When Julian “Junie” McBride passed away on April 1, 2009 at the age of 92, he was known to Nashville’s Old Timers as their official “Mr. Baseball”. There was not a more lovable, affectionate, passionate baseball fan within 1,000 miles than Junie.
Not only did he know everyone who ever picked up a baseball in the area, his jovial wit was part of his charm. He loved to tell stories about Larry Gilbert, Hans Wagner, and every Old Timers banquet he had ever attended, which was 70 – every one ever held since the organization began holding them before he died.
One of the stories Junie loved to tell was about the two-headed pitcher the Nashville Vols once signed to a contract.
“Larry Gilbert signed this guy with two heads. The Vols had a bunch of double headers to play one year, so what was better than bringing in a two-headed pitcher?
“They called him ‘Two-top’. He was from Walla-Walla”.
Of course he was.
“On his contract, his record said: Hair, brown and blonde. Teeth, all and some. Eyes, blue and brown. Facial hair, yes and no.
“’Two-top’ was great at holding runners. In the first inning of his first game, with runners on first and third, he held both runners.
“After a couple of innings the frustrated catcher throws down his glove, takes off his equipment right there behind the plate, and walks to the dugout.
“What’s with you?” asks the manager.
“I can’t take it anymore,” says the backstop, “I’ve been giving him signals, Skip, but one head nods “yes’, and the other head nods “no”.
So Gilbert tells his catcher to go out to the mound and talk it over with his pitcher, since three heads are better than one.
“I’m finished,” says the burly catcher, “I have enough trouble with pitchers with only one head.”
About this time, Junie would be grinning and laughing along with everyone else.
“It was no use, and Gilbert gave ‘Two-top’ his walking papers after just one game. You should have seen the lumps that came up in his throats.”
“He found a job up in New York City calling tennis matches before joining the Army. One of the heads couldn’t sleep, so they made him the bugler. He’s the only guy who could do ‘about face’ and ‘eyes right’ at the same time.”
Junie would giggle like a schoolboy at the end of his stories. He was a gem, and his stories were jewels.
© 2020 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.