Gopher Days, 1935

From Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line, by Tom Dunkel (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), Kindle Loc. 2253-2265:

Gopher Days were popular events on the northern plains calendar, even though they amounted to glorified community pest control. No one dressed in furry costumes. Children didn’t amuse their parents by impersonating bucktoothed rodents. People simply had great fun cutting the tails off all the gophers they could catch and kill—live gophers being the bane of every farmer’s and rancher’s existence—and competing for medals and cash prizes. Towns planned street festivals to coincide with the purges, amassing piles of as many as 100,000 gopher tails. On June 14, 1935, the ball teams from Bismarck and Devils Lake played a doubleheader in Brinsmade, North Dakota, as part of its Gopher Day celebration. (Back in Bismarck, state and federal agents were busy chasing bootleggers. They seized 3,397 bottles of moonshine in two raids.) Paige rested in Brinsmade. Bismarck still won both games. Desiderato and Troupe handled the pitching. Neil Churchill had his own cause for celebration, which had nothing to do with gophers or beating Devils Lake. Determined to ease the strain on Paige, he’d put out feelers for additional pitchers. Double Duty Radcliffe—who had landed with the Brooklyn Eagles after Jamestown jettisoned its black players—was willing to return to North Dakota, but couldn’t get released from his Brooklyn contract. On Gopher Day Churchill succeeded in coming to terms with Barney Morris, who’d gone back to Louisiana after the 1934 season. When Bismarck hosted the Kansas City Monarchs the following weekend, Morris was on the mound for the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. He got saddled with a hard-luck 2–1 defeat, but his fastball, curve, and changeup were in fine form. Churchill saw enough to be convinced he had a solid backup to Paige.

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