By the top of the fourth the score was tied at six apiece. Up to that point, it was a good game but there was nothing special about it. Cooper came up to bat with two outs and a runner on third. It was common knowledge Cooper had been the best hitter in his age group for two years running. As he stepped up to the plate though, a weird thing happened—the whole place got real quiet. Took me a moment to realize it was only a relative quiet, that the constant sound of that handball splotching against the cement wall had stopped. It was surreal though, and it seemed to throw off the rhythm of the day. Nothing seemed quite right after that.
Cooper struck out, actually took a called third strike. In two years of Little League prior to that day, Cooper had only struck out once—and he’d been coming down with the chicken pox then. Something else I need to mention here as well. It only makes sense in retrospect, in the context of the rest of that strange afternoon, but I’ll mention it here anyway. Before Cooper struck out, he fouled off a pitch, a crazy zinger what busted through that rusted chicken wire backstop. It hit a little boy name of Charlie Granger in the side of his head, knocked him cold; for a moment it didn’t look too good, like he wasn’t breathing. He was though, and thank god for that. He had a bump on his head and tears in his eyes, but he looked good enough otherwise. Charlie was four that day, he’s a man now, and a hell of a good ball player—maybe the best ever produced around these parts. Plays in the majors you know.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there’s something else I should mention about Charlie Granger. The boy had seizures, epilepsy I guess. And not a mild case either. His mother—Edna was her name and she died just not too long ago—once told me they had pretty much figured his future didn’t promise much. He had a seizure a day, sometimes two Edna said. I witnessed one of them once. Charlie’s older brother played ball, wasn’t bad but he was no Charlie as it turned out, and the year before Charlie got hit with that foul ball I saw the boy have one of his fits behind that fluorescent snack bar during one of his brother’s games. A frightening sight. Scared the hell of me. One moment he was standing there licking an ice cream cone, the next he was on the ground writhing back and forth, making weird guttural noises. The ice cream had somehow landed on his chest and his right arm kept jerking back and forth through it, smearing it across his body. I got up close, Edna was there as well and she looked completely used to it. I watched Charlie’s trousers turn dark between his legs. I thought then about how he might swallow his tongue, but Edna seemed to know what she was doing and she didn’t go nowhere near his mouth. She held him close and whispered something in his ear. I don’t know what it was, but the boy stopped shaking a moment later. The whole thing lasted maybe sixty seconds, a minute straight out of the pages of hell you ask me. I couldn’t imagine watching my kid go through that kind of agony every day.
The thing is though, they didn’t have to. By the time Cooper’s foul ball struck him, Charlie had had a fit a day for about two years running. I guess that’s over seven hundred seizures, more than twelve hours of spells if each lasted just a minute. After he was struck that day, Charlie never seized again. Not once.
Edna called that ball a miracle.
Maybe, but considering what happened later, I don’t think the ball had much to do with it.
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