Fear on the mound was never a factor. Throw a baseball for a living and you will get hit by the baseball. Florie had been hit so many times in so many places he could not remember them all. In only his second big league game he'd been hit in the elbow by a young infielder named Mike Lansing. Lansing was now a Boston teammate.
Florie, however, marveled at the speed of this game he played, at the balls that flew past even before there was time for a reaction, hot wind whipping past his ear. The casual fan can't understand how fast the baseball travels because the grace of the infielders—a Nomar Garciaparra, a Derek Jeter—distorts the velocity, swallows the smash up in a long leather glove and converts it into a routine, 6-3 ground ball. But Florie understands. "If the fan stood by the diamond and watched those plays," he says, "the fan would have a different appreciation of how good these guys are."
The fans turned out this weekend to see the Red Sox take on the Yankees, who were leading the American League East. Boston was six games back, falling out of the pennant race, and needed a sweep to climb back in it. In addition to Brannon, Bryce's old Charleston friend Dave Morris and Morris's wife, Beth, came to witness the action. At the last minute Florie's father, Robert, also joined the group.
Divorced from Florie's mother, Cathy Tulluck, Robert had decided on impulse that he wanted to see the series. Discouraged by the high airline fares for spur-of-the-moment travelers, he began driving from Charleston. Eighteen hours later he hit Boston. He had left Bryan to run the family businesses, Florie's Screen Printing and Applied Images Embroidering. "I felt I had to be at the games," Robert says. "I don't know why."
He sat in the team's family section behind home plate. His youngest son was in another part of the section with friends. Morris and his wife were in yet another part. All of them were relaxed. The pride of Charleston was not expected to pitch.
Florie took the mound in the top of the ninth in a tough situation. New York, backed by Roger Clemens's five-hit pitching, had a 2-0 lead and was looking for insurance runs. Red Sox lefty Rheal Cormier had left runners on first and third with one out. Florie was brought in to face center-fielder Clay Bellinger.
Morris, a 40-year-old merchant seaman, had played softball with Robert, and then with the Florie twins. He remembered Bryce as the softball team's batboy. Morris recorded the action that night at Fenway in his head, with his own bias and memories. " Bellinger, good pitch, bounced it back to the mound. Bryce threw out the runner at home....
" Jose Vizcaino. Some good pitches. Didn't get the calls. Walk...
"Jeter. Bases loaded. Infield shifted to the left side. Good pitch. Jeter hits it right to shortstop, where Garciaparra would have been playing, except for the shift. Two runs...
" Thompson hits the first pitch.... I thought I was in a dream.... I couldn't believe what I saw."