The batteries would fade, and who could afford to replace them? The Walkman would fall silent. Alemán and Héctor would end up standing on chairs near the window, trying desperately to hear the radios of the four guards posted around the prison's fence.
Two men in Héctor's barracks owned small TVs. Two businessmen in for smuggling drugs, two cons with the cash to secure the two small walled-off rooms with locks on their doors—the only prayer of keeping a TV set five minutes. One of the men was Miguel, clothed and coiffed like a man who refused to acknowledge his whereabouts. He had paid so handsomely for protection that he'd been stabbed only once. The other man, who lived a floor below, was a thin, serious entrepreneur named Edwin. Because of Sammy's June binge, Dominican television had begun airing more Chicago Cubs games, but given the choice of a ball game or a soap opera, both men chose the soap. ¡Diablos! Héctor would begin pacing the floor a quarter hour before game time, emitting an occasional yelp—"It's time for Sammy!"—hoping against hope that one of the two wealthy men would take pity and invite him in to live and the with Sammy.
When one of them did, Héctor humbled himself, never presumed to sit, never uttered a peep—let alone the shriek rising up his throat—if Miguel or Edwin switched channels in search of melodrama during a commercial break and forgot to switch back. Both men, along with the three or four others they invited to squeeze into their tiny cells, got a kick out of watching Héctor watch Sammy. "Why, Sammy?" they cried when Sammy struck out, heads jerked in unison toward Héctor.
"I shouldn't swing at that outside pitch," Héctor would moan, grimacing. "I shouldn't." But when Sammy homered, it was as if Héctor were having a heart attack.
In the first week of July, during the All-Star break, he nearly did. It was morning, just a few days after the tigres had locked the guards out in order to go on a rampage—a horror averted when Lieut. Félix Pérez, the officer in charge of prison security, blasted the lock with his 9 mm handgun and charged in. As Héctor awaited the first of the two meals that Dancing prepared for him each day, he looked across the yard and saw Santo San Martín—an old neighbor of his, often the first man to tell Héctor what his disciple had done the night before—staggering out of his barracks. In his hands were his intestines, tumbling from a gaping knife wound. There it was, in flesh and blood, the very fear that Héctor had been harboring for so long that his body tricked him; he had to look down to be sure. That blade: He had felt it enter and carve his own gut.
Bases loaded. Top of the eighth, 2-2 game July 27. Sammy Sosa approached the plate in Phoenix, dragging the major league record for career home runs without a grand slam, 247, and ripped at Alan Embree's first pitch.
In the guardhouse Morillo's heart froze at the explosion of noise from the prison—riot, fight? In the barracks, in his bed, through the window, Héctor heard the first cry: "¡La sacó! ¡LA SACO! He hit it out! He hit it out! A grand slam!" Héctor bounced to his feet, drumming any surface he could find. When the delirium passed, he calculated: I have 40 home runs and 102 RBIs. And two months left!
Another explosion the next night, another grand slam! The marvelous was turning into the mystical. Héctor's gallery of Sammy photos swelled to two dozen. He instructed Dancing to make certain that his old pictures of Sammy and him were hidden in the battered red suitcase tucked inside the ripped gray suitcase atop his old armoire.
Came August, and came Sammy too, shaking Griffey and closing in on McGwire, whittling McGwire's advantage from three to two to one. Now everyone in the prison, sergeants and sadists and soap-opera buffs alike, shared the contagion. Now the fights that Morillo had to quell were over radios, over bets on which man, Sammy or Ma Miguaya—that was the closest most Dominicans could come to pronouncing Mark McGwire—would hit one out that night. Now Héctor, too, became an arbiter of Sammy spats: When does his contract end, Héctor? How much does he make? Ten and a half million dollars a year? What is that in pesos? How many home runs will he hit? Ma Miguaya is Superman, America's boy—they'll make sure he wins, no?