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The General was in the stands that day, and immediately after the last out went around to the umpires' dressing room to congratulate his iron-willed arbiter. He found him teetering on a bench before his locker, his blue shirt so soaked with perspiration that it looked as though it would have to be removed from his massive torso by a surgeon. He seemed barely to have strength enough to suck his soda pop up through the straw in the bottle. General Oakhart clapped him on the shoulder—and felt it give beneath him. "Congratulations, Mike. You have done it. You have civilized the boy. Baseball will be eternally grateful."
Mike blinked his eyes to bring the General's face into focus. "No. Not civilized. Never will be. Too great. He's right."
"Speak up, Mike, I can't hear you."
"Sip some soda, Mike. Your voice is a little gone."
He sipped, he sighed, he began to hiccup. "I oop said he's oop too great."
"It's like looking in oop to a steel furnace. It's like being a tiny oop farm oop boy again, when the trans oop con oop tinental train oop goes by. It's like being trampled oop trampled oop under a herd of wild oop oop elephants. After an inning the ball doesn't even look like an oop anymore. Sometimes it seems to be coming in end oop over end oop. And thin as an ice oop pick. Or it comes in bent and ee oop long oop ated like a boomerang oop. Or it flattens out like an aspirin oop tab oop let. Even his oop change-up oop hisses. He throws with every muscle in his body, and yet at oop the end of 19 oop 19 oop innings like today, he is fresh oop as oop a daisy. General, if he gets any faster, I oop don't know if even the best eyes in the business will be able to determine the close oop ones. And close oop ones are all he throws oop."
"You sound tired, Mike."
"I'll oop survive," he said, closing his eyes and swaying.