Dodgers sympathizers were everywhere in Moab. The town was nuts about them. Winston had persuaded WWLA to start broadcasting Brooklyn's games six years earlier, since Mobile's minor league team, the Mobile Bears, was part of the Dodgers farm system. It only seemed right that boys from the rural corn cribs and remote farm communities could hear about the fantastic, nearly mythological feats of the incredible Jack Roosevelt Robinson. The Dodgers were outspoken, open-minded, black and white, and they were going to change the world. Winston Browne believed that.
The old men in Moab who rooted for Jackie Robinson grew up not drinking from public drinking fountains after a black man. That was how they had always been.
But then Jackie Robinson came along. The old bigoted men would sit beside their radios with Dixie bottles in hand, listening to fantastic accounts of Jackie stealing home—nobody stole home—and these men were slapped by their own bigotry.
Baseball fever swept over the little town. Each summer the town's residents were serenaded by the radio shouting about Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, and the rest of America's most lovable "bums." Some rooted for the Yankees, the glory of Babe Ruth still the most talked about subject in boyhood. But the Brooklyn Dodgers were more than a team, they were family. Men referred to players like they were personal friends, rarely using last names. Outsiders might have thought the men were talking about nephews or cousins.
After the game, Winston clicked off the radio and the men resumed work on Moab's first community ball field. They finished hanging the giant halide lights over center field with punch-drunk smiles on their faces, oblivious to the dangerous sunburns they were developing. A good Dodgers victory will do that to a man.
Winston crawled into the hydraulic cherry picker basket and ascended forty feet into the air. Jimmy climbed the ladder over right field. Together, they worked as the sun went down, wiring lights while the sky turned purple. The outfield grass was covered in the salty, sticky Floridian dew, and the frogs were singing. It took two hours to install the giant bulbs. Once they finished, it was dark.
For the final hurrah, the men stood beside the large electrical panel. Mark, the electrician, did the honors and flipped the switch. The vibrant green ball field was illuminated beneath the bluish lights. Winston almost cried.
Not because of the field, but because life was moving too fast and there was nothing he could do to stop it. It was a runaway train. The boxcar would keep rolling until it reached the end of the line, or until it tumbled off the tracks.
His ribs hurt. The bandage over the hole in his chest needed to be changed. And his cough wasn't going anywhere.
But right now he was overcome with joy. The satisfying glow of the enormous lights made Winston Browne's eyes swell with saltwater, and he almost forgot every bad thing happening inside his body.
Jimmy slapped Winston's shoulder and handed him a mitt. "You wanna christen the field and embarrass yourself in front of Mark?"
"Where'd you get these?" said Winston. The heavy brown gloves were familiar.
"From Bill Lemons. He saved all the Gnats' old stuff in a trunk in his garage. I still remember how to call 'em if you remember how to pitch 'em."
"C'mon, Win," said Mark. "Pull a muscle for me."
Winston smelled the glove. "This was my glove." He could tell by the smell. Old bacon grease and axel grease.
"You don't think I know that?" said Jimmy. "It took Bill an hour to find our old mitts."