On the Corner
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
Somewhere…under an endless, azure sky…on emerald green, new-mown grass, the sounds of tightly wound, horsehide balls striking hard, hickory, Louisville slugger baseball bats echo through a spacious arena. Players in crisp, clean, white home uniforms dance across the fragrant field in chase as batted balls fly and fall among them.
Others take their turns in the batting cage, their names inscribed on the uniform–Clemente, Gehrig, DiMaggio. They stand together behind the cage as they finish their swings, leaning nonchalantly on their bats. Two men on the field’s edge talk quietly together while steadily watching the ballet in front of them.
“I know he’s arrived, Judge,” one man said. “I asked him to meet us here as soon as he’s settled.”
“Oh–he’ll be along all right, Bart. I’ve been keeping my eye on him ever since he was nominated to take the top job. I’m sure he’ll understand this place is organized a little differently than down below. The top baseball job is already taken by the Creator. Even though we had the position on Earth–we are coordinators up here.”
Just then, emerging from the first base dugout was a tall, straight, athletic looking man carrying what looked like a beat-up, old suitcase. He spotted the men and headed toward them.
“Goodness me–what a beautiful ball park. I knew this must be the place when you asked me to meet you at the diamond. This is even nicer than Dodger stadium.”
“Yes it is, Mr. Stillwell–and may I call you Harry?”
“My name, by the way, is Kennisaw Mountain Landis–and I think you’ve already met Bart.”
“I recognized you immediately, Judge–I’m honored to meet you. And meeting Dr. Giamatti is an equally great pleasure.”
They were silent for a moment, watching the magnificent swing of Ted Williams. Then the Judge spoke. “We know you were nominated to be Commissioner of Baseball, and when we looked at your background and skills, we were surprised you weren’t appointed,” he said.
“Yes–we thought the game could use a lot of your personal integrity. You seemed to be a complete man, and I believe that was what was needed over appointing another baseball executive,” Giamatti said.
“But…you…” Stillwell stammered.
“I liked the sense of commitment I saw in you,” Landis interrupted. “When you took on a responsibility, it happened. You had the drive, the focus on achievement, an awareness of the needs of the people with whom you worked. You seemed so well-rounded with such outstanding leadership skills.”
Harry once again tried to speak. “That’s really nice, but…”
This time it was Giamatti…”We were looking for people like you when I was president at Yale. You simply can’t believe how hard it is to find intelligent, competent, caring, organized, creative honest people.”
“You’ll find a lot of them in The Salvation Army–really hard working, great people,” Harry finally got a word in.
“We’re aware of your commitment to that fine organization. In fact, both Bart and I know your founders very well. I talked to Bill just the other day to help him with a program for people who have never seen a ball game. He’s always working–in fact the Creator has appointed him as coordinator of altruism.”
“Wonderful,” Harry said. “Now, why did you ask me to meet you here?”
Landis and Giamatti looked at each other. Then, Landis said: “We wanted to be able to tell you personally that, regretfully, all of the front office jobs in heavenly baseball are filled at this time–but that we recognize that you have the qualifications to play an important role here.”
Harry looked down for a moment then said: “That’s wonderful to hear–and I really appreciate your interest in me. Actually–I had some other responsibilities in mind up here. I tried out with Gabriel’s group and he thought I could make the trumpeting team. Now, would it be all right if my wife and I grabbed a couple of seats and watched the game?”