Baseball memories: Bear Tracks Greer
For some reason I had Greer’ s number, and I nailed him pretty good. Some-times in baseball it’s that way.
One night, after I racked him around and ran around the bases like a maniac, I got up to the plate and he took his time, looking me over, and I knew he was going to dust me.
Bear Tracks Greer
Baseball Memories by Murray Franklin, as told to Dell Franklin
There was a pitcher in the Texas League named Bear Tracks Greer, a huge hillbilly with the biggest feet you’ve ever seen. He wore his cap low over these dark beetle brows, and his eyes were sunk back in his bead under those brows, and they kind of glowed, very spooky, and he had a lantern jaw that stuck out like Senator Claghorn, and I guess you could say he looked intimidating. They say he was crazier than Bobo Newsome, who I played with and against, a pretty crude guy, and I think Bobo hung on because he wasn’t dangerous, and ended up playing for just about every team in both leagues.
Greer had real good stuff and threw hard, but as a person he was so wild and unpredictable that even in those days they couldn’t bring him up to the big club because there was no telling what he might do. Hell, he might strangle a teammate, or throw somebody off a building, or go to a bar and get stabbed by a woman or get himself beaten to death by a mob of drunks.
For some reason I had Greer’ s number, and I nailed him pretty good. Some-times in baseball it’s that way. We had an outfielder at Detroit named Bruce Campbell, a left-handed hitter, and he wore out Feller while other guys looked helpless up there. The Yankees had a tough lefty named Marius Russo, and he had hard stuff that bore in on a right-handed hitter, and he jammed the hell out of me, had me off balance, and I hated facing him, couldn’t buy a hit. But Greer, only time he got me out was when I hit one right at somebody.
One night, after I racked him around and ran around the bases like a maniac, I got up to the plate and he took his time, looking me over, and I knew he was going to dust me, and he did. OK. I got up. He stood out on the mound, looking in at me with those eyes, holding the ball in his big paw, flipping and catching it. Well, the lights were poor in that stadium, and I had to be careful when I settled in, and sure enough he dusted me again. This time I went down in sections, my heart in my throat. The crazy sonofabitch was trying to kill me. So I jumped up and gave him a look. By this time I had established myself as a guy who could take care of himself and didn’t back down from anybody, but Greer didn’t give a damn if I was King Kong, and the crazy bastard was grinning at me. Well, I started to go out after him and their catcher snagged me by the belt.
“Don’t go out there, Franklin,” he said. “Bear’s crazy. He’s not like the rest of us. He’s from the hills. He doesn’t abide by the normal rules of conduct.”
“I don’t give a damn,” I told him. “I’m not target practice for that nut.”
“Franklin,” he said, “listen to me. Bear knows he can’t get you out. We’ve tried everything and nothing works. If he can’t get you out, he wants you dead. That’s the way Bear thinks. It’s not personal, he’d probably like you if he got to know you. You seem like a pretty good guy.”
“To hell with him. Nobody knocks me down twice without a fight.”
“Franklin, you go out there and Bear’ll dehorn you.” I looked out there. Greer was in front of the mound, still flipping the ball, grinning at me with those fangs. A dark person. “I heard you just got married to a beautiful gal, a knockout,” the catcher told me. “You’re a helluva ballplayer, got a big future with Detroit. Don’t throw it away. You go out there after Bear you’ll end up hair-lipped; he’ll tee off on you with that ball from two feet way. Stay here.”
I stayed. Bear dusted me two more times, one ball a foot over my head. When I walked to first he watched me, grinning, flipping that ball. Later that year I ran into Bear Tracks at an All-Star game. We were on the same team and he was scheduled to start the game. When I got to the clubhouse he was drunk. He wore overalls with no shirt and stunk to high heaven, had a jug of whiskey, came right over and gave me a big hug, wanted me to take a slug of that foul stuff. Christ, he had his arm around me like he wanted to kiss me.
“I like you, Franklin,” he said. “Nice college boy. I’m sure glad you didn’t come after me, Franklin, cuz I didn’t wanta kill you. Shit, I can’t get you out. What am I suppose to do? I see you up there again, I’m gonna stick one in yer ear, even if I do like you.”
Tracks was supposed to start that All Star game, but he never made it to the mound, never made it out of the clubhouse. They tried to get that jug away from him, but they couldn’t, so they waited until he got so goddam drunk he couldn’t stand and they bedded him down on the training table, and left him there, with that jug still glued to his big old thumb. §
Dell Franklin is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at email@example.com.