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The Bottom of the Ninth

Estimated reading time — 10 minutes

“Welcome back to the bottom of the ninth inning ladies and gentlemen and it appears that we have yet to receive an update on the injury to the twenty four-year veteran, Bryce Harper, who was hit by that devastating fastball to start the inning and had to be carried off the field.  Obviously we’ll let you know the moment we have any definitive information.  That blazing fastball has been this pitcher’s bread and butter all night.”

“Completely unhittable.”

“Completely Keith…as Harper, who would have represented the first baserunner of the game for the home team had he been able to stay in the game, might have paid the ultimate price for the first mistake this pitcher has made the entire game after getting drilled in the chest.”


“Ron, I don’t know about you, but I would have never imagined that it could be as quiet, let alone would be, as it is now in this, the largest sporting venue in recorded history.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth Keith.  As we saw in Angela’s excellent pre-game report, three months of fevered construction went into converting the Indianapolis Speedway into a baseball diamond and expanding the seating of the stadium that already held two-hundred and twenty thousand people into one which could accommodate tonight’s crowed of nearly a half-million people.  I’ve honestly never been around such a large assembly before and frankly, after the deafening roar that they put up in the first few innings, it seemed inconceivable that the decibel level could be this low.  Other than the beer and peanut vendors, you could probably hear a pin drop.”

“I was thinking the exact same thing Ron.  Obviously there’s a tremendous amount of concern for Harper but you would think getting that first runner on, trailing one to nothing, the crowd would try to muster up some sort of inspirational cheering.”

“You’re right about that my old friend…you’re right about that.  I think it’s safe to say that the massive ramifications of tonight’s game combined with the performance that their home team has put forth so far had frayed the nerves of these people to their very end.  This record crowd may not be making a lot of noise at this point, but no one’s left the stadium as of yet.  Mostly they’re in a state of shocked silence; I’m seeing a lot of fingers being bitten to their quicks and butts barely clinging to the edges of their seats.  The importance of tonight’s very special game isn’t lost on anyone here tonight or the millions watching on television in North America or the billions anxiously observing online from all around the globe; the tension is palpable.  That being said…as dominant as the pitching has been for the visitors, it’s still only a one-run game.  If we can somehow manage to scratch out a single run, Keith, then I think everyone would be perfectly happy to stick around for extra innings.”

“Well Ron…I think you’re probably right.  Given that the viewers of this amazing spectacle are fully aware that this might be the last baseball game they’ll ever get to see…well…I don’t think anyone’s in too big a hurry to call it a night.”

“Well said Keith…well said.  So folks, with speed-demon Charlie Rucker standing on first base and another long-tenured veteran, Aaron Judge, slowly making his way to the box, we’d like to remind you that the first out of the ninth inning is brought to you by ‘Bare-steel Ladders’.  ‘Bare-steel Ladders…when you absolutely have to get to the top’.”


“I have a Bare-steel ladder in my garage Ron.”



“I didn’t know that; how do you like it?”

“Oh…it’s great.  I find myself looking for excuses to climb it.”

“Well that makes sense Keith.”

“Yea…I can honestly say that I’ll never use another ladder.”

“Well…if our boys are unable to pull off this ninth inning miracle…that might be a moot point.”

“Ha…so true Ron.  Although Jim in the truck is telling me that, given the circumstances, we probably shouldn’t joke about it.”

“That makes sense Keith…and if I gave a damn anymore I probably wouldn’t.  Anyway, Judge, gloves adjusted, has settled into the box.  He’s doing his best to stare down the pitcher…but the effect is probably diminished after the night he’s had so far.”

“Yea…oh for four at bats with four strike-outs.  Probably not the results he was expecting coming in.”

“That’s true Keith, but it’s not like anyone else is doing any better…the team getting no-hit through eight innings.  But then again…it’s unlikely that any of them expected to try to hit pitches that regularly hit one-eighty on the radar gun.”

“So true.  You know…it occurs to me that it was likely that when President Bieber offered up ‘baseball’ as the official competition, he was doing so facetiously.  However…when they immediately accepted, I think the majority of people around the world felt confident that it might actually have been a wise decision, the President’s sarcasm aside.  After all…it was a sport that they were completely unfamiliar with and by looking at them…well… ‘baseball players’ wasn’t exactly an impression that leapt to mind.”

“We were all guilty of making certain assumptions about their physical abilities.  How could you not?  It only took a few innings of watching one violent fastball after another, however, to wash those away unfortunately.  Speaking of which…Praxus-2187 goes into his…I don’t know, are we still calling it a ‘wind-up’ Ron?”

“Who knows Keith?  It’s some type of repetitive motion…that’s for sure.  Whatever it is he does to get that ball moving, he just put his seventy-eighth pitch across the plate at one-hundred and sixty-five miles per hour.”

“It seemed like he took a little bit off that pitch but, much as he’s done all night, Judge could only blink as it passed him by for the first strike here in the ninth.  Has anyone even put the bat on the ball tonight for this team of all-stars from around the world…because I can’t recall even a foul ball so far?”

“You’re completely right about that one Keith.  Praxus-2187 has been nothing short of dominant…and there’s strike two.  That one clocked at one fifty-five; he’s definitely starting to lose some of his juice.  Unfortunately for Aaron and the rest of the home team, Praxus-2187’s worst is still better than anything they’ve ever seen before.  Here’s the pitch…Judge swings weakly at strike three.”

“Aaron looks completely dejected Ron.”

“Well Keith…if you look up and down the bench, he’s got the same expression they all do.  There was a lot of excitement in that club-house before the game…but after a few innings of seeing what this guy was throwing at them; it was almost as though they knew they were going to lose before the first run was scored.”

“It was like a virus.  It started in the dugout and slowly spread through this crowd, stifling even the most rambunctious fans.”

“Excellent observation Keith.  And on that note…the second out of the ninth inning has been sponsored by the ‘Colonel’s Crazy Chicken’.  If the home team pulls off a victory tonight, Colonel’s Crazy Chicken will give everyone that comes into any of their four thousand locations tomorrow a free ‘Straightjacket Chicken Sandwich’.  You’ll need to arrive at your local CCC’s at exactly 2:27pm to claim your free sandwich.  ‘Colonel’s Crazy Chicken…we’re not KFC’.”

“I eat at CCC’s at least once a week.”

“Really?  I didn’t know that.  So you’re a big fan of the Colonel’s chicken?”

“Big time.  I love the ‘Asylum Mega-meal’.”

“That’s great Keith…I’ll have to try that myself.  Hopefully I’ll be able to claim that free sandwich tomorrow…although we are running out of chances.  With only two outs left to try and even this thing up, Willie Gellstar, steps to the plate.  Gellstar’s pinch hitting for two-time MVP, Duane Paulson, who’s wearing the same Golden Sombrero that the rest of tonight’s starters have on.  Regardless, I’m not really sure why they would pinch-hit for Paulson here.”

“Ron…they’re telling me that the coaches tried to get Duane to go back out there but he’s become so despondent that he’s completely non-responsive to any outside stimuli.  The manager has told us…and I quote… ‘he’s fled to his deepest recesses where we are no longer able to contact him’.”

“Well that clears that up then Keith…makes perfect sense.  Thanks for staying on top of things for us.  If you think about it…it really is kind-of hard to believe.  On paper, this looks like the greatest team ever assembled on one field.”

“You can throw all the analytics out the window for this one Ron.  I can tell you, as a hitter it’s got to be nearly impossible to put good wood on pitches coming in that fast…let alone put the ball in play.  That doesn’t even touch upon the difficulties the hitters have been having just trying to pick up the ball’s release point.  While Praxus-2187 has been using the same appendage to pitch with each time, his other two…what did we decide to call them…tentacles?  Anyway, his other two do an outstanding job concealing the ball.  All of the waving and flopping that they produce…as well as whatever the hell those things are dangling from his head…can be very disorientating.”

“It’s chaotic Keith.  It reminds of me of when my dog ‘Baxter’ shakes his favorite chew-toy.”

“Agreed. Very chaotic.  I have a cat though.  His name is ‘Purrnandez’.”

“Really?  I didn’t know that.  That’s great Keith.  Cats are really top-notch.  Gellstar watches as strike one sails past him.  Wow…that pitch came in at a mere one hundred and twenty miles per hour.  Even though we were all starting to believe it wasn’t possible…it looks like the pitcher is finally beginning to tire.”

“But is it too late to matter Ron?”

“I don’t know Keith, but the velocity has dropped significantly with each pitch he’s thrown this inning.  It also seems that the away team has nobody warming up in the bullpen either…and there’s strike two.”


“That’s true Ron…but if you recall, Praxus-2187 didn’t warm up either.  He just kind-of flopped his way out to the mound and started throwing bullets.  To look at them, you’d think they’d be more at home in water than on land…”

“Makes me crave calamari for some reason.”

“…but it’s not like it’s been necessary for any of their fielders to actually move any in this game so far anyway, so who knows if they can actually field the ball?  It’s been the Praxus-2187 show from the very beginning.”

“And there’s strike three Keith as Willie cracks his bat across his knee in disgust, snapping it in two.”

“That’s an impressive show of strength Ron…and anger.”

“Indeed Keith.  If you recall…in his pre-game interview Willie said his motivation in this game was coming from his mother and younger sister.  For several days after the game was announced and scheduled, Gellstar had vivid nightmares of the beloved women in his life in chains as slaves or worse…being put on that list the visitors called the ‘menu’.”

“Ron…I think it’s safe to say that we’re all hoping to stay off that list.  Personally, I’ve spent the last month doing everything I can to make myself look as unappetizing as possible.”

“Well I think you’ve succeeded, old friend.  You seem…chewy…to me.”

“That’s just what I was going for.”

“So we’re going to get another pitch-hitter here as we’re down to our final opportunities. Tanaka Hirito, who has been, arguably, the greatest hitter to ever play Japanese professional baseball is taking deliberate cuts in the on-deck circle, in no obvious rush to put himself in the box as he prepares to take the place of fellow Japanese MLB all-star, Shohei Ohtani.  While he’s doing that, let’s take a moment to talk about our third out sponsor…Spittle’s Candies.  ‘Spittle’s…a rainbow of colors to choose from…but only one flavor’.  What about Spittle’s, Keith?  How do you feel about those?”

“I don’t care for them Ron.”

“Oh…that’s okay Keith.  Just remember…there’s a rainbow of colors to choose from.

“I’ll do that Ron; too bad they all taste like shit.  Well, it looks like Hirito is finally ready to take his cuts.  I can’t even imagine the pressure that’s on that young man’s shoulders right now.”

“The weight of the world, Keith…the weight of the world.  Here’s the pitch…and…strike one.  That pitch was around one-fifteen.  They’re coming in slower now…but not slow enough, unfortunately.”

“As you look around the crowd Ron, you can see a lot of fetal positions developing and tears beginning to flow on many faces…and…what’s that noise?  I think some people are…wailing.”

“That’s understandable Keith.  I could probably do with a little cathartic wailing myself about now.  The pitch…strike two.  We are down to our final strike ladies and gentlemen.  Keith…on a personal note…I’d like to say that the last twenty years in the broadcast booth with you have been the happiest of my life.  You’ve been a great friend and partner and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.”

“Ron…I…” (Sob) “I don’t have the words.  I love you, old buddy.  I will miss this time…maybe more than anything.”

“Praxus-2187 is taking a moment before throwing what might be the last pitch ever thrown…perhaps savoring his impending victory…and Tanaka steps out of the box.  He’s staring intently at his bat and forcing himself to take slow, purposeful breaths.”

“He’s trying to keep his composure Ron.”

“I think we all are Keith.”

“Ladies and gentlemen…I know we’ve already said it a couple times but they want me to reiterate one more time: do not try to fight back against the new overlords if we lose tonight’s game.  The death-ray demonstrations that were given on CNN and the BBC in the last month are very real.  Resistors will be automatically placed on their menu list.  If, however, you find yourself on this list…unray as astfay as ooyah ancay and idehay.


“Well said Keith.  Hopefully our audience can read between the lines.  So Tanaka finally steps back into the box and…what’s this…is he closing his eyes?”

“It looks that way Ron.  In all honestly…does it really matter?  I can’t really blame him.  I’d like to close mine as well right now.”

“You may be right Keith but…well…you may be right.  Here’s the pitch…Hirito takes a cut.” (CRACK) “HE HIT IT!  It’s a deep fly ball!”


“It’s still going.  IT’S GONNA BE OUTTA HERE!  I can’t believe it!  I can’t believe it!  Tanaka will have won the game with a home run to dead center field as Praxus-4588 watches the ball sail over his head.  It’s going to be pandemonium…WHAT!  What just happened?  It was too quick to see and even the umpires are going to have to go to the replays just to see what just transpired.”

“I don’t know Ron but this monster crowd has just erupted.  There’s singing and dancing in the aisles.  Like my bi-polar sister, they went from the lowest depths to jubilance in a matter of a few seconds, but I don’t think they realize that the play hasn’t been called a homerun yet.”


“You hear that Keith?”

“Of course…how could I not?  That’s the sound of a half-million people chanting one man’s name.  It’s inspirational…but then again, is it going to be in vain?”

“Okay Keith, here’s the replay which the booth has slowed down to one one-hundredth of its normal speed.  The ball is just above the wall in center field when…WHOA…what in the holy hell is that Keith?”

“Ron…I really don’t know how to process what I’m seeing.  It would appear, ladies and gentlemen, that the visitors have an additional appendage that we’ve all been unaware of.  Another one of those long, black, snake-like tentacles seems to have rocketed out of the area we were all assuming to be their derrieres with speed beyond what our normal eyes could perceive and plucked the ball from the air just before it cleared the center field fence.  There’s really nothing more that can be said besides…WTF?”

“WTF indeed Keith.  I don’t think anyone saw that one coming and it should only take the umpires a moment longer to pronounce this game as being over with a final score of one to nothing.  I would expect the suicides to rate in the thousands before most folks even make it back to their cars.”

“Yea…it’s a real shame.  I guess we should go ahead and sign off before the real carnage begins.  What do you think Ron?”

“You’re probably right, old buddy.  Just a couple of words before we send this back to Marcus and the team in the studio: we’ve gotten an update on Bryce Harper’s condition.  Unfortunately, it would appear that the perennial all-star has passed away…killed by a pitch that shattered his entire ribcage at the age of thirty-nine.  I’m also being told that Aaron Judge has taken his own life by walking into the batting cage without a bat or helmet and sitting cross-legged on the plate.”

“That’s a hell of a way to go Ron.”

“Well…Aaron always had his own way of doing things.”

“Fitting…I guess.”

“True…so true.  Tonight’s completed game was brought to you by Morton Blotless Paints: ‘Let Morton Blotless bring beautiful color to your world’ because ‘Morton Blotless Paints coat your life with joy’; and Highmark Greeting Cards: ‘Highmark is more than a card…its love’.  Thanks for tuning in to humanity’s last sporting event ladies and gentlemen.  If you live in North America, please make sure that you and your families report to your nearest processing office by next Monday for your detention camp assignments.  You know what happens if you’re late.  May God help us all and… ‘Long Live Praxus!’”

Credit: Shannon Higdon

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