"I can't tell you that now," Dr. Gregory said. "I think you might have a bleb on your eye. That's slang for cyst, a blister. It's normal for one to form after an injury like the one you've just had. But I can't tell anything more until we get a closer look at it."
The next day I met Dr. Gregory at Retina Associates. The building looked like an abandoned warehouse. The whole thing was beginning to frighten me, although I later found out that Dr. Regan was one of the leading ophthalmologists in the country.
After extensive tests I sat with Dr. Regan in his office. He told me that I had a blind spot in my left eye caused by a cyst in the macula, which is in the center of the retina. The macula is only about one-tenth of an inch in diameter, but it is where our direct vision comes from. It is the part of the eye that enables us to read small print or, as Dr. Regan explained, lets a ballplayer judge the speed and distance of a baseball coming 90 miles an hour at him.
I don't claim I understood everything he said, but I do know it all sounded terrible, as though I were being told my playing days were ended. I got up courage enough to ask Dr. Regan if I'd ever be able to see well enough to play ball again. I tried to make it sound flip but I dreaded to hear his answer.
"I don't know," he said as nicely as he could. "The eye may still be undergoing changes. It's something we'll have to watch for a while."
A couple of days later I decided to have a game of catch with Richie. When he threw the ball to me I found I had to concentrate very hard on watching it with my right eye or I'd catch it in the heel of my glove. I could tell Richie was watching me closely, so not to worry him I started fooling around. "Hey, Richie," I called, "watch this curve." And I started breaking off curveballs. Funny, I could put the ball where I wanted to, but it was hard to see the ball clearly when Richie threw it back. I tried to nonchalant it, you know—flick out my glove at the last second to make the catch. That way if I dropped a throw, it wouldn't look bad. If Richie caught on, he kept his mouth shut and just caught me. Afterward, at bat playing pepper, I missed the ball a couple of times. That may not seem like much, but I had never missed hitting the ball in pepper in my whole life. Never. All Richie did was laugh and keep tossing the ball in.
Finally I was so disgusted with myself I quit. I went into the house and straight to my room. The next day I tried playing again—with no improvement—and the next and the next and the next days. Once I remember throwing the bat against the fence and running inside the house. I was just dying to get back into the pennant race and here I couldn't even play ball with a kid brother.
I had stayed away from the ball park because I couldn't stand going there and not playing. But four weeks after the accident I figured I had to go.
I got to Fenway early. When I opened the clubhouse door everything looked the same. Reggie Smith, our rookie centerfielder, was sitting against his locker smoking a cigarette, Carl Yastrzemski was on the trainer's table getting some hot stuff put on his arm, George Scott was looking over a pile of bats trying to pick the ones with hits in them.
They all seemed to see me at once, and then they were all over me—Rico and Scotty and Mike Ryan. "What ya say, roomie?" Ryan said. "Come down to give the troops a peptalk?" "T.C., T.C.," Scotty said. "Gimme five, man," and he slapped palms with me.