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I sat at the far end of the dugout in a litter of paper cups as the game moved into the seventh inning, still scoreless, and our manager made no signs, gave no indication of any kind that I would figure in the game. I was confident I could hit the opposing St. Louis Cardinal pitcher, that mediocre curveball and zippy but straight fastball, that I could cover shortstop and keep some ground balls from skipping through the infield, that I could turn the clutch double play, that I could make the strong relay from shallow left field to cut down an overreaching runner trying to score. I was a little bit of perfection on the bench, a piece of gold, but never recognized as such. Instead, I had been ignored as an unproven player who would never have been called up at the midseason break without the insistence of the owner who had known my father, taken fishing trips with him into Canada years ago. I looked at the manager watching our batters walk to the plate in the seventh inning, only to return to the bench vexed and irritated when they were retired. I wiped the perspiration from under my cap and studied our manager--white hair sticking out from under his cap, which hid a major bald spot, eyes a piercing blue, skin leathered and wrinkled and turned a desert red from a long summer in the sun. He projected an image of authority and competence, but the team was losing morale and fading under that authority. I recognized his reputation had stayed consistently favorable for too long, a bubble created by the media, the triumph of pontifical grandstanding over the obvious truth. Maybe his smoking that left him with offensive breath partially concealed by Doublemint gum biased me; maybe it was his addiction to superstitious impulses. Paul Gibson would pitch on three days' rest because a red warbler kept tapping on the manager's hotel window that morning; George Anderson would switch from center to right field because the outfield grass was mowed very short that night; Larry Evans would pinch-hit in San Francisco because his maroon bat matched the paint circling the top of the outfield fence. But no one in particular noticed this, except me, and no one was overly concerned about our fall in the standings, which made me more and more eager to make an appearance in the lineup. But our manager never gave me the slightest attention. My reason for wanting to play this particular afternoon was not clear to me. We had fallen into a losing streak that now stood at a dozen games. We were ending a home stand with the Cardinals and they broke open the game with three runs in the top of the ninth. We rallied impotently in our last at-bats by loading the bases with the help of an error and two walks. Standing alone on the steps of the dugout, the manager looked down his bench and his eyes fell on Larry Evans, but before he announced his decision, I sprang up and was standing in front of him. His breath withered me and his blue eyes blazed death into my face. "Skipper," I said, "let me pinch-hit. I know I can hit this guy. Rotting away on the bench has prepared me like a putrid tomato to be thrown in the face of the Cardinals. The fans are hungry for a victory and I can give you a lift, get the town off your back, and placate the owner of this team. What do you say?" I was able to talk in this fashion at the most unexpected moments. The manager stared at me like I was an intrepid cockroach, but I continued. "Skipper, I know you haven't bothered to check out my abilities, just as you don't know you have prostate cancer, or that I am sleeping with the owner's daughter. What we don't know is a missing part of ourselves, a hole in our bodies, whereas complete self-knowledge is the source of real strength, a cure for the ineffectual. Your willful incompleteness had led to many bad decisions on the field, in particular the waste of one of your most talented players. I'm speaking of myself. Frankly, I foresee you without a job next spring unless you turn thing

GENRE
Reference
RELEASED
2010
March 22
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
11
Pages
PUBLISHER
Sports Literature Association
SIZE
317.9
KB

More Books by Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature