"He pushed me
into the front seat of the station wagon, and we set off for Waltham, which
turns out to be near Cambridge. He was one of the most nervous fast drivers
I've ever seen. I tried to get him calmed down by asking him what he did.
'Stocks!' he yelled. 'Stocks! Stocks! Stocks!' No one else in the car seemed to
mind. I guess they were used to it. I don't know about the bulldog. I could
hear him whimpering back there from time to time.
"As we went
along, the Yale grad told about 'Merkle's Boner,' a famous situation in sports
which he said was just like our own. Merkle was this cat who played for the New
York Giant baseball team back in 1908. In the last inning of this important
game against the Chicago Cubs to decide the National League championship,
Merkle was a base runner on first base and a teammate was on third. A guy named
Al Bridwell stepped up and singled home the winning run. Merkle, leading off
first base, gave this big leap of joy, and he turned and ran for the clubhouse
instead of running and touching second base. A guy on the Cubs saw this and
realized that if he could get the ball and step on second base, then Merkle
would be forced for the last out and the run which had scored from third
wouldn't count. He had a very hard time retrieving the ball because it was
thrown into the outfield, and fans struggled with him over it. When he finally
did get the ball and stepped on second, hundreds of people were down on the
field. But the umpires saw it and called Merkle out and canceled the winning
run. The game had to be replayed, and the Giants lost it. That was Merkle's
Boner, and our situation, the Yale grad kept shouting, was very nearly
Fitzgerald found it hard to follow the comparison while careering around
Waltham in a station wagon with the driver slowing down to lean out the window
and yell at people to see if they knew where the Blue Bunnies hung out, if
there was some field where they had a habit of congregating.
looking for the Blue Bunnies!' he'd shout. 'It's a gah-damn emergency!' People
would look up from walking their dogs among the leaves in the twilight, but
nobody came hurrying over.
"It was a
girl jumping rope who finally told us," Fitzgerald said. "She rubbed
this red rope handle alongside her nose, and then she said that the Waltham
Blue Bunnies liked to meet on the field behind Red Allen's gas station just
before the turnoff to the Pike. 'I hope you arrest them,' she told us. 'They're
about eight Blue Bunnies on the field when we found it. The Yale grad and I
jumped out of the car and ran onto the field. A couple of the kids were wearing
the jackets. They were playing a game of touch. But the football they were
using was one of those miniature models about the size of a rolled-up pair of
woolen socks. Beside me the Yale grad gave this low moan.
suddenly I saw the same kid. I mean, like, I knew it. He had this thin, pinched
face, and when he saw me his eyes popped. Talk about avenging angels! I mean,
this Yale guy in a football uniform suddenly materializing in the middle of the
Blue Bunnies' football game. That's what he must have thought. So he gave this
little yell, and he turned and ran over to where his jacket was lying by the
side of the field, and, my God, the football was underneath it! He reached for
it, and then came running for me, holding the football in front of him like it
was on a tray. 'I'm losing ma maables,' he said in this big Boston accent. He
really looked scared. What made him look so awful was that the football he
handed over was deflated. It had gone flat, and he didn't know how. They'd been
playing with it, and maybe a nail had got into it or something.
hang around to ask about it. I grabbed the ball and jumped into the station
wagon, and we headed back for Soldier's Field. The Yale grad was worried about
the ball. 'You sure that's it?' he asked. He looked apprehensive. I couldn't
blame him. The ball looked very flabby. 'You think the official, if he's still
there, will accept the ball being as flat as that thing?' he asked. He glanced
back over the seat. 'Priscilla,' he said to his wife, 'you wouldn't take a try
at this, would you? I mean try to inflate it a bit?'
"She took the
football back there, and she and the kids did what they could; I mean, like, a
football has this tiny valve you have to put a needle into to blow up with a
bicycle pump, and here she and these kids were, puffing away. I don't think it
did a bit of good, but it was impressive. I could hear them struggling with it.
The Yale grad looked over his shoulder once, and I could tell by his grim look
that things weren't going so well. He banged his fist on the steering wheel.
'Exhale, it's a question of a good smart exhale,' he said, but you could tell
his heart wasn't in it. I heard the bulldog back there. He sounded very ill at
ease. I sat looking straight ahead and thinking, 'Well, that was one of the
things about Yale, the dedication.'
really dark when we got back. The vehicular gates to Soldier's Field were
closed so, after circling the place a couple of times, the Yale grad let me off
and said he'd park somewhere and follow me into the stadium. There were some
field lights on that gave the place a weird sort of phosphorescent glow. It
knocked out all sense of perspective, so the stone stands seemed to reach up
into the night like cliffs. There was no sign of the official. I remember
thinking that it was cold and dark, and surely there must be a statute of
limitations, and it was very crazy to have thought the official would stick
around. But I said to myself, 'Well, I'll do it anyway. I'll touch the football
down in the end zone and the Yale grad and his pretty wife and the two kids,
Davenport and Timothy Dwight, and the bulldog Dan the 11th, we'll know that
Yale has scored and that the real score—forgetting the extra point—ends up
16-14 for the Eli.' "