21 o o o 21
One week left in September and they were two games ahead of the Yankees. In the National League, the Phillies dominated, the more so now that they could count on Voodo Warhead in their ranks. The latter, they used almost everyday. What they were doing was take the lead early in the game which they managed easily with all the heavy hitters they had and then, come the fifth inning, they would send Voodo to the mount, the Warhead who finished it all up in his usual fashion, that is by striking out the opposition. Voodo was a chimera. A demon out of one's worst nightmare. He raised up dread, horror and panic into the entire NL, players, managers and owners but had not yet such effect on the same in the American League (AL).
Now ten millions people around the world demanded to see Manuel at bat for the Rays. The pressure on Joe's shoulders had become intolerable. Since a day or two, a Mexican clergyman had become a media celebrity just for making a case that Manuel GARCIA not playing in the AL was race related. What, Joe fumed, it was complete nonsense just to think this, let alone talking it out loud like shouting such silliness everywhere on the tube that would have him and there were plenty who did. After all, more than two thirds of the players that made out the Rays alignment were Black American or South American, Mexican or Cuban of Spanish origin.
The Tampa Tribune had decided to honour the ten millionth visitor with a one hundred thousand dollars prize and a trip to Tampa all expenses paid to attend all the games of the end of season series including the World Series if Tampa should qualify. It came out that the happy winner was a European French "used car dealer" that didn't knew much about baseball and asked, when he visited the Tropicana Field for the first time, where were the goals. Luckily, he had asked in French and the interpreter didn't care to translate.
About that time, Joe decided to ask Arthur, his lawyer, to check Manuel story by calling The Santa Maria Police Department and learn what he could and most of all, anything that would corroborate Manuel's tale. But when he called his lawyer's office, he learned that Arthur was away, on the east coast, involved in a case before some New York State jurisdiction with local members of the Bar who were working under his supervision since his office had the plaintiff as a client. He wasn't expected back before the middle of October.
So much for substantiation.
He saw this setback as a sign. No way he would put the kid on the plate. What had he been thinking, anyway?
22 o o o 22
The Rays played the last game of their regular calendar against the Yankees and at stake was the East Division championship and automatic qualification into the end of season 2008 series. It was a most important game since the Texas Rangers were second in the West Division and would beat the Rays for second best by one win if they lost tonight's match. Joe's team had slowed the tempo a bit, lately, while both Yankees and Rangers had multiplied victories in the very last week or so, proving that they were right on the money, outdoing themselves when that counted, earning their manager and organisation the ultimate praise, glory and honour.
And what? Everybody in town who had a bit of base ball in mind, and there was a lot of those, had a field day about why and how come Joe had let slip his prevalence over the competition, not that it had ever been so big a domination but why, some fans who were not so articulate in their arguments went up to last year statistics of Tampa Bay's July 2007 12 games lead over Chicago to strengthen their glooming reasoning, which was the Devil Rays now very conceivable present decline into trifle and fast coming obliteration.
Around Joe, things looked frantic enough. Everybody was maintaining an air of artificial joviality and relayed instructions with so cheerful affectedness that one would have thought to be living one's last hours on earth while waiting for a giant comet to crash on the Planet. It was so weird that when Joe was asked by some Japanese tourists where the lavatory was in the gigantic Tropicana building, he said: "Sure, no way, the Yanks don't stand a chance". So, that was the general atmosphere. But he knew he would win. He had been there. He would survive this.
Then Franck had called him. Had said to him that same afternoon:
- "I got you that fellow under contract."
The silly business again. Ignoring it wouldn't do. Still, he asked:
- "What are you talking about?"
- "Come on, Joe, you know."
- "Whatever, he grumbled, don't count on me to use him."
- "You sure could use some help, wherever it came from, Joe."
- "You want him to play, Franck, you come yourself into the dugout and you manage the team."
- "You got it all wrong, Joe. I am the owner. I pay you to do what you do. Dearly, if I may say so."
- "Fuck you, Franck."
- "Listen Joe! What is there to lose? We drop that game tonight. What, we are history."
Then, the Rays manager repeated, like a mantra:
- "No way. The Yankees don't stand a chance."
- "I know, I know, but listen to me, Joe, if we trailed them in the ninth and we need to score one or two, you better see what the kid is worth. We understand each other, don't we, Joe?"
- "Do I take this as a vote of no confidence, Franck?" he asked.
- "No, it is not, the other whispered like he was in a church. I have faith in you, Joe."
- "Faith, he repeated. So that's what it's all about, isn't it, Franck?"
- "They say Faith moves mountains," preached the other.
Joe couldn't believe what he was hearing.
- "Are you going pious on me, Franck?" he asked.
- "Have a little respect for the beliefs of others, Joe."
The Rays manager could quite visualise the enormous beam that must have then opened the owner's face from one end to the other. He said:
- "Anyway, it is not your call to make."
- "The Rays better not losing tonight's game without having given the boy a chance, you hear me Joe?"
- "I hear you loud and clear, Franck."
- "So you do it."
And then, the phone went dead.
22 o o o 22
Fate had it that they won that game against the Yankees. Quite easily at that! Their ace pitcher took the lead early in and their heavy hitters did the rest. All the winning done before the end of the fourth inning. 5 - 0 then and the Yanks never recovered. After that triumph, it all went like in fairy tales where nothing can go wrong. They beat the Soxes, white and red, back to back, without hesitation or remorse. They were winning left and right, crushing their opponents in all kinds of ways, all players excelling and making the other team look downcast, wasted and clumsy.
They felt indomitable. They felt like nothing on earth could get at them. They felt great. They felt brave. They felt unique. They felt like winners. All those feelings were good. They were all ecstatic and they were no longer afraid of the Phillies. They were no longer afraid of the Voodo as they had started to call him in Tampa. Who was Voodo Warhead anyway? And what a silly name he had. Warhead! Of that petard, they would take care in time. They would defuse it. You wait and see.
So, that was the state of mind at the start of the World Serie. They were Tuesday, October 20, 2008. They were starting that night. Against Philadephia. At the Tropicana Field. Since the signing of his contract, Manuel had been part of every games, being in the dugout, sitting on the bench with the members of the team, in full uniform like the others, on a par with the greatest of players, being called and allowed to call by their first names, legends of the Sport.
Everybody was very nice to him even if, sometimes, he noticed from their part some circumspection, some holding up, some artificiality into their otherwise apparent cordiality, as if they apprehended, against all reason, that to much of him could get them charmed or bewitched or changed into a frog or what else.
His agent had proved very dexterous in obtaining for him, a few weeks back, a major league contract of one year for two million dollars, that is, what was left of the 2008 season. It meant that, in two weeks, to the most, his obligations and responsibilities toward the team would end and he could keep the money. One million and a half of it since he had had to reimburse five hundred thousand dollars to the Tampa Tribune.
And he was in no doubt that when he would be asked to perform, he would score the required home run and then, the world would be his to seize. He was ready to do his part and anxious to do so. So far, the team had accumulated wins without his services. However, he knew, his time would come. It had to.
23 o o o 23
Arthur was back from New England. The case he had been working on there was postponed to the winter session of the Federal Court of Appeal. And when he had started to explain Joe the intricacies of the jurisdiction and the fine points of the law as they applied to his Corporate Client, five minutes into that meaningless jargon had put Joe into a state. At last, he had interrupted:
- "What is it you are doing, Arthur?"
- "Why, the point is, they misinterpreted Article 178 as they didn't know about Scott c. Willowdale and…"
- "Por favor, Arthur, tell me who the fuck you slept with in fucking Boston for Christ sake, that I can understand and disapprove, by the way since you are married with Isabel and you have three kids. But please, do keep your judicial niceties to your black robe audience, will you?"
Arthur caught the gist of Joe's meaning. After all, he was a lawyer. He was fast on his feet.
- "You are right, Joe. I am sorry. I see all is going great for you, you doing the World Serie and all that…"
- "You got that one right. But…"
- "I got your message. You phoned the office while I was away. You have my cell number and didn't call. So it must not be so big a deal.
- "I called you for a reason, though."
- "What is it?" Arthur then asked him.
And Joe told him about the case in Santa Monica. Arthur had said that he would look into the matter.
24 o o o 24
The first game, The Rays had won easy. 4 - 0. And their ace pitcher, Royal Davies, (20-11) had proven his worth once more, limiting the very frustrate Phillies to four hits. Not a chance for Voodo to show his six feet and three inches Black American frame at the mound.
The second engagement on october 22 was another story. They had still had the better out of the National League champions but it had been a bit more difficult. They had taken the lead again but were never in position to insure themselves a real dominance and early surrender of their opponents. It had gone like this:
1 - 0
1 - 1
3 - 1
3 - 2
3 - 3
4 - 3
And it had stayed that way with horrible suspense in the 9th inning when the Phillies put two men on bases. But then, Joe had used his own ace reliever and if Willie Corrall wasn't as good or spectacular as Voodo Warhead, that night, he had had the job done.
October 24, they were in Philadelphia, Rocky Balboa's country. It was raining, cold and windy. So that was it. The temperature had beaten them up. Real good! Like the team being hit by a tornado. 9 - 0. Suddenly, matters were not looking so great any more. Perhaps their little trip to prominence, fame and everlastingness was not to be the walk in the park their past invincibility had made them to believe. But Joe knew better. Sure he was disappointed. But not surprised and certainly not losing spirit over the fiasco. This was bound to happen. The sooner the better. They couldn't win them all. Not against a team the calibre of the Phillies. Who had a great organisation, great players and Voodo. The Warhead that hadn't been put into its search mode yet but what, that would come soon enough. And they would be ready. He had figured it all out. The only way to neutralise the Warhead was to get ahead and to stay ahead. The minute the Phillies had one point over the Rays, and here would come the Warhead and then, it would be the end of it. One hitter after the other, three strikes at a time and who will be next, and this as long as it takes. So, the Voodo, he shouldn't be allowed to pitch.
If he manages to do just that, they would win this thing.
The fourth game into the World Serie had started well enough for the Rays. However, in the end of the fifth, all hell had broken loose and, in no time, the Phillies got four hits, two stolen bases and three points and were on the lead 3 - 2.
Joe changed his pitcher and so did the Phillies.
Voodo Warhead had been true to his reputation. Twelve strike out in a row on 49 pitches. Joe's hitters either batting at wind or looking at one base ball coming so fast as to become invisible to their incredulous eyes. It finished 5 - 2, that fourth game, since the Rays relief brigade was not as good.
The team had made it back to Tampa quite dejected. While anybody, media or public, that care to emit an opinion had adapted their discourse to circumstances present, they now saw the flaws in their previous reasoning. Saying in quite unanimous fashion the exact opposite of all their previous learned conjectures and claims.
The experts that one could look at on T.V. or listen to on radio were no exception. Nobody seemed to worry too much about defining what an expert was, anyway. The common wisdom being that an expert was someone who emits an opinion that duplicated one's own and a very great expert, the one who shared the multitude's beliefs. As a matter of personal policy, Joe stayed well away from the so called expert, those commentators that prattled their way into dubious celebrity at the price of professional sport efforts, sweat and anguishes.
Franck had called him in the afternoon before the game.
- "Still feel up to it, Joe?"
- "What do you think, Franck?
He was looking at his tonight line up and found it missing. He had used all his best start up pitchers and would have to make do with a young one that had been judged very promising by their scouts the year before and had given them 9 wins this year against 8 losses. The recruit had a good fast ball and a pretty impressive curve too, when he was in a good day.
- "We lost the last two, didn't we?"
Franck could be a real pain in the ass, sometimes.
-"You know, he protested, they are the Phillies. Not a bunch of start-up, or bumpkins, those…"
- "What Joe? You are not afraid of that lot, are you?"
- "I kind of resent this, Franck."
- "Sorry if I invade into your zone of sensibility, Joe. The point is, this World Serie, you have to wrap it up for me."
- "I will do what I can. I do not carry a bat, out there, Franck. You do know that, don't you? I am just the manager."
- "Speaking of bat, Joe, there is one I sure would like to see in action."
- "The little prodigy would have made no difference."
- "Whatever. I gave this esoteric fucker two million and the little son of a bitch owe me one grand slam for my money."
- "I will see what I can do, Franck."
- "You better do that, Joe."
Franck's voice grated like an old barn's door. And that was the last he heard of it as the communication went dead. Joe hated that kind of pressure even if, in this job, he had had to learn to live with it. Those pushy owners that thought that money could buy anything, a company, a boat or a championship. Sometimes, he had enough of other people silliness and idiotic criticism.
Joe wasn't ready to let Manuel play. He would either win this thing without him, and then, no one would care to bother about the lad and his magic apparatus. Or lose. If that was to happen, he would be history in Tampa, anyway. Still, he would get out the same as when he got in. Whole, unbroken, his substantial self preserved. He would not convert to mania and faddyness. The world wanted to believe that the kid could do it. Let them. Believing was easy. Doing miracle wasn't.
He knew well enough what all the believers would do after Manuel failed to give them that home run he seemed so sure he was able to procure. They would all look in his direction and he would be the one to go into the Guinness book of records as the most credulous of them all. He would be called in eternity Joe Black, the sucker extraordinaire. No way was he to permit that to happen. And screw Franck Richantall.
25 o o o 25
They say there is an advantage for the home team to play before their supporters. There is a never ending debate between those who affirm this to be true and the others who oppose the tenet as an improvable doctrine. Still, it could make a difference and in tonight's game, the fifth in the confrontation, it most definitely did. The crowd was so loud, vociferous and belligerent that it couldn't have but stamp the fear of God into their opponents.
The Phillies had played badly. They had made three errors. The first in the second inning, the left fielder letting the ball drop after securing it safely in his glove. That had given the Rays two points. Later in the sixth, the short stop had let pass through his legs one slow strolling base ball that the center field was so sure he would catch that he didn't move in time and he had to run after it, which cost him three or four additional seconds, enough for the Rays to score three more points. The Phillies had made it back to a semblance of competition in the eight but it was cut short at 5 - 3. And, it finished that way.
The Rays were resolved to put the matter at rest the next Saturday in Philadelphia. They had built themselves to determination to finish them up, those recalcitrant Phillies, right there in their own turf. That would serve them right. Tonight we crush the bastards. They had been repeating the injunction so much that they awakened reciting the words and ended believing them, all the idiotic process falling under one very convenient human inclination that kind of went like this: "If I have said it, it must be because it is true."
Unfortunately, and mankind will never learn so, Nature doesn't work that way and the sixth encounter had been lost. Voodo again, coming after the Phillies had made it 3 - 2 up in the sixth. The Warhead grinning his way to total devastation of his adversaries' will to fight with his lightning-like pitching arm. What a pity, Joe had thought, this crazy circus moving back home again and the ordeal to be duplicated one more time. He was tired. He was sick of the ceaseless strain.
And he was afraid. He had never won a World Serie. Some manager did and other didn't. He had a good chance to make it into that fraternity so exclusive and still, this Tuesday, November 3, a few hours before the ultimate and final duel, he felt like the prize was so far away as to be almost out of reach.
26 o o o 26
November 3, 2008
They were in the middle of the seventh. The Rays were at bat. In the Tropicana Field stadium, the fans were restive and jumpy. In the beginning of the fourth, something had happened over one of the umpire's decision and a roar of dissatisfaction had deafened the close space they were in, making it oppressive, while in no time, a rain of junk had inundated the playground. Fifteen full minutes had been needed for the assistance, the players in the field and the field itself to get back to normalcy,
Meanwhile, once passed the chaotic display of unrestrained emotion and a few minutes back into the game, there had been a ring from the in-phone communication line that connected both benches with the administration offices and VIP boxes that were way high into the gigantic building ceiling. Sam Kouts, the Chief Umpire took the call and then, shouted into Joe's direction:
-"For you, Joe."
Don Ferguson was at bat. He hit and when Joe put the receiver to his ear, the small and very fast player was already at first.
- "What are you waiting, Joe?"
- "Get out of my way, Franck, will you? You start to get on my nerves real bad. I am the manager of this team, I do make the rule and I will take nor order from fucking nobody. You hear me Franck? So piss of."
- "So Joe, this is the way you want it, is it?"
- "Listen Franck…" Joe continued, a little mollified, though.
He was now interrupted by the thunder of fifty thousand yelling fanatics as Don Ferguson stole to second base. Willie Mack (16-9) was pitching for the Phillies. There was one man out. Tom Gruber .311, was now at bat and had just missed a second time. The count was 2 balls and 2 strikes.
- "I am all hearing," Joe, said Franck when the pandemonium had a bit subsided.
- "What I mean, Franck, is the Phillies are ahead 7 - 4 . Ferguson is at second…"
The base ball arrived fast and Gruber saw it pass right on the plate at his knees height.
Joe let go of a dispirited sigh and carried on:
- "We already have two out. Alvares is next. Why on earth are you pestering me right this minute? Getting a home run this instant will make it 7 - 6. 7 - 6 Franck! We still lose the damned competition."
- "Well, 7 - 6 is better than 7 - 4"
- "This, Franck, is the most inane observation of all time. What is it Franck, your wife left you?"
- "Find a way Joe."
And he was no longer there. Joe put the receiver back on its cradle. Just in time to see Alvares hit a fly that got caught in center field.
27 o o o 27
They did contain the Phillies in the eighth. Willie Mack dispatching them fast and decisively. 1, 2, 3. The first, three strikes and out. The second, a hit that got caught by the short stop and relayed in time at first base. The third, a foul ball that found its way directly into the catcher's glove.
The Phillies came very near in the nine to add up to their, at this time quite considerable advance of three points but relief pitcher Pedro Montalva saved the situation for the Rays, that is if there was anything left to be saved. Then it was their turn at bat. Tampa Bay's last chance to make it to immortality.
And it is when it all happened.
They got one hit. Then another. Men on first and second. Then, a long interruption while the Phillies manager entered into one confabulation with his ace starting pitcher Willie Mack. What, he could get the Voodo now but he owed it to Mack to give him the chance to finish the job he had handled so well up to this moment. From where he was, Joe could see that Mack wanted to stay. Who wouldn't?
Avaredo, the Phillies manager, let him.
And, it looked like it had been the right decision. Because the next two at bat had got stricken out neat and clean. Billy King on three pitches and Elmore Glen on five. And then, Mitch Plante had hit the ball real soft and it looked like the second base would get it but then, the base ball made a strange rebound and got through in center field.
7 - 4. Three men on bases.
The phone in Joe's breast pocket started playing "The star spangled banner". He knotted his brow. Franck again? Not on his cell! The game had stopped and out of his left eye, he saw Willie Mack leaving the mound. Now, he thought, this will get us the Warhead. He answered his cell.
It was Arthur. In the stadium, they were all shouting, in cadence: MANUEL, MANUEL, MANUEL. He couldn't hear a thing. The clamour was deafening.
- "Arthur? Is that you? I don't hear you so good."
- "Joe? You there?"
- "Yup, and as you may know, a little busy right this moment."
- "Say, just one thing. Got a call from the office a few minutes back, about that business of yours in California. Santa Monica. Is that it?"
Voodo was now walking to the mound. He would need five minutes to drill himself to perfect execution. In the mouth of his cell, Joe shouted over the rhythmic wave like outcry of the crowd:
- "Where are you? It is past ten o clock at night here. Where is this office of yours that work at such hour?"
- "Hawaï. I am in Honolulu, countered Arthur. Just finished a round of golf and one lawyer here talked this morning with somebody in our Boston office. Someone who did talk today with a guy named Bill Murray from the Santa Monica Police Department. And that fellow Murray, he confirmed all you told me. He confirmed having received a letter from one Manuel Garcia saying that the bullet that killed his victim had originated from two kilometres off the coast out of a 22 calibre rifle, long range…"
Joe interrupted the lawyer. He needed hear no more. This was a sign. It had to be. Arthur calling now, to tell him about Manuel when there was now three men on bases and they needed four points to bag the World Serie.
He knew now what he would do.
- "Thank you so much, Arthur. This helps. A lot. I will explain. I must leave you now."
He put his cell back in his pocket and approached the part of the bench where Manuel sat. He asked the boy:
- "Do you feel like giving us that grand slam now, son?"
The other was already up on his feet.
- "I kind of worried you would not ask."
- "I don't know. What if this doesn't work."
- "Then, why are you letting me hit?"
Joe showed the crowd with his right arm.
- "You hear them? If I don't, I may not get out of this place alive."
At that, Manuel smiled. There was so much confidence into that grin that it got Joe into a kind of poetic disposition.
- "Don't you worry, chief. I will prove them right. I will have that base ball out of this field in no time."
- "I know you will, son. I know you will," he repeated and why, maybe he was at that moment believing what he was saying. And, as Manuel started moving toward the opening in the dugout that gave access to the field, Joe caught him by the elbow, had him turn around to face him and then, he scribbled something on a piece of paper on his block note, which he detached, folded it in two and put it in the back pocket of Manuel's Devil Rays pants uniform.
- "Let this stay where I put it. You may look at it after you win us that World Serie. Now son, you go there and you hit the Warhead into shame and oblivion."
However, as soon as Manuel showed himself outside the dugout, the Phillies manager ran in the direction of the chief umpire and complained. Sam made a sign to Joe who joined them both. On seeing Manuel, the crowd had gone ballistic.
- "He is not on the players list for tonight," his opponent lamented.
- "What about that?" Kouts had shouted at Joe.
Who then, had attacked his grumbling antagonist:
- "Cut the damned red tape, will you, Avaredo. The public will kill me if I don't play the wonder boy. What Bob, you got this in the bag already. Don't tell me you believe this shit about the kid's magic. What, you scare he will give the Voodo trouble?"
And then, Koots who liked a good show like anybody else, said:
- "Well, the silly kid never played pro baseball in his life. What are you afraid of, Bob?"
Aravedo had looked at both of them, spat on the ground to mark his disapprobation.
- "Shit. Do as you wish. Let's play ball."
And leaving the other two, the Phillies manager had got to the mound where everybody could see that he had a very serious talk with the Voodo.
28 o o o 28
The people in the Tropicana Field were shouting so loud that it looked like a hurricane was hitting the place, without the wind. It was a rumble of the variety that gives gooseflesh. It was intimidating. It was belligerent. It was invasive. It was dreadful and alarming. It was crazy. It was hypnotic. It created dizziness. It was like looking straight into the eyes of insanity.
Joe felt giddy and had to touch the wall to steady himself. He then saw Manuel as he was taking his position at the plate. The boy who was now mimicking the usual preparatory moves of swinging his instrument this way and that way, and looked foolish, doing that, as if it would change anything. Joe mumbled through his teeth:
- "Don't overdo it, kid. Stop the silly display with that bat and show your stuff."
At the mound, the Voodo looked at the scene as would a spider a fly. Joe caught a signal the catcher sent him with his free hand.
So, that was the way Aravedo wanted to play this thing. Joe was not that surprised. Always expect the unexpected, was his motto.
And that is when the most preposterous performance in serious professional sport occurred in front of 50,000 astonished and unbelieving pairs of eyes.
Voodo threw Manuel, one after the other, four balls, all very high and very far from the plate, as if he wouldn't want to risk any chance of Manuel trying to take a swing at them. It was all very fast. And very disappointing. Like a balloon splitting. The moment of instantaneous permutation between object and substance into nullification and nothingness.
Manuel, looking a bit dejected, moved to first base and the player at third jogged along to the plate making the game 7 - 5.
The hitter Joe sent after that was no match for the Voodo. Three pitches and out.
The Phillies won. The Devil Rays lost. The crowd got catatonic. They were like zombies on a Walking Dead movie set. A very sorry spectacle.
29 o o o 29
Joe was alone in the dugout. He was taking his time. Looking around and telling himself that he wouldn't be there long, now. His losing the World Serie to Franck Richantall immense ambition. The hell with it. He would get another job into another organisation somewhere. And what? He was rich enough. Was worth a few million and could live on that easy. He didn't need that much. He was not to worry about his future.
He heard somebody call his name. Was it Barbara? When he saw it was her, his heart constricted. He got up and said:
- "I didn't know you would be there. If I had, I would have got you good seats."
- "I am sorry for you Joe. I still know what this represented for you."
She took something out of her blouse pocket. It was very small. One little blue earring that he recognised instantly. She offered him the object.
- "Look what I found, she said. Couldn't get my hand on the other, though."
She smiled at him. He was twenty years old again.
He had given her the trinket when he was 19. One of the first gifts he had made to her, three months into their relationship. Her birthday present. She had been 18 at the time. That night he had touched her under her blouse for the first time. Had known then the feel of her perfect skin. He still felt, 35 years later, the sensation of total bliss her letting him do that had produced in him.
Out of his neck, he produced a chain and showed her, hanging out from it, the other piece of the same pair, a small morsel of blue glass nicely carved in elaborate gold looking metal. She, in his mind still his wife, let go of a moan or not so much a moan than a sigh and said:
- "Oh Joe."
- "You know me, he acknowledged, always the romantic."
He was surprised to see tears in her eyes. There were in his, too. She murmured:
- "What has become of us?"
- "Well, we grew old, is all."
- "I am so sorry, she concluded."
He assumed she was referring to his team loss of tonight. He gave her his best smile.
- "To bad, he said, that I shall move out of Tampa just when we each other started to talk."
She had took his hand and kept it.
He had let her.
30 o o o 30
There could be some true in the saying that faith moves mountains. The Baltimore Orioles had offered Manuel a ten million dollar contract for three years and a undisclosed bonus package depending on the number of home runs he would procure the team. The organisation figured that it would cost them a bundle and that it would be worth the money.
However, Manuel never got to bat even once in the major league. Every time he faced one pitcher at the plate, that pitcher would give him the first base free. And, in so doing, he finished his very short career in Baseball in earning himself the surname of Mister Base on Ball.
After three years of the same, he quitted professional sport with enough money not to be compelled to think of the damned nuisance ever again. And he went to College and became a lawyer.
After receiving his law degree from the University of Tampa, he had a small party at his mother's place. While he was in his child's room, he saw in one closet his old Devil Rays uniform that he had discarded after the team losing that last game against the Phillies that day in November 2008. At this instant, he recalled Joe Black giving him that piece of paper. He had completely forgotten about it. Could it be that it would still be there? These clothes were in that wardrobe since time immemorial. His mother had cleaned them and put them there for him to pick them up at his leisure and they both had forgotten the matter afterward.
He slipped his hand in the back pant's pocket and yes, he felt something. It was there. He took the piece of paper in his hand, opened it and read Joe Black washed out scrawl in capital letters:
IF THEY LET YOU.
He recalled the time, more than seven years back, now. He had said to Joe:
- "I will have that base ball out of this field in no time."
If they let you, Joe had written. Not bad for a prediction.
Manuel had smiled.
And that was that.