Evan Pritchard for Amazine
On Tuesday, May 10th, I read the following war report in the newspaper, and decided it was time to return to my swashbuckling war novel about Mets’ injuries. The article, by Steve Popper, said that “…after just four starts with the team, [Chris] Young’s season is almost certainly over. It was a day in which the Mets also received news that a second opinion by Dr. James Andrews on Jenrry Mejia concurred with the recommendation of Tommy John surgery. [Young’s] injury is the same one that has sidelined [Johann] Santana since last September. [Tommy John surgery] is the same one that has kept Mark Prior and Chien-Ming Wang sidelined since they underwent the procedure.”
I read these words and my blood ran cold. It was like that time I was in that rat-infested army hospital in Abruzzi during World War I. (harp glissando, fade)
A Farewell to Arms
Excerpts from my highly original novel on the Mets’ pitching situation, with apologies to Ernest Hemingway
In the early summer of that year we played in a stadium that looked across the river and to the Bronx. The water was not clear, but was orange and blue, our team colors, due to the pollution. I watched the players running sprints each morning, and the dust they raised powdered the infield grass with lyme dust as well.
The seats in the outfield were brown and bare. Beyond that there were really good pitching battles being fought at Yankee Stadium just a few miles away and we could see highlights on the Diamond Vision, and listen to John Sterling between our own innings, broadcasting the Yankees’ battles. But our own pitching battles were not going well. Sometimes at night we heard people milling around outside the stadium, and we thought they were fans, but in fact they were tourists looking for mango treats from the Hispanic sidewalk vendors. We had some big bats, and bat boys lugged around equipment in team bags, the long barrels of the “guns” left uncovered out the side of the duffel bags. But we had noone to swing those bats, and we had no pitching.
To the north there was Boston, and Fenway Park, and there were battles for the pennant there as well, but not necessarily successful. There were mists over the river and rain created mud along the basepaths. Our pitchers were wet in their caps, their gloves were wet and their cap bills as well. So many of them had huge casts on their arms that they bulged forward under their rain capes so that the men, passing on the road, marched as though they were six months gone with child.
There were small golf carts going back and forth from the bullpen to the dugout going very fast; Usually there was a pitching coach on the seat with the driver and more coaches in the back seat. If one of the coaches in the back was a very small and sitting between two beleaguered owners, he himself so small that you could not see his face but only the top of his cap and his narrow back, and if the cart went especially fast, it was probably the GM. He came out this way nearly every day to see how things were going, and things went very badly.
At the start of April came the permanent rain and with the rain came the pitching injuries like cholera. In the end only four of our pitchers were stricken down. It could have been worse.
The end of April and there were many victories. The tie for last place was captured and there were victories both at home and abroad. The rungs beyond last place in the standings could not be taken. The Braves seemed to want to come back to Citifield some day, because they did not bombard us to destroy us, but only a little, in a military way.
The third baseman was young and blushed easily and wore a uniform like the rest of us but with a cross in dark velvet above the left breast pocket. The team captain spoke in Spanish, for my doubtful benefit.
Third baseman today with girl,” the captain said, looking at the thirdbaseman and at me. The thirdbaseman smiled and blushed and shook his head. This captain baited him often.
“Not true?” asked the captain. “Today I see third baseman with girl.”
“No,” said the third baseman. The other players were amused at the baiting.
“Thirdbaseman not with girls,” said the captain. “Thirdbaseman never with girls,” he explained to me.
“The Times writer wants the Phils to win the battle for the NL East,” the General manager said. “He loves Charlie Manuel. That’s where the real money is. Did you ever read “The Philadelphia Story?
“Wash your mouth!” said the third baseman.
“Its a great book. I will get it for you,” said the base coach. “You might end up there, with our shortstop.”
“You should go to Philly, or Cleveland, or Colorado….the top teams….”
“He should go to Boston,”
“He ought to go to St. Louis.”
“He doesn’t want to see peasants. Let him go to centers of culture. Let him join the Yankees.”
“When you go, bring your MP 3. Get some good opera downloads.”
“Don’t bring Sinatra. He bellows.”
“Don’t you wish you could bellow like Sinatra?”
“He bellows…I say he bellows!”
“Come on,” said the captain. “We go to alehouse before it shuts.”
“Good night,’ said the third baseman.
“Good night,” he said.
When I came to Philadelphia, the front runners, there were many more big guns, like Ryan Howard and the spring had come. The field was green and a breeze came from the sea. I saw the town with the hill and the old castle above it. I looked in the door of the big room and saw the General Manager sitting as his desk, the window open and the sunlight coming into the room. I did not know whether to go in and report or go upstairs first and clean up. I decided to go on upstairs. The room I shared with the reliever looked out on the ball field. The captain shouted, “Thirdbaseman not happy without girls.”
“I am happy,” said the third baseman.
“Third baseman not happy. Third baseman wants Phillies to win the NL East. The third baseman shook his head.
“No,” he said,
“Thirdbaseman never attacks with men in scoring position. Don’t you not want to score some runs?”
“No, if it is a game, we must attack.”
“Must attack, shall attack.”
The thirdbaseman nodded.
The battery working out in the bullpen woke me in the morning and I saw the sun coming through the window and I got out of bed. I went to the window and looked out. The base paths were moist and the grass was wet with dew. The battery fired the ball back and forth and the sound came each time as a blow and shook the windows. I went downstairs.
Ten Phillies’ pitchers were lined up shoulder to shoulder under the long shed. They were top-heavy, blunt-nosed Aces, their uniforms gray, their bodies built like moving vans.
“Do they ever shell that battery?” I asked one of the Phillies’ coaches.
“No, mister Santana. Never. They are protected by the good infielders.”
I was called to the local hospital to get my arm checked out. It was hot walking through hthe town but the sun was starting to go down and it was pleasant. The Philly hospital was a big villa built by Germans before the war. Miss Barkley was in the garden. Another baseball player was with her, Jenrry Mejia. We saw their white uniforms through the trees and walked towards them. The relief pitcher saluted. I saluted too but more modestly.
“How do you do?” Miss Barkley said. “You’re not a Philllies fan are you?”
“What an odd thing, to be with the Mets organization.”
“I’m not really with the Mets. I only live in the ambulance.”
“It’s odd though. Why did you join them?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “There isn’t always an explanation for everything.”
“Oh, isn’t there? I was brought up to believe there was.”
“That’s awfully nice.”
“Are the Mets near the front runners?”
“No, not quite.”
“I like the uniforms. They are beautiful. Are they going to have an offensive?”
“They they’ll have to work hard. I had a boyfriend who was a Mets pitcher. I had a silly idea that he might come to the hospital where I was working with a finger cut, and a bandage around his head, after pitching against the Phils. Or shot by a line drive to the shoulder. Something picturesque.”
“This is the picturesque Citizen’s Bank Ball Park.” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “He didn’t have a finger cut. They blew him all to bits.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Do you suppose the Mets’ ill fortunes will go on?”
“What’s to stop it?”
“It will crack somewhere.”
“Will the Phils crack?”
“No, they did very well last summer.”
“Anybody can crack.”
“The Yankees too.”
“No,” she said. “I think not.”
The next afternoon I went to call on Miss Barkley again, and again she was with injured teammate Jenrry Mejia. The head nurse said,” There’s a war on you know. A war for the NL Pennant.”
I said I knew.
“You’re the Los Angeles Angel in the Mets army?”
“How did you happen to do that? Why didn’t you join up with us Phillies?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Could I join now?”
“I’m afraid not now. Tell me. Why did you join up with the Mets?”
“I was in Queens, and I spoke Spanish.”
“Oh,” she said. “I’m learning it. Beautiful language.”
“You may see her later, but don’t bring a lot of Mets fans.”
“Not even for the beautiful language, or for the beautiful uniforms.”
The day had been hot. I had been up to Citizens Bank Park. It was there that the offensive was to begin.
Everybody was in the dugout. There were racks of bats standing to call for help if the pitching got too beat up. It was quiet, hot and dirty. I looked over the guard rail at the enemy lines. None of the Phils were in sight. I had a drink with one of the coaches in the dugout and then left.
I went back to the hospital. “Good night,” I said.
“Good night, Mr. Jenrry,” she said to my sidekick.
“Don’t write anything that will bother the Philadelphia reporters.”
“Don’t worry. I will only talk about what a beautiful place Philly is and how brave my Mets are to be here.”
“That will be nice. Good-night Catherine.”
“I’ll see you at the game,” Miss Barkley said.
STAY TUNED TO AMAZINE FOR THE NEXT EXCITING INSTALLMENT OF
A FAREWELL TO ARMS, The Saga of the Mets’ Pitching Injuries
With apologies to Ernest Hemmingway