My Wednesday in air-conditioned rooms while everybody else in town sweated through a steamy summer day:
Cool: Watching on the TV above my desk part of the tennis match between Nicolas Mahut of France and American John Isner. The fifth set stands at 59 games for Mahut, 59 for Isner, the most amazing, refuse-to-lose stare-down in history. Suspended because of darkness for the second night in a row, it continues today. Gladiators holding tennis rackets.
Cooler: Earlier, watching the Yanks’ superstar soccer player Landon Donovan score the game-winner against Algeria and then watching the patrons at the Red Lyon leap into the air, waving goodbye to all that World Cup tension.
Coolest: Sitting at Henry T’s, listening to a 12-year-old boy, sitting next to his grandfather and across the table from his brother, 9, comment on the pitcher working on TV for the Washington Nationals against the Kansas City Royals.
Brian Bannister, who makes his living pitching and only hits in interleague games, stepped in against Nats rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the 21st century’s top pitching prospect.
Strasburg started him with a 98 mph fastball.
“Pops, look at that pitch,” said Bailey Pattin, 12. “Nasty.”
Then came an 82 mph breaking ball that started at the eastern edge of the North Pole and ended at the most westward point of the South Pole.
“Filthy,” Bailey said.
Next, a circle changeup dropped way down and in.
“That is not fair,” Bailey concluded as Bannister walked back to the dugout, bat in hand, so looking forward to returning to his pitching duties.
Twelve is the perfect age for baseball. The subtleties of the game begin to introduce themselves. At that age, we all still knew for sure that we would make it to the big leagues.
Bailey’s understanding of the game is far advanced from that of most boys his age. His big-league fantasy also has more credence. He comes from Royal bloodlines. His grandfather, Lawrence resident Marty Pattin, won 114 regular-season games.
Pattin’s final appearance came in the 1980 World Series for the Royals against the Philadelphia Phillies. You might have heard of the men who made the three outs in Pattin’s final inning. He relieved Paul Splittorff with Pete Rose standing on first and Mike Schmidt at the plate with nobody out in the seventh inning of Game 6, the clincher for the Phillies.
Royals catcher John Wathan threw out Rose attempting to steal. Schmidt struck out looking. Bake McBride reached on an error and Greg “The Bull” Luzinski struck out swinging. Pattin never pitched again, leaving the game in the hands of younger men.
Quick, what number did he wear for the Royals? For a hint, look at the back of grandson Blaine’s head. The No. 33 is shaved into his head. Blaine proudly informs, ice cream all over his face, that he picked it because that’s the one Pops wore.
On TV, the phenom was great, striking out nine in six innings without walking a batter. And Bannister and his mates beat him, 1-0. Perfect day for the young Pattins.
Summer. Baseball. Ice cream. Pops. Royals win! Can’t beat it with a stick.