AN ARTICLE FROM THE BASEBALL MAGAZINE:AUGUST
PORTRAIT OF A PHILLIES GREAT
The first thing you sense is the mixed smells of popcorn, taffy, frankfurters with mustard and the acidic smell of sauerkraut, caramel corn, and then there are the electric bowling machines, the glass incased Gypsy Fortune Teller (wide eyed with a malicious grin on her face) who will tell you your fortune for a nickel, pin ball machines ring-tingling away, ping pong tables with a consant back and forth flow of bodies and ball, miniature basketball lanes incased in long rows with balls plunking in and off the rims of baskets. Surrounding everything are glass cases filled with miniature Statue Of Libertys and Empire State Buildings with King Kong climbing them, pins with pictures of Niagara Falls, movie stars like Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Chaplin, Betty Grable, sports pictures, picture postcards of the Adirondacks, the White House, Lincoln, F.D.R, Herbert Hoover, vacuous looking Kewpie Dolls, Mickey Mouse watches-glasses and dolls, T-shirts, miniature chocolate bars wrapped with pictures on New York State, Hula girl figures whos skirts rise up when you press a button and more, more.
THIS IS HUBERTS PLAYLAND ON 42ND ST. AND BROADWAY, & ITS 1948, 3 YEARS AFTER WW2.
Across the way is the hurlyburly of people, and around and about are movie houses (The Victoria, The Paramount, Trans Lux, Roxy, The Palace, Radio city Music Hall), large cavernous restaurants like Hectors, Romeos, Jack Dempseys, and the best place of them all-Horn and Hardart. Directly opposite Huberts is a large newsstand with a small heavy-set man behind the counter. His face is full-fleshed, a cigar hangs from his lips, and he keeps announcing, Indian Leader, Mahatma Gandhi feared assassin-ated early this afternoon. Hanging from paper clips and on the counter are newspapers such as The World Telegram and Sun, The Herald Tribune, The Daily Mirror and The Daily News, The New York Times, The Brooklyn Eagle and dwarfing them are the magazines. Life, Look, Coronet, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Companion, Argosy, Field and Stream, Boys Life, Readers Digest, Mechanix Illustrated, Photoplay, Movie Stories.
Coming in through a back entrance was a stoop shouldered man dressed in a brown sweater (shirt collar half in and half out), well worn dark trousers, scuffed shoes, and a dark blue cap with the letter P embroidered on it. Holding the banister tightly, he climbs the stairs with a shuffling, slow gait and walks into the second floor above Huberts main gallery. Half the room is filled with two bowling lanes. Limping over to a platform, he passes several rows of canvas chairs half filled with men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Women are there as well holding children, some of which are wearing baseball caps and holding baseball gloves by their sides. He goes up to the platform and from the audience someone calls out, Pete, you were the best. He sits down and waves to the people below him. His hair is thinning and grey. There are cobwebbed lines jig-jagging down from around his eyes and snaking to his mouth and then descending into a jumble across his neck. Behind him is a large, clumsily taped poster of Bing Crosby with an air-brushed aura surrounding his face, holding a cigarette in his hand, talking about smooth, mild, Chesterfield Cigarettes. Next to it is an even larger poster of Ted Williams in a pilots uniform, drinking a Coca Cola.
He takes a pack of Raleighs from his pocket, leans back into his chair and with unsteady hands, lights up. Leaning forward, he smiles thinly, and begins to talk. Once again he is striking out Tony Lazarri in the World Series (and candidly mentions that he was hung over from the night before). Once again he is back to his brilliant days with the Phillies, again he is seeing action in WW1. He stops for a moment, wipes his forehead and mouth with a handkerchief, smiles as a baby begins to cry, and then goes on. There is mention of his loss of hearing, he talks about his epileptic fits which he managed to keep hidden while he was in the game and asks his audience to be kind to him if it happens now. He lights up another cigarette and takes a sip from a glass of orange juice on a table next to him. He goes on and mentions that he has been off the bottle for years. He finishes, signs some autographs, pose for pictures with kids on his lap and slowly goes down the stairs.
He is met by a small, thin women wearing a peacock hat and supporting herself with a cane. They walk away together and two years later Grover Cleveland Alexander will be dead from war wounds, epilepsy, and heavy drinking.