The Big Blow up
Memories of that final game when the “B Boys” and I had romped to victory on the 4th of July made the summer break feel so good. I could hardly wait for the autumn half of the season. After the way I had pitched then, I was convinced I’d redeemed myself and was on the fast-track back to Team A.
As the second part of the baseball season approached, François sent word that an amicale, a so-called “friendly” game, had been arranged with a team from the suburbs. The game had no bearing in the standings and was designed merely to give the players some extra practice. Players from both teams would be joined to form one team. There were nineteen in all. While not everyone could be on the field at the same time, everyone would hit.
“This should be fun,” I said to Petie. “I wonder if I’ll pitch or play first base. Maybe both.”
On the day of the game, François called everyone together to announce the starting line-up. “Like I said earlier, there’s only room for nine on the field but everyone bats,” he said. And then he began reading. “Leading off and playing shortstop. . .” One position after another, one name after another, but not mine. I was dumbfounded.
As everyone dashed onto the field to warm up, I remained by the dugout, too stunned to move. On the bench was a sheet of paper on which François had written everyone’s name. I picked it up and as I did my heart sank. My name was there all right, right at the bottom, the nineteenth, the last one that had been pencilled in. I was devastated, nearly breaking down. Something in me snapped.
Clutching the line-up sheet in my hand, I stormed from the dugout toward the third base line and screamed at François, “Do I have a place on this team or not!” François, who was busy putting the players through drills, was taken by surprise. He shouted back, “Maybe if you’d get your ass onto the field like you’re supposed to, you’d have a place on the team!”
That was all it took. “FUCK YOU!!!” I roared.
François couldn’t believe what he heard. No one had ever talked to him like that. “What did you say?”
“I said fuck you, you asshole!”
“No, fuck you!” François yelled back.
All activity on the diamond had stopped, the players shocked by what they were witnessing. Clenching my fists, I was about to charge onto the field when, somehow, a moment of sanity inserted itself. Instead, I retreated to the dugout, grabbed my equipment and shouted to Petie who had witnessed what happened from the stands, “Let’s get out of here, I’m through with this shit!”
Enroute to the car, I muttered something about finding another team. Petie bit her tongue, too upset to respond.
That evening, after I’d cooled down, I asked her if I had been out of line. She didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely. You lost it out there.”
“Well, it wasn’t all my fault,” I said, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t the only one to blame. Then I asked. “Do you think I’m turning into a crotchety old man?”
Petie was quiet for a moment, trying to find the right words. “Let’s put it this way,” she said, “if you weren’t sixty-eight and feeling your baseball time running out, I think you might have reacted differently.
“You know, Klad,” she added, “this is as much about growing up as growing old. Maybe you should give that some thought.”