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                Game Six of the 1975 World Series 

 A Complete Description in 12 Innings of the Greatest Baseball Game Ever

 Daniel F. McNeill

    The night sky over Kenmore Square shines with a strange
light that is not much less fascinating when we see high in the air
the steel poles capped with big electric lamps that radiate a
manufactured sunlight over Fenway Park, the home field of the
Boston Red Sox. We are in an immense crowd of people walking
along together as though in harmony with some secret rhythm
that sends out an odd murmur. The loud, blurred sounds of
thousands of words speak, without any language that can be
understood, about a precise excitement. We are all leaving the
same place to go together to a space that calls with a mysterious
voice understood by everyone. We have only to follow along. The
sidewalk is unable to hold all of us; some must walk in the street
that is crammed with cars. We don’t look particularly to see
anything significant in the thousands of faces around us because
the present business of walking seems so powerfully controlled
by a strong desire to discover something absent rather than to
seek anything in one another. The crowd has a touch of the nervous
energy of buyers and sellers on the floor of a stock exchange who
seem deaf to the noise of their own cries and forgetful of
themselves because they have so completely surrendered their
individual identity to a foreign reality indicated by fluctuating
numbers on a board which seem at the same time to delight them
and to torment them. But the energy of this crowd is the kind that
has left for once the bewitching power of money in order to probe
the veins of another kind of magic. The night sky over Fenway
Park has no longer any night. We are on our way to a festival
where nothing is for sale except the incorporation of ourselves in
the eternal business of baseball.
    We pass through the 1912 portals of Fenway Park, hand over
our tickets, and walk along a ground floor, cement corridor stuffed
with a crush of people swarming in different directions. Here we
can’t escape faces, it’s the disaster of hundreds of mugs popping
in front of one another, accompanied by a loud, absurd
cacophony. We are shocked because we have come to experience
some wonderful, impossible transcendence and this seems at
best a ridiculous parody of elevating emotion, a hell of noisy
vulgarity. We feel an empty annoyance because of the
psychological weight of being among so many people whose only
interest seems to be in being an active part of an unregulated
mob. And this wide corridor, which surrounds much of the field
below the stands, is not only a huge stomach with hundreds of
human bits struggling towards orifices, it is also an avenue of
pleasure because at regular intervals we see rows of fans crowded
in front of refreshment stands eager to buy beer and hot dogs.
However, as we walk along, we get over the shock of the crowd
and we find in ourselves finally no antipathy to beer and hot
dogs. For why, after all, if the eternal deeds of baseball are the
stuff of our circus, should we not have the bread to go along with
it? And beer, too! Ah, the blessedness of beer and hot dogs! The
beautiful afternoons of summer at a ball game when fans are
moved by no other religion than the one that preaches the divine
drug of the full, guiltless enjoyment of themselves! And we
especially, who pretend to be adept at the deeper meanings of
baseball, should have the courage to sympathize with our fellow
fans for if they do not know the words to celebrate those balls
flying towards the sun on a summer afternoon as a resurrection
of something dead, they at least feel the power and are devoted
addicts of the experience. This is not the moment, minutes before
the start of the sixth game of the World Series, to be miffed because
the fans do not know the key to a rite of liberty and religion in the
form of a game that was created by Americans over a century
ago, nor should we have anything but sympathy for their need to
eat and drink down below on the cement before going above. But
we are looking for the pure cult itself; we quickly climb a staircase
to go directly to the altar.
   An immense green field, dominated in the foreground by
wide paths of bare earth surrounding the solitary pitcher’s mound,
makes a deep impression on us because of the odd contrast
between the presence of so much carefully arranged space,
inundated by an artificial light, and the thousands and thousands
of humans seated compacted together around the edges: without
voices, without faces: thousands of eyes fix their look on a
beautiful emptiness, on an Elysian Field without heroes. We sit
squeezed together - the tight seats at Fenway make fans pay a
price for seeing a game in a park so old that it is almost already
a museum - a few feet past first base and about 40 rows up behind
the Boston dugout, on the frontier of a foreign country. At the
moment no one in uniform is on the field. Then some players
from Boston appear on the field from the dugout near us. We can
see rather well the interior of the Cincinnati dugout, beyond the
base path between home plate and third base, filled with players
in uniforms. The freshly chalked foul line, roughly parallel to the
Cincinnati dugout, leads our eye past third base out to the
extraordinary feature of Fenway Park, the famous left field wall
which is about three times higher than the walls of other major
league parks. It holds our attention instead of the players who
have begun practicing on the field. The great wall, called the
green monster, sets the only boundary around the field behind
which there are no seats for spectators. It begins in left field, in
the left field corner that it forms with a wall at the edge of seats in
foul territory, just three feet to the left of the foul line running to
meet it at a point 330 feet from the plate; it continues towards
center field in a straight line, reaching in left center field a
distance of 370 feet; it ends to the left of dead center field, at a
distance of 415 feet, where it forms an oblique angle with a wall
of about half its height in front of the center field bleachers. It is
430 feet to the center field bleachers, 395 feet to the two bullpens
before the seats in right center field. The low right field wall in
front of the spectators is at a substantial distance from the plate,
although it does curve in to only 315 feet at the right field foul
Pole, but the left field wall, at an unusually short distance from
the plate, and 37 feet high, is a monster with two heads. It often
helps the unjust and harms the just. When a player hits a rising
line drive to left with enough power to go over the wall of most
major league left fields, at Fenway it bounces high against the
wall and quickly back into the hands of the left fielder who can
throw it to second base, if he knows how to play well the bounce
off the wall, in time to prevent a ball, which should have been a
home run, from being even a double, by forcing the hitter to
retreat to first base. On the other hand, it helps hitters who hit
balls high in the air to left because some of the balls, which
would be caught for outs anywhere else, have enough force,
although not hit solidly, to sail over the wall at a relatively short
distance from the plate.
    The murmur of voices outside in the street and the cacophony
in the corridor below the stands are now replaced by an energy
that is heard distinctly yet has no individual sound, a buzzing of
humans: we hear thousands of words and sentences of an
overflowing vitality as though puffed up in the air floating
nervously on thick, invisible clouds of some vague and heavy
anticipation. Boston has won two games, but Cincinnati has won
three and can win the championship of the world by winning
tonight. No matter what the result tonight, Cincinnati will play
again tomorrow, but Boston is playing against its extinction.
Behind the plate, among the seats of the first row, we notice a
television camera; others are placed near the dugouts and at
other locations: more eyes which emphasize the importance of
the game by transmitting it to seventy million TV viewers. But
the only thing that is truly present now is this enormous, nervous
heaviness of a crowd waiting with one eye to see something that
is not on the field at this moment. The Boston players are taking
their turn at defensive practice: a player, near home plate, hits
balls to the infielders, another hits to the outfielders. Both teams
have already taken batting practice. The only other practice, the
warm-up of the pitchers who will start the game, is going on also,
just before the right field stands in the bullpens. A bull, in a pen
or not, is a good figure of speech for a pitcher: the pitcher attacks
the matador, braving at the plate his own disappearance, with a
ball thrown with a terrible force that curves rudely or smoothly,
towards the body or away, like the horn of a bull. The crowd
wants the practice game to finish so that a game of life and death
may begin.
    Yet to some fans, if baseball does not seem a solemn drama
of life and death, it is at least perhaps as exciting, in their
imaginations, as the profits and losses of ordinary businesses
because, instead of naming the leader of each team the coach.
as they do in every other sport, they name him the manager.
Sparky Anderson, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and Darrell
Johnson of the Boston Red Sox, meet for a conference with the
umpires at home plate. The managers then return to the dugouts.
Finally the nine defensive players of the Boston team appear on
the field, coming from the dugout, to a sudden roar from the
crowd that makes the air tremble from the compact power of one
immense voice. There are only a few minutes before the game
will begin and then four hours and thirty-four minutes before the
deeds of its wonderful business will compose a legend.
    The silence during the playing of the national anthem, all
the spectators standing, the nine players motionless all around
the field, is followed by the last sound resembling a single voice,
a roar of uneasy enthusiasm after the painful silence, that we will
hear for some time. After the roar, the crowd sits and waits intently
for something in the drama which is not present in it simply
because the game begins. Baseball is never a battle team against
team; most of the players are now hidden from view in the dugouts;
the teams have no prearrangement for battling group against group
which might transfer the tension of the fans right from the start to
some massive struggle on the field: baseball is always a patient
war of extinction, a slow struggle up to an ultimate disappearance,
waged by an organization against separated individuals. Instead
of some vague generalized sound, we hear now in the crowd the
noise of many voices, some of which enhance themselves loudly
and oddly, even sometimes distinctly,over many others, excited
voices which hover over thousands of inner silences waiting
nervously to see on the field profitable deeds which could only
be accomplished at the same individual level as the solitude in
each fan.
   This solitude at least meets its perfect counterpoise on the
field in the figure of the hitter who is now walking up to the plate,
incorporating in the drama an enemy solitude: until three outs,
we, the fans of Boston, can stir our hearts only by the perdition of
our enemies. The first is Pete Rose, the third baseman. He waits
near the plate while the pitcher, Louis Tiant, makes some warmup
pitches. Rose has already made this short walk to the plate
more than 500 times during the regular season, since last April,
and during many seasons before, but for all the repetition his
walk does not seem any less the archetype of an eternal novitiate
along some narrow path that each American must make who
wishes to succeed to the glory of his individual power before the
jealous eyes of a public eager for the same power. Rose sets
himself in the batter’s box and swings his bat for practice; then
he holds himself alert and motionless, studying Tiant’s movement
that is about to become a ball sailing towards him, flying white in
the air with a rush, violent with life. Rose holds his bat back
ready to connect its power with the life of the ball, ready to declare
himself the solitary prophet of his own destiny by the oracle of
the connection he may make with the deceptive offering of an
   Louis Tiant, a Cuban, is as tough mentally as a champion
chess player and as deceptive a pitcher as a snake is crooked
sliding through grass. Even to say that he has several types of
pitches is to miss the true nuance of his art: the batters facing
him always see a wind-up they recognize, yet somehow it’s tricky,
it never seems the same, perhaps because he never seems to
throw the same pitch twice, or more likely, because the subtle
changes he makes in his wind-ups and pitches make the batters
lose their full power of concentration and make them become
believers in the power of his deception. And as the batters
perceive Tiant’s pitches as more cunning than they really are,
the subtle tricks of his changing rhythms become hellish. He is
spinning his web of illusion so well that no batter has scored on
him in the last 36 innings pitched in Fenway Park, and he earned
complete game victories in the first and fourth games of the series.
The crowd expects great things from its master magician although
it knows with a touch of anguish that the magic of his wand is
limited by the knowledge the Cincinnati batters have gained by
the experience of already having missed so many of his pitches.
Pete Rose connects with one and sends a ball to fairly deep left
field; the left fielder, Carl Yastrzemski, runs and catches it,
slipping to the grass. One out.
   The tension, present in each fan and everywhere, in the very
air, that we felt before the first pitch was relieved by the bat’s
contact with the ball which transferred its focus to a concrete act
on the field. The sound of the contact between a bat and a ball is
the first clink of the bottle that will intoxicate us until the final
slug at 12:34 a.m. tomorrow morning.
   It’s a long battle with just the next batter, Griffey, the right
fielder. We can see Tiant very well, mostly the left side of his
body when he throws; his baseball glove of brown leather, three
times bigger than his bare hand, is on this side also since he’s a
right-hander. Most of his uniform is bright white; the white contrasts
sharply with the red and black portions. His pants are knickers,
zouave-style, ending below the knees over long red stockings;
his short-sleeved shirt flaunts in front, in big, red letters,Red
Sox, and in back, in black figures, his number 38. He places
his right foot on the rubber in the center of the mound; he makes
it and the cavity in front the pivot of his wind-up and pitch: first
a dip of the body forward, then the whole body twisting over the
rubber, the left leg folding and rising while the right hand holding
the ball hides itself behind the glove on the left hand; finally,
after a slight hesitation peculiar to Tiant, an odd twist of the head
to the right, the left leg descends to make the left foot the fulcrum,
lower down on the slope of the mound towards the plate, for a
new pivot of the body which allows the right arm to whip down
and release the ball with a pre-calculated aim, twist, and speed.
Griffey waits like a tiger to pounce on an easy victim; Tiant rifles
a white little bird past him that hums with a ripple near an
ambiguous edge of the strike zone on the outside corner of the
plate. Tiant is always at the edges, always near the beginnings of
the world where clear distinctions end. However Griffey waits
very well, he does not swing at equivocal pitches that the umpire
judges balls. The count reaches two balls and two strikes. Tiant
is devoted to the disappearance of each matador he confronts
because he knows that the escape of just one can be his ruin. He
throws Griffey ball three with the genius of a pitch so ambiguous
that Griffey risked a strikeout by not swinging, whereas he
probably could not have hit it well if he had swung. Griffey earns
first base by his intelligence and self control: he walks there by
taking the next pitch that is too far inside. The crowd, in silence,
sees incorporated at first base the counterweight of its thousands
of solitudes in the solid body of an enemy.
    Tiant changes his movement before pitching because a runner
is at first base. He sets his right foot against the forward edge of
the rubber with his left foot planted forward and his back to the
runner. He studies the space above the plate while leaning
forward; then he draws back his left foot near his right foot, joining
his left hand with his glove to his right hand holding the ball at
about the level of his chest. He immobilizes himself in this
position. He turns his head, while the rest of his body is motionless,
towards Griffey who is a few feet from first base. Then he turns
his head, still without any movement of the rest of his body, towards
the plate. No one knows where the slightest movement of Tiant’s
body, one that is not a new twist of the head towards Griffey, will
end, except Tiant, although everyone knows that such a
movement must end in either a pitch to the plate or a throw to
first base. Tiant throws to first base; Griffey gets back safely. Then
he repeats the movements that end in an ambiguous immobility
before throwing somewhere. Each pitch must be released with
skill, calculation, dash, and deception condensed in an attack
against the weak points of a batter’s armor; any slackening of
concentration can destroy a pitcher’s inspiration and make any
pitch the sterile service over the plate of the fat apple of a dead
science. The pitchers need time between pitches to mentally kill
any tendency that might lead to a mechanical offering. Now, with
a runner on first, there is the additional work of keeping close a
runner, a fatigue that bothers the pitcher’s endless search within
himself for the grace of the right balance in his pitch. We have no
space to describe every pitch in tonight’s game, still less to
describe the preparation before every pitch, although throughout
the game we will see sentence after sentence, composed by many
pitchers, with such periods or commas.
    Joe Morgan, the second baseman, swings with such force at
a pitch that even the bad contact it makes with the bat is enough
to jet the ball high in the air behind the plate. The catcher, Carlton
Fisk, waits there looking up like some crazy believer waiting
for manna to fall from the sky and catches it. Two outs. That
soothes a little the tension because it shows that Tiant has plenty
of movement in his pitches, but the next enemy, Johnny Bench,
the catcher, is so great a power-hitter that each appearance at
the plate menaces a home run: during the regular season he hit
40. Moreover, he bats right-handed which makes the green
monster, nearby in short left field, the natural target of his power:
he could pop a ball down along the left field foul line over the
wall even on bad contact. Tiant gets two strikes on him; Bench
swings and misses a ball low and outside. Three outs. Loud
applause. Some fans stand, shouting, Lou-eee, Lou-eee, Lou-eee
as Tiant walks to the dugout. We are not at a cult whose
believers have doubts about what they worship.
    Now the Boston team has a chance to gamble a capital of
three outs. The Cincinnati team takes the field; the infielders
and outfielders throw balls back and forth among themselves for
practice; on the mound, the Cincinnati pitcher, Gary Nolan, a
right-hander like Tiant, practices his pitches. The crowd relaxes.
People let themselves go. They talk it up. During this pause they
don’t take anything seriously except themselves. For the moment,
until a player incorporates by his individuality the Boston team
at the plate, nothing painful can happen, and while Boston is
batting, even if there ís no profit, there ís no possibility of any loss
except in the form of some missed opportunity, which Cincinnati
has no power to employ for some positive advantage. Three outs
is a lot of time: it’s the only capital that counts in the game until
it’s used up.
    Tiant seems in good form, and he has already faced the best
four batters in the Cincinnati batting order. The thought that Tiant
may easily conquer the next three Cincinnati batters in the next
inning intensifies the feeling of hope and well-being that begins
playing inside us because it seems to add a larger time of blessed
possibilities, the time of three more outs for Boston batters in the
next inning, to the beatitude of the three that are already sure in
the present inning. This little interval during the Cincinnati
defensive practice is a momentary truce before a celebration of
goodness, the innocent bliss full of the hope of some beautiful
absence about to take a positive form. The whole past baseball
season, 176 games, more than 1594 innings, had many such
happy moments of deliverance where no reality, even that of the
game, had any power against the silly hope of some goodness
near at hand. We go to games in order to recapture our innocence
by the art of escaping from the evil deeds of our enemies to a
territory of happy prophecy. Nolan, on the mound, ready to pitch
to Cecil Cooper, the first baseman, is a philistine.
    But there it is suddenly, the bird of our hope really flying
through the air: Cooper whacks a ball towards center field; but it
sails too high and not very deep, tracing a high arc through the
sky. The center fielder has enough time to run near the place of
its descent and catch it. A white bird flew without enough power
towards the freedom of far off spaces only to die in the glove of a
hunter running across a beautiful open space. One out. However,
there are still two, enough time to do a lot. Denny Doyle, the
second baseman, steps up to the plate. This time, instead of
looking only at the pitcher and the batter, we watch the four
defensive players around the infield. They set themselves, leaning
towards the plate with their arms hanging loose as the pitcher
starts his windup: tigers ready to pounce. Tony Perez, the first
baseman, moves to his right as soon as Doyle makes contact and
shoots a bouncing ball towards him. Perez fumbles the ball but
recovers in time to throw to Nolan, who runs to first base before
Doyle, for the out. Two outs. Suddenly there remains only the
time of one out. The hope of a beautiful absence is now forced to
occupy the narrow space of a short wait.
    But Carl Yastrzemski, the left fielder, a left-handed batter,
blows fresh wind into our bubble by his presence at the plate
because he is Boston’s best batter. One solid blow of his bat can
score a sudden run, and it is probable he may try for a home run
since there are two outs. Yastrzemski holds the bat almost
perpendicular to the ground and very high; his fists squeezing
the end of the bat are higher than his left armpit, higher even
than his left shoulder, close to the body and as far to the rear as
possible. Nolan moves, twists, plants a foot and throws.
Yastrzemskiís bat waits motionless until the ball has sailed half
the distance to the plate. The lower fist, the one of his right hand,
leads the bat down and forward beginning, when the bat is still
up high, a pivot around his twisting wrists that swings the bat
smoothly, led by his arms, over the plate. The weapon that
Yastrzemski descends from on high condemns him to a difficult
journey when he triumphs over the ball designed to eliminate
him by hammering it solidly on a line. No one understands
anything except his sudden victory. He shoots the ball past the
infield to right field. No one looks at Yastrzemski any longer as
soon as he makes contact because every eye instinctively follows
the ball. The applause reaches its fullness when the ball is already
dead, after a few bounces, in the glove of the right fielder. The
crowd does not turn to look at Yastrzemski until after he has
touched first base, when he stops on the base path having taken
a few menacing steps in the direction of second base. Griffey, the
right fielder, throws the ball in to Morgan, the second baseman.
Yastrzemski retreats to first base and waits there touching it with
his left foot. There was a dazzling moment, the hard, exciting
sound of the crack of the bat and the sudden, beautiful flight of
the ball: there were brief instants of a lavish goodness, then
nothing. The quick pleasure of the crowd, like a delicious bite in
a fruit, was enjoyed with a perfect unity with itself in a momentary
forgetting of a whole world. But it is still there this world. There is
nothing but a man alone at the beginning of a difficult journey
without any weapon except his speed and cunning. At the instant
just after contact, when no one was looking anymore towards the
plate, Yastrzemski was immobilized briefly following the complete
swing of the bat after the blow. He was as though paralyzed for a
short time as he sought to follow with his eyes the ball already far
off, as he tried to follow the token of his life that he had just
driven irrevocably away. He recovered quickly and ran towards
first base after expressing the sudden uselessness of his bat: he
threw it aside, a good-for-nothing weapon, in order to flee to an
enemy world where the worst for him is certain to the degree that
some help from another batter large enough to allow him to escape
may never arrive. Because the excitement of Yastrzemski’s act is
now gone, because now nothing is happening, the crowd sees
that Yastrzemski, alone and passive at first base, is stuck in a
trap, and a doubt about his chances to get out begins establishing
itself inside thousands of minds. The disappearance of the quick,
beautiful deed makes the crowd experience momentarily the fall
of Yastrzemski to a state of ambiguous incompleteness.
    Nonetheless, a deep instinct to see beyond the unhappy reality
of Yastrzemski’s lonely success quickly inspires in us a seductive
liturgy of hope that rises above the black logic of his slim chance
to return home. Only those fans in our little group up behind the
Boston dugout, because we see baseball as a kind of imitation of
religion, understand intellectually that the apparent success of
Yastrzemski is really the sudden sin of his metamorphosis to a
state of near powerlessness, yet every fan, without any conscious
thought of religion, fervently expects that the purity of some absent
grace will wash away the stain of Yastrzemski’s diminished state
and will allow him to save himself by making a pilgrimage back
to the place of his brave fault. His isolated presence at first base
under the thumbs of his enemies makes it rigorously clear that
his birth is still in danger of being a stillbirth, but the crowd does
not want to understand the hard rationality of this logic because
it is yet possible that he be reborn to a life of new power by a
miraculous resurrection.
    Carlton Fisk, the catcher, a right-handed batter, confirms our
faith: he singles between the third baseman and shortstop to left
field allowing Yastrzemski to reach second base easily. Two
beautiful deeds in a row. Enthusiastic applause. Two runners on
base, alive and ready to run, are two quick bites in the fruit with
dash, a fellowship of bites, more like happy births in a society of
good cheer than a couple of potential stillbirths. The hard logic
of the game would say that no one gets rich, no one scores, except
by jumping on someone else’s back, but a man found the grace
to help another man and we no longer care about any logic that
does not speak with the wisdom of hope. Three minutes ago there
was no possibility of scoring except by the miracle of a home
run, now only a base hit, like the two we have just seen, is
necessary. All our faith, excited by a new burst of life, focuses on
the next batter, the center fielder, Fred Lynn.
    Fred Lynn is nineteen years old. Any man who plays regularly
in the major leagues at this age is a demigod, but Lynn has already,
in the past season, demonstrated the prowess of a genuine
Olympian. He batted over .300 with very many home runs and
runs-batted-in: a terrific rookie year. Boston is not in the World
Series because of Lynn, but without him it would not be here.
Nineteen years old and standing at the plate before 70 million
eyes. 35,205 stiff mouths wrap him in a heavy, painful silence.
Our hope becomes mixed with anguish before the possibility of
our own defeat being joined to the spectacle of the personal defeat
of a young hero in the midst of a great public. Some brave fans
break the shroud of silence to shout nervously words of
encouragement, but the sounds of their hope only make the weight
of thousands of silences press more heavily. Fred Lynn is alone
in the midst of a breathless crowd with nothing to create his life
but a bat, a hero on a field of battle surrounded by the vast
emptiness of speechless and motionless bodies. Nolan pitches.
Lynn does not swing. The umpire calls a ball. Nolan throws again,
towards the inside of the plate. It is such a good pitch to hit,
straight and perfect for a left-handed hitter’s power, that we can
see that Lynn, surprised by a gift from his enemy in the heat of
battle, must hold himself in rein, must make an effort to wait for
just the right moment when the ball is at the best position over
the plate to elect himself to a preeminent destiny by hammering
it with the full, smooth force of his young, disciplined swing. His
bat pounds the ball away with a shock of such power that it is
like a trumpet sounding a great victory. The ball takes immediately
the high flight towards right field that the excellence of Fred
Lynn imposed on it. We are all standing. We see nothing except a
ball that makes us all live together its exalted passage in the
luminous sky. It flies far away towards right field in the short
eternity of a long voyage, about 440 feet, towards a transcendent
completion among the rows of seats behind the right center field
wall. Fred Lynn makes us feel all the liberating joy of his brilliant
excess as what it is virtually: our own. We are all as far from
ourselves as the ball is far from the plate while the victorious
hero runs at his ease around the bases and scores at the plate,
following Yastrzemski and Fisk, the third run.
  What is a home run ball if not a sudden glory in the sky
proclaiming a magnificent birth? What is it if not a stroke which
already includes the entire future destiny of an individual in the
moment of its conception, an immaculate stroke which makes a
batter’s voyage as a runner sacred because it already makes
certain at the beginning a happy end in a place beyond the
ground of his trial? A home run is a representation in a Protestant
game of Calvinistic predestination, nothing less, and the
incarnation succeeds by means of such a striking objective
likeness that we really do not know, so exciting is the marvelous
shock of a sudden blow, where the art of the game ends and the
reality of the religion begins, so that what we experience is
something really unusual, a happy confusion of the two. A home
run is the perfect accomplishment of a superhuman potential
baptized clean of the fault that stains the birth on the bases of
inferior batters whose blows condemn them to an oppressive
passivity on some base. Home-run hitters enjoy a goodness, far
apart from the very rare charity of human beings, that comes
uniquely from themselves. The home run is the ultimate
super incorporation of oneself, the self-election to a holy ground,
it is Calvinism by nothing but a wonderful shock of a bat and a
   Nolan offered Lynn the possibility of ruining himself and Lynn
seized it to elevate himself to the full measure of his virtue. We are
still standing. The applause continues. Some teammates squeeze
his hand to congratulate him after he crosses the plate; others have
stepped up onto the field before the dugout to welcome him as he
approaches; finally he descends the dugout steps and disappears.
His blow does not leave us with a whisper of emptiness or even a
hint of dissatisfaction: it releases the waters of a blessed fullness. We
sit down still flying on clouds as real in their proper space as the
numbers posted on the big scoreboard near the bottom of ìthe green
monsterî in left-center field: Boston 3, Cincinnati 0.
    Rico Petrocelli, the third baseman, hits a long fly to center
field. Geronimo catches it on the warning track. But we are still
too excited by Fred Lynnís deed to give it the full attention it
deserves. Three runs and three outs.
    Louis Tiant assumes on the mound the office of annihilation
without the support of any immediate danger; until three batters
succeed against his pitches, survive the ordeal of the three bases,
and score, his pitches will sail and twist along devious trajectories
to the plate without the solemn chance of providing the means
for some sudden disaster. To be or not to be is the question that
each pitch asks when the teams are tied, or when a team trailing
has a possibility of suddenly taking the lead, but Tiant now
possesses the liberality of avoiding an answer because his pitches
are no longer direct questions but the ironical taunts of a lofty
conceit. He is a knight on horseback fighting against foot soldiers
with enough armor to fight a battle he can win fairly easily: a
careless pretentiousness that his advantage may cause is now
his greatest enemy. The next batter, Tony Perez, a Cuban like
Tiant, tries to upset Tiant with some slurs in Spanish. Tiant answers
him jeer for jeer with words, then with the ball: he strikes out
Perez swinging. Perhaps Tiant will not allow himself to be less
severe in the struggle than is necessary, perhaps his advantage
may even bestow on him a calm in the thick of battle that will
make him untouchable. Perhaps. Foster, the left fielder, swinging
hard, pops up a ball very high in foul territory behind first base.
Cooper runs back and catches it. Two outs. Good, but still
something is too good. They call the Cincinnati Reds “the big
red machine” because the hitters overwhelm their opponents by
what seems a mechanical sequence of power hitting. The machine
is now having mechanical difficulties. Dave Concepcion, the
shortstop, hits a ball to center field. Lynn catches it. Three outs.
Very good, but it is much too soon to enjoy the misfortune of
Cincinnati when there is still the long time of 21 outs left to be
played. For the moment, we escape from a presence of goodness
that seems a little too good by anticipating the offense of Boston.
Dwight Evans, the right fielder, accepts a third strike without
swinging. Rick Burleson, the shortstop, hits a ground ball to Perez
who runs this time to first base himself to make a putout. Tiant
appears at the plate and is the victim of a called third strike.
Geronimo, the center fielder, is struck out swinging. Sparky
Anderson, the Cincinnati manager, takes out the pitcher, Nolan,
due at the plate and pinch-hits Chaney. Chaney adds clout to
the logic of his manager’s decision by hitting a ball well towards
left center that Yastrzemski must catch on the warning track with
his back to the wall. It was a loud, strong blow against Tiant’s
armor protecting our well being. Rose, his second trip to the
Plate, gets a base hit to center field. The big red machine is
not yet rolling but it is moving. Rose, a good base-stealer, takes
three, four steps from the base. Sparky Anderson could call for a
hit-and-run play, Rose running on a pitch and Griffey, at the
plate, trying to hit a ball through the hole created between first
and second as the second baseman runs to cover second base.
Sparky Anderson has already interfered in the game by taking
out Nolan and no doubt he is itching to do more. If there were an
oracle somewhere where the destiny of a game could be
announced in advance, then the manager’s job would be to baffle
the oracle by interrupting the free development of the game’s
pre-established destiny by pulling any strings the speed of his
wit might allow: God must pre-calculate a manager’s calculations
if he wishes to preordain a game. Of course, nothing prevents the
Boston manager, Darrell Johnson, anticipating a hit-and-run play,
to reverse the normal defensive strategy by sending Burleson,
the shortstop, to cover second base and leaving Doyle, the second
baseman, at his normal position. Baseball is free enterprise: the
offensive entrepreneur must be ready to exploit an opening in
the economy of the bases that he himself maneuvers to create;
the defensive executive must try to block openings until he gets,
when his team is batting, access to the market. Tiant, in the middle
of the traffic, comes to a complete stop, turns to look at Rose, and
pitches. Rose is off for second base with the pitch obeying Sparky
Anderson’s calculation. Griffey hits the ball towards the area that
Doyle is abandoning, but all the strategies slip into the darkness
of pure chance when Tiant, moving to his left, touches the ball
with the edge of his glove and slows it down. Doyle moves back
towards the position he has left, and, because the ball is traveling
slower, he has time to stop it and throw to first where he beats
Griffey, running at full speed, by a step. Three outs, although
only the edge of a glove and the distance of a step prevent
Cincinnati from being in the same situation that Boston was in
when it scored three runs: two outs, runners at first and second,
and one of the team’s best batters at the plate. Baseball is also
the business of Cleopatra’s nose, the play of a life too complex to
be predicted.
    Second half of the third inning. As it happens, Boston sends
to the plate the same batter who began the first inning, Cooper.
Since Boston has gone through its batting order once, the Boston
fans who score each deed of the batters in a program can read
there, while waiting as Cooper and the new pitcher, Norman,
prepare for combat, the record of the heartbeat of their whole
team: flied out to center; grounded out; singled; singled; home
run; flied out to center; struck out; grounded out; struck out.
Cooper adds to the beat - popped up to shortstop -  although the
real language of his deed is that Conception, the shortstop, caught
the ball behind third base, that there was confusion before the
catch because Rose, the third baseman, went back for it and was
close by, and that Cooper, running at full speed, was near second
base when the ball was caught.
   Doyle, a left-handed batter, who grounded out to Perez in the
first inning, belts a ball quickly past Perez that has us standing
to follow excitedly its destiny in right field. Griffey has no chance
to catch it for an out. Doyle, sprinting towards first, sees that
Griffey has to chase after it towards the right field corner; he
changes the direction of his sprint, angling to the right of the
base path, touches first base veering at full speed, and races
towards second. Griffey throws the ball to the infield quickly but
too late. Cheering and shouting all around. A double. If
Yastrzemski, due at the plate, can get another base hit, Boston
will score its fourth run.
    And it is only the third inning! Four runs would mean that
Cincinnati must score five times against Tiant to win the
championship, whereas, up to this time, in ten innings at Fenway
Park, it has not yet scored against him! And there is only one out!
If Yastrzemski fails, Fisk will have the same chance! If one of the
two avoids making an out, Fred Lynn will be up again with runners
on base! The possibility of Boston winning the championship
adds foam to our intoxicant; we feel near the edges of a new,
dizzy goodness.
    Yastrzemski makes a strong swing but misses a solid contact;
Morgan waits under a very high pop-up and catches it near
second base. At this critical moment, suddenly less critical for
Cincinnati because there are two outs, Sparky Anderson is not
the man to let the strings alone: he decides to walk Fisk
intentionally. Norman throws four mechanical pitches far outside
the strike zone; Fisk walks to first base. Why does Anderson
choose this strategy that seems illogical since it brings Fred Lynn
to the plate facing the same situation, runners on first and second,
as in the first inning? Why put another runner on the bases and
bring up someone who has just hit a homerun? The Cincinnati
manager is organizing all his resources to block the fourth run
from scoring, represented by Doyle at second base. If the fourth
run scores, it will be necessary that his team score four runs just
to tie Boston. This number goes beyond a limit rooted in the very
logic of the game: how can a team score four runs if there are
only three bases? To score them all together, it would be necessary
that someone hit a homerun with three men on base. The Boston
manager would probably not permit any pitcher, even Tiant, to
load the bases, still less would he permit a pitcher, with his team
leading by four runs and facing elimination from the series, to
throw a home run ball with the bases loaded. Certainly any team
can score two or three runs in a short period of time: Boston has
just scored three, Cincinnati just missed having two runners on
base. But there it is a question of scoring two runs by, say, a
double with two runners on base, or scoring three by the
extraordinary thunder of a home run, it is not a question of scoring
four runs. Sparky Anderson shares the doubt about the efficacy
of the goodness of three runs that has been nibbling inside us
since they were scored: we feel that Doyle on second is an opening
towards a secure victory whereas Anderson sees him as the closed
door of his defeat, a lid too tight to pry open. He reinforces his
defense by putting Fisk on first base because now, with runners
at first and second, he can make the third out by a ground ball
and a throw to any base: since the whole weight of his strategy is
to prevent Doyle from scoring, he does not care about Fisk’s
potential as the fifth run. And finally, the same logic that would
force Darrell Johnson to go all out to prevent the fourth run,
gives Sparky Anderson the edge to play for the whole ball game,
win or lose, right now: he is ahead in the series three games to
two, so he forms his strategy with the certainty that, whatever
happens, his team has the option of playing a new game tomorrow
against Boston for the championship, if necessary. Doyle scoring
would be a lid on Anderson’s coffin only in this game.
    Fred Lynn is a left-handed batter and Norman is a left-handed
pitcher: the same curve ball that would have come up to the
plate curving from the outside in towards the bat of Fisk, will
arrive sailing directly towards Lynn and then curving sharply
down and away from his bat. In normal circumstances, a left handed
batter does not always see curve balls from a left-handed
pitcher, but Anderson has decided to throw only curves slicing
down and away near the edges of the strike zone so that, even if
Lynn were to make good contact, the ball would be predisposed
to hit ground quickly and bounce towards an infielder. Anderson
orders Norman not to be concerned about walking Lynn and to
throw him only curve balls that are very difficult to hit; he thus
further reinforces his defense by insisting that the horn of his
bull curve sharply and low at a dangerous angle.
    Lynn works the count to three balls and two strikes. The
moment before the next pitch is loaded with anxiety, but the
strategy of Anderson is not any less in force: Norman throws a
ball curving towards an ambiguous edge of the plate which fires
the drama to a new heat. Lynn does not swing. The umpire calls
it a ball. Lynn trots down to first base. Loud applause. The bases
are loaded.
    Rico Petrocelli is the next batter. Not only is Doyle, the prey
that Anderson is hunting, now at third base, but also Petrocelli is
a right-handed batter. At first glance, it seems a debacle: Doyle
is only ninety feet from the plate and Petrocelli has the advantage
against the left arm of Norman to the degree that it was a
disadvantage for Fred Lynn. But Anderson will not have failed
until his prey escapes his grasp and touches the plate. The risk
of Doyle stealing home is almost nonexistent since Boston will
not gamble recklessly when it has the chance to score two runs
on just a base hit. A base hit will be the death of Anderson’s
strategy and will inflict the added pain of scoring Fisk from second
after Doyle. Yet Doyle already had, a few seconds ago, the
possibility of scoring on a base hit when he was at second base
with Lynn at bat. Anderson included in his calculation the chance
of moving Doyle to third when he decided to make only tough,
bad pitches to Fred Lynn: his ace in the hole was that he could
give Lynn first base if he failed to strike him out or make him
ground out because Doyle’s advantage at third would not be much
better than the one he already had. In fact, the danger of Doyle
scoring on a base hit has been present since he doubled with
one out. Nothing is really different in this respect except that
now, with the bases loaded, Anderson does not have the option
of throwing only bad or ambiguous pitches to Petrocelli that might
risk giving him first on a walk and at the same time score Doyle
from third.     

    What is this game of strategy going on outside the game and
influencing it directly? The complex progression of the individual
acts of a series of batters towards an unpredictable result evolves
in a mode whose logic follows a general pattern. But precisely
because the progression of acts changes independently of the
control of any individual player as a result of each new individual
deed, it invites inevitably manipulation from outside. The players’
offensive deeds, except when they hit home runs, reach only
some imperfect evolution at some base. They usually fail to reach
a perfect completion and permit an enemy manager to exploit
the logic that the crisscrossing imperfections of runners, occupying
the limited space of the three bases, and the batters impose on
one another. Sparky Anderson acts according to a plan based on
a foreknowledge of the general form that the evolution of the
deeds of enemy players must follow. Since each act includes in
its upsurge enemy counteracts as well as new evolutionary
possibilities and new counteracts, the thought of Anderson tries
to control the free progression of events by aiming them at some
ultimate result that he seizes upon as being already rooted in the
logic of the evolution if he carefully pulls the right strings at the
right moments. However, since we have already seen how difficult
it was for Fred Lynn, a left-handed batter, to bat against Norman,
a left-handed pitcher, isn’t it clear that now Anderson has
manipulated himself into a crucial disadvantage? We have seen
that Doyle, at third base with two outs, does not represent a danger
much greater than when he was at second base, but all the same
Anderson has allowed the bases to be loaded, and worse,
Petrocelli, a right-handed batter, enjoys a solid advantage against
Norman. Has not the Cincinnati manager played his dialectical
knowledge against the free development of the drama in order to
be, at the most dangerous moment, outwitted by the play of the
logic that he himself created? Isn’t the ultimate counteract of his
strategy the right-handed batter at the plate and the left-handed
pitcher on the mound? The fact is that Anderson, all along, from
the moment he decided to put Fisk on first base, has been
preparing his own ultimate counteract with precisely the situation
he now faces in mind. He has a cannon loaded in the Cincinnati
bullpen; all along he has been warming up one of his best pitchers,
Jack Billingham. Anderson brings him in to replace Norman. Is
Billingham a left-handed or a right-handed pitcher? There is no
need to answer! Anderson has been looking far and wide at the
same time that he was looking straight in front and up close. He
attacked Yastrzemski, a left-handed batter, with a left-handed
pitcher. Two outs and he neutralized Fisk, a powerful right-handed
batter, by putting him on first. Then he designed a prudent attack
against Fred Lynn by ordering only the most difficult sort of pitches
to a left-handed batter from a left-handed pitcher. And now he is
prepared to attack Petrocelli with one of his best right-handed
pitchers! The managers of baseball teams, like corporate
executives, never allow events to follow their natural course if
they can turn them to their profit.
    We understand what Sparky Anderson is up to, but with
Billingham practicing his warmup pitches and Petrocelli waiting
to bat with the bases loaded, we let ourselves go. We want so
much that Petrocelli hammer the ball somewhere that we cannot
stop ourselves from seeing beyond Anderson’s calculation, in
the excitement of Petrocelli’s presence at the plate, towards the
chance for a wonderful deed. Our hope has its reasons that
Anderson’s calculation does not include! A good contact is always
possible! Even a pitcher’s best pitch can sometimes be hit! There
is always the possibility of a defensive error! The worst is not
always sure because life always includes the chance of some
unforeseen moment of pure recreation! Hammer it, Petrocelli!
Quench our thirst by some deed that will raise our spirits to a
height that will match the intensity of our hope! The batter and
the pitcher struggle. Billingham pounds Petrocelli, and us, with
the heavy fist of strike two. Our anxiety seems almost unbearable
in this immense empty space surrounded by tightly packed
humans where only the noise of scarce voices interrupts the heavy
silence. We nail our eyes on Petrocelli, practicing the swing of
his bat over the plate, forward and back, waiting for Billingham
to get set to throw. Nothing nor anyone has the power to change
the reality that Petrocelli is simply one man completely alone
facing a unique moment of his destiny in total solitude, not even
the fact that his destiny is also ours. Billingham twists and throws.
Petrocelli lowers his bat and swings. He misses the ball. Zero for
our hope.
   Life is a window, baseball is a door: Tiant goes to the mound
to shut it. Morgan sends a ball bouncing towards Doyle. The ball
is the token of Morgan’s freedom: he experiences his freedom by
transforming himself to a runner and by flying towards first as
though every press of a foot on the base path were a touch of his
death. The life of a man springs towards its incorporation at the
same place where the ball of his freedom can become by its
arrival before him the sudden doom of his extinction, the death
of his try to create himself. Doyle catches the ball and throws it to
first base in time to slam the door.
    The man in the center of the scene keeps changing: Lynn,
Petrocelli, Tiant, Doyle. Now it is Tiant: he strikes out Bench, the
best Cincinnati power hitter, on a called third strike. Loud
applause: it is the second time he has struck out Bench.
Cincinnati’s lack of offense, enforced by Tiant and the Boston
defense, is wholesome; it relieves the pain of Petrocelli’s failure
without eliminating it. But the Boston defense stumbles: Doyle
gets his glove on a ball hit on a line by Perez, but lets it get
through out to right field; then the shortstop, Burleson, after
making a good stop on a ground ball, makes a bad throw to second
base; the ball bounces out towards right field and Perez advances
to third; Foster, who hit the ball, stays at first. Our wholesome
feeling gives way to apprehension, to the sudden sickness of an
enemy possibility: the healing of the bruises caused by Doyle
and Burleson by the collapse of the next batter becomes our
great hope. We want Tiant to cure us from the danger of a negation
by a negation, to repair our flaws by the expiation of a victim.
The ancient Aztec priests of the country where Tiant now resides,
Mexico, used to squeeze the beating hearts of their human
victims, tear them from their bodies, and throw them in the faces
of the statues of their Gods: the ball is the heart of the modern
sacrifice since it can make, by the artifices of the pitcher squeezing
it, the man at the plate a statue. Tiant deceives the eyes of his
victim by sending him a ball as straight as the devil’s heart: it
pops high in the air off Concepcion’s bat. Cooper chases it behind
first base. He squeezes it in his glove for the third out after Perez
has touched the plate in vain. There are still in North America
men who are immolated by someone squeezing dead in front of a
crowd the nucleuses of their life.
    Three and a half innings. Nothing definite has happened in
the succession of negations and transient affirmations except a
miracle: now, six outs away from the middle of the game,
Cincinnati has left only the time of fifteen outs to make one.
There is always, of course, plenty of time when the only important
business to be accomplished is a miracle - for miracles burst
through the normal, plodding sequence of time at their own good
time and not before - but because we do not believe in one that
could be of profit to our enemies, the time they have left seems
short: Tiant, the bull professing our faith before infidel matadors,
incorporates in his office all our hope. We stand up to applaud
him shouting Lou-eee, Lou-eee, Lou-eee with the crowd, as he
walks towards our side of the field to go into the dugout after his
triumph over Concepcion, having faced an immediate extreme
danger. We sit down, thinking positively about his return to the
mound, until Dwight Evans makes us forget him: he belts a long
ball to right field.
    It lands close to the low wall near the corner and bounces up
over it into the stands. Evans must stop at second base, a ground rule
double. The blow plants a deeper hope in us than that after
the double of Doyle in the last inning because there are no outs,
whereas then there was already one. The difference is capital
because it means that, unless Sparky Anderson can again pull
off some successful manipulation, we can perhaps score the key
fourth run merely by hitting two balls which end as outs: a ground
ball to the right side of the infield or a fly ball to right field could
get Evans to third; then a ground ball or a fly to any part of the
outfield could bring him home. Anderson’s strategy cannot,
therefore, simply be to prevent the next three batters from getting
base hits; the only strategy that faces head on the immediate
danger is to do everything possible to not allow Evans to reach
third before there are two outs. But how? Is there room to
maneuver in circumstances so favorable to Boston? How can
Anderson prevent Evans from reaching third base before there
are two outs if he is already at second base with no outs?
Andersonís inspiration gives him the eyes to see the one gleam of
light in the middle of the disaster: if he puts a Boston runner on
first base, he would have a pawn in the right position to somehow
try to get a ground ball for a double play; he would be happy to
move Evans to third under such circumstances because he would
arrive there with two outs. But his problem is much more subtle
than to simply give first base to Burleson, the next batter. In that
case, Boston will have the option to employ the antithesis of this
thesis, which will openly reveal Anderson’s strategy to get Burleson
in position to take advantage of a double-play ball: a bunt by the
next batter, Tiant; a good bunt, although a bunt still risks a double
play, could move Burleson to second and Evans to third with just
one out. The Cincinnati manager has to keep one eye on this
possibility, and another on the risks he runs because of who the
batters are who are due at the plate after Burleson and Tiant.
Next, the third batter would be Cooper, then Doyle, then
Yastrzemski, Boston’s best batter. Yastrzemski, if he comes to the
plate in this inning, will probably be up with the bases loaded;
even this risk, one step from the abyss, is acceptable because if
the bases are loaded, there will be two outs and a run will not yet
have scored, the crucial fourth run that is Andersonís primary
concern. But Yastrzemski coming up to the plate with the bases
loaded is an ultimate limit which dictates that Anderson
annihilate three of the four batters before Yastrzemski while at
the same time he maneuvers to put one of the four, at some
propitious moment, on first base. Anderson must repress the
undisciplined spring of his inspiration; rather than just sending
a batter to first, he must try to annihilate the batters struggling to
occupy the base that he wants one of them to occupy.
    In fact, since the problem is so complex, Anderson joins
together in one strategy three goals that the different possibilities
he faces make compatible: he decides to pitch to Burleson to
strike him out and to give him first base on four balls, and to
follow these contrary theses of the same proposition by pitching
in such a way as to make it impossible that Burleson, a right-handed
batter, get a pitch he can hit well. Two of the three
Goals, either a strikeout, or a ball hit for an out, could result in
an out without Evans moving to third. Billingham, on the mound,
has the job, therefore, of keeping the ball outside to Burleson
without fail. However, the mechanical calculation that Anderson
forces on Billingham grates his natural style, his limited goal to
send the ball always along a set trajectory deadens the fluidity of
his rhythm, sterilizes it, so that Burleson looks passively at four
pitches outside, called balls, without letting himself slide down
two of the slopes that Anderson offers him; but he must walk
down to first base to be perhaps the pawn in a double play. It is
up to Tiant, now at the plate, to make himself the hinge that will
swing open before Evans and Burleson a door.
    Everyone knows Tiant is going to bunt. He turns and faces
Billingham, without pretending to hit normally, when he begins
his movement to throw. Perez runs well in, as Tiant squares to
bunt, to try to make a play on Evans at third, if possible.
Billingham, his rhythm fertilized by a regained free will, throws
the ball with some good movement. Suddenly Tiant, a gambler,
sees a way to outwit Perez who is rushing towards the plate to
outwit him: he bunts the ball and sends it over Perezís head
towards the no man’s land behind him in fair territory. All at once
everything seems senseless. Evans is running to third, Burleson
to second, Perez and Billingham are running towards the plate,
the shortstop is running towards the base that Evans has just
abandoned, the second baseman is running towards the base
that Burleson and Perez have just abandoned, while Tiant is
running to this base also, at full speed, to arrive there before the
ball. It falls just behind Perez and stops. Boston is two seconds
from having three men on the bases without any out. It ís the
sudden delirium of hopes taking shape everywhere. Perez, the
key bird in this nest of unrealized possibilities, with a rare
combination of speed and reflex, reverses his direction, picks
up the ball, and throws it to first base in time by just a fraction of
a second before the arrival of Tiant. The road towards salvation
stretches sometimes too far to allow a pilgrim to foil the devil’s
   We are glowing inside, however, because Tiant’s sacrifice has
worked; he at least foiled Sparky Anderson because Evans is on
third with one out, and since Burleson is at second, the threat of
a double play has been removed. We sit down. Our hope is based
on a solid calculation: two chances for a base hit that would
score two runs, and a fly ball before another out would score one
run, the fourth. The sudden contact of Cooper’s bat which becomes
a slow ground ball towards first base enlivens our desire to see
accomplished some beautiful opening. Perez seizes it, runs to
the base and touches it well before Cooper, and, at the same
time, by holding the ball under his control and by moving to the
base ready to throw at any moment to the catcher guarding the
plate, he prevents Evans from trying to score. In only a few
moments, Andersonís strategy has been accomplished by luck: a
short time after Tiant’s foot, touching first base, failed by a split
second to fill the bases with no outs, Evans is at third base with
two outs. Now we need a base hit to score him. Doyle, who has a
double to his credit, is up. He hits a bouncing ball towards right
field, but Morgan stops it easily and throws to Perez in time. An
open door slammed shut.
    The dull confusion of sounds, as a new defensive team takes
the field, does not deafen, after another missed possibility, the
loud doubt gnawing inside us at a silent hope. The miracle of the
first inning seems as distant from our present mood, while our
enemies get ready to bat, as its author, Fred Lynn, is distant from
the plate, standing far away in center field. Thousands of minds
sag under the heavy truth that Boston should have scored four
more runs, two at the very least, whereas it still has only three.
Cincinnati, about to bat in the top of the fifth inning, has fifteen
more chances at the plate. Even the best aspect of the situation
seems to add noise to our growing doubt: this would be the 41st
inning in a row that a team will have failed to score against Tiant
in Fenway Park, a tremendous achievement, but isn’t it a wave
that has already peaked and now must ebb? We cannot hide in
ourselves, in the silence where our fearful hope lives, from the
knowledge that the best pitchers give on an average at least two
runs every ten innings. Geronimo hits a fly ball to right field.
Evans catches it easily. One chance less.
    Sparky Anderson, his head forever buzzing with calculations,
attacks with a pinch hitter, Ambrister for Billingham. It ís good to
see Billingham gone from the game, but Ambrister works the
count to four balls and earns first base. Rose is up, fresh from a
base hit in the third inning. He works the count to three and two.
Ambrister is off for second with a pitch, a quid anticipating a quo
from Rose. Rose places his capital by punching the ball through
the infield to center field. Ambrister exploits Rose’s input by
racing all the way to the sweet richness of third base. An orchestra
leader hidden in the wings gets just the right notes from his
instruments out in front of a huge, nervous, enemy crowd.
Two men then on the bases, two enemy plenitudes, two
pilgrims ready to run on to a salvation that would be for us a
sickness. Yet the more we fear and doubt, the less we want to see
the real danger which is as evident, with only one out, as the
ocean of weird light drowning the night. We let something go
within ourselves and start lathering ourselves with hope. Tiant
will save us! He will trick Griffey! All he has to do is throw him
pitches that bloom over the plate with the evil rhythm of a sudden,
deceitful change of direction! We know very well that Griffey is
one of Cincinnatiís best batters, but we see already in our mind’s
eye, blurred by the cunning of our hope, the bounding ball hit
towards Burleson at shortstop, who throws it to Doyle touching
second, who relays it to first for a double play! We are only seconds
away from this beautiful garden of our paradise regained! The
loud crack of Griffey’s bat against the ball is like the first boom of
the cannons of a battle that we feel already lost because of our
fright. The thunder of his contact sounds the alarm and predicts
the disaster.
    The ball flies off, rising with plenty of power towards the night
sky hanging over the artificial light in left center field; but quickly,
at the zenith of its climb, it begins slowing down. To the rapid
pulse beat of our alarm, the descent adds the throb of a hope as
real as the presence of Fred Lynn in center field, running full
speed towards the great, green wall. The data that make our hope
authentic are the decline of the ball towards the wall, our solid
knowledge of Fred Lynn’s superior defensive talent, already
demonstrated many times during the regular season, but
especially the obvious eagerness with which he is running boldly
towards the ball as though heedless of the wall. Those who know
man’s existence as a transitory appearance rather than as an
eternal fixture, as the marvelous outburst of the play of an
imagination itself unimaginable, appreciate all the more the
creations imagined by men, and perhaps just as much the
complexity realized by the imagination in this particular
epiphany: the art of this sport has the wit to cast a hero already
possessing the glory of having accomplished the most beautiful
gesture of the offensive game, the splendid thunder of a home
run - a deed which elevates Fred Lynn to the highest rank in
this temple where men play at Protestantism -  the art of the game
casts the young hero of the Calvinistic flight over walls by the
burst of a ball off a bat on his horse in a pedestrian gallop towards
a brutal limit like that he has already surpassed, the wall, the
green monster, a giant enemy ready to thwart the impulse of his
boldness by its immovable mass. His feet hit the warning track
about fifteen feet from the wall without slowing. We are all standing
at this anguished moment of extreme hope. Fred Lynn jumps as
high as possible in front of the wall, thrust up by the momentum
of his speed; he stretches his left hand up towards the ball as he
twists his body around facing back towards the plate. His back
collides violently with the wall. The ball hits the wall also, inches
above his glove. Yastrzemski reaches the area seconds later to
back up the play, picks up the ball and throws it back towards
the infield in time to prevent Griffey from advancing beyond third
base. Ambrister and Rose have scored. The collapsed body of
Fred Lynn slides down the wall and lies motionless on the ground.
    An august silence has come from no one knows where. It is a
total silence, really total, not one word or sound anywhere. 35,205
people are standing absolutely voiceless. The air seems petrified
by the weight of a superhuman silence that comes from a feeling
in each of us of sudden emptiness and powerlessness because
we all see spontaneously in the passive body lying rigid at the
foot of the great wall the presence of an enemy much more terrible than the devils of Cincinnati: death. We are dumbfounded by the
unforeseen arrival of a cessation that arrests each of us and also
weighs heavily on our common heart. Fred Lynn is not dead, but
we are to the degree that we know nothing at this moment except
that a body on the ground, sharply outlined by its white uniform
surrounded by green, does not move. This out, which goes beyond
those of the game, is collective. It is the shock of the nudity of
our solitude that we hide from ourselves by living the day-to-day
cheat of our habits. It is the taste of the absence of life in life, a
real contact with emptiness, a brutal perception of that sudden
out that waits hiding within each of us. Fred Lynn has given us
by his courage a quick glimpse of the shabby end of the game we
live outside ballparks and the body lying still on the ground in
front of the wall, that creates for a few moments a truly solemn
silence, brings a new anxiety to the game itself because the glue
that holds us voiceless is the common realization that we will not
win the game without Fred Lynn: death in every sense, except its
physical presence, is everywhere.
    A game in which Americans of another century have expressed
the best of themselves is worthy of this extraordinary silence
before an image of the tragic solitude at the game’s heart,
which is equally at the heart of human existence. And finally,
after a few minutes that seem very long, Fred Lynn moves. His
teammates help him get up to a sitting position. He remains sitting,
surrounded by a small group, collecting himself. We begin talking
sparsely. After a few more minutes, Fred Lynn gets up, with help,
and stands, leaning forward with his hands on his legs. We begin
talking regularly and loudly, even occasionally shouting. After a
tragic misfortune, we begin again the play in our minds of the
game; we wonder whether Lynn will be able to remain in center
field. We feel so strongly that he is essential for a Boston victory
that we forget the shock of a sudden cessation and start worrying
about a pernicious possibility. After still more minutes, we see
that Lynn’s teammates are leaving center field and leaving him
there to remain in the game. We applaud loudly. Finally there
are again the ordinary noises of a large crowd. The game begins
    Morgan pops up a ball near third base. It relieves us because
it can be caught so close to the plate that Griffey will not be able
to score from third. Petrocelli catches the ball for the second out.
The popup indicates that Tiant still has good movement on his
pitches. Bench is up, the slugger that Tiant has struck out twice.
Now a base hit is necessary, with two outs, to score Griffey, and
Tiant seems to know how to get rid of Bench; even in the disaster,
there is the gleam that we are still winning three to two and that
an out now will lead us from the darkness. Bench slams a ball so
hard that Yastrzemski, in left field, can do nothing but turn and
watch it pound against the wall. Yastrzemski plays the quick
bounce back to the field so well that he has time to throw quickly
to the infield and prevent Bench from advancing to second base.
A long single. Griffey has easily scored the third run. So neither
team is now winning. Tiant strikes out the next batter, Perez, but
Bench’s blow against the wall still resounds in the place where
the echoes of misfortune live on.
    Baseball is a circle; a batter is eternally back again in front
of the same door that he has just opened or that someone has just
shut in his face. Yastrzemski stations himself at the source of the
river that he has already followed to its outlet, in the first inning,
by the grace of the miracle caused by Lynn. A ball spinning up
to the plate to defeat him, from the hand of the new pitcher,
Carroll, is the only plenitude, an apple that contains the bitter
juice of a difficult voyage, in the hostility surrounding him. He
chokes off any sentiment that may soften the disciplined
acceptance of his solitude and beats back with his bat a nail
from Carroll designed to punch a hole in his armor. He pierces
the infield with a ball for a base hit that sends for the millionth
time a Robinson Crusoe to a solitary island. Where will he find
the help he needs to return home? Is the grace of another miracle
again possible? Fisk, at the plate, trying to begin the voyage in a
circle, makes the circle vicious for Yastrzemski: a bouncing ball
to Morgan imposes on the latter a sudden end at second base.
Fisk is now the Robinson Crusoe, alone on his island, already
burdened by the weight of one out but ready nonetheless to extend
his solitude to an empire of effects, to a network of freshly
discovered islands. They only live for causes that connect with
an effect, the Robinsons, for they believe that there is no effect
without a cause, that they can only create the effect that their
reason tells them that they can cause and that since reason has
no reason for being except its own effects, it is up to everyone
who lives where he reasons to make himself inevitably an absolute,
a complete embodiment of his own calculations. The bases are
perfect islands eternally prepared to sprout Robinsons at each
point of their vicious or miraculous circle, at each island in this
labyrinth of lucidity where a man is absolute and alone. A bad
contact from the bat of Lynn sends the ball high in the air to
shallow left field and makes Fisk paw the ground near his island.
Foster catches it. Two outs. Petrocelli bounces to Concepcion
who throws to Morgan for the force out on Fisk. Three. Three
closed doors that square the circle.
    At the end of five innings, twenty-three subjects of Cincinnati
and twenty-four of Boston declare the same predicates, three
runs, which mean that we are still, after forty-seven batters, at an
equality that cancels both scores, at zero. The field is emptied
and filled by men so that silent, ritual-like gestures, improvised
yet formal, already repeated with the same integrity for more than
a century, may answer finally yes or no. Where will it end and on
what surface of what moon are we sitting watching the doings of
this strange planet of immutable cycles where nothing speaks
except the deeds of men that end at the place of their beginning?
Although we are at zero, the atmosphere still weighs heavily,
loaded with doubt and hope, as we wait nervously to read some
ultimate sentence in the only language present: the voiceless
fight of men against their own disappearance. We are ready to
adore with religious fervor the abolition of our enemies and the
incarnation of Boston players on the magic paths that may lead
back home and so speak the holy word that may be a final ablution
from the dust of our powerlessness: yes. Yes we will not say much,
but it will say everything.
    Our emotional nearness to the nothingness, to the absence
of a final word, makes us absent from ourselves. Ah, we are
somewhere very far away on this moonscape that erases all normal
identities by the power of a logic that is unique to itself! It was
intelligent that the American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, the first
man to walk on the moon, played golf on its surface: it is necessary
to use a logic that speaks a language different from the normal
speech of the earth on moons. Anyway, the logic of this game is
at least the only one that seems right for the moonscape before
us. Yet we do not know by any name, really, what we expect,
35,205 moon men packed together around the green grass and
the bare ground of a strange land, and then nothing happens
except a minor misfortune, a good little squeak of nothingness:
Foster, trying to hold back his swing on a tricky pitch, hits the
ball by mistake a few feet in front of the plate. Tiant comes down
off the mound, fields it, and throws to first for an easy out.
Concepcion hits a long ball to right field, a long soar of a bird
across the sky that Evans suffocates in his glove. Two outs, two
positive abolitions, and then a cannon shot on a line near third
base to left field. A Robinson Crusoe, Geronimo, sets off from
home, a weight on our enemies’ side of the balance, and stops at
first base, which is for him an island of plenitude, for us a hole.
The tension of hope makes a pitcher start warming up in the
Cincinnati bullpen, the tension of worry a pitcher in the Boston
bullpen. Crowley pinch-hits for the pitcher, Carroll. He bounces
a ball towards shortstop that brings the fear of another hole, as
well as hope, because Burleson stops it and makes an off-balance
throw to first. The possibility of an ultimate, deadly limit, of a
door nailed shut against us, appears in the flight of the ball across
the infield to try to nail a man at first base: it could be the first
nail pounded in our coffin because its late arrival would put two
men on the bases. A potential danger flies through the air and
becomes, by a fraction of a second, actual: safe. The ultimate
limit, the door without a visible hinge, could now be composed of
the twelve outs that remain for Boston and a double by Pete Rose,
now up, who already has two base hits. It is late enough for two
runs to be enough to bury us, unless there is the miracle of a
resurrection, enough to close a door on us forever. But not yet!
We can close the door! Rose bounces a ball just to the left of
second base. Three devils run at full speed towards a safe island,
beating with their feet the drumbeat of our defeat. Burleson seizes
the ball while running and continues on to second base that he
touches before Crowley. Instead of on us, the door shuts on
    And they have only nine outs left to play, we have twelve!
Already relaxed, we wait to see happy ends mark the blank slate
that we have just wiped clean only one step away from a disaster.
We suddenly feel fine on our moon, at home in the crazy skin
that always sees a goodness near at hand even though it is far
away, that always looks up, never down. Borbon, the fifth
Cincinnati pitcher, gets an out against Evans by a bouncing ball
to Morgan. However, Borbon has difficulty with his control:
Burleson earns a base on balls. The modest hope that a runner
on first causes would become almost feverish if he could advance
to second and be in position to score a run on a base hit. Sparky
Anderson warms up immediately a sixth pitcher so great is his
fear that one run, late in the game with Tiant still pitching, could
be deadly. The strategy of the Boston manager, Darrell Johnson,
is more or less dictated to him with Tiant due up at the plate: a
sacrifice bunt. But Borbon gets two strikes against Tiant. Now
what? Hit normally and give Cincinnati a chance to perhaps make
a double play? Risk a bunt that may advance the runner or may
cause an out by a ball bunted foul with two strikes? Tiant, a
pitcher cast in the role of a batter, knows better than anyone the
ammunition that the attack of his counterpart, Borbon, can employ,
but he also knows, as a connoisseur of the art of pitching, how
precious and short his own genius can make the space of only
nine outs remaining for Cincinnati. He wants to put himself in a
position to win nine bets against the bats of Cincinnati by gambling
now with a bet on his own bat. He bunts. The ball jumps to the
side. In an instant it is foul and he is out. When Borbon begins
pitching to the next batter, Cooper, Burleson, for a reason that
is difficult to understand, makes no attempt to steal second.
Cooper bounces out Morgan to Perez. Now both teams have the
same time left: nine outs each.
    Griffey hits a ball to Doyle’s left, between first and second:
just by a few inches, the ball escapes him. It rolls, white on the
green grass, towards Evans, running in at full speed to prevent
Griffey from also grabbing second base, from hitting us with
another painful blow. Bad luck! And then Morgan bruises the air
with a shot on a line to left field that Yastrzemski cannot catch.
Griffey advances only to second, but the bad luck and the shot
make us tremble. No one out! Two runners! We squirm to the
edge of our seats, pushed by an anxious reflex, as if a new position
would help us to see the only thing we wish to see, the ball in
Tiant’s hand. Bench, who slammed a ball against the left-field
wall in the fifth inning, also glues his eyes on the ball that Tiant
must offer. If only it were not necessary to fashion the flight of the
ball towards the plate with a shifty rhythm! Pitching is nothing
like the simple hard ball played in the worlds of politics or
business. Tiant does not have the option of simply squeezing the
ball and throwing it with direct, honest force, man against man;
he must rhyme the cunning in his mind with the bravery in his
soul to create a heroic line of flight rippling with stealth. He grips
the ball and unscrews it with a subtle twist as he lets it go towards
Bench who has the quick wit to meet it at just the right moment
with a fine swing. We are standing in time to see, a few seconds
later, Yastrzemski, waiting on the warning track in left field,
swallow the ball with his glove.
    Suddenly the nearness of the ultimate, deadly limit, although
no runs have scored, is simply there in what is like a nervous
emotion of imminent doom floating in the air: Bench’s whack
shows how quick Cincinnati is ready to answer yes, at any moment,
ready to force Boston to answer the same or say nothing more
this year. A sense of a sudden absence of permanence and
equilibrium slips into our spirit. We feel close to a death, a death
that would be our own, for it would be the brutal end not only of
our hope for a world championship, but the end as well of the
long, rich life of abstract searching among universal forms, each
day with new concrete expressions, that we, the Boston fans,
have experienced game by game since the rebirth last Spring of
the baseball season. We have watched hundreds of times, in our
imagination or in newspaper stories if not by actual sight, a man
climb the mound, where Tiant now stands, to eliminate our
enemies so that our team might have a chance to answer; but the
plot of those combats always had a tomorrow in another game
soon to be played, for the hopes of the baseball season, stretching
over seven months, seem as eternal as no matter what human life
which hides itself from its death. Outside the ballpark, death
counts for little in the game of measuring and possessing
everything, of assigning tirelessly each spot of land and each
thing the eternal price of its dispossession from the community;
inside, on this mound far from any utility that can be priced, the
fingers of Tiant hold a white death free to land willy nilly wherever
it will. From now on, with eight outs left for Cincinnati and nine
for Boston, the time of everything or nothing is here, the time
without time. Here we are! Tiant releases the 1975 baseball season
from his fingers and lets it fly.
    Perez shoots it with his bat towards some fate in right field.
The crack of the bat has us standing again. A bird climbs quickly,
high and long in the sky, towards its freedom. We glue our eyes
on the beautiful sight in the wide open spaces of something giving
way within ourselves. The ball carries us to where we were willing
to risk being once we decided to enter the ballpark, to a no man’s
land without any normal shape, but at the worst moment of
our fright and emptiness, the ball of our defeat loses its wings,
descends. Evans catches it for the second out.
    Although Griffey runs easily to third base after the catch, we
are heartened because Cincinnati, with two outs, will need a base
hit to score him. We do not pay any attention to the other runner
at first, Morgan; we concentrate on Tiant, for now he is of supreme
importance since just one masterstroke of his arm can brush
away all the darkness. Then the ultimate, deadly limit that we
have felt near, and so feared, falls on us during the loud cheers
that we are hurling at Tiant to urge him to prevent it. A ball
jumps from Foster’s bat and travels so fast and so far towards
center field that we have neither the time nor the evidence to
found any hope. Instead of running recklessly to the rear, Fred
Lynn runs back a few steps and stops, looking up at the center
field wall, trying to be in a good position to play the ball well if it
bounces back to the field. It just misses going over the wall. It
bounces just inches from the top edge, near scoring the run that
would make the limit even more deadly. But the bounce back to
the field does not lessen the pain of seeing two enemies galloping
to the plate and Foster easily safe at second base.
    The pain invades us, it usurps everything, it dries the throat
and gnaws at the soul. Even though the bad luck is not our fault,
we feel like a bunch of moral deadbeats. And the hole in each of
us seems all the more empty because we paid to have it gouged
in us with the time and money we could have spent elsewhere.
Concepcion bounces to Burleson who makes a long throw to first
for the third out: it is the opening of the curtain for the scene in
which Sparky Anderson will direct the comedy, by maneuvering
the decisive acts of his players, of not allowing two runs in the
short space of nine outs. No doubt but that he has the seriousness
and the skill to contrive the right plot.
    The eternal enemy of hope, reason, an enemy that never
admits the validity of acts that defy the logic of laws of behavior
that it itself invents, submits to us in our disarray that if Doyle,
now up, reaches base, one strong blow afterwards. from
Yastrzemski, Fisk, or Lynn, could again tie the score. Although
these three batters, due up right after Doyle, are all long-ball
hitters and although we admit the logic, the fresh breath of wind
necessary to believe in it blows somewhere above the
underground where we find ourselves: we are in a cave where we
see only shadows and it does not help that we know that they
come from an absent light. Besides, the logic is far removed from
Doyle’s concrete problem which is the tough trick of connecting
his bat with a white and round bolt of lightning flying up at him
at a speed of around ninety miles an hour. And the problem is all
the more difficult now because the inspiration of the hero on the
mound is reinforced by the intense awareness that his job of
getting nine enemies out is equal to winning the championship
of the world. Bad contact: Doyle is out on a ball that pops up
over the infield and falls dead in an enemy glove. One out
gone, eight outs left. Yastrzemski hits the bolt of lightning
more solidly but the ball hits ground quickly and bounces to
Morgan; Morgan fields it and throws to Perez. Two outs gone,
seven left.
    Yet it is somehow happening too quickly! Here is already the
third batter, Fisk, at the plate! His presence and the sudden
disappearance of Yastrzemski compel the painful realization that
perhaps never again in the game will Yastrzemski, our best batter,
appear at the plate in the space of the seven outs that remain;
and we will soon have to add Fisk to this list of disappearances
without return: it is likewise probable that there be no tomorrow
for him beyond the chance right now. And there is Fred Lynn,
just coming out of the dugout bat in hand, ready to face his
Chance - his last! - after Fisk. Although there is less reason to
believe in some miracle which would compensate our loss, for
now there are two outs, when we see Fred Lynn, who has already
created a marvel, we let ourselves go, we get up, we cheer Fisk
so that he may do something with his chance and allow Lynn his
in this inning. Our hope sees suddenly that Lynn would come to
bat in the next inning with the bases empty if Fisk is defeated.
Our hope yearns not for a miracle, but that the circumstances at
least be prearranged correctly so that we can profit from one by a
margin of at least two runs. And once hope starts biting, it cannot
resist a mouthful. Even reason helps us stuff ourselves; it seems
unjust, even illogical, that some irrational wave would now sweep
down and wash away Fisk and wipe out the inning. It seems
senseless that there be three outs in succession just when the
logic we wish to see inscribed in the drama requires an interruption
in order to prepare the scene for a beautiful outburst. Fisk must
hit the ball well because our aesthetic taste demands the
obligatory scene of a true drama rather than another painful
shudder of a bad comedy in which our reasonable hope for just
one runner to reach base seems the butt of the humor. Fisk
bounces a ball towards Concepcion at shortstop; he seizes it and,
by a long throw to Perez, puts Fisk out. The curtain on this act,
with Fred Lynn in the wings, falls. And Sparky Anderson has
only to orchestrate six outs to bring down the final curtain.
The price we must pay to exorcise the devils of Cincinnati,
two runs, seems so exorbitant because of the degree of our agony
that we are unable to imagine in any part of our minds its sudden
increase. A huge crowd of sullen fans, we get ready to watch
Cincinnatiís offense, surrounded by our vague noises, as though
it were a mechanical proceeding like some unimportant entracte
before the delayed denouement of our tragedy. Tiant gets a strike
against Geronimo. Then Geronimo makes pretty good contact.
The ball flies off very high towards right field towards the tall,
yellow foul pole. Even when we see that the ball is certain to fall
beyond Evans’ reach in the rows of fans, we are sure, because
the disaster already torments us so much, that its fall will not be
fatal, just a long fly ball foul for the second strike against
Geronimo. But it passes a little to the left of the tall pole that
separates the just balls from the unjust and falls for a home run
on some fans stupefied like us by the sudden arrival in their lap
of still another quiver of death. So now we are three runs against
six, at the sixth nail in the coffin.
    When we are again sitting, we discover Darrell Johnson on
the mound next to Tiant: Geronimo’s home run is enough to cause
his disappearance. Tiant gives the ball to Johnson and descends
the mound; a bull that the matadors bled, then finished off, leaves
the arena. We stand and applaud Tiant. Then we sit down to
listen until the final toll of the bell.
    Moret, the new Boston pitcher, gets his counterpart, Borbon,
out on a ground ball to Cooper. Rose hits a ground ball that
Moret fields and throws to Cooper. Two outs. Griffey hits a long
fly to center field but Lynn runs in under it and makes the catch.
Three outs and now it is our chance. Boston must do what it has
already done in the first inning, put two runners on base and hit
a home run: it has only to repeat, in the midst of the disaster, in
the face of Sparky Anderson’s machinations, the miracle! We
have very little faith that one will come.
    Fred Lynn, because he is up with the bases empty, must fight
against a group of enemies concentrated against just him: his
project cannot combine with another to form a larger design than
his solitary birth at some base, and even his largest individual
enterprise, a home run, would fill just one hole in the general
emptiness. He is alone against a group, a bit against a totality, an
Indian seeking a just place in a vast land. He is nowhere and he
hits a pitch from Borbon to find himself perhaps by going off
somewhere, he is an American in America who answers the
question of his being or nothingness in the language of his act.
The ball bounces off the leg of the questioner, Borbon. He cannot
get out of the way in time. He scrambles and grabs the ball but
does not have time to make a throw. Lynn arrives at first base
safe. One man on base is scarcely a miracle, but what happens
next seems like a small marvel: Petrocelli earns a base on balls.
Two men on base is not a miracle either, but at least it transforms
to a magic wand the bat of the next batter because now one
powerful blow would raise to an epic level the emotion of a
disenchanted crowd. However, it is not our spirits, revived by
the possibility of a beautiful outburst, that dominate but rather
the hums of the little computers between our ears: it is not out of
the question to dream of a miracle, but facing the immediate
account of men and numbers, two runners on and three outs still
to play, we get excited by reasoning that it is only necessary to
develop the real elements of the problem as they now stand, to
get another man on base, then another and another, to push the
business to its limit, to profit carefully from a market where we
have a positive position and have not yet paid the price of an
out. If Evans, now at the plate, can succeed like Lynn and
Petrocelli, if he can earn just one base, the cost of the miracle we
need will be reduced to the more realistic dimension of just one
two-base hit, that could drive in three runs, by no matter which
one of the next three batters up. Or, to put the problem in different
terms, Evans has only to make a success of himself at the basic
business of baseball - to complete the circular voyage, to end at
the place of his beginning - in order to equal the score. The
same business that seemed futile a few moments ago with Fred
Lynn at bat is now a voyage that leads to everything.
    To stop it, Sparky Anderson has been at the mound since
just after the gift given to Petrocelli. He replaces Borbon with his
best relief pitcher, the right-handed Rawley Eastwick. He will
have the advantage against Evans and Burleson, both right-handed
hitters, and then it remains to be seen against the pinch
hitter that Boston will send to bat for the pitcher, Moret, due up
after Burleson. Yet the nerve of Anderson’s calculation is not
Eastwick’s right arm, but the force and violent movement that he
commands his pitcher to put, without even a hint of any letup, in
each of his pitches. This strategy of a furious rather than a subtle
attack is designed above all else to avoid throwing a home-run
ball. Eastwickís job is to overwhelm the hitters with the speed
and dash of his natural rhythm. His first pitch announces
Anderson’s strategy to everyone: lightning, then the thunder of
the clap of the ball in the catcher’s glove. A ball high and tight.
He is throwing, Eastwick, from his little mount Olympus! His
right arm stretched high over his shoulder and then it whipped
down towards Evans cutting a long arc through the air that made
the ball fly up to the plate as if carried along in a whirlwind. To
steal the fire of such pitches, a batter should not try to hit what
the pitches are designed to prevent, a home run; he should make
a well-disciplined swing aiming at solid contact for a base hit. So
Anderson’s strategy actually corresponds with the prudent hope
humming in our brains: the impetuous attack that Anderson
orders may force Evans to accommodate his attack to the
moderation that reason compels. But the wise adjustment of his
swing does not take place! Evans, still very young, has a
temperament with a dash to it as wild as Eastwick’s pitches are
fast. Evans cannot master himself. When he misses the next pitch,
it is obvious that he is swinging for a home run, that it is everything
or nothing. Only the big wall in left field - the green monster -  
that Evans is trying to hit the ball over, seems impassive. We do
not know what to think, what to feel, the game is suddenly beyond
the control of reason, wild like the rage of Evans’ fierce swing
trying to rocket a ball into the eternity of night beyond the wall.
The paw of one tiger squeezes a ball, that of another a bat, and
nothing connects their ferocious hatred except a series of balls
shot from a cannon on the mound up to the plate. We are somewhere
in our feelings between a heart that does not dare to hope and
eyes ready to follow a ball on a voyage to the moon, our emotions
out of breath, when the umpire calls the third ball and the count
reaches three and two. The tigers are so incensed that we know that
it will be either a swing and something or a swing and nothing on
the next pitch. Are we finally there, at the crucial scene of the
drama? Will we fall into ecstasy in an instant at the sight of a
ball flying off towards a beautiful end without any visible end
beyond the wall? We are on the edge of our seats. Eastwick throws
the ball up to the plate. Evans’ bat moves down and forward and
hits only the air.
    He struck him down, Eastwick, like a real tiger that preyed
successfully on a man, and he is ready to jump on the next batters,
to strike them all down. Now, with one out, we need a home run,
or two hits if at least one is for two bases, or three base hits. All
will be difficult against the roar of Eastwick’s pitches.
Burleson is up. The ball he hits reveals that all is not lost at
the same time that it increases our anguish: he hits a high drive
to left field, which shows that a series of base hits is still possible,
but Foster is able to catch it, and this second out drastically
reduces the space remaining to make three base hits.
    We see that we have only a pinch hitter, who is practicing his
swing near the plate, to fight the tiger on the mound that two
brave victims have already nourished by their defeats. Suddenly
the loudspeaker announces matter-of-factly the name of the
substitute, Bernie Carbo, and it seems as if some superhuman
voice is using the ballpark as a megaphone to hurl to the universe
its indifference to our feelings. Probably the scene before us could
ennoble us if we were somehow able to contemplate it abstractly,
measuring resolutely its vanity, from some distant perspective
like the one from which this calm and immense voice seems to
come. But that is not the way it now is because this being at the
plate that now enters the drama is ours. Our hearts heavy, we feel
powerless, neither defeated nor on the attack. A lifeless air fills
the park. We experience each of us the frail solitude of the man
at the plate whom only a thin bat separates from being the third
    Yet he has only to try to make a solid contact with the bat for
a base hit to pass the burden on to Doyle, the next batter. But
Doyle is not a home-run hitter and Carbo, a left-handed batter,
is. How can we hope to have a better chance to tie the game, with
only four outs remaining, than we have right now with two men
on base? And how can we expect to score three runs with two
outs unless we try for a home run? The logic of our adversity
demands the impossible. Sparky Anderson, who has had the
fear of a home run in his mind since Petrocelli walked, has a left-handed
pitcher, McEnaney, ready in the bullpen to bring in now
against Carbo. However, he knows that Boston has a right-handed
hitter ready, Juan Beniquez, to substitute for Carbo if he brings
in McEnaney. He decides he would rather take his chances with
a left-handed batter because of the short left field wall. He would
rather let Carbo try for a home run that would need to travel
around 400 feet against Eastwick’s thunder than let Beniquez try
for one of around 350 feet against McEnaney. Also, Anderson is
probably thinking that the odds are stacked against Carbo hitting
a home run because in the third game of the series he came up
as a pinch hitter and hit one. A home run by a pinch hitter in a
World Series is rare, but another one now by the same pinch
hitter seems statistically impossible. A lot weighs against Carbo,
little for him. He squeezes the tool of his art and studies each
nuance of the tiger’s movements. He takes a ball for a strike and
two pitches inside are called balls. He sees a shoulder, an arm, a
hand, a ball, a ball flying and he slices his bat over the plate
smoothly and quickly. He misses. Our hearts feel heavier, our
minds absent, our spirits numb, and then, with the count at two
balls and two strikes, Eastwick throws a pitch that cracks the
wall of our feeling, that finishes us off. A good low curve ball
curves rudely in over the inside of the plate. It has Carbo powerless
up against a wall: it is the third strike and also a pitch he cannot
hit anywhere. He has just time to get his bat out quickly to top it
and avoid an out by a foul ball that bounces sterilely behind the
plate. But that is it for us because it is so clear, clear without any
doubt, that we will not get, either by the marvel of a home run or
by any combination of hits, the three runs we need against pitches
like that. From that moment we feel beaten. This drama, which
has held us in its grip for nearly three hours, does not, of course,
inflict physical death on anyone, but nothing seems truer at this
gloomy and decisive moment than that it possesses the power,
both magic and rational, of taking away the spirit, and a body
without spirit is dead. We are dead.
    The beast is now present. He swarms all over making each
heart feel his mysterious weight that paralyzes the soul. His secret
and universal mass suffocates the spirit and substitutes for it a
calculating and insensible consciousness. We are all at the plate
and we are awaiting there without any hope our own disappearance.
We are all guilty, without exception, of the sin that gives in a
flicker the keys of no matter what kingdom to the beast, the sin
of believing with all the murderous force of our reason that the
truth cannot become a man. The nostrils of the beast sniff the
smoke of a sacrifice fire, his eyes gleam with the certainty of
the imminent immolation of a man. Carbo refuses to look at the
thousands of eyes that predict his doom and waits for Eastwick
to stretch out his hand towards the black sky and send down towards
him in the form of a white ball a ray of sun. Carbo knows that he
is alive as long as the ball, the knife of the sacrifice, is
somewhere in front of him or over the plate and there are no
eyes in the park as open as his in order to see the ball travel
along the short space of life between the plate and Eastwick that
he has left. A spirit of triumph beats in Eastwick because of the
last pitch and the two strikes he has already won. He knows with
a brutal certainty that no power exists that could allow Carbo to
swing forward the bat that he holds to the rear and hammer the
next pitch he throws to the plate for a home run. The beast whispers
in all the ears that baseball is at best no more than a stupid
parody of the noble Protestant religion, that never could the bat
of Bernie Carbo, a man alone with his back to a wall, transform
the game by a bold act before our eyes to its truth as a beautiful
and just pantomime of religion by leading millions of spirits from
the darkness of an infernal despair by the miracle in the next
second of a home run. What a disgrace it is that our ears all buzz
with the dead hum of this same complete lack of faith! Eastwick
moves on his elevation and swings high his arm like some Aztec
priest before descending a knife on the body of a human victim
in order to tear out a heart. He swoops down towards the plate
and releases the ball. It appears to Carbo at first like a planet, a
white sun, distant above the horizon, then it rushes down towards
him as nothing more than a ball that gives way to the fury of its
own flight. Even though he brings the bat down and forward with
a quick, smooth stroke, for us it is like the last fast rush of breath
up the throat and out between the teeth of a dying man, but
suddenly he collides the bat out over the plate near the thick
middle of the ball at the full bloom of its power.
    The nerve of our being is conjugated so intimately with the
sudden shock that the ball is already high in the air just past
second base before we realize fully that Bernie Carbo got it all.
Not if God had given us each a hundred ears able to hear the
most beautiful music that a muse ever created on a sacred
mountain would we have experienced a joy as deep as at the
sight of this delirious voyage at this moment of a baseball. It
climbs and climbs; it goes far off towards center field and the
heavens like a bird that augurs a blessed destiny. The beast
inspired Eastwick with a supreme self-confidence and he threw
scornfully a fastball over the plate. Bernie Carbo held himself
ready letting the horn of his defeat come close enough so that at
the right moment he could drive his bat into its edge. We are all
standing shouting our joy as if with a single voice. Bernie Carbo
got it all at a moment when we were expecting absolutely nothing.
The ball goes over the wall in straight ahead center field and
falls in the bleacher seats among fans crazy with joy.
    Would it be true to say that we have just seen anything other
than a miracle? When our hearts have just galloped as if our
spirits were riding to the rhythm of beating wings that did not
come from ourselves? Our reason analyzed easily what was
artificial in the cause of the liberating joy we experienced, at the
very moment even of its greatest intensity, for like certain species
of sharks that never stop swimming, reason never stops reasoning.
And it is as clear as an object in full view of our consciousness
that Bernie Carbo opened a shut door, that he killed a beast by
looking squarely at his brutal image in the form of a murderous
ball that his bat drove away from all harm, but what is the true
nature of the flying horse that sprouted up from the wound he
inflicted with his bat on the monster? A miracle caused by a hero
in a spectacle worthy of his deed, and worthy of our devotion, or
the sleight of hand of some charlatan in some accidental
composition of athletic fetishes of interest only to uneducated
and stupid people? Our answer at this moment while Carbo circles
the bases, jumps on home plate, and dances towards the Boston
dugout, is that the only thing pure in an objective fashion in
human nature is the human voice and that our emotion is now
giving one strong and supreme voice to our joy. Every thought
that would speak against this voice will come from a devil who
had lost all power over us at this moment, the voice of such a
thought will be for us, the fans of Boston, for all time to come, a
voice mocking and impure: it was a miracle.
    However, the beast draws fresh breath from a new defeat:
Eastwick strikes out Cooper. Darrell Johnson, carried along by
the emotion that still puffs in us, replaces Cooper in the defensive
team now leaving the Boston dugout by putting the left fielder
Yastrzemski at first base; he sends Bernie Carbo out to play left
field, which would perhaps give our Perseus another chance to
survive a battle with a monster on a mound trying to turn him to
stone. All the fans in the seats next to left field stand and applaud
as Carbo approaches his defensive position. We have a hero that
we will not forget as long as the collective memory of Boston fans
lives, Bernardo Carbo. And we have, because this hero destroyed
a deadly obstacle, a new game, six to six.
    Satisfied in spirit by providential nourishment, we discover
in ourselves a need: we are hungry and thirsty. We decide to
leave the altar to go down below to a refreshment stand to have
some hot dogs and beer! All the members of our group are up
and then walking slowly, almost unconsciously, in a crowd pushed
by the same need towards the place underground where food is
for sale. And the beautiful thing is that the question of whether
or not this is irreverent is not asked! We are caught up in a
marvelous confusion between a game and life, worshipping at a
cult whose enjoyment is wonderful because no one knows it by
any precise name. Anguish has no place any longer in our minds:
we are liberated from a weight that we put on ourselves, but we
are not by that fact any less liberated. We know with a perfect
faith that is not supported by any objective evidence that we will
win the game, and we feel even happier than happy because,
liberated also by being in the ballpark from the corruptions of
life outside, we feel innocent. And then another marvel: as we
wait in the crowd before the refreshment counter, a person in our
group remembers some words of the hero of the film masterpiece,
One Flew Over the Cuckooís Nest, based on Ken Kesey’s great
creation. This person is certain that Randall McMurphy, while
he was watching with delight an imaginary World Series game on
a blank television screen, shouted out in the midst of his
excitement his need for a hot-dog. So we have, underground in
America, the same hunger as a genuine American hero! Randall
McMurphy! Randall McMurphy who committed the unpardonable sin in an over-organized society: he tried to raise the dead. And it seems
an even greater marvel to remember that he attempted the
resurrection by trying to force his enemy, Nurse Ratched,
to allow his group to watch, on a turned-on television
set, a real World Series. We have just watched the World Series
and we are no longer dead! The eternal business of baseball is to
teach that a man cannot even begin on the path to the truth until
by the miracle of a bold act he slams to a dead stop the spin of a
logic working to entangle the threads of his being. Randall
McMurphy is everywhere where there is a brave innocence, where
there is a theater of the impossible. We are Indians who have just
busted a huge hole in the wall of a prison.
    We hear shouts and applause from above; we feel as much
desire down below to go up as before up above we felt to go
down. Once again upstairs we read on the scoreboard that it is
still six to six and that there are two outs. We see that there is a
new pitcher on the mound for Boston, Dick Drago. As we approach
our seats, Perez pops up a ball beside first base in foul territory.
Yastrzemski catches it for the third out. We sit down even happier
because it is already Boston’s chance at the plate. Also, since it
is the last of the ninth inning, one run by Boston, in this inning
or any inning to follow while the score is tied, will be sudden
death for Cincinnati, and death would not be so sudden for Boston
if Cincinnati scores because Boston will always have three outs
left to try to do the same.
   Yet even our home-team advantage does not interest us much
because the only really important thing is that we are going to
win! After Carbo’s beautiful accomplishment, our victory seems
already written in a book of fate where only the details of a happy
denouement remain to be read. Doyle gets on first on a base on
balls. Yastrzemski belts a fly ball to right field that falls in front of
Griffey. Doyle races to third base, Yastrzemski stops at first. Sparky
Anderson replaces Eastwick with McEnaney: our victory seems
all the more certain with a runner on third, no outs, and a tiger
gone. The new pitcher, a left-hander, gives first base to Fisk, a
right-handed batter, on an intentional walk ordered by Anderson;
only Doyle at third counts in his calculation; by loading the bases,
he sets up the possibility of a force-out at the plate and he gains
the advantage of a left-hander against a left-handed batter, even
though the batter is Fred Lynn. Yet what a happy sight! The bases
loaded and no outs! We do not even need a base hit to win! The
clouds of our victory seem everywhere, even on the earth. Lynn
cracks a high fly ball to left field. Foster catches it near the foul
line about ninety feet behind third base. At the contact of the
ball with Foster’s glove, Doyle’s foot leaves third base. He uses
every muscle in his body to organize his race at full speed towards
the plate. Each foot hitting the ground is like a fist pounding on
a door about to open to allow us a perfect and pure satisfaction.
A few feet from his goal, he throws himself head first towards the
plate. Bench has caught Foster’s perfect throw after one bounce
to the right of the base path. He swoops to his left to tag Doyle.
Doyle is out.Adding the out made by Lynn, there are now two. But there
is still a runner on second; a base hit could score him. Petrocelli
bounces a ball to Rose near third; he throws across to Perez in
   Burleson stops a one-hop ball from Foster’s bat and throws to
Yastrzemski for the first out. Concepcion singles to center field;
then he steals second base. The danger of a run is as close as a
base hit, but Drago strikes out Geronimo swinging, and Driessen,
pinch-hitting for McEnaney, flies out to Carbo in shallow left
field near the foul line. Three painful outs, three happy outs, and
once again our victory is as close as one run.
    Darcy, the eighth Cincinnati pitcher, is now on the mound.
Evans lines a ball back to Darcy that he stops and throws to
Perez in time. One out. Burleson pops a ball up over Concepcion:
caught for the second out. Bernie Carbo returns to the plate; he
strikes out with the same smooth and powerful stroke of his bat
that carried us to the clouds where we are still. Three outs and
we are at the eleventh inning.
    A Drago pitch hits Rose; he goes down to first base. Griffey
bunts to advance Rose to second. Fisk pounces on the ball in
front of the plate and throws to Burleson at second in time to put
out Rose. One out and a runner on first. Although the end seems
far away, we continue to believe it happy when Morgan hits a
long drive to right field that sends a shock of fear through us
because it is clear that the ball has the power to go over the right
field wall. Dwight Evans twists, runs with amazing speed, and
leaps forward stretching out his glove. The ball slams into the
glove’s webbing between the thumb and the index finger. Evans
lands with the ball still in his glove like some fabulous hunter
who has just made an impossible leap turning himself into a
falcon to snatch up in the air a bird. Griffey, already between
second and third, cannot believe what he sees in right field,
Evans holding the ball. He throws it, still off-balance, without
taking careful aim, towards the infield; Yastrzemski fields it well
to the right of first base in foul territory. Burleson has the wit to
run to first base to cover the base that Evans’ throw has forced
Yastrzemski to leave. Burleson catches the throw from Yastrzemski
before Griffey can get back to the base. Two outs instead of two
runs! Another prodigious sign foretelling that we will win.
The eighty-ninth batter comes to the plate, Miller, a pinch
hitter for Drago, and disappears by a ball caught by Foster in
center field. Concepcion eliminates Doyle by stopping a bouncing
ball and throwing to Perez; he stops another one and eliminates
Yastrzemski in the same way. The ninetieth batter, the ninety-first,
the second, the third out; the sixty-sixth out of the game. So
there is no more time, only men alone and their endless
    Rick Wise, the new Boston pitcher, makes Bench pop a ball
behind the plate that Fisk catches. But Perez drives a ball up the
middle of the infield to center field for a base hit. Foster loops a
ball over the left of the infield that falls in front of Carbo. Perez
stops at second; two on and one out. Concepcion sends a fly ball
to right field that Evans catches for the second out; the runners
stay at first and second. Then Rick Wise wins a crucial out against
Geronimo on a called third strike.
    Second half of the twelfth inning. We do not see any exit from
this circle of beginnings without end when Carlton Fisk, the first
Boston batter, reaches his bat down low and makes good contact
with Darcy’s second pitch. The ball climbs very high in the air
down the left-field line towards the green monster. The only
question is whether the ball is fair or foul because it has plenty of
height and power to get over the wall. The ball flies through the
air towards the tall yellow foul pole sticking high above the wall.
Fisk does not even run at full speed down the base path; he
hesitates, watching the ball; he twists his body and waves his
arms as if to conjure the ball away from a deadly destiny towards
a happy fate. The ball hits the foul pole,it bounces off it and
falls back to the field. Fisk, still between the plate and first base,
sees that it is a home run and begins jumping for joy. Four hours
and thirty-four minutes after Louis Tiant threw the first pitch to
the plate, a ball from the bat of Carlton Fisk hits the left field foul
pole. Fisk, a New Englander by birth, is a native son of the village
of Charlestown, New Hampshire; the people of Charlestown are
Red Sox fans: thirty-three minutes after the ball hits the pole,
someone in Charlestown, after slipping into St. Luke’s Episcopal
Church, begins ringing the bell.

From the book on the meaning of baseball, "The Theater of the Impossible" by
Daniel McNeill, listed for sale at:

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