Nobody was watching me or Liz’s house this morning. I rolled out to my car, groggier than hell, drove downtown to have breakfast and a pot of coffee at the Pantry. Afterwards, I found a pay phone and tracked Liz down at the only hotel in Loon Lake, New York. Randall the camp director had been taken seriously ill and wasn’t seeing visitors yet. That figured. I suggested she go all Snappy at the A.Y.B.L. office and get into their records. We had to get the name of this kid I hit.
In the meantime, there was another night game at the Coliseum to follow Sal Flores home from. But I needed a partner this time. Headed over Cahuenga Pass to Ventura Boulevard and straight into the narrow driveway for Frack Automotive. It was busier than ever, but Billy was pretty hopped up to see me.
“Didja ask my sister to tie the knot yet, Pops?”
“Nothing personal, but sometimes it feels more like a noose.”
“Ha! Well, yeah…She’s a piece of job, that’s for sure.”
I told him about my predicament, disguising it as a simple errand to “try and get my money back from a hustler” and conveniently leaving Mickey Cohen’s name and possible murder out of the stew. When I promised him a nice little cut—something I prayed I could arrange later—he took the bait.
“Just make sure I don’t break no more bones. Business is through the roof and I gotta be able to turn a wrench.”
* * *
A much bigger crowd showed up tonight, what with the Dodgers’ 10-3 demolition of the Giants the night before. The other reason for the mob was the return of Duke Snider after a two-week absence. It was Billy’s first Dodger game, and he armed himself with a beer and weenie in no time. The congestion made it tougher to find empty seats behind Sal’s row, but we managed.
Sal showed up halfway through the 1st again, sporting a different colored tropical shirt and smoking a fresh cigar. He arrived just in time to see the Duke line a single into right off Gomez to score Fairly with the game’s first run, then rob Bob Schmidt of a three-run homer in the 3rd. With Billy on hand, we were able to take turns going to food stands or the restroom without losing sight of him.
It was still a tight contest, 3-3 into the 4th, when Mays’ third straight single off Erskine gave the Giants a 4-3 lead. After that, things got ghastly in a hurry. Dodger pitchers had nothing, and the Giants repeatedly reminded them of this, shellacking Erskine, Roebuck, Birrer and Kipp for 19 total runs and 27 hits. The game was an abomination by the 6th, and this time I didn’t squawk about Sal leaving early, because three-quarters of the Coliseum was following his lead.
But Sal was a quick walker. “Good thing he’s wearing that awful shirt,” I said as we struggled to follow him out the exit tunnel. Billy stayed on his heels while I circled around to pick Billy up with the Coronet. Sal drove a shiny white T-Bird convertible, gave a parking lot kid a ten-dollar bill to lift a barrier for him. It took a little lurching and weaving, but we closed in behind him as he headed west.
He drove straight through teeming downtown. At each light we could hear a different male crooner on his radio. Billy blew gum bubbles, beat out a rhythm on my dashboard. I was starting to wonder what I was getting this poor kid into.
Sal drove into Boyle Heights, pulled up in front of a rundown Victorian. A beefy Latino guy wearing a yellow satin jacket came out, got into the passenger seat.
“Who’s the doorman?” asked Billy.
“Hell if I know.”
We kept following them. They were heading further east. By the time we went through Chino, cold, dry wind gusts swept out of the desert and started buffeting the car.
“Santa Anas, Pops. Beware of crackling hair.”
“I thought Santa Anas were hot!”
“Give ’em twelve hours.”
The T-Bird stopped at a petrol station. We hung back, waited for them to leave and quickly zoomed in to fill my tank. The further east we drove, the more house lights began to vanish, and a few tumbleweeds bounced across the road. I splattered a jackrabbit. Billy crossed himself, said it was bad luck.
It was midnight when we entered the Pomona Hills. Sal’s T-Bird led us down a twisting two-lane road flanked by swaying oaks. Went through the gate under a sign reading HARRAH RANCH.
We killed the headlights, parked on the side of the road. Hopped a fence and made our way toward the sprawling, lit ranch house. We saw Sal and his buddy climb out of the T-bird, shake hands with a tall, cowboy-hatted gent, who could only be Mr. Harrah. Sal’s friend went into the house while Sal and Harrah headed toward a large barn.
We went around the back of the house, approached the open barn. We could hear Sal and Harrah laughing, and then Harrah said in a pronounced drawl, “This one here’s a demon. He’ll mop the floor with Del Mar.” So Sal was also in the horse trade. Billy was getting anxious, and I had to keep him quiet and restrained.
When Harrah went back toward the house promising ” a bottle of my best,” I saw my chance. Told Billy to stay put, felt for the .38 in my back pocket and walked around the corner and into the barn.
Sal, cigar still in mouth, was petting the nose of a gorgeous brown stallion. And he was all alone. I took a few steps forward and took out my gun. He turned and saw me, yanked off his sunglasses. I raised the gun.
“Don’t make this any tougher, Sal.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Mickey Cohen sent me. He changed his mind about that bet.”
“Then ya better tell him he’s got a screw loose. They won 19-4 tonight! They’re in first place—”
“I know, but I’m sorry. I need his fifty grand back.”
“Why you little punk. This is how he does business now? Following guys from ballgames? Don’t think I didn’t see ya.”
“Please. I don’t wanna have to use this.”
“Aw, don’t worry. pea-brain. You won’t.”
Another gun clicked behind me. I glanced around. Sal’s yellow-jacketed henchman had one arm under Billy’s neck, and a much bigger gun to his head. I slowly dropped mine.
“I’m sorry, Snappy. He came out of nowhere—”
“Shut up!” yelled Sal, “the both of you!”
He found himself a riding whip and walked up to my face. At this distance, his ugly scar looked like the Panama Canal.
“Braggo Farfadecchio is the only guy I know who does jobs for Mr. Cohen. What makes you so special? Huh?”
“Guess I’m in training.”
He nodded, then whacked my face with the whip. I dropped to my knees in pain.
At that moment Harrah returned with a champagne bottle and two glasses. Whistled when he saw us.
“HOO-boy…Sure didn’t expect no bake sale.”
“I’ll be with you in a few, Rusty.”
Harrah winked, retreated and shut the barn doors after him.
“I din’t really want to do this, Sal. I’ve been giving the Giants good luck most of the year, and when it turned all of a sudden, Mickey blamed me. Said I owed him one.”
“How heartwarming. Except now you owe ME one. He looked at his buddy who threw Billy on the ground, then calmly smashed his shoe down on Billy’s right hand and broke it.
I leapt to my feet, ignoring the ferocious, stinging blows of Sal’s whip. But I couldn’t ignore the butt of his friend’s gun. It hit the back of my head like a polo mallet. Knocked me nose first into some hay, my consciousness along with it.
S.F. 003 123 523 – 19 27 0
L.A. 201 000 100 – 4 6 1
W-Gomez L-Erskine HR: Cepeda GWRBI-Mays
STL 050 200 000 – 7 6 1
CHI 000 000 011 – 2 8 0
W-Jackson L-Drabowsky HRS: Cunningham, Green, Neeman GWRBI-Jackson
Two out of three over the Cubs at Busch, and now the first one here. The Cards hold an 11-8 lead in the series, and have been really sticking in the Cubbies’ craw of late. Larry Jackson has come out of nowhere to win his last eight decisions.
PIT 100 111 323 – 12 20 0
CIN 000 121 000 – 4 11 1
W-Porterfield L-Purkey SV-Face HRS: Virdon, Kluszewski, Lynch, Pinson GWRBI-Groat
Speaking of coming out of nowhere, the Bucs, left for dead a week ago, win their seventh straight by destroying the equally hot Redlegs at Crosley. Roy Face notches his 18th save to lead the majors.
MIL 020 320 100 – 8 10 1
PHI 200 101 001 – 5 11 2
W-Burdette L-Sanford SV-Hearn HR: Jones GWRBI-Aaron
Three straight game-winners for Hammerin’ Henry, as the Braves start to tuck the Phillies in bed for the season. Milwaukee leaves 13 on base, Burdette is shaky once again, but this time gets enough runs to work with.
BOS 003 000 000 – 3 3 0
NYY 022 020 00x – 6 8 1
W-Ford L-Monboquette HRS: Jensen, Mantle-2 GWRBI-Skowron
Jensen bashes a three-run homer off Ford to turn around a 2-0 deficit, but it’s a final glimmer of hope, like a sputtering firework, and two Mickey Mantle homers later, Ford has his 21st win and Boston’s tragic number drops to seven.
CHX 420 011 000 – 8 14 2
DET 001 000 020 – 3 5 1
W-Wynn L-Hoeft HRS: Smith, Maxwell GWRBI-Smith
Oh yeah, those other guys won again. Pressed into duty against lefty Hoeft, Al Smith hits two doubles, a homer, and his two-out walk in the 1st brings across the lead salvo in a winning four-run rally. White Sox will need to sweep their final two with the Yankees beginning on Sept. 12th, but I wouldn’t put anything past them right now.
BAL 000 400 300 – 7 11 1
WAS 101 000 020 – 4 9 2
W-Brown L-Clevenger HRS: Nieman, Yost
Nothing like a series in D.C. to make you feel like you still have a chance. Jim Lemon, my vote for the worst full-time player in either league, strikes out three times and misplays a single into a triple to help hand the Birds four runs in the 4th.
K.C. 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
CLE 000 000 001 – 1 7 0
W-Score L-Urban GWRBI-Score
Herb Score pitches like this ALL the time. Eleven strikeouts, ten walks, and nine scoreless innings. Then he singles in Geiger with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to win the game. I love baseball.
National League through Wednesday, September 3
American League through Wednesday, September 3