I am sitting at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. I am waiting for the next game. My back is against the pale blue wall, outside the clubhouse entrance. I will wait here. As long as it takes. For baseball.
“Hey, buddy,” says a uniformed guard. “The playoffs are over. I don’t think anybody’s coming in today.”
“That’s OK,” I say. “I’ll wait.”
What does he mean, nobody coming in? What is a day without baseball? We have had them six months straight in this crazy Tigers season. Always a game. Or the results of a game. Or the coming of a game. Or the All-Star Game, which is still a game, sort of.
“Didn’t you hear me?” the guard says, drawing closer, peering at me as if I was a little lost boy. “No baseball today. The Tigers lost. The playoffs are over. Next game isn’t for a long time.”
“I’ll wait,” I say.
“April?” he says.
“As long as it takes,” I say.
Good seasons just don’t end
Surely, there is some trick going on here. I know my routine. I have been doing it for months. Get in car. Drive to stadium. Enter clubhouse. Listen to Sparky. Come out an hour later for a fresh notebook. Go to press box. I know my routine. I really do.
“You watch,” I say to the guard. “In a matter of minutes, the players’ cars will come rolling in. Lots of Jeeps. They like Jeeps. Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Darrell Evans. They’ll be here soon.”
“I don’t think so,” the guard says.
“Chet Lemon, Lou Whitaker, Matt Nokes . . . “
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?”
“They lost to Minnesota, four games to one. The Twins won the pennant. That’s it. The end.”
The end? Baseball seasons just don’t end. Not good ones. Where is the next twist for the Tigers? There is always a twist. Wait. Let me guess. We find that Bert Blyleven, who pitched Game 5, was secretly scuffing the baseball, a trick taught him by teammate Joe Niekro. The game is appealed. The game is replayed. The Tigers win.
Then it is on to Minneapolis, where — because Twins fans thought they had it wrapped up — nobody bothers to buy tickets. And in the peace and quiet of an empty Metrodome, the Tigers win two, as it should be. They go to the World Series.
“Fess up,” I say to the guard. “We’re just waiting for the ruling by the commissioner, right?”
“I . . . don’t . . . .think so,” he says.
“Sure, sure,” I say, checking my tape recorder and scorecards. “The players will shoot back in here like a football team in a two-minute drill. Jack Morris. Walt Terrell. Mike Henneman . . . “
“Do you need a doctor?” the guard asks.
“I need a hot dog,” I say.
Gimme some baseball
Listen to him. A doctor? Who needs a doctor? I could use someone to open the gates, however. It’s getting a little cold here.
No matter. Baseball can be played in the cold. When you’re hooked, you’re hooked. Agony or ecstasy. Doesn’t matter. Seeing Willie come in, seeing Willie go out. Doesn’t matter. Just as long as it’s baseball. Gimme some.
“Here, take this,” the guard says, draping a blue-and-orange blanket over my squatting frame. “If you sit there all night you’ll be cold.”
“Thank you,” I say. “I won’t need it for long. Soon I’ll be in the press box. Toasty warm. Yessir . . . but, if you insist.”
I pull the blanket tight around me, up to my eyes. The wind blows. It is dark. As long as it takes. Baseball will be coming soon. More Tigers. More hitters. More relief pitc–.
“What are you doing?” I ask the guard, who has pulled out a transistor radio and is listening with an earplug. “Oh, I know. You’re tuning in for the pre-game. Ernie and Paul. That’s it, right? Ernie and Paul?”
“Red Wings are playing,” he says.
Ha. Red Wings. Who’s he kidding with that stuff? Hockey? Come on. It’s not time for that. Hockey? Who’s he kidding? Look at him. Will ya look at him? Listening to that radio, looking so smug. He ought to be ashamed. Hockey.
“Hey! . . . ” I say.
“Yeah?” he says.
“What’s the score?” I say.