"Gus, come on in here for a second will ya," shouted Red from his office. He had spotted Gus putting out the last of the uniforms for tonight’s game in the player stalls. "Come on in and close the door."
Gus did as he was asked. He shouldn't have been at the ball park in the first place. Bob's death, the funeral, he could be taking some time off. As long as Mary was not alone he was doing the right thing if it made him feel better thought Red.
"What's up, Red," asked Gus "Need me to do somethin before game time for ya?"
"No, nothin like that," answered Red. "Take a seat. I want to talk to you a minute."
Gus sat. He could sense something was up. He and Red hardly ever had conversations in Red's office.
George wants me to come to New York and take over the Monarchs," announced Red to Gus. "Really wants to shake up the boys in the Big Apple. I don't really have much of a choice but to take the assignment, Gus, you know George. His way or the hi-way."
"I know," said Gus. "Just, why does it have to be right now?"
"I know, the timing stinks," replied Red. "It could have been last week or just as well next week. The only time that applies is when George is ready. You know that."
"I know," said Gus looking at the floor. "I guess it really doesn't make that much difference."
"One other thing," said Red. "I'm taking three players with me from this team. I want Billy to be one of them. I think he is ready, Gus, really I do. I wanted to let you be the first to know. Even Billy doesn't know. With Bob's death and all I'm not so sure it the best of ideas for you and Mary. That's why I asked you in here, to talk to you about it."
"You really hit a guy with both barrels don't you Red," stated Gus. "This one really hurts. You know how fond we've become of Billy. He and Bob are so much...were so much a like. It will be really tough on Mary, I think. Maybe Gloria and her Mom can help keep Mary busy for a while. It will be tough, but I think we can do it."
"You sure," asked Red. "I want you to O.K. this part. Otherwise Billy stays."
"No, it's not fair to the kid," said Gus. "He came here to make his way to the big leagues. It's not fair for us to stand in the way. He’s earned it, Red. We'll manage."
"O.K., Gus, if you say so," said Red. "I'm going to make the announcement after tonight’s game. The only other person who knows is Reggie. I'm taking Tavy and Jack Meyers, too. Tavy is out of options. Reggie understood. Billy and Jack will give the team some needed pitching. I think there both ready. They both pitch smart. That's more important than speed. We'll sure find out tomorrow. Billy's turn would be here tomorrow afternoon. He'll just be doing it eighty miles to the south, that's all," finished Red.
"Thanks Gus for understanding," said Red with a big smile on his face. "I’ll start thinking about being in New York next year. If I get asked back I want you there, too."
"We'll talk about that later," stated Gus. "I've got some things I need to do." Gus left the room. He knew full well he wasn't going to New York, ever. Reality was, so did Red.
The Monarchs won their game five to one. The club house mood was not festive. There was kind of a sullen nature to the bench all game. It was hard for the players not to thinking about Bob, the funeral, Gus and Mary. There was a business like attitude the whole game. Even after Reggie hit is twenty-third homer in the sixth to put the game out of reach, there was not much celebrating in the dugout.
Red gathered the team in the center of the locker room to make his announcement. Gus stood by his side.
"Men, I have some tough news to tell you," Red began. "New York wants to make some changes with the big club and is going to announce at 10AM tomorrow morning that I will be the new New York manager."
A big cheer goes up in the room.
"Way to go, skip," said a voice from the back. "You deserve it," said Mario. "For once George made a smart choice."
Laughter fills the room.
"Right on," said Reggie. "That's the truth."
"All right," said Red. "I'm taking three of our players with me. Jack Meyers, Jon Tavy, and Bill Alan. We leave first thing in the morning and all will be starting tomorrow in New York."
"Oh, man," says Mario. "There goes our chance for the pennant. How can he do that to us?"
"Hey, I know this is tough," stated Red. "You'll have three talented prospect coming up from A ball. Mike Miller is coming up from Chattanooga. He is seven and two and they tell me he pitches like he's thirty. Memphis is sending Mark Martin, their first baseman, who is hitting .310 with nineteen homers. Replacing Billy is going to be a problem. George is working on that one with his scouts tonight. These players will be here tomorrow. They can help you guys win this thing. Help them out and make them feel at home. That's all I ask."
"O.K.," said Dave Bolton. "We'll take care of it, Skip."
"No problem," added Reggie. "Any body messes with the new blood will have to mess with me. We’re winning this pennant for us and Bob Lollar."
"All right," said Red. "Just one other thing. I just wanted to tell you guys that I was really enjoying this year. We were having some fun, breaking a few windows as they say. You guys were playing your behinds off for me and I appreciate it. I look around this room land see no reason why you all couldn't join me in New York in a few years. Thanks again for a great year. I'm going to miss you." Bolton yells out, "Three cheers for the coach."
"HIP, HIP, HURRAY! HIP, HIP, HURRAY! HIP, HIP, HURRAY!" shouted the team. Red disappeared into his office and closed the door. Leaving was tougher than he thought.
The players all quickly showered and left. Jack Meyers and Jon Tavy cleared out their lockers into a couple of team bags. Gus told us to be here at the park by 10AM for the trip to New York.
I was the last to dress and still had not packed my gear. Gus came over and sat next to me.
"What's wrong, son," asked Gus. "Your big chance tomorrow," He lightly socked me in the arm.
"Gus, I don't think I can do it," I said. "I can't leave you and Mary right now. It's not right."
"Listen, Bill," began Gus, "I know you feel bad about Bob, we all do, but reality is that life goes on. Bob would not want you to miss taking your shot in the big leagues because of him or his death. The best thing you can do to honor him is to go to New York and make it big. That was Bob's dream, to play for the Monarchs. You have to take his place. He would want you to."
"Gus, are you sure," I ask. "You say the word and I'm not going. That's it."
"No, you go, son," answered Gus. "That is the right thing to do. Mary will understand."
Gus rose from the chair and began cleaning up. He turned back to me.
"Now, get a move on." said Gus emphatically. "You've got some news to tell Gloria, boy. I'll see you at home later."
I finished getting dressed and packing my things, leaving the bags in front of the locker. I pulled the tape off the top of the locker that had my name on it. I wadded it up and threw it in the waste can as I left the room.
I went out to my car, unlocked it and just sat behind the wheel for a moment. I started it up and pulled out of the parking lot, turning toward the diner. I hoped Gloria was not going to be a problem. This was one heck of a day I thought. I was glad it was almost over.