Chapter 1 The Family Page III of III
The house on South Stone had a screen porch in the rear, and it was the bedroom for my brother and me. For the entire time we lived there we slept outside on the screen porch. Every home had one, and nearly everyone used them in the summertime. Without air conditioning, the houses were so hot that few could sleep inside. Many actually slept outside on cots placed on the lawns, as even the sleeping porches could be too warm for comfort at times. But, between the bugs and the summer rains, the yards were not the ideal place to sleep.
Most porches had canvas curtains that could be rolled up on hot nights and tied down when the wind and rains came. The nights in Tucson could be very cold in the wintertime; sometimes the temperature dropped to the low 20s. But we learned to live with the varying conditions and slept on screen porches until we were married, and even then we had screen porches for the summer months.
Late one fall evening while sleeping on the porch at the Stone Avenue house, we heard a tremendous explosion that shook the whole south end of Tucson. It awakened everyone in the family who gathered on the back porch to see if we could figure out what had happened. About that time we heard two men running across our yard and between our house and the one next door. We did not know what caused the loud blast until later when we heard police officers searching the neighborhood. My dad told them about hearing the two men run through our yard. The police then told us that the Aros house, a block and a half east of us, had been dynamited, and they were looking for the men who had set the charge.
The next morning when I went to school I walked right past the Aros home which had its entire front blown off. When I got to the Safford School I found that my class was being moved out of the usual room because all the windows were blown out and there was a large crack about six inches wide at the front corner of the room. Later large braces were placed against the outside walls of the building, the crack was closed with temporary repairs, and we moved back into our regular room.
The home that was dynamited was owned by Teofilo Aros, a rancher and cattleman from Sonora, Mexico, who had moved his family to Tucson right after the turn of the century. At one time he had been postmaster at Sasabe, Arizona, on the Mexican border. While the police continued their investigation, they never did make any arrests. It was rumored that some old enemy of Teofilo Aros was attempting to kill him and his family. A few years later his home was bombed again, but, luckily, neither of the blasts caused more than property damage.
The Safford School was so badly damaged, although it was almost a block away, that it was torn down the next year and replaced with the present Safford School.
My dad was a baseball nut all his life. In his younger days he was a first-rate player who turned down repeated offers to turn pro. Many old-timers told me that he could have easily made it to the big leagues if he had accepted any of the contracts offered him. He told me that Charles Comiskey, later owner of the Chicago White Sox (and owner of the team in St. Louis before moving to the Windy City) offered him a contract back in the mid-nineties.
Professional ball players in those days were rough, tough guys, and my father's mother, with whom he lived, discouraged his ambitions to play baseball for money because she thought such associations would be bad for him. However, from what I've been told on numerous occasions, my old man would have had no problems with those rowdies. He was a real man's man. He never went past the fourth grade in school because he had to go to work to help support the large family that my grandfather, Phillip, was adding to Tucson's population, which was 2,500 when my dad was born in 1872.
Manny quit school to work full time helping his father with his business, which consisted of some wagons and horses for hauling freight between Yuma, Tucson and Lordsburg, N. M., and some buggies used for local people trips.
When he was eighteen he got a job working in the blacksmith shop at the Southern Pacific railroad yards. His father had died the previous year and he, with his two older brothers, was supporting the family of ten kids plus mother, Rosa.
Manny's ball playing days, of course, began when he was old enough to swing a bat. He had a natural talent for the game, and by the time he was thirteen be was playing on the "town team" made up of the best players in Tucson.
When he was fifteen, a pitcher on one of the teams that came through Tucson, took a liking to Manny and showed him how to throw a curve ball. I've read newspaper articles stating that Manny Drachman was the first Arizonan to throw a curve ball. Manny not only was a darned good pitcher but also a hell of a catcher, the position at which he really excelled. Working in the blacksmith shop developed his strength to the point where he was said to be the strongest man in town, and he proved it on several occasions.
He was five foot nine and weighed 202 pounds -- and he loved to fight! Nowadays anyone who loves to fight is considered a complete roughneck and someone to shun. But not in those days! What else was there to do in Tucson in those days but play ball, gamble and fight? If Tucson's team lost the ballgame, but Manny Drachman, or anyone else on the team, won the fight afterwards, the day was considered a great success.
Many of the big league players in the off season would play for teams representing the mining towns in Northern Mexico or in Arizona and New Mexico. Cananea, Sonora, always had a team which included a few big leaguers. The rivalry with the Tucson team, which my dad managed and played for, went on for many years, and the games between these two teams were always great affairs that the local fans loved to bet on.
One year Cananea's lineup included Chick Gandil, first baseman for the White Sox and later banned for life from organized ball because of his role with the infamous Black Sox of 1919. Burt Whalen, a big league catcher for the Boston Braves, was behind the plate for Cananea. He was a big man, about six feet two inches and 230 pounds.
At least thirty times old-timers who were there have told me the story of the game at the Elysian Grove ball park on the Sunday afternoon when the third and deciding game of the series was played (about 1903). I had been told the story by my dad once when I asked him about it, but Tax Shelton and others have made it sound much more glamorous and exciting.
Tempers were short all during the series and there had been one or two incidents between the players. On Sunday Tucson was being beaten and none of the local players or fans were very happy. About the fourth inning Whalen was on third base when the batter struck out for the third out. As Whalen came trotting in towards the plate my dad, who was catching, tossed him the ball, which he apparently did not see, and it hit him on the cheek.
Whalen grabbed Manny, who had turned around to walk towards the bench, and slapped his face. The whole crowd saw what had happened and let out a roar when Manny shook his finger in Whalen's face and said he'd take care of the matter after the game. While the crowd didn't know what was said, they knew Manny and were sure the matter was far from settled.
As luck would have it, Manny came up in the ninth inning with two outs and Cananea safely ahead. People told me that they were sure he struck out on purpose so he could get to Whalen, the Cananea catcher this day. He threw down the bat, reached up and removed the mask from Whalen's face and the fight started. The crowd was in an uproar. No one attempted to stop the fight. The players on both teams thought their battler, the best on each team, had the advantage and allowed the men to go at it.
After about ten minutes of brutal slugging my dad had driven Whalen back against the grandstand then, with a solid blow, knocked him cold. The crowd went crazy. They had long forgotten the outcome of the game and the series. They had won the fight, and that was a hell of a lot more important.
The fans picked up my dad on their shoulders and, not only carried him off the field, but clear up to a saloon and beer garden about a block away to continue the celebration.
When I told this story to Bill McKechnie, well-known manager of several National League teams and, at the time I first knew him, a coach for Bill Veeck's Cleveland Indians, he said, "Your old man must have been a hell of a man. That Burt Whalen was a big, powerful guy."
My mother loved to tell the story about how, on my second Christmas when I was a year and a half old, I disregarded a line of toys to pick up a baseball at the far end. That pleased my dad tremendously, she said, and he remarked that I was going to grow up to be a ball player.
So, my love for baseball was inherited, I guess. It's too bad I didn't inherit some of my dad's talent and strength. I played on kid teams, and when I went to high school I played shortstop and was the second string pitcher. We won the State High School Championship in my senior year, but I was just a pretty good semi-pro player after that. But no one, and I mean no one, ever enjoyed playing the game more than I did. I always wanted to be a big league ball player, and even today, if I could be any thing in the world, I'd choose to be a good big leaguer. I guess that tells you something about my intelligence but it also tells you I was completely crazy about playing the game.
I couldn't hit, I couldn't run, I couldn't throw, slide or even shave. I weighed 127 pounds when I finished high school and was "five eight and a half." But otherwise, I was a hell of a prospect!
While we were living in the house on South Stone Avenue my brother, Brud, was known to get up occasionally and walk around the house in his sleep. Our mother would, once in a while, place a tub of water alongside his bed where he would step when he left the bed, believing that stepping into the cold water would awaken him. However, whenever he knew the water was there he would not try to get up. Whether it had any effect on his dreaming habits is questionable.
One summer night about 1:00 a. m., while we were sleeping on the back porch, Brud let out a whoop, jumped out of bed, unlatched the back screen door and took off across the back yard, heading east. He hurdled a low fence at the back of the yard, with me in hot pursuit. I had yelled to my dad that Brud was running out of the house and I was going to try to catch him.
Brud crossed 14th Street, turning the corner on Scott Street heading north. As we passed a friend's house on Scott Street, our friend, who was sitting with his parents on the lawn, jumped on his bicycle and followed the two of us as we raced towards McCormack Street, which Brud crossed at full speed.
I finally caught him just as he was going up the walkway to the Carnegie Library. His eyes were wide open, but he had a scary look on his face. He obviously was having a nightmare. When I grabbed him and shook him, he said he had to return a book, which was past due, to the library. My dad and some neighbors soon arrived, amid a great deal of laughter.
We walked Brud home, and by the time we got there he was fully awake and couldn't believe that he had run a couple of blocks while sound asleep. We learned later that our mother had cautioned him, just before he went to bed, about returning the book that was past due.
A few years later while we were living in the house on Fifth Street, Brud had a nightmare that resulted in an injury to him. I was out of town at the time but my dad told me that very early on the morning of the Fourth of July firecrackers were being exploded in back of our place. Brud came down a short flight of stairs from an upstairs screen porch, yelling and acting like he was ducking shots aimed at him, saying, "Those men are shooting at me. I'm going to get them." With that he went over to the edge of the porch and kicked the screen door, breaking his big toe. He was lucky he wasn't more seriously injured with his nighttime wanderings.
While I was in high school, there were quite a few older fellows attending school with us who were veterans of the first world war, and, under a plan similar to the later G.I. program, they received financial help to complete their education and were known as "federal board" students.
One of them was Kenneth Yeazel. I got well-acquainted with him in 1923 and learned that he had built a radio set, which was something we had only heard about in those days. He invited my brother and me to come out some evening and listen to the programs. I hadn't learned to drive the Ford automobile that our father had bought, but Brud could drive. We were entranced with the idea that we could hear music and conversation transmitted and received without benefit of wires or telephone lines. We spent many evenings at Ken's garage in back of his home on East Speedway, glued to the earphone, which each of us would hold to our ear. At the time there was one station that broadcast music and also served as a radio phone operation between Catalina Island and the Southern California mainland. The conversations were not a bit private as anyone with a short-wave set could listen in.
After a couple of weeks of borrowing the family car and staying out quite late, our dad asked where we were going and what we were doing every night. When we told him we were going out to listen to a friend's radio, he would not believe that a young man attending school could build and operate a radio set, so we asked him to join us the next evening.
He and his partner, Ben Goldsmith, went with us to Ken's place to listen to the radio. It was a "first" for both my dad and for Ben. Ben just couldn't believe that the programs were being transmitted without the use of transmission lines. He even borrowed a flashlight and went outside looking for a telephone line connected to the little building containing the set.
My dad became very interested in radio after that and was surprised to learn that there were quite a few sets in Tucson, mostly crystal sets which could be easily built.
He was also a great sports fan. He was operating the Opera House at that time, and whenever the University of Arizona Wildcat football team played a game away from home, he would arrange to have the telegraph company install in the Opera House the equipment needed to receive telegraphic reports of the progress of the game. These he would read from the front corner of the auditorium without interrupting the silent movie.
The thought occurred to him that these reports should also be sent out over the radio. He arranged for Ken Yeazel to move his set into the basement area, under the stage of the Opera House, so the telegraphic reports of the "big game" would be sent over the airways. I have no question that this was the first time a sporting event was ever broadcast in Tucson. I assisted my dad who read the telegrams as they were received. I was the messenger between the Western Union receiver in the other corner of the basement and the broadcast area.
This was another "first" for my dad to add to his string. In all, he had three of them. He brought the first motion picture machine to Arizona, the first aeroplane and later was responsible for the first sports broadcast in the history of the state.
We were especially happy when our family acquired our new Ford car. The Drachman family had many family picnics on Sundays generally out ten to thirty miles at a canyon or at a mountain spot. Our cousins' families had cars for several years before we could afford one. We would split up in the other cars and have fun with our cousins, but we felt a little like second-class citizens until we had our own car.
Automobiles in those days were a novelty, and we generally walked everywhere. I thought nothing of walking to school either to high school or the university later. The walk to town was only a fifteen minute jaunt from our home. In fact I didn't learn how to drive a car with a shift stick until I was married. The girl I married was given a Studebaker by her father as a wedding gift, and she had to teach me to drive. When we got married we moved into a home that had just been completed on Palm Road between the university and Speedway. It was about a mile farther out than the family home, and I could no longer walk to work. My wife provided taxi service for me, taking me down in the morning, picking me up in the later afternoon, driving me down again after dinner to the theatre and then returning late at night to pick me up again.
Three years later, when Brud got married, he moved into a new house located a half mile further out than our place. There were no other homes or apartments available closer to town. Tucson, like every growing city, was being structured as it was because of the automobile that made it easy, convenient and inexpensive to live out away from the places of employment.
CONTINUE with Early Tucson