It was clear from the moment the ball left Gil's hand that it wasn't any drop-drop he'd had in mind to throw. Tawhaki stayed low—even as the pitch took off like something the Wright Brothers had invented. The batter testified at the hearing that it was still picking up speed when it passed him, and scientists interviewed by reporters later that day estimated that at the moment it struck Mike Masterson in the throat, Gamesh's rising fastball was probably traveling between 120 and 130 miles per hour. In his vain attempt to turn from the ball, Mike had caught it just between the face mask and the chest protector, a perfect pitch, if you believed, as the General did, that Masterson's blue bow tie was the bull's-eye for which Gamesh had been aiming.
The calamity-sized black headline MOUTH DEAD; GIL BANISHED proved to be premature. To be sure, even before the sun went down, the Patriot League President, with the Commissioner's approval, had expelled the record-breaking rookie sensation from the game of baseball forever. But the indestructible ump rallied from his coma in the early hours of the morning, and though he did not live to tell the tale—he was a mute thereafter—at least he lived.
The fans never forgave the General for banishing their hero. To hear them tell it, a boy destined to be the greatest pitcher of all time had been expelled from the game just for throwing a wild pitch. Rattled by a senile old umpire who had been catching a few Zs back of home plate, the great rookie throws one bad one, and that's it, for life! Oh no, it ain't Oakhart's favorite ump who's to blame for standin' in the way of the damn thing—it's Gil!
Nor did the General's favorite ump forgive him either. The very day they had unswathed the bandages and released him from the hospital, Mike Masterson was down at the league office, demanding what he called "justice." Despite the rule forbidding it, he was wearing his blue uniform off the field—in the big pockets once heavy with P. League baseballs, he carried an old rag and a box of chalk; and when he entered the office, he was wearing a blackboard and an easel strapped to his back. Poor Mike had lost not only his voice, but his mind. He wanted Gamesh to be indicted and tried by the Tri-City D.A.'s office for attempted murder.
"Mike, I must say that it comes as a profound shock to me that a man of your wisdom should wish to take vengeance in that way."
STUFF MY WISDOM (wrote Mike the Mouth on the blackboard he had set before the General's desk) I WANT THAT BOY BEHIND BARS!
"But this is not like you at all. Besides, the boy has been punished plenty."
"Now use your head, man. He is a brilliant young pitcher—and he will never pitch again."
AND I CAN'T TALK AGAIN! OR EVEN WHISPER! I CAN'T CALL A STRIKE! I CAN'T CALL A BALL! I HAVE BEEN SILENCED FOREVER AT 71!