Before our next drubbing I used the club house phone and made a long distance call to Chumpo at the Double Play. He was jollier than ever, which threw me. I asked him if Reggie had been around and he said no, just Bob. “Reggie must be out of town on some construction job.”
Well, that was beyond strange. Reggie’s body hadn’t even been found yet? I hung up and got real worried. There was still a half hour till game time so I left the park, jogged a few blocks to Frenchy’s News and checked a few out-of-town papers. Nothing in the Chronicle or Examiner on a second body found at Seals Stadium. Not even in the sports section.
“Pay up, Drake!” yelled journeyman outfielder Glen Gorbous the second I got back to the club house in a sweaty, confused state. During warmups I had stupidly taken him up on a bet that he couldn’t throw a resin bag farther than me. Not knowing, of course, that he was in the damn Guiness Record Book for throwing a baseball over 445 feet once. So there was 25 bucks gone, plus another full night of shoulder ache.
Thankfully Bragan didn’t stick me in the game this time, but I still wasn’t in the mood to pour into town for drinks with the other players. Instead I sat in the whirlpool a good half hour, washcloth on my face, until my fingers were all pruny, my head groggy, and I couldn’t feel my shoulder anymore.
The players’ lot was empty and all 1,500 or so fans had gone home. The stadium lights were off. A chilly night breeze was blowing through from one of the surrounding national forests. I walked out to the road and readied my thumb.
A handful of cars blew by. Maybe I should’ve kept my uniform on instead of just my Spokane Indians cap. I kept walking west, stars came out, and the darkness seemed to get darker. I heard the roar of a bigger oncoming vehicle and spun around.
It was a clanky, medium-sized white bus with green trim. Maybe about fifteen years old. A round decal on the side said “Washington Motor Coach”. The driver slowed down and threw open the door for me. I hopped on board.
The thing was filled with young ballplayers. I mean, they weren’t in uniform but I know ballplayers when I see them, and these were chewing, spitting and smoking like players always do. Some even had gloves and hats in their laps. I told the driver I was heading into town in search of a late dinner and he nodded, motioned to a tiny open seat right behind his.
What was weird about these players was there wasn’t the typical amount of ribbing, swearing and card playing going on. Actually, most weren’t even talking, just chewing their whatevers and staring at me with spooky eyes. They made me nervous.
“You guys just play a game?” I asked the nearest one.
“Uh-uh. Goin’ to one.”
“Really? This late?”
He didn’t answer. A scrawnier player next to him asked my name. I told him, and he said “I’m Vic.”
“I’m Mel,” said his buddy.
“Robert,” said a guy a couple rows back.
“George” said another.
And then they were all silent again. I shivered, turned to the bus driver, and asked him where they were headed.
“Bremerton” is all he said. I wasn’t sure where the hell that was, but it sounded familiar. The bus made a lot of chugging and wheezing noises whenever it shifted gears. An old Bing Crosby song played on the radio. It was so cold on the bus I could see my breath.
Then the long railroad car shape and neon sign of Frank’s Diner came up on the left. I tapped the driver’s shoulder, asked him to stop.
He did, with a loud, hideous squeal of brakes. “Good luck guys!” I said to the players. A few nodded glumly. Most of them didn’t move. I hopped off, waited for the bus to groan away and disappear around the bend, then shook off my willies and headed into the diner.
Meat loaf and two cups of coffee never tasted so good. While the waitress was adding up my check I mentioned the weird old white bus to her and her pen stopped in midair. Every person left in the place turned and stared at me.
“What’d I say?”
“Ballplayers on that bus?” asked one of the patrons.
“Yeah…not really friendly ones, either.”
The waitress wasn’t laughing. She led me over to a wall of framed pictures. People who had eaten at Frank’s, people who had posed with Frank. Along with some news clippings of famous local events. She took her pen and pointed to one, a team photo of the 1946 Spokane Indians. Some of the faces looked weirdly familiar.
Because I had just seen them on that bus.
A black-framed clipping underneath was dated two days after the team photo, and here it was:
The waitress tapped my arm with her pen. “That’s what you get for wearing that ball cap, fella.”
Did I really ride on that bus? Naw. It had to be the weird phone call to Chumpo, or the whirlpool I sat too long in that got my brain imagining things. I guess…All I know is that my bad San Francisco luck has followed me up here, and I’ll be damned if I go on one road trip with this team.
(with a tip o’ the cap to Red Sovine and Tom Waits)
PHL 503 024 020 – 16 22 0
SFG 000 000 000 – 0 6 5
W-Roberts L-McCormick HRS: Kazanski-2, Fernandez GWRBI-Hamner
Even more ghastly doings by the Bay. In their current 5-game losing streak, the Giants have given up a combined 18 runs in the first inning. Bill Rigney and his entire coaching staff were waylaid by red snapper poisoning for this one, and broadcaster Russ Hodges agreed to manage the team while he was announcing from the booth. It didn’t work. With Hemus injured, reserve second baseman Ted Kazanski bombed two homers and knocked in six.
MIL 011 732 000 – 14 19 0
CHI 001 011 000 – 3 9 2
W-Willey L-Hillman HRS: Covington-3, Logan, Mathews, Aaron, Thomson, Banks GWRBI-Torre
The first meeting between the Lake Michigan rivals is a dud, with Covington sending three balls Sheffield-bound, and Hammerin’ Hank finally waking up with four hits, including two doubles and a homer.
STL 014 127 031 – 19 27 0
CIN 021 000 200 – 5 8 0
W-Mizell L-Purkey HRS: Musial, Katt-2, F. Robinson GWRBI-Boyer
On this day of road carnage, how about some more? The Cards rack up nine doubles to go with their three dingers, and make a further mess of Cincy’s beleagured mound corps. The Reds, by the way, are now 1-7 at home and 4-0 on the road.
PIT 200 000 000 – 2 6 1
L.A. 000 000 000 – 0 4 2
W-Kline L-Koufax HR: Stuart GWRBI-Stuart
Finally, some sanity. And yet another Pirates win, their sixth in a row.
CHX 000 100 001 – 2 6 1
BAL 000 030 02x – 5 5 1
W-Portocarrero L-Wilson HR: Lollar GWRBI-Gardner
A tight battle for first ends up creating a three-way tie with Boston. That man Lollar homers again, now with a league-leading eight.
K.C. 000 004 000 – 4 8 1
BOS 500 000 03x – 8 8 1
W-Monboquette L-Garver SV-Byerly HRS: Jensen, Buddin, Daley
Garver surrenders a Jensen grand slam in the 1st, Daley hits a pinch 3-run shot in the 8th to nullify the brief excitement when the A’s plate four in the 6th.
DET 100 180 000 010 -11 18 1
NYY 212 020 021 011 – 12 21 1
W-Kucks L-Wehmeier HRS: Wilson, Veal, Mantle, Berra, Slaughter
Guess you could call this the Game of the Day. A freaky eight-run 5th by the Tigers that includes a dropped fly by Mantle with the bases loaded wipes out a 5-1 Yankee lead. New York chips away at Hoeft with a 2-run Berra shot and pinch 2-run blast by Slaughter, ties it in the 9th on a Skowron single. Detroit goes back ahead on a Zernial pinch double in the 11th off Trucks, but Skowron’s sac fly ties it up again. Bombers finally win on a Siebern walk and singles by Richardson and Howard with two outs in the 12th. Yogi goes out with a 6-game injury and Kaline for two more, but both of these benches are stocked enough to keep their offenses rolling.
CLE 000 000 000 – 0 11 1
WAS 000 000 30x – 3 8 0
W-Hyde L-Woodeshick GWRBI-Pearson
A cornucopia of incompetence. The Nats ground into four double plays and the Tribe two, but Cleveland blows many more scoring chances and loses on a tidy little 11-hit combined shutout by Clevenger and Mr. Hyde.
National League through Tuesday, April 29
American League through Tuesday, April 29