It was seven in the morning. Horace Stoneham looked about as happy to see me again as he would a mysterious growth on his neck. Even though FBI Special Agent Brewster had done most of the talking.
“We know we’re asking a lot of you, Mr. Drake. But with this new incident, the case has now crossed many state lines, and the Bureau thought we needed a radically different strategy.”
“Operation Testa” was simple—at least on the surface. I was going to be secretly flown to Pittsburgh to join the Giants on the road, suit up and assume the identity of one Nicholas Testa, a career minor league backup catcher. Poor Nick played exactly one inning behind the plate for us on April 23 before getting sent back down without enjoying even one measly at bat.
“Great,” I said, “And what’s Nick Testa going to say about this plan?”
“Nothing,” replied Brewster in typical emotionless fashion, “He’s been successfully neutralized.”
“Duly compensated, he means,” added Stoneham with a sly wink.
“So what am I supposed to do? Hang out in the locker room for a week and a half and read girlie mags?”
“No,” said Brewster, “You’ll be in the bullpen in every park, taking warmup throws from pitchers whenever you can. We’re fairly certain the killer has widened his net, and will follow the Giants for this entire trip. Keeping you undercover as something other than an usher will give you a chance to watch the stands, which naturally we’ll be doing too. If he does spot you, it will only draw him closer and make him easier to catch.”
“Yeah well, that was the idea at Seals Stadium, wasn’t it?” I shot Stoneham a look but he turned to his window. “What about the Giant players?”
“They’re on board,” said Brewster. “We thought of passing you off as a reporter, trying to capture the mood of the team, except your picture’s already been in the papers.”
I sat there a moment, chewing it over. “And what about Liz Dumas?”
My question became flypaper for a swarm of blank stares.
“My girlfriend, remember? The one who’s missing. The one who Peanut Head probably has.”
Brewster fired a glare at Stoneham. “Why weren’t we made aware of this?”
Stoneham threw up his hands. I suddenly had no choice. So I told them about my Handy-talkie conversation with the killer last Friday night, how he threatened some form of harm to “that lady” of mine if I went to the police, all after she had cleaned out of her place in L.A.
“Los Angeles is a big town, sir. She could be anywhere down there.”
“I suppose…but you can count me out of your big costume party unless you put a few hound dogs on her scent. I got more important things to worry about than this team’s attendance figures.”
“Fortunately for you, Mr. Drake, Eugene Buzzbee of the Oakland Tribune won’t be one of them.”
“Oh really. Since when?”
“Since the Bureau discovered that Mr. Buzzbee has been dating a 13-year-old. Meaning he won’t be pressing those assault charges after all.”
“Come on Drake,” said Stoneham, working up one of his famous hungover grins, “Haven’t you always wanted to put on a big league uniform?”
He had me there. Temptation is one hell of a thing. And so was Forbes Field…
S.F. 000 000 110 – 2 12 0
PIT 020 010 00x – 3 9 1
W-Porterfield L-Antonelli SV-Face HR: Thomas GWRBI-Mejias
Thankfully I was still in the air when this happened. The Giants do everything they possibly can to ensure Antonelli’s 0-9 record, grounding into three DPs and blowing two great chances to tie the game in the 7th and 8th.
L.A. 000 002 100 – 3 9 2
PHI 102 002 40x – 9 12 1
W-Roberts L-Podres HRS: Gray, Bowman GWRBI-Hamner
The Dodgers’ bugaboo with the Phillies continues, as they’re now 3-9 against them. Part of the problem is Phillie pitchers like Roberts being tough against righties, and except for the Duke, L.A. power being mostly right-handed. Philly moves back into first by percentages because…
CHI 000 011 000 – 2 9 0
MIL 012 310 12x – 10 16 0
W-Spahn L-Drott HRS: Banks, Covington
Warren Spahn actually wins another game, and Drott gets drubbed big time at County Stadium. If the Braves can sweep Chicago tomorrow it will be huge and put them back at .500.
STL 210 000 001 – 4 13 4
CIN 111 200 00x – 5 8 0
W-Lawrence L-Jackson SV-Jeffcoat HR: Musial GWRBI-Robinson
After a rash of nice wins, the Cards play a stinker, booting four balls and stranding everyone but their in-laws. Robinson breaks the tie for goos in the 4th with a two-out, 2-run triple.
NYY 000 010 010 0 – 2 9 0
CLE 002 000 000 1 – 3 11 1
W-Bell L-Duren HRS: Siebern, Wertz GWRBI-Wertz
Whatever ill fortune was striking the Bombers in April has apparently returned. Berra comes back from a long injury, reinjures himself for a game after tow at bats, and the Mick gets hit in the 1st and knocked out for three. Blessed with an ample bench they manage to claw back and tie the game on a Siebern blast in the 8th, but Vic Wertz slams a trot-off job against Duren in the 10th.
BOS 000 400 100 – 5 11 2
CHX 000 010 020 – 3 8 0
W-Sullivan L-Latman SV-Wall HR: Jensen GWRBI-Runnels
And look who’s now in second place, one half game out! Boston is 13-4 in June, and this time knocks around the previously unhittable Barry Latman. Swooning Chicago hopes to salvage the finale with Pierce on the slab.
BAL 000 022 100 – 5 9 2
K.C. 002 130 20x – 8 15 2
W-Herbert L-O’Dell SV-Daley HRS: Gardner, Robinson, Cerv, Lopez GWRBI-Cerv
Bad night for good A.L. pitchers, as even the 9-2 O’Dell gets whacked by the Kansas City Hit Men. Bill Tuttle with three hits and the Mighty Cerv with his 16th homer, 46th and 47th RBIs.
WAS 030 301 083 – 18 19 0
DET 000 001 010 – 2 5 1
W-Ramos L-Lary HRS: Sievers, Martin, Virgil GWRBI-Yost
Gadzooks. See previous comment about good A.L. pitchers. Frank Lary gets shish-ka-bobed as Roy Sievers goes 5-for-6 with two doubles, a homer and seven RBIs, and Eddie Yost reaches base all seven times he’s up. Expect the Senators to score one run tomorrow.
National League through Wednesday, June 18
American League through Wednesday, June 18