Little League rules state that a pitcher has to
have three days' rest between starts. Our next game
was only two days later, so Kevin wasn't eligible. I worked on the professor
night and day. I hung around his house; I even made friendly small talk
with Kristy. And it paid off. The night before the
game, our coach agreed that I was the logical
choice. Best of all, he said it right in front of his
little princess. It was a glorious moment.
But come game time, when the roster was
handed to Mr. Rudolph, Tim was the pitcher.
I hit the ceiling. "You did this!" I roared at Kristy.
"After the coach promised I'd get the start!"
She didn't even bother fighting with me. "Looks
like rain," she commented, glancing up.
It was the worst insult of all.
We were at bat first. Caspar got his usual walk,
but there was no chance to steal second. Bobby
Ray smashed the first pitch for a two-run homer.
Kristy took all the credit. "See? You lean on the
dude and he comes through for you."
Then we took our 2-0 lead to the field. We were
better off with Kevin on the mound. Tim had a good
arm, sure. But all he could throw were straight
fastballs. The Wiley's Cafeteria and Ammo Supply
Cardinals were hitting him all over the place. In no
time the bases were loaded, with only one out.
"Do I pitch like that?" called Kevin from center
"Nah," I replied. "You walk the bases full!"
We got lucky. The batter hit a weak grounder to
shortstop - the perfect double play ball, to our
Bobby Ray reached down to scoop it up, and the
dribbler rolled under his glove, between his legs,
and out toward left field. But our shortstop must
have thought he had it - he actually reached into
his glove, pulled out nothing, and tried to throw it
home. Bythis time, Iwas barreling in after the ball,
and Bobby Ray was running out for it. We met with
a crunch! and I saw stars. By the time they cleared
away, we were behind 4-2, and Kristy was looking
murderously down at me.
"Yo, Johnson! Give the kid some space. He's only
the best shortstop in the league!"
But if Bobby Ray was such a great shortstop, why
was he playing like a confused baboon? I stopped
counting his errors when he hit double digits. He
bobbled grounders. He missed line drives. He
booted the ball all over the infield. When he did
make a catch, he threw to the wrong base, or into
the stands. He lobbed one into our dugout that had
the professor diving for his life.
The really weird part was his hitting was amazing!
He had two homers, a double, and a single. So
both teams were running up huge scores! Us because
Bobby Ray was such a monster at the plate. And them because of Tim's pitching,
and our gigantic hole at shortstop. The lead flip-flopped all
game, 5-4 us, 8-6 them, 10-9 us, 13-11 them, and
so on. Who made the difference? The weather. Because
the thunderstorm hit after five innings with
the Tigers ahead 15-14. The Cardinals were so
heartbroken they left! We, the victors, had to lay
down the waterproof ground sheet to cover the
pitcher's mound. We got drenched.
"I can't believe I was the winning pitcher!" Tim
exclaimed, rain beating off the visor of his cap. "I
allowed fourteen runs!"
At least he got to pitch.
We got out of there just before the scoreboard
got struck by lightning.
From The Toilet Paper Tigers. Text copyright © 1993 by Gordon Korman.