“You going to throw the damn ball or keep it as a trophy, Jew boy?” a freckle- face batter named Billy shouted.
Jack Rakow a 20- year old rookie, was on the mound for the Minnesota Twins.
“I’ll throw it when I’m good and ready. You ain’t going to hit it anyway,” Jack said.
The umpire called time and took four steps toward the mound. “Son, we have to keep the game going. Throw the fucking ball.” He put his mask back on and leaned over the squatting catcher. “Play ball.”
Jack stared at the target and the signals the catcher gave--- one finger for a fastball, two, a curve, three, slider, four, five. He had no idea what 4 and 5 were. He only had two pitches, a fastball and curve. The catcher flashed his hand again. What the hell? He wound up and threw his curve. Billy swung wildly and missed. So did the catcher. The umpire wasn’t as lucky.
The man behind the plate tore off his mask and hopped around the batter’s box. A chorus of boos rose from the crowd. “Shit, what’s wrong with you?” the ump yelled.
Jack wasn’t sure if the question was directed at him or his catcher. Just in case, he shrugged and went back to the mound. His catcher joined him, “They told me you’re a bit nuts, but now you’re pissing off the ump. That’s no good.”
Jack moved his glove hand to his hip.
“Stop blowing off my signals.”
“I will until you get it right. I only throw two pitches,” Jack said.
The catcher covered his mouth with his glove. “Fuck it. Throw whatever the hell you want.”
The catcher had no idea how crazy he was, and the miracle it took for him to be there. Jack along with his parents had survived the charred remains of his father’s native Poland. The frustrated catcher and loud-mouth batter were nothing.
Jack stood on the mound and drew a breath. He wound up by pivoting on his right leg and extended his right arm behind his shoulder. His left leg was high off the ground as he whipped his arm and body toward the plate. The ball exploded out of his hand. Billy swung. Jack heard a crack. The ball went to first and pieces of the bat flew to third. Jack raced to cover the bag. Billy was called out. He had taken only four steps. He stared at Jack for a moment and then trotted back to his dugout. Jack stood on the mound and rubbed the ball. He’d seen that look a thousand times.
Jack looked around the field. The grass was manicured. The dirt groomed. Fans had come to watch him pitch. He pawed at the ground in front of the rubber. Talk around baseball was his pitches came in so fast the red seams looked like they were on fire. Well, if that’s what hitters thought the better for him. He grinned into his glove and gave the sports buffs what they came to see.