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THE MAGIC GLOVE
By LOUIS ANTHONY "COUSIN VINNY" AGNELLO
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Louis Anthony "Cousin Vinny" Agnello
All right reserved.
Chapter One(The History of Michael and Billy)
It was the most restless night he had ever spent. He pretended to sleep although in reality, his mind was in overdrive as he tossed and turned repeatedly. All he could think about was his boy and the sequence of events that played out during that baseball game. Something extraordinary had taken place the night before and morose thoughts filled his consciousness. Something was definitely wrong. A primordial sense of doom overwhelmed his psyche. Frustrated, he glanced over at the night stand where his alarm clock sat. It was 6 AM. This was much too early for him to start his day, considering the fact that the game wasn't starting until late in the afternoon but this was not an ordinary day. Being the chief grounds keeper for Comiskey Park for many years now, he thought he needed to make a trip over there and try to figure out
Billy's whereabouts. He couldn't find him after the game and that was troubling him. Where could he have gone without changing his clothes? As far as he could tell, he was still wearing his Chicago White sox uniform. Now, why would he do that? there were just too many questions and not enough answers. He was frustrated as he climbed out of bed and he showed it by sneering at his own image, displayed in the mirror that was hanging over the dresser. The only thing he knew was that he had to find Billy. Billy Green was the son he never biologically fathered but who shared such an amazing spiritual affinity with him that all who knew them believed they were kin. Michael for all intents and purposes had practically raised the boy, who by the way was now almost 30 years old and a full grown man. He was also the apple of Michael's eye, being a baseball player. If the truth is to be known he was living, for the most part, Michael's dream. Michael always wanted to be a ball player but being ambisinister did not help him achieve this lofty goal. Billy, on the other hand, did not have this problem. His coordination was just fine. His major problems were twofold: firstly, he was chronically inaccurate when it came to throwing runners out and secondly, he threw the ball with his left hand, a monumental problem for a third basemen because while throwing a runner out at first base, he always has his back turned to home plate. This second problem became larger as he moved closer and closer to the Major Leagues. It is very bad to have your back turned to runners, who could very easily race home while you're throwing to first. This was his undoing and he just couldn't overcome it, especially with his throwing woes. Because of these problems he had been knocking on the door of big league success for too many years to count and always falling just short. Michael marveled at the kid's fortitude and his perseverance. Michael had the good fortune to witness the boy's transformation into a Major League prospect. Throughout their many years together, the boy became rather adept at the game they both loved so much. Since Billy was old in baseball terms, time was no longer his ally and this was the stress of his life. This stress was compounded by his poor performance in his first Major League game last night. Just when everyone was convinced that he had overcome his throwing woes, he somehow regressed. His overall play, especially his defense, was abysmal and everyone now knew that Billy was on his way back to the Minor Leagues. Most likely because of his age, he would never get another chance at that proverbial brass ring. For many years now, Michael feared how Billy would react if things did not go right for him. He was always afraid that the boy would go off the deep end and on this morning that fear circulated throughout his entire body. He knew the boy had to be crushed by the demotion and he wanted so badly to comfort him during this painful period but when he went to look for him after the game, he was nowhere to be found. He recalled how he had searched the stadium in vain the previous night, only to find the boy's street clothes. Where had he gone in his uniform? What if he didn't leave the stadium? these unanswered questions figuratively dropped his stomach down to his feet. And it was a sickening sight to see this proud old man crumpled down on the floor bawling his eyes out and praying that nothing had happened to his boy. He muttered to himself in anguish, "Why can't that boy realize that there is more to him to love than how well he plays the game?"
Michael pulled himself up off the floor and got dressed. Momentarily he was out the door, replaying in his mind all the events that took place the night before. As he drove his car towards Comiskey Park he recalled his conversation with Billy before the game. The boy had seemed more or less at peace with himself. The anger and resentment that had surfaced during his last years in the Minor Leagues seemed to have disappeared. He became a team player once again. That phase he went through back in the minors of cheering against his own teammates was now just a memory and as far as Michael could tell, the only player that he wished misfortune upon was Hector Rodriguez, the White sox's Cuban third basemen, who stood as far as Billy was concerned between himself and stardom.
As he maneuvered his vehicle through city traffic he recalled how radiant Billy looked when Rodriguez pulled up lame after stealing second base. This was the moment that Billy had waited his entire life for. It was the culmination of his dream. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he recalled how Billy had taken the field the night before and how he glowed when his name was announced over the public address system. Suddenly, Michael became aware of the tragedy that had been staged for the world to see. Billy Green, a kid who had never been quite good enough for the Major Leagues had his glaringly obvious deficiencies exposed on his opening night. This should have been a joyous occasion for the young man, who had dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of this one opportunity but there was some kind of trickery taking place here. From Michael's perspective there was just no other explanation for it. As soon as he stepped into the limelight, he immediately played down to the Minor League form he had always been known for. His vastly improved skills of late that had finally earned him his chance at making the big club seemed to have disappeared overnight. This was a complete mystery to the people who followed his prolonged and prodigious rise as a ballplayer. Some would have written it off as a case of the opening night jitters but Michael, a very religious man, was sure that it was something much more sinister. He believed in good and evil and his religious upbringing convinced him that there was such a thing as a deceiver in this world. Satan was God's nemesis and he saw plenty of examples of his handy work. World War II was littered with them. The extermination camps, those horrible pictures he saw of the concentration camp victims and the horrendous treatment of prisoners of war in general had convinced him that Satan had a very strong hold on this earth. He chose to blame Satan for Billy's performance problems. Who else, he reasoned, was callous enough to rake Billy over the coals and humiliate him in front of all those people? there was no way to change his mind on this issue. It was a moot point. Aware of how fragile the the boy's ego had become in recent years, he could do nothing but pray that this devastating blow was not the catalyst that pushed him over the edge. Watching him commit not one but three errors on routine ground balls was all the evidence that he needed to conclude that Billy and the scouts, who brought him up to the White sox, had been misled. The boy was obviously still not ready for the Major Leagues. In fact until this year, Michael was convinced that the boy was destined to be a career minor leaguer but almost overnight the boy's skills started to improve. Defense was no longer a deficiency and suddenly there was interest in the boy as a Major Leaguer when there never was the slightest bit of interest before. In addition, what was to be thought of those dreams he had? What kind of dreams were they? these were the predominant questions that filled his mind as he flashed back to the events of the past evening. As he reached the ballpark, a glimmer of hope came into his eyes as he thought for a second that Billy might have gone home to his parent's house. He reasoned that maybe he was so embarrassed by his performance during the game that he left immediately, avoiding any confrontations that might have occurred with his teammates in the showers or in the locker room but as quickly as that thought came into his head, it was rejected. The reason being, that he knew deep down inside that Billy's father would have been anything but consoling towards his son, especially after learning of the demotion. He knew that Billy didn't have a strong enough constitution to deal with the callousness of his birth father.
Michael cautiously entered the ballpark and observed nothing unusual. He pondered the thought of Billy leaving the park and getting drunk at a local tavern but that didn't explain why he didn't change his clothes? Due to his poor performance during the game, he doubted seriously that he would go out in uniform and draw extra attention to himself. From all the years he had spent with him, he knew for sure that Billy wasn't a glutton for punishment and only a glutton for punishment would go out in game uniform after that performance. As everyone knows, Chicago fans have a long history of being very nasty to their fallen sports heroes. He knew Billy wouldn't subject himself to that.
Still feeling uneasy but needing to do something constructive with his time, he decided to take a trash collecting walk around the field. In the process of performing this chore he glanced up towards the stadium seats and discovered Billy. What he saw shocked the hell out of him. Hanging by the neck from the upper deck was Billy Green dressed in his White sox uniform, wearing his green shoes and his unique green glove. Michael was in no way ready for this and he grimaced in pain as his worst fear had become a reality. He stared up at him in disbelief and then let out the most tragic moan that the old ballpark had ever heard expelled. It was a dying groan, very primeval, the kind that was repeated too many times throughout the history of this world. It was the worst kind of agony. The kind of personal anguish that was never meant to be felt, as unnatural as a father outliving his son.
The overwhelming sadness of this occasion cannot be properly expressed here. Hanging by the neck from the upper deck of that stadium was the extinguished dreams of a new generation. A part of the old man died with the son that he never biologically fathered but whose spirit was eternally joined with his. He became painfully aware that the rest of his days on this earth would be nothing more than an extended death sentence. For the rest of his life he would never experience the joy of love again. Michael couldn't stop crying. The tears flowed down his face as if someone had left a faucet on.
He thought about those mean spirited "fans", who heckled Billy the night before. Those fans got what they wanted although they would never know about it. He would see to that. They wanted to see the kid break but he would take away any pleasures that they might have received by knowing that they had succeeded in pushing the kid over the edge. They would never know they broke him. He had one overwhelming impulsive thought and that was to conceal his body, so no one would ever laugh at Billy again. He couldn't bear with the shame of knowing that the son that he loved the most in the world had taken his own life, so he decided to take the body and bury it right on the stadium grounds. He knew deep in his heart that the boy would approve of his decision because he was now bitterly sure how much the boy was willing to sacrifice for the game he loved. So Michael decided to keep the boy in the stadium that he worked his entire life to play in. the only question in his mind was where to bury him? He needed a place where the body would never be discovered and then he thought of it. There was such a place. He gently cut down Billy's body and then struggled to carry it throughout the maze of seats, tunnels, and out on to the field. He knew of an old, empty storage shed, out past the fence in left field and decided that this would be Billy's final resting place. It took some time to get there but eventually he did. His overworked muscles were so relieved when he finally set Billy's body down that he immediately collapsed on to the ground and gasped for air. He stared over at Billy's body and tried to brainwash himself into believing that he was just asleep but could not convince himself of this fantasy. He then wondered if he could survive the intense manual labor of digging a grave, using only a pick and a shovel. After catching his breath, he decided to gather some supplies for this endeavor and traversed a short distance to another storage shed. He opened the shed, where the extra field tarpaulin was stored and cut off a large piece. He thought to himself, "thank God for this extra field tarp because without it, Billy would have to be exposed to the elements and I couldn't bear with that." He scanned through the many tools that were hanging from the various metal hooks that protruded from the wooden walls of the shed and finally located a roll of duct tape. He quickly grabbed the tape, shoving it into his pants pocket and proceeded to drag the large piece of field tarpaulin over the dew wet grass towards the old empty shed. When he arrived there, he noticed that he forgot to grab a shovel and raced back to the tarp shed to retrieve one. He grabbed a shovel that was leaning against the wall and carried it back over to where the body awaited.
Upon arrival he rolled Billy's body, uniform and all into the tarp. He took some extra time to wrap his prized green glove that was covered with all that unique art work in some newspapers he found in the shed. The paper would help keep the glove from disintegrating in the ground. He went out of his way to make sure Billy and his possessions would stay dry for eternity. After it was wrapped, he placed the glove inside the tarp too. He didn't want bugs or animals to get to Billy's body so he sealed him in tight with tape covering up all the air holes. Before sealing the portion of the tarpaulin that would shroud Billy's face for eternity, he leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek and through his tears reminisced back to brighter days when the two of them first became acquainted.
It was the month of May in the city of Chicago and the weather was unusually perfect for baseball. Comiskey Park was jammed to the rafters with folks who were dying to get a good look at Ruth, Gehrig, and the visiting Yankees from new York.
The year was 1931 and the city along with the rest of the nation was right in the midst of the Great Depression. The ballpark became a getaway for the fortunate who still had jobs. Although the White sox were not playing particularly good baseball at the time, the people still gathered at the ballpark to escape from the very real problems of poverty and unemployment that they faced in their daily lives. Baseball was America's favorite game and Ruth and Gehrig were two of its greatest heroes.
Outside the ballpark on any given game day numerous children played pick-up games in Armor square Park. These children had big dreams and played their pick-up games with the same intensity as the Major Leaguers, who played inside the big stadium.
One of these children was Billy Green. Billy loved the atmosphere that surrounded the ballpark on game days. There was electricity in the air that purged the world of all of its troubles and gave him the will to survive and fight through the worst of times. On that note, let me not forget to reiterate that these were the worst of times. When having a full stomach becomes the measuring stick as to whether or not a kid has had a good day is all the proof that's needed to ascertain that these were hard times indeed. Besides not having enough to eat, the biggest disappointment in this ten year olds life was the fact that he couldn't afford to buy a ticket to the ballgame but he took solace in the belief that he would someday play in that big ballpark next door. As he stood in the batter's box staring up at the lanky twelve year old on the pitcher's mound he thought about how exciting it would be, to be all grown up and playing in that big ballpark in front of all those cheering people. Just the thought of this gave Billy the chills and a rush that energized his entire body. As the pitch came soaring in, Billy powered by an incredible amount of adrenaline, swung the bat on a looked like it got shot out of a howitzer as it flew in a very low, line drive trajectory between the left and center fielders. In what seemed like an instant he confidently stood smiling on second base.
Excerpted from THE MAGIC GLOVE by LOUIS ANTHONY "COUSIN VINNY" AGNELLO Copyright © 2012 by Louis Anthony "Cousin Vinny" Agnello. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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