They sat on the third base side, about halfway up the loge seats. He had a full brown beard and wire-rim glasses and wore his hat low over his forehead as if he was hiding something. She had long, straight black hair, and when she stood you could see she was a little bit pregnant. People around them remarked it was eerie how much they resembled John and Yoko.
They obviously weren't casual fans. For them baseball wasn't so much something they observed from a distance as something to wrap themselves in and huddle under. They groaned when Jonathan Van Dorn gave up back-to-back homers to Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, ground their teeth when John Doe and Stun Gun Ginzburg struck out with the bases loaded. The farther the Senators fell behind Milwaukee, the more distressed the couple became, taking it personally.
They stretched self- consciously in the home half of the seventh, as if fearing recognition. Then in the eighth, after Milwaukee roughed up Bahloo Sadir and Little Stevie Ruffin to take a 7-3 lead, their anguish overflowed.
"I can't watch this," he said, standing to leave.
"Me neither," she said.
"I feel like I've got to do something."
He slumped back into his seat. "I just don't know."
"You do, too," she said, kneeling in front of him and tenderly stroking his hair. "You know where you belong."
"No, that's done, that's behind me. I gave it up," he said.
"For what?" she said. "For me? I never asked you to do that. It was me who had to go, not you. So you sit around the house all day and mope until the game comes on. You're a wonderful husband, but a lousy couch potato."
He blushed and nodded.
Pulling him to his feet, she hugged him so tightly she could feel his heart beat. Then she gently took off his hat and his glasses and carefully removed what turned out to be a fake beard. "Hasn't anybody told you the '60s are over?" she giggled. "Now get down there, you big lug, and throw strikes."
And with that, Pappy Doyle let go of his wife's hand and bounded down the steps two at a time and onto the field. Such a cheer echoed through RFK as Pappy embraced his teammates and persuaded Major Banks to put him in the game as a reliever. He took his 10 warm-ups and declared himself ready. But before he put the ball in play for real, he looked back adoringly at his wife, standing radiant in all-white, the black wig gone and her natural blond curls cascading on her shoulders, and he blew her a kiss. Which Emily Caitlin Doyle caught and blew right back.
Pappy shut the Brewers down in the eighth, his knuckler bobbing like a spring-doll on the back-seat shelf of a 1963 Bonneville. Revved up by Pappy's fantastic reappearance, the Senators scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take an 8-7 lead.
"Can you hold them, Pappy?" Banks asked.
"Skip, I could hold 'em if they were red-hot coals covered with thorns," Pappy said, grabbing his glove.
"I've got Sonny if you get tired," Banks said reassuringly.
"You just tell Sonny to crack some ice and start pouring."
Pappy peered into the fuel tank of the turbocharged Milwaukee lineup and lit a match. Poof went Molitor, Yount and Rob Deer. Nine knucklers. See you in church.
That one made the winning streak 14. Now it's 20. The Senators have climbed to third place, four games behind the Yankees and charging with a week left to play.
"If you'd told me in spring training this team would win 20 in a row, I'd have bet my whole salary against whatever change you had in your pocket," said a flabbergasted Elliott Suskind. "The truth is I scattered a couple thousand around Vegas saying we wouldn't win 20 all season." Suskind shook his head wistfully. "I know my jockey's sitting on the best horse in the race. But I'm not sure he went to the whip hand quick enough."
These last three weeks have been miraculous. But who'd have blamed the Senators if they'd crashed and burned? How did they manage to shut the blinds on a mess like this: the threat of the team's moving hanging in the air as thick as cafeteria gravy; the fans boycotting the games to protest the exile of Emily Caitlin; the manager agonizing over whether to resign or allow himself to be fired; the troops so thin that only 13 players were healthy and active -- all of it laid at the tiny, treacherous feet of an imperious owner?
"Look at us," Bad Dude Harding said the other day. "We're short and tall, black and white, young and old. We have guys who went to Harvard and guys who dropped out of high school. We've got militarists, pacifists, evangelists and recidivists. We're from La Jolla and Harlem, from big cities and farming towns so small they don't even have names. Geez, we're even from Iran and Ethiopia. We've got nothing in common, except for a deep and abiding hate of that little S.O.B. Tang Ye-lin. It's like Vince Lombardi used to say, 'There's nothing that stokes the fire like hate.' "
You can see it in their eyes. But you don't even have to look past their sleeves, where the Anti-Tang Brigade patches flourish. Lately, as the fans have come back to the ballpark in ever increasing numbers, they, too, have begun wearing the upside-down Yugo-in-distress patches and cheering the Senators on with the Anti-Tang Brigade ovation: a blood-curdling scream anticipated by tossing fried rice into the air.
And still calm in the eye of the storm -- just as he was when the team was suffering -- is the Senators' mystical manager, Banks. Three weeks ago, Tang had Banks' execution signed, sealed and all but delivered to the media when Windy Jackson intercepted it and set it afire in a clubhouse meeting straight out of Frank Capra. Even now, after 20 straight wins, it wouldn't surprise anybody if Tang fired Banks after the first loss.
But during the streak, Banks has made some astonishingly unorthodox, almost inexplicable moves and succeeded each time: He had utility infielder Dwayne Ford pitch for the first time in his 15-year career, and Ford threw a four-hitter. He sent mulish Stun Gun Ginzburg to steal home for the winning run in the bottom of the 11th against Kansas City. Ginzburg, who is so slow the coaches time his sprints with a sundial, got Bret Saberhagen so convulsed with laughter he couldn't throw home, and Ginzburg scored standing up. Banks overshifted against Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, putting everybody but Windy Jackson and Moe-Don Dorcas in the outfield, daring the Oakland sluggers to bunt, and they were so discombobulated by the defensive alignment they struck out.
"He's winning with unconventional strategies," said third base coach Conan Barbario, Banks' closest friend. "But he's a very cerebral man, miles ahead of his time, miles." Barbario leaned in close and whispered almost conspiratorially, "There's a small, hand-carved chess set he keeps in his office. He got it in Vietnam. On the black king there's an inscription. Read it. You'll understand."
It's on the base, written in delicate script, and it says: "When the lion swims he is at the mercy of the tide, but in the tall grass he can crouch and still own the moon." :: SENATORS STUFF: Along with Pappy Doyle, Senators welcomed home two other pitchers this week, Tyler Motherwell and Dean (Gidget) Hines. Motherwell back from his investment banking leave of absence with pamphlet he wrote on how to practice insider trading without detection; cover picture has him in three-piece baseball uniform designed by ultra-yup wife, Muffin. Hines, pale as a ghost, spoke of ego-shattering experience while surfing in Hawaii: "Waves are knocking me off my board, I'm like totally grody, man. I look up at a 20-footer, and there's Mike the Dog from 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' riding the nose with all four paws over the edge -- hanging 16! I took the next plane home" . . . Former strength coach Dwight Usher interviewed in National Enquirer says saucer-like UFO landed in Senators' clubhouse in July and aliens inhabited Gabeen Mfoom's body, exchanged recipes with Otis Bettelsen and impregnated Bahloo Sadir . . . Senators receiving 20-30 letters a week from women wanting tryout. One from Joan Rivers claims her tongue is so acid she can scuff ball just by talking to it . . . Danny Broccoli agreed to be spokesman for Friends of Fighting Pit Bulls. ::