KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Memoir: 559 words

Double Play

by Charles Couch

Like most uncomfortable memories, the sight was one I won’t forget—but the sound is what has haunted me for 52 years.

I recognized Randy long before I was close enough to read his name tag: Handsome. Dark, wavy hair. “He’s got the look,” my wife had said, referring to our recently obtained intelligence that he worked in music and film. I had known him only as the first baseman on our freshman baseball team; that is to say, not well at all, self-absorbed adolescent that I had been. This was our 50th college reunion, and I was thinking of the second chances I might have with people like Randy, that I had never really tried to know, being much more comfortable in my own skin now at 71 than I had been at nineteen. We talked about baseball, the one thing we had in common, and a topic of conversation in which I can move comfortably. I have always loved the game, from the welcoming gestalt of the ball park to the five-ounce heft of the ball and its 108 pairs of stitches that pitchers use to make it come alive.

I had a story for Randy, my only lasting memory from that entire season, and I wondered if he remembered it, too. We were playing an away game at Cal Tech, which, while famous for its scientific scholasticism and research, has never been well known for its baseball teams. The progress of the game was embarrassingly one-sided—we were clobbering them—and I remembered thinking about the mercy rule employed in Little League, in which a game would be called early if one team got too many runs ahead of the other.

That was indeed the situation, well into our game. With Cal Tech at bat and a runner on first, the batter hit a ground ball to our second baseman, who underhanded to the shortstop, Todd Adams, who had seemed to me an old man in a boy’s body, with a baseball soul from the bygone era of men like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner. It was a textbook double play, except that the runner didn’t slide into second as expected but came in standing straight up, and Adams’ throw to first caught him flush in the forehead. The ball rebounded toward me in left field, and what I heard out there sounded like someone sharply rapping his knuckles on a watermelon. The poor runner, out cold, was carried from the field. The memory ends there, with me down on one knee, feeling vaguely nauseated.

When I finished, Randy remained quiet for a moment, and then said, “That was the day my friendship with Todd Adams came to an end.” Speaking from conscience, he had confronted Todd, who, speaking from baseball, maintained that it was his right to make the throw, and not his responsibility to avoid hitting the runner smack in the face.

Somehow that uncomfortable memory seems a little less painful now, a little less ugly. And I know that Randy and I have something else in common, beyond just being old teammates. Of all my conversations at the reunion, that was my home run.

And who knows? Maybe that poor kid got a serendipitous realignment of his brain cells and went on to predict the Higgs boson or something.



Note from the Editors:

We are delighted and honored to be among the first to publish Charles Couch’s writing. Of course, we always appreciate a good story about baseball. This one reveals a simple, moral conflict, and who wouldn’t be moved by what he took from it? May this memory be only the first of many that Couch publishes. We look forward to reading more of his work.

Charles Couch
Issue 6, Fall 2016

is a 71-year-old retired pilot who lives with his wife in rural Landenberg, Pennsylvania, and likes himself a lot more as an older man than he ever did as a young one. He reads a lot and recently began writing nonfiction. His motto is the Latin phrase, “Festina lente.”

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