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Saturday, June 28, 2014


         STRIKE THREE   
       In 1970 my next door neighbor Kevin and I figured our baseball careers were 
over but we made up this boys fantasy to express our lament. He was probably the 
worst baseball player ever, and I even took a film of him swinging the bat so we could
 study the footage and see if there was any way to help. I had been hit in the head with 
rocks on two separate occasions and by 9th grade had trouble focusing for more
 than a few minutes at a time on sports  I had a good arm and loved the outfield, 
but was a lifetime .239 hitter from 1965-68. My first day of high school had people
 coming up to me remarking about the rock incident rumor,saying they heard a "rocket" 
hit me in the eye. 
   A  biography of the immortal pitcher Kevin Gallivan, 
written by his    next door neighbor  John A Almada

                   Tuesday August 4th 1970
    Fourteen year old Kevin Gallivan was sleeping peacefully, when suddenly there 
was a loud crash.  He woke up startled, and thought to himself, (must be that stupid paperboy John Almada).  Sure enough it was and when he opened the door he 
he saw that the lunatic neighbor boy knocked over his pile of glass soda bottles. He shook his fist as John rode away throwing papers erratically all the way down the street.
        "Oh well, my day is ruined anyways, waking up at this atrocious hour on
 summer vacation. I guess I'll stay up and read the paper." He immediately 
turned to the sports page.  'How did my Senators do?' Kevin asked himself,  'Hmmm. lost again 6-2.'  
    Frank Howard hits two home runs in the game to no avail. (As it turns out the Washington Senators would soon change their name because of the offensive nature of calling someone a senator) but not their hapless last place status. Frank Howard went on that year  to hit 44 homeruns and drove in 126 runs with drawing 132 walks as one of the most fearsome hitters in the game, yet the Senators only managed a
70-92 won loss record and their usual hapless, last place status, their well entrenched last place standing dogged them for years.
    He flipped the page and something caught his eye,"KANSAS CITY ROYALS HOLD TRYOUT AT COLTS PARK IN HARTFORD". Everyone welcome to attend.
        "This is something" he said aloud to his mom. "I'm going to try out for a professional baseball team."
        "But Kevin dear, you stink at baseball."
        "I know but maybe I'll get a lucky break. Think positive and you are what you eat."
        "What do you mean by a lucky break," his mom asked skeptically.
        "You know, like the way a Hollywood producer discovered Jane Russell in a bookstore."
        "I'll make you a sandwich," she said tuning him out. She needed to figure out if she should go to the store or just stay home and make meatloaf.

        Kevin grabbed his best glove and rode his bike to Colts Park. Thousands were there for this unprecedented opportunity and he felt his chances diminished with this crowd and he remembered. BE POSITIVE ! After a dizzying sign up procedure, he heard a scout loudly proclaim. "Okay, half of you take the field and the other half I want up to bat." Kevin trotted to the infield behind the pitchers mound and the scout pointed to him and said "YOU! Pitch!"
        Kevin said sheepishly. "Uh me…… duh"
        "Yes YOU, you ninny" Kevin put three balls in his glove and stood on the mound. He faced down the batter in a pose he had been practicing; squinty eyed with the ball in his hand behind his back looking intently. The real truth was that he hoped he could reach the plate.  Surprisingly the first batter missed every swing and walked away shaking his head. A giant muscle freak strode ahead of the others and stood at the plate. "You better duck twinkie,  I'm aiming right for your head".
        "Let him hit it" coach Eddie Stankey joked over to Kevin. He was ready to get a real pitcher up there and wanted "Home Run Wagner" to crack one out of the park to show 'em how it's done.  "Go easy on him junior and let him hit it." People laughed  because in their cigar butt minds Kevin was a scrawny, pretzel headed kid who needed to go home. Kev lobbed in the first one and the wind was heard almost to second base.  He  swung hard to only miss again and then a third time.  "He's got a knuckleball … or somethin'"." said the muscle monster as he walked away with the bat between his legs.
        "Poseur" Kevin said confidently.  One of the coaches cocked an eye sideways to scan if this misfit had some secret to reveal.  The next batter chewed gum intently and that drove Kevin insane. 'god I hate that' he thought to himself.' He visualized a hole in the bat and wiped his finger in the compartment behind his back and inside a secret pocket in his belt. Three more pitches and three misses. The outfielders started getting bored and began loudly talking to each other.
        "Get someone up here who can hit!" said the batting coach.
        Another hulking beast, barely human, carried two huge bats and he swung them wildly in dramatic arcs as he walked to the plate. His deadly gaze almost made Kevin nervous and he said aloud to everyone. "I hit 65 homers in 26 professional softball games." He tapped his cleats lightly and locked into position. Kevin gave him his "are you quite ready?" look and went into a windup and his pitch slid low and hopped up into the stike zone, but the batter  stood still.
        The pitching coach said, "IF IT'S IN THE STRIKE ZONE. SWING! We don't have time for this, we need some hits to get this tryout going!""
        The batter went into his Ernie Banks stance and prepared to hit. Kevin struck him out too. Everyone started to notice and gather around "He's dumb looking but he's got something special"
        "He's a doggy face all right, but he seems like a nice kid."  He struck out the next 10 batters and they pulled him off the mound. The scouts had a conference behind the backstop.
        "Say. We could use him in the big game tonight," noted Frank Malzone former Red Sox great, now scouting for the Royals.
        "He would give us an edge against Vida Blue and those Athletics " the others agreed.
        "Right" Eddie said, "We'll send him on a plane within the hour. They beckoned Kevin over and told him about the plan. "Any reason you can't pitch against Vida Blue? " Kevin nodded and Eddie continued. We're sendin' you to Kansas City son, hokay?"
        "Meeeeee…To Kansas City g…g…g.g.g……….gos….gos….go…………-oh my!" Kevin replied initially dumbfounded.  "I'll have to call my mom first" He ran and found a phone to call his mom.
        "Allo? Who's deah?"

        "It's me mom,  I'm going to Kansas City. Kansas City here I come. I'm going to be a baseball pitcher and be 
on baseball cards and shaving commercials."
        "But Kevin, you don't even have peach fuzz yet."
        "You're right, maybe I can do orange juice commercials."
        "All right baby, don't hurt yourself."
        He trotted back to the scouts, "OK I'm ready."

        It was 6 o'clock Kansas City time as the plane hit the landing strip, two hours from game time.  "Well kid, are you ready for the big leagues?"
        "Of course, I'll beat him easily. No sweat."
        Two players met them at the gate and they loaded into an Econoline Van and drove to the private entrance of the stadium. "Before we take you to your private room we need to greet the press."  In the lobby flashbulbs exploded as photographers tried to capture the moment. The noise of the crowd was overwhelming and the coach yelled, "If you reporters could shut up for a minute we could start the interview."
This is a sports town hungry for news and the questions started. "Have you ever pitched before?"
        "Do you think Blue will beat you tonight?"
        "Of course not"
        "Do you think you're too young?"

        "Of course not."
         "Aren't you nervous? The Twins are 66-37 and Kansas City is almost 10 games out of first place, is there any chance Kansas City could win the Division?"
        "No and yes."
        A coach stepped up to the mike.  "That will be all gentlemen. Mr Gallivan must retire to his suite and get some rest before the pitching duel with Vida Blue."
        At the hotel Paco Blanco, he took a short nap as his uniform was getting tailored.  At 7:40 he went to the clubhouse, but was stopped by a mob of reporters and autograph seekers. Kevin pleaded with the crowd, "All right peasants back in your huts."  And the crowd opened up so he could pass and when he eyed the grass of the infield he took a deep breath and jogged onto the field. Just to add excitement to the event, Kevin threw his warm up pitches underhand and also backwards using a mirror.
        The game started and Kevin and the Kansas City Royals took the field. Kevins first opposing batter was Bert Campaneris and he threw three strikes right past him. His strange pitch appeared  outside the strike zone but ended up just inside and the next two batters went down swinging also and the crowd was getting excited. By the end of the third inning, neither team had gotten a hit and it became a tense pitching duel.
        With two out in the eighth inning, Kevin had tied the major league record with 19 strikeouts and his opposing batter was the limp bat of the Athletics batting rotation, Vida Blue. His first pitch was  a change up knuckler for a called third strike. The next pitch was just outside, ball 1. Two sliding curve balls  for a strikeout and a new major league record.
        The no hit pitching duel endured till the 21st inning. At the bottom of the inning the now famous Kevin Gallivan faced Vida Blue. Hitless like everyone else, Kevin had hit some fly balls deep down the right field line.  Vida Blue stared him down and was eager to end this game.  Capeneris Rudi and Reggie Jackson were slated to go to the plate at the top of the 22nd inning, but he had to get the young phenom out, and finish the inning.  Kevin was not about to be intimidated and started pulling out some nose hairs to unnerve his opponent. He gripped his bat ....and.... Mr Blue threw.... .and Kevin closed his eyes.... and swung.  The sound was that of a long game ending as the ball went deep over the 450 foot center field fence for a home run.

        The long hard road to a league title had begun. Ten games out with less than 60 games to go but now the Royals had a chance of catching the Oakland Athletics, their arch rival.  As Kevin was rounding third base he yelled out to Vida Blue, "you're not so good" and "you should have thrown a change up." The crowd swarmed the field and their new hero was swamped. Picking up his 32" Joe Schlabotnick bat he made his way to the dugout. One young fan was repeatedly whacked by Kevins bat and was on the ground sobbing "He touched me. I'll never wash the blood away."
        He was slapped and patted on the back thousands of times and finally crawled into the dugout from whence he was driven away in an ambulance.  Newsmen and cameramen were there after he was released. The questions were flying, "Weren't you tired?"
        "After 21 innings? Of course not."
        "Do you expect to break many records in the major leagues?"
        "I don't like to think of records but uh...Cy Young and his 511 lifetime wins would be fun to break."
        "When did you realize you had a no hitter going?"
        "A no-hitter?" he was surprised. "Did I pitch a no hitter?"
        Later that night on Johnny Carson Kevin was congenial but he had cut himself while shaving some peach fuzz, and the story he told about it had the audience laughing so hard they had to change all the seats the next day.   The End

          . So if anyone from WHS class of 73 has been in touch with Kevin Gallivanlet me know how to find him. We laughed our heads off making this up and some other spontaneous comedy bits like reporters at the 68 Democratic Convention and "Captain Turnpike" with Pete Thorsell. He gave me some great lines for this story and I worked on it on and off, and after 44 years, I finally got it on a computer document. Hope it gave you a chuckle.   
John ALmada

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