Metropolitan Life Insurance wasn’t open for business on Saturday, but their lobby had a guard sitting at a desk. Even better, he wasn’t new on the job.
“Sorry sir, but Mr. North hasn’t worked in this building since he retired. Years ago. You got a better chance of finding the crown jewels in Coit Tower.”
“What was this North guy like?”
“Oh, I didn’t know him all that well. Seemed nice enough. Tipped me a few times just for holding the elevator. Gotta figure the folks up at the P.U. Club feel the same way.”
“The what club?”
“The Pacific Union Club. Top of Nob Hill. If he’s retired you can bet he’s still having his fancy lunches and drinks there.”
I thanked the guard very much—and tipped him.
* * *
An hour later, the California Street cable car dropped me off in front of a stunning and melancholy brownstone mansion. A wealthy cat named James Flood built the place in 1886 for his family, and it became the Pacific Union Club a little later when the Pacific Club and Union Club merged.
Can’t say I’ve ever been inside, though; you have to be white, male, rich, Republican, and invited for that to happen. So instead I bided my time. Parked myself at the foot of the front steps, lit a Camel and watched the routine. It was close to lunch time, and a parade of cabs and town cars rolled up to deliver members and a few guests. Nearly all of them were long in the tooth and deep in the wallet, and had to ring the imposing front door to be admitted.
A younger businessman showed up on foot. He was nervous, winded, as if late for a bridge game. I got in his way as he approached the front walk.
“Hey. I’m trying to get a message to Henry North in there. You know him?”
“Sorry. I can’t—”
“You can’t do it, or you cant tell me if you know him? I’m pretty sure he’s a member. And it’s kind of an emergency.”
The guy was flustered. Confused. I pulled out the business card the Call-Bulletin editor had given me.
“I need to quote him for a big story. If you can get me inside somehow there’s fifty bucks in it for you.”
He smacked me with a haughty laugh. “Are you serious? The Pacific Union Club never lets the working press inside. Good day, sir.”
Plan B involved cutting around the left side of the building on Cushman Street. I found an open gate where delivery trucks were parked and slipped around the corner of the wall. Finished my Camel. Waited for someone to roll a stack of gin cartons through the open door and snuck into the basement of the club.
The kitchen was down there. An army of waiters and cooks. I had zero chance of mingling with them, but did find a storage closet with an unused white apron on a hook. I exchanged my coat for it. If anything, it would buy me a minute or two until I could find a staircase.
I found the stairs, and a silver pitcher of water to carry with me. The first floor was magnificent. High ceilings and chandeliers overhead, with live chamber music echoing from a nearby room. Liz would have loved it, assuming she put on a fake moustache, mutton chops, and tuxedo before approaching the front door.
I stopped a waiter hurrying my way. “Mr. North wanted some more water. Which room is he in again?”
The waiter stared me in bafflement. Then at my hands in horror.
“Your white gloves, man! Where are your gloves?”
“Oh, I um…left them—”
“Who the devil are you?”
“Rumswell. Rumswell Hocking. I started today—”
“Nonsense. I oversee all the new service.”
He turned to flag someone down. I emptied the ice water on his trousers. He gasped, crumbled. I dropped the pitcher and bolted down a hallway. Opened the first brass door handle I saw.
Found myself in a nearly empty room of mahogany lockers. A steam room door opened around the corner and a fat old man in a towel waddled out. I hid behind a row of lockers. Heard a commotion out in the hall. They were definitely hunting me down.
Got a new idea. Quickly shed all my clothes, piled them in a dark corner. Grabbed a giant towel with a Pacific Union emblem and ducked into the steam room.
A handful of men sat in there. Steam obscured everyone’s faces, and thankfully mine. I found a spot in the corner, nodded to someone nearby I could barely see. I think he nodded back.
“I don’t care how you try to hide it, George. It isn’t good business.” It was the voice of a tired, angry man sitting with someone.
“Who’s hiding anything?” said his smooth colleague, “Stadium, Inc. is a lawful, non-profit corporation.”
“Well, we’ll have to see about that…”
A third club member somewhere in the mist piped up. “No business arguments in the club, gentlemen.”
“We’re sorry,” said the tired man.
“Actually,” said his colleague, “I don’t think my Mr. North really is.”
My ears perked up.
“George! How dare you?”
“Listen to yourself, Henry. First you insult club members by bringing a couple Jews to lunch, and now you’re insulting me. I think we should put off Monday’s squash re-match for now.”
The colleague stood up, walked past me to the door. The mist cleared for a second or two, long enough for us to stare at each other.
No doubt about it. Henry North’s squash partner was a distinguished guy with thick eyebrows and a prominent Greek nose I’d recognize anywhere.
It was George Christopher—the Mayor of San Francisco.
S.F. 001 102 001 – 5 8 0
CHI 040 000 000 – 4 9 0
W-Worthington L-Anderson HR: Sauer GWRBI-Worthington
The Giants move three games over .500 with a close win at Wrigley. The Cubs plate four in the 2nd but S.F. chips away the rest of the game. Tie it on a Sauer homer, Cepeda triple and Thomas sac fly in the 6th, win it on a walk, wild pitch by Bob Anderson and single up the middle for pitcher Worthington. Double-header tomorrow!
PIT 000 010 000 – 1 5 0
PHI 000 002 00x – 2 7 0
W-Cardwell L-Raydon SV-Meyer HRS: Groat, Anderson GWRBI-Anderson
The Bucs, meanwhile, drop two games UNDER .500, and the Phils stay percentage points in front of us when Harry Anderson turns around a Raydon fastball in the 6th.
L.A. 020 000 000 – 2 8 0
STL 300 000 00x – 3 5 0
W-Brosnan L-Erskine SV-Paine HR: B.G. Smith GWRBI-Boyer
Erskine throws great for a change, but Brosnan, Morrie Martin and Phil Paine combine to make the three-run Cards 1st inning stand up.
MIL 010 010 000 – 2 11 0
CIN 200 101 51x – 10 17 0
W-Purkey L-Rush HRS: Covington (#16), F. Robinson-2, Hoak, GWRBI-F. Robinson
Cincy continues to take the Braves to school, and have now beaten them five out of seven to zoom back into the race.
BAL 000 000 013 – 4 7 0
BOS 010 520 00x – 8 18 0
W-Delock L-Brown HR: Woodling GWRBI-Daley
Well, you can’t win and lose ’em all. Hal Brown, formerly 5-0, gets his pants pulled over his head by Boston bats. It’s so bad that it takes Ken Lehman, Charlie Beamon and George Zuverink to mop up.
NYY 023 000 300 – 8 13 1
WAS 101 000 100 – 3 9 1
W-Ditmar L-Griggs HR: Sievers GWRBI-McDougald
Twelve in a row now. Someday another lunar eclipse will happen, the oceans will rise, and the Yankees will get to play a professional baseball team again.
CHI 000 000 010 – 1 10 2
CLE 301 003 01x – 8 11 2
W-McLish L-Wilson HRS; Colavito, Minoso GWRBI-Colavito
Quietly, the Rock has become a top tier American League hitter along with the Mick and Teddy Ballgame, and the Tribe has just as quietly gotten to .500.
DET 103 200 000 – 6 10 0
K.C. 000 000 200 – 2 2 2
W-Moford L-Urban HRS: Zernial, Kuenn
Herb Moford wins the battle of the fifth starters in fine fashion, and the Tigers join the Indians in the .500 Club.
National League through Saturday, May 17
American League through Saturday, May 17