CURVE BALL

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Chapter Eleven

Jack slouched at the end of the dugout. The whole team seemed to know what had happened in the manager’s office. He was now bad karma and no one would sit near him. To pass the time he flipped a ball in the air to catch. After awhile he glanced down the bench during the Twins home half of the first. He didn’t want to be obvious. He tried to think who had set him up. Three of them wanted to pitch this game. Two of them were with him at the bar but the guy who got the start wasn’t.

Koufax made fast work of the Twins in their inning at bat. The team took the field for the top of the second. Jim Kaat was on his game too, and the Dodgers were out in no time.

Jack popped gum in his mouth and took another look. Anyone could have been in on it. The back-up catcher never liked him. There were probably others. Shit, he always felt, he wasn’t part of the team even when they celebrated his victories. He studied his glove. He thought of his parents. They were tough people. Brusque, sometimes ill mannered, they had no time for rules. If something couldn’t be done one way they would try another. They were foreigners --- survivors of the Holocaust. They thought of themselves as “Greeners” in Yinglish (which was what they called Yiddish mixed with English).

Hell. He was born in a DP (displaced persons camp), Feldafing near Munich. Once they moved to America he was the kid on the block whose mother yelled for him with a strange accent. Her voice could penetrate a stadium of yelling fans. “Yankella come home.” Being teased by the other kids on the block was a part of life.

His attention snapped back to the playing field. He leaned forward. Kaat delivered the first pitch to Lou Johnson for a strike. The second was a ball. “Don’t throw a heater,” he said to himself. He saw Kaat wind and deliver. Shit, a fastball on the inside of the plate. The sound of the bat striking the ball told him trouble was coming. He tracked the line drive all the way into the outfield seats. Not a good way to start the fourth inning. Dodgers led 1 to 0. He shoveled more gum in his mouth.

The next batter was Ron Fairly who blasted Kaat’s first pitch for a double to right. Jack stood. He spotted Al Worthington warming in the bullpen. Kaat was going to have a short afternoon. He took two or three steps toward the pitching coach. The son-of-a-bitch spat out a stream of tobacco juice and turned toward Sam. Jack went back to his seat and pounded his fist into his glove. Wes Parker was next at bat. Kaat’s pitch didn’t fool him. He hit a single and another run scored. Sam sprinted to the mound and brought in Worthington.

The rest of the game passed quickly despite two more pitching changes. Jack tried to ask God for a miracle, but He was too busy to listen. Two hours and twenty-seven minutes was all it took for Koufax to pitch a nine inning shutout. Too bad he didn’t have another Jewish holiday to observe.

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