AN ARTICLE FROM THE BASEBALL MAGAZINE: NOVEMBER
A FLICKERING EMBER
EDDIE BENNETT MISSHAPEN MIDGETS, HUMPBACKED UNFORTUNATES, STUNTED DWARFS.
BAT BOY OF THE IT WAS THE AGE OF RITUALISTIC, MYSTICAL MASCOTS WHO WIELDED A
NY YANKEES PAROCHIAL MUMBO-JUMBO MAGNETISM OVER TEAMS & GAMES. A PAT ON
THE HEAD, SOFTLY RUBBING THE PROTUBERANCE OF A HUNCHBACKED FORM, A HANDSHAKE
FROM A TWISTED BODY, RUBBING A BAT OR GLOVE OR A PLAYERS CAP IN A CERTAIN WAY YIELD-ED POWERFUL RESULTS.
THE EARLY 1900S GAVE US A PLETHORA OF TEAM MASCOTS WHO EITHER PROMISED US MIRAC-ULOUS RESULTS (IE CHARLES VICTORY FAUST) OR THE TOUCH OF THEIR BODY HERALDED VIC-TORY (SEE LOUIS VAN ZELST) OR GOOD LUCK CHARMS SUCH AS TY COBBS LIL RASTUS AND AL-EXANDER GEORGE WASHINGTON RIVERS AND BABE RUTHS LITTLE RAY KELLY.
IN THE 1920s & 30s BASEBALL HAD THE DIMINUTIVE EDDIE BENNETT:BATBOY OF THE YANKEES.
BORN A HUNCHBACK, EDDIE REACHED THE HEIGHT OF 4 FEET 6 INCHES AT MATURITY. AN OR- PHAN, HE TRAVELED FROM HOME TO HOME. GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND LACK OF OPPOR- TUNTIES OFFERED TO HIM, HE ENDED UP IN THE CIRCUS AT THE AGE OF FOURTEEN. FOR TWO YEARS HE WAS SURROUNDED BY THE SOUNDS AND SMELLS OF ELEPHANTS, TIGERS, HORSES, AND LIONS. HIS WORLD INCLUDED BEARED LADIES, GLANDULAR LOOKING TIGHTROPE WALKERS AND HIGHWIRE ARTISTS, THIN BUSTED AND WIDE-HIPPED FLORID WOMEN ACROBATS AND POS-EURS, FAST TALKING CARNY HUCKSTERS, GLOOMY LOOKING AND BITTER CLOWNS WHO DRANK TOO MUCH AND ONLY PLAYED POKER AT NIGHT AND MADE FUN OF HIS HEIGHT AND GENERAL APPEARANCE.
HE WOULD TRY TIME AND TIME AGAIN TO REMOVE HIMSELF FROM THIS TYPE OF LIFE BUT TO NO AVAIL. NOBODY WANTED HIM .THAT IS UNTIL .AT THE AGE OF 16 HE ANSWERED A CHICAGO WHITE SOX AD AND .
Ill tell you it was the accident that done it. The pain is giving me the willies Mark. Sometimes it drives me off my nut. Little Eddie Bennett was sitting next to Yankee shortstop Mark Koenig & talking to him about his recent automobile accident. I aint been much of a drinker before but this son of a bitch thing is makin me crazy. The onlyist thing that helps is to have a few good stiff ones and even then I get up at night with my back whacking me. The Yankee team sensed a change in their lucky mascot since he had been hurt. He was glum, couldnt move easily, & he had to stand with his back rigidly planted against the dugout wall for long periods of time. What was worse,his luck had run out. The team had stopped winning.
He had been wonderful though since joining the Chicago White Sox in 1919 & then going to Brooklyn and finally the hapless New York Yankees. Eddie had been magical, teams won with him around! Babe Ruth would have him by his side in the on-deck circle just before he batted. A team ritual was to have Eddie be the first person to greet Ruth, Gehrig, Lazarri , and Bob Meusel when they came to home plate after hitting a homerun and then they must shake his hand otherwise the magic wouldnt work the next time.
He was as well known as the players on the team. For 14 years he could be seen giving the players their bats, umpires the balls, his cap being rubbed by the team before crucial games, and sitting next to Miller Huggins on the bench pointing things out on the field.
Mid season of 1933 his accident was causing so much pain, he could no longer function as a batboy. He left the team and pretty much stayed in his furnished room at 115 West 84th street. He started drinking heavily. He had no real family he could turn to and his adopted family, the NY Yankees who had won 7 pennants and 4 World Series while he had been with them, were involved in playing the game of baseball. He was alone.
Mrs. Margaret Scholtz was the first to find his body. She had attempted to talk to him that afternoon, found he was drinking heavily, and left his room. Coming back later, she found him crumpled up on the floor. He had been dead for over an hour. A small radio was playing some dance music by Charlie Spivak. Mrs. Scholz remembered the song, Its the Same Old Dream with a vocal by Irene Daye because it was one of her favorite records. Not realizing what had happened, she began to pick things up from the floor and turned off the radio. From outside the window she could hear a fire truck, blowing its siren and she looked out to watch it go by. Noticing that the noise didnt wake up Bennett, she went over to him to see if he was OK. He wasnt.
A metaphor for Eddie Bennetts life (and death) could be a description of his furnished room. Small, with faded paint, one window with a torn window shade drawn halfway up, a small doorless bathroom with water dripping from a faucet into a stained sink, and a rolled up carpet by the side of a metallic, unmade bed. The room had been transformed into a cathedral of sorts though. On the walls were photographs of Eddie Bennett with some of the greatest stars of the game. Poses featuring arms around Eddies shoulder, his waist, smiling faces of Ruth, Gehrig, and Cobb and Simmons and so many others looking down at this 4 foot 6 inch hunchbacked mascot. In boxes, and on shelves were autographed boxscores, baseballs, and programs. Letters from players Eddie had befriended over the years, requests to vist hospitals to cheer up the patients., were stuffed in drawers and suitcases. And the bats and gloves were everywhere.
It was a miniature museum depicting a fragile life. A life that had been a small, flickering ember in the history of the game.
Jacob Ruppert, the owner of the Yankees, was informed of his death by Ed Barrow. Attempts were made to locate members of his family but management was informed that he had none. There were no bank accounts, no addresses of friends, no assets except for the mem-orabilia found in his room and no money to provide for a funeral. The prospect for a paupers grave loomed large until Ruppert stepped in and took charge. Ruppert saw to it that funeral services were held in the venerable Church of St. Gregory at 144 West 19th street. A fair sized crowd attended with a Priest who had never heard of Bennett and knew nothing about the game, leading the services.
A few cars took his body and some of the members of the Yankee staff to St Johns cemetery in Queens. One of the cars had trouble going though the snow which had turned to slush, and ended up getting lost.
None of the members of the Yankee team attended the funeral.