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THE GAME THAT TIME AND IOWA FORGOT
W.P. Kinsella
April 14, 1986
In this lyrical fantasy, the 1908 Cubs play the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars in an apocalyptic contest that lasts for 40 days and 2,614 innings, until death and the deluge at last lose out to sweetness and light
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April 14, 1986

The Game That Time And Iowa Forgot

In this lyrical fantasy, the 1908 Cubs play the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars in an apocalyptic contest that lasts for 40 days and 2,614 innings, until death and the deluge at last lose out to sweetness and light

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Water has been flowing through the streets of Big Inning for days; houses on the lowest land have been evacuated. As the water rises, everything that floats is washed into the current of the Iowa River and disappears forever in the direction of Missouri. The livery stable is the first building to collapse. With a groaning of timbers the long structure eases sideways and slowly folds itself fiat like a cardboard cutout. A dozen more buildings follow the livery stable into the roiling current. The general store is turned sideways on its foundation. Soon Main Street looks like an old man's face, a tooth here, a tooth there, no two matching.

The churning waters continue to chew slowly at the riverbanks until the area 50 yards behind home plate looks like a green-tongued buffalo jump. Water laps at the legs of the first-base stands and sprays the lowest two-by-fours that brace the bleachers behind home.

Late on the 30th day of the game, the Black Angel, a sinister and mysterious statue that usually occupies a place in a cemetery in Iowa City, suddenly appears on the banks of the Iowa River, just outside Big Inning. The statue stands between the water and the railroad spur. People are alarmed by this, but no one can convince the Black Angel to leave.

In the top of the 1,898th inning, Noisy Kling connects with one of O'Reilly's fastballs and sends it not only deep to left, but above and beyond. Fleet-footed William Stiff gets a great jump on the ball and sprints up the slow incline of leftfield. The ball is over his head, but he appears to be gaining on it. We can actually see the trajectory of the ball, like a white planet being fired into orbit.

Stiff runs at a fierce speed, arms stretched in front of him. The incline grows steeper as both ball and ballplayer approach the horizon. Kling has rounded the bases and stands with one foot planted on home plate. Stiff is now only a stick figure on the horizon, running upward toward the edge of the earth, the ball still just beyond his reach.

The ball, past its zenith, descends beyond the horizon an instant before the dark speck that is William Stiff appears to leap into infinity and disappear.

"Home run," says Klem. "Next batter. Play ball!"

The All-Stars score to tie the game, but we never see Stiff again. A few days later, though, the Chicago Tribune reports that a dazed man in a rotting baseball uniform, his shoes worn through to his bleeding feet, was found sprinting across the red sand of New Mexico, dodging the yucca and cactus, straining forward toward an imaginary fly ball. The sheriff's party that rode him down reported he had to be hog-tied before he could be taken to the hospital.

On the 32nd day of play, as the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars take the field in the top of the 2,026th inning, the Black Angel of Death takes her place, defensively, in rightfield.

The Chicago batters are anxious to test the new rightfielder. Finally, with two out, Kling hits a soft line drive down the rightfield line. The Angel glides after the ball as if she is on ball bearings, cradles the ball in the cold feathers of her extended wing, leans back and fires it to Bad News Galloway at second base.

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