Wild Bill Hickok, MLB Umpire
Well, not really, but pretty close. Stay with me here….
I have various interests outside of firearms, and I freely confess that I have a deep and abiding love for the game of baseball. The following story, in all its simple awesomeness, is a confluence of many things that started when I was a kid.
Many kids grow up watching and reading about superheroes, I guess, but I never had much use for Super or Spider or Batman. I dunno. Too metro for me or something. I wanted to be the Lone Ranger, and it was one of the great disappointments of my life that I had brown hair, because everybody that was anybody knew that the Lone Ranger had black hair. While shooting guns out of the hands of bad guys and dropping my lasso around entire gangs in the back yard, I would often wonder how much darker my hair might get as I approached adulthood. My dad was black-haired, so I always held out hope that there was a slight chance. By the time I was 9 or 10, I had absorbed dozens of the old Lone Ranger radio broadcasts that dad had recorded on cassettes for us, and plowed through every Fran Striker novel I could find about the masked man. At times I vaguely wondered where we might keep a large and powerful white horse in our suburban Lubbock home. I had also realized that while modern society might not have a place for a masked ranger on a horse, brown hair shouldn’t be considered a deterrent from joining the Texas Rangers law enforcement.
By then I had begun reading about the real gunfighters of the Old West, and when I found out there had been a real gunfight at the OK Corral between ostensible good guys and bad guys, that event immediately rocketed to the top of my list of Coolest Things That Ever Happened. By 5th or 6th grade I had read the biographies of Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson, among others. Many years later I discovered that the gunfighters themselves had contributed largely to the writing of their own legends, and the gushing authors of the time had probably overdressed them a bit, willing to stretch and polish the truth in exchange for a sensational story. Regardless, they were a salty bunch.
It was about that time I discovered pro baseball. We grew up playing baseball with mom & dad in the backyard, and one of my favorite past times was going to the park with dad, where he would hit fly balls to me for hours at a time.
We didn’t have TV in the house, so I never watched sports, but one day a bunch of kids started trading baseball cards at school, and I quickly hopped on a bandwagon that I haven’t fallen off of 30 years later. I obviously was aware of pro baseball, but trading cards were my first introduction to all the teams and the players. We lived in the Lubbock at the time, but were and are a Ft. Worth family, so when I found out my local team was named the TEXAS RANGERS, and that the world’s greatest pitcher, Nolan Ryan had come to pitch for them, I’m pretty sure my 11-year old mind assumed I’d just died and gone to heaven. Around that time, there was a poster made of Nolan Ryan in his baseball uniform, but with a cowboy hat and a duster pulled back to reveal twin holsters with baseballs in them. Woah-ho-ho-ho, that was cool. Ryan threw his 6th and 7th No-Hitters over the next couple years, and mom gave me the newspaper clippings out of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. Dang, that was awesome.
Life moved on, I grew up and got into the gun business, embraced hunting and gun collecting, and all that entails, and continued to follow my beloved Texas Rangers for the next three decades that included a couple of World Series runs. Always a voracious reader, I devoured countless books on world history and US history and firearms history and both world wars, sports history and especially baseball history. I revisited the stories of my youth by seeking out more objective journalism on the old gunfighters, and when recently reading through Tom Clavin’s very well-written and researched book on Wild Bill Hickok, I came across a little anecdote that turned me into a starry-eyed 6th grader all over again. In the annals of history, this scarcely rates as a footnote, but I loved it, and here it is.
Click here for Part 2.