These stories won't die with him, William McCarty vows. So the 88-year-old man spends time each day spilling memories into a tape recorder, fulfilling the responsibility that comes with holding a small slice of history.
McCarty may well be the oldest living resource on professional baseball in Washington, a distinction that's become a centerpiece of his advanced age. He traveled with the Washington Senators as a mascot and ballboy in 1930 and 1931, and he memorized those two seasons like snapshots.
William McCarty traveled with the Senators as a mascot and ballboy in 1930 and 1931 and wants to pass on him memories of the team.
(Paul S. Howell - For The Washington Post)
The Senators took McCarty in, providing an orphan of the Depression with employment and kinship. Players offered to house him; coaches offered to teach him baseball. Two seasons with the Senators turned McCarty's life around, he said. So the least he can do in return is make sure those teams are remembered.
"Finding that job is the luckiest thing that ever happened to me," said McCarty, who now lives with his wife, Betty Lou, in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston. "The Senators gave me everything."
He came to them with nothing, except for sad, desperate eyes and unrelenting determination.
The Senators decided to hire ushers early in the 1930 season, and the team told all men interested to meet outside Griffith Stadium at the intersection of Florida Avenue and 7th Street. McCarty, then an avid 13-year-old baseball fan, went to the stadium only to be told he was too young and small to usher.
"I came to the same place and waited every day for the next three weeks," McCarty said. "I decided I wouldn't leave until they gave me that job."
And when they finally did, McCarty decided ushering bored him. Two weeks after he earned the job, McCarty walked out of the stands and on to the field so that he could shag fly balls during batting practice.
Over the next month, McCarty climbed the type of corporate ladder young baseball fans dream about: He went from ballboy to clubhouse assistant to exhibition fielder to traveling mascot. For almost two full years, McCarty ran onto the field after batting practice and put on an infielding exhibition. A substitute catcher would hit grounders and flies to McCarty. Athletic and fearless, the boy became an excellent fielder. Young and exuberant, he became a crowd favorite.
"You want to talk about a boy having a swelled head, well, my ego was so big I couldn't wear a hat," McCarty said. "I had the fans cheering at Yankee Stadium. I was written up in the newspapers. It was all a dream come true."
Most of it still sticks with him, even 75 years later. Baseball had eight teams in the early 1930s -- Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago -- and McCarty can still rattle off the complete roster for every one of them.
He has stories to go with the names, too. There's Walter Johnson, the Washington manager who was so kindhearted he never said anything more venomous than, "Gosh almighty." There's Joe Cronin, a devout Catholic who sometimes went to church before and after Senators games. There's Washington's reserve outfielder Dave Harris, a former sheriff so tough he swung a bat six ounces heavier than anyone else.
"He forgets some things, but never any baseball," said Betty Lou, McCarty's wife. "He remembers the details of every hotel and every city that those teams stayed in."
The entire team essentially adopted McCarty, who, at 7, lost his mother to complications from giving birth and his father to alcoholism. He had never found much of a home since.
McCarty lived with Johnson for a few months, then with Harris and his wife. And when McCarty left baseball after the 1931 season -- partly because of a bad case of bronchitis, partly because he didn't hit well enough to ever play professionally -- a half dozen Washington players continued to check on him.
Propelled by his baseball experience, McCarty did well, too. Despite never graduating from high school, McCarty stumbled into an entry-level job at IBM and, in his 30 years there, rose to become an account manager. He left at 50 to become the executive vice president of Cartier, a jewelry company in New York, then retired to golf and leisure a few years later.
"That baseball team became my family when I needed one," McCarty said. "I didn't even have a home, and they showed me the whole country."
So now he sits in his living room and pays them back, eulogizing those Senators teams into a tape recorder that he will pass down to his grandchildren. Already, McCarty's gratitude has filled four or five hours of recordings. Some of the stories come across as practiced, even rehearsed. After all, he's told five children and 10 grandchildren about his time with the baseball team.
"He's told me those old baseball stories so many times," said his daughter Debbie Allcott, "that I could probably tell them now, too."
Said McCarty: "Sure, old men forget some things. But everyone else from those teams is already dead. I can't forget. It's my job to remember."