by Joan Jobe Smith

In sixth grade when my little girlfriends all began
en masse to unfurl plump blossoming pink into
woman cake and I stayed 4-foot-2, weighed 48
pounds and liked to play baseball instead of kiss
boys, the girls teased me that I was a midget or
maybe even a hermaphrodite so playing short stop
was the right place for me shortstopped like I was
in time as I ran in and out of inner and outer field
catching pop flies, shortstopping line drives and
swinging around to tag the runner stealing third base.
Then at home on weekends while my workaholic
father fixed stuff in his garage, I’d sneak to watch the
Pacific Coast League on tv: the Los Angeles Angels,
the Hollywood Stars, learned how to kick my feet
into the dust at home plate, wipe some dust on my
bat and swing wide and swift like Steve Bilko who
was Southern California’s answer to Babe Ruth and
I taught myself to spit like Steve Bilko, make it flip
in the air before it hit the dirt and when my team won
I put my fingers in my mouth and whistled so loud it
made church bells ring in the next town. It was good
to keep my mind off all that troubling hermaphrodite
stuff with all my short stopping during that short
stopping of time when the moon and stars didn’t yet
know my name or where to find me to turn me into a
woman and later it all paid off when I was a cocktail
waitress all grown up in a swanky hotel and met Joe
DiMaggio and asked while I served him a Cappuccino
Whatever happened to Steve Bilko? and Joe DiMaggio
asked me while eyeing my cleavage and fishnet stockings:
YOU know who Steve Bilko is? Yes, I growled like a
tough sixth grade boy who plays shortstop: Steve Bilko
taught me how to spit that day when the score was 1-0
in the bottom of the 9th and Steve Bilko hit a grand slam.
I don’t know for sure if Steve Bilko ever did that but it
made Joe DiMaggio laugh and give me his autograph.