The Ball Game,
a story in 7 parts
The first time Jimmy Login saw his father was at a stick ball game on a Brooklyn street. His father died when Jimmy was only 3. Jimmy doesn't remember him and only knows him from a photograph his mother has of a handsome, smiling man with glasses His mother said Jimmy's father was a physicist who was working on a top secret project when he died.
Billy Ferguson threw the ball with great force and it hit the step with a loud wallop. Jimmy held the stick firmly ready to hit the ball if he could. At that moment he heard a man's voice call his name: "Jimmy." He looked up and just for a flash saw his father's smiling face, just like in the picture. Then he saw the ball coming toward him gradually and gracefully, like a bubble on the wind, as if the whole game was suddenly in slow motion.
When it was right in front of him he swung the stick and hit the ball squarely on. It flew up, bounced off the side of the building, went tumb;ing down the street and rolled under a parked car.
"Wow" someone said.
That was the first time Jimmy saw his father. But not the last.
The Ball Game
A story in 7 parts
A few years later Jimmy started going to Allen Thompson High School in Brooklyn. In his sophomore year he decided to try out for the Thompson High baseball team.
The coach told the boys that were trying out that they had to catch one fly out of three tries, one ground ball out of three and hit the ball once out of three pitches.
Jimmy had no trouble catching the grounders. He finally caught the third fly ball. But when he stepped up to the plate he missed the first two pitches. His heart sank because he could tell he just wasn't good enough as a batter. The third pitch flew past him so fast he could feel the wind.
The coach said "Sorry Jimmy, You just can't hit. Maybe next year." He reached of the bat.
"Jimmy" a voice said. He saw the face of his father smiling at him just above and behind the coach. He said "Give me on more try"
"No, you've had your chance, give me the bat."
"Please, just one more."
"Okay, but just one."
The pitch came fast out of the coaches hand and floated gently and gracefully toward Jimmy, like a bubble in the breeze. When it was right in front of him he gave a mighty swing and knocked the ball into the outfield.
The coach turned and watch the ball flying through the air. None of the other boys had hit it so far.
"Okay" he said "you're on the team."
For the next three years Jimmy played for the Thompson High Tigers. He was very conscientious. He went out for practice every day. The coach started the team off with a run around the track. Jimmy increased his speed. He practiced catching, both grounders and fly balls, his throwing, fast and accurate, and of course his batting. By his senior year he was a good player. Not the best on the team, but very good.
The Tigers reached the finals and were in line to win the championship if they could beat Mechanics High from the Bronx. Mechanics was a tough team but they were evenly matched when they reached the final series.
When they were in the final game, played on The Tigers home stadium, it was the bottom of the ninth inning, the score was tied 4 all, there was one out and one man on third. Jimmy didn't know there were scouts in the stands looking for some baseball talent when he stepped up to the plate.
H e was worried. He hadn't hit off the other team's fierce pitcher all day. He could strike out as usual and there was still another Tiger batter up next, a good one, one of the best. But the situation was very tense.
The pitcher sent two balls flying at great speed, both in the strike zone. Jimmy swung hard at both of them but missed them. Two strikes. Jimmy stepped out of the batters box for a moment.
"Jimmy." He heard that familiar voice calling him and looked up to see his father's face just to the right of the pitcher. Jimmy stepped back to the plate and signaled that he was ready.
The pitcher wound up and threw. Jimmy saw the ball coming slowly toward him, gently and gracefully like a bubble on the breeze. It came to him about shoulder high. When it was right in front of him he grabbed both ends of the bat and gave it a push. The ball bounced quickly along the infield between the pitcher and first base. The pitcher made a lunge for it but missed it. Meanwhile Jimmy tossed the bat aside and headed for first base. He never made it there and he wasn't tagged out. The runner on third crossed home plate with the winning run and the ball game was over.
Jimmy thought that after graduating from high school he would take a year off, find a job, make a little money and then try to enter City College, or maybe Brooklyn College, to study to become a scientist like his father. So he was very surprised when he got a phone call from the head office of the Brooklyn Hawks.
When he went to the appointment he met with a man who explained that they had been watching Jimmy for the past year and thought he would make a good ball player for the team. If he agreed he would be sent to the White Plains Aces, the Hawks farm team, for a few years and if it worked out he could move up to the majors. Jimmy never thought any one would pay him to play baseball. His Mom told him he should do what's in his heart.
When he went in to sign the contract he still wasn't sure. The man he had talked to before said that he would step out of the room for a few minutes and leave Jimmy alone to think about it.
Jimmy read the contract over carefully and sat staring at it. "Jimmy" a voice said. He looked up and sitting across the table from him was a man in a lab coat, glasses and a big warm smile. "Dad, what should I do?"
The man didn't speak, but just then a pen came floating out of a cup on the table, gently moved over to in front of Jimmy and hung there in mid air. He took it and singed the contract. When he looked up the man in the lab coat was gone.
The Ball Game
a story in 7 parts
So Jimmy went off to play for the White Plains Aces for a few years. While there he improved his fielding skills and, of course, his batting. He became a valuable player.
Then one day the Brooklyn Hawks traded their short stop for a pitcher, moved the third base player into short stop and brought up Jimmy to cover third. He was so proud when he put on the Brooklyn Hawks uniform that he immediately had a picture taken so he could show his mother.
Jimmy did well at the plate, occasionally hitting a homer. And he did well fielding ground balls and catching infield flies.
A few years went by and he didn't see his father. Then one day during a tense game with the Wheeling Jets an amazing incident occurred. It was the fifth inning there were no outs. There was a man on first and one on third. There was a one and one count on the batter. At the next pitch the bat connected with a loud smack.
"Jimmy" he heard the voice and looked over to his right. His father was standing next to the third base coach. Then he looked at the ball and saw it gently, gracefully floating toward him like a bubble on the breeze. It was a sure hit, about to land short of the outfield, just past him. He stepped over and when it was right in front of him he grabbed it putting out the batter, flung it straight into the catcher's mitt putting out the runner from third and then stepped onto the third base bag, received the ball back from the catcher and tagged out the runner who had rounded second and was heading straight for him. A triple play.
Next day in the paper there was a picture of him and the catcher. They were called the heroes of the day. But Jimmy's heroics didn't end on the ball field.
So Jimmy played for the Brooklyn Hawks for several years. He was a dependable third baseman, his hitting was improving and so was his RBI average.
When the Hawks were playing home games Jimmy stayed with his mother. It was a simple subway ride away. His mom liked to hear all about the games and the other players.
One evening after the game he was standing on the subway platform waiting for the train. Suddenly he heard his name called "Jimmy." He looked down and say a man in a white lab coat and glasses, pointing and not smiling. He looked where the man was pointing and saw a baby carriage that had rolled to the edge of the platform and tumbled over onto the tracks. Jimmy heard the sound of the approaching train growing louder. He jumped down onto the tracks and saw the headlight of the train entering the station. He was it coming toward him gradually and gracefully like a huge, bright bubble on the breeze. He grabbed the carriage with a crying baby in it and hoisted up onto the platform into the hands of a panicked mother. The he threw one leg up onto the platform, then the other one and rolled out of the way just as the train came racing and screeching into the station.
The next day there was his picture on the front page of the Sports section of the New York Times with a story about the event and a headline that read SPORTS STAR BECOMES SUBWAY HERO.
His mother was impressed. His teammates were impressed. So now he was a "sports star." He hoped he would have a chance to prove that.
Jimmy played for the Hawks another few years and then was traded to Denver where he played for a while . Denver traded him to Tucson who traded him to Jacksonville for another few years. He played very well for all those teams, but he was now in a swapping game. When the Jacksonville season was over Jimmy was a free agent. On a hunch he called the front office of the Brooklyn Hawks and was delighted when they offered him a contract to come back. When he once again put on the Hawks uniform he never played so well.
The years wet by. Brooklyn won some and lost some. Jimmy was getting older, he just passed his 40th birthday and he was quite wealthy now. He bought a real house for his mother in a quiet neighborhood. At first she didn't want to move out of her apartment, but he fixed it up nice and hired some servants to take care of things, so she moved in.
Jimmy was thinking of retiring from baseball and taking some adult education courses, maybe getting the college degree he never got. Then he thought he might go into science as his father had done.
Speaking of his father, Jimmy hadn't seen or heard from the nice man in the lab coat and glasses for many years. Sometimes, when he was in a tight situation he would ask "Dad. What should I do?" But he didn't get an answer and had to cope with things on his own.
Then one year the Brooklyn Hawks came out on top of the league and entered the World Series against the Savannah Cougars. The series opened in Brooklyn where the two teams split a game a piece. in Savannah they also split one apiece, the Hawks barely winning the second game which went into extra innings. Back in Brooklyn the Hawks won the first game. It was now three games to two in favor of the Brooklyn.
When they battered up for the sixth game Jimmy was very concerned. They needed to win this game or it would be back to Savannah where anything could happen.
When they got to the top of the ninth inning the score was Savannah 4, Brooklyn 2. The Cougars got two hits, putting two men on base. Then a relief pitcher came in and held Savannah to two fly balls easily caought and one strike out, retiring the side with no runs.
Savannah also brought in a strong relief pitcher at the bottom of the ninth. The first Brooklyn hitter reached first base on a ground ball. The second batter struck out. On a pitch to the next Brooklyn batter the Savannah catcher bobbled the ball and the runner on first stole to second base. The next batter hit a clean short fly ball into the outfield which dropped in front of the outfielder, sending the runner to third base and giving the batter a hit.
There was a man on first, one on third, the score was 4 to 2 Savannah and one out when Jimmy stepped up to the plate. Eventually the count on Jimmy was three balls and one strike. The pitcher was waving of signals from the catcher while Jimmy swung the bat back and forth.
All of a sudden he heard the familiar voice "Jimmy." He looked around for the man in the lab coat and glasses but could see him nowhere. Just then the pitcher wound up and threw the ball. Jimmy watched it come directly toward him, slowly, gently, gracefully, like a bubble on the breeze. But it was too high and too far inside, well out of the strike zone. Jimmy thought if he let it go past him he would walk to first base, then the bases would be loaded for the Hawks best hitter and there would still be only one out. He let the ball float gradually to him and as it did he saw it dip toward the plate. When it reached him it was waist high and the catcher was already reaching for it. He stepped back out of its way and drove his bat into it with a mighty swing. He saw the ball warp slightly as it connected with the bat. Then it took off and flew at great speed into center field. The fielder backed way up the catch it but it flew past him into the bleachers.
There was an enormous roar from the crowd, The Brooklyn bull pen emptied out onto the field. The runner from third came in. The runner from first quickly rounded second and third and he came in for the tying run.
Jimmy tossed his bat aside and trotted around from base to base. Rounding third base he had a big warm smile on his face, because he was the winining run, because the Brooklyn Hawks had just won the World Series, because there was a mob of his teammates ready to pounce on him with hugs and hand shakes as soon as he crossed home plate and because he knew that his father still loved him.