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To Athens from 3rd Base PDF Print E-mail
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To Athens from 3rd Base
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3.

And in the darkest corners of his mind, in those dim retreats where mischief is born, Claude Martin found his latest escapade, the ultimate trick of his derring-do, a caper worthy of Millinocket’s Master Caper, bright star, headline maker, dreamer of the far shore, night’s dark chieftain, planner of the unbelievable deed. His mouth watered at the singular thought, at fulfillment of a grandiose ploy.

He said to Davin, at ease at the wheel, “I’ll go just as far as Connecticut. There’s a beautiful blonde cousin of mine who has an apartment in Weathersfield. Just drop me at her door and go your way down to that village the Yankees own.” Davin asked, his eyes staring straight ahead, “How beautiful is a beautiful blonde?” “She’s the most beautiful girl of them all. If she weren’t my cousin, I’d move right in.”

And the seed was planted deep in Davin. It began to grow in his mind; he squirmed in his seat, saw visions on the windshield of a girl he might never see. Through a short stretch of New Hampshire turnpike the image of a blonde swam in his head. She grew much warmer in Massachusetts, and he could feel her right under his skin. “Well, couldn’t I drop in to say hello?” “Sure,” gleamed Claude Martin. “I can arrange that.”

And the pieces fell in the right places. He called Weathersfield from a roadside phone and explained to an old girlfriend his plan of infiltrating Yankee Stadium. She felt excitement, then admiration for the most audacious ruse in baseball annals, in all history of the sport. “Of all the people I have ever met, only you, Claude Martin, could think this up, and only you can make it come to pass.”

And these spirits, one true, one chameleon, still part strangers in the passage of night, brothers of a stark and different dreaming, whose paths had interlaced, just came their ways wearing each the dream of the other one, for now Davin Croughmartin dreamed his dream born in a volatile part of his mind, and Claude Martin, young man of many shades, hardly true to any task, any cause, just dreamed of being a New York Yankee.

4.

The administration of Mickey Finn was hardly a sojourn at the State House. It was a simple pill in Davin’s drink, and his glove, his spikes and his brand new car emerged in Yankeeland one day later. Onto the slim form of Millinocket’s past and soon-to-be headline carrier, as though he were born to its gray parallels, as though a god’s tailor had fitted him, slipped the prestigious Yankee uniform,

the pin stripe suit of legendary men, the true colors that most Octobers wear, the flopping pants of Joltin’ Joe, the tight knickers that Yogi wore, the stripes that hid Mickey’s iron brace, the uniform of October’s giants. And a strange coming came on that man, a totally unexpected feeling, as if his lie had been gifted with grace, as if his trespass was holy work, ordinance from on high.

And in his mind not a bit of remorse. There was a fever in the locker room that he could not put his hand upon, that he could not weigh, not measure, but surely as he breathed, stood in pin stripes, felt an enveloping euphoria, there was a power coming over him. And nobody spoke to the Down East rookie. The message was all too clear: When you wear Yankee stripes, you wear them well.

5.

Uniforms carry much of reputation, wear the legends of the early donners, those who brought the cloth the early honors, pioneers, solid draft horses, oxen, the founders, the doers, the getters-done, the not-too late-comers, the gallant men of arms, men who brandish sweat before their glory; Yankees like Lazerri and Bill Dickey, Johnny Lindell, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer. For New York cops it was Gaston Purleigh.

As Claude Martin put on the Yankee uniform, as he felt the surge riding on his frame, Gaston Purleigh Jr. went on the streets of the city his father once had owned. New York blue had recovered a great name, and the rookie’s appointment had spread out to every station and every beat where New York blue held a thin vital line. Gaston Purleigh Jr. had faked his physical; his baseball knee, like Mickey’s knee, was hidden in the cloth.

The scars a catcher wears are hidden deep, and Gaston Purleigh, his left hand widened out, knee cartilage bouncing like a piano string, his bright dreams anchored in his thick-heeled shoes and Yankee Stadium a fading thought, walked out into the jungle of New York as his father had walked long years ago. Deep crouching was no longer a valid exercise, no part of daily routine. Something else there was besides stopping base steals.

And these two men so too passed in the Gotham air, the bogus Yankee and the hero’s son, the dreamer-up and the deep dreamer-down, the pretender and the accessory to a saddened, frightful masquerading. In the dugout, nervous, clad in pin stripes, his blood boiling like no way he could recall, perspiration breaking loose in his palms like some small god beginning to bleed deep in the Andes, dreaming the dream only freshman and rookies dream, Claude Martin found himself at his crossroads.