Young Readers Science Fiction Stories
The Big Space Ball Game
It was an unusual setting for baseball. Instead of a blue sky, there was the darkness of space and the brilliance of stars overhead. The light of Earth flooded the scene, and surrounding the oversized diamond were the walls of Copernicus crater, over fifty miles across.
On the mound, Bill Cherry was pitching practice balls to his catcher, Ollie Taylor. Only underhand throwing was allowed in baseball on the Moon, for the ball was exceedingly fast in the light gravity and airlessness. Bill, in snug-fitting space gear, was standing farther than the regulation ninety feet from the plate. This was because of the pitcher’s advantage over the batter in Lunar ball.
Bill wound up and threw. The ball shot like a bullet into Ollie’s double-padded mitt.
“Thatta boy, Bill!” Ollie’s voice came over Bill’s space suit radio. “If you’re this sharp when we meet the Comets this afternoon, we’re bound to win our first championship!”
“That’s enough practice, fellows!” Coach Lippert called, coming out of the dugout. “No use giving our best before the game!”
It was the big game for the team from Plato, which was tied with the league leaders in this last game of the season. Plato was the farthest colony on the Moon and was named for the big crater in which it was located. Copernicus colony, the baseball leader, had won the championship every year since the school league had been formed. As a prize, the champions were always given a free rocket trip to Earth.
The Plato Rocketeers were homesick for their mother planet. One of them, little Pete Irby, had never set foot there. He had been born on the Moon.
“It must be wonderful to go around without even a space suit on like they do on Earth!” Pete said wistfully to Bill.
“Don’t worry, Pete,” Bill said confidently. “I have a feeling that this is our year and that we’re all going to Earth.”
“I sure hope you’re right,” Pete replied, with great feeling. “I can’t wait to see the great national parks and rivers and all the other wonderful things there!”
At game time the grandstand was filled and some people were standing. It was the largest crowd ever to see a ball game on the Moon. Much of the crowd was made up of hopeful parents from the Plato colony who had come seven hundred miles by rocket plane to see their boys play.
The champion Copernicus Comets ran out onto the field in big bouncing strides. For on the Moon a person was capable of jumping and running in great leaps because of the low gravity, only one-sixth of Earth’s.
The Plato Rocketeers were the visiting team would bat first. When the outfielders had taken their positions, they were tiny forms far out in the distance with nothing but gray wilderness behind them for a backstop. There were eleven men in Moon baseball because of this greater outfield range. Two extra fielders played behind the shortstop and second baseman and were called “short fielders.”
Bill noticed a wheel chair below the railing of the grandstand. His mother and dad had brought his crippled younger brother Skippy to see the game! Bill had known his parents were going to rocket over from Plato in time for the game, but they had not said Skippy would come along. Bill gave Skippy a wave and his little brother waved back.
The lead-off batter for the Rocketeers walked to the plate swinging a bat, padded to keep it from hitting the ball too hard and far. The Comets’ ace pitcher, Carl Cadman, hurled three fast strikes over almost before the batter had gotten a good foothold. Carl struck out the next batter as well and then forced little Pete Irby to loft a high infield fly for the third out.
“Let’s get ‘em, Bill!” Ollie said excitedly as the Rocketeers took the field.
“We’ll sure try,” Bill promised his catcher.
Bill took the mound. With his space gloves he massaged rosin into the baseball. After getting the signal from Ollie, Bill swung his arm down and around. The batter swung sharply, driving the ball toward third. The baseman made a dive for the ball, but he missed it. His body seemed to glide in slow motion in the light gravity.
Bill walked the next batter, making two on and none out. Jack Brenna, the Comets’ heaviest hitter, was up. Bill got two strikes on him and then Jack took a better toehold. As Bill saw bat and ball connect solidly on the next pitch, his heart fell.
The ball arched like a comet across the dark sky. The left fielder took a dozen giant steps after the ball but then gave up. The ball seemed to be going for miles. It was a home run.
The Comets did not score anymore that inning, but the damage seemed to be already done. The champions were leading 3-0.
Bill was first up for the Rocketeers. As he went to the plate swinging a bat, his eye caught Skippy’s wheel chair, and he saw his game little brother waving encouragement. It made him want to try even harder to put his team out in front. Bill knew he would have to do it with his hitting, since he had failed as a pitcher.
But Bill got no closer to a hit than a long foul into the stands. Then he struck out. The two teammates following him also failed to get on base.
The game moved along with no more scoring for the next five innings. It was still 3-0.
In the last of the seventh inning the Plato Rocketeers had more trouble. The first Comet batter topped the ball slowly to Pete at shortstop, who tried too hard to make the play. The ball rolled between his legs and the runner went all the way to second.
Pete was so busy grumbling about his last error that he muffed the next play too. He jumped ten feet into the air trying to reach the high, bounding ball, but he misjudged it and it went on past. The runner on second loped down to third in long strides. Bill called time in order to give Pete a chance to settle down.