Starman: 1945: Nuclear Furnace, Chapter 8: Playing Ball

by Dan Swanson

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On August 5th, 1945, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 bomber, dropped the atomic bomb named Little Boy on Hiroshima. Japan didn’t surrender. Three days later, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. This bomb was called Fat Man, and this bomb convinced the Japanese to surrender. The surrender was announced on August 14th.

Those who knew Ted Knight were surprised at his reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima. They had expected that he would be very upset, to feel very guilty for his part in creating the bomb, and condemn the president for using it.

Instead, whenever someone talked with him about it, Ted was one of President Truman’s most vocal supporters. “They had it coming. They started it,” he would say if questioned about it. “We would have had to invade, and it would have cost us over a million men. We would have devastated their country. We saved lives on both sides, and we saved time, too.” These were all the arguments he had heard from Truman, although his friends didn’t know it. What they didn’t seem to notice was that Ted would never voluntarily talk about the bomb or the war. He only responded when others drew him into the conversation, and he would change the subject or leave the conversation as soon as he could.

In many other ways, Ted’s behavior and attitude changed as well. As Starman, he had been on something of a rampage against crime and disaster over the last week or so, even defeating his old foe the Mist once again during that time. After the bomb, each night he spent a little less time as Starman, and became more passive in his heroic actions. He didn’t avoid heroic situations when he encountered them, but he stopped actively seeking out situations where he could help, instead relying on his police/fire band radio receiver to alert him to trouble. When he responded, he acted with the same heroism and daring that he was famous for. By the end of August, instead of flying a regular patrol every night, he sat by the radio, and usually only ventured out as Starman when someone called him.

His life as Ted Knight changed, too. He started spending more time in his laboratory, but his output dropped. He stopped talking about his projects to Doris Lee and his friends, and even the cook. Doris walked into the lab once and found him staring at the wall. He didn’t even know she was there. She watched him for about ten minutes, and he hardly moved. Finally, she slipped out, then came back in making a lot of noise. When she got back into the lab, Ted was still sitting, but he was paying attention to her, not the wall. She asked him to show her his work, but he claimed to be hungry, and he hustled her off to a fancy restaurant.

By the end of August, he completely avoided any talk about science, technology, or the war. He was never rude about it, but his friends eventually recognized that he just wouldn’t talk about those things any longer. Ted seemed pretty normal in every other way, and nobody wanted to upset him by pressing him to talk about things he didn’t want to talk about.

It bothered Doris to see Ted sitting idle. She co-opted him to work on the baseball fantasy camp, which he did enthusiastically. She convinced him to join a handball league, and he did that as well. She suggested that the two of them join a bridge club, and within a few weeks, they proved to be one of the top pairs in the club. And Ted also started playing chess via mail with Rex Tyler, who as Hourman was another former Justice Society member, though he had retired two years earlier.

Ted had always been an interest in horses, and he started going to the racetrack. He would walk among the stables and admire the beautiful, powerful animals, trying to see if he could figure out which horses would win their races. He eventually started to place some small bets, just to prove to himself that his judgment about horses was correct. He won much more often than he lost, and his bets gradually grew bigger. As he became a more familiar figure around the track, some of the other horseplayers made it a point to hang around him, and they often bet on the same horses Ted did.

One day, one of these hangers-on asked Ted if he ever played poker. In fact, he hadn’t played poker in a long while. Neither the risk of losing nor the thrill of winning at poker had previously held any attraction for Ted. He would have to lose a lot of hands before he would lose enough to make him worry, and he would have to win a lot to win enough to be excited about. But since he had basically given up being Starman more than once a month or so, he needed something interesting to fill his nights. So he got involved in a long-running poker game.

Twice a week, five or six of the guys from the racetrack would get together and play poker all night. After playing for a while, Ted noticed that most of the players usually came out very close to even. There were a couple of guys who were consistent heavy losers, but they only played a few times a month.

Ted quickly became a regular. And he rarely went home a loser. For someone who had mastered the intricacies of nuclear theory, calculating the odds in poker was simple. Some of the other players clearly thought that poker was purely a game of luck, but Ted knew that, by carefully playing by the odds, in the long run, poker rewarded thoughtful players who knew the odds.

Ted tabbed most of the players as gamblers, but one player in particular, Miller Donovan, seemed to be associated with an organized crime organization. Or, at least, that’s what he boasted all the time. Ted noticed that Donovan won regularly at poker, and then each day he would lose everything he had won the night before, betting on horses. He and Ted would often talk between races, and Donovan often showed a detailed and accurate knowledge of what was going on in the Opal City underworld.

Between handball, bridge, The Sky’s the Limit Foundation, chess, the poker game, and the track, Ted was busier than he had ever been in his life. He didn’t seem to miss his earlier lifestyle at all. He rarely, if ever, initiated anything, but he would cheerfully go along with whatever Doris or his friends wanted him to do. Whenever Doris asked him about his lab and his projects, or Starman, Ted told her that he had been burned out, and that he was just taking a vacation of sorts. He said this so firmly that Doris had to believe him. In fact, she wasn’t unhappy that Ted seemed to be giving up being Starman, but she did worry about his loss of interest in his scientific pursuits and his new gambling habits.

The baseball fantasy camp near the end of August was a smashing success. Not only were the players from the Opal City Hawks and the Opal City Sky Sox there as instructors, but Starman, Amazing-Man, and Mister Terrific showed up as well. Ted wasn’t much of a baseball player, but Amazing-Man and Mister Terrific were exceptional athletes and could easily have been professional baseball players.

Neither the Hawks nor the Sox would make the playoffs this year. The Hawks had been hit hard by injuries in the middle of the season, losing three starters in a collision in short left field. As they adjusted to playing without these players, they lost fifteen of their next twenty-two games and were never able to make up any ground in the standings.

Both teams were made better when some of their best players returned from the armed services, and there were baseball experts who thought they were actually the best teams in their respective leagues right now. Of course, the teams in front of them in the standings would probably have argued about that.

Since there wouldn’t be any official playoffs, both teams played the exhibition game as if it was a World Series game. The game was played in front of forty thousand fans, the largest crowd for either team since before the war. As a special treat, Amazing-Man and Mister Terrific each played an inning, and each had one turn at bat.

Mister Terrific led off for the Sky Sox with a hard ground ball to shortstop and reached first on a throwing error. Terrific advanced to third on a single by the next hitter, and scored on a fielder’s choice. The next batter drove in another run, and it was starting to look like a long night for the Hawks. The next batter grounded into a fielder’s choice, leaving men on second and third, with one out.

The next batter hit a shallow pop-up to right field that looked like an easy single and another run batted in. The third base coach sent the runners without even waiting to see if the ball would be caught. Although people knew Amazing-Man as a mystery-man, most people didn’t know that, as Olympic champion Will Everett, he was one of the fastest men in the world — well, one of the fastest men without super-speed powers, anyway. Amazing-Man made a sliding catch, and easily threw the runner out at second to end the inning. The score was two to nothing for the Sky Sox.

Amazing-Man led off the bottom of the first with a single. He stole second on the first pitch to the second hitter. On the next pitch, the second batter hit a single, and Amazing-Man easily scored from second. The next batter walked, putting runners at first and second. The next batter hit a hard grounder to third base. The third baseman tagged the runner and threw to first for a double play. The next batter hit a high fly ball to left field. Mister Terrific was in left, and he raced back to the warning track and made a leaping catch against the wall.

The first inning ended with the score at Sox two, Hawks one. Amazing-Man and Mister Terrific were both pulled from the game and received a standing ovation.

The Hawks tied up the game in the bottom of the eighth inning and won the game in the bottom of the ninth on what could have been a disputed play.

With two outs and a man on third, the Hawks’ first baseman Mort Jackson hit a routine fly-ball to center, and the game seemed destined for extra innings. However, an unfortunate seagull was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was hit by the ball. Ball and seagull dropped straight to the field, and the Sox center fielder was unable to recover and catch the ball. The winning run scored from third.

By rule, the Hawks won by a run. The Hawks players offered to replay the at-bat, or else count it as an out and go into extra innings, but the Sox knew the rules as well, and they insisted that the results stand. Both teams appreciated the sportsmanship displayed by the other side. They still didn’t know which team was better, but that was fine. Both teams were good, and now everyone knew it.

After the game, in front of the wildly cheering fans, the mayor and the presidents of both teams presented Doris Lee with a check for $250,000. The Sky’s the Limit Foundation’s first event was a smashing success.


Amazing-Man and Mister Terrific had been invited to spend the night at the Knight mansion in their secret identities, so once the three heroes were able to get away from the crowds, they headed to stately Knight manor. Doris had a private talk with the two heroes earlier in the day, expressing her concern about Ted Knight’s recent behavior. So Will Everett and Terry Sloane asked Ted if they could stop in his lab to see what he was up to these days. Ted didn’t have anything new in the works, but he figured he could show them some of the projects that he had been working on before, and they would never know the difference.

As Ted was explaining some of his incomplete projects, a call for his services came over the police radio. Just a few miles from Opal City, there had apparently been an explosion on a train that was bound from New York City to Washington, D.C. The train had derailed, and there were a number of cars currently on fire, and for some reason they were evacuating everyone nearby.

The three quickly revealed their costumes beneath their civilian clothing, and Starman used the gravity rod to support Amazing-Man and Mister Terrific. They took to the air, and Starman flew at top speed toward the site of the train explosion.

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