Fenway Park, Boston
The relentless August sun beat down on the pitcher's mound. Jack Ryan wiped the sweat from his brow. The searing air gusted in and out of his lungs. The fans fell silent. In left field, The Green Monster with its manual scoreboard, the last vestige of old-time baseball, told the story.
Boston Red Sox 1, New York Yankees 0.
Jack settled his Red Sox cap lower on his brow and imagined the man who changed the score held his breath along with the crowd. Time stood still. No one moved.
Three balls and two strikes on the batter.
The catcher gave the signals, quick gestures between his thighs, each one shaken off. Jack knew he must choose his own last pitch.
A last perfect pitch for a perfect game.
Behind him, in the outfield, a murmur rose in the bleachers. The sound grew, swelled, and pulsed around the park. "Wildman. Wiiiildmmmannnn," they chanted, over and over, the final syllable deteriorating each time to a Tarzan-like yell.
The name matched Jack's occasional pitching style. He swallowed against the sudden fear he might earn the nickname for all time--the rookie who threw away his perfect game on a wild pitch.
A rookie. A wild pitch. A possible perfect game for the record books.
His arm and shoulder stiffened. His back itched with sweat.
The park rocked to the sound of the chant. Jack took his place. His field of vision narrowed, tunnel-like, to include only that perfect zone, that precise spot to place the pitch that could end a perfect game.
He lightly touched his St. Christopher medal through his uniform. "Oh, Lord, I promise I'll do anything you ask. Just let me finish pitching this perfect game."