The Knuckleballer

The Knuckleballer
It’s just baseball. Just quiet yourself, spit some snuff, and throw the damn ball…
Chicago, Illinois
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….

Teatime in Old Havana

Teatime Cover 3-Amazon





Field Trip to Fort Monroe VA


Just strolling with some middle school students into the old fort on a sunny Virginia day in November, 2015.  The history here is amazing.  This location.  Defensive fortifications were built at Old Point comfort in 1609.  The stone walls we are walking toward in the photo were completed in 1834 under the leadership of Robert E. Lee whose house is just out of sight.



The museum has guides and docents who who bring the history of the fort alive.  Here a civil war soldier addresses a few 8th graders with humor and insight.He told us that a skilled soldier could load and reload his rifle three times in a minute.   He then demonstrated with dexterous skill just how it was done.  Everything on the table would fit into the 45 lb back pack the soldier would carry on his back.



Standing atop the casement walls where a gun battery used to rest, we were able to scan the Chesapeake Bay as lookouts did many years ago.  To our good fortune a submarine slithered out of the bay as a cruise ship lolled past in pursuit of dreams and distant shores.  Two disparate ships passing serenely beneath the august stare of the old fort.

Rhapsody of Brooklyn

Ship helmPhoto by Driiscol.

    She broke the surface of the sand gasping occasionally for air, her fingers clawing at the sky.  I stood stock still staring at the impossible.  How could such a vagabond go unnoticed by other strollers on this secluded Casablancan beach?  I heard no calls for help.  The castaway almost seemed to embrace its forlorn destiny embedded deeply in the sands of time.   Looming only a few meters from where I stood in disbelief, I watched as the surf covered and then released it, a sad but eternal dance of nature, dominating the figure and then reconsidering with every watery surge and retreat.

I decided to risk an intervention.  Moving stealthily forward I knelt beside the fallen warrior and offered consolation.  Then with rising urgency I began to claw at the shackles that bound this form to its solitary grave.  Bit by bit I felt the body moving, the long submerged spokes gradually rising from the grip of death.

After several intense moments of excavation I gave a final tug and pulled the helm from the beach. I laid it down on the surface of the sand and washed its face gently with the same surf that had moments earlier gagged it.  And then I stood and carried it far up the beach where I could sit and whisper words of hope.

This beach miracle found its way into the opening chapter of my story entitled Rhapsody of Brooklyn:

He snuggled down in the feather bed and pulled Houda close. “Close your eyes, my love. It was long, long ago when my great grandmother, Maimouna, walked alone on the Casablanca beach hours after a great Atlantic storm. She came across a helm sticking out of the sand. She was so excited. She dropped to her knees and began to dig. And when she finally pulled the great helm from the clutches of the sand, she almost shrieked. For hiding beneath the ship’s wheel was this dragon….

I still have this helm.  It hangs on the wall in my home.  (I let the dragon go).

(Did anybody else ever find a great treasure on a beach)?

P.S.  Read the story in my book Teatime in Old Havana.