We would lie in the grass and look at his back; read his number, which was my cousin's favorite number; watch him kick at the grass with his hands on his hips—a posture we adopted for every activity from retrieving the mail to confronting arch enemies—and suddenly dart away at the sound of bat and ball action beyond our vision.
That is...we would do these things for an inning or two until my cousin would begin his plea.
He started slowly with the earnest request of the typical young fan demanding attention from his idol.
"Hoss, hey Hoss," he would say. "Throw me a ball."
Hoss, of course, did not reply, and my cousin would certainly have been ashamed of him, a God, if he had replied to so casual a hailing. But he would persist.
"Hoss. Throw me a ball. Come on Hoss. Over here. I'll get it."
Hoss would still not look around as my cousin, tortured, plunged deeper into the sad soliloquy. I cannot adequately transcribe the emotions that floated in the sound of his voice. I was there at his elbow, and I knew there was not a word of honesty, not a centimeter of sincerity in any sentence he spoke, yet I was always spellbound at the melancholy inflection, the neat sob of punctuation he summoned from who knows what reservoir of injustice as he talked to the Great Rightfielder.
"Please Hoss," he would say, his already country voice affecting a hayseed drawl from some obscure hollow. "Please throw me a ball. Hoss, I've got to have a ball. You don't need it. I've got to have it. Come on, Hoss. Please, please, please. Throw me a ball, Hoss. Please. I've just got to have it."
By this time the frogs and crickets were quiet in their own sort of amazement at the performance and Hoss was turning his head to talk to my cousin. He must have been a relatively decent fellow because he did not display any anger. "I can't do it kid," he'd say. "I can't do it."
"Please, Hoss. An old ball. Any old ball. Just throw it over the fence. I've got to have a baseball. Come on, Hoss, I need it. You can get me one. Please Hoss, an old dirty one. Please."