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"Ah," Perez said, "don't worry. I hit a home run."
He pronounced hit like heat—"I heat a home run"—and Anderson, even in his state of panic, smiled. Doggie went to the rack, grabbed a bat. He watched Rose break up the double play and then heard him cursing and insulting and rousing players in the dugout. Doggie stepped in to face Boston's pitcher, Bill Lee.
"Throw me that slow one," Perez muttered to himself. Earlier in the game, Lee had thrown his slow curve, a lollipop of a pitch that peaked at about 10 feet off the ground and then dropped gently into the strike zone. Batters wait for fastballs—it is in their nature—and slow pitches shock the nervous system. Doggie was mesmerized, and he could not unleash his swing. "Throw it again," he muttered now.
Pete turned from his yelling to watch Tony Perez hit. Lee began his windup, and then he unleashed it one more time, his slow curveball, and Perez saw it, his eyes widened, and he did something funny in his swing. He jerked, like a car trying to jump into second gear.
Up in the Fenway Park press box the dean of Cincinnati sportswriters, Si Burick, watched the pitch come in. Burick had been writing for the Dayton Daily News for 50 years. He was the son of a rabbi, and he'd started writing about sports in the paper when he was 16—four years before the stock market crashed in 1929. Burick saw the pitch floating in, and he watched Perez double-clutch. Before Doggie even swung the bat, Burick whispered two words he thought nobody else could hear.
He whispered, "Home run."
SUN CITY, ARIZ., MARCH 1, 2008
I promised myself I wasn't going to do this," Joe Morgan said. And then he started to cry. Joe stepped away from the lectern, and he stood silently for a few moments, then he began again. "I shouldn't be crying," he said. "This is not supposed to be a sad occasion."
There were many types of people in the retirement home. There were baseball people, family members and a few old friends. Bob Howsam, the man behind the Machine, had died. Joe was right: No one wanted this to be a sad day. Howsam lived to be 89 years old. He had done everything he wanted in his life. He had run a baseball team, owned a football team (the Denver Broncos); he'd built a stadium (the one in Denver that became known as Mile High); he'd raised a family. Buck O'Neil, the great Negro leagues player, always said that funerals were for people who died too young. Everyone else deserves a celebration.