He was like one of those heroes from a World War II movie, leading the team over the hill through a hail of German bullets, taking a shot to the leg, a rifle to the side, brushing back a bayonet as he fired a grenade into a nest of enemy soldiers. He’d stalk right up to them as he’d fire hot lead, growl some swear word, let’s be honest, a string of f-words in all their permutations, as he’d kick aside the bodies like leaves on a fall afternoon.
There he’d be seen by his amazed troops, fighting until he’d be taken off the battlefield in a stretcher, cursing all the way again, only to get fixed up in a hospital as the nurses would blush and flee at his scant sprinkling of regular words amongst the swearing. He’d rush to rejoin his men on the road, yanking out his stitches, pulling off his bandages, where he’d fire his rifle one handed and wave a fist toward them with the other. Until, finally, at long last, the old soldier was taken off for good, just too wounded to return.
“That’s okay, Sarge,” Corporal Wainwright surely would say, if he were, in fact, a corporal. “We got it from here. You trained us, you led us, we learned from you.”
A grown-ass man, that Chris Carpenter was.
But were weren’t sure when he took the mound for the first time wearing the Birds on the Bat if it was all going to work out. We’d like to say that Carp leapt from his poor mother’s womb with a perfectly cut fastball, a frightening curve and the filthy mouth of a soldier who hasn’t felt clean sheets in months.
But ’twas not, in April 2004.