By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
The black Hummer wasn't there. Of course. He kept walking. It was like I was chasing him in slow motion.
"C'mon, I'll get you another ticket," he said.
"I don't want another ticket -- I want the money back."
"You want to go to the game, right? That's why you're here, right?"
"I don't give a shit at this point."
"I got ripped off just like you did!"
"You didn't look at the date? What kind of professional scalper are you? This is a damn joke. And what about your leg? I bet you never even cut it."
Suddenly our loud argument grew silent. He stopped walking and looked at me dead seriously, as if hurt by the accusation.
"I cut it on the rail over there -- they said I need stitches."
"Whatever. Give me the goddamned money."
Back to walking.
"I'm going to buy you a ticket. I'm a professional. I sold 320 tickets to this game. I'm staying in a condo in Miami with a buddy for the week. Look at this stupid tourist's T-shirt I bought."
Sure enough, he was wearing a tacky Miami Beach T-shirt. It didn't occur to me until later that it might have been a part of his con.
Then he started to hustle me a ticket, which was useless.
"I'll buy you a ticket for $100," he tells me.
"Give me the hundred instead. I'm not going to follow you around all night. Give me the hundred and then we'll at least split the damage."
I never should have said that, but I wanted to get somewhere. After a few minutes of complaining, he handed me a Benjamin, which I examined closely for authenticity.
"We're still not even. You made $45. Give me another $20."
For eight minutes, he kept trying to confuse the numbers, and I kept setting him straight. Finally, he handed over a 20.
Suddenly, everything seemed as clear as the polish on Jeter's fingernails. He'd never been ripped off and thought he could still take me for the $70. It was time for real action. I grabbed him by his stinking T-shirt and jacked him up so close I could smell the beer and cigarettes on his breath. Then I gave him a close-in double slap, first open-handed, then with the back knuckles. Hard.
"Give me the rest of it," I hissed at him.
Trembling like a newborn rat, he reached into his wallet and gave me the final $70. I grabbed him again and gave him another hard slap on the right side of his pockmarked face. The cheekbone stung my hand.
His nose began dripping the reddest blood I've ever seen, and he started to cry.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I swear I'll never rip anyone off again."
"I know you won't," I told him before walking away, my wallet intact.
It was great, but it was just a baseball dream. Instead of throttling the lowlife, I went back to my car, drove home, and watched the Marlins beat the Yankees on TV.
I rationalized the $70 loss as a penalty for stupidly buying the wrong ticket. But I may never fully get over that one. That idiot con man was as deceptive as Josh Beckett's best curveball. And I never even took a swing.
The week was still a great success. I'd spent $360 for three seats, two of them good, one great. My son and I had a time neither of us will ever forget, and when it was over, the Marlins were poised to become champs. My son and I watched game six together on television. We hung on every one of Beckett's pitches. Then, in the seventh inning, the strangest thing happened: The game blacked out on my TV. I still don't know why; every other channel worked fine.
The only other TV was in my baby daughter's room, where she was asleep. So we crept in there, cleared toys from a piece of floor, and watched quietly as the last out finally came, and the Marlins celebrated in front of the New York crowd. We just looked at each other with Juan Pierre smiles and hugged each other. I swear that tears filled my eyes.
They did it in Yankee Stadium.