Just returned from a productive five days in Nacogdoches, Texas, where I spent a week at a writer’s retreat sponsored by the Writer’s League of Texas. I was enrolled in the nonfiction class in hopes of getting feedback and advice on the book I’m writing about my father—From the Bayou to the Big League: The Odyssey of Wally “Preacher” Hebert.
I had five other classmates in the workshop along with instructor Rachel Starnes. The one thing they all agreed on was that I needed to rewrite the preface. I had started out with a mini-bio of Babe Ruth of about five paragraphs and didn’t get to anything about my father until the second page. They all thought it was going to be a book about Babe Ruth and were surprised when they got to the next page with a brief paragraph or two about Wally Hebert. I don’t want a reader to think that and put the book down before finding out who it’s really about.
I mean, what can I possibly say about Babe Ruth that hasn’t been said a million times already? This is my dad’s story and I want that made clear from the beginning. I’ve shared my rewrite below. The original preface appeared in the June 25th blog post of this year.
Yankees versus Browns
“You can put that slow curve right up your ass.”
The Sultan of Swat—aka Babe Ruth—had this piece of advice for the young, curly-headed rookie standing on the pitcher’s mound. Ruth handed this homily out as he trotted back to the dugout after being thrown out on first base in the second phase of a double play he had hit into.
Before that, the tall southpaw for the St. Louis Browns had taken the pitcher’s mound in relief. He was greeted by 40,000 screaming Yankee fans in the House That Ruth Built. This was the dark-haired Cajun’s initiation into the major leagues. His first pitch in the big leagues resulted in a base hit that advanced two base runners. The next batter strolled to the plate and took his stance. Who stood some sixty feet away swinging his bat? The Bambino himself.
With the bases loaded the rookie was facing the most dangerous hitter in baseball. What a way to start a major league career. He tossed Ruth a curve and the Caliph of Clout hit into a double play, ending the inning and stranding two runners.
The Browns went on to win that game, and the young man from Louisiana beat the Yankees three more times that season. In one game he pitched an eight-inning shutout against the World Champion Athletics. In another game against the Yankees he struck Babe Ruth out three times, and in one inning fanned Ruth and Gehrig back to back.
What follows is the story of my father, Wallace “Preacher” Hebert, and his journey from the bayous of Louisiana to the merry-go-round of professional baseball in St. Louis, San Diego, and Pittsburgh, and back to the swamps of home—a ninety-two-year romp through the Twentieth Century.