April 27, 1958

Yeah, so I’m a heel. A coward. A meathead and a terrible friend. Call me whatever you want, but then put yourself in my white bucks for an hour.

I just found one of my best friends murdered, and needed some time to recover. It was so foggy on that Seals Stadium field no one even saw me there. I had a chance to take a break from a dead-end job, rekindle an old dream and pitch ball again. So hello Spokane.

After slipping a note under Pence Murphy’s office door about my “leave of absence” from ushering to go pitch in the PCL, I grabbed an earlier flight. Tried to relax with a Camel and highball, though mainly gazed out at the clouds and thought about the mess I was in.

If this killer didn’t know me, he was sure going out of his way to convince me otherwise. The cops showed me the first body’s note at the station, and this one was definitely in the same handwriting. Even though “a band on” and “outta here!” didn’t exactly fit together.

Either way, I was suddenly worried about my other friends. Placed a call to Chumpo the second I landed in Spokane, told him about my new gig and hinted he and the other guys should watch their backs. I thought it would be better to let him find out about Reggie naturally.

Although that didn’t sit well with me earlier. Crossing the Monroe Street Bridge in a taxi, I suddenly remembered I’d pulled Reggie’s body out of the scoreboard and got my fingerprints all over him. No doubt about it. It was  only a matter of time before I got yanked off the mound and taken into custody in front of my Spokane teammates. Some I hadn’t even had a chance to drink with yet.

And most of them seemed like nice guys. After checking in at my rooming house I went straight to Avista Stadium in time for our night game with Salt Lake City. Everyone was already in the dugout. I threw on my uniform with the number 93 and joined them on the bench for some handshaking. Like Phil had told me, they were struggling so far, but they were the Triple-A farm team for the Dodgers, so there was certainly some talent. Jim Gentile was a slugger-looking first baseman. Norm and Larry Sherry were a funny pair of brothers. Norm caught and Larry pitched. And there was this little guy that could run like the dickens named Maury Wills.

Bobby Bragan managed, and he wasn’t as friendly but said he’d get me into a game as soon as he could. The main thing I had to do was get my old arm in shape and quick. No easy thing. Right then I wished I’d been a peanut bag thrower at Seals instead of an usher all those years.

The Bees had a hitter named Jimmie McDaniel who had three homers off Connie Grob by the 6th inning. We were getting trounced. I’d been tossing warmups pretty steadily to Ron Bottler in the bullpen, and my arm was already sore. Ron flipped me something he called “illegal cream” and it worked pretty well on my shoulder.

Believe it or not, the bullpen gate opened in the 8th and in I came to mop up the 14-2 Salt Lake wipeout. There were maybe 1,000 people when the game started, and it had whittled down to a couple hundred. Fine with me. My curve was snapping pretty well in the warmups, but this day had been so nuts I was happy not to have a big audience.

They announced my name and a couple of folks clapped. Most likely old-timers who saw me pitch once. Or maybe just liked my nickname. A first baseman who couldn’t hit named George Schmees stood in there, and my first pitch went to the backstop screen. The second one bounced two feet in front of the plate. The third and fourth were no improvement, and Schmees walked to first.

Bragan came out to talk to me. I said I was fine, and looked in at Sammy Miley. Another wild pitch, and then I knew the problem. I couldn’t focus on the catcher’s mitt because I couldn’t even see it. The only thing in front of me—and the only thing in my brain—was Reggie Fleming’s mangled face.

TWO DAYS OF SKINNYS WITH ME AWAY AND EVERYTHING

4/26

CHI 250 000 100 – 8 14 0
S.F. 000 000 000 – 0 8 3
W-Drott L-Antonelli HRS: Walls-2 GWRBI-Walls
Glad I missed this one. Antonelli lasts one and two-thirds innings, and the Giants’ scoreless streak runs to 29 innings.

STL 010 000 200 – 3 8 0
L.A. 000 120 001 – 4 8 1
W-Podres L-Mabe, HRS: Freese, Gray, Furillo GWRBI-Roseboro
Blasingame triple and Gene Freese homer ties it in the 8th, Neal triple and Roseboro sac fly win it in the bottom of the 9th. The once-bedevilled Dodgers are now over .500.

PIT 200 000 031 – 6 13 1
CIN 000 000 002 – 2 6 2
W-Friend L-Lawrence HRS: Kluszewski, Skinner-2, GWRBI-Kluszewski
The other hot NL team is Pittsburgh. After hitting just three homers in their first ten games they go yard three times in this one.

PHI 000 000 000 – 0 1 2
MIL 100 000 40x – 5 5 0
W-Spahn L-Semproch HR: Covington, GWRBI-Covington
Spahnie gives Ashburn a single to start the game, gets a DP ball from Hamner, then retires everyone else he faces for the minimum 27, closer to a perfect game than Brosnan’s was. He retires the last nine batters on grounders. For Philly’s first start against a lefty, not too promising.

NYY 000 000 020 000 1 – 3 8 2
BAL 000 000 002 000 0 – 2 7 1
W-Duren L-Loes HR: Berra
Even when New York wins, it’s a titanic struggle. A Mantle double and Yogi blast give them a late lead. Ford takes a 3-hit shutout into the 9th and falls apart, throwing away an infield single for the tying run. Ryne Duren has to pitch three and a third in relief to get the win, achieved when Skowron’s triple is butchered in left by Nieman, allowing him to score.

WAS 061 000 121 – 11 19 0
BOS 001 051 010 – 8 10 1
W-Pascual L-Smith SV-Hyde HRS: Sievers-2, Malzone, Jensen GWRBI-Yost
And when the Senators win, it’s a also a tooth-puller. Their team OPS goes from .558 to .627 in the same game as Sievers slams two homers, one a granny. Pascual is incapable of holding the lead, as usual, bringing on Hyde for the last two frames. Boston battles back from 7-0 after Sullivan gets shelled, with the famous Riverboat Smith taking the loss.

DET 300 000 200 – 5 7 1
CLE 060 202 00x – 10 14 0
W-Bell L-Foytack SV-Tomanek HRS: Kaline, Zernial, Colavito GWRBI-Ward
Early Foytack lead melts into oblivion, as the first seven Tribe hitters reach base in the 2nd, and Colavito continues his torrid slugging with another double and homer.

K.C. 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
CHX 061 010 00x – 8 13 1
W-Donovan L-Grim HR: Torgeson GWRBI-Phillips
Quietly, the White Sox have risen to the top. Dick Donovan has allowed just 3 earned runs in his first 26 innings.

4/27

CHI 510 000 000 – 6 12 2
S.F. 100 000 100 – 2 6 2
W-Hobbie L-Gomez HR: Wagner GWRBI-Banks
It’s Ruben Gomez’s turn to stink up 16th and Bryant, as the Cubbies sweep us and knock us down to .500 with the Phillies thankfully coming in. Seems like they carted Reggie’s body away without incident or they would’ve cancelled these games.

STL 400 000 000 – 4 9 0
L.A. 000 000 100 – 1 6 0
W-Jones L-Drysdale GWRBI-B.G. Smith
Sam Jones finally gets some runs scored for him, though the Cards have a zillion other chances to add on against Drysdale and can’t. Musial is still without a homer, and Ken Boyer fails to take advantage of the short LF screen at the Coliseum and goes 2-for-11 on the weekend.

PIT 000 000 (10)00 – 10 14 3
CIN 300 000 1 13 – 8 13 0
W-Smith L-Jeffcoat HRS: Lynch, F. Robinson

PIT 000 320 030 – 8 13 1
CIN 200 002 001 – 5 7 0
W-Porterfield L-Acker SV-Face HRS: Mazeroski, Thomas, F. Robinson, Crowe GWRBI-Mazeroski
Uh-oh. Make that five in a row for the Buccos. They’re trailing 3-0 in the 7th inning of Game 1 when they string four walks, six singles and two doubles together for ten runs. And never let up the rest of the long day.

PHI 000 000 000 1 – 1 10 2
MIL 000 000 000 2 – 2 9 0
W-Robinson L-Sanford
Weirdest game of the year so far. Neither team can get a key hit off Sanford or Burdette for nine innings. Bowman singles in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. Schoendienst doubles with one out in the last of the 10th and Del Rice walks. Turk Farrell comes on and gets pinch-hitter Roach, but Willie Jones takes Covington’s infield dribbler, throws it down the RF line and the tying and winning runs score.

NYY 130 000 000 0 – 4 11 0
BAL 102 000 100 1 – 5 11 0
W-O’Dell L-Dickson HRS: Triandos-2 GWRBI-Triandos

NYY 200 000 200 – 4 7 0
BAL 000 000 001 – 1 4 1
W-Maas L-Pappas SV-Trucks GWRBI-Slaughter
A new-look Yankee lineup stakes Larsen to a 4-1 lead, but it’s the Gus Triandos Show again as he homers twice, the second in the last of the 10th for his sixth of the season. Duke Maas is superb in the nightcap to earn the split.

WAS 020 010 000 – 3 11 1
BOS 100 020 40x – 7 13 0
W-Brewer L-Ramos GWRBI-T. Williams
Nats take another lead at Fenway, but it doesn’t last long. Williams breaks the tie with a double in the 7th, goes 4-for-4 and ups his average to .607. I’m not kidding.

DET 000 102 000 – 3 5 0
CLE 000 020 30x – 5 8 0
W-Grant L-Bunning HRS: Harris, Doby GWRBI-Doby

DET 013 030 020 – 9 11 0
CLE 100 052 000 – 8 14 2
W-Wehmeier L-Mossi SV-Aguirre HRS: Maris, Vernon GWRBI-Kaline
Two fun comeback games. Bunning gets jumped late for two doubles and a Doby homer in the opener, before the Tribe erase a 6-run deficit in the nightcap but still lose on a bases-loaded walk to Kaline by Herb Score.

K.C. 000 000 100 – 1 4 0
CHX 010 000 001 – 2 6 1
W-Latman L-Gorman HR: Torgeson GWRBI-Francona
They win the blowouts, they win ’em close. The South Siders just win. With two gone in the 9th and no one on base, Goodman walks, Lollar singles, and Tito puts one in the gap.

TEAM STATS REPORTS: Here’s your Hitting and your Pitching as the east and west teams take a day off to go visit each other for the first time. Take a gander at those slugging Dodgers!

National League through Sunday, April 27

Milwaukee 7 5 .583
Chicago 6 5 .545 0.5
Pittsburgh 7 6 .538 0.5
Los Angeles 6 6 .500 1
San Francisco 6 6 .600 1
St. Louis 5 6 .455 1.5
Cincinnati 5 6 .455 1.5
Philadelphia 4 6 .400 2

American League through Sunday, April 27

Chicago 9 4 .692
Baltimore 8 5 .615 1
Boston 8 5 .615 1
New York 8 6 .571 1.5
Detroit 7 7 .500 2.5
Cleveland 6 8 .429 3.5
Kansas City 5 8 .385 4
Washington 2 10 .167 6.5
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