Here we are, hiking up from a lower parking lot to the Dodger Stadium gates, and Mikey picks the wrong time to push every one of my buttons.
“Give me a good reason why we’re not in St. Louis.”
“Because the first place Pirates are here, and none of us want to see your damn Phillies, so shut your hole before I—”
BAM! His fist hits my right cheek, I bounce off a teenage Dodger fan with a big foam finger, tumble onto my back—and the 4-D dice I’ve had in my back pocket clatter across the warm asphalt.
“Are you kiddin’ me?” he yells, “You had those the whole time??” The rest of the group is staring at me too as I sit up, feel my chin for a pulse.
“‘Course I did…Why do you think we’re still showing up at the best games every damn day—”
“You freakin’ doofus!” He raises his foot. I grab the three smaller dice but Mikey’s shoe-boot slams down on the 20-sider. The parking lot flashes twice around us, vanishes—
—and we’re suddenly lying in warm piles of dirt and roots and green leaves.
Somehow we’ve ended up in a vast farmer’s field, surrounded by acres and rows of rutabaga plants. In the distance a group of migrant workers toil away.
“Nice going, Mikey, you wombat,” says Amy.
“I got a mind to set fire to your curly-head ass right here,” says Fred.
“Where the heck are we?” asks Lester.
I look around, spot some snow-draped peaks through the hazy evening air. “Still looks like California…Come on.”
We trudge across the field toward the workers and what looks like a road. Sherman asks the workers in perfect Spanish what town we’re in, we’re told something called Poplar, and the next thing you know we’re heading down the road with thumbs out, and me checking the 20-sided die with my face still red.
“You chipped off a piece, I can’t believe it. Not only are we stuck in ’77 now, we can’t even get zapped around to the best games.”
Mikey says he’s sorry even though I know he isn’t, but all of our spirits perk when we spot a roadside bar up ahead with about twelve pickup trucks parked out front. A wind-swung sign over the door says LUPE’S LOUNGE.
“Think they got the game on?” I ask.
“Well,” says Sherman, “It should be if they have a television. Because the L.A. Rams sure aren’t playing.”
Turns out we’re half wrong. A crappy-looking TV near some wobbly tables has the Dodgers on, while the bigger and sharper one over the bar is showing a Lakers playoff game up in Portland. And most of the Latino migrant workers and half of the farmers are glued to the basketball. “Good, because I got no stake in them Dodger fools,” announces Fred, and heads for a spot at the bar. The rest of us find a table next to two old-timers in overalls to stare at the fuzzy images from Chavez Ravine, for what they’re worth…
Game of the Day
With the Pirates enjoying a three-game lead, Reuss and Sutton have at each other, but neither pitcher is on the beam tonight. Lopes singles, steals, goes to third on Ott’s bad throw and scores on a dinky single by Cey for a quick 1-0 Dodger lead, and the old-timers clap and clink their long-neck Buds. Sutton meanwhile gets the first six Bucs, but Ken Macha, filling in at third while Garner takes second for Stennett, singles to start the 3rd. A Taveras grounder moves Macha up, a Reuss single gets him to third and an Oliver single ties the game.
The Lakers and Blazers must be in a heated battle because everyone at the bar is yelling or swearing in Spanish, and Fred runs over at one point cracking up. “Dig this. The players all got righteous ‘fros and whacked little shorts, so I look at the tube and yell ‘How come there’s no 3-point shot?’ and next thing I know the bar man’s passin’ me the biggest snort of Tequila I ever seen!” He runs back to the bar just in time for me to see Bill Robinson double with two outs in the 4th and Ott single him in. 2-1 Pirates.
Dusty Baker bombs a bleacher homer to tie the game again, but Sutton can’t close a darn inning out. In the 4th with two outs Parker singles, Stargell gets hit with a pitch and Robinson hits a second double and the Bucs are in front again! Sherman makes a raspberry sound and disappears for a five-minute pee. Mikey says “screw this noise” and goes off to a Pong machine in the corner, and I’m left with bored Amy and Lester, who naturally is scoring the game on a stack of bar napkins.
Reuss has used three DPs to get out of three other jams, but in the 6th he boots a dribbler to put two aboard, Sutton bunts them over, Lopes walks to fill the bases, and Russell floats a single into the left gap to score two and put L.A. in the lead. The old-timers try to clink bottles again but they’re too sleepy and drunk and miss. It’s too early for Gossage, so Tekulve enters and walks Reggie Smith, but Cey pops out to end the inning.
A Gravey double and Taveras error bring home an insurance run in the 7th, and after Goose finally enters in the 8th, the Penguin plucks him for a 2-run shot and a 7-3 lead. Across the room the Lakers get swept by Bill Walton’s Blazers and three-fourths of the place files out. Hough had come in to bail Sutton out of a bases loaded jam in the 8th, but Cobra Parker launches a laser into the bleachers to start the 9th. 7-4 now. Stargell lifts one out to Monday, who drops it for a 2-base error. Robinson walks. Sherman forces himself to take another leak. Ott grounds into a force, but Macha 4-for-4 with a walk on the night, singles again and it’s 7-5!
Mikey has started yelling with somebody at the Pong machine. Taveras grounds into another force and here’s the original Jerry Hairston to hit for Gossage with the go-ahead run in his bat. Hough knuckles one in and Hairston skies it to left, where Baker puts it away and the Dodgers are two behind.
A great sloppy game, and while Lester is reading me the totals, the runners left on base, the balls in play and the strikes and ball readings for every pitcher, I hear a glass smash and turn to see Mikey rolling on the floor with a mutton-chopped farmhand twice his size. We run over, pry them loose, and race out into the night.
Unfortunately we have no car and no direction to go in, but Amy is suddenly pointing at my pocket. “Look Buzz, it’s glowing!” I reach in, pull out the four dice as a gang of Mr Mutton Chop’s friends pile out of the bar. “These things got us here, right? So we gotta end up somewhere! What time is it?”
“Six and a half seconds to midnight!” yells Lester, and as the first empty bottle whizzes past our heads we break into a run. A second bottle flies right at my face and we
PIT 001 110 002 – 5 12 4
L.A. 100 102 12x – 7 12 1
W-Sutton L-Reuss SV-Hough HRS: Parker, Baker, Cey GWRBI-Russell
at ASTROS 13-11-2, REDS 5-8-0
Bench crushes a 3-run homer off Niekro in the 1st, but nothing goes right for Cincy from there. After Cruz ties it with his own 3-run jack in the 1st, the Astros go on to take Billingham, Borbon, and Hume behind the domed woodshed. The Watson-Cruz-Puhl trifecta in the middle of the lineup goes 7-for-12 with six extra base hits and ten of the thirteen RBIs, and it’s three in a row for Houston!
W-Niekro L-Billingham HRS: Bench, Cruz, Watson GWRBI-Watson
at CARDS 5-9-0, PHILLIES 1-2-0
Eric Rasmussen pitches the game of his ill-fated career, giving up nothing but a McCarver homer and 9th inning Johnstone single, while Heity Cruz, taking over for iron-gloved Freed in right, cracks a homer and double to lead St. Louis. Ron Reed, who throws four and a third hitless relief innings, will be taking over for Randy the Leper Lerch in the Philly rotation if I have anything to do with it.
W-Rasmussen L-Lerch HRS: McCarver, Cruz, GWRBI-Tyson
EXPOS 7-14-0, at CUBS 3-14-1
Following this latest travesty, Cub lineup changes are ordered by the front office. Chicago matches the Expos in hits and have people on base in every inning but huge DPs off the bats of Biitner and Ontiveros kill two early rallies while Ray Burris is busy being butchered again.
W-Brown L-Burris SV-Kerrigan HRS: Dawson, Wallis GWRBI-Cash
RED SOX 6-14-0, at ROYALS 2-9-0
Nice comeback game for Boston, as they go little ball off Leonard and get late clutch hits from Miller and Hobson to make it four out of six against the tough Royals. The fact they do it with Evans and Lynn out of the lineup is even more amazing. And the fact that Tiant leaves the hill one out away from a complete game is friggin’ miraculous.
W-Tiant L-Leonard SV-Campbell HR: McRae GWRBI-Montgomery
YANKEES 6-12-0, at TWINS 4-8-2
Now we’re talkin’ miracles. In the 1st inning, White is out on a 75% steal chance, Munson misses a 55% single roll, while Glenn Adams smacks a 35% 3-run homer for the Twins, and things look like they’re going to be horrible again. But Thormodsgard serves up back-to-backers by Nettles and Chamnbliss to start the 2nd, a 2-run Piniella smash in the 4th, and Figueroa goes the distance for the CG to keep Lyle from ever getting near the mound.
W-Figueroa L-Thormodsgard HRS: Nettles, Chambliss, Piniella, Adams GWRBI-Piniella
at WHITE SOX 5-7-1, ORIOLES 4-11-0
Tough loss for Martinez and the Birds, though K.C. losing takes the edge off some. A two-out Billy Smith triple on a 1-out-of-20 chance in the 8th ties the game, but a Zisk solo shot seconds later unties it. Six of the seven Chisox hits are for extra bases.
W-Barrios L-Martinez HRS: Lemon, Zisk GWRBI-Zisk
at RANGERS 6-9-0, INDIANS 4-8-0
Guess who’s back over .500 and only three and a half out of first? Lil’ old Texas, that’s who. Thornton solves Dock Ellis for two homers, but few other Tribe hitters do, and Willie Horton has a huge day for the Rangers.
W-Ellis L-Waits SV-Moret HRS: Thornton-2 GWRBI-Horton
UPCOMING CHANGE OF VENUES IN THE A.L.
Yankees at White Sox
Orioles at Twins
Indians at Royals
Red Sox at Rangers
American League through Thursday, May 15
National League through Thursday, May 15