A Baseball Legend Returns

Andy McCullough: NEWARK, Del. — The rarity rests behind a stack of papers on a desk inside a first-floor office at the University of Delaware. Kevin Kerrane rises from his chair to fetch it. He is a few weeks from his 72nd birthday, an English professor with snow-white hair and a matching mustache. Above him looms Clint Eastwood on a poster for Le Bon, La Brute et Le Truand.

He fishes past his iMac and retrieves a first-edition copy of his book, Dollar Sign on the Muscle. Inside is a message inscribed to his mother. More than 30 years ago, Kerrane shadowed the scouts of the Philadelphia Phillies and documented the arcane habits of their profession. He published the book in 1984 and saw it certified as a cult classic in the subsequent decades. In 2002, Sports Illustrated deemed it one of the 100 best sports books ever written, a tome that lionized one generation of scouts and galvanized another.

After it went out of print about 10 years ago, its price on the secondary market hit triple digits. But soon, remarks a visitor to his Memorial Hall office one day last week, the price of this keepsake may plummet. The time to make a quick $100 is now.

The Last Voyage Of The Bounty

Michael Kruse: In the dark, in the wet, whirling roar of Hurricane Sandy, on a ship tipping so badly the deck felt like a steep, slick roof, the desperate, damaged sailor searched for a spot from which to jump. Close to the stern, he gripped the helm, now all but touching the water’s high black churn. He let go and paddled and kicked in the buoyant but clumsy blood-orange suit he had wiggled into not long before. The ship spat up a heavy wooden grating, and it landed on his head. Crack. His adrenaline surged. He thrashed, straining to get away from the heaving ship, her three masts of tree trunk heft rearing up and slamming down like lethal mallets, her thinner, sharper spars piercing the surface like darts, the ropes of the rigging like tentacles, grabbing, yanking. Pfffffft. The tip of a spar sliced down, catching the sailor, pushing him below. He gasped, choking on water, struggling back to where there was air.

His focus narrowed.

Next breath.

Breathe.

Sustainability

Boston Globe’s new owner, John W. Henry: “Now I see The Boston Globe and all that it represents as another great Boston institution that is worth fighting for. There isn’t a clear financial model for the news business in the future. Thus, some people have expressed puzzlement about this investment because they expect that the purchase of a business is based on the pursuit of profit. But this investment isn’t about profit at all. It’s about sustainability. Any great paper, the Globe included, must generate enough revenue to support its vital mission.

“Put another way, the future of vibrant journalism — trustworthy news coverage, informed opinion, and fearless accountability reporting — is dependent on solving tough financial issues. This is a bit of an irony, because I haven’t met anyone in the business whose main reason for being there is to make money.”

The End Of The Waffle House

Jessica Contrera: On the last morning, before the waffle irons went cold and the pictures came down, before the lock refused to lock, before the claw crashed through the roof, the old man paced.

Tap, tap, tap. Bud Powell’s aluminum cane led the way as he circled the floor of Bloomington’s Waffle House. His Waffle House.

That Wednesday in September, the owner didn’t know what to do with himself. The smell of frying oil, the same greasy perfume that had greeted customers for 46 years, wafted into his nose as he wandered past the vinyl booths. He sat down, then stood
up again.

Bud — everyone called him Bud — checked on the dwindling supply of breakfast sausage, peered into the nearly empty freezers, tried to explain to his regulars why it had to be this way.

“It’s time,” he said over and over.

Trapped Under the Sea

Neil Swidey has turned his Globe Magazine piece about the divers who became trapped in an enormous underwater sewage tunnel into a book. (I pre-ordered mine today.)

The story (behind a completely-worth-it 99-cent access paywall):
The divers packed themselves into the basket and prepared to be lowered by a crane down the 400-foot shaft. But they couldn’t move until DJ Gillis got into the basket with them, and he wasn’t about to be hurried.

“C’mon, DJ,” one of the guys yelled. “Let’s go!”
Tap Taylor, who was DJ’s boss, started yelling, too. “Let’s go!”

It was a radiant summer morning, and they were standing on Deer Island, a peninsula that hangs down like a comma from Winthrop into Boston Harbor, curling in front of Logan Airport. It also happened to be Tap’s 36th birthday, and he didn’t want to waste it waiting for DJ to move his tail.

The two of them had a close if combustible relationship. Tap was a hard-charging guy who logged one 14-hour day after another with the singular focus of building his small New Hampshire commercial diving business into something bigger. Still, he had a soft spot for DJ, treating the 29-year-old more like a kid brother than an employee. A 6-foot-2, solidly built charmer, DJ had developed a reputation as a talented diver who worked hard and partied harder. He’d show up late to job sites many mornings, often dropped off by some blonde or brunette. As DJ would be hurriedly changing out of his dress shoes and pants from the night before, Tap would start cursing, threatening to kick him off the job. But those outbursts usually ended the same way. Before long, Tap would calm down, laugh, and begin pumping DJ for details from his latest adventure hopping bars and beds.

“C’mon!” Tap shouted again.
“If you’re in that much of a hurry,” DJ barked back, “then go without me!”

It was the morning of July 21, 1999, a Wednesday, and the tension was thick, mainly because so many problems had surfaced on the project that Monday and Tuesday. Getting down the shaft would be the easy part. The challenge would come when the divers had to make their way to the end of a dank, dark sewer tunnel that began at the base of the shaft and kept going and going, for nearly 10 miles. Tap, who would be monitoring their progress from topside, was in no mood for DJ’s same old antics.

In reality, neither was DJ. The only woman he had on his mind now was the Virgin Mary.

He had been searching the construction trailer for a piece of twine. He needed it to tie a small oval religious medal to the underside of his hard hat. The medal had once belonged to his grandfather, a carpenter who helped construct the Prudential Building that defined Boston’s skyline.

DJ had asked his mother for it the night before, remembering the story of how his grandfather had kept the Miraculous Medal in his pocket the whole time he worked on the Pru, taking comfort in the Blessed Virgin’s protection. Seeking comfort himself, DJ had gingerly asked his mom, “Is that still around?”
“Yes,” she said. “Why?”
“I’m a little concerned about the job.”

Red****s No More

Brick: I am a third-generation fan of the professional football team in Washington. When my family sat down for pancakes last weekend, with a big game against Washington’s archrival, Dallas, looming on the eve of Columbus Day, I had to tell my children why we were not going to use the team’s nickname anymore.

Your Monday Morning Annie Proulx

The second paragraph from “People In Hell Just Want A Drink Of Water,” in the 1999 collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories.

 

Dangerous and indifferent ground: against its fixed mass the tragedies of people count for nothing although the signs of misadventure are everywhere. No past slaughter nor cruelty, no accident nor murder that occurs on the little ranches or at the isolate crossroads with their bare populations of three or seventeen, or in the reckless trailer courts of mining towns delays the flood of morning light. Fences, cattle, roads, refineries, mines, gravel pits, traffic lights, graffiti’d celebration of athletic victory on bridge overpass, crust of blood on the Wal-Mart loading dock, the sun-faded wreaths of plastic flowers marking death on the highway are ephemeral. Other cultures have camped here a while and disappeared. Only earth and sky matter. Only the endlessly repeated flood of morning light. You begin to see that God does not owe us much beyond that.

The Real Housewives of Ciudad Juárez

Debbie Nathan

When the couple met in 2005, Emily was a methamphetamine addict, living in a suburb near Phoenix. She was in her early 20s and could barely hold a job, but when she was high she thought she was the cleverest, most beautiful woman in the world. Her previous boyfriends, also addicts, agreed with her. Gordo didn’t. He “would tell me I was a fucking idiot for doing drugs,” Emily recalled recently.

She tried to deceive him about her habit. “I would wait until he was fast asleep before I crept out to the living room to get high,” she has written. “I would smoke bowl after bowl, hiding behind the couch. I would slip into bed an hour or so before I thought he would wake up and sing songs to myself in my head and make plans to be a famous something or other.”

But Gordo wasn’t stupid, and Emily “decided that it was his fault that I couldn’t stop using.” She left him for a few days and woke up one morning knowing something had changed. She grabbed a pen, picked up a calendar – printed with an image of the Virgin Mary – and drew an X on that day’s date. It was the day she decided to stop using drugs, and she has ever since been clean. She credits Gordo for saving her life then, though he barely spoke English and she hardly knew Spanish. They were married in 2007.

The Stolen Ones

Impressive work by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and by J. David McSwane: Wearing only a sports bra and boxers, bruises on her back, the girl surged through the salon’s door. Her feet were bare and bleeding from the race over asphalt, her speech a frenzied heave as she spilled the secret of where she had been, what she had been doing.

Camille Johnson’s daughter confirmed the unthinkable.

For weeks, Johnson had searched these north Sarasota streets, knocking on doors in the early morning, shouting in the rain, asking about her missing 17-year-old daughter, Wa-Das Crowle (WAH-Dez CROU-lee). Everyone calls her Moe.

It was beyond frightening that Moe’s whereabouts and activities had been a mystery, for in this segregated tract of Sarasota, news both good and bad spreads fast and far through blood ties and marriage and church circles that connect nearly everyone by one degree. In this neighborhood, the gossip collides at Johnson’s meager salon.

Johnson, a tall woman, now seems diminutive against the darkness she strains to remember. She points to the Japanese sword in the corner, between the plastic cupboard and the partition. She endeavors to explain why she clutched the sword, why she confronted her daughter’s abusers.