How do you pack up your life in five hours?
The baseball stuff was easy. Old Susan, the trusty Rawlings glove I’d been using since high school, was the first thing to slide off my closet shelf and into the open suitcase. Next came my lucky practice ball, the one I finished a 1-hit, 12-whiff shutout against Portland with back in ’49. Superstitions travel well.
I called my landlord, told him to look for a new renter. The plan was to get to Seals Stadium in early afternoon, hose off the seagull crap, then tell the boss I was “stepping out for a few minutes.” Already had my plane ticket to Spokane from Phil Todd, a rooming house lined up, and my brain in a better location. I’d call or write Liz as soon as I got there. Maybe even invite her up if she could stand seeing me for a few days without talking about murder.
I tossed an extra bag of Camels into the bag and zipped it shut. Halfway up the hill to the ballpark, though, I walked into a fog bank that would scare Moby Dick. Couldn’t even see the traffic lights at each corner. The Seals field was a spooky, hopeless moor that seemed to end somewhere just past the pitching mound. I wasn’t even sure the game would be played.
I uncoiled the hose from the shed anyway, dragged it out in the assumed direction of center field. The grass crunched lightly under my shoes and seemed to be the only sound on Earth. I was peering into the fog for the scoreboard, always the worst part of the job, and made two wrong turns before I saw its dark mass looming above me.
Except there was another shape attached to it.
“Those damn kids…”
There was a whole gang of neighborhood brats I had run-ins with for sneaking into the park, and now they’d gotten me back by defacing the scoreboard somehow. But what was that thing? I dropped the hose, hauled myself over the fence and climbed a hunk of scaffolding. Some kid’s shoes, apparently. Sticking out of the vacant number hole for the Giants’ first inning.
Except there was something attached to the shoes. I climbed higher. Caught my breath in my throat.
It was a man’s body. Head, shoulders, and the top of his torso crammed sickeningly into the scoreboard hole. Blood still dripping down from the slot where an innocent goose egg should have rightfully gone. The dark green corduroy pants the guy was wearing looked strangely familiar and I yanked him out of the thing with three tugs.
Masking tape was wrapped around his mouth and some of his mashed-in face, but I could recognize one of my best friends from the Double Play any day. Reggie Fleming. I shouted something vile I don’t even remember, then looked again.
A note was stuck to his shirt with a smaller piece of tape. The words, scrawled with a leaky blue pen, read “OUT TA HERE!!”
CHI 100 100 001 – 3 10 0
S.F. 000 000 000 – 0 3 2
W-Phillips L-Worthington SV-Elston GWRBI-Thomson
Well, wasn’t this appropriate to finish off my nightmare day? Giants now haven’t scored for 20 straight innings. Wagner and Lockman mangle a few balls to lead to two of the Cub runs.
STL 000 002 000 – 2 6 1
L.A. 000 201 00x – 5 12 1
W-Erskine L-Jackson SV-Labine HRS: Zimmer, Pignitano-2 GWRBI-Pignitano
Hangover day for the Cards, as Larry Jackson does nothing to continue the legacy of Jim Brosnan. On the other hand, the Dodgers are suddenly hitting everything out of the yard. Three more taters gives them 19 in 10 games. One of these days they’ll play in a major league park again.
PHI 010 001 000 – 2 5 1
MIL 000 000 001 – 1 6 2
W-Simmons L-Jay HRS: Young, Mathews GWRBI-Hamner
A frigid County Stadium night freezes the hot Milwaukee bats, and Curt Simmons takes advantage. Hemus replacement Bobby Young lines one over the fence for one of the shocking Phillie runs. The other one scores when Mathews throws away an infield hit by Gramner.
PIT 101 100 000 – 3 10 0
CIN 010 001 000 – 2 2 0
W-Witt L-Nuxhall GWRBI-Thomas
Another wild start for George Witt, who walks eight but this time allows two hits, enough to give the Bucs their second win in a row for the first time all year.
NYY 200 000 000 – 2 6 0
BAL 012 010 00x – 4 7 2
W-Johnson L-Turley HR: Woodling GWRBI-B. Robinson
The Yanks get two doubles and a single to start the game, then drop dead for the next six innings at the feet of fifth Birds starter Connie Johnson. Meanwhile, Bob Turley does his Turley thing, walking seven in seven innings to help the O’s put the game out of reach. Mantle comes up with second and third and two outs in the 8th and whiffs. The New York offense is simply not clicking at all.
WAS 000 101 101 – 4 11 0
BOS 040 100 00x – 5 14 0
W-Delock L-Fischer SV-Wall HRS: Lemon, Williams
Boston scores four quick ones off piece of garbage Bill Fischer before Valentinetti comes on to give them nearly nothing. The Nats nearly pull this one out but the dicey wind seems to change direction every time they loft a fly toward the Monster. Oh yeah, and Ted Williams snaps out of his one-game funk with three singles and a homer to raise his batting average to .542 and OPS to 1.833, and I don’t even know what OPS is yet.
K.C. 000 001 002 – 3 9 2
CHX 011 301 00x – 6 10 1
W-Pierce L-Herbert HRS: Lopez, Phillips-2, GWRBI-Landis
Five of the A’s nine hits are for extra bases, but most come with no one on the bases thanks to the crafty Billy Pierce. Bubba goes deep twice in the 8th hole for the Pale Hosers.
DET 102 000 020 – 5 12 1
CLE 200 110 000 – 4 11 1
W-Lary L-McLish SV-Morgan HRS: Zernial, Maris, GWRBI-Zernial
The Legend of Gus Zernial continues, as he pinch-hits a two-run bomb off the 0-3 McLish to take this one late. Kaline joins the winning party by going 3-for-4, and Maris, filling in for the injured Doby, wastes a two-single, homer and walk night by the lake.
National League through Friday, April 25
American League through Friday, April 25