CURVE BALL

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Chapter Forty-Four

The Los Angeles Times ran a small story buried on the third page of the sports section. The headline read, “Jack Rakow Returns to the Majors.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers called up veteran pitcher Jack Rakow

on the eve of their showdown with the hated N.Y. Yankees.

According to Dodger skipper Tommy LaSorda, you can never

have enough good pitching. Asked whether Rakow will be used

as a starter or in relief, Tommy gave one of his famous shrugs.

“We’ll see how it plays out.”

The first game of the 1981 World Series would be held in the house Ruth built, Yankee Stadium, home of the Bronx Bombers, New York Yankees. The Dodger team bus pulled up to the gate in the early morning of October 20th. Jack with his baseball gear slung over his shoulder followed his teammates. He saw a group of reporters huddled by the player’s entrance. The stars of the team, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell walked passed. They were greeted by the scribes with ’how ya do’n, and ’what a morning,” As Jack got to the entrance the press surrounded him and yelled a barrage of questions.

“Why’d did ya go to Japan, Jack? What happened in 1975 with Boston? Are you going to run out on your team again?”

Jack smiled and tried to move through the crowd.

“Come on Rakow give us something,” a reporter yelled.

“Japan was a great experience,” Jack said, “baseball is seen through a different light.”

“That’s great,” another reporter with a black derby said. He stepped close to Jack, “but it explains nothing. What happened to your father?”

The shouting of questions stopped. Everyone seemed to wait for his answer. He stared at the son-of-a-bitch, and had an urge to punch him. Instead, he took a breath and looked directly at the bastard. “My father…”

“Come on boys, give Jack a little room. He just got here and my God it’s the first game of the World Series,” the Dodger spokesperson whose nametag read Danny McHugh, made a path through the reporters for Jack to follow.

“You owe us, Danny,” the black derby yelled as both Jack and the spokesperson retreated into the Dodger locker room.

A skinny elderly man who was in charge of equipment led Jack to his locker and gave him a uniform.

“Thanks,” Jack said, and held it out in front of him. “Dodger blue.”

“That’s right. I’ve handed hundreds of them to guys like you. Good-luck.”

Jack watched him go. He stared at the uniform for a few seconds then hung it up.

His manager stopped by and slapped him on the back.

“Glad to have you aboard,” he said. “This is a great bunch of fellas and we’re all here to do one thing--- we’re going to beat those New York sons-of-bitches. After you get settle and change the pitching coach wants to see you.”

“Sure thing, Mr. LaSaorda.”

“It’s Tommy, kid. My dad is Mr. LaSorda.

Jack searched LaSorda’s face to see if he meant something more. The manager only smiled.

“Okay, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

He reached for his uniform shirt with the number 54. He remembered Don Drysdale, a Dodger legend and sure bet to be in the Hall of Fame had worn 53. He was in good company. Finally, fortune smiled on him. It had been a long journey after that Chicago night in 1975. He had panicked and left everything, his team, his career, and his father. No major league ball club would touch him after he walked out on Boston. He was the subject of dozens of newspaper articles and editorials wondering what made him do such a strange thing. In Boston, particularly after they lost the World Series, the media simplified the issue. He was worse than Al Capone, and as evil as James Whitey Bolger. He was the example of everything bad about baseball: selfish, greedy, and uncaring. None of it was true, he thought to himself. For all of the thousands of words written and spoken never came close to unearth the reasons he left. He guarded those secrets. Six years was enough time for that crazy son-of-a-bitch Castelini to be long gone and forgotten.

His Dodger uniform looked good. He bent over to lace his spikes when he felt someone nudge him. Jack looked up and saw a man in a brown suit with a newspaper in his hands.

“How ya do’in kid? The man spoke out of the side of his mouth.

Jack straightened. “Do I know you?”

“You should but then maybe your memory ain’t too good. My memory is real good. I even remember what I had for yesterday’s breakfast.”

“Sorry, you don’t look familiar.”

“No, not me. My associate.”

“How’d did you get in here?” He motioned with his arm.

The man smiled. “I’m part of de 4th or maybe de 5th estate. Don’t remember. A press pass works wonders.” He put his paper close to his face. “We’ll be watch’n kid. You cost us plenty.

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