Tomorrow, I’ll be on a plane headed for New Orleans. My sister and her husband are going off to visit their grandchildren and I’ll be going down to stay with my mother who, now, occasionally needs a bit of help.
Before they leave, though, I’ll get to spend some time with my brother-in-law whom I first mentioned a long time ago.
His name is Ted Williams and I met him back in 1964. He played center field for St. Aloysius high school and was one heck of a hitter while I was a so-so pitcher for Redemptorist High and spent most of my time riding the bench.
That year, however, in a game against St. Aloysius, we were tied going into the late innings and our coach put me in to relieve the starter.
I scraped along until the last inning when I managed to load the bases with two outs. That was when my future brother-in-law (unbeknownst to both of us at the time) came up to bat.
He has his version of the story, but here's what actually happened:
I worked the count to three balls and two strikes and then Ted proceeded to foul off five straight pitches. Like I said, I wasn't an overpowering pitcher. All I wanted to do was get out of the inning alive. Ted, however, wanted to crush one.
There was only one umpire at the game - his partner hadn’t shown up - and he was standing behind me in order to both call balls and strikes and cover the bases.
Ted and I were both a bit frustrated and teenage impatience was taking over. That was when Ted stepped out of the batter's box, looked straight at me and said "Throw me something I can hit," or words to that effect.
Taking righteous umbrage and forgetting about the umpire behind me, I said something along the lines of: “Get back in the box and I'll stick one in your ear.”
The umpire heard me and casually mentioned that if I did, not only would the game be over but I'd also be suspended. Ted stepped back into the batter’s box and I threw him one of my curves which, unfortunately, didn't. I think the ball remained subsonic, but it sure got over the fence quickly.
That evening, I went home in a bad mood. When I was asked about the game, I just said that we'd lost. I didn't want to talk about it and I especially didn't want to talk about Ted Williams.
This silence left my sister completely unaware of the fact that, several years later, she was going to betray me by falling for the guy who'd severely embarrassed me by nailing a hanging curve ball.
When she did bring Ted home to meet my parents, I mentioned that we’d already met. I knew he remembered me because hanging curve balls over the center of the plate are, generally, hitters' fondest memories. He was, however, kind enough not to say anything. Later, my sister added insult to injury by marrying him.
Now maybe, just maybe, in another universe, there's a Larry Simoneaux that struck Ted Williams out that day and went on to win the game.
Maybe, in that other universe, Larry Simoneaux went home and told his family about the game and how it all came down to striking out Ted Williams after he'd fouled off umpteen pitches. That Larry may have also mentioned just how good it felt to finally feed him a curve and sit him down.
Maybe, in that other universe, Larry's sister remembered hearing all of this and a seed was planted so that, when she later met Ted, she wasn't impressed and nothing ever came of it but, then, I wouldn’t have gotten to know Ted, who, naturally, is just a great guy.
So, this week before they leave, I get to see him again and we’ll reminisce about the “good old days” and this story will come up and we’ll have a good laugh about it all.
Still, in those quiet moments that come only on cold, dark nights when certain memories run through your mind and your better self is sometimes at its weakest, I find myself wishing I'd have stuck it in his ear.