'Oh, My Aching Back'

April 21, 1999|By Ken Fuson

(With apologies to Ernest L. Thayer and "Casey at the Bat")

The lineup cards were posted on the dugout wall that day;

Our favorite hometown nine had traveled south to Tampa Bay.

But Miller's face was sagging, like he'd lost his long-lost pal;

And a cry came forth from Crab Town: Just where the hell is Cal?

The Iron Man is missing, this news we could not take;

For our man Cal was strong and true, no injury would he fake.

We watched him play, for years and years, for 2,632 straight;

Like death and taxes, he was there, that mighty No. 8.

The skipper tried to rouse the boys, to focus on the game;

Look, we've still got Albert Belle, and others who aren't lame.

But Brady looked bewildered, and Bordick bit his lip;

And B.J., he fought back a tear, for he missed his old friend Rip.

And where was Cal, the man himself, the hero of the pack?

The word back home was mighty bad, it seemed he'd hurt his back.

"His back!" we cried, and smelled a ruse, for that's a mortal's plight;

He's the Iron Man, it must be worse. Dare we say kryptonite?

The Streak was over, this we knew, when he sat on the bench;

And yes, it's true, he'd botched a few, we whispered through teeth clenched.

Yet Cal had never missed a game, as every schoolboy knows;

Oh no! Oh dear! O fates be damned! What will happen to our O's?

This season, it is just a child, with scores of games to play;

Yet Peter's team is plenty bad, and the skipper, he may pay.

But one thing we could count on, like the sunrise or a pal;

Was there at short -- no, wait, now third -- we'd find the rock named Cal.

We scanned the Tampa field, our fingers locked in prayer;

Perhaps we would still find him. The game? We did not care.

For this was more important than one inning or even nine;

This concerned our hero, and his valiant fight with Time.

Alas, we did not see him, his uniform stayed on hook;

His glove was gone, his bat in rack, we opted not to look.

The Iron Man is just a man, for this is known too well;

And just as steel turns to rust, a man goes on DL.

But Time, you fool, you lost again, our hero saves the day;

Because somewhere in Baltimore, a boy begins to play.

He wears a shirt with No. 8. "I'm Cal," he says and beams;

And the Iron Man plays on, anew, if only in our dreams.

Pub Date: 04/21/99

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