If you saw his picture after that, you saw the smile;
Not of a man basking in the joy of over a decade in The Show,
No well-earned satisfaction of having reached the top of his ten-inch mountain.
Rather, it was the wan residue of resignation,
The embodiment of the realization
That there was always something else out there just a half-step out of reach,
That vague intuition that the arbiter’s shoulders may twitch,
But he would never raise his right hand
And ring up that final, all-important third strike.
It was warm and moist in Milwaukee that night,
A harbinger of the real summer just around the corner,
But in Montmorenci Falls, it was as if it had arrived full-blown and quite angry
Thunder walking about and grumbling until well past midnight,
As if Rip Van Winkle had not heard the shouts of “last call”
And, as such, failed to call it an evening.
My mother stayed glued to our huge boxy old radio set,
From the first pitch until the bitter, incomprehensible end,
Nervously ironing every piece of linen and pair of underwear we owned
(A feat requiring no small measure of courage,
Given the uncertainties of the wiring and fuses in our rented home.)
The end came swiftly, unbelievably;
Tiger Hoak’s bobble, Adcock’s blast,
Aaron and Mantilla playing Stan-and-Ollie on the basepaths.
She would live through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the death of JFK,
A man on the moon, a president stepping down in shame and disgrace;
All these, in time, becoming trivial things in her cosmology,
Bits of agate type, tiny images on a flat and lifeless screen,
But to this very day, she can re-create in the most minute detail
How the lightning danced around the house the entire evening
Like so many animated skeletons in the cartoons
They showed between features at the old Rialto Theater,
And how the voice of Bob Prince, then at the full height of his powers,
Crescendoed and then fell silent like an orchestra’s tune-up
As Dick Stuart’s long fly in the tenth fell just short of the wall,
Disappointed and Icarus-like, into Bill Bruton’s waiting glove.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Posted–though probably only tangenitally related to– this Toad challenge . For those not steeped in the history of the Great American Game, Harvey Haddix, on May 26, 1959, faced thirty-six Milwaukee Braves hitters without any reaching base–something not done before, since, and most likely never again in the game’s history–and ended up as the losing pitcher. There is probably a moral in there somewhere–and I never, ever want to know what it might be.)