Dante Ricciardi, a Braveheart

“Nick looked at the wagon and wondered where it was going, whether the driver lived near the Mississippi and whether he ever went fishing. The wagon lurched out of sight up the road and Nick thought of the World Series game going on in New York. He thought of Happy Felsch’s home run in the first game he had watched at White Sox Park, Slim Solee swinging far forward, his knee nearly touching the ground and the white dot of the ball on its far trajectory toward the green fence at center field, Felsch, his head down, tearing for the stuffed white square at first base and then the exulting roar from the spectators as the ball landed in a knot of scrambling fans in the open bleachers.”    Crossing the Mississippi Ernest Hemingway

Bud Adams was telling Norman King about a book he had picked up off the dollar rack at the supermarket. Bud could hardly contain his excitement, as the hazelnut cup of coffee he was sipping at Nu Café on Chandler St. went cold. Bud and Norman were sitting in a booth on a Tuesday morning. The place was crammed as usual, every table occupied by people working their laptops, making calls on their cell phones, conducting prearranged meetings with colleagues. Bud had placed the book between them and now he was extolling his find as he might have if he’d come across a million dollars on the side of the road. Norman was used to Bud waxing eloquent when discussing his favorite subject—the National Pastime—but this was over the top even for Bud. Norman was as much amused as intrigued by Bud’s grammar-school exuberance. “Look at it,” Bud said, pointing to the cover. “A first edition! In pristine condition! If he ever gets elected to the Hall of Fame this book will be worth a fortune!” Norman picked the book up, admired the striking cover and the contents as he thumbed through the pages and saw not only text and pictures but box scores. He had to admit he had never seen anything like it, Pete Rose’s diary of his recordbreaking 1985 season when he passed Ty Cobb. The magic number—4,192— attained by the man they called “Charlie Hustle.” A blow-by-blow in Pete Rose’s own words, from Opening Day, April 8th, in Rose’s hometown of Cincinnati against Montreal, 2-for-3 with a double, right on up to September 11th when “I got the big knock tonight— a single off San Diego’s Eric Show in the first inning. The Cobb record is mine.” “Very impressive, Bud,” Norman said. “I have to give you credit.” “Who parts with a book like this?” Bud asked. “It’s even dedicated to his mother. See?” Bud pointed to the inscription. It read “For Mom, my No. 1 fan—Who was always there, whether it was washing my uniforms, driving me to practice, nursing my wounds, lifting my spirits, or just being my Mom. LaVerne, this hit’s for you. P.E.R.’” “Enough about that,” Bud, his cheeks flush with the happiness only a gold digger can attest to, said. “I’m familiar with a kid who could be the next Pete Rose. Name’s Dante Ricciardi, batted .301 in 36 games for our Worcester Bravehearts last season, he’s coming back this summer and I’m predicting he’ll be a bigger draw at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field than the Friday-night fireworks or Dave Peterson revving the fans on the concourse. And you know how irrepressible Mr. Baseball is, how much the Creedon family values what he brings to the team as a promoter.” “Riccardi, nice Italian kid, right?” Norman said. “That’s right, from West Boylston, attending St. Petersburg but transferring to Bryant U. in the fall for his junior year. I had a chance to chat with him once, told me he loves being a Braveheart, said ʽit’s been absolutely incredible, the closest thing to a professional baseball experience you can get, being in college. Playing surface-wise, the crowd, the coaches.’ Told me ʽthe Bravehearts do a good job of making it as professional as possible.’ Said ʽDave Peterson has taken real good care of me since when I was in high school at Worcester Academy.’ Loves the extra stuff the Bravehearts do, the kids’ run, the pie-eating contests, the patio in left field. Told me too ʽNick Barry, Jack Riley, Joe Caico (they’re teammates of Dante’s), I grew up with those kids.’” “He’s right at home, here in Worcester. Aspires to play pro ball but if it doesn’t happen hopes to work for the MLB Network or ESPN. “Best of all, his little brother Mariano (like the pitcher) may wind up being a Braveheart. Wouldn’t that be something, a double-play combo all in the family? They’re different though. Dante said to me ʽI get the job done any way you can. My little brother likes to flash out. I’m a nitty gritty guy.’” Norman King shook his head in wonder at Bud Adams’s gusto, more effusive than usual even for a baseball fanatic from way back. “Hey Bud,” Norman said. “How much for the book?”

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