is down to seven players.
In the top of the
2,204th inning, the Cubs load the bases. There is a conference at their bench.
A choking sound emerges, a sound of suffering, but as the ragged players break
up, I see by their expressions that what I have heard is laughter. It is the
first time in days anyone has laughed, and the constricted throats treat it as
an unfamiliar function.
What causes the
From the midst of
the players emerges Little Walter, dragging a 32-inch bat, which is only an
inch shorter than he.
from the mound, meets Klem at the plate, and screams. The old umpire wipes the
rain from his face with a tough, knuckled hand. He shouts over O'Reilly's
protests, "There's no rule against it!" Little Walter hefts the bat,
changes shoulders at the last second and steps into the lefthanded batter's
box. The water ripples over the tops of his little baseball cleats. O'Reilly
pumps and delivers a fastball straight down the middle but head-high.
The second pitch
is even higher. Little Walter pounds the plate with the bat, then has trouble
getting it back on his shoulder.
The next pitch is
high and inside, zippering an inch from the midget's nose. "Ball." says
edges an inch closer to the plate. O'Reilly pumps and fires. I close my eyes,
gripping the edge of the bench. There is a split second of silence before the
ugly, thwacking sound of ball on flesh. Another instant passes before the bat
and the midget splash into the shallow water and lie as still as death.
There is complete
silence as Chance picks up Little Walter. We have all gathered around to see
the extent of the damage.