Monday, November 17, 2008
Fanned out by Charles Dana Gibson
The roar of the Boston crowd was deafening. Those who could afford tickets to the final game had certainly gotten their money’s worth. Game seven of the World Series between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals had been nip and tuck throughout. Now with men on second and third, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the home team down by one; ‘Rip’ Jones strolled to the plate. He tipped his cap to the fans with a confidence that the game was already in the bag.
As long he did what they agreed to, the game was all but over. Jack Stallings smiled at the pure salesmanship with which ‘Rip’ sold the sham. The Bean-town faithful would watch in horror as their hero took each pitch straight down the middle without even offering a swipe at it.
Jack had no misgivings about being in the middle of throwing a game. Fans were merely miserable riffraff; those too naïve to believe something as sacred as baseball could go to the highest bidder. Soon they would learn everything and everyone has a price. ‘Rip’ would be instant millionaire while Mr. Stallings stood to make substantially more. A quick tally in his head calculated each of three strikes to be worth approximately fifty-three million a piece.
“Not a bad night’s work he mumbled”, as he gnawed off the end of his cigar and settled back in his seat.
The Cardinals’ ace nodded to his catcher and fired a fast ball down the middle. An anxious crowd grew silent as the umpire raised his right hand confirming a strike. Jack simply nodded in contentment. Two consecutive curve balls missed just outside and the crowd came to life again. Jack rode the edge of his front row seat and cursed the pitcher for his inability to throw a strike. ‘Rip’ didn’t flinch as the umpire rung up strike two, but Jack nearly came unhinged as the closer threw the next pitch in the dirt.
“You son-of-a-bitch, throw a fast ball down the middle will ya!”
‘Rip’ called time and stepped out the batter’s box. With each practice swing the roar of the crowd intensified ten fold. The umpire motioned for the batter to return to the box and he did, but not before holding his bat in one hand extending it to centerfield.
Jack laughed out loud, “With skills like that, this boy will make me billions.”
The pitcher shook of the sign twice then went into his windup, delivering a scorcher headed straight for the heart of the plate. In the blink of an eye, ‘Rip’ turned on the ball and sent a line drive twenty rows deep into the center field seats.
Millions upon millions of baseball fans the world over scratched their heads as they listened to the post game interview. ‘Rip’ insisted on dedicating his game winning home run to Jack Stallings, but why?
The next morning each of the major newswires carried an audio taped phone conversation. The incriminating words undeniably belonged to the owner of the Yankees, Mr. Jack Stallings III. The Sox had crushed the Yankees in the American League Playoffs three years running.