Left field is for the birds!!
By Paul Perry
He hailed from Europe, Germany to be more precise. Which city I cannot recall, but I know that he stumbled onto the Shankees like many others before him; baffled by baseball in Buenos Aires. However, he was unique in his own right, as Fritz Krug was the first German player to join the ranks; thus automatically placing him in the Shankees Hall of Fame. But not all is about nationality, especially in this story, as there is one other tiny tidbit of team trivia that places Fritz in the Shankee Scrolls; one of those moments that never gets left behind on the field. Each player leaves his mark on a team, and Fritz surely did too.
It was another sunny day in Buenos Aires and another great day for baseball at Shankee Field, which was located a stone´s throw from the pristine waters of the Riachuelo River and just across from perhaps the most symbolic housing developments built by the Peron Era. Back in the German league, Fritz, blond, blue eyed and of a burly stature, played first base. But on the Shankees, he patrolled the outfield.
Today, he was put in charge of left field to track down any fly balls put into play by our hard hitting opponents; the always dangerous Cubans. However, the Cubans weren’t the only adversaries Fritz would face on this day, for in Shankee field, a strange sort of bird lurked about, hovering from above and soaring at you from the sides.
They were called teros, and looked like thin seagulls with long, skinny legs, which they scurried across the outfield on. Their wings were narrow, with a touch of black around the beak and chest.
The Teros are a common Buenos Aires bird, and they too called Shankee Field their home. Thus, they didn’t take kindly to anyone invading their territory. Short-tempered and eager to repel your presence, they gawk loudly and fear not swooping down at you from above; at full speed straight at anyone that stepped foot onto the outfield. With their menacing sounds and aggressive fly-bys, they were not to be taken lightly, as they were there to protect their nests, which they built in the remote parts of the outfield.
Sometimes, I would spot an egg or two as I looked for baseballs gone astray after the games, but I never interfered; leaving their nests and eggs untouched. However, they did not know that.
During the pre-game warm-up Fritz stood in left field, occasionally dodging a Tero or two. I watched, everyone found it both funny and frightful at first, as it was a normal occurrence among all outfielders. Eventually, the game got underway and the Cubans managed to score a run on an error. The inning ended and the Shankees trotted back towards the dugout.
I watched and spotted Fritz, somewhat flushed, looking concerned. “What’s up man, everything cool?” I asked.
He looked at me, half a smile on his face; “I killed a bird,” he said, sensing a sense of remorse.
“What do you mean you killed a bird,” I asked, puzzled.
“I killed a bird, in left field,” he replied.
“How?” I asked.
“With the ball,” he retorted.
“With the ball!?”
“Yeah, it was flying towards me, and I threw the ball and it hit it in the head,” he explained.
“Well, where is it now?” I asked.
“Out there,” he answered, pointing towards left field.
“Well, don’t leave it out there!” I said.
Meanwhile, the Shankees struck out, grounded out, and popped out, and the inning was quickly over. The Cubans had their turn at bat and then it was time to switch sides again. I had forgotten about the bird, until Fritz once again silently approached me. “There’s the bird,” I heard him say, as I tried to pay attention to what was going on in the game.
”What?” I asked.
“The bird, there it is, I brought it in from the outfield, like you said.”
“Cool, where is it?” I asked.
“There,” he replied, pointing into the dugout. I turned my head and saw the dead Tero on the dusty floor of our dugout. I got a little closer, spotting some blood on the bird’s head.
“Dude, get that dead bird out of our dugout!” I shouted, “It’s gonna jinx the shit out of us!”
“Where do you want me to put it?” he asked.
“I don’t care where you put it; just get it out of our dugout.”
So, in response to my command, Fritz walked into the dugout, picked the bird of by one of its thin long legs, and hurled it into foul territory; just along the right field fence. I watched the bird sail through the air and then turned to Fritz.
“The bird’s gone,” he said.
“Cool,” I replied.
We eventually came back and beat the Cubans. But not before Fritz, would be eternally remembered as The German Bird Slayer.
Paul Perry is president of the Shankees Baseball Organization in Buenos Aires, an expat baseball team. For more information on the team, visit ShankeesBaseball.com
#Blogathon Guest Post
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