Duke is a 36-year old pitcher for the New York Yankees at the end of his career. The play begins at the beginning of the seventh inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers. Up until this point, Duke has pitched a perfect game.
As he talks to himself on the pitcher’s mound, we learn bits and pieces about Duke’s life. His mistress is waiting in his car, listening in to the game on the radio and protecting his car from vandals. His once beautiful wife has become saggy over the years, and may or may not be sleeping with a swimmer. And although Duke once had a promising career, product endorsements, and late show spots, his career is in the toilet. His slider is the only pitch he has left to count on. His fastballs aren’t fast, his curveballs are erratic, and he never learned to throw a screwball. His fast food franchise stopped doing well when a McDonalds opened nearby, and his public relations job will be over if he plays badly.
He manages to strike out the first runner, but then his confidence fails him. Duke tries to tell Beanie, his catcher, about feeling mixed up in the head, but Beanie just wants to gripe about his own life.
Duke starts ignoring Beanie’s signs, only pitching sliders that turn into hits and balls.
The first runner who makes it on base starts yelling terrible insults to Duke. When all the bases become loaded, he has to hear it from all three sides. The coach comes out to dispense his own version of wisdom and pat Duke’s butt, but nothing seems to help.
Things go from bad to worse when two relief pitchers begin warming up. Unable to throw a decent pitch, Duke becomes more and more flustered. The relief pitchers start throwing baseballs at Duke while he is trying to throw. Someone takes away Duke’s ball and makes him pitch a basketball instead. When the last batter hits a home run, and all the runners come in, the coach takes Duke off the mound. He knows he’ll probably be sent to the minors, and his career is certainly over.