- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The fans were nice. They threw back the baseballs hit into the seats. "We tell them that the players have to pay for them," Calkins said, looking somewhat abashed. Once during the game, when Messner asked a pitcher to warm up, a problem was discovered. "Oh heck," Messner said. "We need a ball to warm up, and we haven't got one." Calkins, who was keeping score in the dugout, was up to the emergency. "Boy," he said to the bat boy, "go over to the other dugout and borrow a baseball."
Kanehl played third base for the Dreamliners, and it was like old times. The first time he put his hands on the ball he picked up a grounder and heaved it in the general direction of first base as though it were a live hand grenade. It went so far over the head of the first baseman that the runner reached second. "Don't get nervous," Calkins pleaded with Kanehl.
The next ball hit to Kanehl took a bad hop. Of course. As the ball made its swift, eccentric arrival Kanehl did a twisting ballet and sidestepped it neatly. "I thought I got out of the way pretty good," he said later. The ball ticked off his glove into left field, and Safety Auto Glass went ahead 4-3.
In the sixth Kanehl made another throw, taking careful aim this time and again throwing it well over first base. This heave sent Safety Auto Glass ahead 6-4, and Messner was out there taking out his second pitcher.
The nice thing about this kind of baseball is that it's so intimate. From the field you can hear the fans breathing. "Don't change pitchers," one of them shouted into the clear and silent night, "change third basemen."
"Let Kanehl pitch," another yelled. "He throws hard enough."
In the dugout a man named Dick Soergel, who was the starting pitcher for the Dreamliners, said to Kanehl, "Maybe you can put a parachute on that ball." And Tom Boland, the comedian who pitched for the Red Sox for a while, patted Rod on the back and said gently, "You got an arm like a leg."
In the end, though, it wasn't all Kanehl. The Dreamliners rallied to make it 6-5 in the last inning and with two out and a runner on first Pendleton got a single to right. But the kid on first overran third by so much he got himself thrown out on a relay that was far from the swiftest of our time. The game was over, and the Dreamliners had lost.
Back in the clubhouse Kanehl opened a can of beer and grinned foolishly. "You see anything you haven't seen before?" he asked, and laughed out loud.
Some of the players, especially those who drove as many as 400 miles round trip to play those seven exciting innings, showered and changed in the clubhouse. Those who lived in Wichita went home in their sweaty uniforms. First, though, there was the sitting around and the laughing and the friendliness. "Win or lose," Charlie Neal said, "it don't matter a damn. And the beer tastes just as good as it did in the big leagues."