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Prologue: The Pork Barrel League

First in a series.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I come from Cincinnati. That city of first-comers and early-adopters. Try here first, perfect elsewhere. Soap, major municipal rail, professional baseball. It's what Charles Dickens didn't realize when he said that thing about the end of the world coming to us late. Or maybe he just wanted to get himself quoted.

Before you could have professional baseball - and possibly also soap - you needed semi-professional challenge ball played in the flood plains of the Ohio and Great Miami Rivers. I've heard old timers say the league started out with seven teams for the Seven Hills. But I don't think this city has ever agreed on which hills were the Seven.

Besides, I don't think there were seven teams to start. There was one and several others that one bullied into playing.

The team, you probably know, was the Losantiville Licking. Named not for the river, not for their promised ball field superiority, but because they really, really liked to run their tongue over everything. For good luck? More likely, it was a ritual in their playful extortion racket.

Losantiville just wanted to play ball. Locals didn't always appreciate the means by which they guilted and cajoled teams onto the field, sometimes in early January. But it should be said that it was never fully malicious.

The Licking are no longer. They were flushed out during one of the Reform Eras. I forget which. A minor public health and safety menace. The spirit of challenges and year-round play persisted. Sleep through a snowstorm and you might lose your trophy.

Which is what almost happened last night. It had snowed enough to where you got to feel like going outside was escaping into some new kingdom, "Post-Cincinnati."  The noise in the atmosphere is hushed into a sound stage. Muncher Wayne declared it had been too long since the last Winter Classic. Three weeks is a long time in the winter. Maybe I shouldn't get into all that just yet.

In any case, teams have come and gone in the League. Right now - and this depends on whether the Knuckles actually have nine - these are your clubs:

Cincinnati Pork Citys
Mt. Echo Yellers
Mt. Healthy Washboards
Western Hills Aquaducts
Hamilton Knuckles
Mt. Washington Malefactors
Queen City Insanes
Price Hill Chilis

A few of the irregulars playing barely-affiliated ball here are from clear past Yellow Springs. None perfect, but all trying.