CHASE STERN: AFFAIR WITH TEAMMATE’S WIFE, THEN FIGHT.
“Dad!” I yelled loudly and reached forward, banging my fist against his hotel room wall.
“When Stern did that, it broke the cardinal rule of sports. You don’t mess with your teammate’s wife. And you certainly don’t punch the guy after messing with his wife. That put Stern on everyone’s radar. No one expected him to go to New York. But we expected someone to snatch him up. Nobody who bats four hundred is going to go unclaimed. And that summer, he was the hottest name in the game.”
Dan Velacruz, New York Times
“You’re fidgeting, Ty.”
“And you’re drinking too much.”
“It’s not good for you. I’ve got juice in the fridge that I pressed this morning.”
“I’d rather have coffee.”
“Is it the kale you don’t like? I can do it with just spinach and carrots.”
“Stop changing the subject from your fidgeting.”
“I’m not. I could try adding kiwi. That’s what I do for Duncan.”
“He’s not coming here, Ty.”
“Don’t play stupid. It’s not attractive.”
“He might come here. The Dodgers can’t keep him after this. And you know we should have gotten him straight out of the—”
“He’s not coming. You know the reputation we keep. His bullshit isn’t going to fly here.”
“Maybe he’ll change. Maybe it was a one-time thing. It might not even be true; you know how the media spins things.”
“Good. Then they’ll have no reason to trade him.”
“How can you not want him on our team? He’s Chase Stern.”
“I have a teenage daughter. That’s the only reason I need.”
“I’m, like, five years younger than him.”
“You’re not that dumb, Ty.”
“You know he’d be good for the team. Admit that.”
“He’s not coming here, so it’s a moot point.”
“We need him. Especially with Douglas’s sprain. And Corten is a few years from retiring. And—”
“Ty. Stop. Finish that damn essay you’ve been staring at for two hours.”
“Pour out that coffee, and I’ll do my essay.”
“Do your essay, or I’ll tan your hide.”
“I don’t think you’re allowed to tan my hide anymore. I think that stops at, like, age eight.”
“I’m pouring it out, okay? Now shut up.”
“Thank you, but I finished the essay. Sent it in fifteen minutes ago.”
“I love you too.”
“This is bullshit.” Chase leaned back in his seat and tossed a plastic pen, watching it flip through the air before catching it.
“Can you get your shoe off my desk?” Floyd Hardin, his agent, moved around his heavy desk and swatted at Chase’s tennis shoe. “I need you to focus.”
“I’m focused. Dodgers don’t want me anymore. So what? I’m sick of you Californians and your damn sunshine. You told me this was temporary, anyway. You know what I really want.” He sat up, rolling the pen through his fingers before sticking it in the edge of his mouth.
“Yeah, the Yankees. And you haven’t let me forget it. But they didn’t need you then, and now…” Floyd raised his hands, the action showcasing the three World Series rings he’d probably picked up at Sotheby’s. “You’re not giving me a lot to work with, Chase.”
“I’ve got the best stats in the league. What the hell else do you need?”
“You know their club as well as anyone, Chase. They like players who are clean. No drugs, no skeletons, no drama.” He leaned over and tapped the front page of the paper, Chase’s photo front and center. “Not this.”
“They need me,” he said stubbornly. “And I’m not signing with anyone else.”
“It’s not your decision. You’re getting traded. It’s up to the Dodgers where you go next. I’ve tried to talk to the Yankees, but they aren’t biting. According to their camp, you’re out.”
“They said that?” Chase scowled, stopping his chew on the end of the pen and pulling it from his mouth.
“Yes. But my guy at CAA says Milwaukee might be making a big play. Have a blockbuster deal they’re fronting.”
“I won’t do it. Milwaukee? Fuck that.”
“Once again…” the man said slowly. “You. Don’t. Have. A. Choice.”
“I’ll refuse to play. Error my ass off.”
“And you’ll get black-balled and never play for a major league team again. Including the Yankees.” He crossed his arms over his chest and watched Chase.
Chase tilted his head back and groaned, his eyes searching the ceiling. “All this over a shitty lay,” he said quietly.
“Learned your lesson?”
“With women?” he laughed, a hard and bitter sound. “Sure.”
“You had a million Los Angeles women to choose from. I don’t expect you to be celibate. Just think next time you feel like unzipping your pants.”
He stood, lifting a baseball cap and pulling it on. “You think, too, Floyd. Get me in pinstripes, or I’ll find an agent who can.”
Packed over a six-month season, there were 162 baseball games every year. That was 162 times players warmed up, 162 times they walked onto a field and risked their career with swings, steals, and plays. Eighty-one times we stepped off a bus and onto an opponent’s dirt. Eighty-odd times we dealt with opponents’ fans, their jeers, their shitty locker rooms, the cloud of contempt that surrounded a visiting team. Especially when that visiting team was the greatest ball club in the world, the team every player wanted to be on, every fan wanted to secretly root for. It could be hell being a Yankee. But then we had home games. Times in the magic, an entire city’s energy swirled in the air—the love strong, powerful, and coursing through our boys’ lungs, fifty thousand souls storming to their feet for no purpose other than to celebrate our awesomeness.
It was one hell of a schedule. Exhausting by the time it ended. And that tally didn’t include the playoffs—an extra twenty games to cap off the season. The most emotional games all year, each win celebrated in full fashion, assuming we got there. Assuming we pulled a constant stream of Wins.