“Hello? Roger Craig, please.”

“Sparky? . . . Is that you?”

“Yeah, Roger. It’s me. Your old boss.”

“You don’t sound so good, old boss.”

“I ain’t so good.”

“What’s the matter?”

“What ain’t the matter? My pitchers are getting their brains rattled; my hitters ain’t worth a burp. The team’s in last place, Rog. Last place.”

“That’s a long way from 1984, isn’t it?”

“Like peas and planets.”

“Huh?”

“Like . . . never mind.”

“Well, Sparky. I’d like to help. But I don’t work for you anymore, remember? I manage my own team now, here in San Francisco.”

“I know. I know. That’s why I’m calling you. See, I realize the Giants have a lot of experience being in last place. What I wanna know is — what do I do now?”

“Uh, Sparky . . . “

“I mean, you must face this, being in last place. You send a guy up there with the bases loaded and he dribbles the first pitch right to the shortstop.”

“Sparky, we . . . “

“Or you put your ace pitcher out there, and the guy serves up these melons and the hitter smacks them halfway to Cleveland. You understand. It happens when you’re in last place, right?”

“I guess so. But we’re not in . . . “

“I know. You’re not interested in rehashing all the things that happen. I don’t blame you. It’s so frustrating. This guy strikes out, that guy fouls out, ah . . . ah, ah, ahh-choo!”

“Bless you, boss.”

“Thanks, Rog.”

“Don’t mention it.” A Giant misunderstanding “Anyhow, the thing is, Rog, I’ve tried the usual stuff. I’ve tried meetings. I’ve tried no meetings. Tried being patient. Tried blowing my stack.”

“And did the players respond?”

“Like a rock to a rainstorm.”

“Huh?”

“Like a . . . never mind.”

“Well, Sparky. I gotta tell you . . . “

“Now, Roger. Don’t say it. I know you’re a little hurt. You figure, I don’t call when we’re going well, and then, when we hit bottom like you guys, I call. I know. I’m sorry. I been busy with these Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials.”

“It’s not that, Sparky. It’s . . . “

“Don’t say it Rog. I know. You feel funny giving me advice. Hey — that’s baseball. What goes around comes around. Don’t be embarrassed because you’re in last place. Jiminy Crickets, we’re in last place too now!”

“But that’s just it, Sparky. I . . . “

“Don’t say it Rog. You’re gonna take the words out of my mouth.”

“I am?”

“You know you are.”

“Well, I, uh . . . what?”

“Aw, hell, Roger. You don’t have to beg. Come on back. I’d like to have you back. There. I’ve said it. It’ll be like the old days. We’ll take this team right to the top. You work those pitchers. I’ll say witty things to the press. It’ll be great.”

“Well, I, I . . . I . . . “

“A little overwhelmed, huh, ol’ buddy?”

“You could say that.” How about a role reversal? “Listen. I know it ain’t much of a jump. One last place team to another. But we won’t be last for long. Hell, I know it. You know it.”

“I’m sure you’re right, Sparky . . . “

“Guys like Morris, Terrell, Gibson, Parrish. How long are they gonna stay down?”

“Not long. But you gotta . . . “

“Pick up your moving expenses. I know. Say no more, buddy. It’s done.”

“No, let me explain–“

“How grateful you are? Forget it. Come home.”

“For Pete’s . . . “

“Pete? Bring Pete from Cincinnati. Fine.”

“No, no, no . . .

“OK. Don’t bring him. Don’t matter none.”

“Sparky! SPARKY!”

“What?”

“Listen: We’re not in last place anymore.”

“You’re not?”

“We’re in second place. Two games out.”

“You are? The San Francisco Giants?”

“Yes. Second place.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“You’re doing better than us?”

“Guess so.”

“Golly.”

“Gee.”

“So, listen, Rog. You need a pitching coach?”

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