The way Cal describes it, he's too pumped up after a game to leave. His family's asleep...and the fans want so little—a picture, a handshake, a signature to remember the night. He likes it when they ask him to write their names too—or when they bring pure trash for him to sign (some lemon-ice wrapper that has been on the floor). That way, he knows: They never mean to sell it. (The one piece he won't sign is a pair of uniform pants brought down by a collector. The guy would have sold the pants for a fortune.) He likes it when fans ask if he remembers them or they bring up some name he's supposed to know. ("Do you know Pat Francis?" asks a big-haired blonde. "She useta babysitcha." Cal fixes the woman with an elfin smile. "We used to tie up our babysitters sometimes. We outnumbered 'em." And the woman is giggling.) The way Cal describes it, if he can talk with a thousand Baltimore fans, he'll find out he knows most of them. That isn't true. But it pleases him to think it's true.
It pleases him to see the excitement on their faces—and their shock. (He talked to us! He was so nice!) It pleases him to do this correctly. It pleases him, this power to give some bit of himself (as the kids yell to one another, as they run with their autographs: We got Cal! We GOT CAL!). This is a heady power: On this night or any night, at any hour, midnight or after...by his act alone, by his attention for one minute, by a stroke of his pen, he can give value to trash. He can make a night, or a town, feel big league. He can make even Fotoball something real.
Quarter after 12. What he can't do is stop. Not easily. Not tonight. There are hundreds left in the concourse when Cal murmurs, "Pen's going." That means he is going—soon. But he signs a few more, till the collector with the pants shows up again. ("I didn't come to argue. Cal! Just these pictures!")
"I'm done," Cal says. He caps his pen.
"CAL! Ooooowww!" It is a moan of near-physical pain from a mother-with-son behind the collector—a kinda-cute mom, with curly brown hair. "Pleeeese, oh, god!" She's been waiting with her hyperweary kid for hours.
"I'm done," Cal says. "Sorry. I can't do any more." He is heading down the dugout steps. She is going to cry—you can see it. "But how 'bout if I give you my cap? Is that all right?"
The mother doesn't get it. She looks at her stunned son to see if that is all right. Cal ducks in the dugout and surreptitiously signs the bill. Then he pops up the steps, puts it in the kid's hands. The mother is still staring at her kid: Is it all right?
But the kid can't look up. He is staring at this...thing. As if a meteorite had landed in his hands. Cal is already in the tunnel when the boy looks up—not at the mom but at the dark heavens—and says, "Whoa! YESSS!"