"Come on, Luciano," Bell sneered, imitating a well-known umpire. "Bend down."
I glanced over my shoulder. "No talking to the players, huh."
The second pitch was low and inside, a perfect pitch to pull through my stomach. The batter stepped into it and began swinging. I began retreating. Luckily he missed it. "Good pitch, good pitch," I yelled. "Way to go."
The batter hit the third pitch on a rope to rightfield. I knew enough to cover third base in case the runner from first tried to go to third. Unfortunately, he did. Shortstop Frank Duffy was there to cut off the throw to prevent the hitter from going to second. The rightfielder's throw came toward third on a low, hard line, but I could see it wasn't going to beat the runner. "Cut it," I screamed. Duffy ducked out of the way. Laughing.
I actually caught the ball without suffering any permanent injury. Self-defense. But the runner was safely on third. The batter, however, was racing toward second, testing my throwing arm. I wound up and threw a small-caliber bullet over second. Way over second. Eight feet over second. Jack Brohamer leaped into the air and somehow managed to come down with the ball. By that time, though, the batter, Mike Epstein, was standing on the base dusting off his uniform. Brohamer tagged him anyway. Joe Brinkman called him out.
Epstein couldn't believe it. He began screaming, but Brinkman cut him off in mid-yowl. "Who do you think threw it?" he asked, pointing toward third.
Epstein turned and saw me standing next to the base, kicking the dirt and looking sort of sheepish. "Oh," he said softly, and trotted off the field. That ended my playing career. As soon as the league office heard about it, I received a letter telling me never to play again—as if I needed a warning—and both clubs were reprimanded. I've never been invited back for Old Timers Day, either. How quickly they forget.