Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chapter 16 of 47 The Dreamers

Chapter 16 The Dreamers

With about an hour to go before game-time I walked out to our bullpen and sat down on the bench. I tried to clear my head of all the distractions of the last few days. It was harder than I thought. I hadn’t been in town very long and so much had happened. If most of the weeks in this long season were going to be as complicated like this one a heart attack might be unavoidable. I can see why some players choose to be loners. I couldn’t be that way. I needed friends. I wanted friends. I just can’t believe that only worrying about yourself and dealing with just your own little problems is being a responsible adult. There has to be more.

If my father’s friends hadn’t been around when he was first stricken with polio I don’t know how my mother could have handled it alone. I realize now that my Dad had some truly great friends. After Dad came home from the hospital he and his friends picked up there weekly, Friday night pinochle game. Jimmy Murphy and his musician friends would come over and have jam sessions right in our living room. I can remember Stan Kenton coming to the house and playing right in our living room. I still have Dad’s collection of old 78’s of Arthur Godfrey, Rosemary Clooney, and Billie Holiday. Dad sure loved his music. That was something I inherited from him.

He finally got to come home from the hospital when they realized that they could do no more for him there. A rocking bed was put in the house to help him get to sleep. The people with the March of Dimes were of great help to my family. My Father’s life and then the terrible accident. It was amazing how and where my mind was wondering.

I sat there gazing out into centerfield. I might have the Milky Way for all I knew. I was just starring out into space. Dave Bolton came down and plopped himself down on the bench hard, jarring me out of my trance.

“I need to loosen up a bit,” I state. “I’m going to run a little bit in the outfield. You can join me if you want.”

Dave and I both got up and started jogging in the outfield, nearly reaching the center field fence. Neither of us spoke the whole way out or back.

“I sure hope everything turns out alright in Disneyland. Gloria’s coming with,” I announce to Dave.

“You’re kidding,” he responds. “Ah, maybe it is good she goes and helps straighten out this mess herself. I guess it makes sense, but we have a ballgame to win, that is next week.”

“You’re right,” I reply as I start doing some stretching exercises trying to loosen up my back and shoulders. “You’re right, I need to be focusing on tonight’s game, not that.”

“I do have to wonder how Chris Tavy is going to take all of this,” said Dave with concern in his voice. “You think about it, this could get real ugly next week. If she still loves Jon, she is going to be disappointed in herself for not believing him and giving him the benefit of the doubt. If not, she could care less about him and just be real mad a Gloria for being so selfish. Have you decided where you will meet once you get out there?”

“No, I tried calling Chris’s Mother three times and each time she refused to discuss this matter with me or even tell Chris that I was calling,” I told Dave. “There’s got to be more to this than I know. Why wouldn’t she even discuss it with me? I then tried tracking down her younger brother, which wasn’t easy either. I’ve called all the possible numbers, but they were not the right ones. I’m going to try after tonight’s game. This is going to be more difficult than I thought with little family help from the Tavys.”

“I think I may know of a connection,” said Dave. “Have you tried the Miltons in LA? You need to start soft tossing we have less than 40 minutes ‘til game time.”

“The Miltons…in LA,” I ask with amazement? “There must be hundreds of Miltons in LA, wouldn’t you think?”

“The Miltons you are after is Milton as in Judge Henry Milton,” said Dave. “Go on, you’ve got ten minutes at the most.”

“I’ll be right back,” I say as I have already started back to ward the dugout. Don’t start without me.”

I dash into the clubhouse and hit the phone.

“Operator, give me Los Angeles. I’m looking for Judge Henry Milton, do you think he is in the book,” I ask somewhat out of breath? “I’m in kind of a hurry.”

“Yes, here it is, 323-445-5678, did you get the down,” asked the operator? “I can connect you if you like?”

“Please do, I am in kind of a hurry,” I reply. “Hello,” says a male voice on the other end.

“Hello,” I say, “this is Bill Alan calling from Connecticut. Is this the Milton family that is related to Chris Tavy, Jon Tavy’s wife?”

“Yes, this is Doug Milton, I am Chris’s brother, but you know they are getting a divorce don’t you,” said Doug matter of factly. “What do you want from Chris/”

“It is a little hard to explain over the phone,” I reply. “I was hoping to come out to California and try to explain, in person. This whole thing between Chris and Jon is a big mistake. Someone did a very malicious thing that needs to be corrected, if it can. It is very important for Chris to know some things and then decided if she still wants a divorce. I am hoping you will be open minded enough to help me with this.”

I quickly fill Doug in with some of the details in hopes of enticing him to help Gloria and I pull this off.

“Mom can be a piece of work sometimes as she didn’t want Chris to marry an athlete anyway,” said Doug. “I’ll help any way I can as I always like Jon; he was always nice to me. Call me tomorrow on my cell and give me your travel plans. I’ll clear my schedule for next Monday and Tuesday and pick you up and be your taxi service. I make arrangements for you to meet up with Chris without telling her anything. How it goes is strictly up to you as I still have to live here after you leave.”

“Doug, thanks for all your help,” I state, thinking that I may have found the key to my success. “I am flying out to California next Sunday evening with the one who caused all this trouble. We would like to see Chris and explain what happened and try to straighten this whole thing out. Jon has not been handling this well as he bit my head off the first day I met him.”

“Mom can be really impossible at times as well,” replied Doug. “Dad’s a Circuit Court Judge and my brother, Jim, is an attorney who is handling the divorce. He usually does what Mom wants. I can’t really say what Chris’ true feeling are as we haven’t spend much time talking about her personal life. She is pretty busy with school.”

“Doug, thanks you’re a life saver,” I say with great appreciation. “I will call you tomorrow and give you the details. Listen, I’ve got to go as I have a ball game to pitch tonight. I play with Jon on the Monarchs.”

“Hey, well have a great game,” said Doug sincerely. “Hope Jon hits one out tonight.”

“So do I,” I repeat. “Thanks again Doug, I really mean it. Talk to you tomorrow.”

I quickly put the receiver back down and rush back out to the field. Bolton is waiting, but he is not too happy about it.

“You’ve got 20 minutes to get loose,” said Dave pretty irritated. “Rookies,” he said disgustingly.

It didn’t seem to take very long for me to get loose in the bullpen. It had been a rather warm April day with the temperature reaching almost 90. Now, the temp was 82, at least that is what Mike Adams said the bank display had read on his way in. Usually most bank displays have an accuracy of plus or minus 50 degrees. The warmth of the night would help keep my back loose. Within about 25 pitches I felt very good. I told Dave I had enough and went over and put my Monarch jacket on and made my way into the dugout. I spotted Jack Meyers sitting near the home plate end of the dugout. He had a couple of three ring binders next to him with a couple of loose sheets sitting on top. I sat next to him.

“Bill, how do you feel,” asked Jack? “I wish it had been this warm on the night I pitched.”

“I know what you mean,” I replied. “It’s tough to get really loose when the temp is in the 50’s. It sure didn’t seem to bother you, though. I not sure feeling good with be enough tonight.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Jack with a smile on his face. “You’ll do just fine. Listen, about the hitters, let’s go over a few hand signs I’ll be using to help you know how to pitch them.”

“Sure, go ahead,” I reply.

“If I give you and Dave a closed fist, that means stay with hard stuff, fastballs and sliders,” begins Jack. “An open hand means he is more susceptible to off speed stuff. If I hold my hand close to my chest that means stay inside. On top of my head means that the hitter has a tendency to chase high, hard stuff. Pretty simple actually.”

“It is important for you to remember these signs and Bolton may be setting up and giving you a target different than these signs,” adds jack. “We do that early on to make sure the batter is not sneaking a peak where Dave sets up. Hit mitt position may be just a decoy. Watch for the last spot Dave touches with his throwing-hand, that is where he really want the pitch. We don’t like PEEKERS. When you and Dave are on your game and guys try to peek, they’ll swing and miss by a foot. If your sliders real good tonight that may happen anyway.”

“I never liked to peek myself,” I add. “I just like to react to what I see. Guessing wrong can be a real bad thing.”

“Bill, I agree,” replied Jack, “but many players here with take any advantage they think they have. Just work on maintaining good control and putting the ball in the right spot.”

“Dick and I had a long discussion about that, or I should say I had a long listen with him,” I add.

“Ah, he showed you his can-0-rama did he,” stated Jack? “Sometimes it makes more sense when you see it than just talking about it. He is right on though. Stay out of Dick’s Red Zone and you’ll be just fine.”

Red decided to bat me ninth to take some of the pressure off. He had Del Ray playing third again, batting 8th in the lineup.

Ross Jones CF
Mike Adams 2B
Jon Tavy 1B
Reggie Bond RF
Scott Andrews SS
Dave Bolton C
Chris Miller LF
Del Ray 3B
Bill Alan P

I felt good about this game and especially about the way this team was playing. We had been playing great defense. The infield had turned 7 double-plays in the first 3 games. Chris Miller and Ross Jones had made some great catches in the OF. Even Bolton had been catching well compared to last year when he only threw out 30% of the runners trying to steal. 40% is what coaches look for. It is not always, and usually not, just the catcher’s fault. He was 4 out of 7 so far this year, very good. Everyone came by me in the dugout and tapped me on the knee and wished me luck.

The Monarchs took their positions on the field to the roar of the crowd. I slowly climbed up the dugout steps and walked leisurely to the mound. I could feel the excitement in the air as my stomach started to knot up a little. I got to the mound and reached down and picked up the baseball in my right hand. I just looked at it a second. I hadn’t realized the umpire was standing right behind me with three other baseballs in his hand.

“Hey, pitch,” he said, “is that one all right to start the game with or is one of these YOUR lucky ball?”

“Let’s hope all of them are lucky,” I add with a big smile. “This one is OK.

“From what I hear, you don’t need much luck,” replied the ump. He turned and went back behind home plate.

I reached down and picked up the rosin bag to dry the palm of my pitching hand and then began the little excavation work most pitchers do right in front of the pitching rubber. Not too much. I loosened it just enough to get an edge of the rubber to give me something to push off from. Dave is crouched behind the plate and I motion to him, start a slow wind up and throw my first professional warm-up pitch at about 75 miles an hour. After my allotted number of throws, Dave guns it down to second and we’re ready for the real deal. Del gets the ball at third and moved have way to the mound, throws me the ball and winks. “Go get-em, kid,” he says. “Just you and Dave tonight.”

Bolton crouches behind the plate and pounds his fist into his catchers’ mitt. The umpire yells, “Play Ball!” This is it as the batter digs in.

I stand with my right foot on the top left area of the rubber, my left foot slightly ahead. I hold the ball tightly inside my glove, resting it on my left thigh. I bend slightly to get Dave’s sign, a fastball down. I rock slightly back, putting my hand in the glove, rotating the ball slightly to get my two fingers running across the four seams. I finish rocking back, my hands go over my head, I turn slightly and bring my left knee up to my waist, I turn and open my hips, thrust my chest toward the plate as my arm goes behind my back, then in an arc over my shoulder behind my right ear as the muscles in my shoulder quickly increase my arm speed and whip it as hard as I can toward home plate, all the time keeping my eyes on Dave’s glove. I release the ball toward home plate as I bend fully at the waist. My right foot comes around and hits the ground to my right as I get set to possible field a ball hit back to me. It is now out of my hands and up to the hitter.

The ball rockets to home plate right where Dave asked for it, knee high on the outside black of the plate to the right-handed hitter for the Cubs. The ball snaps into Dave’s mitt. “Stee-rike ONE, yells the umpire. Dave fires the ball back to me. And I turn to the roar of the crowd and walk back up to the top of the mound and look at the scoreboard that now reads: 0-balls, 1-strike, and 0-outs. To the left is the radar-gun display: 98 it says. The crowd is really going crazy. I guess I really did get loose quickly in the pen I thought.

“Come on Billy,” yells a fan in the first row behind the dugout. “2 more, big guy,” he screams. The crowd is chanting: Bill-lee, Bill-lee, Bill-lee. I feel somewhat embarrassed, but it sure felt good to be on the mound again. I look into the dugout and see Meyers just clapping his hands with a smile on his face.

I get another sign from Bolton, same thing on the inside this time. I throw another rocket to the plate right where he wanted it. The batter jumped back a little as he thought it was inside. It wasn’t. “Stee-rike two,” bellowed the ump. The crown rises to their feet wanting a strikeout real bad. The noise level is crazy now.

I realize I must really be pumped as Meyers holds up a sign in the dugout that reads: 99. Get out, I thought. I look up at the scoreboard and it says the same thing. I turn around and look in and get another sign from Bolton. He wants a curve ball, inside again. It makes sense as the Cub batter was leaning back on the last inside fastball. I’ll really make his knees buckle this time.

I rock back and fire a curveball that starts straight for his left shoulder and then darts down three feet and to the left about 5 inches, just across the inside black of the plate. The batters knees do buckle as he rocks back in fear that it just might be a fastball. It’s too late for him to even start a swing. “Stee-rike three,” yells the umpire with a big pull of his right arm to the side and back, almost like a martial arts fighter. The crowd goes nuts as the batter walks back to the dugout shaking his head. Bolton fires the ball down to Del Ray and the infield flips it around and back to me on the mound. Someone behind the dugout brought a supply of 1 foot square signs with capital K’s on them and put up the first one on the fence in front of them.

“At a boy, Billy,” yells red from the dugout. “26 more he yells,” with a big grin on his face. Ya, right, I think to myself! Who is he kidding?

The next batter takes a called fastball strike and then pops up my second pitch, a curveball, to Adams at second base for out number 2.

The third batter brings me back to reality as he hits my first offering on the line to left field for a single. That calms the crowd down a little bit.

“No problem, Billy,” shouts Dave out to me for encouragement. Dave hold up two fingers and yells, “Two outs, be alive out there!”

Now from the stretch, I check the runner at first and throw a fastball just off the plate. “Ball,” says the umpire. I still had some hop on it as the scoreboard reads 97. I know enough to settle down as I do not want to go 2 and 0 to the Cub’s clean-up hitter, Logan. He hit 34 homers in A last year.

I go set and delivery a sharp breaking curveball on the outside that Logans swings and misses at. “Strike one,” yell the ump.

I throw a 99 mile an hour fast ball on the next pitch; letter high, that Logan can’t catch up to and swings wildly at. “Stee-rike two.” The crowd is on it’s feet going wild, sensing an inning ending strikeout. The chanting begins again.

I go back to the mound and toe the rubber and look in to get Bolton’s sign. I go to the set position and check the runner at first. I break my set as the runner takes off for second as I deliver a fastball on the inside at the knees that Logan swings over the top of for strike three. The place erupts as Bolton rolls the ball out to the mound and head to the dugout. The ump yells, “Strike three.” He pulls of his mask as he stands tall and walks toward fist base and looks back at me with a little smile.

The crowd beings chanting “YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU,” taunting the Cubs’ hitter. Typical fans I thought. I needed to pinch myself. This was too surreal.
As I make my way down the dugout steps Tavy is standing right there and I half suspect he is going to congratulate me, but he says nothing. He just looks the other way. Shoot! Would it have killed him to say something to me? Go figure.

Ross Jones picks up right were he left off the other day. He sends a ground single right up the middle on the first pitch and then steals second on the next offering. This is looking too easy I thought. Mike Adams draws a walk, putting men on first and second with no outs for Tavy. If this keeps up we would have a number of guys with close or more ant 100 runs batted in a piece.

“Hey Reggie,” I offer, “Is Tavy going to leave you anything to drive in?”

“I hope not,” he replies. “I’ll get mine, don’t you worry,” he adds with a smile.

“I don’t know if I want to hit after both of you. I think the bases might always be empty,” I add.

“You got a problem with that,” he shoots back?

“No, I guess not,” I add. “Get me a big lead will ya,”?

“I have a sense you may not need it,” he concludes heading to the on deck circle.

Tavy turns on the second pitch from the Cub hurler and sends a rocket into the right field corner for a double. It is hit so hard that Adams has to stop at third with Jones scoring and giving us a 1 to 0 lead. Reggie is now up with no outs and men at second and third.

The Cub manager comes out to the mound for a little chat. He does like what he has seen so far, but has no one up in the bullpen. No one is even stirring down there.

Reggie kept it up as he launched a rocket, high and deep or the center field fence that seemed to take forever to land. The Cubs’ center fielder just stood at the base of the wall looking up, like it as a 767 jumbo jet, or something. It was now 4 to nothing before the Cubs knew what to think. Not even ten pitches had been thrown.

I took the lead into the second. I pitched well again, giving up a one out single after another strikeout. The next batter it a short-hop hard ground ball to Del at third that somehow found its way into his glove as he olayed-it and turned it into yet another Yankee double play around the horn. The crowd was hoping and hollering now, big time.

“Hey Del, open your eyes next time,” yelled Jay Morse.

“Got any feelings back in your hand yet,” said Jack Meyers laughing.

“Feeling,” said Mario laughing even harder, “he got no feelings, man, he is one cruel dude!”

The dugout was roaring now as Del came into the dugout and at the bottom of the stairs took a bow. “Thank you very much for your support,” Del replied. “I’m looking for a gold glove this year, just so you’ll know.”

“More like Dr. Strange Glove, you mean,” said Bolton. Everyone was just grinning and laughing, feeling pretty good about what we were doing.

“I could have made that play in my sleep,” Del announced seriously,

“You just did,” said Mike Como as another roar came from the dugout. Gus and Red are just shaking their heads at each other. Del just waved his hand at Mike and went and sat down.

We failed to score in our half of the second, but I did manage to hit a single to right field in my at bat. Jones hit a grounder to short forcing me at second for the third out. It still stood at 4 to nothing, Monarchs.

The first Cub batter in the third grounded out to Tavy unassisted. Their next batter, Rogers, hits a Texas-Leaguer just over the head of Adams at second. Cub’s shortstop hits a fastball down and away just to the right of second base that Mike Adams drives and snares backhanded, scrambles to his knees and flips to Scott Andrews as he is crossing the bag who fires to first for a spectacular double play. Scott is upended by the running coming in hard, crashing hard to the ground, but gets up unhurt. It is the kind of picture that every photo journalist wants to get and put on the front page of the sports section. The inning ended in unbelievable fashion. The fans erupt again, giving Adams and Andrews a standing ovation.

Adams starts off our fourth with a double into right center just beating the thrown from the Cub’s right fielder with a head-first slide. Tavy grounds out hard to the second baseman with Adams moving to third. The Cub’s catcher goes out to the mound to talk with Reggie coming up. I would have been surprised to see them pitch to him, and they didn’t, giving him a free pass and bringing Andrews to the plate. The crowd could sense something as they started getting real loud.

Scott took the first pitch for a ball low and away. You could tell the Cub pitcher didn’t really feel comfortable at all. The next pitch was a curveball that stayed flat and right over the plate, belt high that Scott got all of sending it high and deep toward left center. Adams and Bond took off with the crack of the bat as the Cub left and center fielders tracked the ball into the gap. The ball crashed into the top of the wall, missing being a home run by 4 inches at the most. The ball bounds back toward the infield as Scott speeds into third with a stand up triple and the Monarchs now leading 6 to nothing with just one out.

The Cub manager as seen enough and makes his way to the mound, motioning to the bullpen for a new arm. The fans continue to go nuts. Adams and Bond get high-fives as they come into the dugout. Red give Andrews a pat on the butt, turns and claps as he heads back to the coach’s box.

Bolton adds a sacrifice fly from the new pitcher and gives us a 7- nothing lead.

I go back out in the top of the fifth and strike out the side on 12 pitches the last one, looking, making it look so easy, which is was not. I’ll take it any way. I come back in the dugout and Red come over to me.

“Listen,” he said, “You’ve only thrown 41 pitches in five innings, but this is your first start. I’m not looking to give anyone else some work this early, but you let me know if and when you feel gassed, OK?”

“No problem, Skip,” I reply putting my jacket on and sit down next to Meyers who pats me on the right thigh.

“Man, you are smoking out there,” said Jack. “Everything you threw that inning was 96 or over. You must be loose.”

“I just told Dave to give me a target and let’s get on with it,” I said. “Until they hit, I’m just going to bring it, spotting it all over the strikes zone. Next inning I’ll mix in a slider or curveball or two just to keep them guessing. I think our offense has them a little disheartened right now.”

“That may be, but you are not cheering them up either,” said Jack with a big smile. “Keep it up.”

Gus brings me a bottle of Disani water and I take a big swig. He doesn’t say a word, just smiles and throws me a towel. We go out 1-2-3 in the fifth and I head back out to the mound.

Dave comes out to the mound as we start the sixth. “What do you want to do this inning,” he asks?

“Let’s start everyone off with a breaking pitch, but I’m going to try and throw it for a strike. I hate starting out behind in the count if I can help it,” I conclude. “Just show me where you want it.”

I am forced to work a little harder in the sixth as I don’t seem to get some calls close to the black. I get two more strikeouts on 3-2 pitches. The last batter fouls off 8 pitches on 3 and 2 before grounding out to Andrews at short. I picked up 25 pitches that inning alone, way more than I planned. Now it wasn’t so easy after all. We still led 7 to nothing.

I got a single leading off our sixth. The pitcher was paying no attention to me and I got insulted and stole second on the 1-1 pitch to Jones that was called a ball. Everyone was shocked, I mean everyone. The crowd was cheering, but Red was just shaking his head, probably wondering what I was thinking running with a 7-0 lead. Maybe it was a bad thing. I sure wasn’t trying to show anyone up. I just got caught up in the moment. Jones singled to center sending me home with our eighth run of the night. Not to be outdone, he stole second on the first pitch to Adams. He was looking for the stolen base title. I was not. Adams popped out to the catcher.

Tavy then hit another homerun over the left field fence, just inside the fair pole, proving again that his desire to pull everything was gone, hopefully for good. That made it 10 to nothing and meant another pitching change for the Cubs. The crowd was really in a festive mood now. I think they were in shock that this was a real Monarch team, one to be taken seriously.

Reggie, Andrews, and Bolton greeted the new Cub pitcher with straight singles with Bond scoring and giving us an 11 to nothing lead. Chris Miller hit a slow tapper up the third base line that no one could get to loading the bases for Del Ray.

Del swung so hard at the first pitch he fell down in the batters box. The crowd started laughing like crazy. Red was not too happy about that and called time and came trotting down the third base line and put his hands on Del’s shoulders while taking to him. Del shook his head in agreement to what ever Red was saying.

Del got back into the batters box and took a good level swing and fouled the next pitch straight back up the screen behind home plate. Now he was behind 0 and 2. He tapped the dirt out of his cleats and dug back in. The next pitch was a sharp curveball, low and away he laid off of. He looked out at the pitcher as he leveled his bat over the plate with practice swings three times and got set. The next pitch was a fastball right down the middle that he met with a smooth, level swing that sent the baseball screaming high to right centerfield that just seemed to keep carrying and carrying out into the night.

The Cub outfielders turned and watched in amazement as it sailed on to the rising grass mound behind the fence where some children whet scrambling for it. The crowd erupted as Del ran the bases as fast as he could. 15 to nothing with Del’s first-ever Grand Slam homerun. All the Monarchs rushed out of the dugout to greet him at home plate. He is lucky he didn’t have brain damage as much as he got hit on the head all the way back to the dugout. There was a joke in there some where, but on a night like this everyone left it alone.

That was how it ended as I pitched the 7th inning and got two more strikeouts to end my night on the mound. Our bullpen kept the shutout in tact and we win 15 to nothing in my first start. The Monarchs were now 4 and 0 and seemed unbeatable…at least for our first four games anyway.

The locker room was a mob scene with spirits never being higher high fives and hand shakes and back slaps all around. Everyone came over to my locker to congratulate me on my first start and win. Dave came over and I thanked him for calling a great game. “What did I do,” he said? “You were unbelievable most of the night. We just might have some team.” With that he patted me on the back and went back over and joined some teammates at his locker. Del Ray was over talking to the sports reporter from town and smiling as big as he probably ever had. I felt happy for him. Once guys know they are nothing more than part time players, moments like this are really special. He deserved it.

“Bill, you’ve got some friends waiting for you out side,” informed Gus as he headed for Red’s office. “Great game kid,” he said.

I quickly showered and dressed, but the sports reporter snagged me before I could get out the door. Scott Henderson was his name.

“Well, Bill,” he began, “this must have be quite a thrill for you?” “You sure made it look east most of the night.”

“I can assure you it is not easy,” I replied. “The Cubs are a good hitting team and I just got lucky and caught them on an off night. The bus ride from Pittsfield and their 14 inning win Sunday may have set them back a little bit.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Henderson. “You were near 100 miles per hour all night.”

“I felt good coming out of the pen, but you never know until you get to the mound what you’ll have,” I conclude.

“Any comments,” he asked, “about the death of Curtain, the Pirates pitcher?” “Now that we know he was sick and full of cocaine it kind of takes you off the hook, doesn’t it?”

I was more than a little angry at that question. “I was not aware that I WAS on the hook!” I state firmly. “It was a terrible accident that no one could plan, least of all me. Yes, he had some medical issues he should have addressed, but I mostly feel for his pregnant wife whose child will now grow up without a father, and Curtain’s parents. I feel for all of them. This is certainly not about me!” I storm out of the locker room leaving Henderson still writing.

“I didn’t mean anything by what I said,” he shouted. But it was too late, I was gone.

I find Gloria, Becky, Mary, and Mrs. James all waiting for me in the tunnel. Gloria reached me first, jumps in my arms, and gives me a huge, wet kiss. I open my eyes and see everyone starring at us with big smiles. I raise my hand and point my finger in the air indicating I’m going to need a minute. I did.

“Gloria, we have company,” I offer.

“Oh, they can wait,” as she give me a big hug. They all start groaning.

“Come on, Gloria,” says Becky. The guys probably starving and not for your love, either,” she add laughing.

“It’s not good to sap the strength of the star player, you know,” said Gloria’s Mom, much to the surprise to everyone.

“Really,” chirped in Mary. “Come on Gloria, she added. “Give the boy some air, will ya?”

“All right, all right,” she agreed, “but just for a little while.” They all start laughing. We head out into the night and go over to the Lollars to get something to eat.

This was some night alright. You can’t make this stuff up I thought.

We got over to the Lollars and I excuse myself for a moment and call Doug Milton in California. I make my way down the hall to the study and close the door. I dial the number and wait.

“Hello,” said the voice.

“Doug, it’s Bill Alan from Connecticut again,” I state.

“Bill, well, how did it go tonight,” asked Doug?

“Fifteen to zip,” I replied. “It was unbelievable to say the least. Jon had a great night with a double and a homerun. We could do no wrong.”

“It sounds like you couldn’t either on the mound,” Doug adds.

“I caught them on a bad night, I guess,” I offer.

“Baloney,” replied Doug.

“Listen, do you have some paper to write on,” I asked?

“Sure go ahead,” replied Doug ready to write/

“Gloria and I will be leaving NY at 10PM, and arriving at LAX at 11:40am your time. The Airline is TWA. We’ll be leaving at 6:40am on Tuesday and arriving back here at 4:46 in the afternoon. That day will be a killer as I have a game that night,” I conclude.

“No problem,” replied Doug. “I’ll take care of the transport you’ll need. I’ll find out what Chris’s schedule is we’ll get you guys linked up some how. I sure hope this works out.”

“So do I,” I add with some trepidation. “All we can do is try at this point. I really appreciate your helping us out here. Without you this would not be happening, you know.”

“Please don’t remind me,” said Doug with a little chuckle. “I may not be doing such a good thing for any of us. I’m just the willful accomplice.”

“Doug, thanks again and see you next Monday,” I finish.

“No problem, se you then,” Doug concludes and hangs up the phone.
As I came down the hall Gloria met me half way.

“What were you doing down there,” she asked?

“I made our travel arrangements with Doug Milton, Chris’s brother out in California. He is going to meet us and be our taxi service and get us to Chris for our meeting. He is going to keep it quiet with Chris’s Mom and Dad for now,” I state.

Gloria’s nervousness was showing, but I could hardly blame her for that. This trip would be the hardest thing she would probably ever do. At least I hoped it was. I couldn’t help but think about the first time I saw her at the diner. I was hooked in an instant. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I could have a worse fate then being Gloria’s husband. I could feel a tinge of jealousy thinking that Bob had been her true love before I came along. I wasn’t exactly chopped liver, but I couldn’t help but wish that I was her only love, ever. I was not about to give her up now, Bob or no Bob Lollar. He had his chance. What if Bob was coming home to claim his prize…Gloria…but once he found out we were together decided, out of respect decided to not make any moves. Well, that would be just fine. What if? What if? What if? I must be losing it!

It’s always crazy to chase a girl who is in love with someone else. I learned that the hard way in high school with Fran Thompson. Freshman year, I was so in love with her and she broke my heart into a million little pieces, left me crying in her driveway like a love-starved puppy. Oh well, that is history. This is turning out much better. Re-unions were tough seeing Fran with a guy I played football with. She still looked great and always said hi to me. Trying to kill me again I thought. I’ll never forget her seeing the hurt in my face, the day she told me it was over, but it just didn’t matter to her.

“Bill, are you alright,” said Gloria, grabbing me by the arms. “I thought I lost you there for a minute. Sleeping on your feet were you?”

I guess I was and didn’t know it. “Let’s go back and get something to eat. I am starved,” I said.

She grabbed my arm and we headed back to the kitchen. She laid her head on my shoulder as we walked.

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