I must say I was
never bored. To me baseball opened its homelier side?the players' troubles, the
constant messages during games to players and fans: "Find Sam Romano and
tell him to deliver those chickens he promised me," or: "You tell Billy
to come right home, he's supposed to be in bed at 9," or: "Don't
disturb him, but I'd just like to know if my husband is really at the ball
And there were
other diversions. Carlos Bernier, for instance, our Puerto Rican flash who made
news last week in the Pacific Coast League by slapping an umpire. When Carlos
arrived he introduced us effusively to his buddy, the Yellow Cab driver who had
brought him all the way up from New York's LaGuardia Field. "That'll be
$24.10," the buddy said. It was cheap at the price. Carlos scored 129 runs
for us that season and stole 84 bases.
By the season's
end we had won 82 games and lost 47, and the pennant was ours again. What was
vastly more gratifying was our record of paid admissions: 62,485 as against
some 32,000 the year before. And then the championship play-offs went sour.
As usual when we
were a winning team, attendance shrank?this time to 300 or 400 an evening. The
lights failed. It rained. As a crowning blow, we were notified just before the
final game that our three best players, including our player-manager, had been
suspended for playing semipro ball in West Haven.
But Lester rose
to the occasion. Of course, this was what he had been waiting for?a chance to
manage the team. He doubled the players' meal money, shifted outfielders,
infielders and pitchers all over the place, even put in the trainer as a pinch
hitter. We won the game 7 to 1. Said the Bristol Press next day: "Osterman
looked happier with his victory than a kid with a lot of new toys on
That game, I
think, was the climax of our baseball career. Lester was elected vice president
of the league that winter, but the league itself died in midseason of the
following year. Some said it was television, some blamed it on cloud-seeding.
Whatever it was, we had to hang up the sign: "CLOSED FOR THE SEASON, AND
FOR ALL SEASONS."
After our last
game I sat in the pitch darkness of the stadium and, for the first time, looked
at the future again. I dreamed sweet dreams of repose and revenge: I'd
redecorate the house, give away the TV set, and I'd serve ham for dinner every
evening for a year?just ham, which I love and Lester hates.
And yet I had the
nagging feeling that I was burying a friend. Baseball and I had been stanch
enemies for years. But I had been exposed to so many people to whom it was the
breath of life itself that some of it must have rubbed off on to me.
A few days later
I found Lester in our bedroom, busily packing a suitcase. "Oh," he
said. "Hello, darling. I'm off to Boston. I hear the Braves are for
in last place?" I asked, wondering what that flutter in my heart meant.