The Baseball -- A True Story

By Ed Perley

On a cool windy day in June, back in 1968, I attended a major league baseball game. It was the first and probably the only time I will ever do that. It was in Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and I was sitting with my aunt and uncle high in the stands behind and a little to the left of home plate. I don't remember what the score was. I don't even remember what team the Giants were playing that day. But something happened there that I will always remember.

Sometime about halfway through the game, it happened. The batter hit one of those spectaular foul balls that shoots straight up into sky. While following the ball's trajectory high above, I suddenly realized that it was coming straight toward me.

All at once, everything seemed to move in slow motion. There amazingly, the baseball floated down, aiming directly at my breast bone. I cupped my hands together on my chest. The ball was almost there. I wondered if I would be able to hold on to it. "Grip it fast and hard,", I told myself. "Ignore the pain and hold on tight." The ball was so close now I could clearly see the stitching. It looked very stable as it came down to me, no spinning or wobbling. All I needed to do was hang on!

Suddenly a hand shot up from the row of seats just in front of me, and snatched the ball out of the air. A perfect one handed catch, right in front of my face. I was left, still holding my hands in front of my chest and feeling rather foolish.

Sometimes I think about that baseball. I wonder what it would have been to feel the power in that ball. Thrown by a major league pitcher across home plate at a speed of ninety miles an hour, hit a glancing blow by another a major league player, and shot straight up in the air like a skyrocket straight to me.

I wonder what it would have been like if I had been able to hold on to the ball. Perhaps I would have held up the ball in triumph to the approval of those sitting around me. Perhaps I would lovingly feel the stitching and examine the blemishes caused by violent contact with hard wood. Perhaps the baseball would still carry the scent of the pitcher's glove. And for the rest of my years it would have been a cherished momento of my only major league game.

Life is strange. Some people never have a chance for great success because they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Others are at the right place at the right time, and are able to take advantage of opportunities, to the approval of all those around them. And some of us seem to be at the right place at the right time, only to see opportunity snatched away.

Then we are left, surprised, empty handed, unnoticed.

And wondering.

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Dates November 16, 1998 - September 2003