By: Blenjamin Rees
It’s Season 18, Day 29, and we’re at Al Pastor Memorial Park. The Atlantis Georgias are visiting the infinite cities to take on the Los Angeli Unlimited Tacos. The Tacos won the first game of the series 5-4 in a tight contest, although game two looks to be more low-scoring with both teams having an ace on the mound. It’s Rigby Friedrich for the Georgias, and Yummy Elliott for the Tacos, in what seems to shape up on paper as a real pitchers’ duel.
But the game isn’t played on paper, as we well know, but the immaterial plane. Instead, the fans at the Taqueria are treated to an offensive explosion. It kicks off in the top of the second inning: Atlantis takes a 3-0 lead before a 3-run homer from Niq Nyong’o in the fourth doubles the difference to 6-0.
Whispers and murmurs of disquiet begin to reverberate around the stadium. “Wow, Yummy’s really struggling out there.” “It’s fine, Ellie can pitch their way out of it, every pitcher has games where they lose command.” “Come on Yummy, HOLD!” Elliott can sense it as well, and seems resolved to prove any doubters wrong. They double down, determined to throw harder and faster to get themself back on track. It backfires. Flattery McKinley gets hold of a rising fastball and it’s long gone, settling in the upper deck in right field. A two-run homer, and to add insult to injury it bounces into a Big Bucket. The Georgias are now up 9-0, and Elliott’s in serious trouble. Yummy Elliott could get Faxed.
A Fax Machine is a curious device, one that works— as far as I can tell— through a mixture of science, telepathy, and magic. In a Blaseball context, it first came to our attention when teams were offered the opportunity to install one in their home stadium during the Season 17 Renovations.
When the home pitcher gives up ten runs, the team’s best Shadows pitcher joins the Rotation in their place, with the active pitcher getting some time to regroup (and the star boost that comes with being Shadowed). Tacos fans liked the idea of the Fax Machine, both strategically to make gradual improvements to the pitching and to protect from any Reverbs, and also because it seemed like the sorts of shenanigans they embrace with open arms. Thus, when the Season 17 Latesiesta was upon us the LA Taqueria duly installed their shiny new Fax Machine, which took pride of place in the corner of the home dugout, waiting for it to be called on in LA’s hour of need.
The Tacos did not have to wait long. Just two days into the Lateseason, Yummy Elliott had a bad day on the mound, and lacking rhythm and conviction, the Miami Dale took them for ten Runs. And so, the league witnessed the Fax Machine operate for the first time.
With Yummy Elliott relieved of their duty, everyone waited to welcome to the active roster Michelle Sportsman, a very promising prospect Tacos fans had been eagerly awaiting the debut of… wait, that’s… who is that? Is that… McBaseball Clembons?! A fault in the installation had led to half of the Shadows being ignored, and thus McBaseball leapfrogged Michelle to take the mound and finish the game, much to the surprise and hilarity of the Taco faithful.
Clembons did not last long on the active roster, though. Their very first start against the struggling offense of the Mexico City Wild Wings, McBaseball Clembons promptly gave up ten Runs and a slightly more clinical Yummy Elliott returned to their place in the Rotation as if nothing ever happened— save for a slight McBlaseball fever dream. The Unlimited Tacos, with their ace now better than ever, rolled their way through the playoffs to capture their first ILB Championship at the season’s end.
Installing the Fax Machine became a shrewd piece of foresight when, come Election time, a bizarre series of trades swapped Wyatt Mason IV out of the Rotation of the champs for 4-time champion and star hitter Fish Summer. With the Fax in place, Fish Summer duly gave up ten Runs in their very first start against the Hellmouth Sunbeams and was replaced by debut pitcher Michelle Sportsman in what seemed like a very stable Rotation for the Tacos, with Yummy Elliott smack bang in the centre of it.
Fast forward back to Season 18, Day 29, and Yummy Elliott exits the fourth inning with the Tacos in a 9-0 hole. The offense finally provides some run support in the next few innings, and by the time we enter the eighth inning Atlantis only leads 9-6. The inning gets off to a shaky start, however, Frankie Hambone tucking into a curveball that results in a lead-off double. Yummy Elliott is two bases away from being Faxed out again. Maybe it’s playing on their mind. Maybe they just got unlucky. Maybe they second-guessed themself. No matter the reason, the result was there for all to see.
Yummy Elliott throws an acidic pitch that Slosh Truk was ready for, and it’s blasted straight beyond the outfield wall for another 1.8 runs. It happened again. The Tacos Fax Machine has activated for the fourth time, and against all the odds Elliott has accounted for half of them. The crowd looks on in disbelief as Yummy Elliott, frustrated and disconsolate, slinks back to the dugout and watches McKinley Otten take the mound in relief.
Given how brief their previous time on the bench was, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Tacos’ ace would soon take their rightful place in the Rotation again. It is at this point that I would like to remind you that Blaseball is a horror game (in multiple ways).
At the series’ conclusion, LA would begin a grueling road trip, leaving their Fax Machine behind and giving Elliott no chance to Fax back in. The Tacos only have six more home series the entire season, giving opportunities to Fax Yummy back in very scarcely. The Ohio Worms come closest, taking Vito Kravitz for 9 runs on day 61, while on day 63, the difference between Sportsman staying or going is one acidic pitch on a 3-run home run. The final tally of 9.7 Runs conceded is agonizingly close, but not close enough as Yummy Elliott continues to take time off in the Shadows. Tokyo also gives Taco fans hope that their ace might return, but Otten holds firm in their last home start of the season and the game finishes Lift 8, Tacos 6.
With their best pitcher not taking the field for over two-thirds of the season, LA misses out on the Postseason for the first time since Season 12, snapping the longest playoff streak in the league. Their misery is compounded on Day 97 when Consumers set their sights on the only player on the active roster without an item. Elliott’s replacement, McKinley Otten, unable to defend themself, leaving them a fraction of the pitcher they were before.
Come Election time, rather than swap Elliott back into the active roster, they leave their return up to the whims of the Fax, choosing instead to re-acquire their mentor, Sexton Wheerer, from the Yellowstone Magic, and wimdy Infuse McBaseball Clembons (remember them?) for their Wills. Thus Season 19 commences, and Yummy Elliott continues to languish in the Shadows, bristling with excitement to pitch again early in the season.
Season 19 does not oblige, unfortunately for Elliott, in the same way that Season 18 did. Only three of the nine series in the Earlseason take place at Al Pastor, the first two of those against the anemic offenses of the Firefighters and the Worms. The Houston Spies visit the infinite cities between Days 16 and 18, and on the second of those, McKinley Otten struggles on the mound. Yummy’s ears prick up as they might finally see some game action again. Otten gives up the tenth run, but before Elliott can pick up the Fax, Sun 2 smiles upon the Spies, and swallows the Runs, resetting their score to zero, and leaving the Tacos waiting by the Fax for a message that would never come.
By the time the Tacos return home, the calendar already reads Day 40, but a hot Georgias team can’t apply the offense needed. And while the Sunbeams come close in the next home series, 9 Runs is all they can muster against Sportsman. The Dale also fall short of the mark. Thankfully for LA, for only the second time since their ace entered the Shadows, and for the first time since Otten’s attack, the Tacos have more than two home series in a row.
The Flowers are next up, and after Vito Kravitz gives up a nice 6.9 runs, Otten takes the mound for the second game of the series, Day 56. After flooding washes away the first Boston baserunner of the day, they slowly begin to accumulate Runs; a four-run fourth inning putting the visitors up 6-1.
The hubbub that emerged over a season ago in that game against Atlantis when the Fax Machine last triggered swells once more. “Six runs already!” “We’re not even halfway through!” “Can Otten hold on?” Inning five passes without incident, while Silvaire Roadhouse is left stranded on second in the sixth. “We might get away with it.” The seventh is over in a flash, Otten throwing just four pitches as the Flowers fall, one, two, three. “Time’s running out.” “I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”
Top of the eighth, two outs, no one on base. Lenny Spruce fouls off the first two pitches to go behind 0-2 in the count. One strike, and Otten escapes another inning without any damage. Otten can’t find the strike zone and fills the count before walking their opponent. Margarito Nava now has an opportunity that seemed unlikely four pitches ago. A triple drives in Spruce and Scores Baserunner single scores Nava before the inning is over. Boston has eight, and the Fax watch is back on. The Taco Stand buzzes again, as the machine begins to whirr into life. They’ve been here before though, fallen at the final Fax hurdle. Three outs for the Flowers to score two Runs.
Make that two out, Roadhouse grounds out. Foible hits a pop fly, and Sexton Wheerer makes the catch. One out left. A familiar figure strides from the batter’s box to the plate— none other than NaN, back in the home of the Grand Unslam and the first Wyatt Masoning. Taco hearts sink; as beloved as NaN is, it is not for their batting ability. The final out seems a formality. Otten loads up, throws, and goes too high for ball one. The next pitch is too high as well, ball two. Hearts beat faster in the Taqueria, as Otten overcorrects, throwing one in the dirt for ball three. Lead-off hitter Chambers Simmons, on deck, perks up, knowing they might get a final plate appearance after all. Otten splits the difference this time, a fastball through the heart of the strike zone that NaN offers no swing to. Simmons gets ready to dump their batting gear so they can field, as Otten throws the fifth pitch of the at-bat. It’s borderline, and every set of eyes in the Taqueria is lasered on the home plate Umpire. The Umpire stands firm, motionless, unflinching.
NaN has drawn a walk.
“Surely not?” “I can’t take much more.” Chambers Simmons steps up to the plate, stares Otten down, and swings hard through the first pitch. The eyes of the ballpark move away from Simmons, but they don’t switch to the ball— there’s no point. From the sound alone, there was no question about where it would end up. Instead, the crowd stares at the home dugout as the dusty Fax Machine in the corner, covered in cobwebs, struggles, and chugs, and churns into life, slowly printing the message that Tacos fans have waited over a season to read. The message that Tacos players have waited over a season to read. The message that Yummy Elliott has waited over a season to read. Otten, tired and battered bruised, traipses to the dugout with a satisfied smile on their face, and high fives their replacement as they slink into the Shadows for a fully deserved rest. Yummy Elliott takes the high five and takes the applause as they stride, better than ever, back to the mound.
It was one season and twenty-seven days between pitches for Yummy Elliott. One season and twenty-seven days where the Tacos were without their ace. One season and twenty-seven days where, try as they might, the Tacos pitching staff contrived to not give up ten Runs at home and trigger the Fax Machine. If that seems like a long time, there’s a reason for that— because it is. To illustrate this, I’ve made this handy table of every Fax Machine triggered between Season 18, Day 29 and Season 19, Day 56, the time Elliott spent in the shadows.
|Date||Home Team||Away Team||Outgoing Pitcher||Incoming Pitcher|
|S18D32||Breath Mints||Pies||Lucas Petty||Uncle Plasma|
|S18D37||Garages||Breath Mints||Mike Townsend||Terrell Bradley|
|S18D42||Crabs||Pies||Jon Halifax||Parker Meng|
|S18D45||Garages||Magic||Terrell Bradley||Fitzgerald Wanderlust|
|S18D55||Shoe Thieves||Breath Mints||Oscar Dollie||Ren Hunter|
|S18D58||Shoe Thieves||Steaks||Richardson Games||Oscar Dollie|
|S18D58||Millennials||Moist Talkers||Conrad Vaughan||Castillo Turner|
|S18D59||Shoe Thieves||Steaks||Alejandro Leaf||Tevin Melcon|
|S18D69||Breath Mints||Crabs||PolkaDot Zavala||Lucas Petty|
|S18D72||Moist Talkers||Pies||Goobie Ballson||Augusto Reddick|
|S18D76||Shoe Thieves||Fridays||Oscar Dollie||Alejandro Leaf|
|S18D84||Mechanics||Breath Mints||Kelvin Andante||Jolene Willowtree|
|S18D97||Shoe Thieves||Steaks||Ren Hunter||Oscar Dollie|
|S18D98||Shoe Thieves||Steaks||Blood Hamburger||Ren Hunter|
|S19D10||Garages||Lovers||Tot Clark||Terrell Bradley|
|S19D11||Lift||Spies||Emmett Tabby||Mohammed Picklestein|
|S19D13||Breath Mints||Lovers||Leach Ingram||Lucas Petty|
|S19D16||Garages||Fridays||Magi Ruiz||Tot Clark|
|S19D28||Garages||Shoe Thieves||Durham Spaceman||Magi Ruiz|
|S19D30||Garages||Shoe Thieves||Summers Pony||Durham Spaceman|
|S19D31||Breath Mints||Wild Wings||Lucas Petty||Leach Ingram|
|S19D31||Millennials||Crabs||Theodore Cervantes||Conrad Vaughan|
|S19D41||Shoe Thieves||Crabs||Tevin Melcon||Blood Hamburger|
|S19D50||Shoe Thieves||Crabs||Ren Hunter||Tevin Melcon|
|S19D50||Mechanics||Fridays||Allan Kranch||Mindy Kugel|
There were twenty-five. Twenty-five instances of a Fax Machine being triggered while Yummy Elliott was sidelined. The Houston Spies were the only team who only Faxed once, as their Rotation improved with Tabby out and Picklestein in. The Millennials, with their strong pitching staff, still managed to get two Faxes in— even Theodore Cervantes Faxed out! (That game was the only example on the list where the home team won, as they Shamed Baltimore in the 14th inning). The Shoe Thieves led with 8 Faxes, the Garages close behind with 6. Ren Hunter and Oscar Dollie were both involved in four Faxes themselves. Three days had multiple uses of a Fax Machine, and three series had a Fax initiated twice. The Steaks Faxed Shoe Thieves’ pitchers four times in Season 18 alone! The point I’m making here is that for the Tacos schedule to line up in such a way that prevented use of the Fax Machine for over a season is very, if not incredibly, unlikely.
Yummy Elliott would finish the season with the third-best ERA of all qualifying pitchers at 1.580, led the league in strikeouts per nine innings, and they threw their first perfect game later that season, appropriately against the Boston Flowers (who started with one Run on the board thanks to their Home Field Advantage). Maybe their spell on the sidelines taught them something. Perhaps they maximised the time away from the game, found themselves, waited with bated breath for exactly the right time to come back in. Or, it could just easily be the cruel whims of the Blaseball Gods.
Yummy Elliott takes their place on the mound, tries to shut out the roar of the crowd, and focuses on Nic Winkler at the plate. Fastball in the top corner of the strike zone, 0-1. That felt good. Another fastball, this time down Sunset Boulevard, right through the zone before Winkler has time to blink. 0-2. Elliott decides to mix things up a little, be a little cheeky, go for the breaking ball slightly outside. Winkler reaches and swings for it, and it squirts up off the toe end of the bat for Felix Garbage to float in and catch for the final Boston out of the game. It’s almost like that one season and twenty-seven days never even happened.