Frankie was too excited to sleep because The Bambino was coming play ball in Neptune City!
Frankie’s mother, Minnie, was a sewer at Steiner & Sons, the local pajama factory. “Frances, if you don’t settle down and get to sleep, I’m gonna be putting the world to sleep on your ass.” Minnie was paraphrasing the factory’s Universal Nightshirt slogan, “We put the world to sleep.” She was mad enough to call her “Frances,” but Frankie couldn’t really blame her. Minnie had to be up at 5:00 A.M. for her shift.
Frankie turned her face to wall in an effort to bore herself to sleep, but all she could see was The Sultan of Swat up at bat. She kept very still until she heard her mother’s slow, even breathing and her grandparents’ huffs and snorts from down the hall.
Frankie sat up in the middle of a moonlit windowpane patchwork, and wrapped her arms around her knees. Frankie loved baseball. She played with the boys as often as they let her — which was only when they were short of boys. But she could hold her own. She wanted to join the Philadelphia Bobbies when she finished school, but her mother wasn’t too keen on that. Secretarial school and a job at Steiner & Sons was her plan.
Frankie slowly and silently got out of bed. Like everyone else in the family she wore a nightshirt from Steiner & Sons. Did the world really wear these scratchy nightshirts that got caught around her legs while she ran the bases in her dreams? She took her glove off the bedpost and held it to her face. She loved the smell of the oily leather and her sweat. She resisted pounding it: her mother was too light a sleeper and she couldn’t risk waking her.
She just wanted to see Babe Ruth. What made him different from the other players? Frankie felt “different” herself. She didn’t like the activities girls liked. She liked to run, to hit, to throw, to slide into home, and she was good at all of those things. But was she really “good,” or just “good, for a girl?” How would she ever know?
She needed to find other girls like her. Girls who liked sports, liked to play, not just watch from the bleachers. She made a vow that night. She was going to get out of Neptune City and play baseball. Maybe she’d have to go to secretarial school to please her mother, but she wasn’t going to BE a secretary. She would never get back to sleep now. She had big dreams. She was going to Play Ball!