Rowell’s Words: Pepper’s Jackass

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022

John “Pepper” Martin was a very good major league baseball player from the late 1920’s to the middle of the 1940’s. He is most noted as a member of the famed St. Louis Cardinals team known as “The Gashouse Gang”.

He was known for his aggressive style of play that endeared him to his fans and created an equal number of critics.

His career was long before my time; so, I can only judge by what I read or hear from others.

My favorite story about him occurred in one of his games on the road. He was constantly being heckled by a loud fan in the front row that could not be ignored. Pepper tolerated it for about half of the game until he could take no more.

On his way to the dugout between innings, he confronted his distractor. The leathered-lunged fan expected a punch in the nose as the ball player’s reputation would suggest. Instead Pepper calmly told him the following story;

“Mister, I was raised on a farm and we had this old useless jackass. I used to love harassing and mistreating him.
Once my Pa said, ‘Son, one day that jackass is going to come back and haunt you”.

You know what? I did not believe Pa was telling the truth until today”. With that, Pepper resumed his trot into the visitor’s dugout.

As I said, his career was way before my time and we never met. I do, however, believe the validity of this story, since it came from a couple of different sources. I am constantly reminded of it every time I have some misfortune that I believe to be retaliation for some wrong in my past.

I knew an old gentleman once that told the following on himself. As a youngster in the very early 20th Century, he went on a church picnic. It was in an orchard and the kids were climbing the trees to get apples.

A young girl slipped and caught her foot in a fork but did not fall. She was, however, hanging upside down with her dress over her head exposing her under garments for all to see. The minister screamed, “If any one looks at this poor girl in her moment of distress, may God strike them blind.”

Mr. Blankenship covered his left eye and responded, “I’ll risk one eye, Preacher”.

Would you believes sixty some years later when we talked; he was blind in his right eye.

True story.

We all know the story about “Montezuma’s Revenge”. He was the ruler of the Aztec nation in South America. It was invaded and came under control of an invading Spanish army. He was captured by the Spaniards and died, some say murdered, while held under their confinement.

Since then, tourist to Latin American countries that drink the water have been subjected to diarrhea as his revenge. I, however, have an interesting twist on this story.

Years ago we visited Cancun, Mexico with two other couples. We all avoided the water except Bob. He loved his scotch and water and would not switch regardless of our warnings. Every one of us got the revenge, except Bob. Go figure.

The next time you fall upon hard times and feel that life has thrown you a curve, stop and reflect. It could be deserved and payback for some wrong you did in the past. We all have our very own ‘Pepper’s Jackass” lurking.

God bless and have a great day.

A sage and great writer, William Rowell can be reached at blrowell@embarqmail.com