Heard back from the author:
There’s a lot to the story I didn’t get. Apparently he ran off to join the cavalry when he was 15 or so. He lied about his age, enlisted and got sent out west to join in the mop up after the Indian wars. Apparently baseball was a big deal in the Army. Custer’s outfit had three teams. i guess there wasn’t much to do except chase reservation runaway’s and play baseball. So it was told to me. Then he got caught being underage and was bounced out. I don’t know what he did until he started playing baseball in Mt. Carmel.