Throwing Smoke

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Throwing Smoke is a story written by shukyou to accompany 'Rained Out', drawn by iianbe. It ran in Issue 20 and can be found at and


A washed-up pitcher in the minor leagues has to deal with a talented newcomer.

He liked it when they played the big cities, or at least, the bigger cities, the ones with a big enough population to keep everybody from knowing everybody else, large enough to sustain that area of town a man could go when he didn't want his business known by anyone else he knew. They were nearing the end of their two-week run of away games, and Finn'd thought for sure there'd be no end to the boarding houses run by little churchgoing widows who minded all their p's and q's and everyone else's as well. But Albany was a hotel city, the place where even a penny-pincher like Rube had to spring for rooms for his guys so they didn't look quite so much like the pick-up team from farm country that they were at heart, and no hotel in Finn's life had ever cared where or when he'd come and gone, so long as the bill got paid on time and the furniture ended up mostly in the condition it'd started.

From "the old-time baseball one"

Author's Notes[edit]

Okay, time to say my piece(s):

I know next to nothing about baseball, and am therefore extremely grateful that akatonbo volunteered to be my baseball beta-reader! My misconceptions were many and somewhat embarrassing, and I shan't recount them here, but suffice it to say she very gently steered my baseball mechanics in the right direction. This is very good, otherwise I might have sounded silly.

However! On more than one occasion I chose not to listen to her and engage in some hand-waving boy-love magical realism, for the sake of making Jem a magical princess pitcher. I am under the impression that nothing I have described in the story is impossible, only improbable, and thus I shall content myself with it. Just don't blame akatonbo for my failings.

All of the teams listed in the story are real minor league baseball teams active during or around the time period in the story. However, the scenario I have described is actually a time paradox -- the New Haven Bulldogs weren't founded until the thirties, and they didn't play in the same league with the York White Roses anyway. Mostly the problem was that I'd originally set the story in 1925, worked out all the character ages and bios around that focal point, and decided that Finn and Jem should play for the White Roses, down to the point where I'd changed Jem's name from Rube (which it was going to be originally) because the real White Roses manager in 1925 was named Rube. ...And then I took one more look at iianbe's art and realized the word BULLDOGS is pretty clear on the front of Finn's shirt. Oops. By then I had gotten a bit calcified in my ways, though, so I just moved the whole thing from Pennsylvania to Connecticut. However, that change necessitated my giving up any pretense of absolute historical accuracy. If you know a great deal about east coast minor league baseball c.1910-1935, I'm sorry for playing fast and loose.

Also, from 1916-ish to 1931, the Brooklyn Dodgers were actually called the Brooklyn Robins. I did not call them that in the story because if I hadn't seen it on Wikipedia, I wouldn't have known it to be true, and I didn't want people unfamiliar with the history of the sport to think I was just talking up another minor league team, or something like that, when I was actually talking about those Bums.

All told, it's true, I could have completely fabricated most of the particulars and gotten by -- I mean, I can't imagine most people who read this story are going to be die-hard baseball fans enough to notice, and there's probably a fair number of readers who think baseball is the one with the net, right? However, I myself am a person who is very well-versed in one subject area, and it's a subject area that gets used and abused enough that I always am grateful when other writers make the extra effort to get things closer to right, even if I'm the one person in a thousand who might appreciate the correctness. I only wish my efforts had been a little more fruitful, but as they say, it's the thought that counts, right?

One of the funnier challenges with this was creating a scenario where the 'old' guy is thirty-five. I mean, guys play pro baseball until they're, like, eighty and using walkers to get around. But Finn's old spiritually, so I don't feel so bad accusing him of great age when he's still a spring-ish chicken.

I'm overall not as satisfied with this story as I could have been -- I mean, I'm never happy with my own stuff, not usually for a long time, but still -- and I think it mostly stems from how 22,000 words ended up not being enough to sell the love story as much as it needed to be sold. (The second half, in particular, suffers from major cutting -- I just went crazy over the entry limit and had to drag myself back from the precipice.) And it's not like anything happens in the story anyway! Finn's narrative voice just wound up being a really talky one, and I burned a huge amount of my word count just setting up the pins I needed to knock back. Damn me and my talky ways.

Long story short, I hope the relationship is believable, and if it's not, well, it's SSBB, take it with a grain of salt. Hooray! The end.


External Reviews[edit]

  • "Wonderful narrative voice here of a gruff old-timer pitcher stuck playing second base for a minor team. Really nice evocation of the period and feel of the game, and some serious UST."

From "Finn has a one night stand and finds out that the kid, Jem, is the new pitcher in his minor league team. Historical. I like the details of this and the illicitness of the character's actions in regards to the time and roles they're living with."