Hello and Happy Holidays to everyone. Since many of my short stories are usually a bit dark, here is something a little different for the holidays. Enjoy and be sure to comment, and I'll see everyone in the new year.
“That was the Jive Bombers with a
moldy oldie… ‘Bay Boy’… 95… W-I-F-E… the station you’re married to! Hi there…
This is BJ… your morning bad boy… reminding you there is still plenty of time
to get in on the big Wifey Treasure Hunt… Just collect the items listed on the
95 W-I F-E web page… That of course includes a clear… unencumbered… title in
your name… to a new DeRosa! That’s right… the new super sports car everyone is
talking about! The first person to bring his or her completed Wifey Treasure
Hunt list to the Wifey studios next Friday… wins the big $20,000 cash prize!
Are we crazy? No! But anyone who’ll shell out a hundred-thou to win twenty
grand must be!
“Wifey time… 9:36… time to check in
with Alison… she’s out there broadcasting live… from Durango Motors…”
“That’s right BJ… we are here with
the Wifey Wagon… at Durango Motors… kicking off their big…big… BIG month long
tenth anniversary sale-a-thon… and… you know Durango Motors is the home of the
no credit check… no down payment deal! Now here’s Dizzy Dan Durango to tell you
all about it…”
“C’mon down! Now y’all heard the
purd-day ‘lil lady… she’s about as right as rain in a Texas twister… They say
I’m crazy… shoot… I ain’t crazy… I’m just dizzy… dizzy with all of these new
cars! And they all gotta go! I wanna see every hombre behind the wheel of a new
car from Durango… and when I say no down payment and no credit check… dang if I
don’t mean it! Your valid work pay stub is your ticket to your choice of any new
or used vehicle on my lot… and yes… that includes that sweet ‘lil heifer… the
fantastic brand new DeRosa super sports car… the car everyone is talking about!
Am I crazy? No… just dizzy! We’re open ‘til midnight… every night… so… c’mon
A broad grin crept across Tommy’s
face as he reached over and switched off the radio. Despite himself he laughed
out loud. Then, forcing a stoic expression, Tommy wheeled the Cadillac Escalade
into the dealership parking lot. Checking his looks in the rear view mirror and
stealing a quick wink, he bounced out of the vehicle and sidled into the
A gleaming yellow-twist DeRosa sat
regally at the center of the large showroom. Tommy slipped into the bucket seat
of the expensive sports car, inhaling deeply the heady aroma of new car smell
and rich Corinthian leather. He fought back a smile as he settled back into the
body hugging seat, his fingers playing across the Brazilian walnut steering
“May I help you?” The pretty blonde
in a pink suit carried the scent of orange blossoms. Leaning into the passenger
side, she flashed Tommy a dazzling white smile. “It is something, isn’t it?”
Tommy stroked the leather and wood
clad dashboard dreamily. “That she is…” Snapping out of the momentary reverie,
he popped out of the car. “Yes, perhaps you can be of service.”
The woman shuffled nervously over to
Tommy, a thin tanned arm outstretched. “I’m Ms. Allen, Junior Assistant Sales
Tommy reached for the woman.
“Assistant!” he said indignantly.”
Just then the woman let out a
startled cry, jerking away from Tommy. “Why… you!” she screamed. “You… how, how
A half dozen heads popped up from
behind a half dozen cubicles like prairie dogs. A porter who was waxing a sedan
looked up from his work. The small, surprised audience watched with amazement
as Junior Assistant Sales Person Jenny Allen cracked Tommy a resounding slap
across the face. “Why… you… you… oh!” She flailed about, registering a second
stinging blow to Tommy’s cheek. In a frustrated huff, tears streaking her thick
mascara, Jenny Allen bolted for the lady’s room.
Tommy wiped a tiny trickle of blood
from the corner of his mouth. Making the most of the incident, he bent forward,
covering his nose with a handkerchief, then straightened up, tilting his face
“My God, she broke his nose!” a
stunned on looker muttered aloud. The comment made Tommy smile.
“What’s going on here?” An officious
man in a yellow blazer and white slacks shoved his way through the gathering
crowd. “What’s happening… what’s… oh my God!”
Tommy eyeballed the man. “Is this
how you treat your customers?” he barked through the handkerchief with a
“Certainly not… Mr. Henderson, show
this gentleman to my office, please, while I get to the bottom of this.” A
bow-tied salesman took Tommy’s elbow, steering him towards a row of offices.
They were met by a blue haired woman with gold rimmed bifocals and faded
pearls. She glowered at Tommy, tossed her wrinkled face into the air and
“He grabbed her!” she whispered into
the yellow jacketed man’s ear. “Mr. Thompson, that… that man reached out and
grabbed Ms. Allen right in the… in the…” Her face blazed the color of her
fuchsia blouse. “He grabbed her right in the showroom! And I can’t repeat what he
said… I’m a lady!”
Thompson gave the woman an
incredulous look. “Are you sure? Did you see it happen?”
“Well, err… no… but, she told me!
Poor Ms. Allen is in there right now in tears. She told me… just ask her!”
Annoyance showed on Thompson’s face
as he looked around the small gathering. “Does anyone know what happened? Did anyone
Finally the porter spoke up. “I seen
it… she done hauled off and let that man have it, bang!” He let out an
unrestrained giggle. “Then bang! She let him have it again.”
“But did you see what happened
A puzzled look crossed the porter’s
face. “No… I can’t say I did.”
“Again, I’m really very, very sorry
about all of this Mr. Hemphill. I promise we will get to the bottom of this
Tommy sat in a fake leather chair in
the painted office of Stan Hemphill, Senior Sales Manager of Durango Motors.
Wiping his bloody nose a final time,
he slipped the handkerchief into his camel hair jacket, giving the salesman a
vicious gaze. “I should sue…”
Stan Thompson jumped in his desk
chair. “No… no… no need for that, Sir.” He cleared his throat nervously.
“Please, I promise you I will handle everything.” Painting on his cheery
salesman face, he beamed over at Tommy. “Now, what can we do for you today here
at Durango Motors, home of the no down payment, no credit check deal?”
Stifling a smirk, Tommy looked the
man dead in the eye. “Well, I did come in here to buy a car…”
Thompson slapped the desk, sitting
straight up at attention. “Yes… of course… the DeRosa, a fine automobile. I
could tell right away you’re the sports car type. It’s an excellent choice.”
Tommy quietly reveled in the
salesman’s ebullience. He permitted himself to laugh out loud. “No, no I’m
afraid not, Mr. Thompson. Not that I wouldn’t love to own the DeRosa!” His
sighing expression was most effective. “Maybe someday soon… when that big raise
and promotion comes through. No… but I am interested in a new convertible…
something in blue.”
The grin nearly split the salesman’s
face in two. “I think I have just what you want! Now…” he pushed a form in
front of Tommy, “if you’ll just fill this out.”
Tommy shot the man a suspicious
“Oh, rest assured, Mr. Hemphill,
it’s just some basic information… for the contracts and title… name and address
and such.” He slid the form further, holding out an expensive fountain pen.
Tommy’s stare relaxed. Reaching into
his coat pocket he pulled out a payroll check. “I was on my way to the bank,”
he said, accepting the pen and handing over the check. “I think you’d like to
Stan Thompson’s eyes lit up like a
pair of runway lights at the figure printed on the check. “Yes… yes, of course.
This will take just a minute while I verify employment.”
Tommy nodded and began to fill out
the one page form.
Half an hour later, Tommy Hemphill
strode into the private accounting office of Morrison L.L.C. An attractive
middle aged woman looked up from her desk. “It’s about time…”
“And a good morning to you too, Ms.
She frowned. “I was beginning to
Tommy rubbed his still sore red
cheek. “Everything go ok here?”
The woman cracked a half smile.
“They called just as you said. I told them you worked here eight years and were
a valuable employee.” She shook a finger at Tommy. “I told you I wouldn’t lie
“And you didn’t. Technically I’m
still an employee for another five and a half hours. Just as long as you didn’t
mention I’d been laid off… permanently.”
“They didn’t ask and I didn’t
volunteer.” Her expression changed. “Did you get Mister Morrison’s Escalade
back into its parking spot in one piece?”
“Yes! Don’t worry. Old man
Morrison’s in Florida. He’ll never know.”
“Well, get out of his camel jacket
before someone sees you.”
“The old skinflint…” Tommy said bitterly,
hanging up the expensive sports coat. “I should keep it, that’s the least he
could do for firing me… after eight long years!”
“Now… you know… you were just caught
up in the merger with Beavis Company.” The senior accountant shook her head.
“Besides, you did alright, three month’s severance pay, plus unused vacation
salary. By the way, why did you want your pay in two checks, one third on one
check and the remainder on the second? And why did you have me post date the
second check for next week?”
“Oh, you know how I am,” Tommy
replied. “All that money… I may go do something crazy,” he winked at her, “like
buy a new car.”
A week later Tommy stood in the
showroom of Durango Motors, admiring the gleaming yellow sports car. “Ah… Mr.
Hemphill, good to see you again. I hope you enjoyed your vacation. We have your
car all ready for you. The paper work and keys are in my office.”
“Yes, well,” Tommy shook the man’s
hand with a sheepish simper. “I’m afraid there has been a change of plans. You
see… remember that promotion and raise I mentioned?” Pulling out the second
check, Tommy dangled it in front of Thompson like a carrot. “I think I’ll take
the DeRosa after all.”
Thompson stood mesmerized. Visions
of huge commissions, a fat Christmas bonus, and an extended vacation danced in
his salesman brain. The fancy sports cars were eye candy, window dressing to
lure customers into the showroom. Sedans and SUV’s were the company’s meat and
potatoes. His boss would kiss him for unloading one of the overpriced, hard to
sell, ugly machines.
“Excellent,” Thompson managed
through controlled breaths.
“What the hell is he doing here?!”
Thompson turned with a start. “Ms.
Probationary Junior Assistant Sales
Person Jenny Allen flew across the showroom. “Who do you think you are… coming
in here… you… you…” she screamed, arms flying. This time she landed a pretty
solid left hook to Tommy’s jaw before a passing salesman managed to hook an arm
around her slender waist, pulling her back. But not before the point of her
left pump connected with Tommy’s shin. “Come back for another feel… you creep?”
She spit at Tommy. “You pervert!”
“Ms. Allen, you’re fired!” Thompson
bellowed. “Clean out your cubicle!” The angry young woman was forcibly dragged
away kicking and screaming.
Tommy wavered glassy eyed from the
blow to his chin. He shook his head to clear the fogginess. “Why… what…”
“Mr. Hemphill, what can I say?” the
stunned salesman said. “I just don’t know what got into that young woman. Are
you ok? How do you feel? Do you need anything?”
Tommy rubbed his jaw. “Just my
lawyer, I knew I should have sued the first time!”
“What in tar-nation is going on in
my showroom?” Dizzy Dan stood in the doorway to his private office, the tips of
his spit shined Tony Lama Boots reflecting his thick red drooping moustache.
“It’s nothing, boss, honest…
everything’s under control.”
“Under control horse hockey…! Did I
hear someone say something about suing? Bring that young fella thar in here!”
Tommy sat in a thick leather chair
in the paneled office of the owner of Durango Motors. Adjusting his jaw with an
audible pop, he pulled a cell phone from his jeans pocket. Flipping it open, he
gave the dealership owner a wry gaze. “I’m going to sue!”
“Now hold on thar young fella. No
need going off like a hair trigger six shooter. Let’s you and I chew the fat…
“The only talking I’m going to do is
through my lawyer! That’s not the first time that crazy woman attacked me… in
your showroom… for no reason!”
“Yes, I heard about that… now can’t
we settle this thing peaceably like?” Dizzy Dan asked limp eyed.
“Sure we can… if you have half a
million… no… a million… a million dollars handy!” Tommy replied angrily.
Dizzy Dan Durango jumped in his
winged backed desk chair, clearing his throat nervously. “Now listen you man,
please…” The thick cowboy drawl suddenly disappeared. “Be reasonable, son. I’m
up against it! I’m in the middle of a big sales push. This is my busy season. I
don’t need the publicity of a law suit. There’s no need to drag this thing out…
make a federal case out of it that could last for years in the courts. And what
good would it do? The dang lawyers would get it all in the end. Isn’t there
some way you and me can settle this thing right here, right now?”
Tommy swallowed a grin and snapped
the cell phone shut.
An hour later Tommy pulled up to a
modest house in a quiet neighborhood. He beeped his horn. A pretty blonde in a
pink halter and jeans bounced out the front door to the waiting car. She
carried the scent of orange blossoms. Sliding into the passenger seat of rich
Corinthian leather, she flashed Tommy a dazzlingly white smile. “It is
something, isn’t it?”
Tommy’s fingers played across the
Brazilian walnut steering wheel. “Not bad,” he quipped, “it’ll do.”
The blonde leaned over and kissed
Tommy’s cheek. He winced in pain. “That’s quite a left hook you’ve got there
“Sorry, honey. But you said to make
With a wink, Tommy twisted the
ignition key. The lemon twist DeRosa fired up with a roar. “C’mon,” he said,
slapping the expensive sports car into gear. “Let’s get over to the radio
station and collect our twenty grand.”
From the e mails and comments I can see everyone is enjoying the short stories I post. Thanks to everyone for their continued support. I'll have a special story posting for the holidays up in about a week.
In the mean time, in response to all of the requests, yes, I am working on not one but two collections of my Fantastic Literature short stories. With the release of my memoir, Ice Cream Camelot due Spring of 2013, and working hard on a sequel to Elysian Dreams, it looks like the collections may have to wait for a while. But, never fear... I have posted one of my more popular stories and made it available for download. I will continue to post more stories for download as time allows so book mark the page and keep watching. The site is Scribd, a great place for finding some great writing. Simply go to http://www.scribd.com, type in BJ Neblett and scroll down for a listing of my posted work. You can also click on the link below which will open a new page. Enjoy and remember to e mail me or comment here and on my web pages.
remainder of the winter Roger managed his fantasy Red Birds. Mindful of his
youngest daughter’s chidings, he followed the ‘Birds regular season schedule,
rotating his line up and even taking a few days off. Still, just as Jess
warned, unexpected things happened. Roger found it comical to watch a digitized
player argue calls or limp off the field with a pulled hamstring.
The season got off to a
slow start. The computer game ‘Birds seemed little better than their real life
counter parts. Then, three weeks into the season the team made a startling come
back. Down six runs, the ‘Birds beat the Mets nine to seven. The following day
Dyer pitched a four hit shutout. As Roger became more familiar with the game
controls, and more confident as a manager, the team went on to win six
straight, taking three from San Francisco and a weekend set from the Dodgers.
The ‘Birds were making
a strong turn around.
Roger couldn’t be
happier, sneaking off to the den at every opportunity. Helen didn’t share his
“I thought that game
was a good idea, now I’m not so sure.” Roger’s wife heaped an extra large
spoonful of green beans onto his dinner plate. “You certainly seem happier… but
how about sharing some of your joy… and time… with the rest of your family?
Honestly,” she continued, returning the pot to the stove. “It might as well be
the middle of the summer.”
Staring at the mushy
green mound on his plate, Roger frowned. “I figured you’d be happy. The Red
Birds are winning. We’re in second place.”
With a sigh, Helen
rolled her eyes. “It’s only a game, Roger! Not even a real game… its fantasy!”
She kissed the top of her husband’s head, and then took her place at the table.
“But… as long as you are happy…” she smiled coyly and winked, “…then I’m happy,
Spring training brought
a shock to the baseball community. The local papers screamed the headline news:
Dyer and Crowly to return! Under
pressure from fans, new manager Wojciechowski had somehow convinced the Red
Birds’ front office to buy back the popular pitcher and fielder’s contracts.
The move cost the club dearly. But with the return of the two veteran players,
and the addition of some promising rookies, things were looking up. Sports
writers across the country eased their constant condemnation of the team. Some
bookies went as far as to offer even money the jinxed ‘Birds would finish the
season out of the cellar.
By the first day of
spring, the real Red Birds had won a half dozen tough exhibition games, even
taking one from the Yankees. Roger didn’t pass up the rare opportunity to
flaunt the sweet victory in the face of Bobby Kelso, even if it was only spring
training. Meanwhile, Roger’s fantasy ‘Birds were past the All Star break with a
very respectable fifty-one and forty-five record.
Opening day, Roger and
Helen sat behind the Red Birds’ dugout, sipping cold beer and rooting for the
home team. In the third inning Kessler was thrown out trying to steal second.
Roger felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. When pitcher Blake
opened the sixth by hitting San Diego’s Gonzalez, the strange tickling grew
into an eerie uncomfortable sensation.
The ride home was a
quiet one. Finally, Helen broke the pall of silence. “Sorry we didn’t win,
Roger’s eyes remained
fixed on the road ahead.
She patted his knee. “I
did have a good time today…”
“Huh… what…?” Roger’s
blank expression morphed into a crooked grin. “Oh… yeah… me, too… I’m glad you
“Sorry the ‘Birds
lost,” she repeated.
The grin grew to a
satisfied smile. “Yeah… but you know what? I was proud of those guys today.
They played well… despite losing… they played a good game.”
By seven PM all that
remained of dinner were empty glasses and gnawed pizza bones. Roger paid the
check, leaving behind a generous tip for the friendly waitress with the
inviting smile and bulging Red Birds T shirt. Exiting Scooters the game as well
as the feeling of déjà vu were soon forgotten.
Roger continued to
manage his fantasy team. The avatar ‘Birds were doing well, winning games and
holding firmly onto second place. The real world ‘Birds continued to improve
also. No longer the butt of jokes the team was slowly earning a reputation. One
columnist went as far as to tag the team the turnaround of the century, antagonistically adding that in his
opinion the turnaround would continue… into a full three-sixty.
Roger Martin didn’t
care. His team was playing better than ever. And, his computerized players
provided him with plenty of armchair excitement.
One Saturday afternoon,
a few weeks after the real All Star break, Roger stiffened in his Lazyboy, the
fingers of his left hand digging into the faux leather. “Put Cox in, you
idiot!” he screamed to the flat screen. “Can’t you see Murphy’s arm has had it?
Cox will get you out of this mess!”
Before Roger could
relax in his seat, the Red Birds pitching coach strolled to the mound. Taking
the ball from Murphy with a pat to the southpaw’s shoulder, he made a quick
signal. From right field a red and white baseball shaped golf cart appeared. It
bore pitcher Danny Cox to the mound. Nine warm-ups and seven regulation pitches
later the relief hurler had retired Hardy, leaving the bases loaded and putting
an end to the Brewers’ rally.
That night Roger
couldn’t sleep. Try as he may, every time he closed his eyes he re-witnessed
the diamond drama played out earlier in Milwaukee: the struggling Murphy; the
misplayed double play; the slow, deliberate walk to the mound; and Cox’s
masterful handling of the Brewers short stop to end the inning.
Giving up on sleep,
Roger Martin found himself in his den, staring at the darkened TV screen. From
the corner of his eye something caught his attention. It was his score book.
Flipping through the well used, dog eared pages, Roger found what he sought.
The feeling in the pit
of his stomach made him wish he hadn’t.
There it was, in the
hastily scribbled red ink language of baseball. Gwynn had started the Brewers
eight by striking out. An easy bouncer to short had gotten Weeks.
There were two outs.
Then the bottom fell
The struggling Murphy
served up a smash line drive. Ideal positioning and a bull’s eye throw by
Komati, the ‘Birds’ left fielder, held the speeding Cameron to a single. Next
up, Kendal hit a shot to second. A bobbled ball and a costly error and
Milwaukee had runners on first and second; and then Murphy walked Heether to
load the bases.
Manager Roger Martin
had seen enough. He’d punched the red button on the controller, pausing play
and sending the pitching coach Balcom to the mound.
He made the right
Relief pitcher Danny
Cox struck out Hardy to end the inning. A big red K marked the end of the
inning. Cox and Roger’s fantasy ‘Birds had held on to beat the Brewers three to
Roger glanced down at
the day’s sports page which lay open on the floor. The headlines confirmed the
coincidence: Red Birds take Milwaukee 3-2
on brilliant pitching from reliever Cox.
An oddly familiar
feeling came over Roger as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
Instinctively he reached to smooth them. “This is crazy,” he said to no one,
“damndest coincidence I’ve ever seen!”
But was it a
Recalling the Red
Birds’ opening day, Roger flipped back to page one. His fingers skidded across
the score sheet like a blind man’s reading Brail. When his fingers stopped so
did Roger’s heart. In the third inning of the fantasy ‘Birds’ opening day,
rookie right fielder Kessler had misread Roger’s signals and was thrown out
stealing second. Just like the real game.
Swear began to bead on
Roger Martin’s forehead. He forced himself to focus further down the page.
Pitcher Bobby Blake’s first pitch of the sixth inning had caught San Diego
batter Gonzalez square on the shoulder. The incident had nearly cleared both
Just like in the real
circumstances surrounding the coincidences dogged Roger throughout the week.
Sitting at his desk at work, Roger found he could concentrate on nothing else.
He also found he couldn’t bring himself to watch the ‘Birds play, surprising
his wife by showing up at the dinner table on time.
But even eating Helen’s
delicious creamy homemade Mac and Cheese became a chore, as Roger’s mind
continued to return to the two games.
Saturday morning, Roger
was back in his den. “Here ya go, dad,” Jess said, handing her father a stack
of papers. “You know you really should learn to use the computer. There’s a
whole other world out there beyond spreadsheets and solitaire; it’s called the
Internet.” She giggled. “Anyway, there’s what you asked me for, lucky for you
the Daltons next door never throw anything out, enjoy.” With that Roger’s young
daughter skipped out of the room.
With unsure hands,
Roger began to shuffle through the pile of newspapers, scanning the box scores,
stopping occasionally to circle a play or call. Finally he reached for his
“This is crazy…”
An hour and a half
later Roger changed his tune.
“I must be crazy…”
Comparing the Red
Birds’ season box scores in the papers Jess had provided to his own score book,
Roger found more than just a coincidence… more than several coincidences.
The random plays Roger
selected from the box scores mirrored game for game those in the fantasy ‘Birds
score book. The more Roger compared the two, the more unbelievable it all
became. Finally Roger realized that his own Red Birds games actually predicted
the real Red Birds outings. Already deep into the season, the real Red Birds
games exactly replicated the outcome of each game played by his fantasy Red
Birds… game for game, score for score… play for play… hit for hit.
Sweat beaded Roger’s
forehead and his hands shook. Dropping the revealing material on the floor, he
darted out the back door.
It was another week
before Roger Martin returned to his den.
“Ok, now…” Roger sat
uncomfortably in the worn lounger. With his open score book in one hand and the
remote in the other, Roger nervously pressed a button.
“Welcome to AT&T
Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.” The announcer’s voice boomed from the
Dolby surround sound speakers as the sixty inch flat screen came to life. “It’s
a beautiful August Sunday here in the City by the Bay, perfect weather for
baseball. Today the Giants face the re-born Red Birds. As fans know, the ‘Birds
have won ten of their last fourteen on the road, and seem virtually unbeatable
at home. Our Giants have their work cut out for themselves today, as a Red Bird
win combined with a Philadelphia loss will put the red hot Red Birds firmly in
Glancing at his score book,
Roger let slip an ironic laugh. “Work cut out for them…” he repeated, laughing
again. It was Saturday afternoon, August 18. The date inscribed on the open
score book was August 18. Roger’s fantasy Red Birds had soundly trounced the
struggling Giants 10 to 2, six weeks earlier.
Checking his lineup,
the first batter should be Wang. “Play ball!” the televised ump barked. Wang,
the Red Birds lead off power hitter strode slowly, confidently to the plate,
pausing to knock some dirt from his cleats with the end of his bat. Roger felt
the hairs on the back of his neck begin to itch.
The words no sooner out
of Roger’s mouth, Wang ripped the third pitch served to him between center and
left for a double.
Roger’s neck hairs
began to tickle.
Richards tried in vain
to check his swing. “Strike three… out!” the home plate ump called, wildly
waving his arm in a chopping motion.
Roger’s neck hairs
broke into a jitterbug.
The Giants’ second baseman
Scutaro leaped into the air pulling in a sharp line drive, then turned and
tagged a stunned Wang. It was an unassisted double play… exactly as the fantasy
player Scutaro had executed it weeks earlier. Roger’s score book slipped from
his hands as his mouth dropped open.
Some three hours later,
Giant’s catcher Posey popped up to shallow right field to end the game. The
final score: Red Birds 10, Giants 2. Roger had given his family strict orders
not to disturb him during the game. Keeping meticulous track of the game on a
blank score sheet, he now compared it to his fantasy Red Birds August 18th
The two were identical.
… not similar…
One could have been a
photo copy of the other.
“This is nuts…” were
the only words finding their way past the stunned fan’s lips as he repeated
himself. “This is nuts…”
supernatural, or whatever, the proof rested in the documents at Roger’s feet.
Every game the Red Birds had played so far this season was a real life replay
of Roger’s fantasy season. Roger could just as well have been watching a taped
rerun of the games.
It took some time but
eventually Roger accepted the idea that his video game could predict the
outcome of his favorite baseball team’s games. And the short lay off he’d taken
from playing the seemingly enchanted game had proven what Roger already knew: he
was a better manager than the ‘Birds real skipper. For two weeks Roger refused
to touch the game console; for two weeks the Red Birds fell into a slump. It
was time for action; the Red Birds needed his help.
As September ended Roger’s
teams, both real and virtual, were firmly seated in first place. Their record
had garnered them a first round bye and assured the team of home field
advantage. A week before the playoffs, Roger set about his work in earnest,
easily handling the Philadelphia Phillies, and then sweeping the surprised
Cardinals for the National League Pennant. By the time the real Red Birds had
taken their second game from St. Louis, Roger had his World Series tickets
firmly in hand.
sweetheart? You’ve been moping around here ever since we returned home. You
were even quiet at the game. Are you feeling ok?”
Roger Martin slumped
back into his Lazyboy. The Miller High Life in his hand sloshed white foam onto
the tired chocolate Naugahyde. He didn’t notice. He looked up at his wife. “Nothing,
Helen, nothing… I’m ok…”
“Well, I can tell
something is bothering you. When you are ready to talk about it I’m here.” With
a yawn and a smile, Helen Martin placed a kiss to the top of her husband’s head
and started up the stairs. “I’m off to bed… don’t stay up too late.”
It was a chilly Thursday
evening, a week before Halloween. From their seats behind the home team dugout,
Roger, Helen and the girls had watched the Red Birds take the first two games
of the World Series from the New York Yankees. Murphy’s masterful handling of
Jeter and Rodriguez had shut out the American League champs in game one; and
tonight a booming three run homer into the right field bleachers by catcher
Pena in the sixth inning had secured a 6 – 1 win for the Red Birds.
Roger glanced down at
the score book in his right hand. The sixth inning homer by Pena was circled in
red. A notation at the top of the page read: Red Birds/Yankees World Series Game Two Red Birds Park. The fantasy
World Series game had been played a week earlier. With a sigh, he flipped the
page: Red Birds/Yankees World Series Game
Three Yankee Stadium. The page held partial, tentative starting lineups for
the opposing teams but was otherwise blank. The real third match-up between the
Birds and The Yankees was scheduled for the day after tomorrow in New York.
Roger felt the game
controller slip from his left hand.
“Boy, what a series!
Lots of action, some great plays, not too one sided…”
Roger Martin turned
with a start. Kat stretched and yawned, letting out a low, contented yowl. On
the sofa next to her, a large man with a large round head and pumpkin smile
popped a handful of raisins into his mouth.
“… just enough intrigue
to keep it exciting, but still a win for the home team. But, then again, you
already knew that, didn’t you?”
“Oh… it’s… you…”
Walter Johnson pulled
more raisins from his hip pocket. “Thought I’d pop in and see how you were
doing now that you’ve got yourself a winning team. There’s nothing like a
winning season to lift a man’s sprits!”
Roger did his best to
smile. “Yeah, yeah, sure…”
“So, what’s it to be? Who will be starting
game three, Blake? He’s well rested since the NLCS. Or maybe you should go with
Jimenez and save Blake for game four, the final nail in the Yankees coffin.”
Roger looked at the
score book again, and then let it drop to the carpet. “I… I don’t know…”
Downing more raisins, a
knowing grin crossed the Hall of Fame pitcher’s face. “Not having much fun are
“I don’t understand… I
mean… I thought this was what I wanted. The ‘Birds have had a great season;
we’re in the Series… hell, we’re winning the Series… from the Yankees!”
“You should be proud!
You’ve turned the team around. It’s you… your managing of the team… you’re why
they are winning. You said it yourself; you’re a better manager than
Wojiechowski. You’ve proven that.”
Roger leaned back into
his recliner, closing his eyes; gently rubbing his weary forehead. “Then why
isn’t it fun anymore?”
“You’re a smart guy,
Roger, you’ll figure it out.”
When Roger finally
opened his eyes Walter Johnson was gone. “Wow, another crazy dream, huh Kat?”
Scooping up the score book, he rose from the Lazyboy and stretched. “Guess I’ll
finish Saturday’s line up in bed,” he said to the purring feline, “I’m beat.”
In the living room,
Roger paused to poke at the embers in the fireplace. Bluish-yellow flames leapt
to life on the few remaining logs, sending their warmth across the room. Returning
the poker to its resting place, something caught his eye. On hands and knees,
Roger retrieved a dusty baseball from behind the living room sofa.
Standing, he read the hand
written signature: Walter Johnson.
For the first time in weeks,
Roger Martin smiled.
Tossing the score book into
the growing fire, Roger placed the autographed memento onto the fireplace mantle
and headed to bed.
Martin slumped back into his Lazyboy. The Miller High Life in his hand sloshed
white foam onto the tired chocolate Naugahyde. He didn’t notice. His team just
blew a five run lead in the eighth inning. Roger’s free hand moved to the
remote control, his index finger hovering over the button.
couldn’t do it. Maybe, just maybe…
thin high-def TV went dark, plunging the gaudily decorated den into an eerie
red twilight. Roger blinked as the overhead track lighting came to life. He
squinted down at the remote, then back to the blank TV and then up at his wife.
“What are you doing? The game’s not over yet!”
is for them… and for you!” Helen Martin adjusted a gold studded earring,
glancing around the room with a dismissing flash of her pretty eyes.
was once considered the family room was now Roger Martin’s man-cave his
fortress of solitude from the outside world. Painted an eye popping red with
burning white trim, the room more closely resembled a sports bar. Complete with
pennants, banners, logo bar stools, and baseball memorabilia, the Astroturf
carpeted den was a testimonial to the local team.
is the season, thank goodness.” Soothing her teal satin cocktail dress that
hugged her trim figure, Helen extended her hand. “C’mon. We’re late for the
slouched deeper into his recliner. Spending an evening with Babbling Babs and
Boorish Bobby was bad enough. To make matters worse Bobby Kelso was a rabid
Yankees fan. Roger could hear the prattling appliance salesman now: ‘How ‘bout
them Yanks, boy! Yes, Sir. They are on their way to another pennant. And then
the World Series! What a way to christen a new stadium! How many championships
is that now? Well, doesn’t matter… By the way, how’d that team of yours end up…
the Bluebirds… Boo Birds… what’s their name?’ And then he’d let loose that
inane laugh. It always reminded Roger of the ass he rode down the Grand Canyon
as a boy vacationing with his parents.
Kelso knew Roger’s team. He knew they were the Red Birds. He knew with today’s
loss they would end the season in the cellar… just as they did last year… and
the year before. Bobby also knew Roger was the Red Birds biggest fan. He
delighted in constantly ribbing Roger about his hapless team.
anybody home?” The pointed toe of a blue pump striking ankle bone pulled Roger
from his thoughts.
What did you do that for?”
it’s October, it’s time for you to come back to your needy family. Baseball’s
over for the season, at least for the Red Hawks.”
Honestly Roger, from April to October it’s like you’re on another planet. The
girls rarely see you. You and I seldom…” Helen’s soft heart shaped face flashed
Red Bird red. “…seldom… talk. If you’re not at the game, you’re either in this
‘Bird shrine of yours or at that sports bar watching it on TV. If it wasn’t for
Jimmy across the street the lawn would never get mowed; leaves wouldn’t get
much do we pay him?”
he’s always hanging around here, fixing things, doing chores. I think he likes
scrunched up his face in thought. “Little Jimmy Walker?”
“Little Jimmy is fifteen and shaves. I
see more of him than I do you.”
his throbbing ankle, Roger dragged his lanky, six foot frame out of the
lounger. “You know you sound just like a wife.”
because I am a wife… a neglected wife. It wouldn’t be so bad if those Red Bums
would win once in a while.” Helen began to pace, skillfully skirting a discarded
Red Bird’s sweatshirt, an old catcher’s mitt, and several baseballs. “Then
maybe you wouldn’t schlep around the house all summer like a lost puppy. Maybe
we’d go out. Heck, at this point I’d settle for a beer and pizza at Scooter’s.
At least then I’d get to spend some time with my husband.”
shrunk in a pouty slouch, his hands finding the bottom of his trouser pockets.
“You make it sound a lot worse than it is. The ‘Birds win… sometimes. Besides,
you don’t like baseball.” He shot his wife a wishful look. “Do you?”
threw up her hands. “I’m not talking about baseball, Roger. I’m talking about
us… you and me… marriage… the kids. You remember them…”
expression morphed into one of puzzlement. He studied his wife for a moment.
“Is that a new hairdo?”
question caused Helen to stop and check herself in a mirror. “Oh, Roger, what
am I going to do with you?” She brushed back a loose lock of ash blonde hair.
“I had my hair cut in August. You drove me to the beauty shop.”
silly, lop sided smile stole across Roger’s face. “Oh, yeah… that was the day
the Red Birds took two from the Cardinals… a makeup double header. Dyer struck
out seven; pitched a three hitter.”
closed her eyes, shaking her head. The unruly tuss of hair landed across a
finely arched eye brow. “I guess I should be grateful you noticed.”
like it,” Roger said, taking his wife in his arms. “I like it shorter, off the
shoulder. You look younger, sexier.” He kissed his wife’s forehead, scrumming
the errant tress back into place. Winking, he gave her a light swat on the back
side. “You’d be surprised at what I notice. Like what those indigo eyes of
yours do for that dress!”
looked at her husband wide eyed. “Well, nice to have you back, even if it’s
only until spring training.”
crawled by like an American League relief pitcher trying to make it to first
base. Each torturous day brought new humiliation and frustrations. The Red
Birds fired their manager – the fourth in six years. Then, adding insult to
injury, they promptly traded off two of their top players – pitcher Dyer and
outfield slugger Crowly.
Yankees did indeed win the pennant, and the World Series. Bobby Kelso missed no
opportunity to ride his long suffering neighbor. Halloween night, Roger
answered the persistent door bell only to find himself face to face with a pint
sized Derek Jeter. He was certain Kelso had bribed his own son, Bobby Jr., to
perform the prank.
weekend, with hungry visiting relatives to feed, the Martin’s dishwasher died.
When the new Amana arrived from Kelso’s Discount Appliances, Roger found a
stuffed toy Red Birds mascot in the top rack. All he could do was grit his
teeth and repeat to himself, ‘Next season… next season…”
thirty AM Christmas morning… the orgy of ribbon, paper, presents and mom’s
special eggnog was over. Sara and Jess were back in their rooms, texting and burning
up minutes on their new cell phones. Kat, the family cat, was comfortably
installed in her traditional place. The grey and black tiger tabby lay napping
beneath the tree, next to the antique hand carved nativity set, which had
belonged to Helen’s grandmother. Meanwhile, Helen tended to the holiday turkey,
leaving Roger dozing amidst the morning’s ruins, a large Hefty trash bag at his
stretched and yawned, letting out a low, contented yowl. Roger stirred, wiping
his sleepy eyes, and a spat of drool from his chin. A large man with a large
round head and pumpkin smile was perched on the sofa across from him, eating
raisins. He wore an old fashioned grey flannel uniform and a pug nose. The two
men sat mutely staring at each other.
Honey…” Roger finally managed.
stuck her head into the living room. “What, Dear?” She looked straight at her
husband. Roger looked at her, then to the imposing figure on the sofa. The
stranger grinned, popping some raisins into his mouth.
nothing, Honey, never mind.”
ok.” His wife disappeared back into the kitchen.
uniformed man continued to munch on raisins and smile. “Pretty,” he said
between mouthfuls. “Reminds me of the misses. I’ll bet she’s crazy about
baseball, too.” He motioned towards the kitchen. “Just like my wife.”
Yeah… sure… do, do I know you?”
arresting smile grew, the warm narrow eyes disappearing into slits. “Forty game
winner; pitched one hundred ten shut outs; fastest fast ball in the game… just
ask Roy Chapman.” He sucked in his lower
lip, shaking his head. “Damn shame what happened to him… hell of a ball
Roger broke into a sheepish grin. He pointed to his visitor. “The Big Train…
Walter… Walter Johnson. You pitched for the Senators… won the World Series in
nodded proudly. “Four games to three over the Giants. I would have won a lot
more, too, if I’d pitched for a better ball club.” His rolling laugh shook the
room. Roger glanced towards the kitchen. Helen continued to hum and nurse the
turkey, oblivious to the scene in her living room. “We were so bad,” Johnson
continued, “we made the Phillies look good! But it wasn’t the team’s fault.
They were a good hearted, if not very talented bunch. Just the way baseball was
back then.” He dug into his back pocket, then extended an endless arm, the
meaty hand cupped open, “Raisin?”
Roger Martin blinked his eyes and
shook his head. “No… thank you.”
a shrug, Walter Johnson popped the entire handful into his mouth. His cheek
puffed out like a squirrel’s. “Suit yourself.” He glanced upwards. “They don’t
let us chew tobacco.”
what are you doing here?”
Christmas. You seemed kinda down. I figured I would come cheer you up. They let
us do things like that from time to time, seeing as how we got something in
pumpkin grin grew with laughter. “Sure we do… baseball… love of the game. Your
bunch sure reminds me of my guys… the way they fall all over each other
sometimes.” His demeanor sullen and he waged a chubby finger at Roger. “You
just remember, winning’s fine; loosing is part of life. But it’s the game…
that’s why we’re here… not to win or lose… but to enjoy the game.”
jovial expression returned. “You got anything to drink?”
eggnog?” With uncertain hands Roger ladled two glasses from Grandma Martin’s
crystal punch bowl. He passed one over.
The big man finished the white frothy liquid in one gulp, wiping his mouth on
his sleeve. “Say, that’s good! Ruth ought to taste this. He thinks his mix is
the cat’s meow. Too much brandy for my taste.”
set the glass on the coffee table and leaned forward. “George Herman Ruth,” he
said, downing more raisins. “I know you’ve heard of him.”
yeah, sure… the Babe,” Roger replied, trying to sound nonchalant. Sipping his
eggnog, he forced himself to relax back in his chair. Of course, he thought,
‘I’m sitting in my living room on Christmas day drinking eggnog with one of the
greatest pitchers that ever lived, a man who just happens to have been dead for
over sixty years.’
twinkle appeared in the eye of the legendary ballplayer. “That’s thee greatest pitcher,” Johnson shot
back, “Clemens, Carlton… very good, Koufax… great… too bad his arm went sour on
him so early in his career.” Again, as if to read Roger’s thoughts, he held up
a hand. “Don’t even talk to me about Nolan Ryan!” He scooped up a new baseball
from under the tree, grinding it lovingly between his massive hands. Two
protracted fingers gripped the seams as he made a twisting, throwing motion.
“For my money, Gibson is the best… after me of course.”
laughed again, fetching more raisins from his hip pocket. “Damn things never
run out,” he muttered aloud, considering the wrinkled fruit in his palm.
Swallowing the handful, he glared back at Roger. “Hell, no, Josh Gibson was a
catcher; and a hitter, the best in the Negro League. He was a great player. But
I’m talking about Bob Gibson…St. Louis Cardinals… seventeen strikeouts in game
one of the ’68 Series. He had devastating breaking stuff… reminds me of old Cicotti.”
trademark lopsided grin blossomed. He knew this one. “Eddie Cicotti… 1919 Black
Sox… one of the eight…”
nodded, matching his host grin for grin. “Hey… don’t sell those guys short.
They were just a bunch of players who got caught up in some tough
circumstances. They made us look like a bunch of bush leaguers just last week.”
jaw dropped. “You mean they are…” he said quietly, looking up with reverence.
Risberg, Williams, Jackson… every one of ‘em.” Johnson shook his head, smiling
warmly, “Haven’t struck out Shoeless Joe in forty years.”
head reeled – baseball… in heaven!
the Hall Of Fame pitcher rose and ambled over to the front door. “I’ve gotta’
go. That goody-goody Christy Mathewson is throwing a Christmas party.” He
paused, his big face softening. “Aw… I shouldn’t say that. Mattie’s a good kid,
if a bit too straight laced. Besides, Hack Wilson always has a full flask
handy. And if things get too boring we can start pushing old Ty Cobb’s buttons.
He’s always good for a laugh.” The engaging smile returned. “You hang in there.
Its guys like you that make baseball great… the loyal, diehard fans. Win or lose, your team has a lot of heart.
And that’s what this game is really about. Trust me… I know.”
started out the door.
was only thirty six games,” Roger called out. “You won thirty six, not forty…
turned and tossed the baseball. Roger spilled his eggnog and missed. The ball
rolled under the sofa. “Hey, it could be worse,” Johnson quipped, “you could be
a National’s fan… Of course, then again…” With a wink and a laugh the famous
pitcher was gone.
To Roger’s relief the
eggnog didn’t stain the chair or the carpet. The dry cleaners could deal with
his trousers. Shaking open the extra large, extra strength trash bag, Roger
shook his head. “What a crazy dream, huh, Kat?” he said to the purring feline,
“too much of Helen’s eggnog…”
As he set about
cleaning up the morning’s ruins, something caught his eye. “Well, what do we
In a forgotten corner
beneath the slightly drooping tree, partially hidden under torn wrappings and a
green reindeer sweater – a present from Helen’s mother – sat an oblong box. It
was neatly wrapped in shiny red paper, and trimmed with narrow white ribbon.
The effect reminded Roger of the Red Bird’s home uniforms.
“What’s this?” Roger
bent closer to examine the find.
“What did you say?”
Helen appeared in the
doorway. “What? I can’t hear you. The new dishwasher is acting up again… making
that banging sound.”
“This…” Roger pointed
to the package.
Wiping her hands on a
festive red and green apron, Helen moved to her husband’s side. “I don’t know.
What does the tag say?”
Roger lifted the
mysterious gift from its resting place. A small green tag held a single
elegantly handwritten word, “Roger.”
“Well, that’s just
silly. It has to say more… who it is from.”
He carefully checked
the prettily wrapped box. “Nope, just the one word, Roger, that’s all.”
“Your crazy, great aunt
Themis, up in Salem,” Helen answered. “She does things like this all the time.
Remember two Christmases ago? None of the presents she sent the girls were
tagged. Sara and Jess fought like mad over whose gift was whose. It’s from
Roger held the
problematic package to his ear, shaking it gently. “I don’t know. It feels
pretty heavy, solid.”
Helen headed back to
the kitchen. “Probably a fruitcake, one somebody sent to her last year.”
Planting himself on the
sofa, Roger placed the gift on the coffee table. He eyeballed it curiously. It
didn’t make any sense. Themis rarely sent him or Helen presents, just the
girls. And even if she had, why didn’t she sign the tag?
His name was fancifully
scribed with a calligrapher’s hand. It looked gothic.
“If you’re not going to
open it dad, I will.” Fourteen year old Jessica Martin sat of the living room
floor eagerly eyeing the perplexing package on the coffee table.
“Go on then… I guess…”
her father replied from his chair.
The teen wasted no
time. In seconds the shredded remains of red wrapping paper lay strewn about
the floor. “Wow! Cool!”
“What is it, Honey?”
Jess proudly held up
the prize. “It’s a game, dad, a video game.” She read the bold script on the
box cover: “’Shimet’s Professional Fantasy Baseball’, puts you in the dugout.”
Opening the oversized box, Jess surveyed the wealth of electronics, keypads,
cords, cables and connectors.
Roger frowned, “Looks
“Can we hook it up,
dad, try it out?”
“Ok, but not in here.
Your mom would kill us both if we cluttered up her living room. Take it
The next day Roger
wandered into the den. He found Jess and their neighbor Jimmy posed in front of
the sixty inch flat screen TV. Both wore odd looking wrist bands, and laughed
and exchanged excited comments as they eagerly acted out. To one side, Jimmy
wound and twisted his body in a pitching motion, while to his left Jess stood
ready with an imaginary bat. On the TV two teams were locked in a two-all tie
in the sixth inning.
Roger had to blink his
eyes to be sure he was watching a video game. The graphics were crisp, sharp
and unbelievably realistic. The characters moved fluidly across the green
field. The pitched ball curved and dropped, spun and bobbed as if thrown by
Carl Hubble. Even the lifelike spectators waved and cheered as the batter swung
and missed. Roger recognized the stadium. It was PNB Park, home of the
But what struck him the
most was how the players on the screen mirrored the movements of his daughter
and neighbor. As he watched transfixed, a perfect image of Pete Hammels, under
Jimmy’s control, struck out Pujols to end the inning.
“Got ya,” the teen
Jess turned. “This is
so cool, dad!” She picked up an official MLB score sheet, notating the strike
out with a red K. Meanwhile, the players on screen began to warm up for the
next inning while the announcer made an impassioned pitch for a local brewery.
“You are the boss,
see…” Jimmy chimed in. “First you build your team… you are in charge… you make
all the decisions.”
“Yeah, then you become the controller! You pitch,
field, throw, run, even swing the bat just like you naturally would,” Jess
added. “Your players can try for extra bases and even steal.” She held up an
arm and pointed to the screen. “These bracelets along with the sensor mounted
under the TV pick up your movements and transmit them to the game console. And
you can play alone against the computer, too.”
Roger’s mouth remained
open. He was still trying to get his mind around the fact that this was indeed
a game: computer generated men and images. Avatars and Sprites was the term
he’d heard computer people use. Roger looked at video games before. Even the
best and most expensive were slow and stilted, with jerky motions and often
unpredictable movements. This was light years beyond anything he’d seen
available in toy stores or video retailers.
“Looks complicated,” he
Jess laughed. “No not at
all, dad. They even included a control pad and joy stick for old schooler’s like you. You can chill
in your lounger and play if you want.”
Roger was pulled from
his trance by a sudden announcement from the TV’s speakers: “Ladies and gentlemen, the familiar voice
called, “please bear with us during this
unfortunate delay.” On screen, players milled about. One kicked the dirt
around home plate and spat tobacco. Another scratched himself indignantly.
“Oh…” Jess turned her
attention back to the screen. “They don’t like it when you make them wait.”
With that she pushed a green button on her left wristband and the bottom of the
sixth inning began.
For the rest of the day
Roger sat in his recliner completely captivated by the animated action on his
TV. The realistic game went into extra innings. Finally, the Phillies emerged
victorious on an eleventh inning home run by Ryan Howard. The second half of
the double header went to the Cardinals, three to two.
“You sure you don’t
want to give it a try, dad?”
Roger rose from the
Lazyboy and stretched. “No. You kids have fun.” He looked at his watch and then
to the expensive flat screen. The lights had come on at PNB Park. “No. I
promised your mother we’d go out to a movie.”
With a sigh, Roger
“Are you ok?”
Roger barely heard his
wife. He looked up from the magazine in his hand. “Huh? Yeah… yeah, I’m
Helen slipped into bed
next to her husband. “You’ve been reading that same page for the last half
hour. In fact, you’ve seemed distracted all night. You hardly said a word at
dinner. And you never even touched desert.”
Giving up on the
magazine, Roger set it on the night stand and switched off the light. “I guess
I just wasn’t very hungry.” He kissed his wife’s cheek and rolled over.
Helen Martin woke up
three hours later alone.
In the den, a bleary
eyed Roger shouted to the TV screen. “No! No, you idiot! You don’t try to steal
third on a 3 and 0 count! You guys play worse than the Red Birds!”
Dropping the key pad,
Roger sank back into his chair. This was no better than watching the ‘Birds
“Have you been down
here all night, dad?”
“Of course not, Sara,
don’t be silly. And what are you doing out of bed? It’s late.”
Sara Martin shook her
head and pushed back the heavy drapes. A sharp ray of yellow sun blinded Roger.
“It’s after eight, dad! And mom’s looking for you.”
“Oh… Ooh!” Roger jumped
out of his seat, stiff bones popping like firecrackers. “Don’t tell her you saw
me,” he called and bolted out the back door. A few minutes later he casually
sauntered into the kitchen. “Good morning, Darling.”
“Oh, there you are. I
thought you’d run away from home or something.”
“No… no… Of course not…
I just went to get the paper and decided to take a walk,” Roger said, painting
on his best poker face.
Helen turned, sizing up
her husband. “Sweetie, it is thirty degrees outside and you’re in your slippers
sheepishly. “Well… I…”
“You’ve been in your
den playing with your video game.”
“Sara told me. She sold
you out for an extra pancake.”
“Remind me to cut her
Handing him a glass of
orange juice, Helen kissed her husband affectionately. “I was wondering when
you’d submit to that gadget’s Siren call. You’ve been hovering over Jess and
Jimmy, watching them for over a month now.”
Roger dropped into a
chair and sipped his juice.
“It’s ok, Honey,” Helen
teased. “I don’t mind. At least it keeps you off the streets at night.”
Later that Sunday,
Roger was settled into his recliner. He had programmed the game for a Red
Birds’ season. The home park graphics perfectly mimicked Red Bird Park, down
to the old style faded bleachers in right field and the aging Ballentine Ale
sign in center. Following the schedule provided with his season ticket package,
Roger set a 162 game schedule that followed the ‘Birds upcoming season.
“Hey, dad, you’re
finally gonna try your hand, huh?”
Roger smiled over to
his youngest daughter. “Why not… I certainly couldn’t do any worse. I’ve always
said the ‘Birds problems lay directly with their poor management.” He scratched
his head. “I just don’t like this line up I’m saddled with.”
Jess settled on the
floor, next to him. “Why don’t you change them?”
“You can do that?”
Giving him a pitiful
look, Jess snatched the key pad from his hands. The screen cleared and changed
to a list of players, their positions, stats, and asking cost. “These are the
season’s available players and free agents. You’re the manager, dad, you’re in
charge. Pick your players carefully, and be mindful of the salary cap. I’d say
go for a nice balance of young talent and veteran players.”
Roger eagerly joined
his daughter on the floor. “I’d be happy just to get rid of some dead wood and
get back Dyer and Crowly.”
Bargaining was tough.
Just as in real life, players held out for more money. Some refused to be
traded. By evening the Red Birds’ line up was set. With few exceptions it
replicated last season’s roster. Most notable was the return of Dyer and
Crowly, the two players that had been traded off. It cost the club dearly,
including two players to be named later. But Roger was satisfied.
He relaxed back in his
chair, a perplexed expression on his stubbly face.
“What’s the matter,
“This is all well and
good,” Roger sighed, eyeing the complicated key pad and joy stick. “But I can’t
work that thing like you kids. I’ve tried. I’m not that coordinated. My players
act like a bunch of medicated senior citizens. And I’m not up to gyrating
around in front of the sensors. I probably wouldn’t last three innings.”
Jess grinned. “You
don’t have to. You can play the game on auto. Then all you have to do is map
out your strategy; set the day’s line up; position your players each inning;
decide on pitches, and make changes as the game progresses. In this way you are
the manager. The game does the rest.”
Roger perked up. “And
“That’s it. Just
remember, this is a very advanced game. Your players do get tired, make errors,
become injured, even fall into slumps and argue with the umps. At times I think
it can even read your mind.” She popped up, patting her dad on the shoulder.
“You’re all set. You’re the manager. You’re in charge. Remember, it’s a long
season.” With that she bounded out the door.
Roger stared at the
graphics of Red Birds Park. He became mesmerized by the dancing flags and bright
banners; by the trim blue green grass and sharply contrasting rich brown
infield with its razor straight base lines; and by the brightly colored
inviting seats behind the home dugout. He swore he could smell fresh roasted
peanuts and steamed hot dogs.