In the Stadium the PA announcer sang, Tick-tock, seven o’clock, time to play ball, time to play ball, seven o’clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. Yankee Stadium lay empty. The clock ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, baseball time, seven-nine!
In the clubhouse, the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight buckets of Big League Chew, eight cans of Red Bull, and sixteen tins of Copenhagen.
"Today is November 1, 2013," said a second voice from the back of the clubhouse, "in the city of New York, New York." It repeated the date three times for memory’s sake. "Today is the day after Game Seven of the World Series."
Somewhere in the walls, relays clicked, highlight reels glided under electric eyes. Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to the game, off to the at bats, run, run, eight-one! But no bats slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of groundballs. It was raining outside. The weather box on the front door sang quietly: “Rain, rain, go away; rubbers, raincoats for today…”
And the rain tapped on the empty Stadium, echoing.
Outside, the parking garage chimed and lifted its door to reveal no waiting cars. After a long wait the door swung down again.
At eight-thirty the tarp was wet and the outfield was a puddle. A lone groundskeeper swept the rain into a drain, where cold water whirled down a metal throat which digested and flushed them away to the distant sea.
Nine-fifteen, sang the clock, time to clean.
Out of warrens in the wall, many employees like mice darted. The stadium was acrawl with the small cleaning crew. They thudded against the statues in Monument Park, sucking gently at hidden dust. Then, like mysterious invaders, they popped into their burrows. The House the Ruth Built was clean.
Ten o’clock. The moon came out from behind the rain. That House that Ruth Built stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one stadium left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.
Ten-fifteen. The outfield sprinklers whirled up in golden founts, filling the soft morning air with scatterings of brightness. The water pelted the bleacher seats, running down the charred right field where the outfield walls had been burned evenly free of its blue paint. The entire west facade of the Park was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man celebrating a victory. Here, as in a photograph, a woman hoisting a beer over her head. Still farther over, their images burned on concrete in one titanic instant, a large man, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him the shadow of another player, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down.
The five spots of paint—remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.
The gentle sprinkler rain filled the garden with falling light.
Until this day, how well Major League Baseball had kept its peace. How carefully it had inquired, “Who ruined baseball? How could these bastards tarnish the legacy of such a great game?” and, getting no answer from the fans or the players themselves, baseball had shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old maidenly preoccupation with self-protection which bordered on a mechanical paranoia.
It quivered at each suspension, MLB did. If there was an amphetamine suspension, the media snapped up. The player, startled, would never cheat again! No, not even any player can tarnish this House!
Yankee Stadium was an altar with forty thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.
A lone sports writer whined, shivering, at the main gate.
The security guard at the gate recognized the writer’s voice and opened the stadium. The writer, once loving and optimistic, but now given in to being jaded and constantly waxing poetic about “the good old days”, moved in and through the stadium, tracking mud and spewing bile. Behind it whirred angry fans, angry at having to listen to the vitriol, angry at what has transpired in this game.
For not a program from game seven blew under the door. The offending litter, seized in miniature steel
jaws, was raced back to the burrows. There, down tubes which fed into the cellar, it was dropped into the sighing vent of an incinerator which sat like evil Baal in a dark corner.
The writer ran upstairs, hysterically yelping to anyone who would be stupid enough to listen, at last realizing, as the ghosts of the stadium realized, that only silence was here.
It sniffed the air and reminicided about what transpired yesterday. The highlights of last night were playing. “It is high… it is far!! It’s is gone!! It’s an A-Bomb from A-Rod!!”
The writer frothed at the mouth, lying now in the promenade, sniffling, its eyes turned to fire. It ran wildly in circles, biting at its tail, spun in a frenzy, and died. It lay in the parlor for an hour.
Two o’clock, sang a voice.
Delicately sensing decay at last, the regiments of those who read PED articles hummed out as softly as blown gray leaves in an electrical wind.
The writer was gone.
In the cellar, the incinerator glowed suddenly and a whirl of sparks leaped up the chimney.
Beer taps sprouted from the vendors carts. The gates rose to show overpriced merchandise. Martinis manifested on an oaken bench with an all you can eat buffet in the Legends Club. Dubstep played.
But the buffet was silent and the drinks untouched.
At four o’clock the buffet folded like great butterflies back away into the walls.
The scoreboard walls glowed.
The players profiles took shape: Ichiro, Rodriguez, Jeter, Pettitte. The walls were glass. They looked out upon color and fantasy. Victory films docked through well-oiled sprockets, and the walls lived with happier times. The infield grass was woven to resemble a crisp, cereal meadow. A highlight of a game winning walk off home runs and there was the patter of feet and the murmur of a crazed crowd. A still image of A-Rod thrusting the World Series Trophy above his head. Now the scoreboard dissolved into distances of home runs hit into the Autumn endless sky.
It was victory’s hour.
Five o’clock. Over 24 hours ago, the fans poured into this stadium.
Six, seven, eight o’clock. The memory of last night faded like magic tricks, and in the dugout
a click. In the metal stand opposite the bullpen phones where the space heater now blazed up warmly, a champion’s cigar popped out, half an inch of soft gray ash on it, smoking, waiting.
Nine o’clock. Fans who were here wished that there was heat as nights were cool here.
Nine-five. A voice spoke from the study ceiling:
"Baseball fans, which poem would you like this evening?"
Yankee Stadium was silent.
The voice said at last, “Since you express no preference, I shall select a poem at random.” Quiet music rose to back the voice. “Sara Teasdale. As I recall, your favorite….
"There will come long dingers and the smell of the ground,
And Alex Rodriguez circling the bases with the loud crowd sound;
And the fans cheer in the bars at night,
While wearing their pinstripes, black and white;
But sadly the love of the game was consumed by a fire,
News of suspensions coming over the AP wire;
And not one will care of the winning of the game, not one
Will care at last when the witch hunt is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
if baseball perished utterly;
And Selig himself, when he woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that the fans were gone.”
The fire burned on the dugout ground and the cigar fell away into a mound of quiet ash on its tray. The empty seats faced each other between the silent walls, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame played.
At ten o’clock Yankee Stadium began to die.
The wind blew. The sanctimony of A-Rod’s World Series victory was too much. Baseball was ablaze in an instant!
"Fire!" screamed a voice. The fans tried to ignore the sanctimony, many blogs were written about the greatness of the Yankees 28th World Series title. But the writers continued to write, licking, eating, destroying the legacy of this victory, while the BBWAA took it up in chorus: "Fire, fire, fire!"
The game tried to save itself. The league suspended A-Rod immediately after the victory but the inaction simply sucked upon the fire. The brand new corporate stadium gave ground as the fire in ten billion angry blog posts moved with flaming ease
from section to section and then up to the upper deck, where the real fans sat. While more intelligent fans squeaked from the recesses of the internet, pistoled their well reasoned arguments, and ran for more.
But too late.
Somewhere, sighing, the first fan shrugged to a stop. The tide of celebration had ceased.
The fans who knew that there was never any halcyon days was gone.
The fire crackled up the stairs. It fed upon the legacy of the game in Monument Park, like delicacies, baking off the history of Yankees baseball, tenderly melting the statues into unrecognizable blobs.
The fire backed off, as even an elephant must at the sight of a dead snake. Now there were twenty snakes furiously trying to explain how awesome it was that the most evil heel in contemporary baseball lead the Yankees to a title, killing the fire with a clear cold venom of embracing PEDs.
But the fire was clever. It had sent thousands of tweets and articles to simply say that baseball was ruined. An explosion! The loudness and constant medium to proselytize had simply beaten down those willing to fight the good fight.
The fire rushed back into the hearts of every casual fan. Yankee Stadium shuddered, A-Rod’s clutch hit bruising the game’s soul, its bared skeleton cringing from the backlash, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air.
Help, help! Fire! Run, run!
Heat snapped the victory banners like the brittle winter ice. And the voices wailed Fire, fire, run, run, like a tragic nursery rhyme, a dozen voices, high, low, like children dying in a forest, alone, alone. And the voices fading as the reality of what the writers — not the players — had done to the legacy of the game finally began to set in.
All of the voices eventually died.
In the Bronx, the Stadium burned. Ichiro, Jeter bounded off. The players ran in circles, changing sports, and ten million animals, running before the fire, vanished off to watch the National Football League….
All the voices were dead. In the last instant under the fire avalanche, other choruses, oblivious, could be heard announcing the score, saying that the game was safe, that A-Rod’s victory did not hurt the game. It was a scene of maniac confusion, yet unity; singing, screaming, a few last fans trying to shout out the horrid opinions away! And one voice, with sublime disregard for the situation, announced the game, remembering the better times until all the ability to care about the sport of baseball burned, until all the fan’s will withered and finally, the pro-PED crowd cracked.
The fire finally engulfed the stadium and the game had burned, puffing out skirts of spark and smoke.
In the Stadium, an instant before the rain of fire and timber engulfed the legacy of the most storied franchise in baseball history, preparing for a game which will never happen again at a psychopathic rate, eight buckets of Big League Chew, eight cans of Red Bull, and sixteen tins of Copenhagen, which, eaten by fire, started the writers into a frenzy again, hysterically hissing!
The crash. The upper deck coming down into the Legends seats. The Legends seats into the infield, infield into
the clubhouse. The World Series title, the legacy of the sports, A-Rod’s walk-off, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.
Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke.
Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the ruins of Yankee Stadium, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:
""An A-Bomb! From A-Rod! Ball game over! World Series over! Yankees win! Theeeeeee….""