Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Zimmerman Virus Ch. 2 (Alternate History) redraft

Don Drysdale was starting in the World Series against the Yankees. Drysdale, a tall intimidating righthander, happened to be just the sort of pitcher Herb Walker could hit back when he was a minor league first baseman. Almost everyone was predicting that the Yankees would win this most recent edition of the subway series easily. They had Mickey Mantle, possibly the best switch hitter of all time, Roger Maris, the man who had broken Hank Greenberg’s home run record with 59 just two years ago, Whitey Ford, the left handed pitcher who always seemed to win. The Dodgers had two great pitchers and a little shortstop who stole a lot of bases. Herb Walker seemed to be one of the few people who was aware of the fact that speed and pitching sometimes were all you needed to win.

As he looked over to the metal clad warehouse from his desk. Herb Walker shook his head. American port security was hopelessly bad. Inspectors were paid less than four hundred dollars a month. Even at that there weren’t enough of them. A handful of policemen patrolled Baltimore harbor itself.

In thirteen years in the family business, he’d earned more running guns to Europe than he would ever have running the basepaths. Still, whenever he listened to games he ran through counter factual possibilities like his maybe being a 39 year old veteran subbing for Joe Pepitone and getting to hit off Drysdale. It wasn’t too old to still be playing. “Look at Satchel Paige” thought Walker as he remembered seeing a newsreel of Paige just before his retirement in 1951 telling Edward Murrow, “I never had a job, I just kept playing.”

It usually started like this, “If only the Homestead Grays had not been invited to join the national league as a “separate but equal” team in 1935.”

The team instantly became a point of pride for all negroes in America. Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Ray Dandridge, Cool Pappa Bell, Double Duty Radcliffe had all joined the team by 1937 and the Grays won two straight world series despite the fact that they never played home games. After that, the rest of baseball had to keep parity by signing the best players they could find regardless of race. Branch Rickey, the Cardinals general manager, traded for Satchel Paige, who had finally infuriated the Gray’s owner Cumberland Posey by yet again trying to renegotiate his contract, in the middle of 1939 to make the Cardinals the first integrated team. Paige and Mort Cooper paired to win the pennant for the Cardinals and soon every team wanted salt and pepper lineuups. Until then, a very good white player had a realistic shot of making the majors. Instead, the good field, not so good hit, Herb Walker found himself locked into the minor leagues after a solid career at first base at the University of Connecticut where he had captained his team to the college world series.

Two men came into the interior office of the Harriman Shipping Line where Herbert Walker kept a desk that served as his connection to the legitimate business world.
“I thought we agreed” Walker’s voice had a slightly whiny quality when irritated as if he were speaking from his palate.

“Who’s going to know, it’s Sunday morning,” said the darker haired one, a man Walker knew as Pat. “You’re the one who says that no one pays much attention to the docks on Sunday morning.”

“I thought you guys would be in church,” Walker said it ever so derisively.

“Not if we have a more important mission for the lord,” Pat answered.

Walker wondered how a man like Pat could ever be part of a contract killing. He looked and sounded more like someone who might be a television newscaster. Walker had in eleven years in the business not to ask direct questions of his clients’ plans.

An article in the Atlantic had called them “Evangekillers”, men who talked constantly about angels and salvation but who thought nothing of killing innocents in the name of god. Religious fanaticism, though, was nothing new in the world. It’s just that they now had automatic weapons and plastic explosive. Walker had more than once speculated on what would happen if men like Pat and his friend ever got their hands on a nuclear weapon.

"Whatever,” Walker opened tilted his head and pointed with his right index finger not at but in the general direction of Pat and the other evangekiller, a dark-haired man with a mustache and narrowed eyes who went by Gordon.

“This has to be a professional operation, that shipment needs to reach its destination by November. If that's going to happen, we follow the plan, my plan,"
Walker's forceful voice always sounded more peppy than authoritative.

“I was a marine. I know how to get the job done,” Pat retorted.

Walker decided not to mention that he’d spent four years in the Navy Air Corps after he washed out of the minors. He hadn’t expected Christian partners quite like Pat. Most people thought of radical christians as people with little education who had come to the Lord because they had little hope in their lives. In other conversations Pat had hinted that he’d gone to Yale and that his father had even served in the U.S. Senate at one time. Walker shook his head, if only he’d had those opportunities, he certainly woudn’t be involving himself in weapons deals or trying to sound like a rural southerner like Pat.

The pair of evangekillers left his office, but not before Gordon gave him a threatening look.

“Assholes,” he muttered to himself. “Pat probably spent his time in the Marines procuring booze for the officers.”

Walker turned the game back on. The Dodgers were leading in the 8th inning 3-1. All of Brooklyn was ready to celebrate for the City’s remaining national league team. Horace Stoneham had made the mistake of moving the Giants to Minneapolis three years earlier. Next year, the league had announced plans to have expansion teams in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Alone again, Walker was left to ponder the biggest what if in his life of all and how his life and family had been changed so drastically by the Nye Committee and its junior counsel Alger Hiss. His grandfather Samuel had been chair of the American Munitions Board in 1918, the fourth year of the war, just when the US had almost made the decision to join the war. His father had been a board member and banker with extensive trade contacts with companies that did business in both the United States and Europe. Had the Nye Committee not declared his grandfather a war criminal, his father might have even become a senator. He might have gone to Yale just his father and granddfather had. Instead, in March of 1936, the New York Herald had run its headline.
“Remington sold hundreds of millions of dollars in ordinance to both the British and the German Army. Munitions Board Implicated.”

His grandfather had made a fortune prolonging the war and lobbying the US to get involved too. As far as anyone could determine, boosting sales to companies in which he held stock had been his only motive.

“The Greediest Man in the World” had been the headline in the Washington Post.

Even the Hearst papers had jumped in. For some time, they had been the biggest advocates for his grandfather and father's claim that Hiss had framed them with forged evidence by manufacturing a typewriter to match the one at the Harriman lines and his grandfather's office machine. Only towards the end did the Hearsts abandon his grandfather after he had refused to come out of his Connecticut mansion while a French woman who had lost her husband and two sons to Remington ammunition in the summer of 1918 sat in front of his gate for a week and a half until he would come out and look her in the eye. Three weeks later, a group of children had killed thirty six of their schoolmates in New York’s PS 109 with a cache of guns bought through mail order. Walker’s grandfather had nothing to do with any mail order sale of any bullets or weapons, but his name had been linked to every mention of the massacre. Also linked to the massacre was the hero, M. B. Laden, the Streaking Sheikh, who had talked the boys into surrendering their weapons after the police chief had gotten the idea to bring in their favorite baseball player. After the police had taken them away, Laden had stayed behind the school to console families and ultimately made a short speech,
“This is not a religious matter. No real God endorses the killing of innocents. These were young boys, as American as any of us. This is not about Christianity, it's about a world filled with more guns than charity. If we are to remain a great nation, we must do it as one people, one team."

The "We have a team" speech transformed Laden from a retired baseball player to public speaker in a matter of months.

In the meantime, Walker's father's shipping lines had been identified as the carrier for all of his grandfather’s cargo. A Broadway play was staged called “Death Ship". Despite the success of the play, Traven, the playwright refused to be interviewed or allow his face to be shown in public. Gossip had it that Traven was M.B. Laden, which clearly wasn't true, but it further enhanced the Laden mystique.

Walker had to change his own name at the age of 13 and his plans for prep school became instead three years in East Texas with distant relatives. It was there that Herbert Walker had first vowed to make his fortune and one day restore his family’s name.

By the end of the morning the shipment would be on a Liberian cargo ship. Pat had insisted on a Liberian manifest because he claimed to have yet another trusted acquaintance. If all went well, Herbert Walker would in three years have made the jump from running a gun smuggling crime family to being in the oil business. His would be the only American company the Ottomans would deal with.

If all went well, Herbert Walker’s son, Herbert Jr. might some day be president. Joe Kennedy had gone from being a bootlegger to having a son who had a chance to run against Bin Laden in 1964. Maybe in 1996, Herbert Jr. might run. That was, if only his eighteen year old would stop drinking and get serious about his life. Then for a moment, it dawned on Herbert Walker why Pat irritated him so. That arrogance, that refusal to listen. It was like he was seeing an older version of his own son. He hoped to hell that Herb Jr. never hooked up with the Evangekillers.


At 9/04/2005 03:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOVE the evangekillers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And at least there was one quote from Satch.

At 9/04/2005 09:57:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I promised to make this story interactive :}. Thanks for continuing to read it. While the Pat in this one obviously isn't Pat Robertson, who clearly would never be involved in killing the elected leader of any country, I did find an interesting story. Pat sued Pete McCloskey for libel many years ago because McCloskey claimed that Robertson used his connections (his dad was a US Senator) to avoid combat. Robertson withdrew the suit just before trial, claiming that he had other commitments.


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