Johnny Jones had baseball in his bones. The game will never be the same now that he is gone. This is a story about Johnny and his flight to glory and the day he hit a home run historians still talk and write about even though it happened many years ago.
When Johnny Jones was in his prime he got hits 'most every time, usually just an infield single, once or twice with luck and trouble a flukey double but that was all. He was always on the ball, he could would come through in a clutch with a sacrifice to advance a chance to score.
The opposing team played it tight. Johnny Jones was next at bat. He stood at home plate. tipped his hat, clutched his bat. He knew what he had to do to come through for his fans in the stands. "BUNT! BUNT! BUNT!" cried the crowd. "JOHNNY, JOHNNY, DO YOUR STUNT!" But he'd fool them all. He stood tall pitch after pitch.
Johnny swung hard and missed. "STEERIKE!" the ump shouted out. A second pitch, a call strike. Now it was do or die. He knew he had to bunt the ball. His switch to a crouching stance threw the pitcher off his pace. But he launched the ball into space.
The pitch smashed Johnny in the face, smack in the flat of his nose. A fountain of blood spurted out. the field turned red, Johnny suffered pain from his head to his toes as he fell to the ground without a sound. The crowd froze. Was Johnny dead?
The ambulance came. Johnny was gone. The game went on. A sub took Johnny's place on first base. The next batter aimed for the wall. He just popped up and that was all.
Johnny's life hovered on the brink. The docs didn't think he'd make it. The shock, the loss of blood, internal injuries, the stress, the strain, the terrible pain that drugs could not sustain. But behind those battered eyes and injured brain was a man who would not admit defeat. Johnny Jones had baseball in his bones. He was not alone.
Johnny, a man who never learned to pray now started out each painful day asking God to let him stay in the game. And finally the day came when Johnny, blind but clear of mind, fulfilled his dream, rejoined his team and heard the welcoming roar of the fans. Who could want for more?
Johnny Jones remained a member of the team even though he lost his sight. As a coach he might teach his bunt stunt to new players down the line and raise the spirit of the guys with high fives and words of praise on days good and bad.
Blind or not. he was Johnny on the spot when things got hot. Although he could no longer come through in a clutch he gave more to the game than the final score that kept his team in the race for first place and wound up in a showdown for the series.
The two competing teams , tied three games each, were locked in a pitcher's duel with two outs in the final inning. The opposing hurler showed signs he was beginning to weary with one more out to give him the prize he sought---no-hitter fame in this final game of the year.
There was not a sound, a cheer or jeer, as the fans grew tense. Pressure was immense. The infield moved a little out, the outfield moved slightly in from the wall. The batter waited in the stall. The pitcher nervously pounded the ball repeatedly into his glove. Dark clouds were gathering above as history filled the silent air.
The home-team had a man on base. A hit right now would keep them in the race. had one on base. A hit could keep them in the race, The words rang out loud and clear: "TIME OUT!"
A dugout debate was going on. The crowd could hardly wait to learn the fate of the game, The decision came. The pinch hitter would be blind Johnny Jones. Were they trying to blow the game away? Maybe. Maybe not. Johnny fought for one last shot to prove baseball was still in his bones. "Maybe I can't see," he said, "But in my mind's eye it's clear to me. I can see the ball as it leaves the mound. I hear sound as it whirls through the air. And I know before it's there where it will be. How do I know? Just trust me."
The team crowded around would not let Johnny down. His dream, was to lead the team to victory. To make history. So what if he failed. At least he'd have tried. He would have prevailed. He was more important than all the games they ever played.
(Whatever they say, that's OK, Johnny thought. The team ought to know what's best. But I've got to try to meet the test.)
They led Johnny to the batter's box to the shock of doubtful fans. They placed a bat in his hands. directed him at home plate. Then waited for the call, "PLAY BALL!"
The first pitch. Johnny swung. Missed the ball by a mile, Another pitch. Johnny stood there motionless as the ump cried: "Call strike two." Another time out. They began to doubt what they had done. Johnny seemed in a trance. He whispered to his teammates. "One more chance." The manager shrugged: "Why not. One last shot. That's all we got."
Johnny stepped back in the batter's box. Took off his hat and placed it on his heart. Then looked to the sky with eyes that could not see. He listened intently. Nodded confidently. Waited patiently. The final pitch. Johnny swung. Connect! A deafening roar as ball met bat and began to soar. Over the wall, the parking lot. Then the ball halted in mid air, as if deciding where to go, heard the distant cheer and resumed its flight into the far off stratosphere. The
ball was never found.
The homer was declared, The final score, two to one. Johnny's job was done. The team led Johnny around the bases and back to home plate where he was met by hordes of fans. "How'd did you do it?" they wanted to know. "I heard the angels sing," Johnny said. "Then God commanded me to swing. God's my favorite fan, you know. He promised to wait to for me."
That said, Johnny Jones, the man with baseball in his bones, knelt on home plate. He gave a high five to the sky. He closed his eyes. And died..