GET LOST, KID!

GET LOST, KID!

From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

Get Lost, Kid!

It was June 1991, and Clement J. Keshorek—his once lithe body weakened by bone marrow disease—gripped the baseball with thin, pale fingers, then reached across the rumpled bedsheets for a pen and started writing. C . . . L . . . E . . . the former Pittsburgh Pirate began, each new letter on the leather bringing him a step closer to mending a heart he’d unwittingly broken forty-one summers before.

That was 1950, and Clem “Scooter” Keshorek was the smallest, scrappiest, most popular player on the Flint Arrows, a Detroit Tigers farm team. Scooter, who stood 5-foot 4-inches tall and weighed 140, was on his way to being named the Central League’s most valuable player, and whenever the Arrows were in town, the diminutive shortstop was besieged with autograph seekers.

When I was eleven he was my hero, too, and on that July evening my heart was thumping as I sat there in the stands clutching a scuffed baseball and watching the players take their pregame warm-ups.

When they were done, I ran to the railing and shouted, “Hey, Scooter, can I have your autograph?”

Instead of taking the ball, he shot me a disdainful look, snarled, “Get lost, kid!” and disappeared into the dugout.

I saw Keshorek play several more times, but I never again asked him for his autograph.

He left Flint before the 1951 season and even though I often thought about looking him up, I never did because other things always seemed to get in the way.

Then in the spring of 1991, after reading that several major-league baseball players had refused to sign autographs for youngsters, I went looking for Scooter. I found him in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, where he was born on June 20, 1926.

When I phoned, Scooter’s wife Marilyn answered. I sketched my story for her and when I was done, I said, “So, you see, your husband owes me an autograph . . . and I’d like to collect.”

She laughed softly. “Clem would like that.” Then she added, “But if you’re coming, do it soon because he’s very ill and we never know what tomorrow will bring.”

Two days later, I was ringing Keshorek’s doorbell. Scooter, wearing pajamas, let me in.

“So you’re the guy who says I cheated him out of an autograph, huh?” he said. “When was it? ’50? That would have been Flint. Had me a heckuva season that year. Hit .270-something and made league MVP.”

He scratched his head. “Y’know, I don’t remember ever turning down a kid who wanted an autograph. But I could have done it, I suppose. Maybe I was having a bad night or something.”

He walked away, motioning me to follow.

“Sorry I move so slow, but I’ve got my elofibrosis and it knocks me for a loop. Has something to do with the bone marrow. I get regular blood transfusions. Doctors don’t know what causes or cures it. But, hey, you didn’t come here to hear me talk about that, did you? Sit. We’ll talk baseball.”

Scooter plucked a fistful of faded photographs from a cardboard box and spread them on the bed.

“That’s me sliding into second under Jackie Robinson’s tag,” he recalled, lifting one picture.

“And there I am with Gil Hodges,” he said, pointing to another.

For the next six hours we talked baseball as Scooter, laughing one minute, misty-eyed the next, talked about his career that reached its peak in 1952 when he had his one and only shot at the “bigs.”

He appeared in ninety-eight games for the Pittsburgh Pirates that year, collecting eighty-four hits in 322 at-bats for a .261 average. Playing shortstop, second and third, he had seventeen doubles, scored twenty-seven runs, knocked in fifteen and stole four bases.

The next year, however, he batted only once—as a pinch hitter—then was shipped to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. Scooter quit baseball after the 1959 season and returned to Royal Oak where he took a job selling sporting goods.

Then, too soon, or so it seemed to me anyway, the afternoon was curving toward twilight and it was time to go.

Scooter finished signing the baseball. O. . . R . . . E . . . K, he wrote. Then he leaned back on his pillow and said, “Still can’t figure out why I didn’t do this back in ’50. I mean, I really hate ballplayers who ignore their fans.”

He handed me the baseball. “Sorry you had to wait so long,” he said.

“No problem,” I replied.

“Am I still your boyhood hero?” he asked.

“Always and forever,” I answered, shaking his hand.

I started out of the room, then turned back to face him.

“Scooter?”

“Yeah.”

“Will you say it again?”

“Say what again?”

“What you said that evening in 1950 when I asked you for your autograph.”

He sat up in bed. “I told you I don’t remember ever telling a youngster to . . . oh, what the heck. Okay . . . just this once . . . um . . . Get lost, kid!”

It sounded just like it had forty-one years before.

Except for one thing.

This time Scooter was smiling.

Bob Batz

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