"O.K., action," said Damski.
Pounding my old, leatherless glove, which wasn't big enough to hold a dinner salad, I began my sprint, watching Lane, my eyes blinking once or twice.
The throw was perfect—looped, but with some mustard on it. It fell right into camera range. I dived, stretched and watched as the ball landed right in my mitt...and popped out.
"That's O.K.," said Damski. "Let's do it again." We should have been done after the second take. Another strike from Lane. Another perfect dive, the ball caught an inch off the grass as I slammed down. A nine on the Willie Mays Meter.
Suddenly directors and cameramen were huddled in conference. "Ah, crowd," said the assistant director, "you were a little weak on that one. Remember, this ends the inning. You're supposed to react to the catch. Get excited. O.K., let's do it again."
I flubbed the next throw, a perfect toss. "Damn," I muttered to myself, my pride beginning to hurt as much as my bloodied arms and aching knees. "You all right?" asked Damski. "You want some knee pads or something?"
I said, "No, fine, Mel. I just want to catch the damn ball."
I took another look at Lane. We both knew this couldn't go on all day. I started my sprint, Jerry firing, this time a tad too hard. Overthrow, I thought. I accelerated. The ball was dropping eight feet in front. It was a dive I had attempted dozens of times playing shortstop in high school and college. Do or die. Catch it or you don't. So I dived extending my left arm—a lifeguard reaching out to a floundering swimmer. Two inches off the turf, the baseball settled softly into the webbing of my glove. I bounced and remembered to stay down, to play out the scene. The crowd erupted.
I talked to Pace today. He says the Catch looks wonderful on film, the network likes the show, and to watch for Carradine and Canzoni on TV during the second week of the season. I'm busy planning the party, the big bash in honor of my alter ego, his catch and a movie even Pete Gray himself should enjoy.