So here I was in my Skyline Nomad five-wheeler, just a burp down Route 22 from downtown Squallpocket, Maine, minding my own business with a bottle of Sam summer brew, waiting through the late-night ball scores to see how Lester made out in Anaheim…and someone knocked on my trailer door wicked loud.
Now I’ve been doing okay since Pam left and took Timmy with her, but I really don’t like living alone because you can only watch so much baseball in a day, even with the dish package, and I find myself on the phone with friends more than I’d like to be, and every noise outside gets your hair up. So this knock just about scared my shorts off, and when I opened the door, who was standing there but two guys in dark suits and shades, basically Tommy Lee Jones times two.
“Are you Carlton B. Gip?” asked one of them.
“Uhh…yeah? Except I’ve gone by C. Buzz Gip since I was nine. Ever since Fisk left us for the White Sox.” They nodded at each other and waltzed right in, looked over every inch of the trailer. I asked five times what the hell they were doing and when I finally made them some bad Chock Full of Nuts coffee they sat and told me.
“Our state-of-the-art databases at Patriot Act Inc. tell us you have an unusual obsession with the year 1977.”
“Well, yeah. That was the year Mom and Dad broke up and I went to my first Red Sox game—actually about 38 of them—and I saw them outhomer the Yanks 16-0 one weekend in June, and then Elvis died and then Groucho Marx three days after that and Star Wars and Close Encounters and the Saturday Night Fever album all came out and Son of Sam was doing his murder thing and the Yanks ended up winning the division anyway and Reggie hit those World Series homers and—”
“Good, Mr. Gip. Because we have a special mission for you. One which will earn you the money to pay off your outstanding loan on this trailer.”
“What? How the hell did you know about—”
“Your job is to replay the 1977 baseball season with eight teams in each league, the same arrangement they had for sixty years last century, using these Strat-O-Matic cards…” He lifted two stacks of inky-fresh card packs out of his briefcase and set them on my formica. I’d played that well-known tabletop game before, but not since the week I got thrown out of college.
“…along with these very special items.” He took out a small black box, spun a miniature combination dial on the front and lifted out a set of four glowing dice, one with twenty sides.
“These are called 4-D Cubes, a new product we are secretly experimenting with, and they’ve been programmed to transport you virtually to the 1977 contest of your choice whenever you wish, for a more enriching and reliable experience.”
I stared at him, the Sam Adams sloshing through my head. “Are you kidding me? I can actually go back to that amazing year and maybe see my Crunch Bunch win this time? And groove on all those awful uniforms? And not hear the word steroids even once?”
“Yes, Mr. Gip. We expect you to send us reports every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with occasional Twitter dispatches in between.”
“But what about my job? I’m a disc jockey over at WHOA-690, y’know—”
“Employment will be unnecessary. We will also provide your food, and our support team of sixteen crack baseball minds in various parts of the country will issue you the lineups and rotations you’ll be using.”
“Whoa…Is this an absolute pisser or what? When do I start?”
“Mr. Gip? Take the dice.”
OPENING DAY TOMORROW:
Expos at Reds (Rogers vs. Seaver)
Astros at Cubs (Richard vs. Resuchel)
Dodgers at Cards (Hooton vs. Forsch)
Pirates at Phillies (Candelaria vs. Carlton)
Red Sox at Orioles (Jenkins vs. Palmer)
Yankees at Indians (Guidry vs. Eckersley)
Rangers at White Sox (Blyleven vs. Barrios)
Twins at Royals (Goltz vs. Leonard)
DR. GROSSINGER’S REPORT:
The subject (Gip, Carlton Bosworth, b. 4/28/72) has shown acute signs of paranoia, melancholia, and schizophrenia over the last few weeks. Today this was replaced with a highly unusual elation, common when a subject creates a new fantasy friend or friends, in this case the “men wearing black” from the obviously fictitious Patriot Act Incorporated.
Mr. Gip still firmly believes he is residing in a nearby trailer park, and employed on a part-time basis by WHOA, a radio station that went out of business thirty years ago. These delusions remain harmless, but I will be closely monitoring his “1977 replay” as the days go on to see if his “game results” warrant an increase in medication.
SHEILA H. GROSSINGER
Chief of Psychiatry
Squallpocket State Hospital