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July 25, 2013

Getting to know a man called 'Ee-yah'

(Continued)

Jennings was also known for being hit by pitches. In fact, he holds the Major League record for being hit by a pitch, 287 times in all. When he would do his crazy antics, it was often whispered that he had taken too many bean balls to the head. It probably didn’t help when he cracked his skull open diving into a pool without water. Another time, he was in one of the first automobile accidents and nearly died.

Despite all of that, Jennings was a sharp guy. During off seasons, he studied law at Cornell. He never got his law degree, but he did practice law with his brother. And he comes off as shrewd on the diamond as well.

I first read about the story of the Paper Tigers when I was a teenager, so I have been living with Ee-yah and his strike team for more than half my life. When I started the screenplay, I figured I would take an acting role: Perhaps one of the players like Travers. But he was 19 at the time. So I thought maybe I’ll play one of the ringers. They were about 30.

I’m aging into the role of Ee-yah, which has only increased my interest in researching him.

My cousin – who once produced a famous baseball movie, “Eight Men Out” – likes to tell me how it is now impossible to make a baseball movie. I’m not listening. But if I age out of the Ee-yah role, I guess I can always play one of the old owners.

In the meantime, I’ll keep practicing my Hughie-like battle cry.

Greg Klein is a staff writer for the Cooperstown Crier. 

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