“Yes Milton, you beanballed someone.”
“What was his name?”
“I don’t even remember. Some rich kid. Now can you fix my vacuum cleaner, please?”
After helping my mother straighten up her house this morning and attempt to do the same with her life, I hit Route 101 for my last trip of the year to L.A. The Giants pitchers naturally hoped I’d be warming them up, but I had darker plans for my evening.
Like he told me over ice cream last month, Mickey Cohen had a target he wanted me to knock off: a bookie named Sal Flores he’d placed fifty grand on the Giants with. Of course, with the Giants now back in first, I wanted to be sure Braggo’s note last night was still relevant.
Unfortunately, it was. Mickey still didn’t trust the Giants’ bullpen to get them across the pennant finish line. He didn’t like being nervous, didn’t especially like Sal Flores, so why not rub him out and retrieve his money ahead of time?
I met Braggo at a hot dog stand on La Cienega called Tail of the Pup, where he slipped me a snub nose .38 and reminded me how useless my body and face would be if I didn’t do the job. I hid the gun in my glove compartment and drove across town to the monolithic stadium, pulling into a lot thirty minutes before the game.
Not having the tragically injured Roy Campanella on their team this season had finally caught up with the Dodgers. His longtime batterymate and buddy Don Newcombe had a terrible start and was sent packing to Cincinnati, and their record since the all-star break was an abysmal 14-40. We had taken four out of five at Seals, and with their ace loser Don Drysdale on the hill, the place looked emptier than the Roman Colosseum for Black Plague Day.
I bought myself a cold one, easily found an empty seat behind the row Sal the bookie was booked for. A few families filed in around me, but the crowd was mostly groups of guys or first-year diehards wearing Dodger hats studded with goofy buttons.
Halfway through the 1st inning, a thin character excused himself into the row in front of me. Tropical shirt, porkpie hat, and shades. Puffing on a thick, smelly cigar and carrying a folded up sports section and racing form, he dropped into seat 12. If this guy wasn’t Sal the bookie, I was Grace Kelly.
Meanwhile, Antonelli must have been cursing me between pitches, because even without the injured Snider, the Dodgers lit him up for four home runs. Sal stood and cheered, left his hat on his seat at least four times to go make phonecalls, then came back and kept on puffing. I didn’t really want to kill this guy, but his cigar smoke wafting into my eyes was making me think otherwise.
After Ray Crone took over for mop-up duty and Furillo bashed his third round-tripper of the night—the second time he’d done that this season—Sal clapped again and dumped some hot cigar ash on my pants leg.
“Hey, watch it!!” I barked.
He turned, lowered his shades to reveal a jagged scar under one eye, and fixed me with a wordless death stare. I forced a friendly grin, then quickly ducked up to the restroom to relieve myself.
When I returned two minutes later, he was gone. His hat and newspapers with him. What kind of baseball fan leaves a game in the 7th inning? And with Drysdale taking a rare shutout into the 8th! Rats. I would have to follow him home tomorrow night.
* * *
I drove up to Liz’s old bungalow in the Los Feliz hills, still unrented and vacant. I got inside via the same open window crack, laid out a blanket I’d tossed in my trunk and tried to get some sleep.
Tough to do. Aside from the hellish crickets, someone was having a cocktail party a few houses away or across the canyon and playing far too much Harry Belafonte. Except for the crickets, the racket all died out around midnight.
Which was when I heard the car motor. Idling close by. I sat up, crawled over to the window and peered out. A set of ghostly headlights through the trees. Maybe a hundred yards from the house. I stood up in the window and the car drove by, rounded the corner and vanished.
I laid back down. Let the crickets conjure up my high and middle-in fastball, rushing toward a faceless boy’s head…
And the car motor woke me again. I sat up. The same ghostly headlights, watching the house through the trees. Was it Sal? Braggo? I would have been happy with either one, but when I stepped out the front door this time, the car sped away again.
Further sleep would be out of the question.
(only games scheduled)
S.F. 000 000 030 – 3 10 0
L.A. 203 120 20x – 10 12 2
W-Drysdale (after 10 straight losses) L-Antonelli HRS: Furillo-3, Bilko, Demeter GWRBI-Furillo
CIN 062 400 000 – 12 17 2
STL 100 102 100 – 5 12 1
W-Lawrence L-Brosnan GWRBI-McMillan
Not sure why I keep blabbing about the Cubs and White Sox, because the Redlegs have been the hottest club in creation. They sweep all three in St. Louis, notching their 70th win (weren’t they just in last place?) and now go home to face the equally scalding Pirates. Jerry Lynch’s two-run triple puts him over the 100-RBI mark.
PHI 000 001 000 – 1 4 0
PIT 301 000 00x – 4 6 1
W-Kline L-Cardwell GWRBI-Groat
And the two Pennsylvania teams are on a collision course in the standings. A rare three-run 1st off Cardwell hands the Phils their 70th loss, as it appears their year of good fortune is running out.
BOS 200 100 000 – 3 9 0
NYY 103 060 00x – 10 16 1
W-Turley L-Delock HRS: Williams, Mantle
Similar last rites may be adminstered to the Bosox, who take a quick lead on Ted Williams’ third homer in two days, then are never heard from again. Ike Delock and his team-leading WHIP and ERA can’t even get him out of the third inning. Frank Baumann relieves a drowning Riverboat Smith just in time to serve up Mickey Mantle’s 40th homer, a grand slam over the 457 ft. sign. Thankfully, only one more game is left in this wretched series.
BAL 122 000 002 – 7 9 1
WAS 110 000 000 – 2 5 3
W-Portocarrera L-Romonosky HRS: Woodling-2, Triandos, Gardner GWRBI-Triandos
The Birds try to stay relevant by hopping back into third place, but even the pitching stylings of Arnie P. (now 16-6 with a 2.01 ERA) probably won’t get them much higher.
DET 101 000 001 – 3 8 1
K.C. 100 000 202 – 5 11 1
W-Gorman L-Aguirre HRS: Wilson, Maris, Tuttle GWRBI-Tuttle
The A’s finally get mad as hell and don’t take it anymore. Faced with maybe losing three straight to the Tigers when Coot Veal (!) ties the game with a two-out double in the 9th, Hank Aguirre takes the mound and gives up a Carrasquel single and pinch-hit Bill Tuttle bleacher blast to save the day.
National League through Tuesday, September 2
American League through Tuesday, September 2