Lefty never showed up for breakfast. Or lunch or dinner, for that matter. Not much else I could do but down cold ones in his restaurant bar and follow results of the only game of the day at Comiskey Park. The White Sox—even with ace Billy Pierce on the hill—dropped dead for the third straight day against Detroit and handed the American league pennant to the Yankees. It was downright ironic, what with all the decoy Bronx reportage compiled by our trusty mass murderer. If he had only become an American league fan when the Giants left town…
O’Doul’s was a spiffy joint, the walls covered with framed photos of Lefty from his playing, managing and Japan touring days. I even saw a glimpse of myself, ushering a Seals game in the second row from a few years back, O’Doul posing with Ken Aspromonte by the on-deck circle.
O’Doul finally called me at home later after I was pretty much soused for the night. He apologized forever. Said he had been meeting with Japanese dignitaries all day about another possible goodwill baseball trip to Japan. Promised me a giant plate of apple flapjacks and sausage at 10 a.m. sharp on Friday, which sounded good to me.
* * *
Lefty was 61 years old, and in tip-top shape. He’d been working with Mays and some of the younger Giant hitters on a part-time basis, but I rarely saw him at the park. He kind of recognized me from the last six years I spent working Seals games, but he wasn’t sure. Still, he was a good-natured, helpful guy, and saw the desperation in my face right away.
“Looks like you need something in that coffee.”
“All depends on what you tell me.”
“Yeah, that. Your message was a little foggy, for starters. Something about the Peanut Maniac? Gotta tell you, I’ve been too busy all year to pay much attention to that idiot.”
“He left me a bunch of clues the other day. And I think you might have been one of them.”
Hotshot rookie John Brodie of the 49ers walked in at that moment with a small pack of admirers. O’Doul motioned for a waiter to get them a prime booth, then turned back to me.
“What was that?”
“The clue said ‘a lefty who served’.”
“Yeah. Well, maybe he meant Lefty Grove who served up his mean ‘sailor’ pitch to mix with that fastball. Or Lefty Gomez. Didn’t he serve during the War?” He chewed on a thought. “Actually, Gomez didn’t serve during the War, he took a job at General Electric…But anyway, why me?”
“Because you happen to be here in town. Ever remember serving food or drink to somebody weird who asked a lot of weird questions?”
“This place hasn’t even been open a year, kid. I see a ton of new faces and sports stars every day. This is kind of a wild turkey shoot, don’t you think?”
“What about Daryl Spencer? You’ve worked with him this season, right? Nothing strange about him? Or any of the Giants’ pitchers and catchers?
“Listen. You’re a good kid. And I’d like to help you out but I got stuff to do—”
“I’m sorry to bug you like this, Lefty. But if you haven’t heard, he’s taken my fiancee, and I’m sort of at the end of my rope.”
He hung his head with a dash of guilt. I kept at him. “You just seemed like a good hunch. I mean, you do have my photo behind your bar.”
I nodded. Quickly got up and walked him over to look at it.
“Well I’ll be…” He glanced at me, then back at the wall with growing clarity. “Come to think of it…Turns out you’re the second fella to bring up that photo since we opened.”
I stared at him. “No kidding. Who was the first?”
“Oh, I never got his name. Some good looking rich boy from back east. In here on the second day, asking about my time in Japan, my work with the Giants, about Seals Stadium, who all the people in that photo were. I didn’t know your name at the time so couldn’t tell him—”
He shrugged. Waved at a couple City Hall types coming in for morning beers. “Nothing special. Best places to stay, where all the local landmarks were. More like he was writing a school paper than wanting to visit any of ‘em.”
“Coit Tower? Fisherman’s Wharf? The Presidio?”
“Yeah, the usuals. Even military stuff like Treasure Island and Battery Spencer.”
Every drop of color left my face.
“Battery Spencer! Other side of the Golden Gate! Where they used to have those big cannons.”
“You mean that creepy old abandoned fort?”
“Hey, it’s really something. Do yourself a favor sometime and give it a visit—”
“I’ve been there. Years ago. Walked through it to take pictures of the bridge with an old girlfriend. I just…never knew its real name.”
“How were those flapjacks, kid? Still hungry?”
“Umm, no. But now I think I’ll have whatever you offered to put in my coffee.”
DET 001 100 310 – 6 13 0
CHI 000 000 000 – 0 6 2
W-Foytack L-Pierce GWRBI-Harris
A very strange turn of events in the last five days. The Yankees, who got nothing but bad luck in Detroit, take the last two in Baltimore and both games in Boston, while the White Sox fall apart and get swept by the spoilin’ Tigers, a team they had a 14-5 mark against going in. One week ago I really thought Chicago could pull off the upset, but it’s the YANKEES IN THE SERIES, which starts in New York on October 1st.
CIN 110 000 000 000 – 2 9 2
MIL 000 101 000 001 – 3 5 2
W-Robinson L-Acker GWRBI-Torre
And they’ll be facing the BRAVES IN THE SERIES, who pull out another extra-inning thriller to win the pennant on Frank Torre’s single in the 12th! Milwaukee’s offense completely went south in the second half of the year, but their pitching was so effective it eventually compensated. In the friendly right field porch confines of Yankee Stadium, Wes Covington will be looking to wake back up.
CHI 000 032 210 – 8 16 0
L.A. 000 020 000 – 2 6 1
W-Drabowsky L-Podres HRS: Dark, Thomson, Walls, Long GWRBI-Thomson
CHI 222 620 122 – 19 20 0
L.A. 000 030 181 – 13 13 2
W-Briggs L-Koufax HRS: Banks-2, Neeman, Neal-2 GWRBI-Banks
The Cubs continue their west coast rampage by pasting Podres in the opener, then learn the Braves won the pennant between games and get REAL mad. They rack up twelve runs against Koufax in the first four innings of the nightcap, and L.A. only makes it close because a) John Briggs gets bored and b) Charlie Neal goes crazy with a grand slam and solo shot his last two at bats. The Cubbies, on the other hand, are going out in style, mashing seven more homers tonight to give them a baseball-leading 198 on the year.
STL 005 000 420 – 11 13 1
S.F. 000 000 100 – 1 7 2
W-Jackson L-Gomez HRS: Noren-2, Musial GWRBI-Noren
I seated half the number of fans I normally do for this travesty, then cut out after the third inning to go home and plan for my invasion of Battery Spencer tomorrow. The Giants clearly had no interest in playing this game.
PHI 340 000 002 – 9 15 0
PIT 001 010 001 – 3 11 0
W-Semproch L-Friend HRS: Anderson, Hamner, Kluszewski, Virdon GWRBI-Anderson
And the Phils have officially won Pennsylvania, beating the Bucs for the fifth straight time in a week and going up by three games on them with two to play. The great unheralded Harry Anderson doubles, homer, singles and knocks in four more.
BAL 020 021 150 – 11 11 1
NYY 200 120 040 – 9 12 2
W-Portocarrero L-Ford SV-Loes HRS: Taylor, Triandos, Gardner, Carey, McDougald, Berra GWRBI-Triandos
Amazing how lifelike Strat-O-Matic cards are: The day after the Yankees are out all night drinking and celebrating their pennant, Mantle drops a fly by the second batter of the game for a two-base error and his buddy Whitey Ford pitches his worst game of the year, unable to get anybody out and will end the year with “only” 23 victories. Though in the Series, he’ll have a chance to win three more.
BOS 101 000 000 – 2 12 2
WAS 232 000 02x – 9 11 1
W-Ramos L-Brewer HR: Williams GWRBI-Courtney
Also mailing it in big time are the Bostonians, after their two-day nightmare against the Yanks. Teddy Ballgame homers again because that’s what he does, but the rest of the lineup wastes 12 hits against Pedro “Abuse Me” Ramos.
DET 000 000 000 – 0 1 0
CLE 000 000 001 – 1 8 0
W-Score L-Bunning GWRBI-Vernon
You don’t have to be Criswell to predict this one. After lambasting White Sox pitching for three days, the Tigers manage one lousy single against Herb Score in a beaut, losing in the 9th on a pinch single by Mickey Vernon.
K.C. 020 100 000 – 3 6 0
CHI 002 200 00x – 4 6 1
W-Donovan L-Herbert HRS: Chiti, Boone GWRBI-Boone
From the Department of Too Little, Too Late.
National League through Friday, September 26
American League through Friday, September 26