One minute I was slipping off the ladder in the loft where I keep my 1998 season memorabilia, the next I was waking up on a hillside overlooking a beautiful fortress, with flying buttresses and dozens of pennants flapping in the breeze. I was rubbing my aching head when a guy in medieval armor came over and poked me with some sort of long, pointy baseball bat. Bet he could put up some serious power numbers with that thing.
“Yankee Stadium?” I said, pointing towards the castle below.
“Camelot,” he replied.
“What the fuck,” I said.
“I’ll ask ye one more time. From whence do ye hail?” the knight demanded, shoving me into the gloomy cell.
“I’ve told you. The Bronx, baby. Born and raised.”
“Liar!” he shouted.
“Okay, technically I was born in New Haven.”
He glared at me through his helmet.
“Fine, fine, I live in Norwalk now. But it’s just a 45 minute drive from the ballpark, I swear. An hour tops, if you take the Hutch.”
The door to my cell slammed shut. Fair enough—on game days it was really more like an hour 15.
“You don’t want to do this, buddy. I think I’m magic or something,” I shouted as I was dragged to the stake. “And I know guys in Hartford who could make your life hell!” I tried to remember if there was an eclipse or something on that very day in AD 528, but my memory isn’t what it used to be (still got Paul O’Neill’s career batting line up there, though). (.288/281/1269.) (Batting title in ‘94.)
“Halt!” a voice boomed from across the castle yard. I turned. The pointy hat could only mean one thing: Merlin. “If this knave be truly a wizard, then let us engage in a battle of wits. He that yields first, loses.”
How was I supposed to outsmart an actual wizard? But then an idea hit me. “Alright, guy, you got it. But make it fast—it gets late early out here. Just try not to make too many wrong mistakes. And remember: it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
It worked. The old beardo threw up his hands, sputtering like a Red Sox fan when you point out that David Ortiz tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Ninety percent of this game is mental. The other half is knowing all the good Yogi Berra quotes.
“What may we call ye, O Time Traveler?” King Arthur asked me.
“How about The Boss,” I said, having always admired George Steinbrenner.
“It was a battle for the ages. Sir Mickey and Sir Roger fought valiantly all through the summer, but in the end, Sir Roger proved mightier, and finished with 61 dingers,” I told the enraptured lords and ladies. It was about time they heard some tales of the real heroes of old. Up next: the tragic canso of Sir Joe and Lady Marilyn.
English class was never my strong suit, but I was the only one in the court who could even read. “It’s the number 2, which was what Jeter wore, see? And the number 2 sort of looks like a backwards S. So when we put it together, what do we get?”
“Re2pect,” answered the princesses in unison.
The dragon grabbed my arm in its teeth and threw me into the cliffside. It hurt. Bad. This was the kind of thing that wrecked Carl Pavano’s career. I flexed my throbbing elbow and wondered if the royal physician had ever performed ligament replacement surgery.
The buxom maiden leaned over me in the crowded tavern. “Tell me more about this fantastical pleasure palace you call… Mohegan Sun,” she murmured.
King Arthur was in a bad way. “I know Lancelot’s your best friend, my liege, but he’s sleeping with the queen,” I told him. “Some crimes are unforgivable. I burned my Gerrit Cole jersey after he shit the bed in the Wild Card Game last season.”
“But my son Mordred has betrayed me as well! As has my sister Morgan!”
“It could always be worse,” I said, pouring the king another Pinstripe Pils. “You could be a Mets fan.”
Merlin’s spell was almost complete. Finally, I was going home. I turned to the Round Table and raised my ruined arm in farewell (turns out Tommy John wouldn’t be born for 1,428 years).
“We pledge to honor ye,” the knights said. “We will re2pect your memory for as long as we live.”
“Don’t let them trade Jay Buhner,” I replied as I began to fade away.