Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (Part Four)

Hide your money / From the man / Plant your head / In the sand / If you ain’t got insurance / Claim treatment as your right / And if you want to go to war / Send poor kids off to fight.

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“What in hell did you do? Piss him off?” Gary Sjakich leaned forward, leaning against the dugout railing of Progressive Field.

“I didn’t think I pissed him off,” Riggs said to the Loggers’ manager. “I just thought we had an honest conversation.”

“Whatever it was, don’t stop.”

Leland Mortenson had four hits in as many at-bats. His teammates had combined for two more. The Loggers led the Tribe, six to two, and Mortenson had scored three of the runs and driven in four. It was the seventh inning, a runner on third, one out, Lonnie Chisenhall batting against Henry Lively, the Loggers’ stout righty. On a two-and-one count, Chisenhall hit a decent fly ball, one that ought to have been good for a sacrifice.

Sjakich and Hellams watched the fly ball rise above the stands.

“The day Leland’s having, they’d be a fool to send him,” Riggs said.

They did. Leland laid back a tad, strode forward as he caught the ball, and threw to the plate, straight in, like a missile. Mike Aviles was out by two strides.

“Just add water,” Riggs said. “I told you. Don’t cross a kid with talent when it’s his day.”

Mortenson homered for the second time in the top of the ninth, becoming the first Portland Logger ever to collect five hits in as many at-bats. In the bottom half, Sjakich waited for Leland to trot out to right and sent Julio Soto out to replace him.

“Ah, hell, Gary, look,” Riggs said. “Dumb son of a bitch thinks you’re showing him up.”

Riggs thought for a moment that Leland was going to flip off his manager. Then he heard the applause. Fifteen thousand Cleveland fans were giving him a standing ovation. He looked around and smiled, slapped Soto a high five, took off his cap, and acknowledged the grudging adulation. He jogged in and, as he stepped down into the dugout, said to Sjakich, “Thanks, Skip. Means a lot to me.”

Sjakich’s eyes met Hellams.’

“I be dogged,” Riggs said.

The four-game series spilled over to Monday night. Another afternoon game would have been appreciated, but the Loggers were only traveling to Detroit. Mortenson showed up late, said he’d been playing golf. He also told Sjakich he thought he had “flu-like symptoms” and needed the night off. Sjakich asked him if he thought he could pinch-hit, and Leland said he reckoned he could. Sjakich sighed and said all right. Leland wasn’t even in the dugout when the game started.

Getting treatment.

“You think he’s drunk?” Sjakich asked.

“Stoned, more likely,” Hellams said. “He’s something.”

“I guess you better get him pissed off again.”

“You know how it is,” Hellams replied. “Two steps front’ards, one step back.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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