Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Rally of a Lifetime

The ump should have called the game for fog in the 4th inning. A dense fog had settled into the late night game at the  St. Louis Park ball field that hosted the Minnesota state tournament for the 13 year old Babe Ruth league. It was a losers bracket game in the double elimination tournament – Apple Valley against St. Paul Battle Creek. Apple Valley was down 7-1 in the 4th inning and we were grumbling about the fog.
The umpire wasn’t about to call the game. It was already past ten o’clock at night and the winner had to play a double header the next day. The tournament schedule was already way behind. Barring tornadic activity, the game was on.
We were a powerhouse that year. When the season ended, we had won 64 games and lost 10. It was demoralizing to be down to a patsy team like Battle Creek, a team that played bush-league ball and kept on with the infantile baseball chants bad coaches allow their teams to do. We were too old for the “belly itcher” chant.
We fought out way back to a score of 7-4, but now it was the bottom of the 7th inning. This was it. If we did not come up with three runs, it was the last game of the season. We would go home and privately cry.
Battle Creek was low on pitching. There was an inning limit per pitcher and their good pitchers had all burned through their allotment. They brought in some kid to pitch that last inning who had probably played second base all year hoping for a chance to pitch, but never gotten one because frankly, he wasn’t that good. He walked the bases full for our number 5 hitter, Harry Anderson.
Harry had prematurely already grown into a man by the age of 13. He was regularly shaving and weighed over 200 pounds. He had already hit a ball over 400 feet earlier in the season. It was called the “condo shot” because he hit it off the roof of a condo past the left field fence. Harry was capable of ending the game with a grand slam. He was also capable of ending the game by striking out.
With two outs in the bottom of the last inning, down by three runs, Harry stepped up to the plate with a I-am-going-to-be-a-hero look on his face. It was the look that made it most likely for him to strike out. The first pitch came in like watermelon. Harry swung for the fence, but completely missed the ball. Brian Davidson was on first base and clapped, “Let’s go Harry, no need to be a hero.”
The next pitch came in as fat as the first. Harry swung again and missed. It was his NASA swing as he was going for the stars, which were completely obscured by the dense fog. In fact, during Harry’s at bat, the fog intensified. We could barely see where the outfielders were. The stadium lights just made the fog bright, but didn’t help in seeing much.
Harry looked at the next pitch. A ball . He looked at two more. ball two – ball three. Now it was a 3-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the last inning of the losers bracket game of the Minnesota state tournament. The next pitch carried a lot of weight.
The pitcher threw another watermelon and Harry went NASA again, only this time he connected. He sent the ball straight up into the fog and it disappeared. Everyone ran. The second baseman backpedaled, but looked confused. The right fielder charged, but with shoulders shrugged. Harry rounded first like a freight train laden with cargo. our coach John Sherman screamed wildly, “Run, no one knows where it is!”
The ball landed in shallow right field almost hitting the right fielder on the head. Harry lumbered into second base as the rest of the bases cleared. The game was tied. The bench went berserk. Harry stood on second base pulling his batting glove off finger by finger with an I-knew-it-all-along look on his face. Only this time it didn’t annoy anyone. Harry was the hero.
Tim Kraft stepped to the plate next and lined the first pitch into right center field. We heard something hit the chain link fence which we only assumed was the ball. The right and center fielders disappeared into the fog haplessly chasing the sound of a ball. Harry lumbered home and scored the game winning run as the team rushed home plate and tackled him. We would have lifted him onto our shoulders, but he was just too big. We all hugged. It is times like these when men can pour on the hugs.
It was the rally of a lifetime. 

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