A washed up semi-pro pitcher sees his life spinning out of control. His wife left him and his once vibrant dream of the big time is fading fast. Then a series of serendipitous twinkling stars fall upon his miserable life…
Jim Mongrel the manager of the Chicago Cubs looked dismally down his depleted pitcher’s roster. It was a wasteland of injuries, stupidity, and bad luck: Edie Cicotte, starting pitcher with a hot arm, had covered first base on a blooper and broke his ankle. Wilbur Cooper, ace reliever, caught a line drive to the head and sustained a contusion and a laceration to the left ear. Mel Harder, whose fastball scorched the ozone at 99 mph, tore an elbow ligament and needed UCL surgery.
Mongrel spit his Redman wad in the dirt and grimaced. “How the fuck am I supposed to lead this team to a pennant without any goddamn pitchers?” He paced up and down in front of the empty dugout alone. Wrigley Field was nearly deserted. Tonight’s loss to the Red Sox was hard to take. He had promised Jake Sterling, the esteemed owner and grizzled fanatic of the Cubs, a win. The nine to three dubbing was humiliating.
Mongrel knew he was in trouble. In his second year of a two year contract, he had to find a way to win—or else. He shuddered at the ‘or else’. He knew Sterling’s reputation with losing managers. But damn. Look at the pitching roster. Decimated.
One by one the massive stadium torches went black. Mongrel took a final glance at the scoreboard before it too melted into the Chicago evening breeze. Then, with a dark chuckle, Mongrel turned to leave muttering, “the only one wriggling here is me.”
Babe Adams, once ace knuckleballer for the Angels and now last stringer for the AA Tennessee Smokies, sat bleary-eyed and skunk happy on the infield of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds Speedway sampling all 55 Tennessee-brewed beers. Sipping slowly from his 14th selection, a foamy Jackalope beer from Nashville, Babe sensed a Key West calmness settle in upon him.
It had been another phantom year on the mound: one win, eight losses, three disasters including the game with the Chattanooga Lookouts when he got beaned with a Schlitz can hurled from the second deck, and one majestic meltdown when he took over with a 10-0 lead in the bottom of the 8th at Birmingham and miraculously managed to lose 14-10. In all fairness, Babe had started drinking early in the shadows of the outfield dugout figuring he would never go in anyway. Shit. Plus he noticed while sitting in the dugout sipping that he had a slight nail tear on his index finger, the one that controlled the release of the knuckleball.
The speedway spun before him like a mystical playground. It was on his 18th beer, the dramatic Black Magic from the Ghost River Brewers that he remembered his wife briefly. Brenda Lee had finally left him somewhere on the road in Birmingham after the loss to the Barons. When he got back to the fleabag hotel room, she was gone. Nothing but a short note with a few tear drops on it.
“Can’t do it anymore, Babe. Gotta find a life. You know this dream died long ago. Love ya but…”
She didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t have to. He didn’t hold it against it her. Babe swirled the Black Magic with his pitching finger and burped loudly. No, he didn’t blame her. Twenty-four years of broken dreams and a future as black as this brew left Brenda no air to breathe….