Let's go boys, let's go.
Game could be over any minute.
Who is that at bat? Tapping his feet like Varitek...a lefty batter. But looking big and dark and heavy...stepping into the box with one hand to his helmet like Papi...
Close up. Alex Cora? Who?
Daniel Cabrera working methodically, ruthlessly, in the driving downpour. The stands have emptied out good and proper, no one but a few foreward-thinking die-hards under umbrellas and a few just-plain-crazy fans frolicking in the rain. Once the rain started, weather reports warned, it would last the night, into tomorrow. Five inches predicted for the evening, the same rain, perhaps, that ruined yesterday's morning commute in Boston. This ain't no passing shower. Let's go, boys. Let's go. No time.
Alex Cora, whoever he is, strikes out.
Bill Mueller is up, clean-shaven face glistening in the wet. I'm getting used to his new look. Grudgingly. And if there's anything sexier than Bill Mueller, it's Bill Mueller in the rain.
Mueller's pinned under two strikes with astonishing quickness. He makes a bid, fouling off two pitches, before going down swinging at a sweeping curve, shaking his head on his way back to the dugout.
Let's go, Papi. Tie it up. Game's not going to go nine innings the way it looks. This could be it. They get up again and it's official.
Papi takes a ball. One of the first Cabrera has thrown all inning.
Papi takes ball 2. Ball 3. Drenched.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Do I dare, with two outs, to wonder if this is the start of something?
"Probably a green light for Ortiz on a 3-0 count."
"Ortiz will take, instead, and take a strike."
On 3-1 Ortiz just catches Cabrera's next pitch on the end of the bat, golfing it into shallow left center, where the outfielder gets a bad break and misses, the ball one-hopping over his outstretched forearm.
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
Trot Nixon, sloppy, shirt unbuttoned, chest warm and solid in a red shirt underneath, swinging, swinging, swinging, digging his right foot into the dirt, hand to hat, swinging. Taking his stance like a kung fu master.
Let's go, Red Sox. Let's go, Red Sox. Sodden claps from the stands. Let's go, Red Sox.
Again, Cabrera is wild.
Cabrera snuffs water from his upper lip, swipes a forearm across his brow. Trot, with his karate stance, swipes at the bill of his batting helmet with one wrist.
3 and 0 count remember the World Series remember?
Trot gets all of it, you can just hear Jerry Trupiano on WEEI hollering SWING and a drive! Way back! Way--
But it's off the scoreboard, dimpling the canvas face of an advertisement and clunking back to the turf, close but no cigar. Trot, panting, pulls into second base.
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
Millar. Oh, no.
The ball is flying willy-nilly out of Cabrera's hand now. He's floundering in the mud. Maybe they'll walk Millar to load the bases and get to...who? Whoever, please, Millar, just don't make an out, just don't make an out, please...
"Now it's the mound's fault.
Cabrera signaling to the grounds crew to bring out a drying agent."
A man runs out with a sack ful of something, rips it open at Cabrera's feet, while another runs out brandishing a rake. The two apply some potion to the mound, staining it a lighter rusty red, delivering same to the plate where Millar will surely give himself fits, particular as he seems to be about sweeping out his batter's box with his feet. He'll have to start all over now.
Cabrera, regrouped, guns a whistling strike right by Millar.
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Millar fouls off the next pitch. Two strikes! Two strikes already! It's enough to make me clutch my head.
Two outs. Two strikes. Two outs. Two strikes. My eyes dart back and forth.
The next pitch is a blooper, a mulligan, a malformed miscreant that should have been drowned at birth (probably was), and I am overjoyed. Millar jogs to first.
The inning has been one of such relentless squeezing pressure that when John Olerud comes to bat, Millar having thankfully been bypassed, you feel the subtle balance has been tipped.
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
Lean forward in the seat, squinting into the televised raindrops, hanging on the next pitch.
Then like a punchline, a snap throw to second and an umpire pumping his fist over the broken figure of Trot Nixon, already slumping in defeat, one foot too late back on the bag.
"A tremendous mistake for Trot Nixon!"
The camera focuses on the anguished Nixon, raindrops sliding off his eyelashes as he blinks in sullen, sodden agony, mud up and down his left leg, still laying where he slid.
Silence on the airwaves.
Someone comes, out of the camera's range, holds out a hand to Nixon.
He looks up, squinting in the downpour, his face inscrutable. Finally, he hands up his batting helmet, caked in pine tar. The rain pounds down. Nixon looks back up again, that same enigmatic expression. And you feel it. The game may end now, or after the next half inning. Who knows where things are going now. No matter how long things continue, some ship--you can feel it--has sailed.
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
~ *T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock