Sam Mitt Parker, Coach / Judge / Scout, 1899 -1988

He smoked those little dark cigars until the last day, until the tenth inning faded into Fall and went with an echo too old for aluminum bats.

Appraisement rode his eyes, A’s and double A’s, B’s, and, mostly, lots of C’s; he was hard to please sitting so laid back in stands you felt he wasn’t there, but for the signal smoke.

Once every ten years, or so it seemed, a smile appeared, a bright July bonfire. It would be a gazelle’s grace or a slingshot arm uncorked from the heart of centerfield, or a ninth inning heart so steady and so countable he’d bet money on its survival. And he’d win, confident of his eye, another’s arm or pump that aorta served.

If one other interest took him, it was the cause for Shoeless Joe, and nights on the dark visitor’s bench or in the dugout out of rain he’d go into extra innings on it, reaching into those dim years filling us with the talk of tales, how Joe could rip one practically anytime he wanted.

He was a clinical specialist on glove poppers, barehanded third basemen, catchers with metallic bounce, and kids caught without gloves long after Christmas went astray. In the end he doted on the average among us. The night he died a match kept flaring up in the stands behind home plate. Nights now, they say, it’s really fireflies at work, but you wonder how they make the echo of bat on ball.