Treason Is Not Just A Word

Relations with our allies had suffered after a disastrous G7 conference in Quebec. Donald Trump complained about having to travel to Canada as a distraction from his upcoming Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Donald threatened the EEU with tariffs and then cut short his participation to cross the globe to the Orient.

Destination Singapore.

I had been there in 1990.

Trump was meeting Kim Jong-un.

I had never shook his hand.

Dennis Rodman had visited the strongman.

He gave his lackey a signed copy of Trump’s THE ART OF THE DEAL.

Donald is a friend from THE APPRENTICE show.

The NBA all-star was also in Singapore.

The Trump-Kim Jong-un meeting resulted in the cancellation of joint South Korean-US military exercise featuring B-52s as a threat against the North Korean nuclear program.

“We’re saving $14 million on the exercise,” claimed a Pentagon source and the Donald twittered, “Holding back the “war games” during the negotiations was my request because they are VERY EXPENSIVE and set a bad light during a good faith negotiation. Also, quite provocative. Can start up immediately if talks break down, which I hope will not happen!”

The savings will help pay for Trump’s desired military parade in Washington. He loved the one in Paris and what can you say about those in North Korea.

Huge.

Supporters called for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Within a week Kim’s scientists were back at the testing labs.

Fears of H-Bombs in the air, but not from Trump.

#45 had places to go and people to see.

Last week Donald Trump boarded US 1 and flew across the Atlantic to a NATO meeting in Brussels.

Few had high hopes for trip to Europe and #45 didn’t disappoint them

The warmonger long to demand that our allies increase their financial contribution to 2%, so NATO can fight across the globe.

“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

Like the over-priced and unflyable F35 and the the Comanche helicopter and the SM-3 Block IIA missile.

No one really wanted to deal with him, so Donald looked at his shoes and then later twittered about the UK’s PM Theresa May that she had been soft of Brexit.

“We can no longer completely rely on the White House,” said Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister and Trump responded by twittering about Angela Merkel, German PM, ““I think you are losing your culture.” The governments of May and Merkel are both threatened by nationalist, anti-immigrant political insurgencies.“

Right-wing nationalists cheered his words, but Trump was heading north to shake hands with Russia’s pseudo-Czar., Vld Putin.

Trump stated that he didn’t trust US Intelligence Agency and accepted Putin’s claims that the Russians were not involved in tampering with the 2016 election. The only Americans who believe this statement were the Russians and Trump supporters., who brought up Benghazi and the Muslim Brotherhood and Obama being born in another country.

Trump said many questionable things in Helsinki.

They spelt out one word.

TREASON.

As defined in the Constitution “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, either levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort with the U.S. or elsewhere.”

Trump supporters argue that we are not at war with the old USSR, but except for WW2 the Russians have never been our allies.

Then again Trump was not born in America.

Pakistan to a KGB father long ago.

Viva Che Fifty Years Later

Like every other human born on this planet, Che Guevera began his life as a child. His bloodline was partially Irish and his last name was Lynch. His father laster stated that the blood of Irish rebels ran in his son’s veins.

His youth devoted to education and according to Wikipedia the CIA considered the Argentinean a deep intellectual for a Latino.

Three separate tours of Latin America in 1948, 1950, and 1951 radicalized the young medical student and he vowed to fight oppression. The 1954 CIA-led coup d’etat against the Arbenz government in Guatemala convinced Che that only armed resistance could combat the power of the dictators and the USA. He fled with his name of a death list.

Mexico was a safe haven for revolutionaries.

He married and traveled without fear.

Che also met up with his old Cuban comrades.

Fidel Castro led the anti-Batista 26th of July Movement.

Their 1956 invasion of Cuba was a disaster. Most of the rebels were captured after landing and either killed or executed. The rest escaped into the mountains.

The Revolution didn’t die.

Che and Fidel were a good team.

Fidel was a pitcher.

Che was not a sportsman.

He was a gun-carrying revolutionary.

Same as Fidel.

Dedicated to freedom.

On January 1, 1959 the bearded ones triumphed over the Batista regime and the dictator fled the island with over $300,000,000 from his corruption scams.

Over the next decade Cuba became of beacon of Marxist resistance against the Yankee empire. Che wanted to spread the revolution to other shores. Hew failed miserably in Africa and set his sights on Bolivia, the poorest nation in South America.

La Paz the capitol was 12,000 feet above sea level.

Only the Quechans lived higher.

Life was hell.

Life was hand to mouth.

Children rarely lived past 10.

Che said good-bye to his second wife and children.

His first loves had always been the people and ‘la luta’.

Bolivia was a bigger failure than the Congo.

He was captured by the Bolivian Army.

“Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead.”

They had no respect for ‘banditos’.

Gary Prado, the Bolivian captain in command of the army company, ordered his execution.

When asked if he was thinking about his immortality, Che replied, “”No, I’m thinking about the immortality of the revolution.”

A drunk sergeant shot him three times.

Thus creating a legend.

And some think a saint.

October 9, 1967.

Fifty years ago.

La Revolucion siempre.

MC5 Baseball

As much as I loved Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching a no-hitter on LSD and beaning every player on the Cincinnati Reds in one game, my favorite ballplayer of the 1970s has to be Fred Sonic Smith from the MC5.

Strangely I can find any mention of Fred Smith in the records of the Major Leagues other than that from 1914. Fred Smith played ball for Buffalo. The man on there right looked nothing like Fred Sonic Smith.

Well, maybe a little.

Because all white people look the same.

At least a little.

THROWING LIKE A GIRL by Peter Nolan Smith


My introduction to baseball came in the early spring of 1958. I was sittingMy father dragged me away from our Zenith black-and-white. My favorite show, THE THREE STOOGES, was on the TV. Even a six-year old boy knew better than to resist a man his size.

“Too nice a day to waste in front of the boob tube.” My father hated TV’s grasp on his children. He came from the age of radio. I followed him out of the house into the backyard. A line of trees were struggling to sprout leaves after a long Maine winter, but at the end of the street the sun sparkled off the million mirrors scattered across the harbor separating Falmouth Foresides from Portland. April would soon be May.

My older brother stood on withered grass twenty feet away. His left hand was buried in the leather of a baseball glove. A Red Sox cap shaded his face. He clutched a real baseball in his right hand.

“Time for you two to play America’s Pastime.” My father had served with the Army Air Force in World War II and fought the Great Maine Fire of 1949. Standing close to me he demonstrated the proper stance for a right-handed batter. “Legs apart with your body square to the plate and your eyes on the mound.

“Yes, sir.” I had watched a few games on TV and thrown the baseball with my older brother. I knew that Ted Williams number was 9, but my mind was better suited to Hide and Seek. No one could find my secret places.

“Okay, let’s play some ball.”

My father crouched behind the piece of wood serving as the plate and told my brother to throw a strike. The seven year-old looked over to my mother in the breezeway. She nodded her approval and he chucked the ball with every ounce of his skinny body’s strength. His lucky first pitch thudded into my father’s glove. The bat never left my shoulder. I had been too scared that it was going to hit me.

“You’re supposed to swing at the ball.” He stood up and acted out the motion of batting, as if he were holding an imaginary bat. The 30 year-old Maine native had the same athletic build as the baseball players on TV. He resumed his position and smacked his fist into the glove. “Give it another try.

I obeyed his command and swung at the next pitch with closed eyes. Something struck the bat and my hands tingled with shock of the accidental meeting of two objects. The ball floated into our new neighbors’ backyard.

The eleven year-old girl with short red hair fielded the ball on one bounce and winged it to my father with teenage accuracy. His clean-shaven face grimaced from the impact in his glove. My father was an electrical engineer and he tried to analyze where the source of her strength. The girl was mostly bones.

“That’s some arm.”

“My father wanted a boy, so here I am.” The freckled redhead was a classic Tom Boy and I fell in love the second she taught me how to grip the ball with my fingers.

We spent the rest of the morning throwing the ball with the lanky girl, whose name was Charlene. My father stopped to pick up my errant throw. There had been many.

Her mother came out to introduce herself. The slender blonde worked as a nurse for Maine Medical and her husband captained an oil freighter out of Bath. They were from Bar Harbor.

“That’s some baseball player you have.” My father nodded at Charlene.

She was cutting the air with the swing of the bat.

“Her father played semi-pro. I told him to quit and get a real job or else we were through.” ” Charlene’s mother had a nice smile. Her teeth were perfect. “I suppose having a tomboy is his revenge, but baseball is a love they share.”

My mother invited her inside for tea and a chat. My sisters sat on the porch. My best friend, Chaney, rounded the corner of the house. One look at Charlene and he ran back home for his glove. Some older boys appeared to mock our playing with a girl. One was our school bully, Skeeter Kressee. My father challenged them to a game.

Five on five with my father the umpire. Charlene knocked in all our runs. It was my first win in a game. Most boys in America worshipped Mickey Mantle, but Charlene was my baseball goddess.

Every day after school my older brother, my best friend, Chaney, and Charlene practiced baseball. By the end of May my brother and Chaney could toss a baseball over the peaked roof of our two-story house. I had broken my sisters’ bedroom window on my last attempt. Charlene took the time to teach me the mechanics of throwing. Her father must been a great instructor, because after an hour my toss cleared the peak of the roof by ten feet.

Throughout that spring three other neighborhood boys joined our team and we played 7-on7 pick-up games in the dirt lot next to Route 1. Charlene was our ringer. We routed the boys our age. Our winning streak continued against 3rd and 4th graders. My father would coach us on the weekend. A bunch of 5th graders came close to beating us in early June. Charlene smacked a flat pitch so hard that the ball cleared the state highway. We called ourselves the Red Sox and there were no Yankees in our town to challenge our team.

We were six boys and one girl.

One afternoon Chaney, my older brother, and I came home from Pinewood School to find Charlene sobbing on the front steps. Her Wilson glove and bat lay on the ground. My younger sisters’ crying jags were over lost dolls and our teasing. Charlene’s tears came from a greater disappointment. We stood on the lawn and watched her for a minute without saying a word. Her sorrow was that deep.

“What’s wrong?” I asked and my older brother elbowed my ribs.

“Leave her alone.”

“Did someone bother you?” I looked up the street. Skeeter Kressee was tormenting a neighbor’s cat. I picked up the bat.

“It’s not Skeeter.” Charlene wiped her face with the sleeve of her shirt. “I went to try out for Little League and the coaches told me to go home and bake a cake.”

“They would have never told Frank Malzone that.” Chaney barked with boyish anger.

“Frank Malzone is a man.” My brother idolized the Red Sox 3rd baseman.

“And Charlene is the best player in our town.” My favorite Red Sox was Pete Runnel. I had traded two Frank Malzone baseball card for one of his. “Did you get a try-out?”

“No, they said girls should play with dolls not with balls.” Charlene walked away from our house without her baseball and glove. “You can keep those. I won’t be needing them anymore.”

We had a game that afternoon. The 3rd graders beat us 15-0. We were too young to play anyone without Charlene.

That night at the dinner table I told my father about Charlene not being allowed to play Little League. My mother frowned at the information.

“You can’t always get what you want.” She had given up a singing career to raise five children. The strength of her voice had stopped the Portland Cathedral choir in mid-chorus of AVE MARIA. She understood sacrifice.

“She’s a very good baseball player. Better than I was at that age.” My father appreciated talent. He watched THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW every Sunday night. “They should let her try out.”

“Boys and men don’t like playing with girls or women.” My mother served my father another portion of roast beef. “Mostly because they’re scared of losing.”

“You may be right.” My father cut into the meat. He loved my mother’s cooking. “But she deserves a try-out and I’m going to get her one.”

“Good luck.” My mother was sincere in her wishes and stood up to clear the plates from the table. The boundaries between male and female had been carved in stone for centuries.

“Thanks.” My father winked at my older brother and me like he had a magic lamp in his back pocket. “I can’t promise it will happen, so don’t say anything to Charlene or your friends. You can keep a secret, right?”

“Yes, sir.” My brother and I answered in unison. We were good sons and did as we were told 99% of the time.

“Because telling a secret means it won’t happen.”

“Just like telling someone your wish after snapping a wishbone.” My older brother nodded with understanding. He and I fought for wishes with dried chicken bones. He had won each and every time and I believed that his wish was to always break off the wish part of the wishbone. We bought our empty plates to the kitchen sink and went upstairs to our room. Our lights went out at 9. I listened to the Red Sox game on the radio powered by an alligator clip attached to the steel of my bed. The rocket-shaped radio was made in Japan.

Chaney once told me that the Japs played baseball.

My uncle said the same thing and he had been in Japan after the war.

I fell asleep before the game’s end. The home team was playing the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers never lost to us.

The next few days were typical for the coast of Maine. Rain, cold, and windy. Our baseball gloves remained on their hooks. We didn’t see Charlene once during that time. She went to school and came back home before us. Twice I went over to her house. No one answered my knock on the door.

Friday night my father came into the house.

“You didn’t say anything to Charlene about the try-out?”

“No.” I didn’t like the sound of this questioning.

To your friends?”

“No.” I searched my mind for something that I might have done wrong.

“Your teachers?”

“No.”

“C’mon, we’re going to talk with Charlene.”

I grabbed Charlene’s baseball glove and bat.

The three of us crossed the backyard. He rang the doorbell and Charlene’s mother opened the door.

“Can I help you?” She was wearing curlers and

“I’d like to speak with Charlene. It’s about baseball. I tried to get her a try-out, but everyone said that she couldn’t”

“She already knows that.” Charlene’s wife lit a cigarette and offered my father one. “She’s giving up on baseball. Talking to her won’t change her mind. This is a man’s world. She knows that now. So there’s nothing to talk about. Thanks for coming over, but that’s the way it is and she’ll have to live with it.”

“But___” I looked up the stairs, hoping to see Charlene.

“No buts.” My father lit the cigarettes with a Zippo lighter. Charlene’s mom leaned closer to him. They inhaled at the same time. “Charlene has made her decision and so has the Little League. It isn’t right, but like her mother said, “That’s the way it is.” Thanks for your time.”

“Thanks for your effort.” Charlene’s mother smiled at my father. They nodded, as if they were allies in a greater fight.

“What about her glove and bat?” I was sure that I could convince Charlene to play with us. I just needed the chance.

“Leave them with me.” Her mother took them out of my hands. “Her father can decide what to do with them when he gets back home.”

“Have a good weekend.” We returned to our house and shut the door. My mother and father spoke in the dining room alone. They were having an adult conversation. Nothing else was ever said about Charlene’s playing baseball. My parents became good friends with her mother and father. The two couples went out together. My mother always said that they had a good time.

I saw Charlene later that summer. Her hair was longer and she was wearing a dress. I tried to speak with her, but she ignored my attempts. She was almost 12 and I was definitely 6.

Two years later we moved from Maine to Boston. My older brother and I were on the same team in the town league. I told the other kids about Charlene. One of the boys laughed at my story.

“Girls can’t throw a ball.”

“Can too.”

“Can not.”

I punched him in the nose and he cried to the coach. I got in trouble. It didn’t matter too much to me. I was no good at baseball, but some of her skill wore off on me. Opposing players would shout from the bench.

“You throw like a girl.”

I ignored the insults.

My throws reached the plate fast and hard same as Charlene, because that girl knew how to throw.

ONLY A GAME by Peter Nolan Smith

In July of 1986 Argentina beat England in the quarterfinal of the World Cup on the ‘Hand of God’ goal by Diego Maradona. The referees ignored England’s protests over the obvious error in judgment to no avail and his team went on to beat West Germany 4-3 in the final.

Few people in the USA were aware of this infamous play.

Soccer was a sport for foreigners.

America’s national pastime was baseball and that June the two best teams in the majors were the New York Mets and my beloved Boston Red Sox. The Damn Yankees boasted with a veteran lineup of Tommy John, Joe Niekro, Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Ken Griffey, and Rickey Henderson struggled to catch the surging Bosox, while sell-out crowds flocked to Shea Stadium to cheer on the Mets of Queens.

Earlier in the mont a madman attacked passengers on the Staten Island Ferry. NYPD arrested him without a shot. The murderer was incarcerated at Bellevue Hospital, where a psychiatrist friend medicated the Zorro with various antipsychotics.

“What’s he like?” I asked at the entrance of the Milk Bar, where I was the doorman.

“Calm, but who wouldn’t be after all the drugs I’m giving him. They’d kill you or me, but a smaller dose only impairs your ability to operate heavy machinery.”

I gave the concoction a try.

Scottie the nightclub’s owner sent me home at midnight in a cab. I barely made it home alive.

Discos continued to dominate the dance scene, but none of them recaptured the thrill of Studio 54 better than The Milk Bar, which dominated the night from 12am to 4am.

The triangular triplex’s decor had been lit by the legendary lighting genius Arthur Weinstein and decorated by his wife Colleen to replicate the film CLOCKWORK ORANGE’s futuristic bar frequented by Alex and his sociopathic droogs. The plastic furnishings stylishly replicated a throwback to the 60s with the white plexiglass walls backlit by color-gel lamps.

Sometimes red, other times pink.

Never yellow.

“Yellow makes everyone look like they have the plague.”

Griffbag the DJ played an eclectic musical melange of Art of Noise, Michael Jackson, James Brown, the Cure, Run D.M.C./Aerosmith, Berlin, Bananarama, Pet Shop Boys, Run DMC mixed with 50s R&B, 60s garage, 70s punk and disco, and 80s new wave, rap, and pop.

Paul McCartney, John “Cougar” Melloncamp or Lionel Richie were banned from the turntables.

Dancing was forbidden by the cabaret laws of the State, but the West Village PD ignored toe-tapping and soul-grinding in our basement lounge. They liked Arthur. He spoke their language.

Most nightclubs were hell for anyone living near them, except the Milk Bar treated its neighbors well.

All three floors of the club had been soundproofed by experts. Rejects were dispersed before they congealed into an unruly crowd. Customers were asked to be quiet upon exiting the club. Cops got in free as long as they were off-duty. Neighbors were comped two free drinks a night and we were even let in some of the bridge and tunnel crowd.

Griffbag liked girls with big hair.

Everyone had a good time and everyone consisted of models, ballerinas, artists, rappers, film and TV crews, pro athletes, doctors and nurses from St. Vincent, restaurant staff from near-by restaurants, and neighbor people.

The dress code was the color black.

The blacker the better, but the color had nothing to do with the bar’s popularity.

The Milk Bar had a reputation for luck.

Couples fell in love.

Drinkers got drunk.

People had fun.

Our door policy was simple.

“I don’t wanna see any suits or ties,” Scottie the owner told me at the door. “No Wall Street at all.”

“Not a problem.” I did as I was told, although a $100 cuffed into my palm allowed in the occasional exception.

On the weekend I collected a cover at the door and only a little of the take stuck in my pocket. Arthur and Scottie trusted my greed. We three went back to the Jefferson Theater and that mythic after-hour club had been all about coining cash.

My partner at the door was a giant Haitian bouncer.

Every midnight Big Joel and I gazed at the Empire State Building. The tower lights were extinguished at 12.Neither of us caught the turn-off. We were too busy taking care of business.

Our max capacity of 250 was exceeded every evening, but we rarely topped 300, because the fire marshals enforced that life-or-death restriction without exception and the manager insisted on obeying their unspoken edict.

Kilmer was their friend and the FD liked the blonde from Tampa.

With the neighbors, police, and fire department on our side The Milk Bar had a strong run throughout the summer, but we weren’t loved by everyone.

O’Sheas farther up 7th Avenue had been serving drinks to the artists and locals since the 50s. Museum-class paintings hung on the wall. Famous writers had carved their names on the wooden bar. Faithful regulars were granted reserved stools, but the new crowd of Wall Street bankers and lawyers had invaded the legendary tavern like a flock of crows picking over the bones of a battlefield. These money hounds unloosed their ties after work shouted to each other about million-dollar deals.

I wouldn’t have let one of junior tycoons into the Milk Bar.

An array of top-of-the-line Sony TVs hung over the long bar and the large screens featured sports and more sports. The good-looking bartenders were ex-college jocks. The attractive night waitresses worked days as aspiring models and actresses.

It was a formula for printing money, but The Milk Bar had been hurting the till and O’Sheas owner Old Jim was saying things about us. None of it was good and only a few of his stories were true.

“Fuck em,” Arthur said to Scottie one July evening before opening for the night. “They’ll be here long after we’re gone.”

“I don’t like bad blood.” Scottie was Arthur’s best friend. He usually followed the older New Yorker’s lead.

“So don’t drink it.”

“I’m going to talk to them.”

“About what?” Arthur was an expert at letting people stew in their own sauce. “Baseball?”

“No, about live and let live.”

“Suit yourself, but don’t tell me later that I told you so.”

Two nights later Scottie and I walked over O’Sheas. A drizzle in the 70s chilled the early summer night. The bar was crowded with Yankee fans.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I never drank at O”Sheas. My team was the Red Sox.

“I hate people badmouthing us.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from this crowd.

“Do me a favor and keep your mouth shut.” Scottie liked peace and quiet.

“I’ll try.”

We entered the bar and sat at the bar.

Robert Palmer’s ADDICTED TO LOVE boomed on the sound system. The bar’s softball team was celebrating another league victory in the dining room. Every TV was set to the Yankees playing the Os. Not a single TV was turned to the Mets. We ordered cheeseburgers. NEW YORK magazine had called the best in the neighborhood. I ate half of mine.

“What do you think?” Scottie signaled the blonde bartender for the bill.

“The cheese was barely melted.” I favored McBell’s on 6th Avenue or the Corner Bistro. “And the meat tasted of nothing.”

“The reviewer must have an open tab here.” Scottie paid with a twenty and told the square-jawed bartender in the Hawaiian shirt to keep the change.

“Is Old Jim around?” That was the name of the owner.

Old Jim?” the young man asked with an aggressive tone. “Who’s asking?”

“Tell him the owner of the Milk Bar.” Scottie smiled with disarming charm. “Just wanted to say hello.”

“Sure.” His sneer revealed long hours of acting lessons, although the depth of his expression suggested his teacher might be a mime.

The bartender motioned to a slim blonde waitress and whispered in her ear, then tended to the two-deep crowd of drinkers.

“Here he comes.”

A waitress led a beer-gutted man in his late-30s to the bar.

“Old Jim doesn’t look that old?” I was 34.

“Older than us.” Scottie was four years younger than me.

“Forever young.” I finished my beer.

Old Jim introduced himself with an overly forceful handshake.

“What can I do for you boys?” The mustached owner drawled the word ‘boys’ with a derogatory insinuation, denoting Old Jim traced his roots way back beyond Peckerwood City.

“We wanted to come over and let you know that anyone working here gets in for free.” Scottie wasn’t offering them free drinks. O’Sheas had a huge staff.

“That’s mighty white of you, but my people don’t frequent pick-up joints and drug dens.” Old Jim was several inches taller than me and stared down into my eyes. “Fag bars either.”

“Really?” At 5-11 I weighed 185. I played streetball five times a week in Tompkins Square Park. Three hours a day.

Old Jim had a soft gut.

“Fags aren’t allowed in here either.”

“This is the wrong neighborhood to say ‘fag’.” I had lost more than a few friends to AIDS.

Two of the softball players took the owner’s back. They weren’t twins other than in size and weight. 6-2 and 195. I figured them for Diversion 2 football benchwarmers and slid off my stool.

“Slow down, Rudie.” Scottie hated my temper and he turned to Old Jim. “I’m sorry if we got off to a bad start.”

“Don’t be sorry about anything. I know your history. Two of your bars were raided by the police.

“That’s right.”

Internal Affairs had busted the doors of the Jefferson and the FBI had closed the Intercontinental as part of an investigation into police corruption.

“But I have nothing to hide.” Scottie stood a solid 5-7. His nose had been broken as a kid. Boxing was his sport, not baseball.

“Midgets rarely do.” Old Jim confirmed that bridging this gap was a lost cause.

“Midget?” Scottie was a native New Yorker and had to say something to show that no one threw his father’s son out of a bar. “Good luck with your softball team. They are good-looking boys.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Old Jim’s face tinted red.

“Nothing.” Scottie pointed to the numerous softball trophies on the wall. “Looks like you’ve been lucky over the years.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it.”

“If you say so.” My boss turned to walk out of the bar.

I had his back.

“You think your lowlife bar can beat us?” Old Jim twisted the waxed tip of his mustache. He was no Rollie Fingers.

Scottie looked over his shoulder with a ‘fuck you’ smile.

“Only one way to find out. There’s a park next to the bar.”

The field had real grass. The base paths were at least 80% dirt. The right-field fence was at most 150 feet from the plate. Deep left was no more than 200. It was a hitter’s paradise.

“Jimmie Walker Park is our home field.” Old Jim hefted his chest like a rooster ready to fart dust. “So you dopefiends want to play a baseball game?”

“It’s closer to our bar. Tell you what. We’ll flip for last at bats.” Scottie took out a quarter. “Call it.”

“Heads.” Old Jim leaned forward to watch the result. His nose was red from drink. I hoped that the old sot was the pitcher.

“Tails.” Scottie showed the coin and flicked a quarter in the air

The quarter fell on the bar.

Heads.

Jim reached for the coin. Scottie snatched it back with the speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard jab.

“I’m a gentleman. You get to set the date.”

“Teams are staff and customers only.” Old Jim had his rules. “And no ringers.”

“Whatever you say.” Scottie handed Old Jim an invite for an Elle Modeling party. “Call me at that number. We’ll be ready whenever you are.”

Scottie and I walked out of O’Shea’s. I didn’t say a word until we were down the block.

“You know that they’re the best team in the Village and haven’t lost in four years?”

“And we’re the best bar.”

“But can we field a squad of nine?”

“Can we?”

“I think so. Here’s the line-up

Scottie named players by position; Arthur had pitched for St. John’s. Nick the Dick was at 1st. I couldn’t stand the low-level coke dealer, but at 6-9 his wingspan could snag any errant throws and line drives. Scottie could cover 2nd. Ray Wood from Park Avenue was a sure shot for short and the buck-toothed DJ, Griffbag, was an eager beaver on 3rd, while Georg Rage had the arm to chuck home from centerfield. Tommie White Trash, our barback, was quick on his feet for left and Doctor Bob wouldn’t hurt us in right, plus he possessed a wondrous stash of magic from the hospital.

“And what about me?”

“You’re catcher, but nine men on a field were nine men on a field and not a team.”

“Art can be the manager.”

“Isn’t he a little anarchistic for that role.”

Arthur believed in every man for himself as long as we worked together.

“You want to do it, because I certainly don’t.” Scottie was a firm follower of Arthur’s modus operandi.

“No.” I was no leader and I wasn’t much of a follower either.

“So we have a make-up team of losers versus the best team in the Village.”

We stood on the sidewalk across from the Milk Bar. The traffic on 7th Avenue sped down 7th Avenue
murderously fast. The cars with Jersey plates were bound for the Holland Tunnel.

“The squares against us will be a classic.” Scottie liked long shots. They paid better odds. “Plus anyone is beatable on a given night and we have a secret weapon.”

“We do?”

“Big Joel.” Scottie pointed to my 6-8 partner at the door of the Milk Bar. The Haitian giant sat on my Yamaha 650cc XS. His arm was draped around the mother of his baby. Darlene was the love of his life. All the other girls had merely been practice.

“Big Joel is from Haiti. Just cause Rawlins wraps their baseballs there, doesn’t make him a ballplayer. You ever see him throw a ball?”

“No.”

“I have. He has a vodou zombie arm. One morning after work we sat in the park smoking a joint. An abandoned softball lay in the dirt. I underhanded it to Big Joel. He fumbled the toss and then tried to chuck it back to me. His throw barely reached 30 feet.”

“Don’t worry, I’m going to teach him how to swing a bat.” Scottie crossed the street through the rush of traffic. Jaywalking was a very New Yorker thing to do and so was playing softball.

I waited on the sidewalk for the ‘white man walking’ signal. I joined them thirty seconds later. Scottie spoke with Big Joel. A broad smile beamed from his face.

“Man, we gonna play baseball.” He was as happy as a kid getting his first glove. “Scottie gonna make me Dee-H.”

“Do you know what DH is?” asked Darlene. Her family had emigrated from Port Au Prince two generations before Big Joel.

“Dee-Ate.”

“Stupid. DH is for designated hitter.” Darlene was tough on her man.

“Et?”

They argued at the front door in stiletto jabs of patois.

At the end of the night Kilmer announced that O’Sheas had called to schedule a softball game for a week from tonight.

Kalline, Tommie White Trash’s girlfriend, poured Arthur a vodka screwdriver. Her barmate, Sunny, cut up limes, lemons, and oranges with a sharp knife. They both dressed like runaways from a biker gang; tight leather pants and Daisy Mae white cotton shirts tied above their midriff.

This look earned them big tips.

“I heard you’re playing a softball game.” Kalline didn’t give Arthur his drink.

“Yes. Against O’Sheas.”

“I told you not to go there.” Arthur glared at Scottie.

“I was just trying to be friendly,” the part-owner of the bar recounted the confrontation at O’Shea’s. The bar staff muttered swears upon hearing how Old Jim had insulted the Milk Bar.

“The cocksucker said all that?” Arthur put down off his glass. The right-handed curve-baller didn’t care what Old Jim said about him. The scandal behind the Intercontinental had been published in the New York Times.

“Every word.” I was no snitch, but Arthur had to know the opposition.

“We are who we are and I am who I am.” Arthur admitted to us. “But you ain’t me, so this beer-belly Buddha has a lot of balls to say anything. We’re gonna kick their ass one way or the other.”

“What’s the team?” Kalline demanded, suspecting the worst.

I ran down the roster.

Everyone groaned with the mention of Nick the Dick.

“I know, I know, but he can cover the base like no one else.”

“And what about us?” Kalline came from a trailer park in the Everglades, where girls grew ‘gator tough’. She picked up the largest lemon on the bar.

“This is a man on man game,” said Griffbag.

“Really? Says who?” The skinny blonde wound up from the stretch.

“Shit.” I ducked and the lemon whizzed over where my head had been to smack into the wall. The light went out behind the plastic panel. Kalline had an arm.

“My father didn’t name me after Al Kalline for nothing.” She picked up another lemon.

“Girls get to play.” I raised my hands in surrender. The best player in my Maine hometown had been a girl. Darlene had been banned from playing Little League. My father had fought for her right to wear a uniform, but Maine in the late 1950s was not ready for a girl on the bases. “Sorry for being so macho.”

“Macho is first nature for most men, which is why I love Tommie. He’s a pussy cat.”

Her reformed car thief sulked in the corner of the club. Nobody was lazier when there was nothing to do, but girls came to the bar to stare at the half-blood Sioux like he was Paul Newman playing a sullen Cochise.

“Everyone gets to play,” Arthur declared putting on his leather jacket. The AC in the Milk Bar chilled the basement to arctic temperatures, which our clientele loved on a hot summer’s night.

“Even me.” Big Joel clomped down the stairs and lowered his head through the door. Darlene was right behind him. Her stomach was larger than the last time I saw her. She was pregnant again.

“Even you, big man.” Arthur was on the same mind as Scottie. “You’re going to be our secret weapon.”

“I’m not hitting no one with a machete.” He shook his head. Like Scottie and Arthur he was a man of peace. I was the troublemaker.

“You’re his special project.” Scottie pointed to me and said to Joel, “Let’s see your stance.”

Big Joel planted his size 15 feet on the floor and swung his fists through the air. The whoosh of their passage would be scarier with a bat in his hands.

“I am going to kill the ball.”

The girls cheered his threat and Arthur scheduled a practice for tomorrow.

“Nothing early. Six ‘O’Clock. I expect everyone there.”

He gathered us into a huddle. Scottie was embarrassed by the intimacy, but put his arms around me and Sunny.

Kalline led us in cheer.

“Milk Bar 1-2-3 Kick them in the knee.” She thrust an Olive Oyl thin leg in the air and her heel thumped into Big Joel’s head.

He fell to the floor in a half-daze.

Everyone laughed, as he rose to his feet like Michael Spinks rising from the canvas after Mike Tyson KOed him in the 1st round.

It was going to be that kind of a game, because that was the kind of game at which we could beat O’Sheas.

Later that night Big Joel and I stared at the Empire State Building. The tower was shrouded by fog. The lights glowed through the mist. It was slow for a Saturday night, but the Milk Bar was always slow before midnight.

“You think I can hit the ball?” Big Joel blew in his hands. 70s was winter weather in Haiti.

“It’s easy. The pitcher throws it under-handed. The ball can’t be traveling more than 50 miles per hour.”

The famed pitcher Tris Speaker had said that it was useless trying to explain hitting to anyone and I was far from a good batter.

I looked back at the Empire State Building. The lights were out.

Over the next week the neighborhood heard about our grudge match with O’Sheas and wished us luck in the upcoming game. They liked drinking at O”Sheas, but few of them cared for Old Jim. He was a piece of work.

My live-in guest Elena showed up at 2. The twenty-year old from Madrid had danced three shifts at Billy’s A Go-Go. Crumpled $1 bills filled her pocketbook.

The raven-haired seductress danced a solo flamenco for the latecomers at the bar.

Several men offered her money.

The Spanish girl rejected them for me.

We drove home on my motorcycle to East 10th Street.

In bed we pretended to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Each of us was too wicked to believe the lie past the dawn.

The next day I had a hard time waking up. My bedroom with drawn curtains was as dark as midnight. Elena wasn’t through with me either. It was almost 5pm by the time I crawled out of bed.

“Where are you going?” Elena lay with a sheet wrapped around her ballerina body. The dusk light bounced off the living room floor and she shielded her sleepy eyes with a lazy hand.

“To practice and then come back here.” I threw some water in my face and grabbed my baseball glove from the closet. The leather was stiff from disuse.

“Beesball?” Elena laughed aloud. “You never play beesball.”

“I will tonight.” I pounded my fist into the glove and swung my right arm over my head. Several shoulder muscles agreed with Elena and promised pain, if I pushed them too hard. I kissed the dancer on the lips. Hers were bruised from last night. Mine were just as sore.

“I’ll see you later.”

“If I am not dance.” She taught an afternoon class next door in the art school. Normally I watched her from my rear window. Nights she stripped at a club on 6th Avenue. Elena traced a finger down the side of my face. “I want to see you look at me.”

Shivers flashed down the marrow of my spine. Elena was under my skin and the slender girl was trouble, because being faithful to one man wasn’t in her gypsy blood.

“I’ll see you later.”

I left the apartment.

Sunday’s cold drizzle slicked the streets and drops of rain dotted the sidewalks. I arrived at James Walker Park expecting to be the only one there, but was surprised to find the whole crew and I crouched behind home plate.

Arthur pitched batting practice. I hit five balls off the fences. Georg snagged my grounders with ease and Nick the Dick snatched errant throws with his condor wingspan. Scottie coached Big Joel with the bat. Kalline hit the ball where they ain’t on the field. Doctor Bob struggled with high flyballs. Kilmer and Ray Wood made out in the stands. Sunny had a bet that they were in love. She was so right that no one took her odds at 5-1.

At 7:30 Arthur called it quits. The doors of the Milk Bar opened at 8. I was glad to be off on Sundays and headed back to my apartment and bought Chinese take-out. I sat on the window sill. Elena swirled on the floor in school across the alley. She was a better show than TV.

For the next few evenings the Milk Bar team practiced on the ball field between other games. Arthur bargained for the time with free drinks to the teams scheduled to play. 30 minutes wasn’t much, but it was more productive than drinking at the bar.

On Thursday night the pseudo-twin bartenders from O’Sheas scouted us. Both ridiculed at Scottie’s batting lessons with Big Joel.

When I pointed them out to Arthur and Big Joel walked over to the pair. His vodou scowl dissolved their mirth and they fled the park in a hurry.

“Milk Bar, Milk Bar,” the girls shouted from the dug-out.

Our game was in five days.

The next night Georg and I rode uptown on my motorcycle to catch an O’Sheas away play an Upper West Side bar in Central Park. Both teams wore on spotless uniforms and cleats.

Their curvy cheerleaders belonged in DEBBI DOES DALLAS. Old Jim walked over to us with three players behind him. They had bats on their shoulders.

I stood my ground.

“You’re the little runt’s sidekick. Robin, Batman’s fag.”

That line earned a good laugh from his players. I grabbed a baseball bat to smack his head into the outfield. It was not the way to start off a game and I counted to 10 instead.

“What’s wrong? Can’t speak.” His hand touched his mustache. Old Jim actually thought that the pussyduster looked good on him.

“Nothing wrong,” I spoke soft and slow, eyeing the tallest of his team. A boot to his knee would put him on the permanent disabled list.

“I did a little research on your boss. Not the runt, but the real one. I read that he wore the wire against the police. A lot of them lost their jobs. In my book we can him a snitch.”

After the arrest of Jimmy Featherstone, a gang of twisted cops assumed control over the Westie’s territory. The uniformed arm-breakers had been involved in protection, loansharking, and robbery. Every bar and nightclub on the West Side had donated to their weekly fund. They were not good people. Arthur did what he had to do. I didn’t have to make any excuses for him to a man with a silly mustache.

“You weren’t there.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you don’t know shit.”

A loud thonk broke the tension and Old Jim turned his head to the field. The ball soared in the air and disappeared into the trees. O’Sheas was up 3-0.

“I know one thing, Robin. That boy played in the Cape Cod league. He can hit the hell out of the ball. What position are you playing?”

“Catcher.”

“Then Robin will have a good view of your defeat.” Old Jim cocked his head and returned to the dugout. One of his players pointed his finger at me. It meant ‘after the game’.

“Tough team.” Georg knew his baseball.

“You think we have a chance?”

Another thonk of the bat and the score was 4-0.

“On a scale from 1 to 100 with 100 being the best.” Georg could call pitches without seeing the catcher’s signals. “I have to give us a 5.”

“Don’t tell Arthur or Scottie or any of the girls about this.”

They deserved to live in hope. Despair would come soon after the first pitch on Sunday. It was only three days away.

On Friday night Arthur’s wife surprised us with tee-shirts and hats. They had numbers on the back. I grabbed # 4 for Bobby Orr. I was a Boston fan in all sports.

Saturday night the bar was packed with anyone who didn’t have a place in the Hamptons. The girls poured double-shots. Elena and her fellow dancers from Billy’s arrived in cheerleader outfits. Victory was a dream for tonight, but the agony of defeat loomed large for tomorrow.

The next afternoon Elena shook me awake. My head felt like William Tell had missed the apple and his arrow was stuck in my forehead.

“What time is it?”

“5:30.” Elena was in her high school cheerleader outfit. Without make-up she passed for jailbait. “You have to get up.”

“We’re not going to play in that.” I looked out the living room window.

Thunder boomed long the Hudson River and rain slobbered down from a coal black sky.

“It will stop raining soon.” Elena threw me the Milk Bar shirt and my glove.

“How do you know?” I had fought too many fights. Flexing my knuckles predicted the weather. No cracking indicated that Elena might be right.

“Because I feel it in my blood. Get dressed.”

Arguing with a gypsy about nature was a waste of breath and I climbed out of bed. Elena practiced her cheerleader routine to ROCK ME AMADEUS. I got the message and showered in three minutes. We were out the door in ten.

The rain had diminished to a drizzle by the time we reached the West Village and the clouds cleared for the evening sun, as we arrived at the park on Leroy Street.

The clock tower of a nearby church rung six times.

It was game time.

O’Sheas had commandeered the home-field dugout. Their team resembled a casting call for a soap commercial. A self-absorbed narcissism beamed from perfect teeth. Their cheering squad consisted of Stepford Wives versions of the boys on the field with lustrous Farrah Fawcett hair. The stands behind their dugout was packed with regulars, who waved signs saying GO O’SHEAS.

The Milk Bar team sat on the right-field bench.

Sunny and Kalline had shredded their tee-shirts. They were bra-less underneath. Arthur’s wife and very young daughter sat in the stands. Dahlia begged her mother to let her do the same to her shirt. Colleen said no.

Arthur had torn the sleeves from his tee-shirt. Ray-Bans hung off his nose. Someone had to wear the pants in the family.

Elena kissed me and joined the girls from Billy’s a Go-Go to lead a cheer laced with curses.

Coolers of beer lined the wall. Kilmer handed out ice-cold Heinekens to our supporters. Ray Wood made sure none of them went to the O’Sheas backers. Georg was the only player with cleats. Griffbag had a boombox set up with speakers and popped in ROCKAWAY BEACH by the Ramones.

“Oh, oh, here comes trouble.” Griffbag looked over my shoulder

Big Joel strode up to the end of the bench. A thick-ended bat rested over his shoulder. He wore a straw porkpie hat, dark glasses, and a blue denim shirt over the Milk Bar tee-shirt.

You look like a Ton Ton Macoute.”

The name belonged to the death squad of Papa Doc.

“I am the secret weapon.”

He glowered at the nearest O’Sheas player. The Calvin Klein model wannabe dropped his eyes to the ground.

Big Joel laughed from his chest.

“Vodou not voodoo. I’m Haitian, remember.”

I checked his outfit for dolls with pins. His girlfriend lifted her bag. There was no telling what Darlene was carrying in it.

“Heads up, boys and girls, it’s game time.” Arthur walked onto the field and the referee from the Parks Department called for the captains. Old Bill met him at home plate. His mustache drooped in the humidity.

“Visitors get the call.”

The ref had closed our bar last night. His eyes were a sore shade of red.

“What call?”

“Who bats first.”

“We’re the home team,” Old Bill whined in protest.

“This is Jimmy Walker Park. Beau James was my kind of mayor.” Arthur surveyed the park. “I don’t see your name anywhere, plus you lost the coin toss the other night.”

“You heard the man.” The ref hiked his thumb over his shoulder at Old Jim. “Batter up.

Our team scattered over the field.

I crouched behind the plate and pulled on the catcher’s mask. Arthur underhanded a few practice throws. They struck my mitt with force. He nodded to the ref and O’Shea’s 1st baseman strode to home plate.

“Hello, Robin. Suck Batman’s dick lately?”

“Keep it clean,” the ref warned him and said to me, “And you don’t lose your temper. It’s only a game.”

Arthur’s pitch tweaked to the left or right and he sent the first batter down on two swings. The second batter popped up to Griffbag. The third batter swung at the first pitch. The ball screamed off his bat into centerfield. Georg caught it with both hands. He wasn’t a showboat.

It was our ups.

Kalline led off for the Milk Bar. Old Jim underestimated her and the runaway banged his first pitch into deep center. She reached 2nd base standing.

“Milk Bar, Milk Bar.” Our crowd cheered in the stands. “No pitcher. No pitcher.”

“You’re next.” Arthur clapped my shoulder.

I picked up a bat designed for speed of the swing. I planted my feet in the dirt and studied the defense. They were playing back and to the left. Someone had seen me hitting in practice and I adjusted my stance to hit into the right-field gap.

The first pitch was a strike. The next two were called balls. I lined up a low toss between 1st and 2nd. The 1st baseman leapt to his right and snagged it by the tip of his glove. I was out.

Elena yelled a curse in Roma.

“Way to go, Robin.” Old Jim punched his fist in the air.

“What’s with the Robin shit?” Arthur grabbed the bat from my hand.

I explained in twenty words or less and Arthur mumbled, “Forget about it. We’ll make him pay somewhere down the line.”

Old Jim struck out Griffbag and Tommie White Trash squibbed the first pitch to short. He was out at first.

“I told you not to swing at the first pitch.” Kalline cursed him for not driving her home. She was tougher than she looked by a long shot.

“Keep it down. The score is still 0-0,” Arthur cautioned in the dug-out. “We got five more innings to go.”

We celebrated the score with beer. O’Sheas was playing straight. We ran onto the field with beers in our hands. The temperature lingered in the high 80s and the evening air was muggy as a weight-watchers’ sauna.

Old Jim led off the 2nd. The ball didn’t travel far off the bat, but Old Jim had spotted our weakness in right. Doctor Bob had finished a double shift on the psycho ward and his eyes were at half-mast.

They scored three runs. The bases were loaded and their rally could have become a rout, except the their man on third tried to steal home. Georg peppered the ball to the plate and I tagged out the runner. Old Jim challenged the play, but the ref pointed to the black polish on the ball.

“Old Jim.” I tossed him the disputed ball.

“What?” He twirled his mustache like it was a giant hair sprouting from his nostril.

“You ain’t no Rollie Fingers.” His mustache was a homage to Oakland’s ace reliever. “Wait till my next at bat.”

“Fuck you. Robin.”

“Nice language, loser.” I was under his skin and continued the verbal assault throughout the next two innings.

“I love to hear you swear.” Elena hugged me. She wore nothing under her cheerleader outfit. The hem rose up her legs and I toldf Old Jim, “Keep your eyes on the game, Old Man.”

Arthur’s pitching kept us in the game, but they scored another run off a long shot to left. Nick the Dick saved the inning with a graceful gazelle leap off the bag to snag a sharply hit ball.

We returned to the dugout with empties. Griffbag cued up AC/DC. Old Jim complained about the music. Kalline told him to shove it. Neighborhood people floated into the park and sat on the Milk Bar bench. Free beer bought their loyalty. The cheerleaders from O’Sheas were glomming beer too. The night sucked sweat from everyone with a vampirish thirst.

Old Bill tried to stop them.

“No beer-drinking during games.”

“This isn’t for the league. It’s just a game,” said one of the pseudo-twins.

I handed them two cold ones.

“Let’s play ball.”

Kalline ran out a bunt and Tommie swung on the very next pitch. The short bobbled the play and we had runners on the corners. Arthur came to the plate without taking off his shades and pointed to the right-field fence.

“You think you’re the Babe.” Old Jim directed his outfield to shift to right.

“I’m a Yankee fan. I could be anyone. Maris, Jackson, or Bucky Dent.”

I groaned at the mention of that last name.

“Anyone, but Bucky’Fuckin’ Dent.”

“He was a hero in 1978.” Arthur hit a zinger over the 3rd baseman into left.

Kalline scored easily with Tommie and Arthur stuck on 2nd and 3rd. Scottie popped up to the catcher and Doctor Bob struck out.

“I’m shot.” He retired to the beer cooler.

Scottie signaled for Ray Wood to take Doctor Bob’s place.

At our next at-bats Ray Wood reached third and Scottie stood in the batter’s box.

“Batman the runt.” Old Bill was feeling good.

“Batting with the scoring run at the plate.” Scottie dug into the dirt and spit in his hands. He looked like he played every day. “Let’s see your stuff.”

The first two pitches were called strikes, then Scottie fouled off three pitches. The count was full.

Elena and her girls chanted, “Batman, Batman.”

The next pitch railed straight down the pike and Scottie struck the ball with the sweet of the bat. It missiled direct back at Old Jim. He put up his glove a little too late and the ball smacked him in the forehead. He dropped on his back and the ball fell to the ground right before the 2nd baseman. Tommie and Arthur crossed the plate and we were within one run.

4-3

Old Jim was a shadow after that at-bat.

He walked Kalline and me, but Nick the Dick tried to be too much of a hero and the 3rd baseman caught a sky-high foul.

Still it had been a good inning.

Maybe too good, because the next inning was a debacle.

O’Sheas ran the batting order and we were down 9-3. Our bodies were sapped by the 4th inning’s final out and Big Joel said, “Now time for me to do magic?”

“Soon.” Arthur massaged his right shoulder.

“When, bossman, when?” Big Joel’s hands clenched the bat hard enough for sawdust to seethe from his grip.

“I’ll let you know.”

The ref called us to the bat. It was three up and three down with one innings left to play.

O’Sheas prepared to celebrate and their players came over to get some beers. Nick the Dick wasn’t going to give them spit, but Doctor Bob said, “I’m a doctor. These boys need some liquid or else they might get heat stroke. I have to obey my Hippocratic oath.”

“Bullshit.” Nick slammed his glove on the ground and left the park to score blow in Soho. He was the kind of asshole that nobody cared enough about other than Arthur.

“It takes all kinds.” Arthur handed the beers to the opposing players.

They thanked him, saying they would take it easy on us.

“Get away from those fags,” Old Jim shouted at the top of his lungs.

His players muttered under their breath and returned to their dug-out.

Arthur turned to Big Joel.

“Looks like it’s your time, big man.”

“Oh, man, I am going to kill that ball.” Big Joel strode to the plate.

“Not yet. You have to bat in order.”

“Seys who?”

Scottie explained the rules to Big Joel. The Haitian broke the bat before storming toward the ref. Darlene grabbed his arm and he stopped like a bull with its nose ring stuck on a stump. She waved her finger at his face and s he sat on the bench, she winked at us and said, “Everything is going to be all right.”

We lucked out with a run in the 5th. Doctor Bob and Elena brought more beer to the O’Sheas dug-out.

Old Bill drank two.

It was so hot that I felt like the marrow had been ironed out of my bones.

Doctor Bob offered me a little cocktail.

“What’s in it?” President Reagan’s wife had been telling America to ‘Just Say No’. She was preaching to the wrong section of the choir, for everyone at the Mi\lk all sang alto.

“A little this and a little that.”

“Just what the doctor ordered.” Arthur nodded with appreciation.

We ran onto the field with a renewed spirit.

Old Jim wavered at the plate and popped up to me. The next two batters reached base, but Arthur caught the one from the Cape Cod League napping at 1st and walked over to the bag to tag him out. The next at bat was the guy who pointed his finger at me. He slurred out something indecipherable and I looked over my shoulder to the ref at the plate.

“Too much beer.”

Arthur put him out of his misery in three pitches and the O”Sheas team lurched off the field.

Elena’s girls from the go-go bars put on a show to WALK THIS WAY by Run-DMC and I sidled up to Doctor Bob.

“What did you put in their beer?” Poisoning was a felony.

“A little of this and a little of that.” Doctor Bob eyed the tall redhead from Billie’s A Go-Go. “Nothing dangerous. They’ll live.”

“Will they finish this inning?”

“As long as you make it quick.”

And quick was how we scored our runs. Kalline bunted to the 3rd baseman. He slipped on the grass.

“Old Jim, anyone tell you that mustache is out of date?”

“Fuck you, Robin.”

“No, fuck you.”

I stroked a shot to centerfield. It hit a tree. The ref called it a ground-rule double.

I wasn’t Robin any more.

Ray Wood knocked in Kalline. Sunny was called out on strikes. Old Jim was throwing batting practice. Tommie hit the first home run of the game.

The score was 9-7.

Arthur and Scottie reached base.

With men on 1st and 2nd Arthur pointed to Big Joel.

Old Jim shook off his torpor and shouted, “No batter.”

“I not bat. I break the ball.” Big Joel stood at the plate like a man waiting for the subway to Brooklyn.

“All we need is one out,” Old Jim called out from the mound, almost losing his balance.

“Big Joel,” I shouted from the dug-out. “This one is for your babies.”

Big Joel threw off the hat and glasses, then ripped off the denim shirt. He wasn’t playing for Papa Doc, but the Milk Bar. Darlene screamed at him in patois. He was her Bondye and she was his Euzulie Freda. Griffbag cued up BURNIN AND LOOTIN’. He didn’t have any Haitian mizik rasin in his cases.

“Easy batter.” The O’Sheas cheerleaders chanted in Haitian patois. “Him so big.”

I looked to Doctor Bob and he shook his head. No one was getting lucky with those two girls tonight, unless the girls wanted lucky.

Old Jim regained his form.

The ball zinged across the plate.

Big Joel watched it without moving.

“Strike one.”

“Big Joel, just swing the bat,” Scottie shouted from the dugout.

“I know how to swing de bat and I know when.” Big Joel sat on the next pitch.

“Strike two.”

The Milk Bar was down to one swing and Big Joel turned around to blow a kiss to Darleen.

“This one is for you.”

Old Bill threw the fastball and Big Joel swung his bat.

No one saw the ball leave his bat.

No one saw it clear the trees or soar over the buildings across the street.

No one saw it land wherever it landed.

It was like the Empire State Building turning out the lights.

Something that happened whether you saw it or not.

We swarmed onto the field and greeted Big Joel at home plate.

“We win?”

“Yes, we win.”

“Drinks at the Milk Bar,” Arthur shouted with his arms raised over his head.

“Half price,” Kilmer added, but nobody heard the blonde manager. It was a night for deaf ears.

The players from O’Sheas confronted Doctor Bob about the beers.

“All is fair in love and baseball.”

They accepted the loss, since it wasn’t on their permanent record.

Kilmer and Ray Wood disappeared for an hour.

When they returned red-faced, we had the answer where.

Kalline and Sunny served double shots. Tommie drank straight bourbon. Griffbag spun SEX MACHINE by Sly Stone and James Brown’s POPCORN back to back to back. Big Joel left early with Darlene. The bat went with him. Scottie and I toasted each other with tequila.

He wasn’t a drinker, so I downed them both. The uniformed police came downstairs to congratulate our victory. Two of them worked the door for me and let in everyone, even a few Wall Streeters, but only for a price. My cut was 30%.

Arthur sat in the back with his wife. He looked at us repressing a smile.

Somehow the Damned Yankee fan had pulled out a miracle and I went over to him.

“Good win.”

“All wins are good and so are some of the losses. Now get back to having a good time, before I say something about your Red Sox.” Arthur could be a hard man when it came to the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. That comment about Bucky Dent hadn’t been aimed at Old Jim, but me.

“Sure, Arthur, sure.”

I walked away to join Elena, because Arthur understood not one game is only a game.

They all are just a game.

Foto by Trigger