Writer: Richard Fielder.
Director: Jack Shea.
Music: Arthur Morton
John-Boy rides Old Blue, and then writes in his journal:
“There was times on Waltons’s Mountain so filled with contentment that I might sit in my room writing and not once be reminded that I was a part of a large and boisterous family. It was on such a day that Jim Bob took time out to watch the grass grow and Hobie Shank came back into our lives. I wasn’t to know much peace after Hobie’s arrival.”
As Jim Bob crouches in the grass Sheriff Bridges drives up to the house. He tells John that the boy in his car says he is Hobart Shank. Grandpa remembers he was an orphan boy that stayed with them four summers ago. They walk up to the boy who is watching an ant with Jim Bob. Hobie tells them that he has a surprise for them. When Hobie yells up to John-Boy, he isn’t too excited about seeing Hobie again. Hobie tells Mary Ellen that she looks “pretty as a picture”. He shows John the catcher’s mitt he gave him, saying he knew what he wanted to do afterwards.
At supper, Grandpa says Hobie must be a champion eater. Hobie announces that after he left he went to a minor league tryout by the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched them his “blue lightening bolts”. His big surprise announcement to the family is that he gave them the Walton’s address so a baseball scout can look him over; and he wants to be part of the family so John can negotiate a contract. John and Olivia are amazed at all his energy. After supper John-Boy asks his father if he believes all that Hobie told them—feeling that Hobie is always trying to downgrade him. Grandpa tells John-Boy that Hobie is quite an eater, but John-Boy doubts that he’s ever ate humble pie. At the mill, while John unloads the truck Hobie tells John that he once pitched against Pepper Martin. He admits that life on the road was bad, with no work from Washington D.C. to Fort Lauderdale. John tells him he’ll have to work for his room-and-board, not really believing his story. Hobie assures him the scout will arrive, and John says they will wait it out.
John and John-Boy unload the truck. John-Boy wonders why he puts up with Marcia Woolery, after John thinks they broke up. John tells his son he needs to know one thing about women. John-Boy say, “What?” and John responds, “I dunno?” Just then a car drives up. The driver announces that he is Clyde “Preacher” Harroway, and he’s looking to see Hobart Shank’s pitching ability. John tells John-Boy to find Hobie, and directs the man to the baseball field down the road. John-Boy tells Hobie (as he shows Jim Bob how to throw a baseball, and as Jason, Ben, and Elizabeth fish) that the scout has arrived.
On the way to the field, Hobie asks John to catch for him. As they arrive, a crowd has already formed, including Ike, Sheriff Bridges, Marsha Woolery, Martha Rose Coverdale, and other girls. Halloway says that Calvin Trask, the first baseman for the Richmond Rebels of the Triple A league will hit against Shank. Hobie hopes for luck from Elizabeth’s gum stuck under his cap. On the mound Hobie and Trask confront each other. On the first pitch Trask hits the ball out of the field. John goes to the mound to calm down Hobie, but Hobie says to give him one finger for “blue lightning” and two fingers for “the jug handle”. Hobie fires the next pitch past the batter, as he does with the next eight pitches, striking out the batter three times. The girls swarm around Hobie and celebrate his victory.
Back at the house, Hobie tells the girls many baseball stories, while John-Boy carries firewood into the house. Grandma tells Mary Ellen to sweep the porch. Inside John negotiates with Harroway, who offers fifty dollars a month to pitch for Raleigh in the North Carolina league and a fifty-dollar bonus for signing. John hopes for more, but Harroway indicates he doesn’t haggle with raw prospects. As he leaves John reminds him that he’ll go back without a pitcher. Harroway reconsiders as John counters one hundred-fifty dollars a month and one hundred dollars for a bonus. Harroway reluctantly agrees. As he leaves Harroway tells Hobie that he hopes he pitches half as good as John negotiates. But Hobie thinks John should have gotten him into the major league, rather than the D league. John-Boy dislikes how he walks all over his father.
Hobie doesn’t like the idea of visiting the orphanage he once lived, but John says it will give the small boys, especially his friend Sam called “Half-Pint”, hope for their future. At the end of the visit Hobie promises Sam that he’ll send for him to be his batboy when he makes it to the majors. Back at the house, Hobie play games with the girls. He climbs up to the tree house, but falls from a limb. He lands on his pitching arm and it immediately taken to the University of Virginia Hospital. The doctor says surgery is needed to repair a compound fracture of his elbow, or he’ll never have proper use of it. Grandpa, John, John-Boy, and Jason wait for the three-hour operation. After waking up Hobie promises that his arm will be better than ever, but the others aren’t so sure.
John and John-Boy enter the hospital several days later to take Hobie home. But the doctor tells them that Mr. Taylor, a representative for the St. Louis Cardinals, cancelled the contract. When John tells Hobie the bad news he runs out. At the house the children try to cheer him up, but he only wants to be left alone. At supper John-Boy suggests that plan a baseball game between the Walton’s Mountain team and the Jefferson County Boys Home team, and make Hobie the manager of the visiting team. But on the day of the game, John-Boy finds Hobie packing his clothes. He insists that Hobie say a proper goodbye to his father. At the baseball field, John and John-Boy prepare the team, while Erin and another girl give Elizabeth a half glass of lemonade for a penny.
Ep picks up Hobie who is hitchhiking along the road. On the way to the county line Ep stops to watch the last inning of the game. With Jason pitching, John-Boy catching, Mary Ellen at first-base, Ben at second-base, Jim Bob playing shortstop, the Walton’s Mountain team is ahead five to two with one out at the top of the last inning. Hobie emerges from the car to give the Boy’s Home team a pep talk. Sam (Half Pint) comes to the plate with two outs. With two strikes against him he hits a long ball to the outfield. He rounds third base (against Hobie’s signal) and slides into home plate. But Ike calls him out, and their team loses. Hobie insists that Sam almost won the game, and they will win next time. He leads a cheer for the winning team, and goes up to Mrs. Baker to tell her that he needs a job. She hires him as her athletic director. Hobie thanks John and John-Boy for all their help. Both teams head for home.
"It's late now in Virginia, that ball field which once echoed to the sounds of our games is quiet except for the call of crickets and the ghosts of the children we were. For my brothers and sisters and I are all grown now, and our children play other games in places far from Walton’s Mountain. Still, there's something about the fall of night that turns our thoughts homeward".
Jim Bob: Jason?
Jason: Uh hum?
Jim Bob: If you lose an ant one day you reckon you find him the next?
Jason: If you tied a can to his tail maybe.
Jim Bob: Ah Jason.
Ben: You ought to study up on ants, Jim Bob, you're a regular curiosity.
John: What you boys had better study up on is getting some sleep, goodnight.
Ben & Jim Bob: Goodnight, Daddy, goodnight Mama.
Olivia: Goodnight boys, goodnight everybody!
Michael McGreevey (Hobie Shank) is the son of John McGreevey, who wrote many of The Waltons episodes. Michael eventually wrote The Silver Wings (s8/e10).
Information on baseball player Pepper Martin can be found at: http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/M/Martin_Pepper.stm.
Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Sheriff Bridges (John Crawford), Dr. Wolfe (William Wintersole), Hobart “Hobie” Shank (Michael McGreevey), Marcia Woolery (Tami Bula); Martha Rose Coverdale (Cindy Eilbacher); Clyde “Preacher” Harroway (Richard X. Slattery), Calvin Trask (Brian Culhane), Sam “Half Pint” Brady (Christopher Gardner), Georgie (Moosie Drier), Izzy (Michael Reilly), Norma Lee (Shawn Shea), Mrs Baker (Doreen Lang).
(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)