Editor/Husband thinks it’s important to tell you, before you go any further, that I had a migraine. He thinks this is the headache – and the headache sleep – talking. (Maybe. Maybe he’s right.)
A line of trees curved around the outfield. Trees where the fence would be. Should be. But, this outfield was lined only with trees.
And, in the trees, high up, with their legs splayed over the thicker branches like they were riding ponies, were men. Fans. All sorts of men, at different heights among the tree branches. Different ages, but none too young, and none too old. And, every one, with legs splayed over the branches. Tree riders.
And, some were smoking. And, some hadn’t shaved. And, each one held a rolled-up newspaper that he beat in rhythm – along with the others – against the branches, rattling the leaves. They all seemed angry. Or, maybe they were just irritated that nothing had happened yet in a game that had yet to start.
And, there was an umpire explaining the ground rules. Explaining them to me, perhaps, but mostly to the players.
Explaining why the third base line that ran in from left field, was not a line but a crick of running water. But, not quite a crick, exactly, but something narrower than that. What would you call it? Would you call it a rill? OK, that’s what it was. A rill. And, the water in the rill bubbled and ran from the left field line, cut through third base, and flowed to home, and continued past home, extending into a wide field well behind where the game would be played and out of sight.
And, third base was not a base, but a rock that pushed out of the center of the rill, with the water cutting around it.
The umpire stamped his foot on the rock. “Third,” he grumbled. The players nodded.
Players were already at their defensive posts as the umpire wandered around them explaining things.
The outfielders – left, center, right – were neatly positioned and looked so much alike.
Because they were alike. Identical. They weren’t triplets. They were the same person just divided into three across the outfield. And, when one scratched his nose, the other two did, too. At exactly the same moment and with exactly the same movement. And, when one pumped his fist into his glove, the other two pumped, too, at exactly the same time. And, when one crouched down to squint down to home plate, so did the others. Crouch, crouch, crouch. Together.
And, the pitcher. The pitcher was tall and slim. With legs that looked like toothpicks. Because that’s what they were. You couldn’t tell, unless you looked at that small space between where his pants legs ended and his shoes began. He had no socks. Just toothpick legs. And, they made him so tall. Spindly.
And, the catcher was a cat. Wide and black with big yellow eyes that you could see peering out of his catcher’s mask. Those yellow eyes and long white whiskers that spread out of his mask were the only things that told you that the catcher was a cat. A catcher-cat. He squatted down with a mitt on his paw. Waiting for the pitcher to pitch the ball.
There were no dugouts, no grandstand, no bench. The team at bat sprawled out in the grass. Some laid on their backs, knees bent, staring up at the sky waiting for their turn.
And, the umpire came by and kicked one of them in the shoe, to tell him it was his turn to bat.
And, there was only one bat and it shined like black marble. And, each player as he came up would untuck his shirt and shine the bat, then swing it, then step over the rill of water flowing in from third base, because it cut right through the center of where the batter’s box was, so that the batter stood across the water, one foot planted on either side.
And, the pitcher would wind up windmill-style, like they used to do, but don’t do today. And, the first pitch wasn’t a baseball, but 100 shiny marbles that flew out of his hand and every which way. And, the batter swung and hit some. And, they pinged and chimed, and it sounded like bells when the marbles from the pitcher hit the marble of the bat.
“That’s a strike,” the umpire growled.
And, the fans in the trees drummed their rolled up newspapers against the branches and yelled.
And, the identical outfielders came out of their crouches at the same moment. Exactly together. And, pounded their gloves.
The next pitch came out of the pitcher’s hand and it was a baseball this time. And, it curved as it moved and the batter swung. And, the bat seemed to moan with a thick cloutish sound as it met the ball. And the ball travelled high and the three outfielders looked up at the same exact time, six eyes on the ball as it flew over their heads and clattered against the tree limbs.
“That ball is fair,” the umpire yelled. And, the fans smacked their newspapers onto the branches and the three outfielders turned and ran in to the line of trees. Off to find the ball.
And, the batter stopped and laid the bat carefully down, so it rested across the rill of bubbling water like a bridge, and he ran, tagging first, and then second, and then jumped both feet onto the rock that was third and then, straddling the water, ran awkwardly home.
And, the players lying in the grass sat up and looked at him and smiled lazily. And, the catcher-cat hissed. And, the batter tagged home, stepped over the bat, and laid down in the grass.
And, the outfielders who had disappeared into the trees didn’t come back.
Without a ball, because that was the only one, the pitcher snorted and stepped off the mound with his toothpick legs and walked away.
And, the fans in the trees, angrier now, thrummed their newspapers in rhythm and one threw a rock onto the field. Annoyed that the game could be over so soon.
But then the sound of a voice came from far off in the trees, not one voice, but three voices knitted together. “I have the ball. I have the ball. I have the ball.” And the trees rustled as the three outfielders crawled through bramble and back out to the field.
And, the fans in the trees yelled, “Hoorah” and thrummed their newspapers again.
And, the pitcher who was now lying in the grass on his back with the other team’s players, looked a little disappointed that he would have to get up and walk his toothpick legs back out to the mound and pitch again.
“Play ball,” the umpire barked as the three outfielders took off their caps and brushed off the leaves and ivy vines that covered them exactly and the one in the center underhanded the ball, like a bowling ball toward the mound and the pitcher hinged from his long toothpick legs and placed his glove down so the ball rolled inside it.
He loaded the bases, throwing the baseball sometimes, and sometimes he threw marbles that scattered through the infield, and the infielders dashed around but couldn’t collect them all. And, the catcher-cat, just watched and really didn’t do much.
And, it was just at that moment, with the bases loaded and nobody out,
I woke up here where I am now, still spent from a migraine and creeped out a little by those fans in the trees, and the toothpick-legged pitcher, and the catcher-cat, and the outfielders who were exactly the same.
And, it was then as my mind started to unwrap itself from the headache that had started all this, that I remembered that here the Baltimore Orioles – my Baltimore Orioles – have traded away one-quarter of their roster for players whose names I still don’t know. And, those Orioles are in …
And, I wish I could go back to that game in my headache-dream to see how that tall toothpick-legged pitcher got out of that jam with his catcher-cat.
And, I wish the Orioles weren’t in worst place.