The Strike Heard ëRound The World – Chapter 1

Frank Palmieri will be checking into Fire Brand occasionally with segments of a fictional baseball piece he is writing.

‘¯?Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. The Pittsburgh River Rats trail Denver by one run, and who would you rather have at the plate…‘¯?
‘¯?Lou Devlin set a record this past season striking out less times than anyone in the history of the game. He also led the league with forty-five homeruns, and one hundred and fifty-six RBIs.‘¯?
‘¯?And don‘¯?t forget his clutch double which won the game for his team last round.‘¯?
‘¯?Strike one.‘¯?
‘¯?Lou seems to be waiting for his pitch.‘¯?
‘¯?Strike two.‘¯?
‘¯?Here it comes, the season is riding on Lou‘¯?s bat once again.‘¯?
‘¯?And the pitch. High fast ball, cut on and missed. Strike three!‘¯?
‘¯?The Denver Altitude have won their third consecutive World Series! The entire team is pouring onto the field creating a riot around the pitchers mound!‘¯?
Lou Devlin removes his helmet and spikes his off the ground. He angrily makes his way back to the dugout as he and the celebrating Altitude are met with a wave of booing from the crowd. Kevin Jenkins, the batter on deck, attempts to console Lou, but Lou pushes him away and walks into the dugout.
‘¯?So close yet so far. Once again Pittsburgh is going to have to wait another year to see a World Championship.‘¯?
‘¯?It‘¯?s going to be a long off seasons for Lou Devlin.‘¯?
‘¯?If you could chose any player on this team to hit in that situation, it would have been Lou.‘¯?
‘¯?You‘¯?re right about that, Brian. Without Lou, Pittsburgh would have never even had the chance to play in the World Series this year. His hit in the League Championship Series allowed Pittsburgh to carry on in the playoffs, and now that strikeout will be the only thing remembered about this magical 2004 season.‘¯?
‘¯?Well, they had a lot of opportunities tonight, but you‘¯?re right. This will most definitely be the defining moment for the 2004 Pittsburgh River Rats.‘¯?
‘¯?Another tough loss for the Pittsburgh, and sadly, they will have to wait an entire year for another shot to re-write history.‘¯?
Once inside the Pittsburgh clubhouse, we find ourselves surrounded by muffled complaints and empty expressions. Players and coaches lost in conversation with one another. Each man coping with the loss differently but each appears to still have a look of great hope on their face. One man however is different. He sits alone, in a far away corner of the clubhouse. A towel rests on his head which is being held up only by his hands. The sound of his loud sobbing can be heard over all the other noise. The number on the back of his jersey, and his state of being tells us exactly who the man is. A single play, in nothing more than a game, will haunt him for the rest of his life.
‘¯?Cheer up kid, we‘¯?ll get ‘¯?em next year.‘¯?
A hand reaches out and rests on his shoulder. He rises and removes the towel from his head.
‘¯?I don‘¯?t know if there is going to be a next year for me. How can I possibly come back after that?‘¯?
‘¯?It‘¯?s happened before, you just have to let it go, we‘¯?ll have another chance.‘¯?
‘¯?I don‘¯?t want another chance.‘¯?
The man‘¯?s head once again hangs low as he walks past the other men in the club house. Each man stops speaking and looks at him as he passes them. Jeremy Strauss, the head coach, stops him before he reaches the door.
‘¯?It‘¯?s not your fault kid, we had our chances.‘¯?
The man has nothing to say and only shakes his head in disbelief. Before he is even able to step outside the clubhouse he is stormed by reporters.
‘¯?What happened out there, Lou?‘¯?
‘¯?How could you do that to us, Lou?‘¯?
‘¯?Why Lou, Why?‘¯?
Lou begins pushing past them attempting to ignore their questions but the look on his face answers them all. They continue to hurl questions at him as he continues on his way. Each step seems to be more painful than the last. The man who almost single-handedly carried his team to the World Series has now caused them to lose. A gang of angry fans surround him as he makes his way through the parking lot, screaming obscenities and disparaging remarks. The very fans that were chanting his name no less than two hours ago no can only shout hateful comments. With each statement he begins to sink deeper and deeper into his soon to be realized world of depression. Even after getting inside his car the comments can still be heard. Along with hurling comments, now the so-called ‘fans’ begin to hurl objects at the once beloved player. Baseballs and hats pelt Lou‘¯?s car as he begins to drive past them. A single tear rolls down his eye as he makes his way out of the parking lot.
‘¯?All I ever wanted was to have them love me, and now, I‘¯?ve accomplished the exact opposite.‘¯?
As Lou approaches the bridge on his way home, you can almost see the thoughts swirling in his head. Thoughts of suicide, of jerking the wheel and driving off the bridge and ending it all.
A stop at a red light allows another chance for irate fans in passing cars to announce their hatred. Lou lowers his head and drives on only to hear even more comments from fans standing to the side of the road. Lou flips on the radio hoping to drown his sorrows, only to be berated once again.
‘¯?The biggest strike-out in sports history. Eighty years of failure, and it‘¯?s time to add another tick to the list thanks to Lou Devlin.‘¯?
Lou clicks off the radio and pulls his car over to the side of the road. He gets out of the car and enters the local liquor store. He approaches the counter with his head down and points to a bottle of vodka. After Lou pays for the liquor he begins to walk out of the store as yet another comment is thrown at him.
‘¯?Great game out there, Lou.‘¯?
Lou stops with a half grin on his face.
‘¯?Thank you.‘¯?
‘¯?No, thank you, for ruining my life for another year.‘¯?
Lou‘¯?s head once again sinks as he shakes his head and walks out of the store. Once back inside his car he opens the bottle and begins to drink as he once again drives down the road. A few more minutes, and drinks, and Lou is finally home. After pulling into the driveway he finds his wife sitting on the porch waiting for him.
‘¯?Lou, I‘¯?m so sorry.‘¯?
‘¯?What are you sorry about? You didn‘¯?t ruin the dreams of an entire city.‘¯?
Lou pushes past his wife and walks inside the house slamming the door in his wife‘¯?s face. His wife opens the door and follows him inside to find him already laying on his back on the floor. Half of the bottle is already gone, and he is clearly very intoxicated.
‘¯?You‘¯?re drinking again?‘¯?
‘¯?Leave me alone!‘¯?
Lou heaves the bottle towards his wife, missing her by inches. It shatters and the pieces land on the floor next to her.
‘¯?One mistake Lou. One mistake and you‘¯?re going to throw your whole life away.‘¯?
‘¯?I threw away my life tonight on the field. Do you think there‘¯?s anyway I can ever step on a baseball field again? Do you think any of those fans out there are going to accept me after what just happened?‘¯?
‘¯?The fans have always been behind you baby. They‘¯?ll still be your fans next year.‘¯?
‘¯?You didn‘¯?t hear the kind of things that they said to be out there. They don‘¯?t care what I‘¯?ve done for them in the past. The only care about the present. The here. The now.‘¯?
‘¯?So you struck out, they wouldn‘¯?t have even been there without you. And it‘¯?s not the end of the world.‘¯?
‘¯?Yes it is. I just wasted a year of work for 24 other guys. I just ruined their dreams. On top of that I just ruined the dreams of a whole city of fans. I ruined the dreams of our fans all across the country.‘¯?
‘¯?Don‘¯?t worry about what they said, honey. I still love you.‘¯?
‘¯?I don‘¯?t care what you think. My life is over. Once the money stops coming in, you‘¯?ll leave me. You‘¯?ll turn your back on me just like each and every one of those fans did. You wont care about me anymore.‘¯?
‘¯?I‘¯?ll love you no matter what. Just please calm down.‘¯?
Lou stands up and makes his way towards his wife.
‘¯?If you can‘¯?t understand what I‘¯?m going through, then get out.‘¯?
Lou points to the door as tears begin to pour from his wife‘¯?s eyes as she turns around and walks out the door slamming it behind her. Lou takes a step back and falls over on the couch in tears.
‘¯?How could this happen. What have I done to deserve this?‘¯?