St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
It was the first baseball game of the season. The smell of cut grass, the geometry of
the white lines that dictated a fair or foul ball, mere inches that would determine victory or
defeat. Jim was standing in right field playing catch with Cain in center field. He was in his
element wearing a clean white uniform with blue trim and lettering. The sky was painted
deep blue with streaks of thin white clouds. Lowell was the opposing team and they wore
gray uniforms with red trim and lettering. The Lowell band was playing their school song.
Their cheerleaders wore red pants and white sweaters, and the pom-pom girls wore red
skirts and white sweaters. St. Nick’s was the home team and they were playing at Big
Wreck in Golden Gate Park. Dancell was the cheerleader for St. Nick’s and wore a blue
and white mad-hatter’s hat. The band didn’t attend baseball games. Both sides of
the stadium were filled with students. Some late arrivals sat on the grassy knolls by the
left and right outfields. Lupe sat in the first row behind the St. Nick’s dugout and wore
Jim’s varsity sweater for good luck. It hadn’t failed her since she started to wear it a year
and a half ago.
Duke was the starting pitcher and Macell was the catcher. Brocker was at third,
Chavez was at short, Jefferson’s younger brother Bobby was at second, and Jensen was
on first. Holmes was the left fielder, with Cain in center, and Jim in right field. Suarez had
been the second baseman last year and he wanted to go to the game, but he was having a
problem with his artificial leg irritating his stump. Most of the guys had played together for
the past three years. They knew how to position themselves with respect to the pitch
thrown by the pitcher and the batter's tendencies. Mr. Meyer was the coach.
Duke blessed the players before the game, calling upon the spirit of the Holy Ghost
to bestow the power to kick Lowell’s ass. Mr. Meyer stayed for the blessing and removed
his hat with the rest of the team. He no longer feared the wrath of God. Woody was a
small person with the loudest voice and the clubhouse cheerleader.
At the top of the first inning Lowell sent three up and three went down. Chavez
led off for St. Nick’s in the bottom of the inning with a single and went to second on a
fielder’s choice. Two weak grounders followed and the inning ended. In the bottom of
the second Brocker led off with a rocket that sailed over the left fielder’s head. Woody
was the first one to greet Brocker. The inning ended and it was 1-0. Duke had good
stuff and the ball danced all over the plate. Macell sat behind home plate and watched
Duke baffle the hitters. The Lowell batters were hitting a piece of the ball. The infielders
got most of the action. A couple of lazy fly balls were hit to right field and Jim made the
plays, and Lupe cheered each time.
It was 1-0 after six innings and both pitchers had settled down as masters of the
plate. It was a frustrating day for the batters. Jim struck out twice. Only Duke could
appreciate the Lowell pitcher’s effort. In the bottom of the seventh Holmes got a walk,
Cain bunted him to second, and Coach Meyer called time for Woody to run for Holmes,
who wasn’t fast enough to run from second to home on a single. Woody danced and
distracted the pitcher. Macell came to the plate, and hit the first pitch, a high drive into
shallow right field. The right thought that no one would run on a shallow hit, so he casually
caught the ball and threw to the second baseman. Woody tagged second and ran for
third. When second baseman saw Woody running for third he threw the ball to third. It
was a high throw off the bag and Woody slid under the tag. “Safe!” said the umpire.
Woody bounced up and dusted his shirt. The guys in the dugout cheered.
Jim came to bat and the infielders crept in to eliminate the bunt and make the play
at home. Jim showed bunt and fouled off two balls. The next pitch was in the dirt ball one.
Woody was dancing up and down the third base line, while the Lowell third baseman was
edging back and forth between the bag and the hole. The pitcher waved off the first three
signs the catcher flashed. Both dugouts were yelling, the students were yelling
encouragement, and Jim heard a voice say, “Relax man. Be cool. Don’t let ’em see you
sweat,” recalling what Steinway had told Jim several times. Jim settled down and
concentrated on the spinning motion of the ball traveling eighty miles an hour to the plate.
It was a two-seam fastball with a tight spinning motion. He swung and hit a single that
kicked up a cloud of dirt, and like a jack rabbit ran up the middle to the center fielder.
Woody ran home and Jim stood on first. He turned and saw Lupe waving her arms and
cheering. Woody ran to the dugout and was swarmed by the players because he had
created the run. Woody yelled to Jim, “Way to go!” and Jim acknowledged Woody by
waving his hand. The inning ended with Jim stranded on first 2-0 after seven innings.
Bobby replaced Holmes in left and Woody replaced Bobby at second. Duke was
in overdrive and threw ten pitches in the eighth inning to retire the side with two
grounders and a strikeouts. The bottom of the eighth was Woody’s first at bat and he
took Brocker’s 36 ounce bat, and walked up to the plate like he knew what he was
doing with the bat resting on his shoulder. Some of the players thought that it would leave
a dent in his shoulder. Woody took three mighty swings at air, but he had good style.
Some of the players called him Whoosh until he got his first hit. Duke mowed down the
last three batters with heavy heat in the top of the ninth. The last batter swung so hard
that he seemed to screw himself into the ground. St. Nick’s won 2-0. One down, fifteen to
Lupe waited for Jim at the players entrance while he took a quick shower and
dressed. She greeted him with a victory hug that wasn’t as crushing as her I love you hug,
but more than her I missed you hug. The joy of victory slowly dissipated once Jim saw her
smile and felt her body press against his. She had a fragrance like no other. They walked
to the bus stop. Soon the bus came and they went home. The sun was setting.
Foxie had made inquiries about the black kid whose mother had died. The boy
and his two sisters were in shock and mourning their mother’s death and the county had
assigned a social worker to help them continue their lives. Foxie went to Juvenile Hall and
was told to come back a week later. The boy’s name was Marcus and he was eight. His
two younger sisters were Trinika age five, and Monika age three. The social worker
assigned to the case was Miss Ida Beaudine, a recent graduate from Cal Berkeley, and
had a master's degree in sociology with a minor in psychology.
Foxie made an appointment to meet Miss Ida. He wanted to help in some way, like
helping the Boys Club, but he didn’t want to get involved. He felt sorry for the kid. An
eight-year-old should be thinking about baseball, playing at the school yard, and collecting
baseball cards. Foxie brought Giants baseball caps for the three kids. His appointment
was at ten at Juvenile Hall. He arrived early.
Foxie entered the facility and left his gun at the front desk with the duty officer. His
vision strained to read the fine print on the business card. He told the receptionist, “I got a
appointment with a case worker, a Ida Bow-deen.”
She dialed a phone number. “Mr. Gannon is here….. OK…… Please have a seat.
She’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“I ain’t got all day, lady.” Foxie walked to the metal folding chairs and sat. He
became inpatient and stared at the ceiling counting all of the cracks. The walls were
painted green, and had faded to light green. The edges were darker because they hadn’t
been subjected to the sunlight. Ten minutes passed, then a black lady walked in from the
hallway and approached Foxie.
“Yeah. Are you Ida?”
“Yes, Mr. Gannon.”
“Hey, ah… please call me Foxie. Everybody calls me Foxie.”
“I’m not everyone, Mr. Gannon.”
Foxie had met his match and was on her turf. It was her game and her rules.
“Why are you here, Mr. Gannon?”
“I know the boy and wanted see if I can help.”
“How do you know the boy?”
“He lifted, ah.... stole my sunglasses.”
Ida paused for a moment and looked through the case file. “Did you reprimand
“Did I roust’em? No.”
“Did you get your sunglasses back and tell him it was wrong?”
“Ah yeah, I gave him the wrap. You know. I told him I could throw his ass, ah…
him in jail. The kid helped me find a dealer, so I let him keep the glasses.”
Ida could see that Foxie had spent too many years in the cesspool called the
Tenderloin. He had good intentions to help the children, but he wasn’t making a good
impression with Ida. Foxie was the silver tongued dude who could convert the devil, but
each time Ida looked into Foxie’s eyes he forgot who he was.
“Here. I brought these caps for the kids.”
“Thank you. I’ll give them to the kids.”
“I just want to help. I hope you understand”
“ I understand, Mr. Gannon. You can visit them in a couple of weeks.”
“Do they have to stay here? Ain’t there no other place?”
“For now they have to stay here. Come back in a couple of weeks, and we’ll talk
again. I appreciate your concern, Mr. Gannon.”
Foxie left and felt like he had been frisked. She was some black lady. He would
have to find her spot. Everyone has a spot that’s vulnerable. It would be a matter of time.
Foxie walked to the squad car and entered it.
“How’d it go?” asked C.J.
“I got my clock cleaned.”
“I didn’t know that you could tell time.”
“She’s a black babe. Great ass, but she gotta two-by-four shoved up it. She
graduated from Berkeley. One of those uppity babes.”
“Oh, one of those. Good luck.”
“They call themselves militant. Who knows maybe she’s packing a piece.”
They drove to Pier Three on the wharf, and had lunch at Java Joe’s where the
Tugboat skippers ate. The food was better than Blackie’s, and the view was always good.
Both had a basket burger with fries and a couple of beers. Foxie buried the fries in
ketchup. After lunch the boys sat by the dock and enjoyed a smoke. Then they returned
to the car and were back on duty. Foxie thought about Ida as he drove the squad car.
She was a shapely lady. He imagined what it would be like banging her pile driving ass.
Foxie preferred black women, because they knew how to do it better than white babes.
C.J. interrupted his fantasy.
“Hey, Foxie. I was talking to the commander about transferring to communications.
He said if a spot opens up, he’ll give me a call. That’s okay by you?”
C.J. sat back and closed his eyes. He could tolerate the squealing tires with his
eyes closed than seeing Foxie hanging turns on two wheels. Foxie went through squad
cars at twice the rate allowed by the city. He didn’t have accidents because most folks
were concerned with getting out of the way of the runaway rocket, and defaulted to the
madman in the cop car. After a couple of months the hubcaps were missing after countless
wheelies and turns that defied the laws of physics. After a year Foxie’s car died of old age
with the engine, transmission, and tires shot to hell. They drove back to the zoo they
called the Tenderloin. It was feeding time.
More next week...