With a sidelong glance, I checked Whitey in the dugout. He was up and pacing, a scowl on his normally relaxed face. I got the impression he didn't care for my knuckleball experiment, but I didn't regret having tried it.
I turned to watch Paciorek stride to the plate, his 100th RBI, in the form of Garvey, perched on first. The fans and the Indians' bench were yelling encouragement. Paciorek's youthful all-American face was set; I could see how much he wanted it: the magic 100. It suddenly occurred to me that I could make a nice final contribution to the game; I could give 'em all what they wanted.
I straddled the rubber as the catcher wigwagged the signal for a curveball. I nodded my approval, then immediately snapped off a 56-footer that ended up against the backstop, sending Garvey into scoring position on second. Whitey moved forward slightly, to the bottom dugout step.
My next pitch was another curve, also rolling to the backstop, sending Garvey to third, from where a fly ball would now score him. Whitey moved to the top step and I hustled in to cover the plate just in case Garvey got cute and tried to score all the way from second.
As I stood by the plate waiting for the catcher to return the ball, I edged next to Paciorek.
"Fastball, letter high," I whispered, then turned and quickly headed back for the mound.
I wasn't sure if he heard me, and even if he had, whether he'd believe me or not. It didn't make any difference; he was going to get a fastball letter high, come hell or come Whitey.
I checked Garvey on third, got the signal from the catcher, then started my windup. With a classic kick and a smooth follow-through I let fly with an 84-mph special delivery, letter high. It was a real beauty.
It's been more than 10 years since that pitch, yet I can still see the look in Paciorek's eyes. They lit up like sparklers in the dark. The ball exploded off his bat and took off" into orbit into the eastern Washington night, headed toward Idaho. Farmers in the area probably thought it was a UFO.
The ball hadn't even started its descent before Whitey bounded out of the dugout and started toward the mound, hook in hand. Paciorek was barely into his Cadillac trot. Garvey was still on third, checking to make sure he looked good in his uniform.