ranks.

In just about an hour we’ll reach Gunnison and I can stretch my legs. This train is hell on my back and my kidneys. Maybe I’ve got that Chrone’s disease. It sure did a job on Harry Selig and he was no older than I am. He could have managed in the Majors but for his health. I can see Tomichi Creek. There’s agreat hotel in this town called the LaVeta but one doersn’t stay there overnight on a baseball man’s salary. They say there are even tunnels right from the hotel to the houses of delight. Maybe someday, when one of my teams goes all the way, I’ll go all the way. I’ve always had a great time in Gunnison but I do miss my old third baseman Chuck Morganthau who caught a bullet at the Marne. He had a pretty wife and a lot of ability but something tells me he’d never be able to support a family scooping up grounders and hiting line drives.

The train has finally stopped. My back feels better. I wonder if there’s a pharmacy in this town anymore. What with all the federal interference it’s hard for a fellow to get anything that works on pain. I hear there are a couple of fine pitching prospects working the mines in Crested Butte. Of course if they decide to give baseball a shot they could put their futures in jeapordy. The mines, although dangerous, pay a decent wage and one’s career can last longer. Nobody wants to pay for entertainment these days unless it’s Ziegfeld’s or neighborhood cock fights. Why that Rosenkrantz kid might have gone all the way to the big leagues if his father didn’t insist on his going to the noraml school. I suppose he’s teaching scholl somewhere in these mountains. At least he makes a decent salary. The Jews aren’t stupid. It’s the Irish like me that fall in love with the game and just can’t quit.

The two boys that I heard about in Crested Butte can throw hard but one is married with three kids and the other can’t speak a lick of English. Maybe next year? It’s back on the damn train for me after a night of sleeplesness at Molly Duran’s Boarding House and a breakfast of biscuits and gravy at the Sodd House. Elmer Sodd told me he’s help sponsor a Fourth of July double-header between the Gunnison team and whatever heap of scrap I manage to put on the field. I say I’ll get back to him. What a pompous bastard he is sitting back in his kitchen but he was quite a prize fighter in his day, even fought Dempsey down in Romeo. He’d have whipped him too, from what I hear, but the ref called the fight due to Sodd’s broken ribs and an eye that refuses to go back into its socket, even to this day. The joke around here is that the thing will end up in someone’s pancake batter before it’s all said and done with.

The train pulls out of Gunnison and we’re already in Montrose. I must have nodded off despite this damn gout. I wonder if that’s the trouble. Can somebody’s gout creep all the way up the legs and make mush out of the back. I wonder if I ruptured something last season and it’s just waiting around to line one past me when I’m not looking? Montrose has fielded some fine teams over the decade although the war took its toll. I was too old for that dance but I did spend a few feverish nights in Cuba at the turn-of-the-century. According to the morning paper Babe Ruth hit a 587-foot homer against the Giants down in Florida. That boy has all the tools and he’s making a living. Other than the White Sox, and Joe Jackson, the Yankees seem to have an inside track on the pennant. The Reds look good in the National League. The rest of the paper is full of careful debates on Prohibition and updates on the peace conference at Versailles. It should be fun checking out the whiskey operations in the San Juans. I’ve got three kids signed from this part of the valley and all of them should show up at least until the sugar beets are ripe.

Is this a rash I see? Good lord I’ve got the pox! Maybe that’s the problem. One would think the doc could have diagnosed something so obvious. The train conductor tells me of a brother who dies of ulcerative colitus. That sounds important. If I’m going to drop dead I’d just as soon it be from something with an important sounding name or maybe it would be better to get run over by this train. It’s quicker. The conductor shakes me. We’re in Ridgway. He says I passed out and was mumbling about covering home with the bases loaded. The pain is bad today. There’s a McGinty family living somewhere in Ouray County. They might be relatives although they’ve never produced any ball players, so I doubt it. Prospects here are slim since everyone is working for the railroad or in the gold mines. Who can blame them for wanting to get ahead. Damn the pain! I hope if this is it they bury me with my spikes on. I’ll have to dig them out of my locker back in Denver. It’s been 10 years since I’ve played ball. What torture sitting there on the bench watching our boys take a pasting.

The train creeps over Dallas and makes a stop at Sams. Two young boys are playing catch along the tracks. One says he lost his only pair of shoes in Leopard Creek and is hoping for an early summer. That one kid has a cannon for an arm. I leave him my calling card. A prune-faced woman approaches as a reboard. She scolds the boy, and tears up the card while letting loose a scowl in my direction. They never said it would be easy. The pain in my back is getting worse. I wonder if it’s the altitude? I think I’m developing puritis ani…or something like that. Dr. Turlo prescribed a furlough from whiskey then he headed off to the local bar for lunch. I wonder if there’s a hospital in Telluride these days and, for that matter, if I’ll make it that far.

It’s snowing as we climb the last pass to Telluride and it’s only a few months till the dog days arrive back in the Midwest. There’s a rancher’s kid here by the name of Collins that I came to see play but the weather could be a problem. His dad was shot during the labor dispute in 1902 and I think he wants out of Telluride. Too many bad memories. All this way for another snowstorm. Maybe I should seek honest work like preaching or gallivanting around the countryside with a medicine wagon. I’m too old to find a rich woman to marry and too young to reteat to the rocking chair. Mining and baseball have a lot in common. The workers and players do the sweating and the owners make the money. But at least we play ball above ground in the sun. I sign up Eddie Dougherty, Mike Finnegan and two Italian kids named Petresko. One looks like a catcher and the other throws funny. Who knows. Telluride’s really hopping tonight. The miners must have just got paid. There’s not much point in getting back to the room since I can’t sleep anyway. I think I’ll take a walk.

I wake up in a room filled with the smell of ammonium. There’s a nurse standing nearby. Did I die? Isthis some kind of celestial emergency room? She brings me water as a young man walks into the room. He asked how I’m feeling. I say it’s too early to tell. He tells me how he found me passed out in an alley in Finntown. Thought I was drunk but then thought better when he checked me. Says I was screaming like bloody murder. Says he brought me here. It’s all foggy to me. Says he’s a basbeball player and was the youngest member ofthe state championship team in 1913. Then the doctor comes in and we go through all the pleasantries again. Hey, the pain is gone. Upon consultation with the doc I find that I have passed a kidney stone. He says I acomplished this feat at about three o’clock in the morning on the way to his office. Says I kept the whole town up half the night. Asks if I want to see the little devil and I decline. Damn, I feel better. He brings soup as the nurse encourages me to get up and walk around. The kid wants to talk baseball. Says he remebers me when I played for the Tigers in 1908 but that he won a few dollars betting on the Cubs in the World Series. We lost it four games to one.

The doctor comes back into the room and says I should be fine in a day or two. He adds that he can’t do much for my gout. Iask about my strangulated hernia and he just shakes his head. What about that pain? I thought I had turberculosis or something. He laughs and says a kidney stone is no walk in the park. That’s a great way to put it, doc. He says I’m as healthy as a horse but should slow down on the drinking. I wire the doctor in Denver that I will not be keeping my appointment. I hear there are a couple of prospects down in Dolores. I’m on my way.


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