The Lone Star League

By James Ralston

 

CHARACTERS:       Smoky: the Owls’ field manager, mid-70’s

Marion Crawford: a beat reporter for the Laredo Times, late 30’s

Juan Diego Gomez: a potential superstar, a Mexican, early 20’s

Jack Dogg Donovan: a former Big Leaguer, late 30’s

Coyote: an agent, late 50’s

 

SET: A minor league locker room. Rather than realistic, it has several action centers: stage right, a locker area opening to an off stage weight room; center stage, the Manager’s office, framed but not enclosed; stage left center, the shower room area, with a training table, a whirlpool, a medicine cabinet, sink and mirror and behind them a waist-high wall, the back to a row of urinals. The showers themselves are off stage. It is blistering hot, and the air-conditioner is broken. (There is also a drop chain link fence, stage left, to indicate the playing field outside.)

 

TIME: Fourth of July, next year, in Laredo, Texas.           

 

Act I, Scene 1. A Fourth of July fireworks show, projected on a screen above the set, finishes with an American flag — starting out in full color, then fading to black and white — and a few bars of “America the Beautiful.” Lights come up on SMOKY, wearing an Owls uniform, smoking a cigar. He has entered from stage right in the semi-darkness during the fireworks. An irrepressible story teller, he addresses the audience as an opportunity to tell another one.    

 

SMOKY: Batting practice this morning, I’m in the dug-out making out the line-up, this little guy peeks his head in. (Mexican music from the shower room) Waving an American flag. Fourth of July and all. (points to the flag on the screen; then, speaking towards the showers) Hey, in the showers there. Can you turn down the Spic music a minute. Can’t hear myself thing. (back to the audience and to his story) Texas Ranger cap on, about two sizes too big. Probably got it from his granddaddy. Asks me, “You ever play in the Major Leagues?”   Now and then a kid’ll still ask me that, and I say, yes, I played with the old St. Louis Browns. They were in the Big Leagues once upon a time…. And this boy, great big eyes, hands me a brand new baseball to sign, can’t get his fingers half around it, like I was some kind of great man…. Anyway, (begins to walk into the set, looking back at the audience when he speaks) that was this morning. Don’t look back, ole Satch used to say. (points to the screen and snaps his fingers; a picture of Satchel Paige comes up.) Someone might be gaining on you. This afternoon, my team – that’s the Laredo Owls — got nipped in extra innings by Corpus Christi. Back in third place again. Ten games out of first (snaps a “10” onto the screen) but who’s counting. Except maybe me and Marion.  How we lost the game — we’ll get to that, but first I promised the little boss there I’d take a look at this “social history of baseball” thing she’s putting together.

From a rear entrance, Smoky enters office, walking past a cluttered makeshift pantry: toaster, micro-wave, refrigerator, etc. MARION is projecting some photos of baseball greats — Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Musial, Williams – onto an imaginary screen, but which are actually appearing on the screen over the set. As Smoky enters, coffee in hand, a photo of Jackie Robinson is projected.     

 

MARION: This next part I don’t have down yet. (reading from notes) “Until Jackie Robinson came along, all the religious and legal ammunition in the world, had little impact on racism.   Major League baseball breaking the color barrier was the beginning of a sociological-psychological transformation in America.”… Well, how does it sound?

 

SMOKY: Hmm….  A little bit too wordy, maybe.

 

MARION: Too wordy? What’s that mean?

 

SMOKY: “Psychological transubstantiation of America.”   Who wants to hear all that.

 

MARION: I don’t see this as some drowsy after dinner speech, Smoke. I want people to think.

 

SMOKY: Then why not start out by getting your facts right. Cuts down the words considerable right there.

 

MARION: Pardon me.

 

SMOKY: The “color barrier” in baseball was broken by a fellah named Moses Fleetwood Walker. For Toledo, in the American Association. (Marion shakes her head.) Yeah, the American Association was considered the Major Leagues in 1884. Look it up.

 

MARION: We don’t want to call anything before, let’s say, Ty Cobb, really the majors, do we?

 

SMOKY: We may not wanna call ‘em that, but that’s what they was…. Same troubles for ole Moses as for Jackie Robinson. And for all the rest of us back then.

 

MARION: God, do you always have to be smoking…. At least turn on the air.

 

SMOKY: Air’s broken. (enter stage right, in the locker area, JACK DOGG, dressed to the nines) Like everything else around here…. So, what do you think about Jack Dogg showing up.

 

MARION: I’ll believe it when I see him.

 

SMOKY:   Oh, he’s showing up, alright…. Maybe you two’ll get back together?

 

MARION: Hey, if Jack can do without me on his way up, I’m sure I can do without him on his way down…. (peeks out the side office window at JUAN DIEGO entering from the shower area, getting into the whirlpool) I don’t believe Diego totally missed the sign in the eighth inning.

 

SMOKY: (coughs on an exhale of smoke) Now what?

 

MARION: Touch your nose, touch your hat, pull your ear, that’s a bunt. Nose, hat, ear, bunt. You gave it to him three times…. What do you think I’m doing up in the press box, Smoke? Reading “People Magazine”?.… I’m watching the game. I’m analyzing the game.

 

SMOKY: Did you stop and analyze that maybe I changed signs this morning…. This should be your office maybe. You should be the manager. (Smoky grunts/laughs.)     

 

MARION: A woman could never be a manager, you’re saying…. Not that long ago people laughed at the idea of a Black manager, a Hispanic manager…. If Diego sacrifices, instead of hitting into a double play, Scooter’s base hit scores two runs and we win. We’re eight games out of first instead of ten…. Sorry, I calls ‘em the way I sees ‘em.

 

SMOKY: Oh, you got the callin’ ‘em part down…. (to himself, as he starts fiddling with the broken air-conditioner) It’s the seein’ ‘em part needs a little work…. What do you hear from San Antonio?… You gotta job or don’tcha?

 

MARION: Anybody else misses a sign, he’s riding the pines for a week.

 

SMOKY: Yeah, I’m gonna sit the kid down when the Big Boys have just flew in to see him play.

 

MARION: … have just “flown” in … to see him play.

 

SMOKY: What’d I just say?… I don’t know what’s going on with Juan Diego. But whatever it is, they don’t need to be reading in your column tomorrow morning about no missed bunts signs.

 

MARION: Ah, ah, ah. Freedom of the press. Fourth of July and all. Independence Day.

 

SMOKY: Well, write what you gotta write, but you didn’t hear it from my lips…. Don’t be wastin’ no more time in Laredo, Marion. Take the San Antonio job. Here’s the break you’ve been waiting for.

 

MARION: The San Antonio Red Hawks aren’t exactly the Big Leagues, are they?

 

SMOKY: Triple A. Big League city.

 

MARION: They’ve got one of those exploding scoreboards for home-runs. And a clown always goofing off in foul territory.   I can’t stand that stuff.

 

SMOKY: I hate to tell you but that stuff’s in the Major Leagues, too, darlin’.

 

MARION: (looking around Smoky’s desk) Not the clown part. Yet.

 

SMOKY: Once you’re writing for San Antonio, you think them papers won’t be sizing you up over in Houston…. Dallas?

 

MARION: I’m comfortable here right in Laredo for now, Smoke. Who’s going to cover the Owls after I’m gone?

 

SMOKY: Who’s gonna cover the Owls after they’re gone.   Is the question you might be asking.

There probably ain’t gonna be any Laredo Owls next year. Then where you gonna be.

 

MARION: I’ll write another book.

 

SMOKY: Yeah, another book. Your last book got you a good long ways, didn’t it?

 

MARION: I’m not worried. I’ll take my slide show on the road…. Speaking of which, I can’t find my dad’s baseball card.   I thought I left here. On your desk

 

SMOKY: Your daddie’s baseball card?… I don’t know. You left everything else on—-

 

MARION:   I wouldn’t want to lose it…. It’s the only one.

 

SMOKY: (moving things around, looking for it on his desk, finding in on the floor) I didn’t even know they made a baseball card of your daddie….

 

MARION: I was thinking of putting him in my show.

 

SMOKY: You were now?… Up there in the lights, with the Bambino and the Iron Horse. Joltin’ Joe.

 

MARION: A white man who played in the Negro Leagues. That’s something.

 

SMOKY: (turns the card over) Cozy Crawford. 1953. St. Louis Browns.

 

MARION: Oh. Good. You found it.

 

SMOKY: Wins 0. Losses 2….   I think them turns out to be his lifetime totals, too. Falls a little short of Babe Ruth numbers, honey…. For God’s sake, take the San Antonio job…. Move it on up…. (handing her the card) I’m only saying what he would’ve told yah.

 

MARION: Say Smoke, can you spot me a couple bucks… until…

 

SMOKY: Don’t make his mistakes all over again. (hands her a bill; she exits; stage left lights up, Juan Diego in the whirlpool tub; Smoky sees Marion walking that way.) Hey. You can’t go over there. This is a locker room. Christ. Cover yourself up, Gomez. Woman on the floor…. (pops a couple of antacid tablets; exits rear office door) Who listens to me around here.      

 

Marion picks up a bat near the tub, gets the feel of it, swings it. Juan Diego is listening to music with head phones and reading a book.

 

MARION: (tapping him on the head with the handle) Is this your bat?

 

JUAN DIEGO: (startled) Come on, Marion…. Christ. I’m taking a whirlpool, okay.

 

MARION: (hefting it; looks at the end of the bat, where the length is marked)   Hmm. 36 inches.

That’s big for a shortstop…. Feels more like a slugger’s weapon.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (covering the tub with a towel) I’m not a shortstop anymore. You saw today.

 

MARION: What are you reading?…. Where’d you find this?

 

JUAN DIEGO: In Smoke’s office. (reading slowly off the cover) “Catch a Falling Star: Curses and Corruption in Big League Baseball,” by Marion Crawford. (holding up the book; pointing her picture on the jacket)   Look. That’s you.

 

MARION: Really?… Damn. They put my high school graduation picture on the jacket.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I’m impressed you wrote a book….   Do you believe in curses, Marion?

 

MARION: Watching you play today, maybe I do. Zero for five. Not even a loud foul ball.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Have you read this one, by Carlos Fuentes. “The Death of Artemio Cruz. (looking at book) Magic realism. Won a lot of big prizes.

 

MARION: No golden glove for Juan Diego today. Two errors to go with your great big collar (grabs her throat),… not to mention the missed bunt sign. The day the scouts fly in

 

JUAN DIEGO: (stiffening) Don’t worry. Juan Diego Gomez doesn’t choke. You’d better know that…. I have a sore ankle. Nobody understands me.

 

MARION: Are you on something, Diego? … I know Coyote likes the white powder.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You ever try to throw a ball with a bad ankle?

 

MARION: No. I always use my arm…. I’d watch the company I was keeping if I were you…. What are you doing after your whirl-pool?

 

JUAN DIEGO: (pointing to JACK DOGG DONOVAN in the semi-darkness, stage right, on the other side of Smoky’s office. Smoky, sipping coffee, approaches that player; Diego’s cell rings.) Smoke’s got me working on the double play … with the new guy.

 

Diego answers his phone in Spanish; lights fade a little stage left, come up in the locker area, Smoky talking to Jack Dogg, whose head is resting on the end of a bat .  

 

SMOKY: You don’t want to feel sorry for yourself, Jack Dogg. Don’t give up…. You’re still above the ground, ain’tcha?

 

JACK: I’ll be okay, Smoke…. Je-sus, it’s hot. Where’s the air?

 

SMOKY: Only air still working in this hell-hole is in my office, and that’s broke.

 

JACK: You call this a professional clubhouse. It’s a 100 degrees in here. I’m burning up. Look at these lockers…. High school.

 

SMOKY: You never know. Come September, some team in the thick of the race needs a proven veteran. You keep your dobber up, you understand. Stay ready.

 

JACK: I’ll get another shot, goddamn it, Smoky.

 

SMOKY: Sure you will…. It’s 99 percent all up here. (points to his head; exits)

 

Lights shift back to Marion and Juan Diego, Diego still talking on the phone in Spanish. Marion has become aware of the player on the other side of the locker room.

 

MARION: Hey, I’ll be having dinner at The Corral. We have the interview to finish, remember.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Not tonight. Tia says I have to sleep tonight.  (talks some more)

 

MARION: Tia says! Simon says. You have to eat, too, don’t you? Look. Forget The Corral. I’ll meet you back here in an hour. With some carry-out.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Where is this interview going to appear, Marion?

 

MARION: I don’t know yet…. “Sports Illustrated.” (Diego says “Sports Illustrated” into the phone in Spanish, continues talking. Marion crosses in front of Smoky’s office to stage right where Jack is sitting.) Smoky told me you might be showing up here. I thought he was joking.

 

JACK: Jesus. Marion? My God, it’s you. You scared the b’Jesus out of me.

 

MARION: It’s been awhile, Jack Dogg…. You’ve gained weight.

 

JACK: Last I heard about Marion Crawford she was up in Phoenix covering the Diamondbacks.

MARION: Yeah. Marion covered the old Snakes a couple years…. What are you doing back here? I don’t get it?… San Antonio maybe. If you’re hoping for another crack at the Bigs. But Laredo? The Lone Star League?

 

JACK: Yeah, well, everything in its own good time. First they’re paying me some big bucks to make a second baseman out of the kid over there.

 

MARION: Grooming your own replacement?… Like asking a man to dig his own grave, isn’t it?

 

JACK: In the meantime, you know, keep myself in shape. (pounds his fists into his glove like a kid) Keep a positive attitude. Something’ll open up. (seeing Marion’s disbelief) I don’t know, Marion. Tell you the truth, feels like somebody’s whacked me up side of the head and I haven’t came to yet. Three days ago I was a starter in the Major Leagues. My B.A was down a few points, I know that. Two-fifty something. Couple writers were on my ass. But I don’t get it. Like that, it’s over?… Everything looks a little blurry to me right now, tell you the truth.

MARION: Two forty-five, Jack Dogg…. Last time I checked…. Since we’re telling the truth.

 

SMOKY: (entered from a rear entrance stage left, walking over to Juan Diego, who’s still on the phone; Marion notices.)   Come on. On the table.   Let’s have a look at that ankle….

 

JACK: Never got that low. Never under 250. And what about the10 home-runs by the first of July? That’s something. And if you don’t count pitchers, I was the last gringo on the field…. Yeah. (looks at Diego, lowers his voice) White fans still like to see a couple of their own out there. I’m no racist, you know that…. Anyway, I’m in rehab. That’s how I’m choosing to see this thing…. I’m in between teams…. What a dive. The goddamn Laredo Owls. I’d forgotten….    At least you still look great, Marion. Haven’t aged a day, I swear.

 

MARION: You are seeing blurry then.

 

JACK: Married, I heard.

 

MARION: Yes. I’m happily married now…. Diego over there….

 

JACK: Juan Diego?… The kid?

 

MARION:   He doesn’t know it yet, but —-   Just fooling. You never took me for the marrying kind, did you, Jack? (looks at her watch)

 

JACK: Someone told me you were married.

 

MARION: Someone told you wrong. Gotta go, Jack Dogg. But let’s have a cup coffee some morning. Before that new team snaps you up…. We’ll do an interview. Your comeback story.

 

Lights fade on Jack. Marion starts to exit, bumping into COYOTE entering.

 

COYOTE: (doffing his straw hat) Darling. We’ve got to stop meeting this way.

 

SMOKY: (shouting from the training table) Hey, Marion. Curt Flood. You wanna talk “baseball sociology,” tell the Flood story. Marvin Miller. Free agency. Right, Coyote?

 

COYOTE: Who’s asking?… Marion?… Marion hates the Flood story.

 

SMOKY: Because she can’t remember how it was when players were slaves.

 

MARION: (parting shot, as she’s out the door) Slaves, yah. Right. What did Curt Flood make his last year as a slave. 100,000 dollars. In 1970. That’s like a million now. Slave wages, right?

 

COYOTE: (calling after her) Ask what he made for the owners, why don’t you?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Leave her alone, you guys…. Ouch. That’s sore, jefe.

 

SMOKY: Little tender right there, huh?… Explain something to me, Gomez. Yesterday you’re like a one man team…. Lay down a perfect bunt single, steal second, steal third, score on a ground out…. We win by a run…. (motions to Coyote to bring a needle to the table) Today the Big Boys to come see you with their own eyes and you can’t wipe your ass with both hands….

 

JUAN DIEGO: Easy.  

 

SMOKY: Here am I, putting your name out in front of them like you’re some kind of Aparicio, Ozzie Smith, Holy Concepcion. Shit or get off the pot. Two times already this has happened now.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I told you. I can’t plant my foot.

 

COYOTE: This is going to pinch a little, son. (gives him a shot)  

 

JUAN DIEGO: Chingada Madre…. What t’ fuck are you doing?…

 

COYOTE: Not much meat in the lower ankle there.    

 

JUAN DIEGO: Give me a “head’s up” next time, will you?

 

SMOKY: (as Coyote and Smoky cross towards his office) We’re givin’ you a big “head’s up” right now. Three strikes and you’re out in this ole ball game. (exiting) You’ll plant that foot just fine in about 10 minutes.

COYOTE: (reappearing through the backdoor into Smoky’s office) God, the kid was short of pitiful out there today. Wasn’t talking it up. Wasn’t leading the team onto the field. Just waving the bat at the ball. What gives, Smoky?

 

SMOKY:   (from kitchen/pantry area at the rear of office, and mostly out of view) You heard him. Says it’s his ankle.

 

COYOTE: And when does that ankle start acting up again. The day the Boys Upstairs fly in…. And who’s this Tia Lupe anyway? You got her figured out yet?

 

SMOKY: The boy’s exhausted, that’s all. Gets home last night, what, five o’clock. Then up at the crack of Christ. (comes into office with a couple coffees) Reading God knows what literture.    

 

COYOTE: (dealing out cards) Well, you know at whose bedroom door we can lay that, don’t you?… I thought you said Marion was movin’ on up to San Antonio?

 

SMOKY: Sugar and cream? (as he pours a slug of whiskey in their coffees, spots Cozy Crawford’s card again)  Dammit. Look at this. All worried about losin’ her Daddie’s baseball card, then runs off and leaves it on my desk again. (hands the card to Coyote)

 

COYOTE: Marion’s Daddie played in the Major Leagues? I always forget that. (hands the card back to Smoky)

 

SMOKY: One month. Just like me. Them were the days, Coyote. St Louie, 1953. Big Jazz city. Ellington come to town. Louie Armstrong. Sometimes we’d come straight to the ballpark from one of them all night Jazz clubs, Satch, me and Coze. Never been home. You shoulda saw the old Satch dance.

COYOTE: Satch could dance, could he?

 

SMOKY: Best part of the show.

 

COYOTE: Yeah. Satch was loose if he was anything. You caught the greater pitcher ever lived, Smoke. The old Snake.

 

SMOKY: The old bean pole…. Loved ‘im like my own Daddie.

 

 

Scene 2. Lights up. A spot. Extreme stage left. Second base on the baseball field. Jack Dogg and Juan Diego. Jack pre-occupied with instructing Diego on the second base part of the double play pivot. Diego down on one knee, obviously praying.

 

JACK: You gotta adjust. On the double play, your momentum’s not going forward anymore, like at shortstop. Just the opposite. You’re either backing up or—- (looks back at Diego)  Hey! I’m showing you something here. What are you doing? Taking a nap?

 

JUAN DIEGO: I’m praying. You got a problem.

 

JACK: Yah. I got a problem. You chili beaners and all your praying, crossing yourself, kissing your fingers, pointing to heaven. Do you think the Virgin Mother gives a frog’s fat ass about what happens on this baseball field?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Of course she does. She cares about everything.

JACK: (points to his head) In your imagination, kid…. Let’s get to work, okay. I’m not out here for my fucking faith…. I might as well level with you, Diego. So we’re starting on the same page. The Boys Upstairs are high on you, but they got a couple areas of concern, let’s say. They’d like to see the prayin’ thing cut back a couple notches. This on-your-knee stuff ain’t agonna fly in a Major League environment. (down in the fielding position) So pay attention. How you practice is how you play. You field every ball like the pennant depended on it.

 

JUAN DIEGO: The pennant?

 

JACK: That’s right.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Not the World Series?

 

JACK:   (standing erect) You know, they told me you was a cocky little smart-ass.

 

JUAN DIEGO: At ease, el capitan. Each little ball you roll to me is for the pennant. Makes me

tired just thinking about it…. Anyway, I can play second base with my eyes shut.

 

JACK: … Like you played this afternoon, you mean…. Second base’s no can of corn, rookie. For the double play, it’s a harder than shortstop. (Juan Diego yawns) I guess it don’t mean shit to you that you lost the game today.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I lost the game. All by myself.

 

JACK: Maybe you didn’t pray hard enough.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Who cares if the Laredo Owls win or lose?

 

JACK: Smoky cares.   How about that, for openers?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Smoky’s livin’ in the past. The minor leagues aren’t teams in America. They’re try-out camps. If you’re my new coach, I hope you know what the score is.        (Lights out.)

 

 

Scene 3. Smoky enters stage right front, carrying a baseball bat. Addresses the audience.    

 

SMOKY: (looks at the baseball card, which is projected on the screen) Wants her daddie’s picture up there with the Babe…. (snaps up a picture of Babe on the screen) Because he played a few weeks with the Kansas City Monarchs. Cozy Crawford. White boy in the Negro Leagues…. What Marion don’t know is that the Monarchs, by the time her daddie signed up, had became like one of those clown teams, like a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Even had three girls playing for ‘em. Cozy had a little thing for a couple of them “African American” girls, that’s another thing Marion don’t know. Hell, 90 percent of what she does know about her old man is what I’ve told her.   And the other half is what she likes to think. She didn’t have all that long with her Daddie. Four or five years. Anyway, it’s all stories anyway, ain’t it. You tell the ones you like. Add a little, subtract a little, dependin’ on who’s listenin’. A thousand Babe Ruth stories alone….   The blacks took to him right away in New York. (snaps up the picture of the Babe standing against an outfield wall with several black fans leaning over the stands) Thought he was one of their own. A lot of white folks don’t even know that story, but if you look at his picture, his facial structure, his size, he could have been a light skinned black man, I reckon. If you want my thought on the matter, the Negroes of those days figured he’d have to be black to be that good. My granddaddy saw the Babe hit the first home run ever hit in Yankee stadium. Opening day. 1923. Ah, my, my, he’d say to me, raising his glass towards a light and kinda looking through it. The roar that went up in the Bronx that afternoon. You could’ve heard it all the way to lower Manhattan…. Babe Ruth. Here’s a kid raised in a reformatory…. Nigger lips. That’s what they called Babe in St. Mary’s, over there in Baltimore. Name stayed with him a good long time, but folks have forgotten that now. Cobb, in particular, would relish calling him a nigger from the dugout, whenever the Tigers played the Yankees. Nasty man, Cobb. Mean. White trash from Georgia….. But the Bambino. Old Nigger-lips. They broke the mould when they made the Babe. Bigger than black and white both put together. Bigger than life. Hungry for life. Huge appetites. (snaps up a picture Babe surrounded by several beautiful women) Eat a dozen hot dogs for lunch. The Sultan of Swat. Yet never too good for anybody or anything. Tell off colored jokes. Belch in public. Pick up half smoked cigars off the bathroom floor. When he was a kid, his mama once said about him, “too bad he was born,” yet look at the stage he found to play his life on. Yankee Stadium. (snaps up Yankee Stadium) The house that Ruth built. Best hitter ever. Maybe the best pitcher, too, though for pitcher I’d vote for Satchel Paige. (snaps up a picture of Satchel Paige) Another reformatory kid who’d’ve made it just as big. You know. If only. Baseball’s full of them stories too. If only’s. Young Diego could be another one, before this thing is over.   Lights down.

 

 

Scene 4. Lights up on Jack working on Diego’s swing, Coyote strolling out onto the field.

 

JACK: If he wants to nibble at the outside corner, take him to right. Or rip it back through the box. Take his head off. Scare the hell out of him. But if he puts one in your kitchen, in the old wheel-house, get out in front and yank it out. You got to hit some home runs these days.

 

COYOTE: Tell it like it is, Jack Dogg.

 

JACK: (pretending to see Coyote for the first time) My god, you see how it works. Start talking home runs, and right away up pops the devil.

 

COYOTE: Ah, don’t flatter me, Doggie. (offers his hand, Jack ignores it. Juan Diego resumes practicing.) Fancy seeing you here. With Owls across your chest.

 

JACK: Regular home week all around. First Smoky, then Marion, now you…. (looking at Diego’s swing)  Lower your right shoulder, just a half an inch, so you get more under the ball.

 

COYOTE: Everything comes full circle, doesn’t it…. I like your ear-rings…. Real diamonds?

 

JACK: (not looking at Coyote) You’re here for the kid, I presume.

 

COYOTE: Well, Gomez and I are doing some talking, aren’t we Gomez…. You look different, Jack. Filled out, or something. (holds up a package he’s carrying under his arm; addresses Juan Diego) Look. My secretaries put a package together for Tia Lupe. Can’t forget her…. Didn’t have the old “A” game going today, I noticed.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (exaggerating a slumped over posture – having fun with it) I’m in a slump, like you say it up here…. Do you know how we say “slump” in Mexico.   “Sleeping on the Street?”   Gomez was sleeping on the street today.

 

JACK: From what I hear, young Gomez sleeps on the street every time the Big Team comes to town. Doesn’t seem to bother Gomez all that much, I notice.

 

JUAN DIEGO: My new coach is a very serious man, you see, Coyote. Carries the big volcano on his back.

 

COYOTE: Well, I’m sure he’s just concerned about you, Diego.   It’s a dog eat dog world up here in America…. How about a cold one, after you shower up? (pulling Diego aside, as Jack Dogg takes a seat on the bleachers) A couple of magic beans for tomorrow’s game. Greenies. You know. Take your head out of this slump in nothing flat. Everybody uses them. (winking at Jack, starts to leave) Just a short one, kid…. Come on. It’s a holiday. It’s the Fourth of July.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Coyote. Lend me twenty, just until payday, okay.

 

COYOTE: Sure, kid. (pulls out his wallet) No ay problemo…. I know I got a twenty in here…. Tell you what.   I’ll stop at the old ATM and give it to you down at the Corral…. Don’t tell me you’ve spent all your bonus money already?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Tia Lupe’s taking care of it for me.

 

COYOTE: Um-hmm…. Investing, huh?… Smart. I’ll see you after your work-out then?

 

JUAN DIEGO:  Tonight I gotta sleep, Coyote.

 

COYOTE: (crossing towards Smoky’s office)   Fifteen minutes. What I have to say.

 

JACK: (to Coyote, loudly)   I guess you never did buy that hearing aid you was always needing.

 

COYOTE: Jack Dogg…. I don’t believe I was addressing you?

 

JACK: Look, if Smoke wants to let you into his office, that’s his domain. Out here, on the playing field, no vultures allowed…. The kid says he has to sleep.

 

COYOTE: My god. Do I hear that old familiar sour note of a former Big League ball player who’s just been cut. Welcome back to reality, Jack Dogg.

 

JACK: Oh, I ain’t cried uncle yet, old boy.

 

COYOTE: (as he exits) Fallen greatness can feel lonesome, I know. You should have stayed with me, fellah. I won’t say I told you so, but … teach him up, Doggie. Coaching down here at the end of the road won’t be so bad. Don’t pay Jack shit, but you get to boss people around.

 

Lights rise on Smoky’s office; Smoky’s working on the broken air-conditioner.

 

COYOTE: (as he enters) Not good timing for me, Smoky. Jack Dogg showing up. Worst possible time. When I don’t quite have the kid’s name on the dotted line yet.   What’s Dogg doing here, really?… Why can’t you teach Diego the fine points around second base?

 

SMOKY:   I’m a catcher, Coyote. I never played second base.

 

COYOTE: (sitting at Smoky’s desk, shuffling cards) Not to make you nervous, but Dogg said something that bothers me.

 

SMOKY: Said what.

 

COYOTE: Something to the effect that he was the one calling the shots here now…. (Smoky winces, but keeps working) There’s no loyalty anymore, Smoke. You work you ass off, and nobody cares.   Look at the kid. Has no idea how much work and worry I’ve invested in getting his papers right, getting him over the goddamn border.

 

SMOKY:   Jack Dogg’s here to take my place, huh?… You think that’s what’s going on?  

 

COYOTE: Don’t get your imagination all worked up. Dogg can’t replace you, we all know that.

I’m the one in trouble here. Ought to have my head examined…..   Dogg’s right about one thing though. Kid needs to learn how to hit the long ball. (a pop of ball meeting bat from the playing field) More bat speed.   (another pop)

 

SMOKY:   What Dogg’s doin’ out there?… Fuckin’ with Diego’s swing?… Damn it, Coyote. Some swings you just leave alone. You don’t touch ‘em.

 

COYOTE: Yah, but shortstops, second basemen, lead-off hitters hit home-runs now. These guys like Aparecio, Concepcion you like to talk about, they might not be everyday regulars in today’s game… That’s the way it is…. You know what I’ve made off this Mexican so far. Two grand. And he’s borrowed half of that back already. Sent his own 18 grand home to Tia Lupe.

 

SMOKY: Ah, Mexico’s a dry creek nowadays, Coyote. Go work the Dominican Republican. That’s where the up and comin’ ball players are nowadays.

 

COYOTE: Ah. The Dominican Republic. (Lights slowly down in office, as Coyote speaks the next lines; lights up on Jack and Diego now walking inside. Jack stops at the urinal. Diego continues past Smoky’s office to his locker.) They’ve made a goddamn fish farm out of baseball down there. A factory system. Barefoot boys come to town, a rag for a glove, try out for one of the baseball “camps.” Get a bunk, three squares a day. Now and then a Sammy shows up, they reel him in, send him north, the rest move on to the next factory. 29 major league teams. 29 factories. Pretty sick, huh? No independent scouting going on in the Dominican, Venezuela, places like that. Dry run or not, give me Mexico.

 

JACK: (shouting from the urinal) You play where they tell you to play, that’s where you play.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (shouting back) Who’s they?

 

JACK: “They” is who pays your salary. That’s who “they” is…. Look, hotdog, if the Rangers have you penciled in as their second baseman of the future, let me assure you that pencil has an erasure on it, if you make yourself a big enough pain in the ass.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I can play for the Monterrey Sultans tomorrow. Pueblo. Aguascalientes.

 

JACK: Play shortstop, you mean.

 

JUAN DIEGO: What can I do? It’s how God made me…. A shortstop. If they want to erase me, they will have to kill me, perhaps.  

 

JACK: You’d rather play shortstop for Monterrey than second base in the Big Leagues.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Maybe Monterrey is already the Big Leagues.

 

JACK: Yah, earth to fucking don Juan. Triple A….   Maybe. You make adjustments if you want to make it in this world. You find a fit. I started as a shortstop.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Ha…. Excuse me. Nothing personal. Gringo playing shortstop. Always makes me laugh a little bit….

 

JACK:   You know, you remind me a lot of myself back when I young and stupid…. I can name you a dozen “gringo” shortstops right now.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Yah, because you know they’re gonna let only so many Spics in and no more. We have to be twice as good as you…. Well, come to think of it, still no big problem.

 

JACK:  Look, you little prick—-

 

JUAN DIEGO: Little prick! Now I really must be reminding you of yourself.

 

JACK: (crossing to locker area, sees Diego’s makeshift altar; the open locker door reveals an iconic picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe and a large photograph of a nun. A soft glow emanates from the locker. ) What are you doing? This is what I mean. This ain’t gonna fly in a Big League clubhouse, rookie. Making altars. Kneeling.

 

JUAN DIEGO: It’s a holy day…. Nuestra Senora del Refugio.

 

JACK (peeling off his uniform) I don’t care if it’s Holy Fart Day. This stuff gives people the heebie jeebies. They’re going to think you’re nuts…. This may be your one shot at it, punk. The old window of opportunity is pretty damn narrow nowadays. So go ahead and fuck it up, but let me warn you, you’re going to be sick with regret the rest of you life…. Take it from someone who’d kill right now to have a Big League team looking at me.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Kill, huh? (also peeling) Play ball in Mexico if you still got some ball in you.

 

JACK: Yeah. Mexico. I don’t think so.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You would learn some things…. I could hook you up.

 

JACK: No thanks, kid. I don’t want my last baseball memory to be in a Mexican uniform.

 

JUAN DIEGO: That’s your problem then. Mexican baseball is excellent Finesse, you know. Not the big home run derby. Finesse. Suave [In Spanish] How we beat you in the World Cup.

 

JACK: How much “dinero” did you make down there south of the border, pal.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You see. For gringos, everything, dinero. Everything.

 

JACK: A hundred thousand pesos a year…. How much did you make for the old Monterrey Sultans. Fifty thousand…. Ten thousand.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Don’t know. Never count my money. (wrapped in towel, crosses to shower area)

 

JACK: A ball park estimate.

 

JUAN DIEGO: In Mexico, you get paid by the game.

 

JACK: Ah. Paid by the game…. What a joke…. I don’t think so, Gomez. (Lights down.)

 

 

Scene 5. Lights up in office, Smoky and Coyote playing cards, big stack of chips in front of Coyote.

 

SMOKY: You’re bluffing.

 

COYOTE:   Just three dollars and you’ll know. (Smoky pushes out a stack of chips)   Ah. You got me this time. A bunch of little ones. All spades. What you got?… Three j-boys. There you go, sending boys to do a man’s work. (rakes in chips, punches some numbers into his calculator) Your deal.

 

SMOKY: That’s enough. I’m tired, Coyote…. All this losin’ and confusion. (takes a swig of bourbon)   I’m getting’ too old for it…. Look at this picture Marion cooked up? (projects a picture of Sosa, McGuire, Bonds, and then Ruth superimposed on it, standing in a line as if he was their contemporary)  What’s this all about?

 

COYOTE: Come on, Smoke. You know Marion’s shtick. It’s about what’s real anymore. After steroids. That’s what she’s asking.   It’s about the record book.

 

SMOKY: The old record book. All of a sudden everybody’s so worried about it nowadays.

 

COYOTE: The bible of baseball.

 

SMOKY: Yeah? Is Joshua Gibson mentioned in this bible, by any chance? How many home runs would’ve Josh Gibson hit, if he’d had his chance in the Major Leagues? 1000? How many bases would’ve Cool Papa Bell stold?   How many of them 60 home runs did the Babe hit off a black pitcher when he hit them 60 ? Like Satchel Paige? You know what Dimaggio said about Sachel Paige. Best pitcher he ever faced. How many coloreds pitchin’ when joltin’ Joe hits his 56 straight games?

 

COYOTE: Why be bitter, Smoke? Color barrier was broke by the time you played, at least.

 

SMOKY: Oh, color barrier was broke alright. For a few selected stars. Meanwhile the rest of us “niggers” didn’t even have the Negro Leagues anymore.

 

COYOTE: Why do you call yourself that?

 

SMOKY: A nigger? Because that’s what I was. My granddaddy was a nigger, then I’m a nigger. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer it. Didn’t help my baseball career none, that’s all I’m sayin’… Cheatin’s cheatin’, that’s all I’m sayin’. Everybody wants to overlook their own way of cheating. (Jack Dogg pokes his head in the office.) Well? How’d it go out there?

 

JACK: How’d it go out there?… Out there, it went okay. (points to his head) In here, we’re going to need a little work…. You want my honest opinion, Smoke. Tell the scouts to go home and come back in two weeks, after we get a few kinks worked out.

 

COYOTE: Opportunity knocks when opportunity knocks.

 

JACK: (glowering) You know, Smoke, this office should be “team only.” No reporters, agents. Just players and coaches. The way it used to be. (to Coyote) So why don’t you take a short hike.

 

COYOTE: (looking at Smoky)   Excuse me. I didn’t realize you were the big boss here now.

 

JACK: (glowering over him)   Smoke and I are having a private conference.

 

SMOKY: (getting between them)   Don’t make trouble, Jack Dogg.

 

COYOTE: It’s okay. It’s okay. I see who’s calling the shots. I was leaving anyway…. You know, I’ve seen a steady stream of Dogg Donovans in my day. Played a little below their potential. Got distracted by the lights up there in the Big Show. Got impressed with themselves. Forgot the ones that got them there. Now having trouble taking the ole uniform off. Feel there’s something left undone…. Horrible curse. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

 

JACK: I’m taking a shower, Smoke. And while I’m gone, I’d see to it that your little friend has disappeared. So you don’t have to pull his nose back out of his face. (exits)

 

COYOTE: (after he’s gone) Fuck you. Dogg. Down here to check out if Diego’s too screwed up to play in the Bigs, and you’re more screwed up than Diego…. Watch out for these fellahs on the way down, Smoke. Should wear a sign on their back. Former Big Leaguer.   (Lights down.)

 

 

Scene 6. Lights up, stage right, with Diego and Marion at a makeshift table in the locker room. Diego is wearing a Cuban baseball hat; a Jersey with Habana on it. Barely visible, Smoky is asleep on his office couch.

 

MARION: (checking her tape recorder) Testing, one two…. Okay, where were we? Background. So? Did you play anywhere before you played for the Sultans?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Sure. I played one year in Cuba.

 

MARION: You played in Cuba?

 

JUAN DIEGO: One year. For the Vegueros. I played shortstop. Omar Linares played third.

And before that, five years for the Aguascalientes Railroaders.

 

MARION: You played for Aguascalientes?

 

JUAN DIEGO:   My home town. I was starting shortstop when I was fifteen

 

MARION: I don’t believe this. I’m shocked.

 

JUAN DIEGO: That’s nothing. Linares played for Pinar del Rio when he was fourteen.

 

MARION: No. Not that…. How strange.

 

JUAN DIEGO: What?

 

MARION: My father played for both of those teams, too. A long time ago…. I went down to Aguascalientes once, actually. Asking about him.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Do you believe in destiny, Marion?

 

MARION: Destiny? Yeah. I believe we create our own destiny?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Do we? Or is there something bigger going on that we don’t know…. I saw you in Aguascalientes. In the library…. We talked a few times.

 

MARION:   We talked in the library in Aguascalientes…. You and I?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Tia was always sending us boys to the library…. You were looking up the old Railroader box scores…. I thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

 

MARION: Wait a minute!… Were you that kid always trying to get into my baseball cards?

 

JUAN DIEGO: … I didn’t remember you, either…. until I saw your picture on the book cover…. (stands up, takes the book out of his locker) I knew you looked familiar, but,…

 

MARION: My God.

 

JUAN DIEGO: And now our lives cross again. What does it mean, Marion…. Look. I wrote you a poem. (takes it out of the book, unfolds it, looks at it, lays it on the table) Read it.

 

MARION: (not picking it up; instead looks in the mirror, Jack Dogg enters from shower area, stage right, combs his hair in the mirror, peeks into Smoky’s office, sees him sleeping, and exits.) Let’s not go there right now, okay, Diego…. Please…. Look, if it wasn’t clear before, I’m almost old enough to be your m—- your aunt…. Your young aunt.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Who’s Jack Dogg, anyway? Why does he have to show up now?

 

MARION: Jack showing up has nothing to do with us.

 

JUAN DIEGO: He was your boyfriend, wasn’t he?

 

MARION: Let’s just finish the interview, okay. (composing herself) Where were we?… Background….  Did you have brothers and sisters? In Aguascalientes?

 

JUAN DIEGO: (coldly) Sure. (wandering) One year, I have seventeen brothers. Counting me, enough for two baseball teams.

 

MARION:   One year?… In school then, you mean?

 

JUAN DIEGO: El Reformatorio.

 

MARION: (writing) El Reformatorio…. Where your Tia Lupe taught?…. I was imagining something more like an orphanage, I guess….. Why were you in El Reformatorio, Juan Diego?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Tia got me out of jail. She was always getting boys out of jail.

 

MARION: (winces) Okay. We’ll leave the background out for now. The Cuban stuff too. (types) Background: sketchy…. Might make for problems…. Until you’re established. In America.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Relax, Marion. I don’t want to play baseball … in America.

 

MARION: Last I checked Texas was still … America.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Feels like Mexico to me.

 

MARION: Laredo maybe…. But you won’t be in Laredo long. If you show the scouts what you can really do, tomorrow, you could be wearing a Ranger uniform Monday…. Look, I know how good you are, maybe even better than you know. I was a Major League beat writer once. For the Arizona Diamondbacks. I know what it takes to make it big up there, and you’ve got it.

 

JUAN DIEGO: And if I don’t show them … what I can really do?

 

MARION: Did you screw up on purpose today, Diego?… Because the scouts were in the stands?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Don’t write this down, okay. (Marion nods; Juan Diego sits down .) Here is the situation. They call me up, to play for the Rangers, and I don’t go…. Now we have to pay back my bonus. Tia’s already spent it….

 

MARION: So, you’re ankle’s not really hurt.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Even worse, the Monterrey Sultans have to pay back the 100 grand they sold me for…. They wouldn’t like that very much. These are tough guys. You don’t mess with them.

 

MARION: But why wouldn’t you want to play for the Rangers?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Tia has other thoughts.

MARION: Tia. Who is this Tia Lupe to you exactly? (no response) What does she know about baseball, really?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Oh, you would be amazed.

 

MARION: So you’re saying you have no intention of playing in the Big Leagues?

 

JUAN DIEGO: I said I don’t want to.

 

MARION: You don’t want to, or Tia doesn’t want you to?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Right now we’re just looking in the window. Window shopping. The little window of opportunity, my new friend Jack Dogg calls it. (gets up, starts to leave)

 

MARION: Don’t go, Diego. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Read me your poem. (He waves her off.) Okay, don’t. I see your poems at shortstop. We’ll leave it at that right now.

 

JUAN DIEGO: But right now I’m playing second base.

 

MARION: The poems will come there, too.

 

JUAN DIEGO: The best fielder plays shortstop. Everybody knows this.

 

MARION: If you’re a star, does it matter where you play? Look at Roberto Clemente. Would have been a poet in centerfield same as right…. He was a thinker, just like you. And he could stand up to bullies. The Pirates offered him tons of money not to play winter ball in Puerto Rico…. Afraid he was going to get hurt, exhausted. But he always played.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Did you ever hear of Omar Linares? (Marion shrugs.) The best baseball player ever. The Yankees offered him 40 million to defect to America. The Blue Jays offered him a contract where he’d play only home games only in Canada. But he stayed in Cuba, to play for his people. Do you understand me?

 

MARION: I’m starting to, maybe…. But why are you with Coyote, then? It doesn’t make sense.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Coyote got me over the border. There was some paper work we needed.

 

MARION: He’s not your agent?

 

JUAN DIEGO: He wants to be. He keeps begging.

 

MARION: I should be your agent, maybe. (Diego remains quiet.)   I’m serious….  What?… A woman can’t negotiate a contract.

 

JUAN DIEGO: And if there’s no Major League contract?

 

MARION: Major League. Mexican League. You’d be the boss. You and Tia. We might break new ground here…. If we want to talk about destiny. What’s Coyote want to charge you?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Ten percent.

 

MARION: Okay. I’ll charge one percent…. You see? You’re not the only other person who’s tired of thinking in terms of money…. This could be the story baseball needs. And in the world of telling stories, I’m the Big Leaguer, Diego. (sees Jack Dogg ambling onto stage left, plucking oh his guitar, tuning) Christ. Look who’s still here.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (looking) Jack Dogg…. Because he wants to kill me.

 

MARION: Kill you!… What are you talking about.

 

JUAN DIEGO: First I am taking over his job, then I am taking over his girl-friend. (She looks at him incredulously) You were his girl-friend. I know this already. You don’t have to pretend.

 

MARION: Okay, I was “his” girl-friend once. A long time ago. But why are you calling me your girl-friend? Boyfriend-girlfriend stuff is something you have to work out, here in America. (Diego shrugs, starts to leave.) Where are you going?

 

JUAN DIEGO: You have something to work out with Jack Dogg, I think. Here, in America.

 

MARION: I didn’t ask Dogg to stick around, if that’s what you’re thinking …. You and I were talking about something important…. (following him a little ways) Let me drive you home then.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Coyote’s waiting for me at the parking lot. He’ll give me a lift.

 

As soon as Diego leaves, Jack comes over. Marion scoops up the poem and puts it in her blouse.    

 

JACK: What happened to the kid? Did he leave?

 

MARION: You two are off to a rousing beginning, I see.

 

JACK: You want to talk a few minutes.

 

MARION: (gathering her stuff to leave) Tonight I’m kind of busy. You know. Deadlines.

 

JACK: I could use a friend right now.

 

MARION: Then you should have a friend to use…. So could I have used a friend, Dogg.   When they fired me in Phoenix, to name a time in the not so far off past. So, no. You can’t sit down.

 

JACK: I know you’re angry at me, Marion, but—-

 

MARION: Why did you come back here? It has a bad feel to it. This isn’t 1950. Major Leaguers don’t finish up in the minors anymore. If it’s over, leave with your head up.

 

JACK: So I’m a long shot. What do I got to lose?

 

MARION: Your dignity, maybe. You were put on waivers, Jack. 29 teams already had their shot at you. 29 teams declined. Does that maybe tell you something.

 

JACK: Yeah. You know what that tells me? It tells me maybe my salary got too fat. When they could sign up two or three young bucks like Gomez for what I was costing.

 

MARION: You did okay. You had a few good years. But only stars get to play past 35 anymore.

 

JACK: But that don’t mean I can’t try for it. And I’m a free agent now. It’s a different ball game. (loudly, as if to an audience, parodying a sports announcer) It’s a whole new ball game for Jack Dogg Donovan, sports fans….

 

MARION: You’re going to wake up Smoke.

 

JACK: (still loudly) Jack’s got experience. Jack’s young. Jack’s cheap…. (softly, to Marion)

Well, inexpensive. And Jack Dogg don’t accept that his major league days are over.

 

MARION: Jack “don’t” accept. But it isn’t Jack who’s deciding, is it.

 

JACK: No. It’s not Jack who’s deciding. Unless Jack just quits outright. Then Jack’s deciding. (Smoky makes noises). But come September, some team still in the race, why not a proven veteran over some untried rookie?… But if Jack just ups and quits, yeah, then Jack’s decided.

 

MARION: You’re waking up Smoky…. Let’s take a walk.  (they exit to ball field; lights down)

 

 

Scene 7. Lights up again in locker room, Smoky sleeping on his couch. Enter Diego and Coyote.

 

COYOTE:   This is where you’re sleeping now, Gomez.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Shh. Smoke sleeps in here too. (He peeks into the office and signals to Coyote that Smoky is in there; then looks at himself in the mirror, adjusting his coat)

 

COYOTE: You like that coat. Looks good on you…. What happened to the Holiday Inn?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Why stay in an expensive hotel?… Sleep’s free. And what don’t I have here already? Refrigerator. Little oven.

 

COYOTE: Look…. Forget the ten percent. For you, seven and a half.   I’ll make five times more for you than you can make for yourself.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Coffee pot….   Marion said she would charge one percent.

 

COYOTE: You gotta be kidding…. She’s calling herself an agent now. Be smart, kid. Marion’s elevator don’t go to the top floor.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Marion’s a smart lady. She wrote a book, you know. She’s got a brain.

 

COYOTE: Yah. It’s amazing what you can stuff into something the size of a pea sometimes….   Look. A ballplayer goes eye to eye with a hundred mile fastball. An agent goes eye to eye with big money. Millions of dollars. We got our stars just like you…. This is no business for chicks.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Shower. Soap.

 

COYOTE: Ask Smoky. He knows the score. What I’m saying is, this could happen as soon as tomorrow. You can’t let’em bring you up without signing first with me. It’d be financial suicide.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Clean towels everyday.   Bed.

 

COYOTE: Bed?… You’re sleeping on the training table? Sit down. I’ll explain it to you one more time. You need someone to run your professional life. A handler. I got you this far, didn’t I? We’re one shovel away from pay dirt here…. You aren’t serious about this Marion thing are you? Because Marion will take you down the wrong road, son.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Why do I need an agent at all?   When I already have everything?

 

COYOTE: (stunned) Oh, there you’ve said a mouthful…. You’re hard. You’re really                                         hard. (Straddling a bench he pulls out an piece of paper in his coat pocket, unfolds it, crosses something out, writes something else in)   Look. You get the money you’re worth, or else somebody else gets it. It’s a good thing — to get what you’re worth….. Okay, goddamn it. Six and a half percent. If I go any lower, I’ll be paying you. (lays contract and pen on the bench)

JUAN DIEGO: You Yankees believe money is everything…. You don’t even know how much.

 

COYOTE: Try to be nice, okay? This is going to mean a helava lot more for you than for me.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You should think of me as the old school. Not a Sammy. Ozzie. A-Rod. All those stylish guys. Those style freaks. Think of me more like Omar Linares.

 

COYOTE: The Cuban. He’s a communist. We don’t know his story up here.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I know you don’t. Then think of me more like … Roberto Clemente.

 

COYOTE: Ah ha. We finally begin to communicate. At last I see where you’re coming from…. And what did Roberto Clemente die of. If I remember my history, he’d bought supplies and chartered a plane to supervise the distribution of food and things to the people of Nicaragua….. After the big earthquake. So how dare you say you already have more money than you know how to deal with…. Do I have your attention…. (seeing Diego looking at himself in the mirror) Green’s the color for you. Perfect. Goes with your complexion. And there’s plenty more green coats where that came from.   Plus all the good you can do in this world, if that’s what you want to use it for…. Hell, kid, I can get you a contract big enough to save the goddamn world plus buy a hundred of them coats. All colors. A house for your Tia Lupe, a little sports car to get around in, every toy you ever wanted. (sees Diego looking at his watch; takes it off and offers it to him) Come on. You’ve been looking at this watch all night…. Wear it a few days.

 

JUAN DIEGO: What if I lose it?

 

COYOTE: We’ll work it out. We’ll work out everything, kid. Don’t worry…..

 

 

Scene 8. On the ball field. Night sounds. Crickets. Dimly lit stage left, Diego is building an altar in front of his locker.

 

MARION: He’s gonna light up your eyes, Jack.   When he’s on. Not just his hands, but great bat control. Left field, right field, ground ball behind the runner. Triple up the alley.

 

JACK: Still needs to hit some home-runs. If he wants to call himself a five tool player.

 

MARION: Oh, yeah. The home-run. The old knock out punch. The little trot around the bases.

 

JACK: Defines the game now…. where the money is.

 

MARION: I like the double better. The triple, thank you. I swear, when Diego rounds second, you think his feet aren’t touching the ground.

 

JACK: I was in the stands today. I didn’t see any doubles, triples.

 

MARION:   Now and then he comes undone?

 

JACK: Why?

 

MARION: An hour ago I was imagining all kinds of bad things. Drugs. Running drugs. Even throwing games….  Now I see Diego plays badly when the scouts are here.

 

JACK: Chokes, you mean.

 

MARION: Plays badly on purpose. So he won’t get called up? It all makes sense to me. Now.

 

JACK: Sounds like a bunch of b.s. to me. He’s just scared to test himself, that’s all…. Or if you want a more simple explanation, from what Smoky says, he didn’t even come home last night. How good’s anybody going to be on zero sleep?… He was with you, wasn’t he?

 

MARION: Not your business, Jack…. And no, he wasn’t.

 

JACK:   Then he was with Coyote.

 

MARION: Coyote’s was finding him girls, you mean. Like he did for you. Back then? He didn’t have to twist your arm too hard, did he? I should have Coyote shot. For the good of humankind. … I’ve got to find Diego. We were talking about something very important.      Lights out.

 

 

Scene 9. In the locker room, Diego is praying at a make-shift alter before his open locker. In the glow of several lit candles are two pictures: one iconic of the Virgin of Guadalupe; the other a photograph of a woman in a nun’s habit. Above the pictures, a sign made of wood: FEED MY SHEEP. (All of these are projected on the screen above as well.) Coyote moves in from the shadows, holding a piece of paper and a pen. As Marion arrives unobserved, he hands the pen and paper to Juan Diego. Coyote kneels beside him.  Mexican Music.                    

 

End of Act I.

 

 

 

ACT II, Scene 1 A month later. Marion in the office, setting up her slide show. The link fence is down, indicating ball field. Jack Dogg in jeans, a tee-shirt, ambles on singing, “Don’t Give Up.” Smoky stage front, on his knees, fumbling around in a tool box.

 

SMOKY: (looking up at audience, as Jack comes to a pause) It just gets hotter in Laredo. Hottest city in the whole damned country. You don’t know if you ain’t been here in August. (to Dogg, starting to sing again) Can you hold down that howling a minute. Fans here can’t hear a word I’m sayin’. (standing with a screwdriver and wrench, again addresses audience) Same ten games out of first, a month later, as you can see for yourself. Air conditioner still don’t work. I’ll tell you why they don’t fix it. There ain’t gonna be no Laredo Owls next year.

 

MARION: (from the office) Smoky. Come on.

 

SMOKY: Not official yet, but they’re breaking up the Lone Star League. It’s like there’s ghosts in the place already. Nobody’s sleeping. (Diego and Coyote come to the door, laughing.) Diego out partying with Coyote every night. (Women laughing offstage. Coyote exits.) Still screwin’ up royally, every time the scouts come to see him play….

 

MARION: I’m ready. (projects Clemente on screen)

 

SMOKY: Jack adjustin’ to being nobody again. Marion practically living in my office, working on her presentation.   Tryin’ to get it perfect.

 

MARION: (as Smoky enters) I’m going to put this part to music. (clicks her tape player, starts to read) Roberto Clemente gave the concept of complete ballplayer, the five tool ballplayer, a new meaning. Run, catch, throw, hit for average, and make a difference in the world. Rumor had it he had angered the Dictator of Nicaragua – Somoza — accusing him of stealing earthquake relief supplies—-

 

SMOKY: Wait a minute…. Turn down the damn music a damn minute. Clemente was a great ball player, one of the greatest. And he died doing good things for people. Went down deep to find all that, and to deliver all that. But Clemente wasn’t a five tool player.

 

MARION: You can never just appreciate my creativity, can you Smoke.

 

SMOKY: I just like the facts to be right, when someone’s giving me a presentation. Clemente averaged something like twelve home runs a year…. Those ain’t power numbers.

 

MARION: And you don’t really listen either. Because I substituted “hitting for power” with “making a difference in the world.”   That makes five by my definition.

 

SMOKY: Well that’s great. All by yourself, you change the definition of “five tool player,” then expect folks to know what you’re talking about?… And what about “run?” Clemente stole four, five bases a season…. What you’re trying to say, Marion, is that the next great player has to also stand for something. Off the field. So why not just say that. (starts to work on the air-conditioner)

 

MARION: I will. I intend to. May I go on?… For awhile rumors abounded that Somoza had Clemente’s plane shot down.

 

SMOKY: Had a few other weaknesses, too, Clemente.

 

MARION: (gathering her stuff up) Okay, Smoky. Thanks. I’m leaving.

 

SMOKY: Had a very low on-base percentage for a star…. Gave pitchers a huge strike zone. Swung at everything. Had as few as 15 walks for a whole season sometimes.

MARION: Yah, well, he was on that plane when it left for Nicaragua, wasn’t he?

 

SMOKY: (turning back to the air-conditioner) Waste of a great man.

 

MARION: How can you say something like that?

 

SMOKY: Because I’d just like having him still around, that’s why. I miss him. We all miss him. No good reason for him to leave us behind like that. Baseball misses him, know what I mean?… That plane was not ready to fly. Had all sorts of warnings not to get on that stupid plane. (Marion now at the door) You keep lookin’ for perfection, you watch out, you’re gonna disappear right into that lookin’, seems like…. Just like your daddy did. Just like Roberto.

 

MARION: Somebody’s got to look for it.

SMOKY: And answer me this, Marion. If convictions is one of your new and improved five tools in this social history of baseball of yours, how come Curt Flood never gets even honorable mention? The man that broke the back of player-slavery in the Big Leagues.

 

MARION: Honorable mention?   I’ll tell you why. Read his autobiography…. The way he refers to women fans…. Is that how men of convictions talk?… Babes, chicks, lays, nymphos….

 

SMOKY: Aha! Now we’re getting’ down to the big brass tack, ain’t we.

 

MARION: No hero in my book. (starts to go)

 

SMOKY:   (following her out) Better tear up your collection of baseball cards, honey.   (shouting after her) Clemente’s too. If sex on the road is going to be a disqualifier all by itself. (grabs the morning newspaper) And what makes you think ballplayers oughta be better than other people? (comes stage front, opening paper, reading, talking to himself; in the weight room, Diego turns on the song, “Dinero.” … Decided to come home, did yah Gomez?… What you doing over there?

 

JUAN DIEGO’S VOICE:   Reading…. Thinking.

 

SMOKY: Yeah, I can smell the fumes all the way over here.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (turns off song, appears at weight room door) I was thinking. Take seven countries. Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Dominican, Columbia, Nicaragua, and Panama.   We could be a third major league.

 

SMOKY: Smoking them unfiltered cigarettes again, huh? (reading the paper) Third Major League. Now where have I heard that before?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Puerto Rico makes eight, if they want to join us.

 

SMOKY: Yeah, well, back on the farm we hauled that bullshit off in a wagon, son. Whitey’s had the best of your world up here for a long time now. Signed, sealed and delivered….   Chee-rist, listen to this. “How many more games Juan Diego Gomez will be wearing the Owls’ uniform this year is anybody’s guess. So why not treat yourself to an afternoon of home town baseball, and feast your eyes on the poetry in motion down around second base.”   Jesus, why don’t Marion just write you a love letter.   Save the column for sports.

 

JUAN DIEGO: If the best Latin players are already in America, how does Mexico beat the United States in the World Cup.

 

SMOKY:   One game, you’re talking about.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Two Big Leaguers on our team, cabron.   America had how many,… two dozen?   Stars like Roger Clemens.

 

SMOKY: Let me tell you how much America cares about this so-called World Cup game with Mexico. One shit…. Not two shits. One shit…..

 

JUAN DIEGO: Same when Cuba goes up to Baltimore and beats the Orioles, 12 to 6. Linares gets four hits. Best third baseman ever. Maybe you never heard of Omar Linares?

 

SMOKY: No. Maybe I ain’t. Maybe you never heard of Cool Papa Bell either? Judy Johnston. Mule Suttles. Yah want to play baseball history, how many games did black teams win, back in the barnstormin’ days, when we went face to face with white all-star teams, players like Bob Feller, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, that caliber? Well, I’ll tell yah. Three hundred to one hundred. Something along that order. Three to one. Didn’t mean a fuckin’ thing. Could’ve been raised in a city like Detroit or Chicago and never knew they had a Negro team in that town. (shakes the paper at him) Never saw a box score in the morning paper. Then, along about the time the Negro Leagues is about to make it big on their own, about to become the third major league, so to speak, Whitey skims the cream off the shit, gives a couple brothers spots on a Big League roster, Negro Leagues fold up like a broken accordion. All the blacks fans interested in now is how Jackie Robinson, Junior Gilliam, Larry Doby is doin’ up against the white boys.

 

JUAN DIEGO: The Negro Leagues showed us the way not to go, that’s all. We don’t have to run over that cliff again, that’s all.

 

SMOKY: You already done run over that cliff and don’t even know it.   A dozen Latinos on the San Diego Padres as we speak.

 

JUAN DIEGO:   Malinchistas. We just start without them.

 

SMOKY: You’re closin’ the barn after the horse has already escaped. Seven Venezuelans pitched on opening day this year. In the Big Leagues.

 

JUAN DIEGO: We got plenty left. You’ll see.

 

SMOKY: Bah. Nobody else out there thinking like you, cabron. Ain’t a Latino down there south of the border wouldn’t sacrifice his own mama for a shot at the Bigs…. And throw in his aunt Tia to seal the bargain.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Coyote says you played in the Negro Leagues, jeve?

 

SMOKY: Yeah. I took a turn in the Negro Leagues….   What d’yah think I’m talkin’ about. Something I don’t know.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You don’t look like a n—–

 

SMOKY: Like a what? Like A Negro. Do you think black’s a color, boy.   And I don’t care what shade of dark you are, you’re gonna go where the green is. You’re gonna live in the foldin’ green country when you got a choice. Look at you, already carousin’ around in your fancy threads, chasing skirts. Skirts cost money, boy. Even ole Satchel went where the skirts was. Think you’re better than LeRoy Satchel Paige?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Who’s Leroy Satchel Paige, boss?

 

SMOKY: (pause; then to the audience) You see what I mean. There’s a good piece of the problem, right there. The boy just said a mouthful. (back to Diego) The best pitcher that ever lived, that’s who Satchel Paige was. Another reformatory kid like you. Liked the girls a little too much, just like you. Liked to dress up and go dancing all night, show up at the ball park still wearing his fancy duds. Had a couple wives at a time on occasion – (to the audience) talk about “don’t look back.” (continues to the audience) And still won 2000 games with the Negro teams. But then you don’t hear about no Satchel Paige Award do you? Cy Young. What’d he win? 511. Wasn’t fit to tie Satch’s latchets. The old Scarecrow. Freak. Nigger. Got called ‘em all. Ole Black Magic, that’s the name he gave himself. Had names for all his pitches, too. His bee ball. Trouble ball. Bat dodger. The hesitation pitch. (snaps the picture up of Satchel with his leg up in the air) Swung his leg way up there over his head. Even Satch didn’t know, while that leg was comin’ down, when he was gonna let ‘er fly. Had batters swinging when the ball was still in his hand. Embarrassed some quality white hitters, with that hesitation pitch. (crosses to urinal) Before they outlawed it…. Nothin’ illegal about it, … you know, unless you wanta call imagination illegal…. Talent illegal, things like that.   Don’t get me goin’. (having trouble starting a flow, snaps up the picture of Paige receiving the rookie-of-the-year trophy) Sporting News rookie of the year at age 42. More like 46. Maybe 50. Nobody knew how old Satch was, not even Satch. One birthday in his mama’s bible, another in the courthouse records, another thing another place. (groans) One year, after the Orioles said he was too old to pitch, Satch threw148 games for Negro teams. How old’d you be if you don’t know how old you was, Satch said. Tossed 31 straight games one stretch. These young guys today and their precious arms. Four, five days between starts. Pitchin’ five, six innings to get what they’re now callin’ a “quality” outin’. In the old days, wouldn’t’ve qualified to carry Satch’s satchel. (groans)

 

JUAN DIEGO: (having appeared at the weight-room door during Smoky’s speech) You’re lost in the past, boss.

 

SMOKY: (surprised) Well, that’s where you arrive someday, kid. You caught the best pitcher to ever wrap his bony black fingers around a baseball, and a punk like you don’t know his name…. You’re ten out of first, (snaps the number 10 back up again) a month to play, season’s good as over, your life’s good as over, and still you gotta stand here five minutes just to take a piss. (releases, with ecstasy) So excuse me if I dwell on the past a second or two, for old time’s sake. (shaking himself, washing his hands, coming forward to audience) Hell, why bother the child with what he can’t know. Good he can’t know yet. Keeps him fresh. I kinda like havin’ him over there, even if he don’t know a chicken from an owl. (points to his head, rolls finger) Tell you the truth, I wish he had it in him to go ahead and stick it in them Big Boys’ ear.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (returning to weight-room) Your life’s not over until you die, wise jeve.

 

SMOKY: Well then there won’t be anymore dwellin’, will there.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Tia says it’s never over.

 

SMOKY: One world at a time, kid. One world at a time.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (from the weight room)  People need somebody to show them the way….   I could be the one that gets the ball rolling.

 

SMOKY: You really think you’re ornery enough to pass up this good life you’re about to get sat down to? Go ahead. Play it out in Mexico. If you got it in you. When you could be a rising star in America.   Money. Any girl you ever wanted. Fame. Livin’ like a movie star. Think you got that in you to pass that cup?… Get some sleep, kid. We got a game in a few hours. (exits into his office, as lights fade to black)

 

 

Scene 2 Lights immediately up. Jack and Marion out on the field, Jack in uniform, tuning guitar; Marion straddling a bench, typing. She is wearing an Owls hat.

 

JACK: In contract talks now, you ask for locker room privileges for your entourage,… your agent buddie, your trainer buddie, your lawyer buddie, your personal chef. (Marion sticks her finger in her mouth.) Well, you know all this. You had your little tour of duty up there. Beat reporter for a Big League team. Can’t get closer to the action than that.

 

MARION: Unless you’re a male beat reporter.

 

JACK: Then the writer becomes the story, the voice crying in the wilderness. “The steroids are coming. The steroids are coming.” The sky is falling.

 

MARION: Cute, Jack Dogg…. But what I said was, “The sky has already fallen.”…

 

JACK: Baseball wasn’t ready for the “S” word yet. (plays a discordant note) In 1999. You knew what would happen if you ran ahead of the pack.

 

MARION: Ahead of the herd, did you say?…. Frankly, Dogg, I’m surprised you followed my little “tour of duty” so closely.

 

JACK: Do you think I forgot you while I was up there in Dallas?… Maybe I tried.

 

MARION: A clean break was the best way.

 

JACK:   Sure. We agreed on that. Went our separate ways.

 

MARION:   Went our separate ways, indeed.

 

JACK: Don’t mean I forgot you. And now, here we are again in Laredo. You writing for the Times. Me playing for the Owls.

 

MARION: “Playing?” … You’ve been down here, what, since July 4th plucking “don’t give up.” Meanwhile, how many games have you played? Two? Three?

JACK: (touching her hair)   Maybe I’m not thinking only about baseball?   In that song.

 

MARION: Come on, Jack. I’m a busy woman. If I’m going to write a comeback piece on you, give me something to write about.

 

JACK: You know why I think you’re so angry. You’re angry because I went to Dallas without you…. And what you conveniently like to forget is I asked you to come with me.

 

MARION: Not really. Not with all your heart.

 

JACK: God, you can be impossible.   You’re the one who chose to go to Phoenix.

 

MARION: I was following my calling, just like you.

 

JACK: Maybe if you’d’ve came with me, things would have be different right now.

 

MARION: (glaring at him, then looking at watch, sitting back down at her computer) I don’t have a ton of time this morning, Dogg…. Where were we?… Oh yes, the entourage thing…. I assume you had all that “sick” stuff too. The handler. The lawyer. The agent. So on. So forth…. How was Coyote as an agent, anyway?

 

JACK: I’m sure you know all about it.

 

MARION: He says he got you there and you dumped him.

 

JACK: He got me there. Right. Can Coyote hit a hard slider on the outside corner?…   And even if he did “get me there,” getting you there’s only half of an agent’s game. Your name’s up in lights a helava short time. He’s gotta get it connected to something. A coffee. An aftershave.

 

MARION: (writing) a coffee, an aftershave, … a box of Wheaties.

 

JACK: Wheaties? That’s major star category. But if you’re at least a regular, you start up a bar, a restaurant, a charity. Coyote could never get fired up for that part. Up there, you’re not a just ballplayer anymore. You’re a portfolio.

MARION: (holding up a hand to slow him down, writing) not … a ballplayer.… a … portfolio…. What charity did you champion? I forgot.

 

JACK:   It was a woman’s shelter, actually.

 

MARION:   No wonder I forgot. God, it’s just breathtaking.

 

JACK: What are you writing? (trying to see) You’re going to be kind, aren’t you?

 

MARION: (blocking his view) Kind? Come on, Jack. Grow up.

 

JACK: You know I’ve been burned a few times. Reporters aren’t exactly in love with the players these days, are they?… Not too hard to figure that one out. (grabs a bat, takes half swings in front of the mirror)   What we take home compared to you. We had a third string catcher for the Rangers making 500k…. What you don’t see is how those big salaries come back and bite you in the butt someday.

 

MARION: Oh, cry me a river. You really became one of them, didn’t you?

 

JACK: What? A Major Leaguer. Yeah, I made it to the show. Is that what you’re mad about? That my day in the sun was bigger than yours. You’d take that away from me.

 

MARION: What did you have that I want?

 

JACK: I wish I knew. But something, I think.

 

MARION: Forget it, Jack….. You got too comfortable. All these people sucking up to you. Managing your public image… Managing your cheating…. Yeah, you heard me. Suddenly Jack Dogg’s in the 30/30 club. See Jack run. See Jack burst down to second base. See the ball jump off Jack’s bat. What was your home run high in the minor leaguers? 10?

 

JACK: 12, 13.

 

MARION: It was 10. Then it’s 30. Then the bulk turns to fat. Your hat goes up a couple sizes…. I’m not kidding. Look. I found this Owls hat of yours in the back of my closet yesterday. (tosses it to him) Sorry, it’s got a few tear stains on it. A little snot where I blew my nose once, but it’s been dried up a long time. Try it on…. Anobalic-steroids, was it?… You weren’t good enough to make it on your own?

 

JACK: Oh, I was good enough, you know that. If no one else was cheating.

 

MARION: Ah! If everybody cheats, it’s all somehow fair again.

 

JACK: Something like that…. Trouble is,… don’t write this down, okay,… Conseco, Caminetti, these guys tell it like it is…. This is off the record. Agreed? Steroids raise your game a whole level, sometimes two. Minor leaguers become major leaguers. Bench warmers become regulars. Regulars become stars. Stars become something we ain’t seen before. If a player don’t “enhance his performance,” so to speak, he’s not gonna make it.

 

MARION:   You sold out, Jack…. But that’s off the record, too, isn’t it.

 

JACK: You know, life must be hard for you, Marion – being perfect and all.

 

MARION: Oh, turn it back on me. I have the problem. As if my asking overpaid, privileged baseball players not to cheat is some old-fashioned idealism.

 

JACK: I’m getting myself clean again, but you don’t notice that part of me at all.

MARION: You all want to clean up after it’s too late. (closes computer) There’s no comeback here. You pissed your life away and now you want someone — me, since I’m handy — to catch you on your way down. (as she starts back into the locker room )

 

JACK: (following) Reporters. You became another one of them, didn’t you. You can’t hit. You can’t field. But oh do you know right from wrong from your little press box up there above it all…. And then, lo and behold, don’t I read that while you were up in Phoenix, you used the “s” word on a guy who wasn’t using steroids at all. (She stops in her tracks; turns) You’re not better than me, Marion. You wanted to make the “team” just like I did. You did what you thought you had to do.

 

MARION: The guy was juiced, all right.

 

JACK: But you didn’t know for sure at the time. And that’s what got you fired.

 

MARION: If I had had the same clubhouse access as male reporters, Jack Dogg, I’d have had the proof I needed.

 

JACK: Peeking in the lockers, you mean.

 

MARION: Do you think that bottle of androsten in Maguire’s locker was there because that “male reporter” wanted to see it.

 

JACK: I do. I believe that’s half of it, at least. But you made flat out speculations that hurt a person. Hurt the game.

 

Marion puts her hand over Jack’s mouth, gives him a long hug, just as Juan Diego enters, holding a book, still dressed to the nines. He looks at Jack and Marion hugging.

 

JACK: So. What was that?

 

MARION: That was the good-bye hug we never gave each other. It’s over, Jack. Give up. On us. I’ve gone on. There’s ten years inside me you weren’t there.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Smoke. I thought the new rule was no reporters in the locker room before games. (walks to the training table, lies down, starts reading)

 

SMOKY: (on his way from his office to the shower with a tub of dishes; as Jack takes a seat in his office) Come on. Marion. Out. The guys are starting to show up.

 

MARION: (holding back a flood of emotions) Smoky!… You promised you’d help me with my presentation.

 

SMOKY: The presentation again already? Look, I gotta wash my dishes, okay….   Yeah, I gotta do my dishes like the next guy…. You know, honey, you’re probably a dollar late and a day short on this history of baseball thing anyway. This Kenneth Burns fellah has already did like twenty-four hours of this stuff.   How you plan to compete with that?

 

MARION: I’ll start by leaving out the 99 renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Christ. Are you confusing what I’m doing with that peanuts and crackerjacks pablum?

 

SMOKY:   Later, okay. Give the boys some privacy. (comes forward to audience) Reminds me more of her Daddy every day. Déjà vu all over again. Hard headed. Some folks just never learn who they are, it seems. If ole Coze’d played his cards right, could have been a bonafide Big Leaguer. In ’53, when the Orioles told Satch and me our services wouldn’t be needed over in Baltimore next year, Coze says guess they wouldn’t be needin’ his services either. They had him penciled in for a starter, but that’s the kind of man he was. Drifts down to the Islands instead, Santa Dominica, Havana, San Juan, Puerto Rico – hell, even I don’t where all Cozy’s been. Then out of nowhere, years later, he shows up in Laredo one day, barely the shirt on his back. Has this beautiful malota lady beside him, and a little girl. He’s found the one. She’s perfect, he says. And it was perfection for awhile, I do believe, but Coze just wasn’t built for ordinary perfection. One night he slides across the border into Nuevo Laredo and never came home. Aguascalientes, last anybody heard of him. (exits into the shower room with his dishes)

 

MARION: (looks for a few seconds at Diego) What are you reading over there? (He ignores her.) Why so cold, Diego?

 

JUAN DIEGO: (sits up) Listen to this. “Self-discovery is above all the realization that we are alone…. We sense our aloneness almost as soon as we are born.…”

 

MARION:   Sounds like a guilty conscience speaking.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (proudly) My countryman. Octavio Paz. “The Labyrinth of Solitude.”

 

MARION: We aren’t born alone. We make ourselves alone. That’s real self-discovery.

 

JUAN DIEGO:   I guess you must know more than this guy?   Won the Nobel Prize.

 

MARION: I’m not too interested in prizes…. Are you?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Better not try to figure me out, Marion. I live on one side of the river. You live on the other side.

 

MARION: No, Juan Diego. You live in the river. And you’re going to drown in it. For a minute there, you had me thinking you were different. Now look at you. Dressing like a pimp. Driving Coyote’s Buick all over town (walking to his locker) “Father, take this cup away!” (opens locker)

 

JUAN DIEGO: Cuidado Marion. (gets off table, approaches her) You know, in Mexico, it’s rude to overhear a man’s prayers. Very dangerous.

 

MARION: (looks at pictures, one a photo, one iconic, hanging on the inside of the door. A soft light emanates from within the locker.)  One minute you’re talking about playing ball for your own country, because you don’t care about money. Next minute you’re signing your soul away. And now you want to act like you never drank the cup. I thought you might be different there for a minute…. And one of these must be Tia Lupe. Which?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Both of them.

 

MARION: She comes in pairs, does she?… You got some black magic going on in here? (digs in the locker a bit) Some magic realism? What do you imagine your Tia Lupes are feeling when they see you bending your knees with Coyote?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Close the locker, Marion.

 

MARION: Any more Lupes in here?… If two can be one, why not three. Maybe I’m Tia Lupe, too, and you don’t know it yet.   Maybe Tia Lupe has to speak to you through me now. On this side of the river. Because I’ve been wanting so badly to talk to you, Diego. (closes locker) You don’t answer your phone. You turn away when I approach…. I don’t need to be your agent. I’m only trying to warn you. Follow Coyote, you end up Dogg.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Jack’s okay. We like each other now.

 

MARION:   Sure. I can see it all the way from the press box. The two amigos. Blowing bubbles in the dug-out…. Spitting pumpkin seeds together.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Are you jealous? Sounds like you might be jealous. Don’t worry, I like girls. I don’t won’t steal your Jack away from you. Ha!

 

MARION: We can do better, you and I. I didn’t understand you at first, but now I’m looking right at you, Diego. You’ve got something big in you. (crossing to Diego, hands him a sack) I want you to have this.

 

JUAN DIEGO: It’s a baseball.

 

MARION: Not any baseball. Read what’s on it.

 

JUAN DIEGO: To Marionita…. Make a difference…. Roberto.

 

MARION: My father gave it to me. On my fourth birthday…. It was the last time I saw him. I’m giving it to you.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (handing it back) A Roberto Clemente. Signed to you.   I can’t.

 

Marion erases her name, and replaces it with Juan Diego.

 

JUAN DIEGO: What are you doing?

 

MARION: To Juan Diego…. Make a difference. Roberto…. He’d want you to have it. I’m looking right at you, Diego.   You’ve got intelligence. Values. I mean, usually a player who reads good books is barely average on the field….   I’m making myself vulnerable to you, don’t you understand. If you’re going to make a difference, you’ve got to have somebody on this side of the river who knows how you think. Works beside you.   Protects your heart. You can’t be making stupid choices this early in the game…. (Coyote enters; Marion exits around him.) When will I see you again?       (Lights down)

 

 

Scene 3 Lights up on Smoky and Jack coming into the office.  

 

SMOKY: Sit down. Sit down. Don’t get your dandruff all up and agitated…. Just where t’ hell do you propose I play you. Bench Diego? Huh? Sit Diego down?… Maybe if you’d done a better coaching job, Diego’d be already playing up in Arlington by now and I’d have a spot to put you in.

 

JACK:   Put me in at shortstop.

 

SMOKY: Shortstop. You was already a step and a half slow for shortstop ten years ago.

 

JACK: Right field then, Centerfield. I don’t care. Play me, Smoke. I’ll never make it back to the Bigs picking splinters out of my ass. A deal’s a deal. It’s time.

 

SMOKY:   Maybe it’s time to let it go of the Big Leagues, Jack Dogg.   Maybe that’s what time it is. Us ball players have grow old twice. That’s our curse. So you’re in the cursed place now. Welcome. You’re growing old for the first time. Wanta change places with me.

 

JACK: You saying I’m over the hill?

 

SMOKY: Hell no. I’m over the hill. You’re in … you’re in the twilight of your prime, son.   You can still play ball. We both know that. But you’re costing the Big Boys too goddamn much money. You get to your age, you hit 260, you’re worth a couple million, you hit 245, you’re worth nothin’. It’s a fine line

 

JACK:   Yah, well I’m ready to play for less now.

 

SMOKY: But it don’t work that way, kid…. Once somebody don’t want you anymore, seems like everybody don’t want you. Right away. We all go through it.   But there’s a silver lining in this cloud when you stop and think a Josh Gibson took the big wink at just your age now. Gehrig. A lot of ‘em did…. And you still got one more life comin’.

 

JACK: Nice, Smoke. Regular hot stove league poetry. As always from you. But back to business, the deal was I coach Diego second base, you keep me in game playing shape.

 

SMOKY: I hope you got that wrote down someplace, because them ain’t my marchin’ orders anymore…. Christ, face it, Doggie. You’re a coach now, is what you are. That’s a new beginning. It’s something you can build on.

 

JACK: (pause, thinking at the window, looking out at Juan Diego and Coyote) Okay. I’m a coach then. Let’s build on it…. Tell the Big Boys you think I can bring young J.D. along quicker playing right along beside him,… out there on the field, in game situations.

 

SMOKY:   I can tell ‘em, but I can tell you, they ain’t gonna go for it.

 

JACK: Stand up to ‘em, Smoke.   I’m playin’ or I’m packin’.

 

SMOKY: I just hope you got someplace waitin’ for you out there where you can unpack.

 

JACK: I’ll play in Mexico if I have to.

 

SMOKY:   … And who says Mexico’s gonna want you?

 

JACK: Juan Diego says.

 

SMOKY: Well, Juan Diego’s got his head up his ass about eighteen inches on this one. Normally it’s only about twelve inches.

 

JACK: Put me in, Smoke…. Or I’m outta here. And I’ll take Diego with me. How do you like them road apples?

 

Smoky takes the clip board off wall; contemplates; writes Dogg’s name into the lineup; walks out of his office, forward to the audience.  

 

SMOKY: Well, maybe I could use a little seventh inning stretch. (stands in front of a floor fan, his arms outstretched) Ah, that feels good, just to relax a minute, cool down. God you could fry your breakfast on the sidewalk down here in late August. But it ain’t only the temperature that’s heatin’ up these days in Laredo. (comes forward to the audience) Maybe Coyote was right after all, about Dogg runnin’ the show, because after I put him in at short — where it all started for him down here, ten years ago — damn if we didn’t start to win. Swept Corpus Christi in their own house. Shocked’em. (clicks the numbers from 10 to 7) Jack’s no all-star shortstop, but it ain’t no accident neither that he played in the Bigs. I had Diego brush him up on some of the fine points white boys don’t learn nowadays and suddenly we’re solid up the middle. Solid up the middle wins ball games. Don’t hurt neither that Marion’s up in San Antonio checkin’ out that job. Gives the boys a chance to concentrate. Don’t go home early, because we could get right back in this thing. (returns to office, starts working on the air-conditioner as lights fade)

 

 

Scene 4   Lights up on Diego and Dogg in front of their lockers.  

 

JUAN DIEGO: You see how your ball sailed on you yesterday…. On the relay throw. Because you didn’t put your fingers across the seams. Almost cost us the game, gringo.

 

JACK: That play was bang bang. I didn’t have time to hunt for seams.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Bang bang safe. Because your throw is up here…. Look, you don’t have to think about it. Your fingers find the seams while your arm is cocking…. And on the double play…. Sorry. Throw me the ball. You’re taking half a step you don’t need…. I can’t even do it how you do it…. And look. I like to throw almost underhanded to first. Maybe you hit one guy in the face, trying to take you out, but the next guy slides away from you. Saves a lot of errors in the long run.

 

JACK DOGG: What does the Holy Virgin think of that? Hitting a guy in the face?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Fuck you, Jack Dogg. You know what I mean? (not looking at him; the two not looking at each other further in this scene) Marion wants me to pick her up at the airport…. When she flies in from San Antonio?

 

JACK: … So?   Is this my business? (working on underhand throw, Diego feeding him)

 

JUAN DIEGO: I’m just telling you…. Maybe the two of you are still working things out.

 

JACK: Knock yourself out, kid. Me and Marion are on the Permanent Disabled List.   She’s gone on without me.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I don’t know about that…. I like talking to her, that’s all.

 

JACK: Ah, you like her mind.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Yes.

 

JACK: You ain’t the first. (Lights out.)

 

Scene 5 Lights up in office; Marion sorting slides as Smoky clicks numbers down, 6, 5, 4

 

MARION: All I told them was I needed a few days to think about it.

 

SMOKY: Bad mistake…. Very bad mistake, Marion.

 

MARION: You always hurt my feelings, Smoky. Why don’t you want me to finish the season with you guys?   We’ve got a shot at winning this thing.

 

SMOKY: Four games out, four to play. Pretty long shot, I’d say.

 

MARION:   Three days ago we were seven out, seven to play.

 

SMOKY: (starts to work on air-conditioner) Take the job. Before the job ain’t there to take anymore…. and you come to the end of the road with nothing, like your old man.

 

MARION: The Owls are my team right now.   I don’t care about San Antonio.

SMOKY: Oh, we’re your team, are we?… Why haven’t you been writing about your “team” then, if we’re so important.

 

MARION: What are you talking about?   The Owls are my story every column.

 

SMOKY: You don’t write about the Owls if you never mention Jack Dogg. Playing shortstop. Where he started out ten years ago. Playin’ like a kid again. I know the kinds of stories you love to tell?   We’re 19 and 4 since I put him in the line-up…. I’ve been waiting to read a little piece about it in the Morning Times.

 

MARION:   We’re 19 and 4 thanks to Juan Diego.

 

SMOKY: Fact is, there’s some real baseball chemistry goin’ on down there with the old keystone combination. All-star quality. That caliber. Teamwork. Diego’s half of it, Jack’s the other half. Sometimes it takes two. And if Jack has a chance in hell to get called back up in September, he needs a little press from you.

 

MARION: Jack has no chance in hell….

 

SMOKY: And Hell has no fury like a woman spurned….   That’s from the Bible.

 

MARION: … Shakespeare.

 

SMOKY:   Wake up, Marion. The Big Boys are ready to let you back in. They made you pay, but now they’re givin’ you another chance. And that’s a chance Jack Dogg ain’t probably gonna get, even with your help. But give ‘im his due. Squeeze a little space for him, you know what I’m sayin’. (Lights down.)

 

 

Scene 6. Lights up on Jack and Diego on the field; Coyote, sitting in the bleachers.

 

JUAN DIEGO: When you field the slow roller, before the ball arrives, your hand should already be moving back, just an inch or two. It’s softer that way.   You’re not boxing at it. And you’ve already started your throw. It’s all the time you’ve got at short.

 

JACK: Jesus, Diego. Don’t you think I know this already? After ten years in the Bigs?

 

JUAN DIEGO: You know it, but you’re wound too tight. At short, you have to be loose. Like a cat…. You’re still fielding the ball like a second baseman…. Like an American.

 

JACK: (noticing Coyote) What’s he doing out here?

 

JUAN DIEGO: At second base, you can think. You can knock the ball down, step on it, pick it up and still throw the guy out….   At shortstop you have to be perfect.

 

JACK:   So what? Nobody’s looking at Dogg Donovan anymore. (takes Diego aside) I’ve been thinking about Mexico, Diego. You could speak to somebody down there, about me, like you said? Not as a shortstop. A second baseman, I’m saying….

 

JUAN DIEGO: Seems like the Mexican League isn’t looking at former Big Leaguers anymore…. A gringo taking a Mexican kid’s place.   Not very popular these days….

 

JACK: But didn’t you tell me … ?

 

JUAN DIEGO: There could be a spot opening in Aguascalientes. But you should know that’s the end of the road,… in the Mexican Leagues. People are amazed the Railroaders are still hanging on, in little Aguascalientes. Playing against Mexico City, Monterrey, Saltillo, Tijuana,… the big market teams….

 

JACK: They would pay me, right?…. I’ve got my pride, you know.

 

JUAN DIEGO: A little. Enough to eat. They’re in a lot of trouble, Dogg. May not make it through the year, Tia says…. Actually we’ve already talked about you. Former Big Leaguer. Couldn’t hurt.

 

JACK: What’s Tia got to do with it

 

JUAN DIEGO: She’s part owner now. She bought shares with my bonus money.

 

JACK: Your Tia Lupe, a nun, owns the Aguascalientes Railroaders!

 

JUAN DIEGO: She’d consider you if we came together. And down there we would play our right positions. We could turn Aguascalientes around, just like we’re doing here.

 

JACK: Don’t be a fool. The scouts are coming this week-end. You’re getting the call up for sure this time.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Nothing’s for sure.

 

JACK: You’re gonna screw up on purpose again? Come on. You gotta find out what you’re made out of in this world, kid. Against the best.   Don’t be scared to face the test.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Marion says the three of us should go together…. Say “to hell” to the Big Leagues.

 

JACK: Ah! Marion. I should have known….

 

JUAN DIEGO: She would write a book about us: taking the game back to the people. Playing for the fans, again. The real fans.

 

JACK: I guess there’s been a lot of talking going on I ain’t been in on. (pause) There’s one more thing to consider…. How do you do this to Smoke, when he’s got a chance to win a pennant, in his last season ever….

 

JUAN DIEGO: What chance?

 

JACK: It ain’t over till it’s over, pal. And what about the fans. In case you didn’t notice, we’ve been gettin’ some crowds lately.

 

JUAN DIEGO: We’d have to win Friday, Saturday, sweep the double header Sunday. Then still win a play-off game. All against Corpus Christi.   These guys are good.

 

JACK: We swept ‘em a couple weeks ago.

 

JUAN DIEGO: We caught them by surprise. They’ll be ready for us this time.

 

JACK: Tell you what?… If we got no chance, play your best, and leave it to the Holy Virgin…. (sees Coyote encroaching) You wouldn’t be listenin’ in on a private conversation, would you, Coyote. Players only, if you don’t mind.

 

COYOTE: I’m not here to see you, Dogg.

 

JACK: Don’t matter who you’re here to see.   You’re on the ball field.

 

COYOTE: I’ll talk to you later, kid. Call me. I’ve got big news. Very big news….

 

JACK: You don’t belong.

 

COYOTE: Back off, Jack. (to Diego) Big Boys are flying in. As we speak.     Lights out.  

 

Scene 7. Lights up in office. Smoky runs in, stage front, and snaps the numbers down from four to one.

 

SMOKY:   We were four games out, and then three, we were three games out and the we were two, we were two games out and then we were one.

 

Smoky exits, to sounds of an exciting ball game, crowds cheering, a radio announcer calling a triple, then a home run, an Owls win. A zero flashes up on the screen. Smoky and Coyote enter wildly celebrating” As they near the air-conditioner, a loud boom, smoke. Smoky goes into his office, inspects the air-conditioner.

 

SMOKY: Look, Coyote. The damned air-conditioner’s working!  (Lights out.)

 

 

Scene 8. Next day. Lights up on Coyote, stage front, talking on his cell, working his calculator. Smoky watching it all from his office window.  

 

COYOTE: Look, I hope you guys aren’t going to disenchant this kid to save yourself a paltry few grand…. We’re in a delicate moment, and you’re talking petty cash and travel money…. I’m aware you don’t “generally” pay bonuses for September call-ups. (waves to Smoky to join him) But weren’t we two minutes ago talking about your second goddamn baseman of the future. So it’d be in your best interest, I believe, if we cut to the chase or you may find the kid playing back in Mexico. He gets funny ideas sometimes…. Okay, that’s sounding a little more promising. I’ll tell him what’s on the table, and we’ll talk again in an hour. (turns phone off, gives Smoky thumbs up) 50 grand, and I’ll wager you a 100 dollars there’s another 50 grand in the cash box, if we’re just a little bit patient.

 

SMOKY: Don’t play it too cool, Coyote. You don’t always gotta go for more.

 

COYOTE: (takes out his calculator again; punches numbers) We can’t all be jocks, Smoke. This is where I’m the Big Leaguer. Bluffing the Big Boys.  

 

SMOKY:   I’ve been witness to the time or two those bluffs exploded in your face.

 

COYOTE: The kid was ready to take the chicken feed they were paying him down here.

 

SMOKY: Chicken feed is it?   More’n I made playing baseball my whole life.

 

COYOTE: Meal money, Smoke. Next year, we’ll be talking seven figures. Two years from now, the kid puts the long ball in his tool chest, eight figures…. I’m way cranked.

 

SMOKY: (walking back to office) You’re counting a lot of eggs as a lot of chicks here.

 

COYOTE: (following him) Exciting times, Smoke-man. Last of the ninth. Couple runs behind. I’m up to bat. Bases loaded. (thumps his heart, points to the sky, swings)   Boom!

 

SMOKY: Well, if you don’t mind, take your little home run trot outside. I’ve got a line-up to figure out, back down here on earth.

 

COYOTE: Sure. Sure, Smoke. I’m flying high. It’s important they win this thing for you…. One for the old Gipper, huh. A fitting ending.   Play-off game for the pennant…. Last game ever in the Lone Star League.   No way the boys won’t win for you today…. The way they’re playing, you don’t even need Diego in the line-up, do you?

 

SMOKY: (grumbling) Like hell I don’t….. Explain this…. Cool air. The goddamned thing’s working, now that we won’t be needing it anymore.

 

COYOTE: You should retire after you win this thing today. Go on the lecture circuit. Here’s a guy, you, played in the Bigs, caught the great Satchel Paige, barnstormed in Texas, Mexico, managed the Owls here at the end of the world. Did a helava job everywhere you went.

 

SMOKY: Coyote, stop worrying about me, will yah. You’re making me nervous.

 

COYOTE: I’m not worried about you. We’re in a whole new ballgame now. What did A-Rod make for the Rangers? 252 million?   There’s no more worrying.   Mi casa es su casa. Always…. Look, if we get a big lead,… if the game’s in the bag, sit Diego down, okay.   We’re carrying precious cargo now.   No sense in aggravating that ankle…. And take him out in the middle of an inning. Let the fans show their appreciation.

 

SMOKY: Out, Coyote, dammit.   We’re playing for the pennant today.

 

COYOTE: You can be greeting him in front of the dug-out, with a Ranger cap. Why not? No everyday event, a kid jumps from Class A to the Bigs. (looks at watch) Where t’ hell’s Diego? We got to call back Mr. General Manager. Mr. Big Shot. You should hear talkin’ to me like I’m a rookie or something. He’ll find out….   Where t’fuck’s Diego?

 

SMOKY: He’s out taking some ground balls with Jack Dogg.

 

COYOTE: Taking some ground balls! Am I the only one who knows the score around here? These are a big couple of hours were living in. I’m negotiating the tone of all the kid’s future contracts. Think big. A star is being born. (Jack Dogg enters the locker room, hanging his head.) Changes everything…. Where’s Diego, Jack Dogg.

 

JACK: He’s saying good-bye to Marion.

 

COYOTE: Christ. Even worse. What am I? A prince among fools.   You don’t have to be a goddamn genius to know a couple things—- dials his phone) Not answering…. Where the goddamn common sense around here, Smoke?         (Lights out.)

 

 

Scene 9.   Lights up on Marion and Diego, sitting on the work- out area bleachers.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You think I’m doing this for money?… You should know me better.

 

MARION: Are you so easy to know, Juan?   No Omar Linares here, it turns out.

 

JUAN DIEGO: How could I let Smoke down? I had to play my best…. It’s only for September. Then next year we join Jack Dogg and Tia down in Aguascalientes.

 

MARION: I’ve never been a true believer in next year, Diego.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Next year the Sultans will owe the Rangers nothing. And nobody will ever be able to say I couldn’t make it in the Bigs…. It’s better this way. We’re delayed, that’s all. We do it next year…. Come with us.

 

MARION: Coyote’s your agent. What would I be to you up there?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Be my secretary. Be my inspiration. Do you need a name. Be my friend. You said so yourself. I need someone on this side of the river who knows my heart.

 

MARION: I’m not sure I’m that person anymore, Juan.

 

JUAN DIEGO: You don’t believe in me anymore?

 

MARION: I don’t disbelieve in you, either. I just don’t know. And what about Jack Dogg. We just send him packing to Aguascalientes by himself?

 

JUAN DIEGO: Go with Jack Dogg then…. I knew you still loved him.

 

Marion’s phone rings. Lights up in the Smoke’s office; Coyote on Smoke’s wall phone.

 

MARION:   Hi Smoky?…   Why are you calling me on my cell, Coyote?

 

COYOTE: Sorry to bother you, but I have to talk to Diego. It’s very important.

 

JUAN DIEGO: (accepting the phone from Marion’s stiffly held out hand)   Bueno.

 

COYOTE:   News, J.D. 50 grand. Another 50 if my hunch is correct. But they want you for tonight’s game. We have to leave in a half hour. I told ‘em we were playing for pennant down here tomorrow, but what do you think. How’s that ankle feeling, anyway?

 

JUAN DIEGO: I can’t talk to you right now.

 

COYOTE: Look, son. Come inside. We got business to discuss….   Hung up on me.

 

 

Scene 10. Locker area, Smoky standing near Jack, who’s head rests on his bat, as in the beginning.      

 

SMOKY: Didn’t happen, Jack…. For a minute there, we had’em thinkin’…. Oh yeah,   Couldn’t see Diego out there without seein’ the two of you together. Trouble is, big boys get an idea in their head. A man’s age. It’s a formula up there now. Slide-rule baseball. Hell, if Satch had went out of baseball at 36, he’d’ve missed his best years. Where do you go from here, kid?

 

JACK:   I go to Aguascalientes….   Diego says they have a spot for me….

 

SMOKY: You go down there. He comes up here. (laughing) All that “playing in his own country.” (sees Diego’s locker open) Feed my sheep, huh?… I knew he’d decide for the Bigs Leagues, when the time came….

 

JACK:   Made the choice he had to. How’s a guy gonna live with himself if he don’t put hisself up against the best?… He’ll be okay up there…. He’ll get into it.

 

SMOKY: Made the choice he wanted to.   He didn’t want to want to, but he wanted to….

But you two were something else together. All month. Even if we lose this play-off game today, it’s the best season ever. Now and then the magic still happens for a little while. (Lights out.)

 

 

Scene 11. Lights up on Juan Diego and Marion on the practice field. Coyote watching in the distance.

 

JUAN DIEGO: I’m giving this back to you.

 

MARION: And I’m taking it…. You see… We already know it’s over.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Anyway, look. To Juan Diego. Make a difference…. It’s the same handwriting. You’re not a very good forger, Marion.

 

MARION: It’s what he would have said. I just said it for him….

 

COYOTE: Oh. Here you are….   What do you think of our boy here, Marion? A major leaguer. Has a nice sound to it, doesn’t it. Major Leaguer. (to Diego) Smoke says to come in and get that ankle rubbed down, plus we got to talk, kid. There’s money on the table.   They want to start you in tonight’s game.

 

JUAN DIEGO: They want me to start? Tonight?

 

COYOTE: This is it, kid. You’re train’s arriving. And this is only the beginning…. Of course, I haven’t said yes yet. I told them I had to talk to you first, but—-

 

JACK: (appearing suddenly) Hey, you still don’t get it, do you. Only players on the field.

 

COYOTE:   I think Jack Dogg’s talking to you, Marion…. Just leaving, Jack. Relax…. Don’t take it out on me they didn’t call you back up…. I’m not your problem here.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Coyote…. Be quiet for a minute. (looks at Jack, shrugs)   Tia Lupe will be waiting for you…. At the bus station.

 

JACK:   Hey. Stand up straight. You’re doing the right thing….

 

COYOTE: Listen to your friend, Diego.   Let’s go now.

 

JUAN DIEGO: Am I, Dogg? Am I doing the right thing?

 

JACK: You’re doing what everybody’d do in your place.

 

JUAN DIEGO: But I’m not everybody.

 

JACK: Yeah, you are, Diego. That’s the thing you gotta learn. Go for it. (walks off stage right)    

 

COYOTE: (seeing Juan Diego wavering) Don’t listen to him, kid. (as he leads him off, stage left)   He’s messin’ with your head… See, you’re limping…. We’re leaving, right. You’ve got to tell me now. (lights fading as they exit, Coyote’s voice trailing off)   You’re not going to play here today, I hope to hell, with what we got on the line.      (Lights out; Marion standing alone in the middle of the stage)  

 

 

Scene 12. Lights up with Smoky sitting on the bench in front of the lockers, his ear to a portable radio. Across the stage someone is lying on his back on the training table, but at this point it is not clear who. A ball game has just finished.   Smoky turns the radio off.

SMOKY: (to the sleeping person) You hear that?… Rangers 4, Yankees 3. Swept both ends of the twin bill, right in the Babe’s own house…. (to the audience) The house that Babe built…. You awake over there. (stands up, lights a cigar, approaches the audience) Well, I know you’re wonderin’ who won that playoff game between the Owls and Corpus Christi. Last game ever in the Lone Star League. (snaps up a +1 on the screen) Diego, three for five, one inside the park home run. Played like a man possessed. Steals home in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. On that bad ankle, to boot. And Jack Dogg, a solid game, two rope singles to center, three or four Major League plays at second base…. Yeah, you heard me. Second base. When the team trots onto the field top of the first, Dogg goes to second and Diego takes short.   I didn’t tell’em to, but I didn’t stop’em either. The Big Boys come running down to the dugout, all hot and bothered. What are they gonna do? Fire me…. And then we see the way it’s supposed to be. One play, Diego picks up a hard grounder way behind second, almost in centerfield, shuffles the ball behind his back to Dogg without taking it out of his glove. (mimics that move, and the next) Dogg takes the ball in his bare hand, and in the same motion throws to first. They were colorful, let’s say. It just goes to show, a man has a right position out there. Babe Ruth If he’d’ve stayed a pitcher, even if he turned out the best pitcher ever, he would’ve never been the Babe.

They’re turning the clubhouse here into a sports museum, I tell you that.… Offered me job of caretaker. Nothing all that big to take care of. Signed bats and balls. Plaques of all the famous players that came from Texas, or played in Texas, like Nolan Ryan, A-Rod. The Lone Star Hall of Fame. Memorabilia. I’ll put a couple of Satch things in. He came through Texas a couple times. Hell ole Satchel pitched in every state in the union once or twice, including all them providences up in Canada.

Marion gave me her Daddie’s baseball card, to put in the baseball card display.   Caretaker slash night watchman, that’ll be my new job description. Sleep’s still free. “Sleep’s free. Sleep’s free. Remember how Diego used to like to say that, as if he’s the one thought it up, but I knew sleep was free before Diego was born. Back in the barnstormin’ days, the clubhouse was always our favorite place to sleep, if we could get in. And there wasn’t a barn available. And we generally could find a way. Speaking of Diego, he got five hits today in that Ranger-Yankee double header. Second baseman of the future, that’s what the Dallas papers are calling him. Tell you the truth, I’m half-way happy to think he won’t end like that Linares character he always wanted to talk about. What for? I think about guys like Satch or Josh Gibson. Or Cool Papa Bell. Judy Johnston. My own grand-daddy. All them players that got half buried, never properly recognized. I know, they got some of ‘em infested in the Cooperstown thing, finally, but they’re always gonna be a side car to history of the game. Gave body and soul to pave the way for a guy like Juan Diego, and then he comes along and thinks he’s gonna flip the bird to the history of baseball, the record book, all that.

 

Coyote, who’s been lying inconspicuously on his back on the training table wakes up.

 

COYOTE: Where are we, Smoke?

 

SMOKY: It’s okay, Coyote…. You’re having a bad dream. Go back to sleep, fellah. (Coyote settles down; Smoky back to the audience)  I’ll try’n talk a little softer now. Coyote’s going through a little confused period. Hell, he’s always going to be the kind of person that never understands what happened to him…. But he won’t be hanging around Laredo long. No museum life for Coyote just yet….   Jack Dogg, either. Dogg’s hitting 345 down there in Aguascaliente. I remember that ballpark. Satch and me and Cozy slept in that clubhouse a few times, barnstormin’ Mexico back in the 50’s. Same intimate little stadium, the way Marion describes it.

Marion took that San Antonio job, did I tell you that? First time she ever listened to me. Tell you the truth, I figure she went up to San Antonio to keep an eye on Diego. Then every time she gets a couple days off, what’s she do but fly down to Aguscalientes.   Says she’s writing a book about Dogg’s comeback, but I suspect there’s some special meaning she’s putting on that word. Jack ain’t gonna play in the Bigs again, they both know that. All us players think we still got another chance, long after the fact. Even I dream of getting called up again some day. No, what’s going on exactly between her and Dogg is anybody’s guess. (taking a letter out of his pocket) Listen to what he wrote me. “You put me in, Smoke. Now I’m the one to say when it’s over. Not somebody telling me.” At least he’s not down there changing the world. Mighty big world out there to think you’re gonna change it. Change yourself’s about all a man has time for. And not even that. Unless changin’ yourself means taking yourself for who you already are. (phone rings) Marion. She calls me about after every Ranger game now that they’re making a run for the pennant themselves. Race is so hot, lately they’ve been sendin’ her up to Arlington to cover the Rangers in person, but don’t think that makes her happy. The higher it gets, the less fun it is for her anymore. Don’t worry about that phone. She’ll call back. She knows I ain’t goin’ anywhere. She’s the one who told me Diego fired Coyote…. He ain’t said a word about it…. I wish she’d tell me a couple other things, like what’s goin’on between her and Diego, ‘cause I suspect something. No, instead she wants to talk about how her new book’s comin’. Read me a passage or two. Still out there scratchin’ and kickin’.   Tryin’ to make sense…. Trying to get the facts right. Brushing up on her Spanish, she tells me. You’ll excuse me, won’t you. She’s not gonna give up, looks like. (starts for the phone, stops and turns back to the audience)

         It’s been real nice talking to you baseball fans…. Don’t give up…. It ain’t over til it’s over. (Lights fade as Smoky answers phone; music comes up and drowns out Smoky’s voice as set goes dark.) What?… No, Diego didn’t get six hits today. He got five hits and a sacrifice fly…. I listened to both games… That’s right. When you coming down here to see me again?…

 

©James L. Ralston

 

 

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