As I walked to the plate, Whitfield heaved an audible sigh of relief. He shifted his bubble gum from left cheek to right, wiped his forehead, adjusted his cap, turned the ball several times in the dull brown pocket of his mitt. Suddenly, his right arm shot out of his torsional windup like a coiled whip. "Strike!" Behind me I could hear more anxious parents packing up and starting their cars, but this didn't disturb a player of my caliber. Whitfield's second pitch was low, in the dirt, but I took a nice, level cut at it anyway.
Then I saw Ernie's arm snap around toward the plate. I swung in defense and Ernie (Four Fingers) Whitfield's fastball and my 34-inch, medium-weight Louisville Slugger met somewhere in front of home plate. The collision stung my hands, set great flows of adrenaline loose through my veins, made me swallow my bubble gum. Meanwhile, the ball shot through the August sky, landing in the driveway of McDermott's Texaco, where it came to rest next to the premium pump, well beyond the home-run line marked by a fine growth of dandelions and pokeweeds and red anthills. I ran the bases slowly, still holding my bat. Touching home plate ended the spell. Whitfield spat in the dust, wiped his forehead and struck out our leftfielder, ending the game. When I arrived at our car I noticed my father across the field, standing by McDermott's Texaco as the man with the bullhorn reduced the game to facts: "White Sox 16, Tigers 1. Winning pitcher, Whitfield. No runs, no hits, no.... I'm sorry, one run, one hit, no errors. Thank you all for coming."