It was a try out. Just a try
out. But Murphy knew what he had to
do: Keep his mouth shut and let his bat do the talking. That’s
what he kept telling himself. Over and over. But his turn
at the plate had yet to come.
“Hey, lock jaw. You awake in
Murphy cringed at the sound
of that hayseed twang.
“Look at us,” Holmes said,
jawing a wad of chew. “Couple of bush league hacks trying
to crack the big time. Shee-it.”
He leaned in, so close Murphy
could smell booze and butts.
“Guess what, Toto?” Holmes
said. “We ain’t in Omaha no more.”
He spat, a limp brown gob that
dribbled down his jersey front.
Murphy turned away. Keep your
mouth shut, he told himself. Just keep your mouth shut and
everything will work out right.
Holmes leaned in again.
“Them two ladies you seen me
with last night,” he said. “After I got ‘em all liquored
up, I took ‘em back to my room. And goddamn if they wasn’t
all over me like flies on...”
“Holmes!” Coach Hayes cried. “You’re
Holmes winked at Murphy.
“Watch this,” Holmes
He grabbed a bat, grabbed
his crotch then ambled up to the plate. Even in that slick
new jersey he looked washed up. He nailed a few fouls,
his bat slow, his gut hanging low. He struck out and returned
to the dugout.
“Fuckin’ pitcher,” he griped. “My
farts got more sting.”
Murphy could care less. Just
keep your mouth shut, he told himself. Keep your mouth
shut and everything will work out right.
Coach Hayes looked down the
bench. Murphy jumped to his feet, hoping for a chance,
the name called not his.
Shadows crept over the field
as hopeful after hopeful took the plate, all of them striking
out. Jones from Spokane. Reese from Peoria. Mack from Bridgeport.
Murphy paced the dugout.
He’d never wanted something so bad, the name called not
his. He sank back on the bench. He couldn’t believe it.
Holmes was stretched out sleeping.
A grin rose on Murphy’s lips.
Holmes was going down, back to Omaha and the bus, back
to all them greasy burgers and flea bag motels.
Coach Hayes approached and
said, “Murphy, right?”
Murphy jumped to his feet.
“Up from Omaha?” Coach Hayes
asked, checking his list.
“Tell me, Mr. Murphy,” Coach
Hayes said. “How would you rate Sleeping Beauty there?”
Murphy just shook his head.
“You think you’re better
than Sleeping Beauty?” Coach Hayes asked. “Is that it?
Is that what I’m hearing?”
“Okay, kid,” Coach Hayes
said. “Show me your stuff.”
Murphy ran for the plate.
All day on the bench and he was ready to explode. The pitch
came, a fastball. Murphy blasted it over the centerfield
fence. Like an old pro he sauntered around the bases, a
crowd of his own making roaring in his ears.
Back on the bench Holmes
was joking with Coach Hayes.
“She did what to who?” Coach
“I swear to God!” Holmes
“And to think I almost married
her!” Coach Hayes replied.
The two laughed till they
cried. Finally, Coach Hayes looked to the field.
“Okay!” he said. “Let’s call
it a day!”
He headed down the tunnel.
A smile crept across Murphy’s
lips. Coach Hayes had seen him hit. He was sure of it.
Holmes bit off a fresh piece
“You know,” he said. “Whoever
said silence was golden don’t know shit from shinola.”
Murphy gathered his things. His
bat had done the talking. There was nothing left to prove.
He was about to leave when he drew a bead on the outfield.
A suit was marching straight for them.
“Who the hell’s that?” Holmes
The suit stepped down into the
dugout and held up a ball.
“Whoever hit that last ball,” the
suit said, “smashed the windshield of my car. My nice new Cadillac.
Now I want to know. Who did it? Who hit that last ball? You?”
He eyed Murphy. Murphy was a
wall of silence.
“It was me,” Holmes said. “I
hit that ball. What of it?”
“That ball sailed clear over
the scoreboard,” the suit said. “Nobody’s ever done that. Nobody.
Not even Babe Ruth.”
“Well, yeah,” Holmes said, all
smiles. “It surprised me too.”
Outraged, Murphy pushed forward.
"You lying bastard,” he said,
jabbing a finger at Holmes. “You didn’t hit that ball. I did.
You struck out.”
“Here we go again,” Holmes said,
winking at the suit.
Murphy turned to the suit.
“I can prove it,” Murphy said.
He grabbed his bat off the bench
and held it up.
“See?” he said.
“See what?” the suit asked.
“The mark on the barrel,” Murphy
said. “Proof I hit that ball.”
“I see no mark,” the suit said. “I
see nothing but a brand new bat.”
Confused, Murphy searched the
bat for the tell-tale mark. But his bat was clean—not a scratch
on it—nothing but his initials inked so small inside the label.
“Is this what you’re looking
for?” Holmes said, holding up his bat.
Around the label Holmes had scrawled
his name in big black letters. Above the label, on the meat
of that brand new barrel, a ball mark—the only mark—stuck out
like a black eye, the point of impact so deep it had cracked
the wood beneath the finish.
Murphy paled. In his rush to
the plate, he’d grabbed the wrong bat.
“You should be ashamed,” the
suit told Murphy.
Murphy turned away.
The suit fixed on Holmes.
“What’s your name, son?” the
“Holmes, sir. Roid Holmes the
third. Up from Omaha.”
“Mr. Holmes,” the suit said, “my
name is Parks. J. P. Parks. I own this ball club, and never
in my life have I ever seen a ball hit so far. Congratulations.
You, sir, just made the team.”
The suit handed the ball to Holmes
then headed down the tunnel.
Holmes studied the ball hit so
hard the laces had tore. He tossed it at Murphy, lost that
stupid bumpkin grin and said, “Say goodbye to Omaha for me.”
Holmes headed down the tunnel,