Oh, Doctor!, as Red Barber often marveled in his radio career. Who'd have thunk that the Washington Nationals of the National League and the Baltimore Orioles of the American League would each clinch their division titles on the same night? It happened last night, as the O's whipped the Blue Jays and the Nats bombed the Braves once again in a runaway second half of the season that has prompted speculation about a Birds-Nats World Series. Both teams are red hot and a joy to follow.
It's almost too much for a dedicated fan of each team. If Lewis Carroll had been a baseball fan, he might have used this phrase instead of merely putting it in a poem: "O, frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
This is about the time of year that I used to wait for the phone to ring. A college pal and I used to joke about it — it would be Earl Weaver on the line, asking us to report to Baltimore as quickly as we could get up there to help the big team into the playoffs and on to the World Series. "How's your arm?" we'd ask one another every few days. "Threw my warmups this morning," the other might respond. "Fastball felt like a rocket...."
This was pure Walter Mittyism at its most ridiculous extension, of course. I haven't played anything approaching organized baseball since I was a small boy with dreams of pitching for the Dodgers, and only one thing stood between me and the majors: Talent. Just had none.
Well, I did have a wild arm, and a lot of professional baseball players have had them, but at least they had other qualities — the ability to stand in to a 95 mph pitch, or to catch a blazing grounder and get it to first in time, or run like a scalded jackrabbit and steal second any time they wished.
But I did have couple uniforms — a heavy flannel Dodgers road gray uniform from Manny's Baseball Land, that my fan club gave me for a birthday present one year just in case the newspaper career thing went bad, and a lightweight Orioles home getup just in case Earl Weaver lost his mind and got me mixed up with someone who really could pitch in the fall campaign.
Not sure what happened to those uniforms, but I still have the caps —- a Baltimore cap from the 1970s, and a more recent Washington cap after baseball came back to the capital. So if by chance I score a ticket for the playoffs of either team, I'll be ready to move on up. And if by long-shot fortune the Birds and the Nats wind up in some sort of Beltway World Series, I may have to shell out the big bucks for one of those satin-jacket warmup rigs to get ready for my first Series start.
Now, if I can just find my old glove, I may go down to the barn in a little bit and paint a strike zone on the side of the tractor shed, get in a little throwing time, brush up on my curve and my slurve and my dipsy doodle. You just never know when you might need a trick pitch. Wait, was that the phone ringing....?