They Clap Then Stop

And here is to a world that provides for us such sights as David Weathers facing Albert Pujols with the bases loaded, top of the eighth inning, David’s Cincinatti Reds leading the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0. The old respected pitcher faces the future legend in the prime of his career, on pace to legally and naturally break Marris’s forgotten record, suddenly made once again relevant.

“He’s going to go out there and battle. David Weathers has been an excellent pitcher over the years,” says Hrabosky.

The first pitch is perfect, all-but unhitable slow heat over the far outside corner. The 0-1 pitch tries to be the same thing but sails high. David Weathers is no Tom Glavine. He is, though, a loving father who brings his two sons onto the field before every game, a tradition real and known and circulated throughout the league.

The one-one pitch arrives just outside and the crowd boos and moans over the call. Now two-one, and know this: nobody alive wants to face Pujols with a 2-1 count. Dusty Baker flips his toothpick in his mouth, long arms up on padded top of the dugout fence while in opposite dugout Tony paces Larussishly.

“The game’s best hitter at the plate against David Weathers.”

Albert pokes the 2-1 pitch into the third-base stands, steps away and sweeps a foot over the box, smoothing the ground. He squints and breathes through his mouth, swinging his bat one-handed in front of him, like a video game boss, perhaps, a cartoon villain.

Larussa with his head down, one hand in back pants pocket. Pacing.

Time passes once the count is 2-2. The crowd rises to their feet, the sound swelling in Great American Ballpark.

“Somebody said it best recently,” says Hrabosky.

Weathers shakes off his sign then shakes off the next, and we have a moment as Pujols half-steps out of the box. It is clear Hrabosky is speaking of what some pitcher recently said about facing Pujols. And at this point we know, this is not anything even resembling a battle.

“If you pray, you start praying with Albert there. If you don’t pray, you think about starting.”

The fifth sell-out for the Reds this season, 41,349 fans watching the game’s best hitter at the plate against David Weathers.

Catcher sets up inside and Weathers steps off, beckons him to the mound. He did not like the idea of going inside to Albert. Once he’s back in here’s the line again: nine for eighteen against Weathers, two home runs, five RBIs, and then the pitch sits there and Albert pops it up, misses it just barely and the ball makes it (just barely) into the camera pit beyond the reach of Cincinatti’s first baseman. Weathers gets away with a pitch. Also: ask yourself if you know the name of Cincinatti’s first baseman.

The camera follows Albert through his entire routine between pitches: step away, half-swing, glare at the field as if it owes him an apology, look to the stands where the home run is going to land, his eyes tracking to the left-field wall and the second row beyond it. We are told how slowly pitchers regroup between pitches to Albert, as a rule.

“David’s going to go out there and say, hey – I’ve got a chance to beat the best.”

The pitch is exactly like the pitch before it, and we know the second the swing begins. The ball is gone, traveling as if on string, dragged by some very fast bird, but free to hover a bit, or float, right into the hands of the Cards fan in left-center. Dusty’s head falls, his wrists limp over the dugout fence. Tony can hardly contain himself. Albert allows for a God-fearing thug’s moment of appreciation, the slow bat toss, straightarmed, and the slow stride. Then he’s hustling around the bases, the first Cardinal with ten career grand slams, eclipsing Stan Musial, LEGEND. Watch him smack his hands as he crosses home plate. He points skyward, the greatest player alive, a legend himself, LEGEND at whom we can only marvel.

Rasmus. Schumaker. Hoffpauir. Thank you, sir.

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