Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Baseball Tale

Badanov is featuring a baseball story, and the content reminded me of a day some 41 years ago...

We were playing the second game of our Little League Doubleheader. Bottom of the 9th, runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. We were winning 4-3.

The guy on second had driven a fat pitch right up the middle and our tiring pitcher had walked the next. Our Manager calls time as he trots to the mound, and signals me in from Centerfield. He's got our flamethrowing lefthander warming up but the kid isn't ready, so he takes the ball from the Pitcher and hands it to me.

"Give him his first shave." He tells me, "Take your time winding up then hit the silly little bastard. I'll come out to talk to you, and by then Sammy will be ready so he'll strike the next kid out. Got that?"

I had a decent enough arm to play the outfield but all I could throw was fastballs from the mound, and since I'd played the first game my legs were shot anyway, so replacing me with a fresh outfielder was a good idea. Sammy could throw his hard stuff to one or two batters before he ran out of gas, and almost always struck the first guy out so loading the bases wasn't a big deal. I'd never been told to hit someone, and I knew it was part of the game so I figured what the heck, I'll toss one in on his hip or catch him in the butt as he tries to get away from the pitch.

Then the opposing manager threw ME the curve. He calls back the kid who's stepping into the batters box and sends up my brother Joe.

All through Little League Joe was behind me, but catching up quick and lately was getting some good wood on the ball. And he's my brother for chrissake so how can I hit him on purpose, but a walk is as good as a plink on the can, so I tell myself just nibble outside and he'll see what's going on and take his base.

Then he turns to the Ump with an outstretched hand to signal timeout...and...and...

Starts to dig in.

I'm pitching and he's digging in. Not even looking at me, he's standing there kicking his spikes into the dirt and making a hole from which to swing from.

Around MY plate he's doing this. Showing me up. Digging in. Our father is in the stands, and for the first time all day is suddenly quiet. I look over to find him and he looks back at me and starts nodding. Yes. Yes. I tell myself that he knows what's going on in my head and is letting me know it's okay, just do your best, forget he's your brother. You're the pitcher and he's trying to make you look bad so...


By now the Ump has tired of Joe determining precisely WHERE China truly is, and shouts "Play Ball!" so it's up to us to decide this pitch, this game, this day. I turn my body and bend over just a little to see the signals from the catcher. The catcher knows what's coming, or thought he did until Joe stepped in and is looking back at the Manager to see if the sign had been changed.

It wasn't. He flashes an index finger, then two fingers, then the thumbs up.

Deck the bum. Play him some chin music. Put one in his kitchen. Show him what a close shave really is. Time to play some bean-ball.

Joe finally looks at me, straight at me, and he's squinting. His hands are working the bat and he's jiggling it in the way he did to try and time the pitcher from motion to throw. Runners are on 1st and 2nd so I'm not supposed to go into a full windup because it'd give them a better jump off the bases, and as I DO begin my full windup the last thing I see besides my intended target are his eyes opening wide.People are standing now and urging me on. Bottom of the 9th, runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs.

We won.

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