In the seventh inning of a game tonight between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers, Dennis Dove, RHP from the AAA Springfield Cardinals, made his big-league debut.
He sweated his way through three routine outs, having relieved Kip Wells as a mop-up man in a 7-1 rout at the hands of Milwaukee. He got Craig Counsell to ground out to second before JJ Hardy reached on an infield single back to the mound.
Prince Fielder was then rung up on a questionable pitch that the charitable among us (which apparently include the umpire) would say was on the outside corner. Thus gifted with a crucial second out, Dove induced a weak grounder to short, which was relayed lazily to second, where the fielder's choice out was made to end the inning, and Dove's appearance.
Wholly unremarkable, except for two things: in the bullpen and in the dugout, the gray jerseys, HANCOCK 32, mounted by Dove's teammates on wire hangers.
Dennis Dove was making his Major League debut tonight not just overshadowed by the death of Josh Hancock--the twenty-five-year-old righthander also has the unenviable distinction of being Hancock's replacement on the Cardinals roster.
I had to wonder, watching: what goes through a kid's mind when such a thing happens? Who does he call up on the phone, in private, so he can smile and laugh and yell? Or does he? How do you react when that's how you get the news?
And what do you say to the other guys, in the clubhouse, and especially in the bullpen, when you get there? How do you spend time with them, when you're not just a rookie--you're a rookie who's instantly the embodiment of something terrible in your new teammates' minds?
The Cardinals wound up losing by the same score under which Dove had taken the ball, 7-1; the rest of the innings for the devastated Cardinals bullpen were just as uneventful. Jeff Suppan, himself a former Hancock teammate, on the mound for the Brewers this year, wound up pitching a complete-game, one-run effort. The half-full house in Milwaukee stood as the last out for Suppan fell into into the third baseman's glove.
The game goes on.