As everyone in America knows by now, the Washington Senators fielded the first female pitcher in major league history this past week, and she proved to be a fireballing phenom. What everybody in America doesn't know, however, is that it wasn't supposed to happen quite so fast.
Last week, Senators owner Tang Ye-lin and GM Elliott Suskind drew up a careful step-by-step plan to make Emily Caitlin the first distaff big leaguer in history. The plan was designed to accomplish two goals:
1. To preserve the integrity, decorum and hard-won respect of the national pastime; and
2. To milk the momentous event for every possible ounce of free publicity.
According to the plan, Caitlin's abilities would be secretly tested by pitting her against Senator hitters. If she passed that trial by fire, she would be signed to a contract (at a major press conference) and shipped to the Senators' Class A farm team, the Raleigh Rallies. If she succeeded there, she would be promoted to the AA Rockville Rockers, then to the AAA Chattanooga Senators and finally, after another media mega-event, to the Big Time.
It was a carefully conceived, impeccably engineered plan. Unfortunately, it collapsed immediately, and the Senators went from the first step to the last in a matter of hours, shocking the baseball world in the process.
The strange tale began when Suskind called Caitlin at 2 o'clock Monday morning after seeing her softball exploits on television. He introduced himself to the 24-year-old nurse and arranged to meet her the next morning to talk about a contract. When Suskind arrived for the meeting, however, Caitlin wasn't there. "I thought it was a crank call," she explained later. "He sounded like some kind of drunken pervert."
But the two finally met a few hours later, and Caitlin agreed to test her talents against Senator hitters in a secluded place. "Let's do it at RFK before Thursday's game," Suskind suggested. "With our attendance these days, that's about as secluded as you can get."
At the appointed hour, Caitlin stood on the mound in cutoffs, her knees shaking nervously, to face slugger Gene McSparron. Pitching underhand a` la Dan Quisenberry, she blew two 97 mph fastballs past McSparron before fanning him on a curveball that sank faster than Gary Hart's presidential campaign.
And so it went. Senator after Senator stepped up to face Caitlin (many muttering sexist comments and crude erotic suggestions), and Senator after Senator flailed helplessly at her steaming fastball and her wicked curves, sliders, screwballs and change-ups. Most of the Senators suffered injury only to their masculine pride, but outfielder Stun Gun Ginzburg swung so hard (and so futilely) at a Caitlin change-up that he slipped a disk in his back.
Except for Ginzburg, who was promptly placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Senators recovered quickly. In the first inning of their game with the Oakland A's, the Senator hitters, itching to atone for their pre-game humiliation at the hands of a woman, pounded three male hurlers for seven runs, then added six more in the second.
But as Senator fans know only too well, a 13-run lead is hardly safe in the hands of the local hurlers.
In the third, the A's scored four runs and chased starter Sonny Doyle.
In the fifth, they scored five more, sending relievers Bahloo and Walid Sadir to quick showers.
In the eighth, they scored another three, causing manager Major Banks to give Little Stevie Ruffin and Dean Hines the hook. Then, with nobody out in the ninth and the slumping Senators hanging on to a precarious 13-12 lead, the A's loaded the bases with nobody out.
At that point, GM Suskind, sitting in the owner's box, threw his hands into the air and screamed in existential angst: "I can't take it anymore! To hell with the step-by-step plan!"
He immediately called the dugout and ordered Banks to go out to the mound and stall for time. He hastily signed the forms necessary to make Emily Caitlin a member of the Senators (taking the injured Ginzburg's slot on the roster) and sprinted to the stands to search for his newest employe. He found her eating a cold hot dog and, like so many other long-suffering Senators rooters, drowning her sorrows in an ocean of RFK's famed tepid beer.
Suskind took Caitlin by the hand, dragged her into the locker room and gave her a uniform. "Don't waste any time making yourself beautiful, honey," he said. "Just hustle your pretty little butt out to the mound."
While she dressed, Suskind commandeered the PA microphone and announced: "Now pitching for Washington, number . . . ah, number . . . ah, the hell with the number. Now pitching for Washington, Emily Caitlin!"
"Emily who?" mumbled the mystified scribes in the press box. "Ain't no Emilys in the press guide. Is Elliott bombed again?"
As Caitlin jogged to the mound, still adjusting the uniform, which was much too big for her, a hush fell over the crowd, followed by a collective gasp: "My God, it's . . . it's . . . it's a broad!"
Then, calm, confident and slightly inebriated, she promptly fanned Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and retired pinch- hitter Reggie Jackson on a pop-up to end the game.
Back in the locker room, Senators PR honchette Bobbi Fleckman set up a makeshift screen made of an old pink shower curtain so Caitlin could dress in privacy. A few minutes after Caitlin stepped behind it, however, she screamed in pain.
Danny Broccoli had poured red-hot liniment into her bra. "Welcome to the big leagues, bimbo!" he yelled. ::
SENATORS STUFF: John Doe homered in his only All-Star game at-bat. His victim, Astros ace Mike Scott, was philosophical: "It's the first time I've ever been taken downtown by a player to be named later" . . . After All-Star break, Senators began second half true to form by dropping 2 of 3 to A's . . . When Danny Broccoli trashed old major league record by beaning 18 batters in month, he reacted with pride: "Just look who I bopped with the old horsehide equalizer -- Boggs, Ripken, Rice, Murray. I'd much rather see those dudes wincin' and limpin' down to first base than smirkin' and trottin' all the way home, wouldn't you?" . . . First half of season was worst in Windy Jackson's career. Controversial third baseman batted just .221 and was held to only five extra-base hits -- one double and four taters. But he had excuse: "If I didn't have to worry about passing those urine tests all the time, maybe I could concentrate on the game." ::