August 9, 1958

Turned out that I didn’t need to worry where I was sleeping last night, because Braggo Farfadecchio kept me up till dawn and most of today waiting until Mickey Cohen could make time for us. When you’re a full-time crime boss it tends to clog your schedule a little.

It was 7 p.m. by the time he finally met us in the Carousel Ice Cream Parlor he owned with his sister on San Vicente Boulevard. The guy was all of five-foot-two, with an old boxer’s face and a mouth on him that could drive a sailor into the priesthood. Thankfully, he was more interested in putting ice cream inside it and making eyes at his dish of a girlfriend, who also happened to be named Liz.

“Seeing I got vending machines to collect on tonight, I’ll make this quick for ya, Drake. Word on the street is that this sick murderin’ bastard followin’ the Giants around might cost them a shot at the World Series, am I right?”
“Well, if they lose I’m not sure the murders would have anything to do with it. More likely their lousy bullpen ERA—”
“Hey! Did I just ask you for details? If I want a fancy math lesson I’ll call Albert Einstein. Braggo! Put the game on!”

Braggo snapped a finger at an 18-year-old kid behind the counter, who nervously fumbled with a radio until Vin Scully’s voice came in from the Coliseum. It was already 5-1 Giants in the 2nd.

“Looks like they’re winning tonight,” I said. “Didn’t know you were a baseball fan.”
“Whaddya, nuts? I’d rather watch blood dry on somebody’s face. Problem is that this sunavabitch bookie out in the desert talked me into laying 50 large on the Giants back in March, and now I’m a little worried I might gotta pay him.”
“So don’t.”
“You tellin’ me what to do, shit-for-brains?”
“No. I’m telling you what NOT to do.”

He glared at me. I was already regretting what I’d said. Thankfully his girlfriend was waving her little spoon at him.

“Mickey? Can I have your cherry?”
He cracked up laughing. “Hell, I’m supposed to ask YOU that!” A few seconds later, Braggo and his goons laughed too, and I forced a smile after getting a smack from one of them.

“Thing is,” continued Mickey, “I gotta feel good about this investment I did. The boys up north seen your name in the papers, news gets down to me here, I figure hey–maybe this Snappy character knows a thing or two of the inside tip variety.”
“A little, maybe. Not sure I know more than the average fan–”
“Tell ya what, Einstein. Why don’t we sit here a while and see how this game turns out? If the Giants look like they got it in the bag, let’s say a little while after halftime, maybe I’ll feel a lot better and you can just go.”

With our 5-1 lead I agreed to that plan. Mickey Cohen obviously knew less about baseball than I did about girls’ lacrosse.

“And get yourself a sundae, why don’t ya? They’re damn good here.”
“That’s okay. Trying to watch my waist.”
“You makin’ fun of me now? Have a Hot Fudge Banana Dreamboat and shut the hell up.”

So I did. And it was good. But then the Giants stopped hitting, I mean really stopped. After smashing Johnny Klippstein early around he threw five hitless innings at us, while the Dodgers begin chipping back. Our suddenly swiss cheesian defense helped out. Daryl Spencer made two errors, Cepeda one, and after Mays dropped a Gil Hodges fly in the 6th, the Dodgers scored twice and it was 5-4. When Reese tied the score with a pinch sac fly in the 7th, Mickey sent Liz home in a cab, sat across from me again and folded his arms.

“Sounds to me we got a problem here.”
“Uhh…not yet. And the Giants have a good record in one-run games and extra innings.”
“You gettin’ mathy with me again?”

The bananas and fudge were curdling in my gut. It was nearly ten and the last customers were emptying out.

“Doesn’t this place close soon?”
“Aw no, we’re open all night. Keep your panties on.”

Vin Scully’s voice floated across the room like whipped cream on pudding. “So Klippstein, Koufax and now Babe Birrer have no-hit the Big Bad Giants for the last nine and two-third innings! Can you believe it?”

It was the last of the 11th. Gilliam walked and Furillo singled him to third. Ramon Monzant replaced Giel and walked Gray to load the bases. I was a dead man. Roseboro lined out but Snider lofted a fly deep to Kirkland and Gilliam ran home with the Dodger winner.

Bullet in the head? Wire around my neck? Hopefully he’d give me a choice. Instead…

“You’re a pretty sharp guy.”
“Oh…really?”
“Yeah. Knowing about their lousy reliever pitching and all. So now I’m thinkin’…I got an easier way to make back this investment of mine and you’re gonna help me pull it off.”
“I am?”
“Giants and Dodgers are playing a super-long series in both places this coming Labor Day weekend.”
“Right. Think it’s like eight straight games using both parks. Kind of nuts.”
“Yeah well, this bookie I spoked about should be going to the games down here. So I’ll need you to follow him afterwards, get my 50 large back and waste him for me.”
“What?? I’ve never done anything like that in my life!”
“Gotta start sometime.”
“No. I don’t. I can go to a phone booth right now, call FBI Agent Brewster and have your ass back in the slammer.”

Braggo chuckled once. Mickey just smiled. The ugly kind.

“Brewster the Rooster’s the reason I picked you up, Einstein. He’s been on me like flypaper for years. See, he got tired of taking my contributions to the Police Activities League when he was on the force out here. Decided to get all high and mighty in a federal kind of way and make me his personal project.”

He leaned in, a smidgen of whipped cream melting on his menacing puss.

“And now I got me his little play toy.”

THE SKINNYS

S.F. 320 000 000 00 – 5 7 4
L.A. 110 002 100 01 – 6 11 1
W-Birrer L-Giel GWRBI-Snider

MIL 000 001 000 – 1 8 1
PHI 000 030 00x – 3 9 1
W-Cardwell L-Spahn HR: Mathews GWRBI-Cardwell
This whole brotherly love deal isn’t exactly working out for the Braves, especially when Philly throws Don Cardwell out there and he goes to 12-3 by beating Warren Spahn. Even as they dip below .500, the fightin Phils are clearly going to make life miserable for everyone.

STL 000 000 011 – 2 8 1
CHI 010 132 01x – 8 10 0
W-Phillips L-Mabe HR: Musial GWRBI-Adams
Hey hey, look who’s now in second place! Bob Mabe, the fifth Cards starter, began the year 6-1 and is 0-7 since, walking six and pitching his way off a cliff here in no time. Dale Long with a double and homer and they’ll play two tomorrow!

CIN 012 021 000 – 6 12 0
PIT 000 0001 000 – 1 9 2
W-Nuxhall L-Kline GWRBI-Hoak
The Reds’ losing streak is snapped at one. Temple, Pinson and Lynch go 7-for-15 at the top of the lineup and Nuxhall wins his second straight, which is also amazing.

BOS 200 000 001 000 00 – 3 9 1
NYY 110 100 000 000 02 – 5 20 2
W-Larsen L-Wall HR: Larsen GWRBI-Larsen
I guess you can say this was Don Larsen’s second finest hour. He goes all 14 innings and hits a trot-off homer to win the game and put the Yanks nine and a half up again. On the down side, in finally winning their 70th game they score only five times despite 20 hits. Buddin’s single and Gene Stephens’ triple with two outs in the 9th never should have even tied the game.

BAL 003 000 000 – 3 7 1
WAS 205 100 10x – 9 11 0
W-Kemmerer L-Portocarrero HRS: Triandos, Sievers (#45), Aspromonte, Lemon GWRBI-Courtney
Bad Birds. Real bad Birds. Dropping your second straight in D.C. with your ace on the hill, when you have a chance to pick up ground on the Sox and Yanks, is grounds for pennant race explusion.

K.C. 000 001 000 – 1 7 0
CLE 200 000 01x – 3 11 0
W-McLish L-Garver HRS: Cerv, Power GWRBI-Doby
Snooze.

CHX 000 200 010 – 3 7 0
DET 000 000 000 – 0 4 1
W-Pierce L-Foytack HR: Lollar GWRBI-Lollar
Billy Pierce cools the Tiger heels, Nellie Fox is on base all four times and Sherm Lollar hits a game-deciding homer. Just like the good old days of April.

National League through Saturday, August 9

Milwaukee 60 49 .550
Chicago 60 52 .536 1.5
San Francisco 59 52 .532 2
Philadelphia 53 54 .495 6
Pittsburgh 53 57 .482 7.5
St. Louis 51 56 .477 8
Cincinnati 51 59 .464 9.5
Los Angeles 51 59 .464 9.5

American League through Saturday, August 9

New York 70 40 .636
Boston 60 49 .550 9.5
Chicago 60 50 .545 10
Baltimore 59 50 .541 10.5
Detroit 56 52 .519 12
Cleveland 57 54 .514 12.5
Kansas City 41 67 .380 28
Washington 35 76 .315 35.5
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