Until that night, and oh what a night it was, Genther hadn’t shown much prowess at the plate. First baseman are usually power hitters. Genther was a powder puff. It was a night game in July. The air was still, making the heat even more oppressive and butch wax totally worthless. His folks were there and he hoped for a Mantle-like performance. Who knows where his big sister was? Probably at the pizza parlor with her goofy girlfriends or a Hootenanny with the church crowd. For years after his great feat (and much to her annoyance) people would ask, “Hey, ain’t you that Johnny Genther’s sister? Too bad ya missed it.”
That afternoon he’d seen Barbara Johnson up at the pool. She was wearing a swimming cap with a bumblebee on it. It said “Bee My Honey”. Genther, as suavely as a buck-toothed, burr-headed, skinny 10-year-old can, sauntered over and volunteered. She blushed. He blushed harder. And wished his new pea green Jantzen wasn’t so tight. She said she was going to be at the game that night. His heart leapt. He soaked her with a cannon ball right there on the spot.
To this day he doesn’t know why he picked the Nellie Fox from the lumber pile that night. At 32 ounces with a grip as thick as a brick it was like swinging a phone pole. As he approached the plate he surveyed the stands. There she was! She gave a little wave. He tipped his cap. Settling deep in the box, he worked his cleats into the hard clay like a bull about to charge. Finally, adjusting his cup, he glared at the pitcher and dramatically pointed the barrel of the fearsome Fox to deep left. The pitcher laughed. The catcher laughed even harder and whispered, “Here comes the heat, hot shot”.
“Bring it, Bozo” Genther sneered as he adjusted his cup again. This time tugging even more dramatically. Hum batta hummmm batta. It was straight smoke right down the pike. From the time it left the pitcher’s hand Genther was on it like a duck on a June bug. As if in slow motion, he watched the seams rotate right up until the ball crashed into the business end of the bat. It was effortless, sounding more like a rifle shot than a “crack”. He lingered along the baseline as he watched it rise higher and higher into the black sky and beyond the arc of the lights until, finally, it began to descend deep over the left field wall. Three feet fair.
The post-game Cokes were never sweeter nor Barbara more adoring. His triumphant home run trot could have been more enjoyable, though. Were it not for that darned cup.