Chapter 10 The Dreamers
Bolton knew of a guy who had a plane who could give me a ride to LaGuardia on Sunday night, after the day game on Sunday. It would take less than 30 minutes and save me considerable time over the 2 ½ hours of driving. Dave made all the arrangements for me and agreed to take my car and pick up Becky. I would need to talk to Red about what I was doing. I walked into his office as he was talking to Mario. They began laughing as I walked into the room. I looked to see if my fly was opened. It wasn’t.
“Hey, are you guys talking about me again,” I asked. “I thought my fly was opened or my socks didn’t match.”
“No Bill, Come on in,” said Mario still laughing. “Someone smeared Red-Hot into Meyer’s jock strap this morning. He has had a little personal problem to deal with since then, you know what I mean! Nothing serious, but he’ll probably never have kids. We just saved the Teachers of America a terrible fate. Red, I’ll talk to you later,” said Mario. “Take it easy slugger, I heard Babe Ruth turned over in his grave last night,” quipped Mario leaving Red’s office with a big grin on his face. “See you ‘round the cage later.”
“Hey, Bill-lee,” beamed Red. “Great game last night kid. That one you hit had a “Hemi” on it. There will be more of those. You have such a natural swing. Guys who don’t try to hit home runs are the ones that do.”
“We’ll Red, I hope your right,” I replied. “The whole team was on fire last night, not just me. Seemed like we could do no wrong. Meyers was sensational. I don’t know how a guy who can pitch like that can loose 15 games.”
“Concentration, Bill,” replied Red. “It is nothing more that concentrating for a full nine innings. For most of these guys the game has always been easy, up until now. They never had to exert themselves to excel, never had to work. Never even had to concentrate or remember one batter to the next or what they did in their last at bat. In high school most of these guys were so good they could just throw a fastball down the middle and get anybody out. That will not fly here or in the show. Physically they are prepared to pitch here, but not mentally. Their dog ate their homework here. When you get here, long road trips, long season, lousy food, crummy busses, baseball becomes work. The thrill is gone. I am hoping last year woke Meyers up. He is about 5 bad starts away from looking for a new day job. Maybe with last night’s performance he has found and appreciated his day job he has. This team needs him if we’re going anywhere this year. There are a number of guys so close to the show or just going home on this team. I hope they make it.”
“Well, enough philosophy for one day,” added Red. “What’s on your mind? You not looking for a raise already are you? Want to renegotiate your contract, something like that Kid? A big grin formed on Red’s face.
“No, Red, I’m quite happy with what the Monarchs are paying me as it is better than my previous day job,” I jokingly respond. “I don’t intend to give any back, but I am more than satisfied. I’ve come to talk about Tavy. I think I know a solution to the little rift between the Tavys, Lollars, and myself. To begin to solve this problem I need to leave late Sunday night for California and will be back before our Tuesday night game. Bolton has arranged a private flight to get me to and from NY quickly. I’ll be back well before BP on Tuesday. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was important for Tavy or the team.” There was a long silence as Red was taking in all that I had said.
“You really think you know what’s been bothering Tavy all this time? This is a pretty irregular request. You know once the season starts your butt belongs to the Monarchs. We don’t have time off for vacations during the season.” Red thought quietly for a moment longer.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Red in a firm voice. “I hadn’t planned on pitching you this early in the season, but this may be as good a time as any. You’ll start Tuesday’s night game and work as long as you can for 5 innings or 80 pitches. I’m pulling you then, I don’t care if you have a no-hitter going. We can kill two birds with one stone as you won’t have to be back as early for BP, you’ll still have to hit and I’m still going to bat you third in the lineup. You better be back here on time. I could be getting into lots of trouble letting you go to Disneyland on some lark. Understand!”
“Yes, RED, I understand,” I state seriously. “No problem. I’ll get back here early for the game on Tuesday night and I promise not to get shelled to get us both in trouble.”
“OK, go suit up,” replied Red. I hope you know what your getting yourself into,” Red states in a rather fatherly tone. “You really are like no other player I have ever had before.”
“Ya, I hope I know what I’m doing as well,” I replied. “I do love this game, though. I can sense more fun tonight.”
Dave Bolton stops by my locker on his way out to the field. He informs me the plane ride to NY is all set as is the return trip. I tell him Red is having me pitch that night so I better get back in time. A big smile breaks across his face.
“The big Baptism Of Fire,” quips Bolton. “Strap yourself in Kid. It’s going to be one heck of a ride.”
As I was getting dressed for our second game with the Pirates I realized that I still had a lot of planning to do before the LA trip could produce the results that I was hoping for. Red came by and dropped a piece of paper over my shoulder without saying a word. It contained the names, addresses, and phone numbers of Tavy’s parents, his in-laws, and where his wife was staying.
Chris Tavy had decided to go back to USC and work on her Master’s Degree in Biology. Chris’s Mom was taking care of her and Jon’s son, Scott, while she attended classes. I had no idea where Chris and Jon were in their strained relationship. No one knew if they had even spoken to each other recently, or if Jon had ever seen his son. Jon had really shut himself off from everyone on the team. I also had to keep wondering if I was even doing the right thin getting involved. I certainly didn’t cause any of this and could really be jumping right into the fire. It would certainly make sense if I could forget this whole episode between the Lollars and the Tavys. Maybe it wasn’t even a feud. Who knows? Well, one thing for sure, I would know it all in a couple of days. Sunday morning I would try and make my California phone calls to make the necessary meeting arrangements. I just couldn’t let anyone know what I was up to. Dave Bolton had agreed to pick up Becky at college for me, without letting the Lollars know and try to explain to her what I was doing and if she knew of anything that might be of help. She may become mad at me without ever meeting me. I was taking a lot of risks getting involved in someone else’s problems. I somehow felt confident that the risks were worth it.
Red came into the locker room area to address the players before we took the field. He cleared his throat to get our attention.
“Men, listen up, I’ll only take a second,” Red began. “We had a great game last night. That was last night. We had some great performances that made this team look like world beaters. THAT WAS LAST NIGHT! Tonight is a new night and a new game. I know you all know that, but I felt it was worth repeating. Tonight you will have to pick it up a notch because the Pirates do not want to have another repeat performance of last night. Tavy, Bond, and Alan…you may be given a shave and a hair cut on your first trips to the plate tonight. Be prepared. Jones, be ready for plenty of throws over to first. Their pitcher, Curtain, has a good move to first for a right-hander. He throws fastballs 80% of the time in the 90’s. His curveball is only fair and he is still working on a slider. He has good control.”
“Como is starting for us tonight,” as Red continues. “Mike just work on keeping the ball down. Work with Bolton on staying on the black, way below the belt. That curve ball you have should give the lefty’s fits if you set them up. I think we have the team that can catch the ball. You don’t need to strike everyone out. Let’s be thinking on defense. Know the situation. Make your throws from the outfield to the right base and hit the cutoff man. Throws straight to home do us know good. We must keep them from taking any extra bases tonight. I think runs will be at a premium so let’s make the most of our opportunities. First at bat everyone is taking a strike. Alan, bond, and Tavy have a 3-0 green light. Make it be a pitch you can handle. I hate it when guys start out with 3-0 counts and make outs.
Red went back into his office. The mood in the locker room was quiet, introspective, and somber. I didn’t feel nervous, but I think each player found himself in a more serious mood that on opening night. There is usually one player that can be counted on to keep the team loose. Ours was Dave Bolton. He strolled into the middle of the room and began to address the team. His entire uniform was worn inside out. His athletic supporter and protective cup were on his head. The wide waist band ran across his forehead, the protective cup saving the back of his head and the leg straps dangling around and below his ears. For a cheap , comic effect he wore a pair of those black plastic rimmed glasses with the big nose and fake mustache and included the springy fake eyeballs, flailing about with ever turn of his head. Bolton took a bat and began using it like a judges’ gavel on one of the chairs. As well all began to look up you could sense the mood in the room was changing as laughter began to sporadically break out. We could hardly wait for Dave to begin speaking.
“Gentlemen,” Bolton Began, “It has come to my attention that already this team is showing serious symptoms of the dreaded disease that seams to strike all too many baseball teams and players early in their careers, forcing them out of this game that we all know and love, into new career positions that require a starched white shirt, ties, even socks. These positions will pay only a fraction of our current wages. Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine. Some are even forces to go back to college in a symbolic effort to become more educated and cultured before actually having to enter the dreaded JOB MARKET. I felt it was my duty and obligation as your self-appointed Spiritual-Medical Advisor/ Examiner to help in any way I could. It is not my wish to begin my work as a CSI, arriving late to the crime scene only to assess what when wrong, but to use my SPECIAL POWERS to alert you to these cosmic bombardments that are altering you physical and mental states, robbing you of your full potential.”
Laughter is now spreading throughout the room. Some are just shaking their heads in disbelief.
“Hey, Bolton, you been standing around a leaky microwave too long,” Shouts Reggie Bond? “I think you’ve cooked the few remaining brain cells you had left after last year. Your Mother is a church secretary. It would kill her to see you like this. No wonder your life insurance is rated.”
The team is relaxing as chatter and laughter fills the locker room after Bond’s remarks. Bolton, relentless as he is, continues on undaunted.
“Ah, Mr. Bond I presume,” replies Bolton. “I see you remain an unbeliever in our midst. One of the early symptoms is a lack of concern for this serious medical condition. In most cases early detection is critical in saving the patient. Please don’t this personally; the disease can attack anyone at anytime.”
“It ain’t the disease you need to be worried about, it’s me,” shot back Bond. “Now I know why they call you Dr. StrangeGlove, and it’s not for your catching ability, which is limited to none, either.”
The room breaks up as Bolton bangs the bat on the chair trying to restore order.
“Mr. Bond,” as Dave readdresses the group, “the name calling only further indicates an accelerated necrosis, exacerbating your ability to think clearly, and spreads the disease throughout the extracurricular nervous system. This must not be left untreated. The team cannot take the field with any member exhibiting such fatal symptoms as these. If left unchecked, untreated, bodies could be scattered across the field by the fifth or sixth inning. It could be the equivalent of a Neutron bomb. Leaving buildings intact, but no survivors. Reggie, I don’t think you want THAT on your conscience do you?”
“Bolton, what do you call this disease of which I supposedly have the symptoms,” shoots back Reggie? “This ought to be good!”
“It is called basebathological-inguinal-gymnasial-atypical-systemic-sagitarius-unilateral-practicological-thrombosic-herniated-equallateral-metatarsal-cliptomania-thorasic-catchetore-stromboli. The first to have it was Pinocchio, that is why the last symptom is name after his captor, the great Stromboli,” replied Bolton with a straight face.
The players were even amazed that Bolton could say it. They weren’t even going to ask him to spell it at this point. Everyone is shaking their heads.
“You’ve been watching too many “B” horror movies,” shouted someone from the back of the room.
“OK, Bolton,” as Reggie decides to play along, “what can we do to cure this disease as we sure don’t want the field full of old, dead baseball players, what with all the children watching and all.”
“That’s the spirit,” responded Dr. Bolton. “I can sense you are on the road to recovery already.”
“Let’s hope ONE OF US IS,” replied Bond. “I think you may be too far gone to help anyone, even yourself. That jock-strap cutting off circulation to your brain?”
Bolton spreads some towels on the floor and places the chairs in a circle around the towels, motioning some players to take their seats.
“This will be a team effort. Let the treatment begin,” stated Bolton.
Players filled the empty chairs circled around the towels as Bolton asked Bond to lie on the floor on the towels, facing the ceiling. Bolton went to his locker and pulled out a porcelain bed pan. Reggie started to get back up off the floor.
“Man you are NOT pulling some freaky stuff on me,” shouted Bond to Bolton. “I will hurt you, you know. You have really taken too many foul balls off your mask haven’t you?” The room erupts with laughter.
“Relax Reggie,” says Bolton. “Your part of the treatment is strictly passive as there are no invasive procedures happening here.”
“The only thing invasive will be my shoe up your butt,” laughs Bond. The team breaks up. “No funny stuff, got it?”
“Lie down, relax,” continues Bolton. “Close your eyes, think of yourself relaxing on some beautiful beach in some far away tropical paradise. The warm sun is radiating across your skin. A breeze floats in off the crystal blue ocean, glancing off your skin. You can hear the palm tree branches brush against each other against a background of bird calls. You can feel the heat from the warm sand radiating through your body. The coolness from your favorite beverage tingles in the palm of your hand. Paradise found. You are totally relaxed.”
Bolton takes the bedpan and places it on Reggie’s mid-section. He takes four marbles from his pocket and places them in the bedpan. He slowly moves the bedpan in a circular motion to set the marbles on a circular journey around the inside rim. Dave picks up salt and pepper shakers from out of a brown paper bag and begins to douse Reggie with a liberal amount of “pixie dust” while chanting some gibberish up to the ceiling.
“Ya-stook-ye-mannee. Me-gunk-me looney. Key-largo, keyno-kee-0-kee-do-kee. Mazumba-ga-zinga-zoid. Ya-mamma-she-ugly-she-dances-lika-donkey. You-eeee. You-eeee. HMMMMMMMMM. HMMMMMMMMM. HMMMMMM. HMMMMMMMM. Debob…begone. Debob…begone. Anee-bob. Aney-mal. Aney-okley. Yow. Yow. Eep. Pep. Pep. Pep. Pep.
Dave opens his eyes and looks done at Reggie. Reggie opens one eye to see if he was about to be smacked or something, or some big tub of goo dropped on him.
Bolton then sneaks over to his locker where he brings back a burlap sack that is moving. Reggie is still lying quietly on the floor with the chairs in a circle around him. Bolton opens the sack and starts pulling out some green snakes and starts putting them around Reggie on the floor. The room erupts with a collective gasp, but Reggie makes no move. Most of the players didn’t know a Garter snake from a Copper Head, but I did and realized no one was going to get hurt, accept maybe Bolton when Reggie finally opened his eyes.
The snakes weaved their way between the metal chair legs, some even moving close to Reggie. It is no secret that some people think snakes are just freaky and want no part of them. Reggie is just such a person.
“Hey, man, you know I think I felt something, something cosmic,” Bolton tells Reggie. “It was like a totally religious experience or something/ didn’t you feel it?”
Reggie opens one eye and looks to the left, then to the right. He spots the snakes all around him and his eyes get a big as saucers.
“Bolton, I am going to kill you if I live through this,” said Bond most seriously. “Man, all I cared about is you didn’t get anything on my clean uniform right before game time,” said Reggie sternly. ‘I would hate to have to hurt our star catcher, but you had better get these snakes out of here right now!”
“Reggie, the curse is almost lifted,” added Bolton.
“The only thing lifted around her is going to be you when I kick your behind so hard you’re gonna be airborne,” added Bond, with some nervousness in his voice. “Man you don’t have any idea how much I hate snakes,” he added.
Dave quietly gets up off the floor and helps Reggie up and begins brushing off the salt and pepper from his uniform.
“Hey, Reggie,” yells Moose Riley, “did you have an experience or something?”
Right them Reggie starts sneezing, again and again as some of the pepper must have gone up his nose. He can’t seem to stop. Every ten seconds another sneeze erupts. This is now not becoming a good think this close to game time. Reggie keeps on sneezing for about another minute and a half. I take Reggie some purified water nasal spray and get him to squirt a couple of good shots up each nostril. Reggie waits a minute and sneezes one last giant sneeze. He stops, looks at me, looks at Bolton, and starts laughing.
“Man, I am going to kill you one day,” laughs Reggie. “You won’t know how or when, but some how, some day, when you lest expect it, I…WILL GET YOU!”
“Are you OK,” asks Bolton seriously? “They’re just Garter Snakes…they would not hurt you,” Bolton adds.
“Ya, I’m fine,” replies Reggie. “Man, you are so wacked it’s not funny. Let’s go play some ball. Reggie sneezes again, but at least it is tapering off.
I help Bolton collect all the snakes and put them back in the burlap bag. All the other players did not get within 15 feet of the snakes. I finished cleaning up the towels and put the chairs back into place as the players had long gone out to the field.
“You know, I just might have saves the team from a terrible season,” offered Bolton semi-seriously.
“Man, if we win the pennant I just might believe you,” added Reggie. “If I start sneezing again you may not see tomorrow. Get out there and call the game of your life, will you.”
“Forget this spiritual business and make a difference with your bat and glove,” said a voice from some PA System in the building. “This is the great and powerful OZ, pay no attention to the man behind the screen. I am the great and powerful OZ!”
Bolton and Bond began laughing as they walked done the corridor. Red waked into the clubhouse.
“Hey, you guys get out on the field and stop clowning around,” yelled Red. “Get your butts on the field now! Bolton, get your butt back in here and help Alan clean up this mess YOU made. Get that jock-strap off your head and fix your uniform. Who are you guys really the Bad News Bears?”
Bolton had forgotten to fix his uniform and rushed back into the locker room to do so.
“The men with the white coats will be coming for you, Bolton,” said Red Dodge. “I’m more sure of it than ever now!”
The line-up for the game was basically the same one from last night, except that Tavy and I flipped spots in the order as Tavy hit curtain well last year. I switch hit so it really didn’t matter to me, third or fifth should still have plenty of men to drive in. At this level you must always play the percentages and this was a good one.
The game from the outset was a tough one. Jones grounded to second after fouling off nine, 3 & 2 pitches. It was a great at bat. Mike Adams struck out on four pitches. Tavy stung the third pitch from Curtain, but the Pirates right fielder, Morales, made a leaping catch at the top of the wall to bring back a homerun, just inside the fair pole. What at catch. Three up and three down for the Monarchs.
Como and Bolton worked flawlessly for the first three innings setting up hitter, changing speeds. Mike had six strikeouts and no one hit the ball out of the infield.
Ross Jones led off the fourth with a soft hit to center. The Pirates pitcher, Curtain, became to [reoccupied with Jones and threw to first 10 straight times, wasting his pitch count for the night. The crowd became more vocal with each throw to first. Curtain finally delivers a pitch to the plate; Jones breaks for second and barely makes it off a perfect throw from the catcher. An argument from the Pirate Manager begins that cannot be won. He is all over the second base umpire who just happens to be a woman. She listens to all he has to say with her arms folded across her chest. If the Pirate Manager could read body language he would know he was wasting his time.
I walked done to the end of the bench were Bolton was sitting with a towel around his neck. He left his shim-guards on, but had his chest-protector off to keep cool.
“He’s just setting her up for some other close calls that may happen later in the game,” Bolton stated matter of factly to me. “He knows he can’t win, but he is letting her know he is watching and wants his share of the close calls. Pretty shrewd move on his part.”
I hadn’t thought about it that much, but it made perfect sense. The game within the game. This is what they talked about. The little things that can make all the difference. He was just motivating his team. Dave was right. The Pirate Manager was moving back to the dugout slowly, but would around after a few steps and makes some other comment. Few more steps and some other comment would be made.
Mike Adams stepped back into the batter’s box. Jones had a good lead off second as well. “Ball two!” yelled the umpire.
Mike stepped out and looked for a new sign from Red. He goes through a whole sequence of tugs and pulls and swipes across the head and chest, claps his hands a few times and then turns his back to the plate to get set deep in the coach’s box. It was all for show as Mario was really giving the signs from the dugout.
On Curtain’s next pitch fakes a break for third while Adams drops a perfect bunt down the third base line which neither the catcher or third baseman can get to. Jones held at second and we now had the beginning of a rally with the crowd and the organist really starting to get into it. This crowd was a little more subdued that last night’s crowd.
Tavy stepped into the box and leveled his bat across the plate four or five times and then got set. Curtain was now in a little bit of a jam with Tavy at the plate, and with Bond and myself on deck trouble was a brewing for sure. It was up to Jon to make the pitcher work and swing at only a great pitch he could handle. Tavy took a first pitch curveball for a strike. Couple of players yelled out of the dugout,” Come on Tavy, ripped it out of here! Take him downtown Mr. T.”
The second pitch was a curveball so far outside their catcher had to dive way to his left just to save a wild pitch. Time was called as the catcher wanted to talk to Curtain. The crowd begins to clap with the tension building rapidly.
Curtain gets set again as Jon settles back into the batter’s box. Curtain finds a sign he likes and goes into his stretch. He checks Jones at second who has a great lead. Curtain breaks his stretch and come home to the plate with a fastball, belt high, on the outside black of the plate. Tavy waits, steps right into it, fully extending his arms with a strong push to left center field. With a strong snap of the wrists, Jon’s chin is buried into his left shoulder as the ball rockets off his bat into left center. The left fielder attempts a diving catch, but the ball tips off the end of his glove and rolls all the way to the wall. Both Jones and Adams went half way to make sure no catch was made, but then dashed home as Tavy went diving head first into third base with his first triple, ever! The crowd when crazy as the Yankees took a 2-0 lead.
“Jon-nee, Jon-nee, Jon-nee,” chants the crowd.
As Reggie stepped to the plate, Scott Andrews stopped me as I made my way to the on-deck circle. He had a big smile on his face.
“Last year Tavy would have tired to pull that pitch and hit into a double-Play,” said Scott. “If he makes that hitting adjustment all year we are going to score a whole lot of runs, and you, Reggie, and Jon will all get better pitches to hit. Our own version of Murderer’s Row.”
Curtain further unravels and walks Reggie on four pitches. Red calls for me to come see him as the Pirate’s Manager make a trip to the mound.
“Listen Bill,” said Red. “We’re not taking any more first pitch strikes. If you like the first pitch and you can drive it, go for it. Don’t try and do too much as a hit is another run and keeps the rally alive. Make him work.”
I move into the batter’s box as Curtain stays in the game. I wasn’t as strong from the left side of the plate, so it would be no problem taking red’s advice. I tried to block out the crowd noise as they started chanting: “Bill-Lee, Bill-Lee, Bill-Lee”. For some reason I couldn’t and stepped out of the box. I took a deep breath and pulled the bat over my back shoulders and tried to loosen them up. I took another deep breath and stepped back in. I leveled the bat over the plate a few times and fixed my eyes on the ball in Curtain’s hand as he held it behind his back, but in view. He got his sign and moved upright, into his set position. He checked Bond at first and Tavy at third. He broke his set and brought the ball over his head. I picked it up instantly and saw two fingers close together on top of the ball as he winged it toward the plate.
My brain instantly registered: FASTBALL. The first 15 feet told me belt high. For the first time in my life it looked like a softball. I coiled my shoulder, gripped the bat tighter, and unloaded a smooth, level swing as I looked straight down my arms through my wrists and hands. The ball collided with the closely spaced grain of my Louisville Slugger, but I could hardly feel the contact.
The Ball jumped off my bat sending a screamer 5 feet off the ground straight to the pitcher’s mound as Curtain finished his follow-through. He tired to put as much on the pitch as he could, but he wound up off balance and unable to put his glove up for protection. He tried to put his hand up to his face, but the ball was traveling too fast for him to react and struck him directly on the lower forehead and bounded into the Pirate dugout as Curtain fell in a pile at the bottom of the mound on the first base side. As my second step hit the ground I knew what had happened, but instinct kept me digging for first. A tremendous gasp left the crowd as the ballpark went dead silent as Tavy crossed the plate and Jones walked into second base. The Pirate dugout emptied toward the mound as did the umpires. The medical staff from both teams ran to assist. Curtain never moved. I stood on first base and began to feel sick. As time was called I slowly walked to the mound. Their trainer and the Manager were slowly rolling Curtin onto his back. He was out cold it seemed. Blood was slowly streaming from a gash across his forehead. Curtain was still not moving.
The trainer checked his pulse. “He’s got a pulse, but it is very faint. We’ve got to get him to the hospital fast.”
The ambulance pulled in from the right field corner bull pen and drove all the way in front of the Pirate dugout. Red ran up to the front railing and called up to the press box, “We need a doctor down here, if there is one in the house.” Red needed no microphone as the park was dead silent.
Dr. Martin came down from the stands and helped get Curtain on the stretcher and into the ambulance. Doc was on his cell phone to the hospital as the Paramedics began to take Curtain’s vital signs and start an I.V.
As Curtain lay motionless on his back there was blood all over his face and jersey. The right side of his forehead seemed to be sunken-in almost a half inch in the shape of the ball. I turned around and ran behind first base tossed up my last meal. Shortly, even though there was nothing left inside I could not stop the dry-heaves. I felt someone grab me from behind, underneath my arms and pull me effortlessly to my feet. It was Reggie bond.
“Come on,” said Reggie. “Let’s get into to dugout for a bit. Their going to be a while anyway. Can you walk OK?”
“Ya, I think so,” I half heartedly replied. I wiped my mouth on my shirt sleeve. “Oh, man, why did this have to happen?”
“Hey, forget about it now,” scolded Reggie. “You have to try and forget about it. It was an accident. Nothing more, nothing less. YOU UNDERSTAND? IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT!”
Somehow I knew Reggie was right, but it seemed of little consolation right now. Curtain was hurt, hurt bad. What if he could never pitch again? What if he could never se again? What if he died? No, that would never happen…would it? Before I got to the dugout my stomach was churning again. The batboy quickly brought me a towel and placed it up to my mouth.
“Forget the dugout,” Reggie instructed. “Let’s go into the locker room.” We did. Reggie sat me down on an old sofa in the corner of the room. “I’m going to get a wet towel, will you be alright?”
“Ya, I’ll be alright,” I replied.
“Just relax and lay here for a while. I’ll be right back,” said Reggie.
I hear the cycle of the swinging doors as Reggie exits. Sounds of footsteps sneak through the opening of the swinging doors as they rock back and forth. It’s Gus.
“Hey Bill,” asked Gus. “Are you alright. You’re white as a ghost.”
“I feel better than I did out there on the field,” I replied. “How long before you think we hear something?”
“Doc Martin was in the stands,” stated Gus. “Curtain was still out cold as they put him in the ambulance. Stop worrying about Curtain. Doc will take care of him. It seems like a little color is coming back into your face. Let’s turn this towel over to a cooler spot for ya. You rest for a while as I check on restarting of the game. It will take their relief pitcher a while to warm up. You be OK?”
“Yes, Gus, I’ll be fine,” I reply as I attempt to sit up.
“Lie back down, relax,” said Gus. “The game will not start without you.” With that he heads back out the doors onto the field.
I was feeling much better, but I decided to lie back down and rest a while longer. I closed my eyes and fell fast a sleep.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Bolton and Reggie.
“The game is starting back up in 10 minutes,” announced Dave. “Feel good enough to get back in there?”
I took the towel from my forehead and rub my eyes with it as I begin to wake up. I take a deep breath. “How long was I out,” I ask?
“We’ve been gone about half an hour, man,” said Reggie. “You look a lot better than when I brought you in here.”
“I think I’ll go brush my teeth,” I announce. The taste in my mouth was awful as I ran my tongue across my front teeth. I quickly made my way to the shower room, taking my tooth brush and tooth paste with me from my locker. I brushed them twice. As I came out Bolton was standing there with a cup.
“Here, drink some of this Sprite,” Bolton directed. “It will take some of the rumble out of your stomach. We need to get back on the field and loosen up a bit. Feel good enough to do that?”
“Let’s go,” I reply making my way to the door. I throw the empty cup into the trash can on the way out. “I need to get back out there.”
As we got the top step of the dugout I couldn’t help but look at the pitcher’s mound. Curtain was gone. The new Pirate pitcher was finishing his warm-up throws. Red and the Pirate manager were behind the mound talking. I moved toward the left field foul line and started jogging hoping to remove the tension that started to creep back into my body. I ran to the left field wall and back, just short of the third base bag. I ran back to the wall and back again. I bent over and rested my hands on my knees. The two managers had made their way over to me.
“Bill, Skip McCormick, Pirate manager,” informed Gus. Skip offered to shake hands. I accepted.
“Bill, I’m not sure of all the things that are going through you mind right now.” began Skip. “What happened out their on the mound was an accident. It was nothing more than a freak accident. Starting with the next pitch in the ball game you have to put it all behind you. Curtain will be all right. Do not let this affect your career. You want to help Curtain? Tear this league apart with your bat and your arm. Let him know he was up against the best there was.”
He moved and put both of his hands on my shoulders and looked me dead in the eyes. “I know it’s tough, but I hope you’ve heard what I’ve said,” concluded the Pirate Manager.
“Thanks, I appreciate it,” I respond, not really knowing what else to say.
“Talk to you later, Red,” says Skip as he turns and head for his dugout.
“I’ll meet you outside the ballpark after the game, Skip,” shouts Red through cupped hands around his mouth simulating a megaphone.
“Where are you going after the game, “I asked Red? “To the hospital”?
“Yes, I told Skip I’d take him,” replied Red. “I suppose you’d like to come along,”?
“If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it,” I respond.
What happened to Curtain seemed to greatly affect both teams. We failed to score any more runs in the inning and maintained our 3-0 lead into the eighth inning.
Como walked the first Pirate batter in the tip of the eighth which immediately brought Red out of the dugout to the mound for a little chat. Red motioned to the bullpen where Jay Morse had been warming up since the sixth. Morse spent last year in the Rookie League in Midland, Texas. He was known not to be shy, even hot tempered at times, and let the batters know which side of the plate belonged to him. Super fast with pitches clocked in the upper 90’s. He could only pitch little more than an inning or two before his speed tailed off rapidly. He could rebound and pitch every day, but seemed to only have about 30 pitches in the tank at a time. That was something Red didn’t have all last year…a real closer.
Como got a standing ovation from the fans as he made his way to the dugout. He lifted his cap to the crowd in appreciation. He was warmly greeted by his teammates as he stepped down into the dugout. As I watched Mike from my spot at third I could not help but think about this team and how well we were playing. Our pitching had been sensational, first Meyers on Friday, then Como on Saturday. My turn was coming on Tuesday after tomorrow’s finale in the afternoon.
The next three Pirate batters never had a chance. If they were looking fastball, Morse broke off the best curveball of the day. If they looked curveball, the fastball “express” was by them before they knew it.
Morse closed out the game with 5 strikeouts and one weak tapper to me at third by a left handed batter. We win 3-0. It was a great feeling for this team to start 2 & 0.
I met Red and Skip out at the front gate after showering quickly. Knowing where we were going took a little out of our win tonight. I knew what Skip had told me earlier was true, but it was not going to be easy to put this behind me. At least not right away. The drive to the hospital seemed long and was very quiet.
The head-nurse in the Emergency Room would only allow one of us to go up at a time. Red told Skip to go ahead. We could go up later.
Sitting in the waiting room were a lot of people, I thought for a Sunday. Puerto Rican couples with another man were sitting in the corner watching TV. He had his hand wrapped in a towel or something, resting between his legs while he rocked back and forth, obviously in major discomfort. A black lady was holding a crying baby, rocking back and forth trying to console him or her. Older white couples were sitting in two chairs next to the Nurse’s Station. The woman was nervously holding a hankie in her two wrinkled hands, occasionally wiping tears from her eyes. The man had wrapped his arm around her shoulders across the back of the chair. An old Security Guard paced back and forth in front of the emergency room doors. A younger one stood shooting the breeze with a pretty nurse’s aide at the counter. Red told me to sit down while he tried to find out some news on Curtain.
“Miss, could you help me,” inquired Red to a lady seated behind the Nurse’s Station? “I’m Red Dodge, manager of the Monarchs. Do you have any information concerning an injured player brought in here earlier from our game with the Pirates? His name is Curtain.”
“Yes, here it is, Chuck Curtain…he has not regained consciousness since he was brought in earlier from your game,” She replied to Red. “His pulse was stable, but weak, and they decided not to wait and operate right away. He had considerable fracturing of the skull and much pressure on his brain.”
As she spoke those words to Red the old woman became visibly more upset and started sobbing.
“My wife, Emma, and I are quite close to Chuck and his wife Sharon. This past year has been tough on them and now this. I’m sorry, my name is Joe, Joe Curtain,” He reached out his had to Red Dodge. “We’re Chuck’s Parents.”
“Seems like the surgery is going to be quite lengthy,” said Red.
“It could be another 3+ hours,” said the Nurse.
“Could I leave you my phone number and have you call me as soon as you hear anything,” asked Red?
“No problem,” she replied. “I call you as soon as I know anything.”
“Do you folks have any place to stay,” asked Red of the elder Curtains.
“No, sir, we don’t,” said Joe. “We had plans to drive back to Vermont right after the game.”
“Why don’t you come and stay with me and my wife tonight,” offered Red. “We’ve got plenty of room at our place and there’s no need to sit around here and wait uncomfortably. I think we all could use some rest and a bite to eat.”
“That’s very kind of you,” replied Joe. “Come along Emma, and let’s take up the kind offer from Mr. Dodge.” Joe rose to his feet, helping his wife from her chair.
“Thank you Mr. Dodge,” this is very nice of you. “We don’t want to be any trouble.”
“Trust me, Mama, this is no trouble at all,” replied Red. “I just wish it was under better circumstances. Come; follow me out to my car. The Nurse will call as soon as she hears anything.”
Red motions to me and we all head out to Red’s car for the ride home. Emma seems to be calming down more and more. What a terrible thing this must be for them I thought. Drive all the way down from Vermont to see a little game of baseball and something like this has to happen. It makes no sense.
Red has me drive so he can have more freedom to talk to the Curtains during the ride home. Red has the radio turned low, but we all can still here classical music from station WPKT, the classical station from New Haven.
Red asked me to drive to the ballpark so I could pick up my car, which I hadn’t even thought about. “Bill, get a good night’s sleep and I see you bright and early at the ballpark tomorrow,” stated Red. “Say Hi to Mary for me.”
With that I get out of the car with the motor still running, but in “park”.
“Good night Mr. and Mrs. Curtain…I’m sure sorry about what has happened,” I offer, not knowing if they know I was the one who hit the ball that injured their son.
“Good night, son,” said Mr. Curtain. “We’ll probably see you tomorrow.” Mr. Curtain said it with a warm mile on his face.
I got into my car and drove him in dead silence. All I could think about was that ball jumping off my bat, heading right for Chuck Curtain. What a horrible night. Winning the game seemed so unimportant right then.