On April 10, 2015, a co-worker and I settled into our office’s home plate seats at a Red Sox-Yankees game in the Bronx. After breathing in the ballpark air and taking in the sights and sounds, we noticed we were seated right in front of Rudy Giuliani.
At first it was fun hearing that famous voice make infield chatter. “Why they playing the infield in?” “I’m not sure.” “Why aren’t they shifting this guy?” “Not sure, sir.” “Why’s he batting righty and not lefty?” “He’s not a switch-hitter, sir.” I admired Rudy’s entourage for humoring the former mayor’s musings. Then it got weird.
“Who’s on deck?” “Who’s in the hole?” “Who’s after him?”
I asked my friend if they were ignoring him.
“Look behind you,” he replied. And that’s when I saw Rudy, alone, shouting questions at no one. This continued for a while. When it appeared the Sox would win and we could finally go our separate ways . . . the Yankees tied it up, sending us into extra innings.
“Bonus baseball” is not fun. Instead of seeing the best, you see the rest. Pinch-runners replace sluggers. Unknowns replace ace relievers. The guy who sold you cotton candy in the fifth bats in the 12th. My friend left to use the restroom and soon after, he texted that he was calling it a night. I grabbed my jacket, tipped my cap to those soldiering on, and trudged up the steps to make my exit. Then, my phone buzzed.
A friend watching from Boston texted, “Where you going? You can’t leave early.” Another text. Then another. Then a message so aggressive, it would be weeks until I again called her “Mom.” The buzzing continued. “You can’t leave . . . You can’t leave. . . . ” I was trapped in my own Black Mirror. I woefully returned to my seat, and, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, Rudy turned. “Hey — it’s my buddy!”
That’s right. I was now Mayor Giuliani’s buddy.
“Why’s the outfield back?” “I don’t know.” “Why they holding the runner?” “I don’t know!” “Why’s the outfield back?” “Still don’t know!”
Tom Hanks lied. There is crying in baseball. But suddenly, there was silence. I looked behind me: No sign of Rudy!
This lasted a couple innings until, after 19 total (and nearly seven hours), the Red Sox won.
Everyone hugged. We were no longer Red Sox fans or Yankee fans. We were humans. We were Americans. We were tired. At long last, we could go home and swear off baseball forever. Slowly, I exited down the runway. Then . . . I heard him.
“I got snacks!” Like a phantom, Rudy emerged from the shadows with a cardboard tray of candy. “Mr. Mayor,” I said wearily. “The game’s over!”
“The Red Sox.”
Then . . . ”Who lost??” Before I could respond/have a stroke, he threw the candy on the floor, and we left. My heartbeat steadied as I saw the limousines lined up for dignitaries such as the mayor. Soon, he’d be gone, and I’d be in my car. But as I walked toward the garage, I heard two sets of footsteps. Rudy was to my left!
Alone in a dark parking lot, I felt responsibility for him — kinship. That’s what a 19-inning baseball game does; it brings people together. So I asked him, “Do you have a car?”
Rudy shrugged. “Eh — who knows?” I heard him say before he vanished into the darkness.
I never found out how Rudy made it home. But when I see him now, I don’t see a guy who leaked oil-black hair dye from his ears, shouting that a pumpkin in a baggy suit didn’t actually lose the election; I see my “buddy” from a 19-inning ballgame. And when I’m faced with questions such as “Why would someone let Rudy Giuliani dress up as a jack-in-the-box on The Masked Singer,” I just shrug and say: “Eh — who knows?”
Jon Rineman is a writer in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.