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PAPA FIRE - A FANTASY BASEBALL STORY By Robert Hewett Sr.
Papa Fire was a legend all over town. In the Senior League he just mowed them down. Pitching slow and teasing the hitters no batter had ever connected with his pitch. Today, at age sixty-two, Papa Fire faced the college champion crew. “He can pitch slow, but can he pitch fast, surely nine innings he will never last.” quipped the college players in unison.
“Play ball!” yelled the Ump as the lead-off batter stepped up to the plate. Papa Fire toed the mound and his arm came around. “SMACK” came the sound, and the catcher sat down. “Strike One” yelled the Ump and the batter gritted his teeth. Twirling his bat, knees bent, and eyes intent, he waited for the pitch soon coming in. Papa Fire toed the mound and his arm came around. “SMACK” came the sound and the catcher sat down. “Strike Two” cried the Ump and the batter just stared him down. Toes turned in, coiled like a spring, Lead-Off waited for the ball from the mound. Tense and ready it was his job to get on base. Papa Fire toed the mound, his arm came around and Lead-Off was down.
In stepped Number Two, eager for the ball. Crouching low and leaning in Number Two glared at the mound. Papa Fire toed the mound and his arm came around. “Strike One” yelled the Ump as the batter just stared. “Strike two” said the Ump and the batter threw his hat. “Strike three” said the Ump as the catcher sat down. “You’re out” said the ump as Number Two threw his bat to the ground.
Grim and determined and gripping his bat, Number Three stepped up and touched his hat. I can hit ‘em, I know that I can, as he took strike three without swinging his bat. Papa fire tipped his hat and looked to the stands smiling at me as he strode off the mound.
“Play ball”, said the Ump and Papa Fire toed the mound, Hammerin’ Hank twirled his bat around. “Let’s see it POP, send it my way. I need a homerun to make my day.” Bat cocked and eyes intent, Hank waited for the ball’s descent. Papa Fire smiled and his arm came around. SMACK came the sound and the catcher sat down. “Strike one”, said the Ump. “How do you know?”, cried Hank, “it must be a trick. No pitch was thrown or I would have seen it”. “He hit the catcher’s mitt plumb dead center” said the Ump. “It was a strike I know though I never saw it, Hank”. “Mark the ball”, said Hank; I don’t believe that he threw it,”
An X was marked on the cover of the ball, and tossed by the ump to the mound. The Ump muttered “come on old man, mow this sucker down”. Papa Fire toed the mound and his arm came around. SMACK came the sound, and the catcher sat down. Check the ball cried Hank, dropping his bat. “Strike Two” said the Ump. “See the mark”, said the catcher, showing the ball in his mitt. Hammerin’ Hank just scowled and got ready again. Papa Fire toed the mound, his arm came around and the Ump yelled “Strike Three.” Hank just growled and threw his bat to the dugout wall.
“STRIKE, STRIKE, STRIKE”, cried the Ump as the innings rolled around. Papa Fire toed the mound and then he mowed the the batters down.
“PLAY BALL”, yelled the Ump as the bottom of the ninth came around. Leading one to nothing, Papa Fire settled down. He had to face Hammerin’ Hank for the final out. Holding the lightest bat that he had ever lifted, Hank leaned in desperate for a hit. Not once, but three times he had gone down swinging at streaks of light from the pitcher on the mound. Papa Fire looked in and toed the mound, his arm came around, the ball floated like a butterfly lazily drifting from plant to plant. On it came slowly to home plate where Hammerin’ Hank lay flat on the ground. He had swung early in desperate haste, and then watched the ball slowly pass home plate. “Strike One”, said the Ump.
“You old fool, playing games with me, I will show you”, said Hank, as he jumped to his feet. Twirling his bat and fuming with rage, he dug his feet in and hunched at the plate. Papa Fire toed the mound and his arm came around. The ball arched wide and seemed out of play. The crowd gasped and quickly quieted, a ball, not a strike, seemed certain to all. Hank stood up and watched with a grin as the ball came in. With his bat on his shoulder he stared in disbelief as the ball curved in and over the plate. Strike Two”, said the Ump, with a big wide grin. “Don’t give up Hank it will be back again.” Hank stepped in with eyes hot as coals, twice fooled he was grim and tense. “All right Pop, let’s see it again”. Papa Fire just smiled and toed the mound, seeming to trip as his arm came around. The ball shot out and headed for the ground. Hank stood up and dropped his bat. The catcher just sat there holding his mitt. The Ump thought this ball would never reach home plate. The ball suddenly began to rise reaching belt high as it crossed home plate. “Strike Three,” said the Ump and Hank ducked his head and quietly walked away.
Now you may find this tale hard to swallow. Such a man never lived I have heard others say, but I have the mitt, the marked ball, and the memory too, of that moment. I was only seven when Papa Fire pitched that game, I was only eleven when Papa Fire went to Heaven. I know what I saw and I treasure that day when Papa Fire tipped his cap to me and headed to the mound.