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THE GREAT AMERICAN ROOKIE
Philip Roth
March 12, 1973
"Call me Ishmael" wrote Herman Melville in one literature's famed opening lines. "Call me Smitty" parodies Philip Roth as he begins The Great American Novel, which will be published in May by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Smitty is a sportswriter with a whale of a tale to tell. The plot concerns the travails of an illstarred baseball team—and the morals are many. This excerpt describes the astonishing events of the' 33 season.
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March 12, 1973

The Great American Rookie

"Call me Ishmael" wrote Herman Melville in one literature's famed opening lines. "Call me Smitty" parodies Philip Roth as he begins The Great American Novel, which will be published in May by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Smitty is a sportswriter with a whale of a tale to tell. The plot concerns the travails of an illstarred baseball team—and the morals are many. This excerpt describes the astonishing events of the' 33 season.

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Donning his protective mask, Mike the Mouth replied, "We are only human beings, Gamesh, trying to get along. That's the last time I'll remind you."

"Boy, I sure hope so," muttered Gil and then to the batter he called, "All right, bud, let's try to stay up on our feet this time. All that fallin' down in there, people gonna think you're pickled."

With such speed did that fourth pitch travel the 60feet and six inches to the plate, that the batsman, even had he been Man o' War himself, could still not have moved from its path in time. He never had a chance. Aimed, however, just above the nasal bone, the fastball clipped the bill of his blue and gray Aceldama cap and spun it completely around on his head. Gamesh's idea of a joke, to see the smile he was sporting way down there in that crouch.

"That's no good," thundered Mike, "take your base!"

"If he can," commented Gil, watching the shell-shocked hitter trying to collect himself enough to figure out which way to go, up the third-or the first-base line.

"And you," said Mike softly, "can take off too, son." And here he hiked that gnarled pickle of a thumb into the air, and announced, "You're out of the game!"

The pitcher's glove went skyward; as though Mike had hit his jackpot, the green eyes began spinning in Gil's head. "No!"

"Yes, oh yes. Or I forfeit this one too. I'll give you to the letter C for Chastised, son. A. B...."

"NO!" screamed Gil, but before Mike could bring down the guillotine, Gamesh was into the Greenback dugout, headed straight on to the showers, for that he should be assessed with a second loss was more than the 19-year-old immortal could endure.

And thereafter, through that sizzling July and August, and down through September, he behaved himself. No improvement in his disposition, of course, but it wasn't to turn him into Little Boy Blue that General Oakhart had put Mike the Mouth on his tail—it was to make him obedient to the Rules and Regulations, and that Mike did. On his third outing with Mike behind the plate, Gamesh pitched a 19-inning three-hitter, and the only time he was anywhere near being ejected from the game, he restrained himself by sinking his prominent incisors into his glove, rather than into Mike's ear, which was actually closer at that moment to his teeth.

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