But I must have been flattered. I was wanted. Somebody needed me. I ate some breakfast, found my glove and spikes and stumbled out to the car.
The game was at Hutchinson Field, way over on the other side of Mount Vernon, but I got there in time for batting practice. As I remember it, I looked good in BP. I usually did. But after the game started the first ground ball hit to me went through my legs.
"Bad hop," I yelled over at Opper. He answered by spitting into his glove. There were two outs at the time and a man on third, but he didn't score because I held on to a pop fly to short right, after a spastic juggling act. My spikes kept catching in something that felt like seaweed.
Walking with dignity, I passed Opper on my way to the bench. "You can't lose 'em all," he said.
There was no such thing as a good hop on any ground ball hit to me all morning, and I had Opper closing his eyes whenever I got under a pop fly. I exulted when I did make the pivot to complete one inning-ending double play, but the opposition had a seven-run lead at the time and my catlike moves went unapplauded.
When I had a bat in my hands my ignominy scraped bottom. Pitching against us was a big, loose, heavy-boned young righthander who had his growth but not his control. Every time he threw his sweeping curveball, it appeared to be coming right at me and I would lie down. I had hoped that the kid would be awed by my age and evident experience, my manifest confidence and my 5'9" sinewy frame, but he wasn't. I struck out swinging, popped to short, and on my third time up fouled one off the handle into the groin area. While I was performing a slow pinwheel on the ground next to the plate, Opper voiced no sympathy.
"I should've called your grandmother," I heard him yell through cupped hands. He was right. My grandmother couldn't have hit anything more ladylike than the gentle line drive I eased into the first baseman's glove after I got back up to the plate.
In the ninth inning we loaded the bases on a double by Opper followed by two walks. Fred had gotten two of our three hits off the big righthanded kid, both of them long drives to left center. There were two outs when I came to bat. I was coldly aloof during the first two pitches, which were at least a foot on the outside. I lay down quietly on the next two, which were curveballs in my general vicinity. I stepped into the next pitch, an inside changeup, and heard the sound of the bat splintering as I caught the ball solidly on the handle.
I saw the ball rolling between third base and the pitcher's mound and heard Opper yelling, "Run it out, DiMag, run!" I dug hard and was thrown out by 15 feet.
The final score was either eight or nine to nothing, I forget which. While driving Opper home I asked him who the big young pitcher was.