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To Athens from 3rd Base
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by Thomas Sheehan

When a Bates College shortstop was drafted by the great Yankees in a Bates’ season cut by rain to fourteen games, some scouts laughed, some re-established their priorities, some spent their revenge in a drunken spree.

The shortstop’s name was Davin Croughmartin, suddenly tall, always fleet, eagle-eyed, soft at the hands but oak tough at the knees; his range greater than Rizzuto’s claim, his grace not seen since Marty Marion, his quickness like a young Campaneris, but what brought him under Yankee eyes was an internal fire they long had sought, that old spirit Billy Martin had loosed, the October flames Reggie took away with him.

Davin’s picture flashed in the papers, spread itself the whole length of the East Coast, came up on TIME, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; he seemed to be the inestimable question mark, an equation’s unknown sum, but looking on that square and solid face, on the blue eyes deep as a scabbard sword, on the chin carved from a piece of the Rock itself, they dreamed past dreams, future dreams, the silence of Yankee dreams......late, losing, Babe Ruth coming to bat.

Davin Croughmartin got his sheepskin and set out for the great Big Apple, coming away from the backstops of Maine, down the rural road, down the pined path, past the irresolute cows, the neatly stacked wood piles, roadside acres black from fire, sawdust piles, gray Connecticut cabins on the rocks, tired gray boats, somber gray trawlers and scows, that whole gray fastening one finds in life, now and then a lobsterman clad yellow as the sun against the sky.

He had his breakfast in a slow, gray town, felt time to be an after-dinner drink, dreamed of base hits and great double play balls, how the voice of sixty thousand people rushed upon the ears like the wind itself, or the very Tidal Bore, how it roared into the strength of his hands, how he felt it like nerve ends in his arms and all the tight covering of his skin. In the east, over the mask of the sea, westerly in its yearning, came the sun.


Out of Millinocket, driven by dreams, paralleling Davin Croughmartin’s road, mourned by mother and rousted by father, wearing the scar of a Down East village, came somebody the Yankees never knew; Claude Martin, cheat, faster than all the Gods, entrepreneur, pretender to the thrones, scavenger, village crow, rumor monger, bad apple, misunderstood, but could pass as the brother of Maine’s new celebrity.

Sometimes we can’t see where images cross, what influences strike the moving root, how bodies pass each other in the night, how shadows never entwined are never lost are never one without the other; how Karma, separated, finds folly bringing the ends of things all together, how Martin and Croughmartin, thus described, could bring themselves under one final inescapable masquerading.

Davin’s eyes picked out the figure on the road, thumbing beneath the white umbrella of a tall bleached-out pine tree, his thumb out in the gesture of the free-roading soul. “Well,” said Croughmartin, “I’m heading your way. Stash your gear in the back. Where you bound?” He thought he could have been looking in a mirror. If he had had a brother, this would be him looking back at him, except for the darkness lodged in the eyes. “I’m getting out. I’m heading to Norway.”

It is only the eyes which separate some men. It is only the eyes that tell which well they were drawn from, and if from the same well, how deep the ladle went.

“Norway’s a hell of a place to pick on after you’ve spent a winter in Maine.” Martin looked back at him. The darkness in his eyes seemed to fade, his cheeks flushing with a sudden warmth. “I’ll log a bit, kitty up, then deal some. There’s got to be someone smoking stuff there. “I heard all the trees in Norway are gone.” “You got to be a smart-ass college kid. You’ve got the score on everything around. Norway’s part of my imagination.”

"Naw,” warmed up Croughmartin. “I’m pretty dumb, but I’ve been picked up by the New York Yankees.” “Jeez, I heard all about you at the club. Great glove man, swing a stick full of thunder, run like a damn deer through the apple trees. If someone asked me, we could pass for brothers.” “My name is Davin Croughmartin, and yours?” “Claude Martin’s this look-a-like, Norway bound, part French, part Irish, part passing salesman. And I bet I can beat you in a hundred yards any time we try.”

Down the coast of Maine they raced, between rocks, trees hanging like scars out of green forests, between road signs and mile markers and antique stands. Claude Martin won by a step every time and wore his winning well. “I’m a track man who runs more from fear than any training. I’ve been chased all over Millinocket by store owners, loggers and midnight cops who did not like my peeking on their fun. Jim Fix never had anything on me.”

They raced again and again beneath pines, between glacier-thrown monumental rocks, between the suggestions of humps and hills that splayed out in the green landscaping, down flat terraces like bowling alleys had been carved into the heart of the earth, down the gray sands ceaselessly pounded on by those veteran waves the Atlantic wears, harsh and cold and inimitably cruel. Claude Martin never lost a single race.