We spent a sleepless night on a lumpy bed at the musty and creaky Loon Lake Inn, then ditched Liz’s rental car and took mine back into Pennsylvania. The Giants were finishing up their season series with the Bucs that night, and with any luck, we’d be able to talk to Stan Szopa’s widow before game time.
No such luck. The address Randall Nathan gave us in Swissvale was old. Fran Szopa had sold the house right after Stan died and moved in with her sister Lotte down in Donora. Meaning it took a lot more time to track them down in the factory-filled birth town of Stan Musial.
Lotte Pieknik’s house was perched on a hill overlooking the murky Monongahela River. She had survived the horrific Donora smog disaster ten years ago, but her husband hadn’t, so having Fran move in seemed to be the right choice.
After explaining to Lotte why we were at her front door, she let us in. Fran Szopa sat on a flowered living room couch watching a daytime television drama. It took her a while to focus on us.
“You better talk to them, Fran,” said her sister, “Any help we can give the Giants to beat out those Cubs will put us in good with the Lord.” A Cardinal and Stan Musial fan, as I expected. Fran finally sighed and looked up at us with blue, gloomy eyes.
“Who killed my Stanley? That’s all I wanna know.”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out too, Mrs. Szopa. But we need to ask you about the time he coached kids up in—”
“He lived for baseball. And the Pirates. Knew they were having a bad year but it didn’t bother him. After his shift at the factory he’d clean up, take the bus to Forbes Field and sit in the grandstand most every game…”
“Did he tell you he was being followed before that night?” blurted Liz, hijacking my approach. I shot her an annoyed look.
“Followed? Maybe by that charlatan of a lawyer. Not by a killer.”
Liz was intrigued. “A lawyer?”
“Please, Mrs. Szopa.” I said, laying a comforting hand on her arm, “You need to concentrate on this. Do you ever remember one of his kids at the Adirondacks baseball camp hitting another kid on the head?”
Her expression sharpened. Her voice rose a full octave.
“That’s the lawyer I’m telling you about! From New York! Pestered us forever until the judge threw the case out!”
“W-what case are you—”
“The lawsuit! From that millionaire devil D. L. Stressip! Said it was intentional. That the Drake kid hated his precious little Ricky, hit him on purpose and it was Stanley’s job to put a stop to it!”
I sank into a chair across from her. Decades of smoke cleared from my mind and I saw Ricky Stressip’s goony little face, peering out from under his A.Y.B. L. cap. My hard and fast and middle-up pitch accidentally nailing him square in the forehead…blood spilling down his creamy A.Y.B.L. tee shirt…his little legs kicking on the ground, his mouth screaming…everything going fuzzy and then dark around me in the sticky, early evening heat.
Then Lotte was handing me a glass of mint lemonade. “You okay, Mr. Drake?” Fran was gazing at me, dumbfounded.
“YOU were the Drake boy??”
“Yeah…Unfortunately.” Across the room, Liz was staring mutely out the window. “Something wrong?” I asked her.
“D. L. Tressip. You have any idea who he is?”
“The Devil, that’s who!” barked Fran Szopa.
“Maybe. He’s also one of the richest people in New York. Made his fortune in the food distribution business.” She turned to me, her face slightly pale.
“Snackful Enterprises. And I’m pretty damn sure they sell peanuts.”
* * *
I floored the Fairlane all the way back to Pittsburgh, discussing the case with Liz the entire way. She was ready to rope in Brewster, but I wanted to wait until we had something completely solid. First thing we needed to do wasfind D. L. Tressip.
“Who do you know in New York?” I asked her. “Any publishing company pals who might know him?”
“Whoa, there. I’m not exactly a published author yet.”
“What about newspaper guys?”
“Suppose that’s possible. One of my Herald cronies might know.”
I racked my brain. And then it hit. That guy from The Bronx Bugle I was reading earlier in the year. We stopped at a pay phone on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The long distance operator couldn’t find a number for the paper quick enough, so I had her put me in touch with the New York Yankees press office. Got a night watchman instead.
“Better you try back in the morning, mister. They open at 9.”
“Can I leave a message?”
“You can try. And I can try to remember it long enough to write it down.”
“You’re a big help, mac. Anyway, if you’re feeling inspired, tell them Snappy Drake needs to contact the guy who writes for The Bronx Bugle right away, or talk to someone who might know how to reach D. L. Tressip.”
“You mean Snackful Tressip? The billionaire?”
“Yeah! Heard of him?”
“Surely did. My uncle Roy drove a car for him couple of years back. Still would be, too, if he was alive.”
“You mean your uncle?”
“I mean Tressip. You didn’t hear? The man died almost a year ago. Hung himself in his coat closet.”
S.F. 000 000 100 – 1 6 1
PIT 012 000 11x – 5 12 0
W-Friend L-McCormick HRS: Cepeda, Stevens GWRBI-Stevens
On a hunch, the equally powerful, better-fielding R. C. Stevens plays first base for Dick Stuart and cranks a solo homer in the 2nd off McCormick to spark the pesky Pirates to a not-so-shocking two-game sweep. Facing elimination two straight days, the Bucs really come through. The Giants have a day off in Philly tomorrow, meaning I probably have 48 hours to re-join the team before they come find me.
CIN 010 010 000 – 2 7 2
MIL 002 010 00x – 3 5 1
W-Willey L-Schmidt HR: Hoak GWRBI-Torre
And look who’s back in first! So many of these Braves wins are weird and miraculous. They do almost nothing with Willard Schmidt, but critical errors by Schmidt and Jerry Lynch plate two of the three Milwaukee runs, and Carl Willey escapes many pickles to get the CG. For the record, Eddie Mathews is batting .213.
CHI 301 011 100 – 7 9 2
STL 010 001 400 – 6 6 0
W-Drabowsky L-Mizell SV-Elston HRS: Banks, Thomson, Neeman GWRBI-Banks
Those dastardly Cards nearly do it again, getting four in the 7th thanks to horrible fielding in left by Walt Moryn, but their 9th inning rally falls short when they find themselves facing the .500 Mark Wall of Doom and Musial grounds out with a man aboard to end it. Banks, who was 0-for-5 in yesterday’s extravaganza, bashes a 3-run homer in the 1st to get the Cubbies going. Chicago loses the season series 12-10 but stays just a game and a half out. Check out this balanced production from their top five hitters: Banks 38 HRS, 109 RBIs, .890 OPS; Long 22/61/.832; Moryn 25/77/.868; Walls 29/81/.843; Thomson 22/80/.848
L.A. 000 000 004 – 4 3 1
PHI 000 010 000 – 1 7 1
W-Craig L-Semproch HR:Post GWRBI-Gray
Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do. 6-14 against the Phils going in, the Dodgers are being one-hit by Ray Semproch (yes, Ray Semproch) into the 9th, when Furillo and Snider walk and Roseboro loads ’em with a single. Turk Farrell comes on to whiff Zim, but Dick Gray clears the bases with a gap-plugging triple! The Phillies’ tragic number is down to 2.
BOS 000 310 000 11 – 6 13 2
CHX 010 200 100 10 – 5 11 0
W-Wall L-Moore HRS: Renna, Buddin, Gernert, Lollar, Callison GWRBI-Gernert
Wow, what a thriller. Pierce reverts to his earlier in the season form, getting racked for three doubles and two homers, but the Chisox keep fighting back, tying the game for the third time on a two-out single by Bubba Phillips in the 10th. Gernert then unties it for good with a solo shot off Ray Moore in the 11th, and Chicago misses a chance to drop the Yankee lead to three games. For once, nothing pays off for them. They walk Renna intentionally only to have Malzone single in a run, then walk Ted Williams intentionally, only to have Don Buddin double in a run.
NYY 000 000 000 – 0 6 0
CLE 002 410 00x – 7 12 0
W-McLish L-Shantz HRS: Minoso, Colavito, Jackson GWRBI-Jackson
Hours later, the Yanks join the Wasted Opportunity Club, getting blanked by Cal McLish to finish with a lackluster 10-12 mark against the Tribe. After a day off, they’re on to Comiskey!
WAS 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
DET 300 000 00x – 3 12 0
W-Foytack L-Ramos HR: Groth GWRBI-Groth
Pedro Ramos joins the 20-game loser society, as Johnny Groth’s leadoff homer is all Paul Foytack needs.
BAL 020 461 003 – 16 16 1
K.C. 000 000 200 – 2 9 3
W-Johnson L-Urban HRS: Williams, Triandos GWRBI-Miranda
Back to hideous business for the A’s, as the Birds become the second team in two days to hit two grand slams in the same game.
Check out the discrepancies between the teams’ actual 1958 won-loss records on this date and the ones in my replay. Both Chicago teams are playing far better than they should be, while the Pirates, A’s and Nats are way underperforming.
Cubs +25, Giants +13, Phillies +5, Reds +2, Cards +1, Braves -10, Dodgers -13, Pirates -23
White Sox +19, Orioles +13, Indians +12, Yankees +4, Tigers +3, Athletics -28, Senators -30
National League through Wednesday, September 10
American League through Wednesday, September 10