July 22, 2002
From the April 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!
Episode 12 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!
When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, his boyhood idol, the legendary Joey "Spats" Murphy, had joined Guy in the locker room of the Atlantic City Skee-Dome, moments before the National Championships were to begin.
"The name's Spats, son, and you look like you can use a little advice."
Guy couldn't believe what was happening. Here it was, a few minutes before the biggest tournament of his life, and Spats Murphy was standing only a few feet away! Still, Guy couldn't help thinking that the whole thing was a little funny. Imagine, Spats Murphy introducing himself, like Guy wouldn't know who he was! Why, it was almost like if Guy's Ma had come to Atlantic City and introduced herself!
"Gosh, Mr. Murphy, I'm sure any advice you'd give would be terrific! But what are you doing here?
"Well, Guy, I've heard a lot about you, and I've been watching you. You remind me of another young roller I once knew, a roller with a golden arm and a headful of dreams. A roller named Spats Murphy. By which I mean you remind me of me, only when I was your age."
Guy Sterling's eyes opened wide, and his smile lit up the whole locker room. "Gosh, Mr. Murphy, do you really mean it? Wow! That's the gr—"
"And that's why I felt like I had to come and see you here today." Spats turned away from Guy. For a moment, Guy thought that Spats might be — no, could it be?! — wiping a tear from his eye.
"Skee-Ball's a great game, Guy — maybe the best darn game in the whole darn country. Maybe nobody knows that more than the two of us. And that's why it breaks my heart to see what some folks are trying to do to this great game."
Guy was on the edge of the bench. "What folks, Spats?! Who are they, and what are they trying to do to Skee-Ball?!"
"Gamblers, Guy. Rotten, stinking gamblers." This time there was no mistaking it; there were definitely tears in Spats' eyes. "It's chiselers and cheats and the whole thing makes me sick."
Spats turned and walked over to where Guy was sitting, putting his hand on Guy's shoulder. "You see, son, it was some of those rotten gamblers that got to me a few years back, right here in this locker room, forcing me to throw the championship. It was the worst thing that's ever happened to me."
Guy looked up at the hunched over figure, now definitely looking a bit older and more tired than he did in those old magazine photos. "So you're telling me that gamblers and tough guys made you throw the big championship?"
"Yeah, it was a bad break."
"Because I always heard that you just kind of fell apart that day."
"Nope, it was gamblers. I'm sure it looked like I just fell apart, but that was just because I was being forced to throw the big match."
"Yeah, I was talking to some of the old-timers here, and they say that you started babbling about some cockamamie shakedown story almost immediately after blowing your first three games. Seems like an odd thing to do, really, especially if you're trying to keep the whole thing a secret."
"So it was gamblers, huh? Who were these gamblers, exactly? I mean, how did you know they were gamblers?"
"Look, goshsmackit! I don't have to take this! I'm telling you the truth! They came at me in the dark with guns and knives and sticks, and one of those things that kind of looks like a porkypine at the end of a stick! They weren't wearing nametags for Pete's sake!"
"Okay, okay, it was gamblers, knives and sticks, took a dive, yeah yeah. So, anyway, you said you had some kind of big advice for me? Though, frankly, I'm not sure what kind of advice..."
"You be quiet! I got plenty of A-plus advice for ya!"
"Okay, like what?"
"Um...you should try to throw 50's in the big tournament."
"As opposed to?"
"40's. You definitely want 50's instead of 40's. 30's are even worse. And 20's and 10's are right out."
"Well, gee, that sure is some top-quality advice right there, Spats. I never would have figured that whole 50 thing out, me being an idiot and all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I just heard them announce my name."
Guy stood up, shook his hero's hand, and walked out the door into the noisy arena. It was the moment he'd been waiting for his entire life.
Will Guy take Spats' advice? Who will Guy face in the first round of the big championship? And what about the German Secret Agent disguised as a popcorn vendor? Be sure to keep an eye out for the next exciting installment of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!
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