The Marked Field

Carl L. Biemiller's The Marked Field appeared in
Blue Book Magazine
October 1949, Vol. 89, No. 6

Please respect the copyright.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


Three out of every five persons in Bakerston went to every home game during the season. This total, joined with the entire student body, formed only a dark dapple against the white concrete of the stadium. Iron City, plus maniacs from surrounding compass points, filled the other fifty thousand seats. The process jammed the twenty miles of highway between the metropolis and the campus suburb from eleven o’clock to kickoff time with traffic every Saturday. It brought forth a battalion of State Police on motorcycles to keep the moving metal cavalcade from stacking itself in jangling knots.

The process also brought forth a corps of marginal labor, including students to man the twenty acres of parking area, a chore dispatched with all the crashing fervor and tidiness of potential junkyard barons. It stimulated the hiring of approximately three hundred special police and ticket handlers, the former to handle the arguments begun by the latter, and the twain to cope with the ultimate results.

To Sally Whittaker, filing her lead for the early Independent edition, the Clinton opener crowd looked much the same as usual.

The south end-zone seats, customary indicator of the crowd size, were sparsely filled; and from long experience she banged out an attendance estimate of some forty thousand for the game. The west stands, topped by the glassed-in press box, divided also for radio and television, and a movie booth from which the public-address announcer also worked, were jammed in a colorful blaze of hothouse chrysanthemums and shirtsleeves. The east stands, less populated, held the perennial optimists of Clinton Tech, an earnest opponent which had taken Central once every decade with regularity, and this was an off year.

The fact was not apparent in the Central locker rooms beneath the stadium. “Nobody ever has to get ‘em up for an opening game,” said Shaw to Tod Morgan as they watched the squad dress. The squad was wearing black today, two-way lastex pants which fitted like skin, with a thin orange stripe down the sides of the legs, black jerseys with orange shoulder tabs, and black stockings. Black gives a squad the illusion of smallness, a good impression to hand enemy scouts in the stands on opening day.

The squad could have dressed in glistening white sateen pants, white jerseys with a broad orange stripe across the chest. It could have taken the field in orange, solid pants and jerseys with bold block numerals. It could have romped in any combination of the three dress uniforms. Shaw liked his kids smartly clad. It kept them smarter in action. Before every game he insisted that a battery of student managers shine every pair of game shoes. Dane, his ankles taped shin-high, and so tightly that he stood on the balls of his feet, buttoned his jersey beneath his crotch, fitted his hip pads a bit more snug with a practiced wriggle, and stepped gingerly into his pants. The starting line-ups for both offense and defense were posted, and he was riding the bench. Nevertheless he felt a hollow tension pounding at the pit of his stomach, and his hands were sweaty. Not until the ball was in the air would he feel right.

An attendant stationed at the door approached Morgan, and the coach yelled: “All right, you guys, you’ve got five more minutes before warm-up. Get moving.”

Then Shaw was talking, his voice a steady, unexcited monotone. “All right, you guys, you know what to expect. We’ve been over all we know about this squad. The rest is up to you. You defensive men know you have two major threats to watch. Their kid Lampell is one. Remember he runs well, and that he’s murder with a pass from those end sweeps we diagrammed. The other is their boy Rogers. He’s very bad up the middle with those trap-play line bucks. Perkins has his instructions on offense, and don’t give him any guff in the huddle. We’re staying in our simplest sequence, unless we need more than I figure right now. Okay, move out and loosen up.”

The squad moved slowly out the door to the field tunnel, trotted in a line file to the field as the stands rocketed into a burst of sound. The turf felt soft, springy, thought Dane, loping to the end of the field to receive a few punts. He tried a few wabbling duck-walks to loosen his thighs, kicked his knees high in a stationary run and turned. The squad was divided into passing and kicking units, each man pulling muscles into full stretches.

Back in the locker room Shaw and his staff were still busy. The big man gave his telephone spotters instructions, placing his freshman coach and an assistant in the covered booth adjoining the press-box, putting his line coach in the rim-box atop the south end at the field bench, and Morgan would handle the substitutions, leaving Shaw to master-mind. Two sets of spotters were enough for this game.

The muffled clamor which penetrated into the sub-stadium area told the big man that Clinton was on the field. He looked at his watch. “Okay,” he said, “get ‘em in and let ‘em take a breather.” He nodded to Morgan. “I don’t want to talk to them again. We’ll hold both units until wee see who wins the toss.”

Sally, high in the press box, saw Dane trot off the field with the rest of the squad. She felt absurdly proud of the easy, almost jointless manner in which he moved, thought that he looked slimmer, almost fragile compared to the crimson-clad Clinton players. He looked smaller than his own teammates. She worried about him. She concentrated on the field. This would be another game she wouldn’t see. Working alone, she would have to cover the play-by-play, handle her own diagram of ball movement, and when it was all wrapped up, file her overall. Nobody “sees” a ball game that way. She glanced down the press box, waved a hello to the A.P., and nodded to the U.P., apparently a new man this season.

Her Western Union man, Euclid Dotie, who looked four years older than Adam himself with each passing season, was messing with a small screwdriver at his key. She hoped the Euclid would not inadvertently encounter any press box transients with an old memory and a bottle. The coop was not crowded today. For later games, which Sally would work with Timmy Watts and other staff members, the press box would be jammed. Shaw’s teams packed an appeal of national character. This one, deep and balanced, would furnish plenty copy as the season wore on.

The stands rose for the kickoff. Central won the toss, and the referee signaled their choice to receive. Shaw had started his defensive line with his offensive backfield, crossing the onlookers on the first play of the game. Sally figured that the big man might want his defensive line, a bit bigger than his offensive unit, to take that first crashing blocking, perhaps pour it on and send somebody away with the ball. She wrote it.

Dane, standing with the rest of the benched squad at the sideline, watched the ball tumble end over end from the Clinton forty to Central’s goal line, where Perkins gathered it in and started back up the funnel. As he passed the fifteen, he sidestepped a Clinton tackler, cut toward the sideline and slid the ball to Floyd, the starting fullback. Floyd, making the reverse good, swept back with the ball tucked out on his hip, and fled through good blocking past the Clinton thirty-yard line before a desperation dive tripped him.

Central was knocking at the door. Two plays later Perkins had them into the end zone. He sent Tripelda booming over guard on a simple trap play for twelve and a first down, dropped back, faked a pass into the flat to the man in motion, and tossed to end Daniels, who took the ball all by himself for the score. Perkins booted the extra point. The quickie broke Clinton’s back, except for one crimson surge near the end of the half which netted Tech a score. By that time Central was riding a three-touchdown lead, and the halftime figures read 21 to 7. Even under wraps the club had a gloss apparent to everyone in the press box.

Central scored twice more during the third quarter, and just as the period changed, Morgan sent Dane into the game. They held the ball on their won forty, and Perkins welcomed Dane in the huddle. “Get your feet wet, Dipper. Let’s have Forty-M on three. Move out on that halfback Reichen.”

Reichen, a guard, grunted. “Tell me my business,” he said.

They set the play. As the ball smacked into Perkins’ canny hands, Dane, the man in motion, broke for the sideline. Behind him Perkins faked the ball deftly to Schwartz, who lashed into the line. The rangy quarterback then stood and fired a pitch-out to Dane.

Dane’s speed brought the crowd to its feet with a gasping roar. He flashed past the line backer almost before Reichen, pulling out of the line, had applied his block. He was a black blur along the sideline, and then he was into the end zone. The stands roared.

Ainsley Ames, working the receiving end of the phones at the bench, grinned from ear to ear. He put the phone down and walked over to Shaw at the end of the bench. “In case you’re interested, they happened to put a watch on that play. Dane was exactly six and four-fifths seconds from scrimmage line to end zone.”

“What did he go. Fifty-five, sixty?”


“Okay, now get him out of there. I think one play’s enough for him today.”

Trotting out, Dane passed Rodrigues on the way in. The swarthy replacement grimaced, and his face under his headgear looked like a frost-struck persimmon. “Hello, hero,” he said. “You kill me. I’m supposed to be the runner on this club.” He batted Dane on the arm in passing. “It was sweet Dipper.”

There was no further scoring. Shaw sent in his defensive unit for the remainder of the period. He then cleaned the bench in a series of shuttling substitutions of all the rest of the squad that had not yet seen action. It was still 42 to 7 when the final gun banged.

It was strange how a game welded a squad together. Practice and workouts, scrimmages and skull sessions, locker room horsing and bull-talk groups—put them all together, and the best you had was cliques and grooved play patterns. But one game, win or lose, changed all that, totaled personalities into a homogeneity that only the season’s end could break.

The condition showed in many, almost obscure, ways. Dane, seldom effusive, tweaked Piskoti on the butt as he passed the locker bench to the showers. “How’d the leg hold up?” he asked as Piskoti yipped. “Good, good. Never felt it,” grinned the man. “Hey, you caught yourself a romp, didn’t you? I saw the windup from under a heap. Bastard was sitting on my head, so I didn’t get a right good look. Where the hell’s that Reichen? He was belchin’ when he pulled out on that play. Struck me funny, an’ I was laughin’ when I started my charge.”

Perkins wandered over, rubbing his chin. “Hey, you guys, how ‘bout a movie tonight, and dinner in Iron City? I’ll even shave if somebody springs a new blade.”

There was a time when college football squads could be closely held, roomed together, fed at a training table and frequently watched. That sort of handling was part of the past. Today’s teams, with married men, prematurely aged veterans and somehow wiser kids, couldn’t be treated with yesterday’s rules. Training was on trust. Housing, with crowded campuses, prohibited central living quarters. Discipline was a matter of simple economics for the scholarship men. At Central it was also a thing of respect for Shaw, and a matter of individual pride in that collective entity, the Central team itself. Shaw’s clubs were proud clubs.

“Can’t make it, Randy,” grunted Piskoti. “Promised Berg I’d eat his wife’s cookin’ and then play some cards.”

“Tough,” grinned Perkins. “Wienstock and Thomas are goin’, and we though we’d make a party. How you fixed, Dipper? We’ll be back by eleven, and we can all sleep tomorrow morning.”

A student manager shouldered into the group. He was a small kid with a towel slung over his shoulder, somebody’s helmet slung on his arm, and a bubbling, excited victory grin all over his face. “Got a note from the press box for Dane,” he said, passing him an envelope. The missive was from Sally. “I hate to hint,” he read, “but I’ll be out of here in another half-hour and I’ll be hungry. Want to wait? Pick you up at the SD gate. Sally.”

Dane poked Perkins with a finger. “Randy, how would you like to give me a rain check? I think I’ve got a small date.”

“The trouble with you guys,” said Perkins gravely, “is that you are snobs. The hell with you, Piskoti! I hope you lose your shirt to old Buglebeak. And as for you, Dane, I hope you don’t lose anything at all.”

DreamHost Web Hosting -

This site is powered by Dreamhost. Touch the moon to join the "dream."

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home