It’s the final game of the ’Roid Series. The score is 37-34 with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth…and Casey “The Animal” Brodeur, a giant of a man cut from 356 pounds of Pittsburgh steel, steps to the plate. I shouldn’t use the word step, though, because every step shakes the stadium to its foundation like an earthquake. The Animal quakes his way to the plate and enters the left-handed batter’s box. He doesn’t exactly enter the batter’s box, though. He doesn’t even fit in it anymore. Any pitcher, on the juice or not, would be afraid of this man. He doesn’t crowd the plate. He stands directly over it. His helmet is cut from the plastic Gatorade cooler the team kept in the dugout until The Animal had a case of ’roid rage and broke 6 different bats beating the hell out of it. Now, his head has grown to be a perfect fit for the cooler, but I wonder if his jockstrap is getting smaller.
It’s my first game at a ballpark, and it just so happens my dad was lucky enough to get tickets from his boss for the final game of the season. When I asked my dad why his boss didn’t want to see the game he told me that he wasn’t feeling well after last night’s game. I can understand why. I’ve had better hot dogs that came out of the microwave at home. My stomach is starting to churn just thinking about it, but with The Animal batting with a chance to win the ’Roid Series you can block out about anything.
The game has certainly changed since the Steroid Era. Banning steroids in Major League Baseball created an entirely new league allowing players to experiment and provide entertainment in the process. It started out as a joke, but the league quickly picked up steam as fans realized how much more entertaining the game was with steroids. The Animal hit 96 home runs in his first season in the league. He hit 134 this year and needs just one more to win the series. As Major League Baseball began to be absorbed by the ’Roid League fewer and fewer fans came to games to see homeruns, and more and more fans came to see the brawls. I’ve seen them on TV. Almost every game you’re guaranteed at least one good fight. I’m rather disappointed I haven’t seen one today, but the game isn’t over yet.
The Animal takes his stance and awaits the pitch, his sandpaper hands gripping the bat so hard sawdust begins to pour onto the plate. The pitcher winds up and tosses a 120-mile per hour fastball across the outside corner of the plate.
The Animal shoots the umpire a glare that could cut diamonds, and the umpire cowers back into his stance behind the gigantic catcher. I think if they are going to allow players to use steroids, umpires should be able to use them, too – or at least carry a weapon to protect themselves. The umpires are dwarfed when compared to The Animal.
The pitcher receives the throw back from the catcher with a grin on his face. He’s ahead in the count, so now he’ll bring the junk…the wicked breaking stuff. Everyone in the stadium including The Animal knows a curveball is coming, but good luck hitting it. The pitcher winds up and delivers a 79-mile per hour curveball headed directly for the Gatorade symbol on The Animal’s helmet. Any ordinary man would have jumped out of their cleats at the sight of this curveball, but The Animal is no ordinary man. Just when I thought he was going to get pegged in the face the ball broke straight down just below The Animal’s wild swing and across the plate for strike two.
You can tell The Animal is frustrated. He exits the batter’s box banging the mud off his cleats with his tree trunk of a bat, staring down the pitcher who continues to grin knowing he can waste a pitch and try to get The Animal to chase something.
The Animal approaches the plate once again as the pitcher sets, winds, and fires a fastball directly at The Animal who hits the dirt to avoid losing his head. A cloud of dust forms in front of home plate as The Animal pulls himself up and brushes his uniform off. The crowd begins booing the pitcher, and The Animal points his bat at the pitcher as if to say, “Try that again, kid, and I’ll come out to that mound and teach you a lesson you will never forget and may never recover from.”
The Animal enters the box once again, touches the plate with his bat, and waits. The pitcher fires another curveball that he leaves up in the zone a bit – a big mistake. You can already see the disgust in the pitcher’s face as The Animal, wide-eyed and smiling, begins his swing. The Animal keeps his anxious hands back for as long as he can and unloads on the pitch, sending it down the right field line. The ball drifts just right of the foul pole missing it by inches and travels over three stands of fans and out of the stadium, crushing the windshield of a Winnebago in the parking lot across the street nearly 1,000 feet away.
“Foul ball!” the first base umpire yells.
I had never seen such a display of power in my life. Of course, I’ve seen his homeruns on TV and everything, but seeing it live is a whole different experience. The Animal just missed that one. He was just a bit in front of the best pitch he will see the entire at-bat and he knows it. He needed to be more patient. Dad always says that great hitters don’t miss a pitcher’s mistakes, and The Animal missed a golden opportunity there. After seeing how far he hit that last one and having a three run lead, I’d tell the pitcher to walk him, allow the run to score, and pitch to the next guy.
The Animal retrieves his bat and walks down the first base line toward home plate, staring down the pitcher who now discusses things with his catcher and pitching coach. They’re going to walk him. I know it. The pitching coach returns to the dugout as the catcher heads behind the plate, passing The Animal on his way.
“You guys walking me now?” The Animal asks.
The catcher responds, “Believe it or not the idiot wants to pitch to you. Told coach he wasn’t scared. Says he can strike you out.”
The Animal erupts with laughter as he enters the batter’s box. The pitcher gets the sign from the catcher, comes set, and throws his fastball as hard as he can. The Animal swings wildly at the pitch as thousands of flashbulbs go off in the stands.
“Steeerike three, batter’s out,” the umpire meekly calls from behind the catcher who is already on his way to the mound to celebrate the victory with his pitcher. The Animal throws his helmet on the ground and breaks his bat over his knee as he mopes to the dugout.
“Hey, Animal! Why don’t you take a horse tranquilizer and calm down? It’s just a game you know,” the pitcher calls from the mound.
Well, that day it wasn’t just a game – not for The Animal. He paces back to home plate and firmly puts the Gatorade cooler back on his head and runs out to the mound with both ends of his splintered bat in his hands ready to attack. The umpires try to hold him back but The Animal easily disposes of them, tossing them into the outfield. The catcher then tries to get between The Animal and his pitcher, but The Animal simply stabs the catcher in the chest, right through his gear, with the sharp end of his broken bat. The catcher falls dead at The Animal’s feet, a river of blood slowly forming under the body and dripping down the mound. The Animal pulls the shard of bat from the catcher’s chest and moves toward the pitcher, a look of rage in his eyes. The benches clear and both teams, players and coaches, are fighting each other all over the diamond.
The pitcher’s teammates soon surround The Animal attempting to bring him down, but The Animal won’t go without a fight. He swings both pieces of his bat, connecting viciously with players’ heads. I can hear their skulls being crushed 40 rows up in the second deck. Blood paints the bases red and home plate has become a pile of dead, bloody bodies. The Animal uses his barbaric weapons and strength to finish off the rest of the pitcher’s teammates. The Animal’s surviving teammates make a pathetic attempt to hold The Animal back, but in his rage The Animal kills them all, leaving him and the pitcher the only two players alive. The Animal approaches the pitcher who has a baseball in his hand ready to throw.
“Stop right there you Animal,” the pitcher demands. The Animal stops, drops his bloody pieces of bat, and removes the Gatorade cooler from his sweaty head.
“You think that little ball is going to stop me?” The Animal asks.
“This here is a 120 mile per hour fastball aimed directly at your head. At this distance it’ll take your head clean off,” the pitcher replies. The Animal moves toward the pitcher who delivers a fastball right at The Animal’s head. The crowd quickly becomes a terrified mob running for the exits as The Animal falls and rolls down the mound, his head scattered in hundreds of pieces all over the diamond. The pitcher brushes away the pieces of brain and skull from his bloodied uniform and walks to the dugout to enjoy his ’Roid Series Championship and the many bottles of champagne his teammates will not be able to share with him.
The baseball diamond looked more like a battlefield when it was all over. Severed limbs covered the bloodstained infield. The grass wasn’t even green anymore. I stayed for the entire thing despite my dad pleading with me to leave. I’m glad I didn’t. I watched as the grounds crew helped load players into body bags and roll them out in wheelbarrows. They had to load the Animal in a full-sized pickup, and it took nearly 30 people to lift him. I saw cops question the remaining witnesses. They were no longer fans – simply witnesses. I was no longer a fan either. I had seen what steroids have done to the game and its players. We weren’t watching men. We were watching animals – raging apes with big sticks and tiny balls. I realized that the closest thing to a real baseball game I had ever seen was the little league games I play in, and the kids I play with are better, stronger men than anyone on that field.
When the cops finally asked me what I saw all I could get out was, “It wasn’t a baseball game.”