Atascadero Hospital’s big egg-in-their-face helped spring me from the place faster than a jack-in-the-box. But not before one last visitor stopped by this morning.
“Phil Todd!” I grumbled as he walked in, “Better never than late.” My scout friend from the Spokane Indians was the whole reason I went to Sacramento a few weeks ago, and him not being there the whole reason I found myself lying next to two dead muggers. Not that he needed to know about that.
“Yeah, sorry I missed you,” he said, “There was a kid shortstop at Modesto High I had to go see.”
“How’d you find me here?”
“How d’ya think? Looked you up at Seals, boss said you got carted away. I’m a scout, remember?”
“Speaking of which…Need a washed-up arm for three months of mop-up duty? Anything to bail me out of my hell up there.”
“Yeah, and straight into mine. We’re chasing the Rainiers for last place.” He gave my side a little nudge. “Holdin’ up okay?”
“Like a circus tent. Actually I’m out of here in two hours if you’re up for giving me a ride.”
“No can do. Gotta see a Mexican lefty in Salinas. Think there’s a bus line nearby, though…Why’d you come looking for me in Sacramento?”
I had to think a moment. It felt like it was six months ago.
“This creep who’s killing people has a thing for me. I mean, a personal vendetta of some kind. Was wondering if you remembered anyone from the old PCL days who had it in for Younger Snappy.”
“Well…there was that crazy heckler in Vancouver.”
“Thought of him.”
“That baseball tomato in San Diego with the red bobbie sox who you proposed to.”
“That was a girl. And shut up.”
“Could be anyone, Snappy. For any reason. Maybe someone who had ten grand on you throwing a shutout once.”
“That would’ve been one stupid bet.”
“Maybe, but you get my point, right?”
I’d already been down that dead end gambling road with Paulie Suggs back in May. Then I remembered something.
“Hey—Did we ever have a coach named Soupy?”
Phil scratched his crewcut, then his chin. “Kind of a goofy name. Be a tough one to forget…I knew a Soapy once. And a Droopy. Droopy Drummond, with the hairlip. But I think he was a utility player.”
No dice. I thanked him for stopping by, wished him luck in Salinas, said a special goodbye to my new pal Darwin, and prepared for my exit.
I was fully expecting to see Agent Brewster waiting for me outside, but there was a game about to start at Seals and he was probably on hand to man another fruitless grandstand watch. Sure enough, Brewster wasn’t there, and I started down the two-lane road, past a half mile of fields and migrant workers toward the bus stop.
Suddenly a shiny black Cadillac town car rolled up beside me. The driver was very fat and wore a goatee and dark glasses. He rolled down his window.
“Mr. Stoneham paid me to come pick you up.”
“He did?” I laughed. “One mental breakdown in his ballpark wasn’t enough?”
He had no clue what I was talking about. “Do you want a ride or not?”
I shrugged, got in the back seat. The car was so plush I could barely feel it moving. I tried some more conversation with the driver but he was basically mute. He kept looking at his watch every few minutes, finally switched on the Giants game at 1:30 p.m. The last of a 5-game set with Cincinnati and a thriller. We got stuck in a lot of traffic heading back to the city through San Jose and were able to hear the whole thing. As we drove past Seals Stadium the cheering inside matched the madness on the radio. The Giants had come from behind with two in the 9th to win 7-6.
I thanked the driver as I climbed out at my place, and then he said “wait a minute.” Opened a folder on the seat next to him. Inside were two white envelopes, one marked IF THEY WIN. He handed it to me and drove away.
What the hell? I tore the thing open, unfolded a one-page note in a familiar scrawl:
SORRY I TOOK YOUR LADY, MILTON.
BUT I WARNED YOU ABOUT THE GIANTS WINNING, DIDN’T I?
I suddenly couldn’t breathe. Tore up the steps into my apartment and grabbed the phone. Dialed long distance, got the L.A. Coliseum operator to put me through to the press box.
“Liz Dumas, please!”
I heard nothing but phone-fumbling for a moment. Then somehow, Liz’s sweet voice.
“Liz. Thank god you’re okay. Find a cop, quick!”
“What’s going on, Snap? Are you still in the—”
“No! I got out, and Peanut Man impersonated Stoneham, sent this guy to drive me back to town.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Why does he do anything? Anyway, he left me a note, saying he either killed or kidnapped you!”
“Well…that’s sure news to me. He used my name?”
“No. He just said—”
I stared at the note again. In mounting horror.
“Snap? You there?'”
“I’ll call you later.”
Hung up, ran out to my Coronet and weaved through the crazy post-game traffic. Roared all the way across town and over the Bay Bridge. Got to a residential street in Oakland, hopped out and ran to the front door.
It was unlocked, and the window beside it smashed open. I swung open the door, stepped into an ungodly mess of a house.
There was no answer.
CIN 000 004 200 – 6 8 1
S.F. 010 201 102 – 7 14 2
W-Monzant L-Kellner HR: Alou GWRBI-Thomas
The Reds hit the Bay Area and just plain die, dropping the last four to us, this one in grisly fashion as Alex Kellner gives up four straight hits to Mays, Cepeda, Kirkland and Thomas in the last of the 9th.
MIL 000 000 000 – 0 6 1
L.A. 010 002 00x – 3 8 0
W-Podres L-Rush HR: Gray, GWRBI-Gray
Braves and Dodgers resume play after a day off for USC football practice or a Klan rally or something, and the break rejuvenates Johnny Podres, who shuts down Milwaukee for his best start in a long while. And guess who’s now in first place, folks…
PIT 000 100 000 – 1 6 0
CHI 000 600 20x – 8 14 1
W-Hobbie L-Friend HR: Walls GWRBI-Long
The Cubbies!! Thanks to another atomic combustion by Bob Friend (six runs on seven hits in the 4th), Chicago hops into first by their little selves. Yon Cublets are now a scary 17-6 in August.
PHI 320 000 004 – 9 14 1
STL 000 200 000 – 2 6 0
W-Simmons L-Mizell HR: Lopata GWRBI-Bowman
The Phillies will head to Wrigley to try and cool them down after lambasting the Cardinals again. Vinegar Bend is apparently drinking the stuff straight, and the daily four double plays the Cards hit into kills any dreams of possible rallies.
CHX 001 000 200 – 3 6 0
NYY 000 000 101 – 2 5 0
W-Donovan L-Turley HRS: Lollar, Berra, Mantle GWRBI-Fox
The White Sox come within an eyelash of sweeping the Yanks in the Bronx, and take the rubber game on great Donovan pitching and two clutch singles by Nellie Fox. Still, a 7-game deficit is somewhat promising heading toward September…
CLE 000 000 300 – 3 8 1
BOS 000 120 13x – 7 9 2
W-Bowsfield L-Grant SV-Smith HRS: Colavito, Gernert, Jensen GWRBI-Runnels
The Bosox salvage their finale with the Tribe on a single by Runnels and extra insurance against Mudcrap Grant. They needed this one badly.
DET 000 000 100 – 1 7 0
BAL 201 000 00x – 3 7 2
W-Brown L-Bunning SV-Wilhelm HRS: Nieman, Boyd GWRBI-Nieman
Oh, to be the Tigers. Suddenly can’t hit their way out of a paper bag and have to play a doubleheader in New York tomorrow. The Orioles, meanwhile, pick up another game as they attempt to mean something.
K.C. 020 001 420 – 9 16 1
WAS 001 000 030 – 4 5 1
W-Herbert L-Kemmerer HRS: Carrasquel, Lopez
Not meaning a damn thing are these guys, but they sure do have some knock-down, drag-out rumbles. A’s notch win #50 with a 16-hit attack.
YOUR AUTHOR’S VOICE: I’ll be guesting on the “Outta the Parkway” podcast tonight, hosted by Chip Greene and Ted Leavengood, our brave ’58 Senators skipper. To download the show, click here after 5 p.m. Pacific tonight.
National League through Saturday, August 23
American League through Saturday, August 23