"Good luck, Curt."
"Thanks. Thanks a lot."
Twelve years of my life. I spent the rest of the day in the chair right next to the telephone, answering none of the calls. Twelve years of my life.
I said, "There ain't no way I'm going to pack up and move 12 years of my life away from here. No way at all."
If I had taken inventory before the front office called, I would have compiled a formidable list. Expensive athlete. Painter of oil portraits as negotiable as any currency. Student of the human condition. Impervious to shock. Subdivision: black. Belief in the American dream: lapsed.
Wrong. The dream dies hard. It lay deep within me, dormant but not destroyed. Just as stress can arouse a latent virus, one miserable telephone call released the poison of self-pity. The hard-boiled realist who answered the telephone was a weeping child when he set the receiver down.
It was a bad scene. Feverishly, I harped on my 12 years of service, my place among the alltime stars of the Cardinals. If I had been a foot-shuffling porter, they might have at least given me a pocket watch. But all I got was a call from a middle-echelon coffee drinker in the front office. Was I not entitled to a gesture from the general manager himself?
And Philadelphia. The nation's northernmost Southern city. Scene of Richie Allen's ordeals. Home of a ball club rivaled only by the Pirates as the least cheerful organization in the league. I did not want to succeed Richie Allen in the affections of that organization, its press and its missile-hurling audience.
"I have only two choices," I said. "I can go to Philadelphia or I can quit baseball altogether. I will not go to Philadelphia." The words of a typical baseball player, prostrated by the unchallengeable rules of the industry.