August 6, 1958

The St. Louis air we played in made our uniforms feel like wet carpets. The team stuck me in a room at the Chase Hotel with Bob Speake, our 27-year-old sixth outfielder from Springfield, Missouri, and I guess the heat made him feel right at home. Me? I was dumping cubes from our ice bucket under my sheets and laying on top of them.

“Spook” was in the minors for a while before making to the bigs with the Cubs in ’55. He showed a bit of power his first two seasons, belting 28 combined homers, but with Mays, Wagner, Kirkland and Alou starring for us out there he’s been lucky to get some late pinch-hitting spots.

“Hell of an occupation we got, huh?” he said before our first game at Busch Stadium tonight. I’d told him about my short career pitching in the Pacific Coast League, and we had similar journeys to talk about. Like everyone else on the Giants he also knew I was posing as Nick Testa to try and help catch the killer.

“If you ask me the murderin’ bastard got bored and went back to ‘Frisco. With all that fog it’s easier for him to do his handiwork there.”

It sounded possible, but I wasn’t buying anything until these last two games and the three coming up in L.A. were over—without news of a fresh murder.

Ripe to be killed were the Cards, who were playing better lately but still 2-9 against us for the year. Naturally, Blasingame gave them an early lead with a cheap homer off the right field foul pole. Wagner tied it with a 4th inning single but was gunned down at the plate to end the inning by Bobby Gene Smith, trying to score on Cepeda’s double. It would be important.

Back-to-back homers by Kirkland and Thomas gave us a 4-1 lead which Al Worthington cruised into the St. Louis 8th with. Bressoud booted one, and a wild pitch and two singles made it 4-2. Paul Giel came to the rescue and fell off his ladder, as Ken Boyer whacked a 3-run shot into the bleachers for the shocking 5-4 Cards lead. Even more shocking was something called Nelson Chittum getting us 1-2-3 in the 9th, and Speake and I were back at the Chase in no time so he could find the bar and I could collapse on some new ice cubes.

Then the door opened at two in the morning. I opened my eyes, saw Speake just standing there, silhouetted. Staring at me.

“What’s wrong?” I sleepily asked.
“I don’t know. You tell me.”

God, now what? I put on a light and he walked over to hand me a note, written in pen on a Hotel Chase bar napkin:

Watch out for your roomie. He’d KILL for some attention.

“What’s this about, Drake?”

I didn’t even answer him. Threw on my clothes and ran down to the bar in my bare feet. The only people left in there were a bartender, an old couple, a passed-out woman and a chain-smoking piano player. I showed the napkin to the barkeep.

“See anybody write this?”
“You can’t be in here without shoes on, sir.”

I grabbed him by his tie and yanked him close. “I don’t care if my pants and jockstrap are missing. Answer the question.”

He was scared. Glanced at the note. “I don’t know, okay? There were lots of people. Salesmen. Ballplayers and the like.”
“What kind of salesmen? The traveling kind?”
“Of course. What other kind would stay here?”

Two cops were walking their beat outside the bar’s window. I let go of him. He edged away, grabbed a couple of empty bowls left on the bar. Peanut shells had been in them. I turned and studied the piano player, the old people. The drunk woman.

The person who wrote on the napkin may have been watching me that very second, from a corner. A phone booth. A shadow. But at least one thing was clear: I wasn’t following myself.

THE SKINNYS

S.F. 000 100 300 – 4 11 1
STL 100 000 04x – 5 8 0
W-Jackson L-Giel SV-Chittum HRS: Kirkland, Thomas, Boyer GWRBI-Boyer

PIT 002 100 202 – 7 18 1
MIL 000 000 000 – 0 3 0
W-Witt L-Burdette HRS: Virdon, Thomas GWRBI-Thomas
Wow, Wes Covington goes out with an injury and the Braves are helpless against George Witt. Meanwhile, Burdette gets shellacked again, and the re-heated Bucs close to within six and a half of first. Even without Skinner and Clemente, the top four spots in Pittsburgh’s lineup go a blistering 14-for-19.

L.A. 000 001 000 – 1 6 1
CHI 000 000 20x – 2 5 0
W-Hillman L-Erskine HR: Walls, GWRBI-Walls
Lee Walls ruins Erskine’s, the Dodgers’ and Liz’s day with a 2-run shot in the 7th to inch the Cubbies back to a half game behind us.

PHI 002 000 000 – 2 9 0
CIN 002 300 00x – 5 9 0
W-Schmidt L-Sanford GWRBI-Robinson
Hottest team of all lately has been the Reds, as Willard Schmidt continues a run of great starting pitching. MVP candidate Frank Robinson does his thing again, getting only one hit but making it a bases-clearing, game-winning double.

NYY 000 000 000 0 – 0 7 1
BAL 000 000 000 1 – 1 5 0
W-O’Dell L-Ford HR: Taylor GWRBI-Taylor
Yankee bats are suddenly infected with the same termites they had in May and the team is having a doozy of a time finding their 70th win. This time Billy O’Dell mesmerizes them, Whitey Ford’s great outing is wasted, and Joe Taylor sends the Birds fans happily chirping their way home with a one-out bleacher bomb in the 10th.

WAS 100 000 120 – 4 13 1
BOS 022 003 00x – 7 10 1
W-Bowsfield L-Romonosky HR: Lemon, Williams GWRBI-Piersall
Nice doomed effort by Romonosky, giving Boston seven runs and their daily seven walks in six innings. Ted Williams is back up to .404, but his low at bat total will likely keep him from the batting title.

CHI 200 312 010 – 9 18 1
K.C. 100 005 020 – 8 12 1
W-Wynn L-Grim SV-Staley HRS: Lopez, Cerv, Simpson Maris, Carrasquel GWRBI-Torgeson
Good reason while the A’s are stuck in seventh place. They collect five homers off terrible Early Wynn and Chicago pitching, but every one is a solo job. Meanwhile Bob Grim drops to 3-13 by giving up 15 hits in six innings of “work.”

CLE 002 000 120 – 5 10 0
DET 000 123 00x – 6 11 0
W-Hoeft L-Narleski SV-Aguirre HR: Avila GWRBI-Bolling
Also gaining ground on the Yanks are the Tigers, now four games above .500 for the first time. Aguirre comes in to get Vic Power to ground out with two aboard to end the game.

National League through Wednesday, August 6

Milwaukee 58 48 .547
San Francisco 57 51 .528 2
Chicago 57 52 .523 2.5
Philadelphia 52 52 .500 5
St. Louis 51 53 .490 6
Pittsburgh 52 55 .486 6.5
Los Angeles 50 57 .467 8.5
Cincinnati 49 58 .458 9.5

American League through Wednesday, August 6

New York 69 39 .639
Boston 59 47 .557 9
Baltimore 59 48 .551 9.5
Chicago 59 49 .546 10
Detroit 55 51 .519 12
Cleveland 55 54 .505 13.5
Kansas City 41 65 .387 27
Washington 32 76 .296 37
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