She had been there for all three of the
critical games of the weekend series.
Each day she had worn yellow and
now she was descending the stands
in white blouse, sun-flower yellow
skirt and scarf to match. She was
holding in her hand the home run
ball he had delivered in the bottom
of the eighth to put the team ahead.
He had also cinched it by making
a fine running catch against the fence
she now looked out of.
It was the first time he had spoken
to her. Players are superstitious in
that way. His team had to win all
three games to advance to the playoffs
and the silent treatment had been
"Don't tell me you caught it?" he
laughed his school kid laugh.
"No, the man right in front of me
caught it-- barehanded-- and he
gave it to me." She looked like
a young Debbie Reynolds close
up and he was singing in the rain
that had just started to sprinkle.
"How could he not give you the
ball," he gazed in open admiration
as he autographed the baseball,
"you're so darn pretty."
"And you're single-- and have no
"Does my baseball card say that?"
"No, the first page of my notepad.
I looked it up."
"It's like that, is it-- oh, oh, the guys
are waiting for me at home plate.
They're wondering why I'm cele-
brating out here. Me, too." He gave
her his best baseball banquet smile.
"I'll be waiting for you in left-field,"
she promised, " for the first home
game of the series."
"You'd better be," he turned mock
serious. "I might not be able to
find my way to left-field if you
He ran off on top of the world.
The drizzle had stopped at second
base and not headed for third.
THE GIRL IN LEFT-FIELD
Twinbill: The Nightcap
Seeing Eye by Frank Dattilo
The similarities were scary.
Our team's emotional leader, not its
flashiest player, Truman Thurson,
died in a crash of his private plane
like Thurman Munson of the Yankees
on a blue-sky off day in August.
The following game I became everyday
catcher for us. Me, .227 average with
3 home runs to my credit and 16 ribbies
in backup action.
Somehow, I became Truman Thurson,-- 12 big flies, 27 rbi's, .327 down the homestretch-- and there were all kinds of reasons, starting with Earl Wheaton, the "Earl of Wheaton", our manager, and some batting tips from our Hall of Fame-bound centerfielder, Scotty Mercer, who suggested I go from a dead pull hitter (with the inglorious dead stats to prove it) to a guy who used the whole field like Thurson did.
The other secret behind everything was that
full supply of Bazooka bubble gum left in Truman's locker that "the Earl" had moved me
in. Before every game Thurson could be heard
popping that Bazooka with basketball-size
balloons to show for it.
The Sox moved into the final series in our
homepark with their backs to the wall. Our
magic number was one. One victory out of
the scheduled three gave us the division.
On Sunday we were still looking for that
one win and only I knew the reason:
Truman's personal supply of Bazooka had
run its course on Thursday with the win
against the Tigers.
In the two losses against the Sox, we managed
just nine hits and I had only accounted for one of them, a bleeding-heart pop-fly into rightfield.
On Sunday morning, I purchased my own supply
of Bazooka at nearby Muir's Drugstore. Before the game I blew, I popped and I made my own
good luck statement to all my locker mates.
In my first three at-bats, I had two pop-flies
and one weak ground-out to show for it.
So much for the Thurson magic for me.
But the bottom of the ninth gave me that
chance. With first base open and Mercer
on second with a leadoff double, the Sox
decided to pitch to me because they felt
they had my number all weekend and they
had, make no mistake.
Plus, Bucky Denning and Scootie Boyer were
playing me up the middle for the double-play
which would leave Mercer at third.
I had always had trouble against the offerings
of their flame-baller bullpen ace Cooper but
this time I met it good.
Both Denning and Boyer ranged far to
their glove sides but I could almost see
Truman Thurson directing it all like Gene
Kelly's choreography from Take Me Out to the
The ball twisted, snaked and somehow--
magically like Tab Hunter's heroics in Damn Yankees-- found its way onto the center-field grass and Scotty made it home easily on his
fleet wheels for the division-clinching run.
And all on my Bazooka bubble gum.