One leisurely summer day, as he turned down the sound of a Reds
game wafting from his transistor radio, Berly Horne told me for
the first time about his baseball career.
Babe Ruth was highest on Horne's list of memories nearly half a
century later. Horne said he was in the minors, and the legendary
Sultan of Swat was barnstorming in an exhibition game. Even on the
raised mound, Horne must have seemed small and vulnerable at 5'
9" and 155 pounds, compared to the Babe.
But the little guy retired Ruth twice, including a popup fouled
to the first baseman. As he told the story, Horne didn't brag about
this part. Instead, he laughed about what happened during Ruth's
third at bat. Ruth drilled a line drive up the middle, hit so hard
that it almost took his head off on the mound and still sent paint
chips flying off the center field fence, Horne said.
Horne told me this story in 1978. It was one of the first newspaper
stories that I ever wrote, while a budding journalism student at
Ohio State University. Berly lived in an aging duplex, five doors
down from my childhood home, on East George Street in Arcanum, Ohio.
The story appeared in the Greenville Daily Advocate.
My well-worn Baseball Encyclopedia had new meaning after learning
of the small, one-season entry of pitcher Trader Horne. From that
day, I collected bits and scraps about Horne and the 1929 Cubs.
Baseball fans like David Martin of Columbus caught this same spirit,
searching for minor league records and photos of Horne. And then
I found relatives of Charlie Root, ace and veteran on the mound,
when 30-year-old rookie Horne tried to make the 1929 team.
This slight, quiet gentleman who died in 1983, became my own version
of "Moonlight Graham," from the movie, "Field of
Dreams." -- By Roger Snell