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September 1, 1958

Funny, but today sure didn’t start insane. There was my steaming coffee cup. There were my eggs and morning paper. Liz called from somewhere outside New York, saying she’d rented an auto and was en route to Loon Lake to find the camp director. Hopefully she would find him, because I was flat out of recollections. Then I mentioned the Hamm’s beer bottle found outside my mother’s house.

“No way. Billy drinks Budweiser. From the midwest, remember? And how dare you suspect my brother.” So much for that.

The Giants had two Labor Day contests with the Dodgers before heading south and then east for their final trip of the year. I walked into the usher’s room to suit up and was stunned to see a surprise gathering and birthday cake waiting for me. My head had been so scattered lately that September 1st had snuck up on me.

“Even though Butch and Dominic tried to talk me out of it,” said Pence, “we thought we’d all thank you for being born.” I blushed, thanked them back. Tall Tom gave me a snazzy new cigarette lighter, Stan Lowsack assured me in his baritone that my mother would turn up safe, and everyone else vowed to buy me a draft at the Double Play later.

Naturally, Valmy Thomas tried to get me to warm up Al Worthington before Game 1, but I declined. Turned out he didn’t need my help, because Johnny Podres was so godawful again for the Dodgers that Red Skelton could have pitched for us. Podres took a 2-0 Dodger lead into the 4th, then promptly gave us nine runs n the next four innings for the 10-5 wipeout. And with the Cubs busy getting spanked twice in Milwaukee, everyone in Seals suddenly realized we could slip back into first by winning the nightcap.

“Drake!” yelled Valmy from the field as soon as the first game ended, “Ramon Monzant just promised you a box of cigars!”

Oh boy. Tough to resist that. I had about twenty free minutes, so got into my Nick Testa duds, found a mitt and warmed up a grinning Monzant in the Giants pen.

Next thing I knew, Pence Murphy was yelling at me from the stands.

“Snappy! Just took a call from your mom!”
“YOU WHAT??” A Monzant fastball nearly sawed my head off.
“Yeah! Said you have to come get her! She’s in a place called Guerneville, up past Santa Rosa I think. Wrote down the name of the park—”
“Is she all right??”
“Dunno. Sounded a little shaken up. She was sneezing too.”
“You positive it was my mother?”
“Whaddya, given’ me the third degree here? Yeah, it was your mother. You want I should call that FBI guy—”
“NO!” Monzant’s next heater nailed my shin. “I’ll go myself. Valmy, take over!”
“We got to win this!” yelled Monzant.
“Get some faith, Ramon.” I told him.

* * *

The Coronet hadn’t been pushed hard since my drive to Sacramento, but I did 50 with ease heading over the Golden Gate. On my radio, we took an early 2-0 lead on Koufax thanks to Cepeda’s second of three doubles on the day. A Fairly sacrifice fly cut it to 2-1, but then Koufax started walking the park like he’s done all year, and we scored four times off him and Craig in the 5th. I picked up speed, in case the killer decided to let the inevitable sweep set him off again. Pence always had one foot in a beer keg. What if the killer was impersonating my mother on the phone?

Guerneville was a tiny old resort town from Victorian times that was part of Sonoma County. I found the park Pence had written down, a shady public facility on a bank of the Russian River.

And I couldn’t believe it. Mom was sitting alone at a picnic table, wearing a rain slicker that wasn’t hers, carrying a bedroll, and blowing her red nose into a wad of tissue.

“There you are!” she exclaimed, as I parked and climbed out, as flustered and confused as I ever was. “Happy birthday, doll face!” I let her hug me.
“Where the hell have you been? It’s been a week! I was worried to death! There’s been an all-points bulletin!”
“Really? For me? That’s just silly. Might’ve been rough for the first few days but I was never in danger for one—”
“Where is he?” I uttered, with a sharp dagger of a voice. She looked at me as if I were nuts.
“You mean Jack? He’s right over there!”

I turned. Twenty yards away, a half dozen young men and women were hanging out of the back of a little camping truck. Parked at the edge of the lot beside a shiny, dark blue Mercury. I walked over. Recognized the stocky, handsome, T-shirted ringleader right away. Back in May, Liz and I had spent a couple days on the road with this joker.

“Kerouac?”

Jack spun, saw me and burst into a huge smile. “If it ain’t Brother-Man, son of Good Lady Drake! Thought you might arrive event-u-ally.”
You’re the one who kidnapped my mother?”
“Kidnapped? What are you, blotto? Actually got back in town after a floating raft of glorious days and nights down deep Mexico way and came looking for YOU to outdoor celebrate said days and nights but forgot where you lived and your mama was helpful, so so helpful, and had a bit too much of my wine bottle and asked to go camping with us, that’s right!”
“Camping!” my mother squeaked, “Never did it until now!”
“You broke her damn window!” I barked at Kerouac.
“Oh no. Oh no no no, Brother-man, that would have been Dwight. He had a bit of a beer problem and liked throwing things around including bottles that night and there you have that. We lost Dwight somewhere on the way up to Eureka, and where was that, Bonnie-ola?”

Bonnie, a young blonde girl with very red eyes, peered out from the back of the camping truck. “Redding?”
“Redding, righhhht…Say you ever feel that dark soul I told you to feel?”
“You better start making some sense, pal—”
“Your baseball-killer! He ever turn up?”
“Oh. Well…We’re getting close. I can smell him.”
“Uh-uh. Uh uh uh uh uh. You can’t smell or taste him, you gotta BE him. Thanks for makin’ that soup, Mama Drake!” He nudged me with a wink. “Be good to the ones that put you here. Because years mean wisdom, mister. Years means wisdom…”

And with that he was back with his vagabond friends, and I was driving back to the city with my beaming, apple cheeked mother. She actually looked healthier.

“Jack is a well-known writer, you know.”
“I’m aware of this, mom.”
“And he’s much nicer than I thought he would be.”

I dropped her off, got back to my place, and there was the perfect note pinned to my door to cap off a most laborious Labor Day:

Bookie’s name is Sal Flores. L.A. Coliseum upp grand sec 9, row LL seat 12

––Braggo F.

My sinister gig for Mickey Cohen was on, whether I liked it or not. And I knew just the person to help me…

THE SKINNYS

L.A. 020 000 003 – 5 7 0
S.F. 000 411 31x – 10 14 0
W-Worthington L-Podres HRS: Fairly, Bilko, Sauer, Spencer GWRBI-Schmidt

L.A. 001 000 010 – 2 3 1
S.F. 200 040 00x – 6 5 1
W-Monzant L-Koufax GWRBI-Cepeda

CHI 000 010 000 – 1 2 2
MIL 100 102 70x – 11 15 0
W-Spahn L-Hillman HRS: Covington, Roach GWRBI-Aaron

CHI 000 020 000 – 2 2 0
MIL 005 103 00x – 9 13 0
W-Pizarro L-Briggs HRS: Neeman, Bruton, Mathews, Covington GWRBI-Aaron
See? All I had to do was dump on the Braves long enough and they’d respond. And do they ever. Two batting explosions against the formerly first-place Cubs, after starving for runs in the desert for a full week. Milwaukee and the Cubs become the first season series to finish (barring a playoff), with the Braves holding the 12-10 edge. Now they’re on to Philly, to play a team they’re 12-7 against.

CIN 020 010 000 – 3 9 0
STL 000 001 000 – 1 7 1
W-Nuxhall L-Mizell GWRBI-Hoak

CIN 002 000 061 – 9 14 2
STL 100 001 101 – 4 10 0
W-Kellner L-Paine HRS: Pinson, Lynch, Burgess GWRBI-Temple
The Redlegs continue their blistering pace (25-9 since August 1st) by sweeping in St. Loo. In the nightcap, Phil Paine is being Phil Paine again when he manages to turn a 3-2 Cards lead into a six-run Cincy 8th.

PHI 000 000 200 – 2 4 1
PIT 023 100 00x – 6 9 1
W-Friend L-Semptoch HRS: Thomas, Virdon, Kluszewski GWRBI-Mazeroski

PHI 100 000 000 – 1 9 0
PIT 012 021 00x – 6 12 0
W-Blackburn L-Hearn HR: Mazeroski GWRBI-Groat
And I have no clue what’s gotten into the Bucs, who suddenly can’t lose. Skinner collects five hits on the day, they shockingly hit four homers and even walk four times!

BOS 000 100 000 – 1 5 2
NYY 002 002 01x – 5 9 0
W-Ditmar L-Brewer SV-Duren HR: Mantle

BOS 200 001 002 01 – 6 10 2
NYY 210 001 010 02 – 7 17 0
W-Duren L-Kiely HRS: Williams-2, Berra GWRBI-Berra
Red Sox? It’s been nice competing with you, but see ya around. For the second straight time, they show up in the Bronx after bashing the league’s brains in and play like total crap. Malzone and Piersall make two-base errors in the same inning to get the Yanks going in the opener, before Malzone and Williams make errors in the 1st inning of Game 2 to erase their 2-0 lead. Ted Williams does start a game-tying 9th inning rally with a double, then puts Boston ahead in the 11th with his second homer of the game, off Duren. Only to have Leo Kiely give up four straight hits in the last of the 11th to pull out the loss. Glad I wasn’t watching this on TV.

CLE 030 021 000 – 6 12 0
CHX 500 110 00x – 7 10 0
W-Donovan L-Bell SV-Moore HRS: Harrrell, Minoso, Torgeson GWRBI-Torgeson

CLE 300 120 200 – 8 12 1
CHX 100 050 30x – 9 14 1
W-Qualters L-Grant SV-Staley HRS: Wertz, Minoso, Colavito, Landis GWRBI-Torgeson
But there’s no stopping the White Sox these days, as they pull out two miracle one-run wins, the first where they hold off the ferocious Tribe for nine innings, the second where they come back from a 6-1 deficit. Nellie Fox has been nuclear, and collects six more hits and five RBIs in the twinbill.

BAL 111 020 104 – 10 14 1
WAS 212 103 02x – 11 17 0
W-Kemmerer L-O’Dell SV-Valentinetti HRS: Taylor, Triandos, Zauchin GWRBI-Lemon

BAL 000 020 202 – 6 11 1
WAS 020 000 000 – 2 8 3
W-Pappas L-Griggs SV-Wilhelm HR: Lemon GWRBI-Woodling
Pretty meaningless pre-Beltway battle, though it is the only doubleheader split of the day and contains a thrilling opener that sees the Birds nearly tie it in the 9th after being way down. Sievers, for a change, doesn’t hit a homer, but Roy is currently on base for the triple crown!

DET 000 002 122 – 7 14 1
K.C. 212 000 000 – 5 6 0
W-Foytack L-Gorman HRS: Harris, Ward, Tuttle GWRBI-Harris

DET 201 012 000 – 6 12 0
K.C. 000 000 020 – 2 7 0
W-Susce L-Tomanek HR: Bolling GWRBI-Kaline
The Tigers got skunked in Kansas City on their last trip, but it’s the A’s who stink the place up today, blowing a 5-0 lead in the opener thanks to the always-grim Bob Grim.

BATTING LEADERS THROUGH AUGUST

National League

AVG: Mays-SF .354, Covington-MIL .341, Robinson-CIN .339, Aaron-MIL .337, Cunningham-STL .334, Ashburn-PHL .333, Lynch-CIN .333, Groat-PIT .326

OPS: Robinson-CIN 1.054, Aaron-MIL 1.028, Covington-MIL 1.105, Cunningham-STL 1.011, Mays-SF .999, Anderson-PHL .925, Lynch-CIN 925, Banks-CHC .912

HRS: Robinson-CIN 37, Aaron-MIL 37, Banks-CHC 37, Covington- MIL 32, Mays-SF 31

RBI: Robinson-CIN 130, Aaron-MIL 105, Banks-CHC 104, Mays-SF 95, Musial-STL 92

GWRBIS: Robinson-CIN 17, Lynch-CIN 14, Anderson-PHL 12, Banks-CHC 12, Aaron-MIL 12, Covington-MIL 11, Cepeda-SF 10

WALKS: Cunningham-STL 100, Temple-CIN 81, Mathews-MIL 75

American League

AVG: Williams-BOS .417, Zernial-DET .365, Wilson-DET .333, Minoso-CLE .328, Sievers-WAS .346, Cerv-KC .330, Kaline-DET .323

OPS: Williams-BOS 1.278, Mantle-NY 1.131, Zernial-DET 1.026, Colavito-CLE 1.064, Sievers-WAS 1.053, Cerv-KC .995, Jensen-BOS .967

HRS: Sievers-WAS 50, Mantle-NY 38, Jensen-BOS 37, Colavito-CLE 35, Cerv-KC 33, Berra-NYY 32, Triandos-BAL 32

RBI: Sievers-WAS 126, Jensen-BOS 105, Colavito-CLE 104, Mantle-NY 101, Cerv-KC 101

GWRBIS: Colavito-CLE 15, Cerv-KC 14, Doby-CLE 13, Phillips-CHX 13, Jensen-BOS 13, Nieman-BAL 12, Mantle-NYY 12, Sievers-WAS 11, Kaline-DET 11, Skowron-NYY 11

WALKS: Torgeson-CHX 116, Runnels-BOS 99, Mantle-NYY 95, Colavito-CLE 88, Jensen-BOS 84

PITCHING LEADERS THROUGH AUGUST

National League

E.R.A.: Witt-PIT 2.64, Cardwell-PHL 2.81, Rush-MIL 2.73, Willey-MIL 2.98

STRIKEOUTS: Jones-STL 197, Drysdale-LA 148, Cardwell-PHL 130

WINS: Mizell-STL 17-8, Roberts, PHL 15-7, Miller-SF 15-7, Spahn 15-11, Gomez-SF 14-8, Cardwell, PHL 13-4

SAVES: Face-PIT 17, Paine-STL 13, Elston-CHC 14, Craig-LA 12, Robinson-MIL 11

American League

E.R.A.: Ford-NY 1.99, Portocarrera-BAL 2.06, Latman-CHX 2.46, Ditmar-NY 2.50, Harshman-BAL 3.09

STRIKEOUTS: Bunning-DET 164, Turley-NY 160, Wynn-CHX 151, Ford-NY 151

WINS: Ford-NY 20-6, Pierce-CHX 18-9, McLish-CLE 17-10, Bell-CLE 16-7, Portocarrera-BAL 15-6, Latman-CHX 13-1, Ditmar-NY 12-5

SAVES: Wilhelm-BAL 13, Staley-CHX 12, Hyde-WAS 12

PENNANT RACE GRAPHS: Check out the surging Reds and White Sox in the National and American Leagues!

National League through Monday, September 1

San Francisco 74 59 .556
Chicago 74 60 .552 0.5
Milwaukee 71 61 .538 2.5
Cincinnati 69 66 .511 6
St. Louis 65 66 .496 8
Philadelphia 61 69 .469 11.5
Pittsburgh 60 73 .451 14
Los Angeles 56 76 .424 17.5

American League through Monday, September 1

New York 83 49 .629
Chicago 78 54 .591 5
Boston 70 61 .534 12.5
Baltimore 69 61 .531 13
Cleveland 70 64 .522 14
Detroit 64 66 .492 18
Kansas City 50 81 .382 32.5
Washington 42 90 .318 41
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