Jack remained in the dugout long after the loss of the first game of the World Series. It was late in the afternoon and the field no longer looked inviting. He had gotten his chance to pitch. All those years dreaming of the moment and he walked the only two batters he faced. He was taken out after that. He threw a total of ten pitches. Ten lousy pitches and only two were strikes. Maybe he didn’t have it. It had been six years since he had pitched in the Majors---a lifetime. The coach told him not to worry. “You’ll get them tomorrow,” Tommy just patted him on the shoulder and trudged toward the tunnel.
Jack lit a cigarette and watched the sun dip below the buildings. After several drags, he threw his smoke to the ground. He got up from the bench and gathered his gear.
“Excuse me, can I have a word with you?”
Jack looked behind him and saw a man in a light raincoat, with a pad of paper. He was tall, 40ish, with blond hair and glasses.
“Not in the mood,” Jack said, “besides who are you?”
“Sorry, most of the players know me as Fred. I’m a sportswriter for the LA Times under the byline Diamond News.”
“Nice to meet you, but I’ve got nothing to say.”
“Hold on Jack, I think yours is one-hell–of–a story. You’re a man of mystery and I think readers want to know what happened. I heard you did Americans proud in the land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese called you, maitiamu….mighty arm.
“Yeah, that’s right, but their baseball is a little different.”
He was about to answer, but then shook his head.
“Come on let me buy you a drink or dinner. I don’t bite.”
Jack looked him over. “Nah, really it’s okay. Today isn’t a good day. I stunk up the place.”
“That’s why you shouldn’t go back to the hotel and dwell on it. New York is a great town and I know just the place. You like Italian?”
Jack’s face must have brightened. “Sure, who doesn’t?”
“Then Patsy’s is where you’ll want to go. Hell, you may see Tommy with his man Frank chowing down on pasta.”
“You don’t know? Sinatra. He eats there all the time. Lasorda and him are lansmen, capish.”
Jack knew he was smiling. “Lansman? I haven’t heard that in a long time.”
“Compadres,” Fred threw out, “if that sounds better.”
“No, no, I like what you said the first time.”
“I’ll wait for you outside the players entrance. Don’t take a year to shower and change. I’m hungry.”
“Not a problem, I didn’t do a whole hell of lot of sweating out there today.”
Jack went back into the near empty clubhouse---only the trainer he knew, as Joe and Sam the equipment manager were playing cards.
“About time you showed up,” Sam said.
“Why? Were you waiting for me?”
“Well if you want that uniform ready for tomorrow.”
Jack looked down at his shirt. “Oh, I’m sorry. Really.”
He stripped down, showered, and changed into his street clothes in about ten minutes. He dumped his uniform in the laundry basket. The two men were still playing cards as he walked passed.
“Hey man I’m sorry I made you wait. It won’t happen again,” he said.
Sam motioned with his hands to forget about it. “You gave me a chance to take Joe’s money. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Joe grunted and stubbed out his cigar.
“Well goodnight,” Jack said.
“Yeah have a nice evening. Oh, I almost forgot.” Sam reached into his pocket. “Some guy gave me this,” and handed an envelope to him.
Jack took it and headed toward the exit. He opened the letter near the door and took out a piece of notebook paper that was folded in quarters. He unfolded it. “Good work, kid. Just keep do’in de same tomorrah,” was written in black letters.