San Francisco's Parker House was the best place in the Bay area to go to if you wanted a quality casino outfitted with a swanky barroom. Monte, faro, poker, blackjack, roulette wheels, pretty dancehall girls and honest dealers all rolled into one beautiful paradise to lose your hard-earned bankroll in. The Parker House was also the place where all of the big smokes and celebrities went to be seen and to see other big smokes and celebrities. So it wasn't at all strange for William Barclay Masterson, the famous gambler and notorious lawman, to rub elbows at the long bar imported from England with James Galvin, star baseball pitcher formerly of the Buffalo Bisons and now a reluctant member of the San Francisco Athletics. The two were formally introduced to one another by Muldoon, the gang leader of the notorious "Hoodlums." Galvin was being escorted around the Barbary Coast by James J. Corbett, the heavyweight boxer, who was pestering John L. Sullivan for a title fight; and Bat was visiting from Dodge City with his fellow deputy marshal Wyatt Earp. Everybody in town knew of Muldoon, the bad man, especially the police force and his arch-enemies the "Hounds."
"A bottle of whiskey, waiter!" Muldoon shouted at a passing waiter as the small group of five men found an empty and clean table a fair piece away from the clutter at the bar.
"Make it Irish whiskey," suggested Galvin.
"And bring us a deck of cards," put in Corbett.
"Make it an unopened deck of cards," added Bat.
"So here we all sit: the baseball player, the boxer, the gunslingers and myself," said Muldoon, pouring out neat shots.
"The gangster," Corbett said with a smile.
"Smile when you say that, mister," said Muldoon, only half in jest."
"I'm smiling, Muldoon," Corbett said quickly.
"I can't believe the future heavyweight boxing champion is afraid of any man," Wyatt Earp said with a frown.
"I never underestimate a fellow Irishman," said Corbett, losing his smile.
"So let's toast the Irish," said Bat, adding, "I'm 100% Irish myself."
"To the Irish!" saluted Jimmy Galvin, wanting to avoid any trouble.
"I'll drink to that even though I'm not Irish myself," cracked Wyatt, clinking glasses with the other.
Muldoon unraveled the playing cards and started to shuffle. Somebody suggested that deuces should be wild in a game of five card poker. A ten dollar ante was considered a decent admission fee to a game inside of the classy Parker House. Everyone at the table still had a clear head and the game progressed smoothly. Wyatt Earp seemed to be the most skillful of the five or he was at least the luckiest, winning the most hands. Muldoon called out for a new deck to see if it would entice "Lady Chance" to grace him.
"So you throw a baseball for a living?" Wyatt asked Pud.
"They pay me $2,000 a year to throw strikes from the mound in Buffalo," answered the baseball player. "The San Francisco Athletics offered me $2.500 for the upcoming 1878 season. Pitching is my trade."
"And they call you â€˜Pud,'" asked Muldoon, starting to turn nasty again.
"It's short for â€˜Pudding," admitted Galvin with a pleasant chuckle. "The claim is that my fastball turns the batter's bat into pudding."
As the midnight hour approached Bat and Muldoon were just about cleaned out while Corbett and Pud were breaking even. Wyatt was accumulating the biggest stack of chips. He was also the most sober at the table.
"You must have aces up your sleeve," Muldoon accused Wyatt with a drunken slur.
Everybody stiffened as Bat took a turn as the dealer. Wyatt Earp wasn't heeled inside of the casino as it was against the house rules. It was strictly forbidden to enter the premises wearing a gun and a holster. However, it was a sure bet that most of the well-dressed gentlemen inside of the Parker were carrying concealed weapons. Derringers were extremely fashionable that year in the west.
"Steady partner," Wyatt softly mumbled.
"Maybe you can get away with cheating in Kansas but here in California you'll get huddled for your tricks," warned Muldoon, getting to his feet and kicking over his chair.
Drunk or not the hood was as powerful as a bull and he was spoiling for a fight, especially with a real hombre with notches on his firearm. The bully boy also knew that his top lieutenant, Billy Mulligan, was getting dangerously liquored up at the bar. Billy was always packing and ready to blaze away at the cross town Hounds.
"Leave the visitors alone," demanded Corbett, grabbing Muldoon's right arm.
Without a word of warning Muldoon delivered a left hook to Corbett's head. The place went quiet as the America's contender shook off the cheap shot. Momentarily the man known by the newspapers as "Gentleman Jim" stood up and delivered three quick punches that floored the chieftain of the Hoodlums. The crowd cheered for Corbett as he took a bow to acknowledge them. Billy Mulligan, who was no friend of the boxer, pulled out a Buntline that he had tucked away inside of his great overcoat.
"You can't get away with that, dude!" shouted Billy.
Bullets broke the fresh bottle of whiskey on table and scattered chips to the four corners of the den. Bat Masterson's
cat-like reflexes saved Corbett from a slug in the skull. Wyatt Earp had something tucked away up his sleeves but it
wasn't an Ace: he produced a tiny derringer and took aim. A close range blast entered Billy's forehead and dropped him
to the ground. Suddenly lights inside of the Parker House were extinguished and men began to rush to the exit. Corbett
kicked out a stained-glass window and dragged Wyatt after him. Galvin calmly finished his shot of red eye among the
ruckus. Bat calmly put his derby hat on top of his head.
"Shall we take our leave, Mr. Galvin?"
"I'm ready to leave, Mr. Masterson."
Arm in arm the two wandered the crowded streets as a battalion of police officer arrived upon the scene. The timing was perfect as reinforcements of Hoodlums from the nearby wharves arrived for a rescue mission. Billy clubs crashed down on heads as rocks were hurled at blue uniforms in retaliation. Fisticuffs broke out as cops and thugs went at it in a donnybrook.
"Gordon Wisenbaker's restaurant is further down the avenue," said Pud.
"The Germans are more peaceful over their beer than our Celtic kin are over the poteen," said Bat.
The two revelers ordered two schooners of foaming Pilsner lager as they toed the bar rail inside happy-go-lucky Teutonic beer garden. A Munich-inspired band played cheerful tunes as people hopped onto the dance floor to waltz. The Germanic establishment was bright with lights.
"Do you like San Francisco?" asked Bat, making conversation.
"It's my kind of town but I want to go back to Buffalo," Pud Galvin said between gulps. "My wife and child are back East and my former club offered me a $3,000 salary. It's costing me money being here.""
"So what's the holdup?"
"The Athletics won't let me out of my contract and the owner McKnight hired Muldoon to keep an eye on me so I won't skip town. Corbett informed me that the Athletics even hired Pinkerton detectives to keep tabs on. I'm boxed in."
"It's my round," announced Bat, investigating his vest pockets for money. He then checked his pants pockets for any loose change. "I'm busted, partner"
"It's on me."
"I hope you're not hurling tomorrow."
"I'm playing in the outfield tomorrow and I'm pitching the day after," explained Galvin.
"You're holding the dead man's hand, Jimmy," decreed Bat.
"Buffalo even wired me an advance of $500, so I'm flush. My Bison teammates open up their season in Chicago in a few days. They'll need my throwing arm in order to beat Cap Anson and his white stockings."
Bat's ear perked up when he heard the mentioning of a thick bankroll. He was on his uppers and on the scout for some cash.
"For half of your jack I'll get you out of here in one piece," bartered Bat.
"$250, you mean?"
"Meet me here tomorrow after the game. Bring your packed bag with you. Load some grub, too. Beef jerky and biscuits make for light carrying. I'll get you to Chicago in time to beat Cap Anson and his gang."
The ball yard was jammed packed with 4,000 fans for the season opener between the San Francisco Athletics and the Oakland Exiles. Pud Galvin, a seasoned drinker, shook-off his lingering hangover during batting practice. He cleanly fielded four fly balls hit to him in the outfield and he had cracked two long singles in four at bats. The game was tied at four all in the bottom of the ninth inning when Galvin lead-off.
"End this game now so we can all go home for supper!' hollered a well-dressed dude in a derby from behind home plate. Pud could see Bat's smiling face from among the laughing fans. The gunslinger tipped his hat in Jimmy's direction.
"I aim to please the fanatics," announced Pud.
Two balls and one strike later Jim Galvin got a hold of a pitch he fancied with the meaty part of his club. The speeding Spalding baseball was greeted by a mighty crack of the bat that knocked it over the left field fence. The audience stood up and yelled themselves hoarse as the former National Leaguer circled the bases for a game-winning home run. The spectators in the bleacher benches fought over the prized baseball.
"James Galvin is worth the money I paid him to jump to our club," McKnight bragged to a group of sportswriters as Galvin swept into the dugout with a tip of his cap.
"Now you need to keep him here in San Francisco," responded a smart aleck.
"With Muldoon in the hospital, Mulligan in the morgue and the Hoodlums all in jail from last night riot, I had to hire the "Hounds."
"They're almost as thuggish as the Hoodlums," somebody else commented.
The Hounds were as tough of gangsters as the Hoodlums but they weren't very clever. Bat knew they were trailing him and
Pud as they boarded the eastward bound train. After the final "all aboard" was called the two runaways leapt from the train.
They had to race across the tracks to jump on board a southbound train for Daly City. They made a third transfer and were
now heading for Carson City. Galvin was ready to doze when Bat jostled him awake.
"We get off at the first stop."
"I am no whiz at geography but I know we're a long ways off from the border."
"I hope you don't mind a long walk into the setting sun, Jimmy," said Bat. "We have a long haul to Lake Michigan before you can rejoin your team."
The two set their course westward towards Virginia City as Bat Masterson explained that the owner probably had hired
Pinkerton agents to intercept them in Carson City. It was best to throw them off their scent by cutting through the
sandy dunes on foot. There were objections made when it was made known that there was almost eighty miles of barren
wasteland in front of them. The baseball player was still protesting when a wagon drifted by and Bat hitched a ride
for the two of them. It was a family coming home from a visit with kin folk. Pud felt nervous as the farmer's daughter
eyed him with bad intent and the farmer's wife openly flirted with Bat. The four wheels and two horses carved off seven
or eight miles of the journey before the two escapees were once again walking beneath a full Easter moon.
"You almost got us tarred and feathered, mate," quipped Jimmy.
A troop of horse soldiers on a scouting mission kicked dust in the two men's faces as they raced on by.
"Beware of Indian raiding parties," a sergeant shouted at them.
"They'll scalp you and steal your fancy war bonnet!" shouted a lowly private to the merriment of his comrades.
Renegades were the least of their troubled as they stumbled into a mining camp of rough Russians miners. The unwashed laborers were digging into their plate of beans when the intruders made their way to the camp fire and requested to purchase some horses.
"Spies!" went up the call.
"The Yankees are here to jump our claims!"
"String them up!"
"Show them some of your green," prodded Bat, lowering his right hand to the pearl handle of his weapon. The distraught miners noticed his firearm and fell back to regroup. Shovels and axes began to appear.
"We need horses," said Pud, holding up his dough.
"We have business in Reno," put in Bat.
"I thought we were going to . . . "
"We're going to Reno," insisted Bat.
One of the Russians pulled a knife from his boot and was ready to let it fly when Bat sprayed the dirt in front of him: it was a display of speedy and accurate marksmanship.
"It'll be your heart next time, mister," said Bat.
"We need two horses," said Pud, peeling off some notes.
The miners offered two nags with two worn-out saddles for ten dollars apiece. It was highway robbery but they at least had mounts for the trek to their destination, Bat was very secretive about his navigation. The two travelers took off in a rapid gallop to put some space between them and the gold diggers. Perhaps Pud's wad of bills had given them notions of following.
It was getting close to noon when Bat Masterson, a skilled frontiersman and a child of the plains, decided that it was a time for a rest.
The gunslinger fell right to sleep as the city slicker tossed and turned. Jimmy finally gave up and reached into his pack and pulled a baseball out. Feeling the stitches in the ball somehow gave him a sense of security.
Dusk wasn't too far off when Bat stood up and started to get their horses ready as Pud stashed his baseball away. The professional athlete was buttoning up his luggage when a rattlesnake slithered by. The snake felt that the man with the bag was blocking the way to its nest. The ugly varmint decided to launch at the green tinhorn with its dangerous fangs and deadly poison. A shot rang out and the creature was split into two pieces.
"I divided it evenly," said Bat with a smile. "That's our supper."
"It beats the tough jerky I have in my bag," Galvin said with false gusto, putting on act for his friend.
As it transpired, Bat Masterson was also a very skilled prairie cook: the grilled rattlesnake steak strips weren't half bad. Some cold water from Bat's canteen helped to wash it all down.
"It tastes like chicken," proclaimed Pud.
Darkness had fallen over the desolate country as the two found a well-maintained road used by the Wells Fargo stage coach line that took them all the way into Virginia City. The two unloaded their horses for a loss of profits at a stable. The two wayfarers sought the train depot where they purchased one-way tickets to Denver. In Denver they had to switch lines to Dodge City, Kansas. Then there was another long and jarring stage coach haul to St. Louis, Missouri. Finally, they made the final lap northward to Chicago by box car where the White Stockings were going to host the Buffalo Bisons in the season opener at Lakefront Park.
The resilient Bat Masterson had stuck with Pud Galvin more than half-way across the North American continent: California to Illinois. He had refused to sign off in Dodge City, his current residence, and he wouldn't accept one dollar of his $250 fee until he deposited the baseball player at the entrance gate for the players.
"Here's your money, Bat," said Pud, pulling out his wallet and emptying it out. "I like you well enough but I have no use for cactus juice and sidewinders."
Bat peeled off a ten dollar bill and stuffed it into Galvin's coat pocket.
"Never let it be said that Bat Masterson ever left a fellow Irishman high and dry."
Jimmy thought that he had seen the last of the westerner, so he was delighted to see his old road companion sitting in the front row on the first base side for the contest. Jim Galvin, depleted and thin after his long pilgrimage from the westernmost part of the country, wasn't slated to pitch in the first game, but as it turned out he was called on to pinch hit in the top of the ninth with the score in a deadlock.
"Easy out!" roared Cap Anson, the White Stockings first baseman and manager. "Jim Galvin is any easy out!"
"Cap Anson is a loudmouth," retorted Jim as he limbered with two bats.
Scornful hoots filled his ears.
"Knock the cover off of the ball so we can all go home to our supper!"
Pud Galvin recognized the voice of Bat Masterson.
"You wasted your time bringing your bat up here, Jimmy, me lad," taunted catcher Bill Harbridge.
"Let's play ball!" warned the umpire.
Jimmy Galvin took a ball and then fouled off a pitch. He was one of the few professional baseball pitchers who actually enjoyed taking healthy swings at pitches. He took two more balls before taking a called second strike. He wasn't overly impressed with the servings of Terry Larkin, starter for Chicago.
"This Mick has a big stomach but not a big bat!" shouted out Cap Anson from his position in the infield.
Pud called time and stepped out of the batter's box. He picked up some dirt and rubbed it into his sweaty hands. He hated Anson because he was a known hater of the sons of Erin.
"Toe the mark," ordered the grumpy umpire.
On the next toss the pinch hitter found the impact he desired so much. The ball floated deep into centerfield and just out of the outfield's outstretched hand. The crowd was dead quiet as Galvin circled the bases with a homer. When he crossed the plate, he noticed that Masterson was no longer in his box seat. The two friends never meet again. Jim died a penniless pauper in 1902. Bat Masterson, who was a sportswriter with the New York Morning Telegraph, wrote a piece about Pud in his â€˜Masterson's Views on Timely Topics" column. It was Bat who called attention to the fact the Galvin was the winningest pitcher of all time with 365 wins (some sources credit him with 402). It took Cy Young several years into the new century to beat Jimmy's record. Bat died of a heart attack in 1921. He was found slumped over his typewriter.