Alice, the still mother
Filed under: stories of heartbreak
As a boy, I lived and breathed all things baseball. I memorized my favorite players’ stats, slept with my glove next to the pillow, threw a ball against the garage door until my dad whipped me with his belt for wearing a hole through it. I told myself and anyone else who cared to ask that I planned to become a professional baseball player when I grew up.
I was good, too. I was a late grower but I had a mean fastball, the only high school southpaw who could throw faster than 80 mph. College recruiters got wind of my potential and things were looking up—until, at 17, I tore my left rotator cuff. At the time such injuries were career-enders for a pitcher. I fell into a state of deep depression for about six months, making my recovery exceptionally slow. That summer, Major League Baseball went on strike and one of the most promising seasons in the history of baseball ended prematurely. I spat on the floor when I read it in the paper. I passed the time drinking my dad’s bathtub hooch, smoking Luckys and feeling sorry for myself. I swore I’d never watch another game as long as I lived.
It was eight years later that I was struck by lightning while making love to Alice in a baseball diamond in Iowa. No one knows how she was unharmed, but I was burned badly on my hands and feet. It was about this time that Sandy Koufax came to me in a dream and told me to quit feeling sorry for myself and to go out and play some ball, so I got a job coaching for the local high school, with Alice’s encouragement. I hadn’t thrown a baseball in nearly a decade when I started batting practice, and my first pitch broke our poor catcher’s hand in three places.
“What the—that must’ve been over 90 miles an hour!” my first basemen said
Sure enough, we clocked it and I was throwing considerably harder than even before my surgery.
Despite my protests, Alice insisted I try out for the farm club in Des Moines. So, I did and I made it on as a relief pitcher—and shut down my first nine closes. Suddenly, journalists remembered Knox Dupree of yore and I was all over the local papers, branded a comeback kid.
When our baby was stillborn, Alice refused to see me anymore. She thought I’d taken something from our unborn child when we were hit by lightning in the baseball field. Like its lifeforce somehow found its way into my rejuvenated arm. Or maybe she thought the baby had saved her life. Whatever it was, we were over, and I haven’t set foot upon a baseball diamond since.