‘Beisbol’ by Richard Elman

In Managua in 1978, a journalist watches a group of teenage boys playing baseball. It is many years after the earthquake, but the city still lies in ruins. The boys have grown up in shanties among the rubble – their pinstriped uniforms, with their names and numbers printed on them, are incongruously new and clean. One day, the journalist notices that the boys are all gone, replaced by younger boys wearing the same uniforms with the same names and numbers on them. The uprising that will turn into the Nicaraguan revolution has begun. The boys that were playing baseball have become combatants; the younger boys are there to act as decoys so that the military and security forces will think that life is carrying on as before. Elman is a fiction and feature writer who went to Nicaragua on assignment for Geo Magazine, arriving as the conflict there began to peak; he had no experience as a war correspondent. He wrote both fiction and non-fiction set in Nicaragua during and just before the revolution. In ‘Beisbol’ his journalist narrator looks back and notes that: many of “the Nicaraguan ‘boys of summer’ … died fighting in the streets of Managua, Esteli, and Matagalpa. Some are minor bureaucrats of the new regime. Some married, some went abroad to join the Contras, or remain uninvolved, draft dodgers in Miami, Houston, or San Jose, Costa Rica. ‘Beisbol’ was published ten years after the baseball players would have gone to battle, when the hopefulness of those fighting the dictatorship was long gone, and the US-sponsored civil war had left most Nicaraguans to deal with brutal violence and grinding poverty.

From Disco Frito (Gibbs Smith), originally published in Syracuse University Magazine, December 1988, and available online here