Topic: "Underdog Shmunderdog"(4)
Frodo lashed a line single into the hole between the shortstop and the third baseman. After making the obligatory turn at first base, he eyed the lanky pitcher peering into the catcher for guidance. The pitcher's glove was tucked under his chin, and he held the ball in his left hand. The curious pose was required by the absence of a right arm on the pitcher.
Frodo has long ago forgotten that young man's name, but he was a very rare specimen upon the diamonds patrolled by the Hobbit, so many years ago. Neither the youngster nor his parents were conquered by the unfairness of it all, and his presence on the mound was something that people talked about, and came to see. On the mound, he would catch the ball in the glove on his left-hand, tuck the glove under his chin, and then toss the ball before quickly jamming his one hand back into the glove, ready to field a ball hit his way. Frodo, not unlike all the Hobbits on that field, both admired, and feared, the one-armed kid with the blazing fastball and the herky-jerky movements on the mound.
The score was even, and Frodo was a far better runner than the catcher was a thrower. Frodo edged off of first base, studying the stance of the one-armed pitcher, looking for a tell-tale point at which to begin his rush for second base. Frodo brashly assumed that one-arm did not appreciate either the speed or the guile of his opponent, and edged even another step away from the bag at first. As one-arm raised his right leg to deliver the ball toward home plate, Frodo took his first leaping step to steal second base. In an instant, Frodo caught sight, in the corner of his eye, of the ball traveling behind him toward the first baseman. Instinctively, Frodo turned back to first, and dived for safety to the far corner of the bag. With his face in the dust, he could hear the umpire roar the inevitable denouement.
As he shuffled slowly back to the bench, to the tune of admonishment that one should never be picked off base, Frodo tried to rationalize his misjudgment. As he watched the rejuvenated pitcher from his lonely spot on the end of the bench, Frodo realized that he had paid improper attention to the right shoulder of one-arm. Frodo thought he had seen the shoulder point toward home when one-arm raised his right leg, but now, when it no longer mattered, he realized that the shoulder never did turn in that direction. It was a conscious adjustment to his affliction by one-arm, and Frodo had been fooled by something he had never before experienced.
Frodo played the magnificent game for more than forty years, and he was picked off base but one time. The cheers that day were for the underdog, the one-armed pitcher, but the lesson learned by he who dived in the dust has not been forgotten. Neither of us may remember the name of the other, and the memory probably exists for different reasons. Frodo truly has much in common with Dr. Richard Kimball.