THE BASEBALL QUIZ
Willie Morris’s GOOD OLD BOY is a book about the adventures of a boy
growing up in Yazoo City, Mississippi in the 1940s.
LIKE MARK TWAIN AND HIS COMRADES growing up a century before
in another village many miles to the north and on the other side of the
Mississippi, my friends and I had but one great ambition in the 1940s. Theirs in
Hannibal, Mo., was to be steamboatmen, ours in Yazoo City, Miss., was to be
major league baseball players. In the summers, we thought and talked of little
else. We memorized batting averages, fielding averages, slugging averages; we
knew the rosters of the Cardinals and the Red Sox better than their own
managers must have known them; and to hear the broadcasts from all the big-city
ball parks with their memorable names—the Polo Grounds, Wrigley Field, Fenway
Park, Yankee Stadium—was to set our imaginations churning for the glory and
riches those faraway places would one day bring us.
Peewee Baskin went to St. Louis on his vacation to see the Cards, and when
he returned with the autographs of Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Country
Slaughter, Marty Marion, Joe Garagiola, and a dozen others, we could hardly keep
down our envy.
I had bought a baseball cap in Jackson, a real one from the Brooklyn Dodgers,
and a Jackie Robinson Louisville Slugger, and one day when I could not even find
any of the others for catch or for baseball talk, I sat on a curb on Grand Avenue
with the most dreadful feelings of being caught forever by time—trapped there
always in my scrawny and helpless condition. I’m ready, I’m ready, I kept thinking
to myself, but that faraway future when I would wear a cap like that and be a hero
for a grandstand full of people seemed so far away I knew it would never come. I
must have been the most dejected looking boy you ever saw, sitting hunched up
on the curb and dreaming of glory in the great mythical cities of the North.
That summer the local radio station started a baseball quiz program. A razor
blade company offered free blades and the station chipped in a dollar, all of
which went to the first listener to telephone with the right answer to the day’s
baseball question. If there was no winner, the next day’s pot would go up a dollar.
At the end of the month they had to close down the program because I was
winning all the money. It got so easy, in fact, that I stopped phoning in the
answers some afternoons so that the pot could build up and make my winnings
more spectacular. I netted about $25 and a ten-year supply of double-edged,
smooth-contact razor blades before they gave up. One day, when the jackpot was
a mere two dollars, the announcer tried to confuse me. “Babe Ruth,” he said, “hit
sixty home runs in 1927 to set the major league record. What man had the next
highest total?” I telephoned and said, “George Herman Ruth. He hit fifty-nine in
another season.” My adversary , who had developed an acute dislike of me, said
that was not the correct answer. He said it should have been Babe Ruth. This
incident angered me, and I won for the next four days, just for the heck of it. And
when the announcer set a policy that I couldn’t win any more money I told the
right answers to Rivers Applewhite, who thought I was the smartest baseball man
who ever lived, and with whom I split the profits 50-50.
6) Willie calls the announcer his adversary. The word adversary means
7) Why did Willie temporarily stop calling in answers to the baseball quiz?
On some days he didn’t know the answer.
The announcer was using trick questions.
The announcer found out that Willie had been cheating.
Willie wanted to win a more impressive amount of money.
8) Why did the announcer set a policy that Willie couldn’t win any more money?
No one else could compete with Willie.
Willie acted rude.
Willie and Rivers began to cheat the station.
Other people began to complain that it wasn’t fair.
9) Which statement below is probably true about the town of Yazoo City?
The city was almost the size of St. Louis.
It was a typical small town of the times.
The people who lived there were dissatisfied with the quality of life.
People there spent too much time trying to earn money.
10) Why does the author compare Hannibal, Missouri to Yazoo City, Mississippi?
To suggest that children everywhere share dreams
To show the isolation of Yazoo City
To illustrate how the river sharply divides different cultures
To emphasize that they both have similar sounding state names
11) The author’s tone in this selection can best be described as