Carlton “Buzz” Gip is just an ordinary divorced father, living out his early middle age watching baseball games in his Maine trailer—until he discovers he is actually a mental patient at Squallpocket State Hospital. He swears that two strange men in black visited him with a mission to replay the 1977 season using a set of custom time-transporting Strat-O-Matic dice, but was it all in his head?
Sharing the possible delusion are his equally odd ward-mates, all followers of teams other than Buzz’s beloved Red Sox, and rolling rights to the “special dice” are soon debated. In a nasty, multi-patient wrestling match over the dice one day, all five patients are accidentally zapped back to 1977, leaving Dr. Sheila Grossinger and Seamus Headley, a mysterious hired spook posing as the hospital sweeper, to join forces, transport themselves back to ’77 using newer, more powerful dice, and retrieve the patients.
Our odd gang enjoys an eventful month or two beaming around to various ball games and even taking in the premiere of Star Wars. Surly Phillies phanatic Mikey Spano accidentally drowns in the Royals Stadium fountain, creating some tension, but for the most part they all stay as sane as possible, and even befriend a semi-retired Texas sportswriter to help them get around.
“Dr. Sheila” and the Sweeper appear outside the Indians’ ballpark, though, and the patients panic, flee in all directions. While Seamus recovers from a severe concussion in a Cleveland hospital, Buzz and the doctor hit the road to hunt them down. They scoop up the five-year-old Buzz from the bowels of Fenway Park, where he was apparently abandoned back in ’77, and take the unaware boy west in search of Dodger fanatic Sherman Wayman.
As we return to our tale, Buzz and Dr. Sheila have lost Sherman and Little Buzz along with their used car, but have found romance on an Amtrak sleeper; Friendly Fred is waiting around on the east coast for his chance to capture Son of Sam; Crazy Amy Gulliver is living under a roller coaster at an Ohio amusement park; and wandering schizophrenic Lester has suddenly found himself driving north with Sherman, Little Buzz and a woozy, recently armed Seamus in the back seat…
* * *
“So what if customs asks for IDs?” It’s the third time Sherman has asked me that since we crossed into Pennsylvania.
“What did I tell you? Canadians are all nice, even the customs people. They’ll believe whatever we make up.”
“How do you know, junior? You’ve never even been there.”
“Neither have YOU!”
The argument gets the boy whining, and Seamus pops awake. Sees his wrists tied together with about fifty yards of dental floss.
“Where are we?…” he growls.
“Heading up to Montreal,” I say. “Sherman might die on us if he misses one stupid Dodger series.”
“At least they’re in first!” Sherman barks, “Where’s your lousy Cardinals and Cubs and White Sox and Royals and Twins these days, huh?”
“The Royals are in first.”
“Oh….right. But that league doesn’t count.”
Seamus tries to rip his hands free but the floss digs into his skin. “You guys don’t know what’s going on here, trust me.”
“We should trust you? Pulling a gun on us? How come you fainted before when you saw the kid?”
Sherman’s question freezes him. He glances out the window at passing trees. Little Buzz stares at him the same empty way he did down in the Busch Stadium parking lot. Like he might even recognize him.
“It doesn’t matter…”
“So what does??” I yell, turning north toward Erie and Buffalo, “Who the frick are you, and what the frack is going on??”
Seamus sighs. “I talked myself into a contracting job for Patriot Act Inc. a long time ago, just so I could keep tabs on Buzz. But now I’m in too deep. And you all could be in danger.”
“Im in danger of crapping my shorts if we don’t find a rest area soon!” says Sherman, “Spit it out, son.”
“Yeah, why do you even care about Buzz?”
Seamus sits up the best he can, leans forward and plops his chin on the seat, right next to my shoulder.
“Because he’s my nephew, you lunatic.”
Sherman and I share a stunned glance in the rear view mirror. Little Buzz suddenly whirls around in the passenger seat, grins at our bound companion.
The Buzz Line
Gip wraps up each and every day’s games, no matter where he is on the ’77 map…
WHITE SOX 16-19-3, at RED SOX 7-16-0
Not exactly the way my boys want to open the second half. The scary thing is that the butchering comes with Don Aase on the hill, and his team is down 10-1 when he leaves after three and two-third innings. Seven Chicago homers clear the boards, as they have to be thrilled to just play in a hitter’s park. Steve Stone and the usual swiss cheese White Sox defense do their best to let Boston back in the game when Fisk caps a 3-run 8th with a homer, but Dal Canton comes on to strand the bases full and mercifully end it.
at ORIOLES 8-15-2, ROYALS 3-6-2
Shocker #2? Well, sort of, because Paul Splittorff hasn’t had a good start in well over a month. Except the Birds had dropped six straight before this great outing by Flanagan and this five-double and one triple attack.
at YANKEES 4-5-0, RANGERS 3-6-0
Inching closer once again are the Yanks. Their 2-6 spots go 0-for-18 against Blyleven, but the basement of the lineup earns Guidry the win. Down 1-0 in the 7th, Chambliss doubles, White triples and Dent hits a sac fly to put them ahead. Texas scores twice in the 8thto go back in front, but Chambliss and White walks and a Dent walkoff triple steal the game in the 9th.
at INDIANS 3-10-0, TWINS 2-6-1
Minnesota’s miserable July resumes, as the Twinks give the Tribe all their runs when Wilfong botches what would have been an inning-ending DP with the bases loaded in the 5th, and Count Lowenstein takes the Earl of Thormodsgard down the line for a 2-run double.
CUBS 9-13-1, at PIRATES 8-19-2 (11 innings)
I’m sorry, THIS is the shocker of the day, maybe the year. Ray Burris has nothing, and the Bucs rack up seven runs on him with five extra base hits in the first three innings. The problem is that Reuss is just as bad, and gets yanked in the 4th after giving the Cubbies six runs of their own. Then the problem of rotten dice luck sets in. After the Cubs tie the game on a Trillo tater in the 7th, Pittsburgh misses a 1-7 HR chance, a 1-7 single chance and a 1-11 single chance, all of them would-be game-winners. So naturally, Greg Gross rolls a 1-4 HR shot off the Goose to win it. Some days…
CARDS 12-16-1, at REDS 3-4-2
One more shock for the road, only because St. Louis has been struggling so much lately. John Denny, of all people, shuts Cincy down while the Cards are busy playing hockey with Paul Moskau’s head. Even more amazing, Bench’s 33rd homer, a solo shot in the 2nd that gives the Reds a fleeting lead, is the first 4-bagger Denny has given up all season.
at EXPOS 2-4-0, DODGERS 1-7-0
Okay, I give up. It’s National Shocker Day. Sutton completely outpitches Rogers, except for the double and two homers he allows to Wayne Garrett to give the ‘Spos the game.
at PHILLIES 4-5-0, ASTROS 3-4-0
And put the Phils half a game back again. Ahead 3-2 in the 9th, the Astros blow it in, yup, shocking fashion, on a two-out, 2-run blast by Bake McBride off Ken Forsch.
Tomorrow (finally) will be half-season stats day!
American League through Thursday, July 10
National League through Thursday, July 10