The Phantom of the The Ball Park

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Circa 1961. A ten-year old boy with a butch haircut, blue t-shirt, and jeans lunged for a foul ball in Dodger Stadium. His momentum carried him over the railing, screaming as he fell down to the lower deck below.

The Dodgers lost the game that day against the Giants. Bucky Totter lost his life that day. And, he didn’t even get the ball.

Circa September 2017. Hotshot Dodger rookie, Cody Bellinger, hit a home run and trotted around the bases. The Dodgers had the best record in the majors. The crowd of 56,000 fans roared in primal delight as they watched the ball sail up into the right field upper deck.

As the next batter came up Joey McDonald clapped his chubby hands in delight. If there was one thing Joey loved it was baseball. His mother watched him and smiled. She knew that mentally he was a ten-year old, but in a man’s 27-year old body.

Like other people with Down-Syndrome, Joey had an innocent look to his chubby face and was quick to smile. His mother, Mary, always felt he was special. He came to her late in life (a miracle baby) and became her entire focus. When her husband died she wasn’t alone. She knew she’d always have Joey.

It was the third inning and Mary had to go to the bathroom. “You stay here Joey. Save my seat okay?”

He nodded, and clapped his hands again when Corey Seager doubled to the left field. They were in the upper deck because they bought tickets on game day. The place was packed with rowdy fans.

“Hi Joey,” Bucky Totter said.

“Hey, you’re sitting in my mom’s place!” Joey said.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be gone before she gets back. It’s really nice to finally find someone who can see me, and I can talk with.”

“Why can’t people see you? I see you.”

“That’s because you’re special Joey. There’s no one else like you.”

Joey shifted uncomfortably in his seat and glanced down at the playing field. The inning was over and the Giants were up to bat.

“Are you a ghost?” Joey innocently asked.

The man sitting next to Joey looked at him and shook his head. He whispered something to his girlfriend and she looked over at Joey. He was apparently holding a conversation with himself.

“You could call me that. I’m really just a lost soul, and I haven’t been able to go into the pure white lights like everyone else.”

“Why do you stay here? Why can’t you go with the others? It must be lonely.”

Bucky sighed. “I’m not sure what’s holding me back.”

“What happened? How did you become a ghost?” Joey asked.

“I tried to catch a foul ball and fell over the railing, over there,” he said, while pointing towards center field.

Joey saw his mother coming up the stairs. “You want to meet my mom?” he asked.

“She won’t be able to see me. I told you. You’re special. Will you come back again?

“Yes,” Joey said, as his mother sat down.

Joey’s mother was lucky to get Dodger tickets for the last regular season game against San Diego. Joey kept thinking about Bucky. He felt sorry for him. A plan slowly unfolded.

As Joey and Mary took their seats in center field the crowds excitement was like a living thing. Joey could hardly contain himself. The Dodgers ace picture, Clayton Kershaw, was starting. Joey looked around for Bucky.

The Dodgers were leading 4-0 and it was the bottom of the 8th inning. Joey was disappointed. No sign of Bucky. He’d brought his most prized souvenir ball (mom bought it for him years ago) signed by Duke Snider.

Joey had to pee. “Going to the bathroom,” he told his mother.

Bucky was waiting outside the bathroom. Joey grinned happily. “Guess what Bucky?” he asked, as he was jostled about by the milling crowd.

“What?”

Joey pulled out the signed baseball and handed it to Bucky, who somehow took it. No one seemed to notice the floating baseball.

“Thanks! An estatic Bucky said. The ball dissappeared. A sudden blinding bright light filled the already well-lit corridor. Joey smiled. All Bucky needed was a souvenir.

As It Stands, ghosts always make for a good tale.

Author: Dave Stancliff

Retired newspaper editor/publisher, Vietnam veteran, freelance writer, blogger, married 43 years with three sons and five grandchildren.

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