Vol. 2, No. 4: Malice at the Ice Palace photo

Year 2097Teddy Griffith

They have brought Babe Ruth back. His baggy uniform glows an angelic Yankees white under the stadium lights. This is his 319th at bat since his return, and he hasn’t made contact yet. The way he swings, it was impressive a long time ago but now he looks like he’s trying to chop a tree down. Some eccentric billionaire didn’t know shit about baseball, but he had a time machine and thought he could give America hope. Only the rich still think of America.

He digs his feet into the batter’s box. The fans are roaring. Yankees Stadium was getting emptier and emptier but now that Ruth’s back it’s always full. They come to watch him fail. It was all a big ploy to get them to sincerely care about something and they’re delighted it didn’t work. The first pitch blows right by Ruth. The fans laugh and jeer. Ruth is shaking with anger. He used to be God.

He got in fights by the railroads in Pigtown. Wrestling about on granite, choking on smoky air that carried the iron smell of blood from nearby butcher shops. He was a good brawler, but he knew what it was like to have your face pushed down into ballast while you bit your own tongue until it bled. The Great Bambino. He’d had the grandest meals the Bronx had to offer and he’d had them all the time. He’d believed he was in love with a great number of beautiful women—he’d had everything.

The second pitch is so fast he only just sees it come out of the pitcher’s hand before it disappears into the black of the night. The moundsman lets out a snicker. He didn’t mean to, but fact is that was his changeup. Ruth hears him and he knows he’ll miss the third pitch. He does the only thing there is left to do. He drops his bat behind him—it lands with a hollow clonk. He charges head first, with a loud, bellowing scream. The pitcher is surprised but reacts as he’s supposed to, as they did it in the old days. Punches are thrown and both men are on the ground, the fans roaring them both deaf. Ruth’s head hits the ground hard and he no longer knows who is winning. In Pigtown he used to throw rotten fruits at police cars, at truck drivers, at anyone who had something he didn’t. At St. Mary’s he learned he could become something one day, but only a ballplayer. He reaches for the pitcher’s ear, because it’s all he can make sense of, and he pulls as hard as he can. He punches something—maybe ground. He sees nothing but black. He’s in the back of his father’s saloon, unattended, watching customers. The orange glares of kerosene lamps shoot waves of light through their liquor glasses. They laugh and get angry about things he’s too young to understand.