PREVIOUSLY…in Mystery Ball ’58…
Seals Stadium usher “Snappy” Drake has a bad habit of running into dead bodies. Like that guy from San Jose with a knife in his back on Opening Day, or Snappy’s good friend Reggie, or that night watchman strung up out on Candlestick Point. With a Pittsburgh steelworker found in the Forbes Field grandstand and Ohio State trooper stuffed in the trunk of his car, every murder has been “connected” to Snappy or the on-the-road Giants, drawing the attention of SFPD Lieutenant Malarkey and later, FBI Special Agent Brewster. Snappy unearths a slimy old gambling pal and local grand jury foreman investigating a Candlestick Point land swindle, but so far both seem like red herrings. Two sting operations at Seals are put in place, first using plainclothes detectives, then with Snappy’s usher friends. Neither works, and the unseen “Peanut Killer” is now stalking and taunting our hero. Meanwhile, when Liz Dumas, Snappy’s witty and saucy lady friend from L.A. with huge writerly ambitions, goes missing, he hooks up with her rockabilly brother Billy Frack to find her. With Snappy also now posing as backup catcher Nick Testa and traveling with the team in the hope of ensnaring the killer, Billy is nearly killed in a Peanut Killer-caused car wreck. Snappy miraculously tracks down Liz at an Iowa writing retreat, they fetch Billy from an Ohio hospital and are “followed” back west—where a man who insists he’s the Peanut Killer has just come out of nowhere to confess…
Xavier Lawrence Chitwood—I decided to call him The X-Man—sat at a table in San Francisco’s FBI headquarters, manacled and happy. He was sure big enough to be the Peanut Killer, that’s for sure, with the same meaty hands that worked me over at Candlestick Point that night, and the same “dent” in his forehead I’d noticed in my recent half-conscious captivity.
“Good to see you again,” he said, as Brewster showed me in.
“Good to see you too, Xavier. Especially in handcuffs.”
“Care to tell Mr. Drake who you killed again?” piped in Brewster. He and the FBI guys looked like they’d been up all night.
“Sure. My first victim was John Blaziecsky on Opening Day. Had to use my blade on him, being it was kind of crowded. Then there was that Reggie guy in the park. The night watchmnan Vincent Grosso out on the Point. Stole the nylon cord from that same hardware store you bought the sign stuff to do that one. Stan Szopa in Pittsburgh and Officer Grundheinz, the Ohio state trooper.”
“So what do you have against me, Xavier?” He drew a big blank. “Why’d you kill one of my best friends?…You met him in the Double Play, right?”
“Oh yeah. Right. Had a few too many peanuts and beers with him, I guess. Followed him over to the park and was just gonna mug him but got a little carried away.”
He blurted out a sick laugh and I lunged across the table at him. Brewster grabbed me from behind, hauled me into the nearby corridor.
“God almighty, Drake, get ahold of yourself—”
I ripped myself free. Took a deep breath and looked Brewster in the eye.
“It ain’t him.”
“He’s lying. About Reggie. And he didn’t even smell like peanuts.”
“Who cares? He confessed. He knows details. A guy matching his description was seen in a Pittsburgh tavern the day before Szopa died. You should see his flophouse room down near the wharf. Peanut Killer news clippings taped to every inch of the wall.”
“So? Maybe he’s just a fan.”
“What makes you think he’s lying about your friend?”
I hesitated. “Because he just is. Sometimes I get hunches just like you.”
“Yeah, well how about you just congratulate us for getting a break in this case.”
“Congratulate you? For what? Leaving your office door open so he could stroll right in?”
“Do me a favor, Drake, okay? Go back to Seals Stadium, put on your usher clothes and work the ball game. Mr. Stoneham said he’d take you back.”
“Too late. Game started an hour ago.”
“Then go home and romance your girlfriend. We have a statement to record in here.”
* * *
The romancing idea was a nice one, but pure gothic fiction. Liz had her phone off the hook, the door locked, and I could hear furious typing. She finally came upstairs after eleven for a highball and goodnight kiss, and certainly didn’t want to hear that the X-Man might not be our man.
“He confessed, didn’t he?”
Maybe she was right. Maybe they all were. But I still didn’t feel good about blowing the whistle on Horace Stoneham, corpse mover, even though X-Man had told me he killed Reggie in the park across the street.
Before I went to bed I called Brewster one more time, knowing he’d be awake if anyone was.
“Where did this guy say he killed Reggie again?”
“In Franklin Square Park.”
“Ah-hah…See, that’s his mistake. I don’t think that’s true. I haven’t been wanting to say this, but I found Reggie sticking out of the Seals Stadium scoreboard.”
“Oh. Well, that clears that up.”
“Clears what up?”
“What Chitwood was talking about. He told us he stuck him in a ‘strange place’, then changed his mind and dragged him back to the park.”
So that was that. I fell asleep, actually believing I could work tomorrow’s game without looking over my shoulder.
Even though I still had a night full of weird dreams.
MIL 001 201 020 – 6 12 1
L.A. 400 000 100 – 5 11 0
W-Jay L-Craig SV-Robinson HRS: Mathews, Aaron, Gray, Furillo GWRBI-Aaron
I’ve been wrong. There’s actually another dangerous killer on the loose, and his name is Henry Aaron. Launching a huge three-game set at the Coliseum against the second-place Dodgers, Hank triples in the 1st, singles in the 3rd, triples in two runs in the 4th, triples a third time in the 6th, and after undefeated Roger Craig is hailed to face him with the tying run aboard in the 8th, launches a game-winning homer over the screen for 14 total bases on the day. Staked to a quick 4-0 lead, Drysdale can’t hold it and L.A. drops two games back.
MIL 000 000 004 – 4 8 1
L.A. 000 001 000 – 1 7 1
W-Spahn L-Williams HRS: Logan, Gilliam
Make that three games back. Williams has a 1-0 lead on Spahn through eight innings thanks to a Junior Gilliam poke off the fair pole, but Stan loses it in the 9th. A Neal error gets things going, and with one out, Pakfo singles, Crandall doubles, Williams wild pitches and Logan hits one out of sight. This NL race could be vanishing before our eyes.
CIN 000 101 010 – 3 7 1
S.F. 101 200 10x – 5 7 1
W-Miller L-Haddix HRS: Robinson, Rodgers
Although the real disappearing act could be the poor Reds, losers of 11 straight now. Haddix turns in a decent start (for them), but Miller is better, and Andre Rodgers rare 2-run smash helps put us three games over .500, and smack in the race for second place!
PHI 204 000 000 – 6 9 1
STL 001 000 000 – 1 6 1
W-Sanford L-Brosnan HR: Anderson GWRBI-Anderson
Another in a series of junky Brosnan starts. By the time he finally settles down, the game is safely out of hand. The bottom five spots in the St. Louis lineup go 2-for-21 against Sanford.
PIT 000 000 210 – 3 7 2
CHI 010 000 000 – 1 4 2
W-Witt L-Hillman SV-Face GWRBI-Clemente
The Bucs keep inching up, while the Cubs keep slipping away. Clemente’s 2-run single off Hillman in the 7th caps a winning mini-comeback.
CLE 100 000 022 – 5 12 0
NYY 020 000 000 – 2 7 0
W-Bell L-Turley HR: Held GWRBI-Nixon
The Yanks finally lose another game, on a taste of their own late-inning medicine. Five straight hits in the 8th off Turley and three more in the 9th off Trucks put the Tribe over .500.
CHI 005 030 100 – 9 12 3
BOS 000 129 10x – 13 15 1
W-Bauman L-Staley HRS: Battey (grand slam), Jensen-2, Renna
Worst White Sox loss of the year, and totally predictable. Donovan is up 8-1 when Boston sends eight men to the plate in the 5th and thirteen men to the plate in the 6th. I say predictable, because the Red Sox can score runs blindfolded, bound, and gagged. In a dark cave.
K.C. 203 000 000 – 5 10 1
BAL 000 102 000 – 3 10 1
W-Urban L-Brown SV-Daley HR: Maris GWRBI-Martyn
Hal Brown has nothing, continuing a sad Baltimore theme of late.
DET 020 010 002 – 5 7 1
WAS 000 100 000 – 1 2 0
Tired of losing? Had enough of that waffling in the standings? Spend a few days at Griffith Stadium Resort and Spa in beautiful Washington DC and win your afternoons away!
National League through Thursday, July 10
American League through Thursday, July 10