Goddamn You, Vin Scully

"I don't believe it," Scully had said in his familiar singsong. "Millions and millions of people come to ball games year after year, hoping to catch a foul ball. This guy gets one-and then he throws it back! I just don't understand it."

Scully went on and on, extrapolating the incident into an entire And-That's-What's-Wrong-With-the-World-Today scenario. We got his point. But Scully couldn't let it go. During the next few innings, he kept revisiting the issue, sprinkling his scolding disgust amid his play-by-play.

"Fastball, a little inside, ball one," Scully would say, and you could feel him trying to keep his mind on the game. But while waiting for the next pitch, his pain would return-it really bugged him-as though someone had disfigured a Norman Rockwell painting or set fire to Rick Monday. "I keep thinking about that fellow who threw back the foul ball. What was he thinking? It just goes to show you, it takes all kinds."

Exactly, said Fred and I, cracking up. I hated the Dodgers, and Fred loved them, but we were both teenagers, and it was just so cool to hear the Dodgers' imperturbable father figure so offended. That's when we made our pact. If either of us ever got a foul ball at Dodger Stadium, we would throw it back.

Fred's aim was incredible. The ball bounced a few times when it hit the field, and then it settled into a comical roll-past the Dodgers' dugout, past third baseman Ken McMullen and on toward the pitcher's mound. It rolled partway up the mound, almost to the feet of pitcher Andy Messersmith, then exhausted its momentum and rolled back down and stopped. Messersmith was already rubbing up a fresh ball and seemed mildly surprised. He shrugged, picked up our ball, tossed it to an umpire, shook his head and climbed back atop the mound. The booing subsided, and the game resumed.

People near us continued to shoot disgusted looks and insulting comments at Fred and me; the big lady in the stressed-out stretch pants kept harping about how we should have given the ball to a kid. But considering that moments before, we were worried that a mob might fling us from the upper deck, the whole experience was beginning to feel pretty heartening.

"We did it, buddy," said Fred, clasping my hand, generously including me in the celebration despite the way I'd frozen. "We made a pact, and we followed through." Yep, we made our statement, all right. Maybe we couldn't even say precisely what it meant, but we had made it.

And then the Dodgers made theirs: they kicked us out. Not right away, though. A couple of innings passed before two lines of straw-hatted ushers and hard-looking cops descended the aisles on either side of the section in which we sat. At first, Fred and I looked around, wondering who rated such a show of force. And then they all pointed to us, surrounded us, demanded that we collect our belongings and follow them, warned us not to resist, and walked us through the laughing crowd as though parading a pair of desperate fugitives. "How did you find us?" Fred asked one of the ushers.

He answered, "The third-base umpire pointed you out." We liked that.

In the security office, we sat and waited among other transgressors of Dodger Stadium Law and their confiscated weapons, cans of beer and stolen souvenirs. Somebody asked us, "What are you in for?"

We answered, "For throwing back a foul ball." We liked that, too.

Eventually, we were summoned by the security chief, who officiously explained that we had committed a serious offense, but he would take a full report before deciding upon further action.

"What's the charge?" we interrupted.

He answered unsmilingly, "Throwing a foreign object on the field." We pointed out that we had thrown a baseball onto a baseball field. We liked saying that, too.

But he gave us an are-you-finished sigh and began to ask us some serious questions as he methodically filled out the form. He used words like "arrest" and "jail" and "plea." We didn't like that so much. We were liking it less and less.

Finally, he asked us, "Why did you do it?"

We knew better than to mention Vin Scully.

"We didn't want the ball. We really didn't have any use for it. We figured we'd help the Dodgers keep costs down. We thought we were supposed to throw it back." Fred and I were coming up with all kinds of reasons, but we were smiling those stinky-shorts grins again.

Ultimately, we were released, but it was with a warning that our names would remain in a permanent file and that if we ever again were taken into custody at Dodger Stadium, we would be arrested and jailed. We offered our thanks profusely.

Fred and I walked off into the parking lot. We could hear the crowd inside the stadium periodically reacting to the game that was still being played. We found our car and began to drive home through the darkness. Fred switched on the radio. Vin Scully was describing the action. He didn't say a thing about anybody throwing back a foul ball.

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