July 23, 1958

I was wrong. Instead of Pirates fans being scared off in droves by the Peanut Killer’s published limerick, even more showed up at Forbes Field tonight. Maybe with the hope of being the one to actually catch the lowlife.

Me? Just another boisterous evening at the Double Play, watching the Giants barely outlast the Phillies again at Connie Mack Stadium. With Warren Spahn putting the Cards away in Milwaukee, we stayed a tight game and a half out of first and the saloon’s giddy tension mirrored this. Like Liz, Bob and Chumpo thought I should’ve gone back east.

“I kind of liked you playing Nick Testa,” said Bob, “Except you should’ve pestered Rigney to let you bat.”
“Couldn’t have done worse than them two lummoxes we got behind the plate now,” offered Chumpo, wiping his nose with a bar rag I was praying he’d retired.
“I’m a pitcher, remember?”
“You was a pitcher. And that don’t mean you gotta hit like one. Didn’t Spahn go deep tonight?”

Indeed he did. But even just being a bullpen catcher on their last trip was grueling. Despite Liz’s ordeal, I’d been looking forward to a nice few weeks following the pennant race from afar—with nothing but some cold ones.

After the game ended (along with my fifth cold one), I meandered back through the Mission District to my apartment. Just in time to hear the phone ringing. Oh boy, I thought, maybe Liz could lull me to sleep with tomorrow’s creepy limerick.

I entered and grabbed the receiver. Didn’t hear anything right away.

“Liz?
“Surprise surprise, Milton.”

Blood rushed up my neck, filled my head. I was sober in an instant.

“You again.”
“What’s wrong, Milton? Thought I would let Mrs. Drake have all the fun?”
“Stop calling her that.”
“Oh, I’ll call her anything I feel like. Seeing she’s working for ME now.”
“How the hell did you get to Chitwood at Livermore?”
“Hmm…How did you? It appears we use our heads in a similar creative fashion, Milton. See, there’s always custodial work available in most institutions.”

And then I remembered: the “janitor” who was mopping up that I nearly collided with outside Chitwood’s visiting room.

“How’s Kansas, you bastard?”
“Old news. These days it makes more sense for me to keep moving, right?”
“So where you headed now?”
“You expect me to tell you that?”
“Sure. So I can meet you and grind your nose into your skull.”

He sighed. “Still a malicious brute after all these years…This letter-publishing business is great fun, Milton, but I’m not sure it’ll achieve the outcome I’m looking for.”
“Which is what?”

There was a long pause. I swear I heard a seagull cry, from outside whatever open phone booth he was standing in.

“Heroes depart…and hearts are forever crushed.”
“Excuse me?”

Another long pause. “The Giants and Dodgers leaving New York was a horrible crime, punishable by many deaths. There is no doubt about that. But right now I am less concerned about the Los Angeles team. It seems obvious they are lacking enough hitting, pitching and fielding to make a serious run at the flag. The Giants are another story. They are red-hot this month, challenging Milwaukee. I cannot sleep at nights thinking about this. You are their employee, Milton, so you need to help prevent more of our hearts from being crushed.”
“What in god’s name are you—”
“Do whatever you must do to stop this from happening, Milton. And tell no one. If the Giants win the National League pennant I can’t begin to count the number of bodies that will be found in their wake. Beginning with your favorite lady.”

CLICK. I held the receiver in the air a few moments, gently set it back in its cradle. In a rush, the very first note found in the pocket of John Blaziecsky in section 16 on Opening Day became crystal clear to me.

a band on

The Peanut Killer tended to not glue some of his words together. And I bet if we ever found the second half of that torn note, the whole thing would read “abandon and die.”

THE SKINNYS

S.F. 000 300 000 – 3 9 1
PHI 000 000 200 – 2 7 0
W-Miller L-Sanford GWRBI-Bressoud
Ed Bressoud has a huge night leading off with Spencer still injured, cracking a 2-run triple in the 4th and adding a double and single. Stu Miller gets tired in the 7th and Jones and Grissom have to bail him out of major trouble the rest of the way.

L.A. 100 000 010 – 2 7 3
PIT 520 001 00x – 8 7 0
W-Kline L-Williams HRS: Thomas, Hall GWRBI-Thomas
Still in a quagmire, the Dodgers get crushed again when Frank Thomas grand slams Stan Williams in the 1st and Bill Hall follows with a solo shot. Dick Gray makes all three errors for L.A., leading to three unearned runs. Oh yeah, and the Pirates pass the Dodgers in the standings.

STL 000 101 000 – 2 7 2
MIL 010 011 01x – 4 7 0
W-Spahn L-Mabe HRS: Boyer, Spahn GWRBI-Bruton
Six wins in a row now for Spahnie, as RBI singles from Bruton and Aaron settle this one late.

CHI 000 000 001 – 1 6 0
CIN 000 001 01x – 2 7 1
W-Lawrence L-Drabowsky SV-Jeffcoat HR: Walls GWRBI-Bailey
The Cubs walk eight Reds, and luckily only two manage to score. Unfortunately, Brooks Lawrence mesmerizes the Chicago bats and Cincy gets a rare win against the North Siders.

NYY 010 000 120 – 4 6 1
DET 400 030 00x – 7 10 0
W-Bunning L-Turley SV-Morgan HRS: Berra, Mantle, McDougald, Throneberry, Groth GWRBI-Kaline
Your basic Jim Bunning start: eight whiffs, zero walks, four solo home runs allowed, and a win. In a lineup experiment vs. RHP, Kaline takes center for Kuenn, Johnny Groth takes right and homers, doubles, and walks for his day.

BOS 000 006 031 – 10 11 2
K.C. 000 001 000 – 1 5 1
W-Brewer L-Urban HRS: Runnels, Daley, Buddin, Jensen
Yes, it’s a nice pleasant scoreless evening in Kansas City, until Pete Runnels pokes a 2-run homer off the foul pole beginning the 6th. Three Boston bashes later, including their daily grand slam (by Pete Daley), A’s bodies are everywhere.

WAS 000 200 002 – 4 7 0
CLE 010 100 001 – 3 8 0
W-Kemmerer L-Ferrarese SV-Hyde HRS: Bridges, Doby GWRBI-Bridges
My fingers type these words, while my brain fails to comprehend them: the Senators are red-hot.

BAL 000 100 000 – 1 4 0
CHI 000 000 21x – 3 6 2
W-Donovan L-Johnson GWRBI-Aparicio
Not red-hot are either of these clowns, though Chicago does win its 50th on a Phillips sac fly and Aparicio bloop single, their offense of choice.

National League through Wednesday, July 23

Milwaukee 52 40 .565
San Francisco 51 42 .548 1.5
Chicago 49 46 .516 4.5
Philadelphia 46 45 .505 5.5
Pittsburgh 45 47 .489 7
Los Angeles 45 48 .484 7.5
St. Louis 43 47 .478 8
Cincinnati 39 55 .415 14

American League through Wednesday, July 23

New York 63 31 .670
Boston 53 39 .576 9
Baltimore 52 43 .545 11.5
Chicago 50 45 .526 13.5
Detroit 46 47 .495 15.5
Cleveland 46 49 .484 16.5
Kansas City 37 56 .398 25.5
Washington 29 66 .305 34.5
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