Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Baseball Short

I wrote this short piece a couple of years ago. I've made some minor edits to make it flow better, and I hope you enjoy it. (It's fiction, btw. I don't have class for another week yet...)

A Baseball Short

It’s his first baseball game.

The boy isn’t any older than eight or nine; he’s missing school for this, seeing the Cubs play the Cardinals on Opening Day at Wrigley. His oldest brother, the one he never sees because he's off at that fancy Northwestern school, is also skipping class to take him to this game. They’ve both been looking forward to it since December, when his brother made enough working over Christmas to pay for two tickets along the first base line. His parents had chipped in, of course, but his brother wouldn’t admit it.

It’s his first baseball game.

It’s the day after his eighty-first birthday, and it’s the first time he’s ever gone to a baseball game. He’s by himself; his wife died three years ago, and she hated baseball. It’s the earliest he’s ever come up from Florida since he retired, but he wouldn’t miss this for the world. Finally, at last, he can see his beloved Cubs, and he’s got a seat right by the first base line, next to a college kid and his younger brother. They’ve got a pitcher, he read in the paper, that will one day rival the likes of Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax, and he’s pitching today.

What a kid.

It’s scoreless, in the third inning.

The weather is gorgeous, especially for April. The wind is blowing out of Wrigley, perfect for home runs. The Cracker Jack man walking up and down the aisle makes the boy want to burst out singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’, but his brother tells him to wait, at least until later in the game.

It’s scoreless, in the third inning.

He is watching the young pitcher come up to bat. He expects a strike-out, pitchers are notorious for being horrible hitters. The Cardinals’ pitcher shakes off a few signs before agreeing on a blow-it-right-by-him fastball. He winds up, he sets, he deals…

The batter swings, meeting the pitch head on, but a moment too late. The ball flies down the first base line, reaching the boy and his brother so fast that the boy can’t react. His brother scrambles with the old man sitting next to him, throwing a cheap elbow to the gut, the kind hockey players throw when they want to start a fight, and grabs the ball. He hands it to the boy, who can’t believe his luck.

For the next two innings, while the Cubs nurse a one run, and then a two run lead, the man watches the little boy with the foul ball. He can’t help feeling happy for the kid, it’s probably his first baseball game as well. He just wishes that the college kid (what was he, his brother? His cousin?) wouldn’t have elbowed him so hard in the gut. Old bodies break easy.

What a game.

In the top of the sixth, the boy’s brother gets up to get a hot dog and a beer from the vendor, and tells him not to go anywhere. The boy, impressed by his luck so far, moves to his brother’s seat next to the old man, for a better view. He looks at the old man, and utterly forgets the cardinal rule about not talking to strangers.

“Ever seen a home run?”

He isn’t expecting the question, but he’s willing to answer.


“Never? Not even on TV?”

“I’ve seen them on TV, but I’ve never been to a baseball game before.”

“Oh. Well, do you like it?”

“We’re winning, aren’t we?” The man says nothing about the foul ball, it’s not the boy’s fault his brother elbowed him. He almost doesn’t notice when the boy tosses him the ball, with no warning. “Are you sure?”

“It’s just a foul ball,” the boy says, “My brother says we'll sit in the bleachers next time and I can catch a home run.”

What a kid.

It’s not until the bottom of the eighth that the boy’s brother realizes the foul ball is gone.

“Hey, where’d the ball go?”

“Oh, I gave it to that man,” the boy says, pointing to the old man. “It’s his first baseball game, too.”

The boy's brother says nothing.

Top of the ninth, and the Cubs’ closer is on the mound. Strike one, strike two, strike three. One out. Grounder to third, flip to first. Two outs. The Cardinals’ pitcher at bat. Strike one, Strike two…and then, a swing, like in the third, a foul ball coming fast towards the first base line…

What a game.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this story. It compares well with your other fictional works. You have a great gift to paint a scene and cut to the vivid ties that bind. Very impressive.