Monday, September 24, 2018

Knox, O'Malley, Sheena and The Miracle Mets

     On Thursday October 16th, 1969 at approximately 2:15 pm, O’Malley was feeling pressure from the extra half glass of milk he drank at lunch and dutifully raised his hand to use the lavatory. After a slight shake of her head, Mrs, Hurley, his fourth grade teacher excused him.

     As he stepped up to the urinal closest to the door in the basement lavatory O’Malley was surrounded by a group of older boys leaning against the walls and sitting on the edges of the  sinks. In the center of them was a kid named Knox. He had shoulder length hair, or goddamn hippie hair, as O’Malley’s father would say and he was holding a transistor radio, listening along with the other boys to game five of the World Series between the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles. It was Jerry Koosman on the mound for the improbable and ready to clinch Mets vs. Dave McNally of the Orioles.  
     After he finished his business at the urinal and was washing his hands, Knox, asked O’Malley, “You like baseball kid?”
     “Yes,” O’Malley replied skittishly and turned to leave.
     “Hold it,” the imposing eighth grader commanded. “Thought you said you liked baseball. Where ya going?”
     “Back to class,” O’Malley said looking in the direction of his classroom at the end of the hall.
     Knox walked over put his hand on O’Malley’s shoulder and said, “You’re probably doing some social studies/ history bullshit this time of day—right?”
     “Yeah, well, the Mets are making history right now and George Washington will be just as dead tomorrow as he is today. Sit down and listen to the game,” and he nodded toward the little platform that led to the urinals.

     “I’ll get in trouble,” O’Malley objected.
     “Not a chance. Have a seat.”
     “What’s your name kid?”
     “O’Malley—Will O’Malley.”
     “I’m Knox. No trouble will find you. Trust me.”
     Although he was unsure about this O’Malley did as he was told and sat down. He was nervous for about ten minutes and then fell into the back and forth of the game. Except for the voice of the announcer and stating the score: “nothing-nothing,” as more boys poured in the lavatory, the room was mostly silent. At one point as the signal on the transistor started to fade, Knox looked toward a kid in the corner and said, “Cooper,” and the kid tossed him a 9-volt battery which he changed with the seamless precision of an Indy 500 pit crew.
     When the final bell rang it was bottom of the second and the score was still "nothing-nothing." As the boys started to shuffle out of the lavatory Knox drew a bead on O’Malley and said, “Behind the Acme—the Mets are going to bring it home.”
     This meant they were going to listen to the rest of the game behind the Acme grocery store next to school. O’Malley thought that would be great, but was sure the thirty minutes he spent in the lavatory was going to land him in a heap of trouble. But when he went back to class Mrs. Hurley was at her desk correcting papers and he just blended into the end of the day chaos—putting away his books, grabbing his jacket and flying out the door without a word from his teacher.
     O’Malley cut through the half-full parking lot at top speed. Back behind the Acme he was met by curses from the angry boys as the Orioles took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third on the power of a two-run shot by McNally, who was helping his own cause. That was followed by a Frank Robinson solo homer. Only Knox, who was standing all Spartan like, as the blustery fall air whipped his long air into a frenzy, remained composed. Zipping up his jacket he sat down on a concrete parking bumper and said, “Settle in boys, lots of ball still to be played.”
     Going into the fourth with the score still 3-0 a group of girls showed up led by a sturdy blond in a jean jacket. She sat down next to Knox and after exchanging smiles O’Malley could see him mouth the score to her: "3-0 O’s." The blond girl’s face seemed kind of hard with experience, and unlike her friends, she seemed to downplay her obvious good looks. Though O’Malley never thought much about girls he knew there was no one else this girl would sit with besides Knox.
     Cruising into the sixth with his 3-0 lead, McNally hit Cleon Jones on the right foot. But the umpire missed it. Mets manager Gil Hodges then produced the ball, which had gone into the Mets dugout, marked with a smudge of black shoe polish and Jones was given first base.
     Still sitting next to the blond girl Knox looked around and said, “This is it. This is where the tables get turned.”
     And, to O’Malley’s astonishment Donn Clendenon, with a 2-2 count hit an upper deck homer, which produced an eruption of cheers and high fives among the assembled kids. Knox and the blond girl exchanged a restrained smilenot getting ahead of themselves. But when journeymen Al Weis stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh, after hitting all of seven career home runs, his unlikely bomb to the left field bleachers, knotting the score 3-3, created an air of inevitability for the Mets. It was then Knox and the blond girl stood and embraced.

     From there the Mets added two runs in the eighth and after Frank Robinson got a lead off walk in the ninth Orioles went down in order and the miracle was complete—the Mets were World Series Champions. The kids, including O’Malley, were ecstatic dancing around and high fiving, while Knox, after kissing the blond girl, raised his fist in the air in victory.
     When the celebration died down and they all started for home Knox called over to O’Malley and said to him, “Walk with us. This is Sheena.”
     She gave O’Malley a warm smile and the earlier hardness he saw in her seem to melt away and soften and made him think there was many sides to this girl.
     They walked down South Park Avenue in silence. At one point trying to start a conversation O’Malley said, “Some game, huh?” But Knox and Sheena didn’t respond. They kept their eyes on the horizon and moved forward.
     At his corner O’Malley said, “This is my street.”
    Knox and Sheena stopped. A half smile came to Knox’s face and he extended his hand to shake. “Thanks for listening to the game with us O’Malley. See ya around.”
     Sheena touched his shoulder and with a divine grin, revealing a mouth full bright teeth, simply said, “Bye.”
      O’Malley stood for a moment watching them walk away. After a few steps Knox slid his arm under Sheena’s and pulled her close. A crisp autumn breeze snaked wildly through their hair.
     Turning down his street toward his house O’Malley was aware that something strange and wonderful happened to him today. Going up his front steps he wasn’t sure what this strange and wonderful thing was, but he was sure it was something.
     When he opened the front door his mother instantly began to yell at him: "Where were you? What were you doing? You were supposed to get a haircut.”
     Still thinking about Knox, Sheena and the game, O’Malley said, "What?”  
     “Oh, nevermind. Here’s $2.00. If you hurry you can still get a haircut and be home for dinner at 5:30.”
     O’Malley robotically took the money, but once he was on the front porch something woke up in his head. He went back inside, put the $2.00 on the kitchen table and told his mother, “I’m not getting anymore haircuts.”
     He then turned and went up to his room.    

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