"You can do
it, Rich," Doc said.
thing," I said as if I meant it. Then he said something about how he could
make a racehorse out of a jackass if the jackass had the right attitude.
jackass," I said.
halfway home," he assured me.
So he went to
work on me. First thing, he wanted to hypnotize me.
me," he said.
I did. I always
had. I mean, I really felt I was lucky to have him on my side. The point is,
I'm not the most stable guy in the world. I grew up in grubby New England
factory towns. My mother and father divorced when I was five. I never got along
with my stepfather. Our home was full of hard drinkers and fighters; we never
had enough money, and there were always plenty of squabbling siblings. I was
always getting into scrapes. I wasn't the model child, you might say. The only
reason I held together at all was baseball. Since I was 10, I knew I could play
ball. And because of baseball, Lister, who is two years older and much bigger
than I, became my best friend. We played sandlot ball together as kids.
And because he's
my friend and such a talented specialist, now he could really help me. He got
me to relax. "Start by relaxing your right leg. Fine...fine. I want you to
listen carefully to what I say...."
I would drift off
the way he wanted me to. He would take me back in time, from 36 to 25 to 17
to.... We gradually rehashed what my life was like through all those years—how
I'd been repeatedly thwarted, how close I'd come to making it. To give me
confidence, he constantly emphasized how I deserved to make it. Like when I was
10, I had my first glove, a Phil Rizzuto model. I didn't even know who Phil
Rizzuto was, but I learned how to use that glove quickly enough. Owning that
glove changed everything. I was small and I played shortstop, as I found
Rizzuto did. I was the little guy with his hands close to the ground. I learned
to get those hands on everything that came near me. I was good. Right off, I
was ready for my first tryout. I wanted to play Little League but because there
was none in the New Hampshire town where I was living at the time, my cousin
and I hitchhiked 40 miles to Nashua. It turned out we were a day early for the
tryouts, but we weren't about to go home. No, sir, I was going to make that
team. We decided to spend the night in the ball park, finding shelter in the
press box and curling up in corners for warmth. But my cousin didn't sleep too
well. He got restless and cold, and around three in the morning he accidentally
kicked a switch and suddenly the scoreboard lit up. The next thing we knew, the
cops came for us, and just to keep us out of trouble, they let us spend the
night in jail.