I was cleaning up some e-mails and came across a blog entry from Al McNeil’s outstanding blog, “Shouts from the Stoop.” Here’s a tribute composed by Al about his friend Darryl Wheatley. I thought this needed to be shared with our readers.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – Faulkner
True story I will remember until I am senile.
It is the summer of 1979. The year the Pirates won the World Series. I am 13, Darryl Wheatley is 17. We play a game of stick ball, pitching in, upstairs in John Jay schoolyard.
Wheatley is up first. He decides that for each at bat, he will be a Pittsburgh Pirate, and as such, will mimic that Pirate’s batting stance. He proceeds to hit line drive after line drive. He is batting lefty as Willie Stargell; mimicking Stargell’s exaggerated windmill warm up swings. He is Dave Parker. He is Al Oliver. He goes through the whole goddamn lineup batting lefty, batting righty, and using a different stance for each at bat.
Since I can only get to bat when Wheatley makes an out, I grow very frustrated. The guy just keeps lashing line drives. Finally, I tell him I am going to move up several feet and pitch from a closer spot.
Darryl tells me it is OK for me to move up and pitch to him; but he had to warn me: when guys move the pitching mound up a few feet, he had been known to hit a line drive back thru the box directly into the guy’s privates.
I swear to Christ, the very next pitch, no sooner than I let it go, it was rocketed back at me, like something launched from the Kennedy Space Center. The ball hit by Wheatley was a missile that landed at the speed of light right at my nut sack.
I screamed in pain; I looked at Wheatley, he was on the ground shaking with laughter.
To me, announcing that you are going to hit a guy in the nuts with a line drive and then making it come true on the next pitch is more impressive than Babe Ruth’s called shot.
Only in John Jay Schoolyard, and only by Darryl Wheatley.
Al and Darryl may not have been from our neighborhood, but they were two guys that would have fit in very well with us.