The Key West Conchs were the patsies of the Single-A Florida State League at 32-79 and Johnny Crider of the St. Petersburg Cardinals wasn’t too concerned about being ready for the game. He’d been in the minors for three years and though he was batting a career high .248, he knew he would soon be on his way out. Usually the team would arrive in town, warm up, play a game, and be back on the road before midnight without ever having seen anything but the ballpark. But since the only bus available had them arriving in Key West some eight hours before game time on this August 6th, 1974, there was time to kill so Johnny decided to see the sights, not knowing if he’d ever pass that way again.
From the free-roaming chickens in Mallory Square to the polydactyl cats lounging around the Hemingway House to the whispers heard along the docks of yet another overdue sailboat missing in the Bermuda Triangle, Johnny was finding Key West a fascinating place.
“Weird,” he kept whispering to himself as he sipped tequila at Sloppy Joe’s, “weird…”
When the first pitch was delivered in the bottom of the first inning at Wickers Field that evening, Johnny was in right field. A thick fog hung in the darkening sky despite a 20 knot wind and it amplified every sound; the lights in the outfield cast an eerie blue glow.
The pitcher turned and pointed straight up and Johnny raced in to field what he thought was a routine pop-up. The second baseman and the center fielder converged beneath the arcing ball also. And then, the ball…
It didn’t go foul. It didn’t leave the park. It didn’t land.
“Weird,” Johnny whispered as the runner circled the bases. “Weird.”