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A Pitch Knocked into the Future

January 22, 2008
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Catcher Albert Goingsnake snatches up a ground ball and shoots it to Isom Joel at second, who pivots and fires to Lucius Mummy on first. Everyone watching the team warm up knows they’re about the witness the greatest Indian ball club ever assembled, because once the season ends, the future of the Twin Territories League is uncertain. On November 16, 1907, in less than two months, Indian Territory is being legislated out of existence, along with Oklahoma Territory. A state is being sewn together from two parts. With the creation of Oklahoma, with the privatization of tribal lands, everything changes. Indians will be written out of Oklahoma’s picture. And history.

But Hope Little Leader doesn’t care about this. His only thoughts are about pitching a no-hitter against the Seventh Cavalrymen. Before going out to the mound to start batting practice, he pulls a pock-marked bat out of a potato sack and hands it to Blip Been, player-manager for the Miko Kings. Bleen, the most powerful hitter in the Indian Territory League, has already socked an incredible twenty-seven home runs during an eighty-nine game stretch. An unheard of number considering it’s the era of the dead-ball.

Goingsnake holds his catcher’s mitt, a homemade leather pancake permanently dented from years of abuse. He stands next to Blip. “Don’t need a catcher,” says Blip. “My bat splits tornadoes.”

Goingsnake spits tobacco juice on the ground. “Okay,” he says casually, “but Hope don’t throw no tornadoes.”

“He will today,” says Blip, practicing his swing. “We’re playing against soldiers.”

Hope doesn’t react or abandon his spittle-lubed snarl, not even for Blip. Not today. Rather, he strides out to the mound with five baseballs in the crook of his left arm, he sets them on the red dirt. Taking the first ball in his right hand, he winds up and fires toward home.

Blip belts it into left field, where centerfielder Nolan Berryhill scrambles after it.

The next pitch is high. Blip fouls it.

Hope winds up again, this time throwing a fastball with a twister’s tail that reverses itself as it drops in. Most batters don’t even see a seam. But instead of aiming for the ball, Blip calls it to his bat and slams it into tomorrow. Later, when a spectator asks him what happened to the ball, Blip will say he knocked it into the future.

–LeAnne Howe, Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story

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Learn more about the world of Miko Kings at “On the Prairie Diamond”

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