76. The Board

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Frank Bell hurried down the hall towards his father's office.

He held a sheet of paper in his hands that he couldn't wait to show him. The last few days had been hard on Frank, what with Peter going overseas, but today Frank found his spirits lifted.

Frank had proof that Union Steel was finally turning the corner. Productivity up seventeen percent. Accidents had fallen nine percent. Injuries down five percent. He was going to show his father that his plan for easing the tensions at Union Steel was working.

Frank entered the office, a grin on his face.

"I've got good news, fa-"

Frank cut off his own sentence upon seeing who occupied the office.

As usual, Richard Bell sat behind his huge desk, a cigar in his mouth. Across from him sat another familiar face, one that Frank hadn't expected to see.

It was Mr. Heiler, the president of the Pennsylvania Steel Mill Baseball League; the league that the Pioneers belonged to. At six feet tall, he was a Germanic bear of a man with a thick graying beard.

Frank composed himself, donning his professional demeanor like a shield. "Mr. Heiler, how are you? What brings you to our neck of the state?"

Mr. Heiler stood and shook Frank's hand. As he did, Frank noticed his father's scowl from the opposite side of the desk. He wondered what they had been discussing. Maybe some bad news for the league?

"It's good to see you, Frank," Mr. Heiler said. "I'm glad you're here. Your father and I were just talking about a subject that concerns you. It's probably best that you're here for this conversation."

"Oh?" Frank said. "It sounds serious. What's on your mind?"

"Wait," Richard interjected. "Let's start with your good news. I'm sure we could all use some of that. What have you got there?"

"Well, it's our latest numbers." Frank handed the paper to his father.

Richard looked over the paper, as he took a couple puffs of his cigar. He shook his head, and handed the paper to Mr. Heiler.

Mr. Heiler studied the sheet. "Wait a minute! You keep track of fights?"

Frank nodded. "Between the white and colored workers."

"What's the world coming to?" Mr. Heiler said, shaking his head. He paused for a moment before continuing. "Nonetheless, these numbers are promising." He held up the paper. "What do you attribute this success to?"

Frank didn't hesitate. "It's from signing our new ball player, Henry Louis. He's drawn the attention of the workers away from one another. And who knows? Seeing a team that's represented on both sides like that, I think it eventually brings our employees closer together."

Richard sighed and leaned back in his chair.

Mr. Heiler's brow furrowed.

"What?" Frank said.

"Frank, I'm glad that the numbers are up," Richard said. "But I doubt it's because of Henry Louis. In fact, this is probably a good segue to what brought Mr. Heiler here today."

"Exactly," Mr. Heiler said. "You see Frank, the board of the steel mill league has already been made aware of your decision to sign a Negro player. They're not pleased about it. Not one bit."

Anger smoldered in Frank's chest, and he fired a glare at his father. "Did you go and talk to the board about this?"

Richard glowered. "They would have found out eventually. Besides, I wasn't trying to stir up trouble. I only wanted to get the opinion of the league board on the matter before things get out of hand."

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