You're mine now, kid. Sooner or later, I knew my opening would come. I knew your father would bring you here on a picture Sunday morning when the team was on the road. Just like I did with my sons, and like my sons, when they grew up, did with theirs. A year, that's nothin' for a dead man to wait. You're mine now.
Your dad thinks you're safe. Roger thinks he can let you watch him fan rainbows with his hose between second base and third while your sister runs like wind round the bases. He thinks he can leave you shoeless in the sunlight behind home plate, kicking and cooing, your nose in the grass and your fingers in the dirt...without you hearing the whisper.
I know, Brandon. I know I'm nearly 20 years dead and you're not much more than a year old, but that doesn't mean your great-grandpa Emil can't talk to you. Who do you think your dad's hearing and seeing right now as he waters the infield? His own father, six months gone—I'll guarantee you.
You were born to this field, to this life, Brandon. Nine decades, three generations, more than 235 years of groundskeeping when you throw all of us Bossards into a heap and total up our toil—that's the seed you come from. Old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland? That was our field. That was a Bossard. Old Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, the Polo Grounds in New York City, Fenway Park in Boston, Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego? All Bossards. Old Comiskey Park in Chicago and new Comiskey, where you're running your fingers through the infield right now, best infield on earth? Bossards. The infields at Yankee Stadium and Pro Player in Miami, the entire field at Busch in St. Louis, the soil and grass at the new fields being built in Detroit, Milwaukee and Seattle, not to mention a hundred minor league and spring training diamonds? Bossards, Bossards, Bossards.
Nobody really knows who we are or what we do, but trust me: You'll influence pennant races, swing World Series—the fate of the 2038 Chicago White Sox easily could rest in your hands. Ten to 12 wins a season, that's what old White Sox owner Bill Veeck and Cleveland Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau said we were worth. Millions watching will never know, but you will. That's enough for a Bossard.
Shhhhh. Here comes your father. He wants you to break the chain, to leave behind his craft, the one passed from your greatgrandfather to your grandfather to your father and uncles and cousin. He's telling people he'd rather you be a doctor or lawyer! Can you believe that? He says that those jobs would be less stressful than groundskeeping! That having to stand up in a courtroom and choose the words that determine whether a human being lives or dies would be more relaxing than being a big league groundskeeper with our standards. That having to cram all night for exams during four years of medical school, then to work 36-hour shifts for six or seven more years of training and then to get called in the middle of the night to come in and open up somebody's chest with a scalpel wouldn't be as tense as being a Bossard. And you know what? I don't care if your father's right or not. You belong here!
Whoa. Better calm down. Better lower my voice and wait till he goes by. But, by god, I'll pass along the secrets. I'll teach you how to steal a pennant. I'll tell you about your bloodline. I'll whisper in your ear.
There. It's safe now. Rog just noticed an itsy-bitsy difference in the shade of the grass near first base. That'll keep him churned up for a while. As long as we're here, let's start with this dirt right in front of home plate. It's critical, Brandon. The first bounce a ground ball takes is the most important one. Back in '48, when I was the Indians' groundskeeper, our infielders had all the range of a grubworm, so I took a pickax, went down a good half-foot, filled in the area around home with loose dirt, turned it into oatmeal with the hose, concealed it with an inch of dry dirt, and guess what? We won the championship with those grubworms, and I took the World Series money the players awarded me and bought a beaut of a brand-new Buick—which I used, I might add, to compact many a minor league and spring training infield.
I was so good at deadening ground balls that when Willie Mays kangaroo-hopped a clutch double over our third baseman's head to win Game 4 of the '54 Series, Joe DiMaggio himself, perched up in the press box, declared, "First time I ever saw that happen to the Bossards. It calls for a congressional investigation."