Thursday, March 19, 2015


                                                                        El Beis
By Juan Montoya
One could safely say that baseball was to Homero Rios and Jesus Romero as precious a gift as life itself.
It was all they talked about. It was constantly on their minds. And it was something they shared with a passion. They literally ate, drank, and dreamed about baseball.
Often, the two could be seen walking in the afternoons to the baseball park to see this team or that one play the city’s nine on the local diamond. Of course, they went along discussing – and arguing – about baseball.
Who had been the greatest player of all time? Who was the best pitcher? Who achieved greatness with less games and less times at bat? What about the ERA? Didn’t that count more in a pitcher than longevity?
Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Cobb and the names of the other greats flowed from their lips as easily as their batting averages, years in the majors, and an infinite storehouse of trivia and official records would resound on the sidewalk as the two compadres walked toward the park.
The city’s team, the Browntown Bombers, well...usually ended up bombing out to their neighboring rivals. Still, like most Chicago Cub fans will tell you, they were fans and there is nothing more loyal or intransigent than the fans of a losing club. At the games, amid the peanut sellers and the souvenir hawkers, their pleading cries could be heard as they urged this player or the other to “put it down the tube, Fernando,” or “Way ta snag ‘em, Eddie!”
Yet, no matter how much they encouraged the local nine, the results were almost always the same. The local boys, overpowered by teams filled with “ringers,” would succumb to the superior players getting better salaries for wielding better bats and better gloves.
“C’mon, guys,” “It’s all yours, Mike,” the solitary voices could be heard calling out to the Bombers behind the third base line. Inevitably, the two would visit the Bomber dugout to tsk-tsk sympathetically with the coach and players.
“We’ll get them next time,” Homero would say into the dugout.
“You got it, chief,” a player would answer.
“It’s our turn,” another would call.
“Shake it off, Earn,” Jesus would tell Ernie Alfred, the Bombers coach.
“Just like the Reds in ‘95,” Ernie would say. “Don’t count us out yet.”
And so, having achieved a certain vicariousness, both would head out of the park –  usually the last ones – and then on homeward. They talked, of course, about the game they had just seen.
“That fourth inning made the difference,” said Homero. “If Rodriguez had trapped that ball in left center, we would have been in hog heaven.”
“That’s true, compadre,” Jesus answered. “We’d be in the clouds, maybe even getting near that .500 average. You know, our guys deserved to win. A lot of close calls in that game. I don’t know about those Mount Pleasant umps, though. Seems to me all the  breaks were going to the other guys. They work in the same league as the Rio Hondo Rattlers. You know that smells,” he said and arched his  left eyebrow knowingly at Homero.
“Oh, compadre, it don’t do no good to blame the umps. If our bats had been talking, it would have been a different story,” Homero argued. “Besides, when are you going to have a perfectly called game? You’d almost have to be in heaven!”
They chuckled over that and walked in silence for a while, each picking his brain for memorable moments of the game to trigger the memory of the other and continue their beloved topic.
“You know, compadre,” said Jesus, “I wonder if there’s anything like that up there?” he said pointing toward the darkening sky.
“What, compadre, fair umps?”
“No, man, baseball,” answered Jesus. “I wonder if there is there is baseball in heaven? If there was, I wonder what it would be like?”
“Well, we’ll never know, will we?,” asked Homero. “But come to think of it, it does make me curious a bit.”
In silence they pondered the great question of the possibility of the sport’s existence in the hereafter. Then, Jesus turned to Homero and said: “Let’s make a deal, compadre, just between you and me.”
“What kind of a deal?,” asked the other.
“Well, why doesn’t the first one to die come back and tell the other if there’s baseball in heaven? That way, if the other knows, what’s there to fear in dying? Hell, a baseball of eternity awaits! What do you say?,” Jesus asked earnestly.
Homero, who was leery of mentioning death in vain, looked nervously at Jesus.
“Let’s not talk about that, uh?,” he pleaded. “That gives me the heevy-jeevies.”
“Ah, c’mon, compadre,” Jesus persisted. “If nothing comes out of it, what could it hurt?”
“Alright, I agree,” Homero said hurriedly and they shook on it. The compadres quickly steered the conversation away from the subject.
Time passed, and after a few years, Jesus passed away. It was a terrible blow for Homero, since Jesus, beside being his life-time friend from his barrio, was also his baseball buddy. In the seasons that followed, Homero would walk alone to the park and sit behind third base, just as he had done with Jesus.
But it wasn’t the same. Some of the guys at the park didn’t know beans about the old-time players like the Cuban Roman Mejia who played with the old Houston 45s, or Bob Lilly at short, and Bob Aspromonte at third.
After yet another disappointing ninth-inning loss by the Bombers, Homero was walking home along the sidewalk by the college when he heard someone call his name.
He turned. There was no one there. He thought he was hearing things when he heard his name called again. This time he turned around and leaned against a fence so bypassers wouldn’t think he was going crazy and called out loud: “Who’s there?”
“It’s me, compadre,” he heard Jesus answer from out of  nowhere.
“But compadre,” stammered Homero, “you’re..dead. How can it be you?"
“Do you remember the deal we made that the first one to die would come back and let the other know if there was baseball in heaven?,” Jesus’ voice spoke out again. “Well, apparently I have to fulfill that promise before I can rest. It’s a heaven rule or something. Anyway, I’m here to tell you.”
“Gee, compadre, you didn’t have to,” Homero protested weakly. But his curiosity got the best of him and he asked him, "Well, is there?”
“I have some great news, compadre,” said Jesus, or rather, his voice. “But I also have some not so great news.”
“Well, tell me, is there baseball in heaven or not?,” persisted Homero.
“Is there ever,” said the happy voice of his compadre. “Man, the best guys in the history of baseball are in the teams up there. Even the Mick has to sit on the bench sometimes while the older guys are on the field. They can pitch. They can bat. They steal bases right under your nose. And St. Peter’s the umpire, so there’s no question of a fix. It’s great.”
“Well, compadre,” answered Homero happily “if there’s baseball up there like you say, what bad news could there be?”
“You’re scheduled to pitch next Sunday,” his compadre’s voice answered.


Anonymous said...

last sentence: A "voice" does not answer. He answered.

Anonymous said...

He write the voice "spoke", much better.

Anonymous said...

A story well told. Enjoyed it all the way.