Until the End of the Ninth

Beth Mary Bollinger

WEDNESDAY, JULY 25: COLORADO ROCKIES STADIUM

I get up early to be on the road and with cell phone service, in case Denver’s “The Fan” station is able to fit me in to talk about the book signing at the Rockies stadium that afternoon. They didn’t get notice until late that I was going to be in Denver but have been trying to fit me in.  Alas, I am unable to connect with them.  I’m glad to be on the road early though, so I have time to find the stadium.  First I stop to buy duct tape, so I will be able to hold my book poster in place on the easel I have.  I have never in my life bought duct tape.  There are many choices.  How can there be this many types of duct tape? 

This is a highlight, to be at the Rockies stadium.  It had begun dawning on me the day before that this book signing means that the 1946 team has finally arrived.  Think about it – these were guys who had dreams of making it to the major leagues.  They had put their baseball dreams on hold to serve in World War II (eight of the nine who died had served in the War).  They came back and started back up with their game, hoping to move up and out to the major leagues.  There were so many players back from the War that a lot of the Spokane Indians’ players were simply waiting their turn, enjoying the game day to day while keeping one eye on the future.  By going to the Rockies stadium for a book signing – my first major league stadium for that – I am bringing a piece of these guys to the major leagues after all these years.  It’s in the form of a book, and they have long ago died, but a piece of them has made it.  Their story, at least, has arrived. 

The Rockies’ folks at the merchandise store are welcoming.  One young man, baseball player looking, helps me retrieve the poster, books, etc. from my car.  I set up the table in the store with all my props – a little Spokane Indians’ bat, Indians’ caps, a little stuffed animal version of Otto, the team’s mascot (he’s a Spokaneasaurus).  The team store folks point out that their mascot is a dinosaur too – Dinger is his name.  I love it.

One of the store greeters says that he will tell people about the book if I give him a few sentences to say.  Within a little while, he has the pitch down.  He has a perfect way about him – “have you seen this book? Have you talked to the author?” Informative, but not bossy.  People spill over in my direction, either because of him or because they see me on their own.  

I never tire of speaking about this book.  This team of men was so incredible – not just those who died, but those who lived on, who carried on their memories.  They say they were gentlemen – that they gelled as a team early on.  Perhaps it was the year itself that created the closeness – right after the War, when life could be appreciated, as if beginning to live it for the very first time.  They can inspire us, if we let them.  After all, nine of them died so they died as a team.  And they really did play for the love of the game.  They were what it is that we love about baseball.

At one point, I decide to wander a little bit to watch some of the game.  What a beautiful stadium.  Somewhat brand new, in the new old-style of building a baseball stadium just for baseball.  I get a chance to watch a Rockies player hit a solo home run.  It’s a good day for the home team.  I think of Rick Barber, who has a radio show in Denver.  I was on his show a while ago, and he started talking about how baseball is a game that should be heard on the radio – that radio broadcasters have a way of painting the picture of the game, play by play, so that the listener can nearly see it through those words.  Football, Rick had said – yes, that is a good sport for television.  But baseball is for the radio.   I wonder at the radio announcers now.  What did they say about the solo shot home run? 

I return to my table just in time to sell a book.  A little while later, that same man comes up to me while I am talking to five other people.  “I’ve started reading it, I’m already to Part 2, I love it, and I’m back to buy another copy,” he says.  I laugh. “I paid him to say that,” I say to the five folks standing at the table.  He laughs.  “No she didn’t,” he says, as he pulls out a twenty.  Everyone at the table buys a copy.

In the end, we sell 50 books.  Store management seems shocked.  I give my helper a hug. 

I get on the road.  It’s still early enough because the game has been an afternoon game.  I am supposed to be in St. Louis by tomorrow at noon.  I drive until I’m too tired to drive anymore.  Actually, I drive a little further than that.  The music on the radio helps a little to keep me awake, as I blast it as loud as I can (it’s a 1, 2, 3, take my hand and come with me, cuz you look so fine and I really want to make you mine)...  Turns out, Salina, Kansas is as far as I can safely get.  Exactly midway: six hours from Denver, six hours from St. Louis. Out in the middle of a new nowhere.  Salina – pronounced with a long “I”.