In addition to the games we played on the street, there were also professional games we attended. We were a baseball neighborhood. And we were die-hard Indians fans. (We also rooted for the Yankees but that’s only because Joe DiMaggio played for them.)
When the Yankees came to Cleveland to play it wasn’t unusual to see Joe DiMaggio down at the playground, hitting home runs out of the park and into the parking lot of the next door factory. The boys would sit on the top of the back stop and cheer him on until they ran out of baseballs and Joe headed downtown to play at the Municipal Stadium.
It was a well known fact that Salvatore “Balls” Ballatore was the neighborhood’s number one fan. If Sal wasn’t at home, he could be found at the ballpark rooting for his beloved Indians. Little did we know the Indians wasn’t the only thing he loved.
His wife, Gina, got used to his frequent absences. In fact, it suited her, it gave her time to enjoy the company of her friends.
One day, in August, Sal who attended an afternoon game was late getting home. The evening went by and still no Sal. Neighbors just shrugged it off and figured he stopped in at a local bar and fell asleep.
Then one day turned into two, which turned into a week, and then a month and a police investigation. And still no sign of Sal. Years went by, nine years in fact, when one day, Sal turns up on Gina’s doorstep.
Gina to say the least was shocked. Once she could recover her voice enough to speak she asked him…
“Ma, Sal what happened to you?!”
“Well you see there was this seventh inning stretch…”
“A seventh inning stretch for nine years?! It took you nine years to come home?”
Salvatore hung his head in shame. “I guess I lost count…”
“Here, let me help you count,” Gina said. “One, two, three strikes – you’re out!”