Not much is known about the ballist they call Pepper. The facts and the fiction intertwine so liberally it is often hard to differentiate the two.
One tale has him growing up in the shadow of President Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage. Legend has it that one day in 1840 the former President was riding one of his horses across his land when he came across a young boy poaching quail on his property. When confronted by Jackson, the boy did not run but instead aimed his shotgun at the former president. Jackson, who had many guns pointed at him in his life, did not seem fazed by the brazen act. Rather he invited the boy up to the house where he became a frequent visitor. It was thought that he acquired the nickname Pepper from Jackson for his dark black hair and his ability to “pepper” wild game with his shotgun. Jackson purportedly took the boy under his wing the remaining five years of his life and taught him tenacity and to never surrender, even against long odds.
Another rumor has the future ballist as a doctor in Nashville when the Civil War broke out, where he aided the wounded at Monthaven, and later at Franklin. The story goes that the doctor was riding his beloved black horse Truxton II (undoubtedly a tribute to one of Jackson’s famous race horses) when he came across a group of drunken Union soldiers harassing a group of children. With the reckless abandon which was a trademark of his mentor, the doctor charged forward on Truxton II with his shotgun blazing. The Union soldiers were taken off guard and retreated but not before one drew his pistol and fired in the direction of the onslaught. The bullet struck one of the children fatally wounding her. The doctor tried to no avail to save the wounded young girl. This event must have had a devastating effect as he was flooded with guilt for years over the consequences of his brash actions.
This much is known, at a tavern in Chattanooga, he overheard a heated conversation between two men who referred to themselves as Mighty Bandit and Crusty Bread. The conversation revolved around a game called base ball and which team was the greatest in the land. As he sipped his whiskey he gained from the conversation that there was an upcoming match at Signal Hill. The day of the game he appeared and approached the Captain of the Mountain City team, and asked to join in, stating it was something “he had to do”. Wings did not know what to make of the dark haired stranger but noticed a strange intensity and sadness in the man’s eyes. He placed him in the catcher’s position and was impressed with the quickness of his reflexes and his ability to “pepper” hits in all directions.
His true history still remains a mystery. On game day he arrives on his black horse and quickly disappears after the game. To where, nobody truly knows. He is often seen speaking to children before the game and taking the time to toss the onion with them possibly as a penance from earlier days which might continue to haunt him.