Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mars Wins!

I ran across the following while sifting through my file cabinet last night. It's a piece of fiction I wrote 20 years ago that was published in The Minneapolis Review of Baseball, a wonderful little journal filled with fact, fiction and folly dedicated to the greatest game.

Mars Wins!

Steve Sullivan

(First published in The Minneapolis Review of Baseball, Volume 10, Nov. 4, 1991)

October 17, 2030

Port Zak, Mars

Dear Bubba,

Bododeodo!!! That’s what Martians holler when they’re happy, and let me tell you, there are a bunch of those happy suckers around here now. You’ll never believe this – on my very first trip to Mars I scored a ticket to the final game of the Universal Series between Mars and Glorbia! I paid 75 nools, which is about 200 Earth bucks. So it ends up being cheaper than a bleacher seat at Wrigley Field! It was a pretty good seat, too, in the hover boxes over second base.

Now, I know you’re a snob about baseball and still think the Japanese game’s the best, but you would’ve like this one.

When the cocky Glorbia Gigabits sauntered out, let by their computerized manager, Connie MacIntosh (or “Mac” as they call him), the crowd really let them have it. They don’t “boo” up here. It’s more like, “urp.” So it was like a stadium with more than 200,000 fans sharing a belch. But it all stopped the next minute when the locals, the Port Zak Attack, appeared. And the place really went nuts when the Attack’s manager, crafty little Billy Martian, trotted out.

Pretty soon the game started. Jop Haxifand was pitching for Port Zak. He pitches by putting the ball in his mouth and then blowing it to the plate. Now you might think that would be a spitball, but it’s not. “Haxi” spits with his hands. As a matter of fact, he can only go to his hands if he’s off the mound.

Pitching for the Gigabits was Pord Zing, Glorbia’s all-time wins leader. You may remember him. Back when they had the Universal expansion, this guy was the first center-handed pitcher ever to make it to the astro-bigs.

Anyway, both pitchers were perfect for three innings. Then in the top of the fourth, Dreep Nimnot, the speedy second baseman, led off for the Gigabits. Nimnot is invisible and the only way you can tell where he is is to follow his hat.

Well, he laid down a really pretty bunt. Sizz Krinik, the third baseman fielded it and threw to Krax Wolnoid at first. But on the way to first, Nimnot was running so hard his helmet fell off. And since he didn’t have any way to tell, the first base ump called him out. Well, Connie Mac started beeping and whistling and rolled out to first base. He threw a matrix up on his screen and created a replay that logically proved that Nimnot not only was safe, but that he also took second on the play. The ump agreed and reversed the call.

Well, this sent the crowd into an urping rage. Billy Martian raced out, but no matter how hard he shouted, the ump wouldn’t change his mind. Then somebody in the stands zapped the ump with some kind of ray, leaving just a hat and puff of smoke. That seemed to satisfy the crowd. Everyone calmed down a bit and an uncomfortable-looking new ump cautiously took over at first. Nimnot’s helmet was floating at second base and left fielder Gonny Vaz stepped to the plate.

He took the first pitch, then banged the second into the air toward left field. Then – it was the dangdest thing – the ball suddenly just stopped in mid air! What happened was it hit what they call a “coincidental convergence.” It’s kind of like a fork in a tree, except you can’t see it. Something about magnetic fields coming together just by chance.

Whatever, Vaz whacked the ball right into it and it just stuck there. There isn’t a rule that deals with coincidental convergences specifically, so they treated it like a ground rule double. Nimnot scored and Vaz went to second.

If that wasn’t weird enough, wait until you hear this. The next batter, Bob Smith (Remember him? Used to catch for the Mets, Giants, Reds, Ham Fighters, Bilzzits, etc.), grounded out, bring Poyd Frinimitux to the plate. Frinimitux is the Babe Sunumata of Glorbian baseball – their all-time home run leader. Haxi puffed one right down the middle to him and he took a wicked swing – the hardest swing I ever saw – with his trademark red bat. He powdered the ball. But get this – he hit it right smack into the ball that was stuck in the coincidental convergence! It knocked the first ball loose and then both balls fell onto the field. Vaz had been standing on second, waiting to make sure the blast wasn’t caught, and when the balls fell, Frinimitux was right behind him. By the time the balls were fielded, they were running right together, rounding third and heading for home.

Mox Thiddik, the Attack’s left fielder, grabbed one ball and center fielder Glip Mux grabbed the other. Both threw home at the same time. Stum Nuk, Port Zak’s great seven-armed catcher, caught Thiddik’s peg and tagged out Vaz, then tagged Frinimitux with the ball Mux threw. The home plate ump called the runners out, which brought Connie Mac out again to argue the logic of the call. He pointed out that Nuk had tagged out Vaz with a ball bearing a red smudge, while Frinimitux was tagged out with a clean ball. He said that the red had come from Frinimitux’s red bat, which did indeed have a smudge on it.

Again, the ump couldn’t deny the logic and he changed the calls to safe. The crowd started urpring again. All 12 of Billy Martian’s eyes were bulging so much I thought they’d fall out of their sockets. Then they had to bring in a nervous new home plate ump after someone zapped the one who made the call. When the smoke cleared (literally) the Gigabits had scored 3 runs, all thanks to Connie Mac’s logical arguments.

After all the hubbub, Billy Martian calmed down and set himself to pacing the dugout. You could tell he was coming up with some sort of zinger, and I knew we’d find out what it was before the game was over.

Well, nothing much else happened until the ninth. The highlight in the top of the ninth came when shortstop Julio Dryvot was called back for a pinch hitter. Then I noticed a vaguely familiar figure walking up to hit for Dryvot. It was Minnie Minoso! He was getting in an at bat for his tenth decade in the majors. He swung at the third pitch and legged out an infield hit. But that was all Glorbia could manage in the inning. The next three batters struck out and Minnie went back to the dugout. They’ll cryogenicize him and keep him on ice until sometime in the next decade. It’s such a great tradition.

Port Zak had the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the ninth. Zing, who had been strong all day for Glorbia, finally started to lose it. After hitting second baseman Volly Brin with a pitch, Udner Flom, the little shortstop, took Zing’s first pitch out of the park for the Attack’s first runs. Wizzit Profax, a pretty good contact hitter, was up next.

But that was all for Zing. Mac rolled to the mound and took the ball. Then he signaled for relief ace Grak Tubo to come in and hold the lead. After throwing two quick strikes, Tubbo grooved one and Profax poked it into short left for a single. Profax took his lead off first. When Tubbo made his first pitch to Krax Wolnoid, Profax bolted toward second. He beat the catcher’s throw by at least 10 feet. Billy Martian called time and ran out to talk to Profax. I suspected this was when Martian planned to hatch whatever he’d been scheming.

Martian skittered back to the dugout. Tubbo went into his stretch. Wolnoid stood at the plate, waving his big bat. Profax, though, stayed right on the bag. He wasn’t taking any lead at all. But when Tubbo delivered the pitch, Profax broke from second. He wasn’t heading to third, though; he was dashing back to first! Well, Smith caught the ball and threw to first, but Profax slid and beat the throw. The ump called him safe, then ran into the Attack dugout to keep from being vaporized by Gigabit fans.

Connie Mac suddenly started to shudder. He was beeping and whirring louder than ever. He rolled toward first, but it wasn’t a smooth roll like earlier. It was real herky-jerky. And he was smoking and shooting little sparks out of his screen. He kept insisting that the play wasn’t logical. But the umpire, who was still taking cover in the dugout, kept saying that if the runner wanted to steal first, he could do it. Frankly, I think this umpire wouldn’t have said anything to upset the home fans again. While Mac was arguing with the umpire, I looked into the other end of the dugout and saw Billy Martian smiling from ear to ear to ear. You could tell it was exactly what he had hoped would happen – he had blown out Connie Mac’s logic circuitry.

Mac rumbled to the mound and sent Tubbo to the showers. Both Dimtode Riprod and Foz Jork were ready in the bullpen. But Mac decided to bring in Ntuc Itanip to pitch. Nobody could believe it! You see, Itanip is an Ambilant, a being that’s all legs. They’re the best there is when it comes to pinch runners, but since they don’t have any arms it doesn’t make sense to use them for anything else. So when Mac signaled for him to come in, nobody knew what the heck was going on.

Even the Gigabits thought it was weird, but they figured Mac surely had a logical reason for making the move. They obviously didn’t know about the blown circuits. But as soon as they saw Itanip kick the ball toward the plate, they started wondering what kind of bizarre strategy Mac had in mind.

Itanip never got close to kicking the ball over the plate. He walked Wolnoid and the next three batters, forcing in the tying and winning runs.

The stadium went wild! Bododeodo! They players hoisted Billy Martian up on their shoulders and carried him around the field. Meanwhile, Connie Mac sat in the Gigabits’ dugout, sparking and shaking.

What a great game! The only complaint I have is that the beer was salty and the peanuts were flat.

Say “Hey” to the gang.

Your pal,


1 comment:

Johnny Pierre said...

You are a true visionary Sully Man!