When Skip woke up it was early. That is early for a little boy who had only gotten a few hours sleep. He bounded out of bed with a smile as he remembered how easy it had been for him to make his mom see his side of things. “After all,tomorrow is the big day,” he had explained. "It's the last day of the World Series, and Babe Ruth’s batting first! I’ve just got to be there with his bat all cleaned, and spruced up! He’s counting on me to hand him his special bat!”
As Skip rushed to get dressed, and gulp down some breakfast, he smiled remembering how the big guy had come over to him when the Yankees arrived at Wriggly Stadium. He had looked him over from head to toe, handed him his bat, and said, “Sonny this here’s special,” as he, grinned, winked, and walked away to chat with his teammates’ who were gathered in the dugout.
That was all The Babe had to say because Skip knew what he meant. The bat was in his care. Babe had entrusted it to him, and it was his job to take care of it, and bring it to him when he was at batting practice, and when he headed to the mound. So every night of the Series, Skip took it home, cleaned it up, going to extra special lengths to make sure it was in pristine condition. Last night he took more time than ever before because Babe had to win one more time. If he did not win, Skip knew he was going to feel just awful for he was rooting against his own team. However, he pushed that thought aside as he reminded himself, Babe is counting on me, that’s what matters. At nine, Skip knew what that meant. He knew that without his favorite bat, The Sultan of Swat, as many of his fans called George Herman Ruth, Jr. the team would not, could not win the penitent! Yep Skip told himself as he sat down for breakfast, and gazed longingly at Babe’s bat, which he had rubbed to a high gloss sheen the night before when he had stayed up way past ten, without me, and this bat, the Wizard of Wham may strike out!
As his mom set a blow of cereal in front of him, he looked at her, pulled out a Babe Ruth bar he had been saving for the big day from his pocket, peeled back the wrapper, and took a big bite. His mom smiled, sighed, and sat down across from him. He knew he was going to get a lecture; Skip did, for mom did not allow candy first thing in the morning. In fact, as Skip sat there munching away he could almost hear her litany of reasons why. However, to his amazement, his mom put the cereal in front of herself, and began to eat. Wow, Skip thought, I haven’t left the house, or gotten to the ballpark, and this is already the best day every!
Mom looked at him, smiled, and said, “Big day today.”
Now Skip knew he had died, and gone to baseball paradise! For his mom never mentioned anything about the game, and she never ever used words like big, special, or grand unless she was talking about a Bible Study, church, or Pastor Ethan Smithers who in mom’s eyes was taking much to long to ask his sister Betty Jean to marry him. But, Skip reckoned, as he looked at the bat one more time, that has nothing to do with me, as he cautioned himself, keep your mind on the game, Babe needs you!
His candy bar done, Skip stood, and tossed the wrapper in the trash as he put on his official baseball cap.
“Have a good day,” his mom smiled.
Skipp picked up Babe’s Bat, nodded her way, and headed to Wriggley Field. Yessiree, Skip thought as he walked the five blocks to the field, it sure doesn’t get any better than having the New York Yankees playing in Chicago!
As he walked along the other batboys joined him, but none of them looked his way. They think I’m a traitor to the Cubs, the boy sighed. He nodded at the guys who used to swat him on the back when they came up from behind, and with whom he secretly wagered on the games as he whispered, “Don’t tell my mom or ill get a lickin.” As Skip looked around, he noticed that all the boys were as focused, and as determined as he was that their guy was going to pull it off. Yep! Each of the boys had their favorite, and until Babe had handed him his bat, Skip’s favorite had been Charles Henry Root. Hank, as Skip though of him when he fantasized about the friendship they would have one day. He had never missed a day when the guy born in Middletown, Ohio, was pitching, cause in Skips book he was the best there was! And Skip figured he should know since he’d been around the game all his life.
When the batboys got there, the stadium was empty except for the people that made the event what it was, like the guys that lined the field, and gramps who sold the hotdogs. If anyone had asked Skip about the slow peaceful start to his day, he would have smiled, I like it this way, kind’a helps a fella get into the swing of things before the guys start swinging. Ya know what I mean? Of course, he would never have spoken like that when his mom was around because she insisted on good manners, the correct use of words, and perfect diction. However, having lost his father in an elevator crash some years back, more years back than Skip could remember, he had learned to be the man of the house and save his boy activities, attitudes, and the use of sang, for when he was far away from home, and the responsibilities of being the man.
So as the stands filled up, and everyone settled down the game began. The pitchers pitched, and the players played. The boys did their job, and the crowed cheered. The vendors sold food, and the heat beat down upon the hushed throng as each one there rooted for their team, and their guy. In between at-bats, the boys traded jabs, and baseball cards, and while their personal favorite was at-bat, each boy said a prayer. When anyone one else got up to bat, they heckled them unmercifully.
Yet, as idyllic as Skips life looked to others, it was with a longing born of an unspoken need, that the batboy handed Ruth his bat on that fateful day. The boy knew that Ruth, and the team had been unstoppable back in 1927 when the Yankees were known as Murderer's Row because of the strength of its hitting lineup. Heck, Skip thought, as Ruth took his bat in hand, back then the team won a record 110 games! As Babe swung the bat a few times, as the boy wondered, can he still do it?
He had heard the rumors, and read about arguments before the Series began, and as the game progressed the fans heard the two teams throw verbal barbs at each other, which his mother would have spanked him soundly for as she insisted, “My boy does not speak that way, not in my house or anywhere else!” But, this ain’t home, it's Wriggly Field, shrugged Skip with a smile, this is baseball!
If he had taken the time to look at the bleachers, Skip would have seen fifty thousand cubs’ fans that agreed with him. However, rooting for the other team, he kept his head down, and did his job. Except for earlier in the day when the teams were still warming up, when he had looked up, it was to watch Ruth, and Lou Gehrig put on an impressive batting display during practice. Ruth launched nine balls to the outfield stands while Gehrig hit seven, then as quickly as Skip had looked up, he hunkered down again. That is until he handed The Bambino, his bat.
The Babe must have sensed that Skip needed something from him, though the boy never asked The Colossus of Clout, why he smiled at him, winked, and whispered, “This ones for you son,” as he called the shot, and pointed to the center field bleachers during his at-bat.
Skip knew it was Babe’s declaration that he would hit a home run out of the park. As Skip nodded, smiled, and stepped away, the man that was called, The Sultan of Swat, The King of Crash, The Colossus of Clout, The Babe hit what for want of a better word, was dubbed a “Ruthian!” As everyone stood to watch that beautiful, powerful, ball sail into deep center field, past the flagpole, and into the temporary seating in the streets, and the crowd went wild!
At that momentous moment, Skip witnessed a miracle! It wasn’t the miracle of the shot Babe called, and it certainly wasn’t the fact that he had won his bets even though his mom could certainly use the money, since he needed new shoes. No, the miracle that Skip witnessed that day had nothing to do with the shot ‘the home run king’ called. It had everything to do with the fact that before the Titan of Swat headed out to slowly jog around the field savoring the joy of being able to shape the game one more time to his liking, George Herman Ruth, Jr. turned to Skip, handed him his special bat, and smiled, “Thanks son for helping me today. I wish I had a boy like you. Your dad’s a lucky guy!”
Skip waited until The Babe left. Then he headed home. The other guys had left earlier. After all, he thought to himself when he headed back all alone, who’d want to hang around with a guy who rooted for the other team, the team that won. Nobody, that’s who.
He tried to pretend it didn’t matter to him if they all walk back together or not. However, it mattered terribly. You see Skip had always thought that life had given him a raw deal. Which is a hard way to feel when your still in elementary grade school, and don’t know how to get over losses so profound, but never spoken about as having no father. Yet this time as he ruminated on all the things he and his dad would never do, the face of Babe Ruth smiled at him, and he heard, “Thanks son for helping me today.”
As he turned down his street, Skip was joined by the other batboys who had felt sorry leaving without the little guy, and retraced their steps to meet him.
“Okay, my guy won, so what of it,” he said nonchalantly as they walked along together. The others were surprised because they knew that Skip liked to harp on every good thing that happened to him. They tried not to mind because they knew how tough Skip had it, and all of them realized that what happened at Wriggly Field was the biggest, and best thing that had ever happened to the kid. However, when they asked Skip about the game all he did was smile, and say, “This was the best day I ever had.”