St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
Easter Sunday was on March 29 and Jim went to Lupe’s home at ten in the
morning. She was putting on her final touches and they would walk to St. James Church
for ten-thirty mass. Jim arrived and Rosa greeted him. “She’ll be ready in a minute,” said
A feminine minute is about three times longer than masculine minute. Guys are
ready in five minutes. Girls take five minutes wondering if they should wear the white
or pink blouse, or the black or brown shoes, maybe the leather purse or the beaded
bag. What fragrance should I wear? If women were generals they would be no wars,
because there would never agree on the uniforms. Jim sat on the sofa in the living room
waiting for Lupe, and one of her ready in a minute, fifteen minutes later. Finally she
entered the living room with her hand covering her mouth. Her head was bowed and Jim
looked concerned. “What’s wrong, Angel?”
“I fell down the stairs this morning.”
“It’s not that bad.” She removed her hand showing her missing teeth.
“MY GOD!” Jim looked horrified.
Rosa began to laugh, then Lupe because she had covered her front teeth with black
gum. “April Fool.” Both Ladies laughed. It took Jim a while before he appreciated her
prank. “The look on your face was worth it, Cookie,” said Lupe still laughing. Jim never
expected her to play a joke on him. She couldn’t wait until Tuesday, All Fools Day.
“Angel, Ya got me.”
“Let’s go to church, Cookie.” They left and Jim had new respect for Lupe’s humor.
After mass they went to the Creamery on 18th and Dolores and ordered a large
banana split with two spoons. Lupe got the cherries.
“You’ve been too serious lately. I thought you would appreciate the joke.”
“I do now.” Jim hadn’t been much fun lately. Win, lose, or draw, he had given it his
best shot trying to get the scholarship. In two and a half months the ride would be over.
Twelve more baseball games were left to play and cherish. It was time to swing away, go
for the fence. Like the song said, “It’s now or never.”
Monday was Suarez’s first day back at school. He felt self-conscience and had
trouble getting up and down the stairs. He had to sit in the first row so he could stretch
his artificial limb. Suarez now motored in the slow lane of life. No one wanted to say
the obvious. All felt uncomfortable sitting in homeroom waiting for Brother Michael to
arrive. Duke approached Suarez and said,” Next Friday were playing Balboa. You want to
chart the pitches?”
Duke had asked Coach Meyer if Suarez could chart the pitches during the game.
Typically, the next pitcher in the rotation charted the type of pitches thrown, and the count
to kept the pitcher in the dugout concentrating on the game. Coach Meyer agreed.
“Come by the gym tomorrow and pick up a uniform. Nobody took twenty. It’s
Suarez thanked Duke. The other guys on the team welcomed Suarez. He was part
of the team again.
“I told you you’re still an Outlaw,” said Jim.
Suarez was overcome with joy. He had one more ride with the guys.
Brother Michael walked in and took roll. Then he read the announcements. When
he finished, he paused and looked at the class. He welcomed Suarez back, and told him
not worry if he was late for class. He looked at the back of the classroom where the Mafia
sat. “Someone poured acid down the drain yesterday in Physics class. The acid ate
through the pipe, and the ceiling. The residual acid burnt a hole in Brother Daniel’s
Chemistry lab table. Do any of you know what I’m referring to?”
“Augie? Caro? Ciaffi? Ristani? The damage was done at your lab table.”
The four saints of the New Testament sat in silence.
“Well, one of you did it. The four of you are going to pay the damages.
Augie stood and said, “I did it. It’s not fair to them. It was an accident. The
beaker got bumped and spilled.”
“Why didn’t you report it?”
“I spilled the acid at the end of class and poured water down the drain. I didn’t
“That’s right Augie. You didn’t think.”
Augie had to spend a week in jug. The seniors had a car wash the next Saturday
and raised seventy dollars. The Mafia chipped in the rest to make it an even one hundred
dollar and Brother Justin called it even. Augie told the guys he appreciated their silence,
but he couldn’t let them pay for his mistake. Like Augie said, “You never take a friend
Mary’s birthday was Thursday and Jim had told his parents that by the time
he got home from practice it would be late, so he suggested that they spend some time
together. Joe took Mary to a fancy restaurant on Telegraph Hill were Coit Tower stood.
The restaurant had a breathtaking view of the city. Joe and Mary had steak and lobster for
two served on a cart. Two lobster tails and a large sirloin steak were arranged with
mashed potatoes and vegetables. Each plate had a lobster flanked by a steak with
mashed potatoes and vegetables. Lemon and melted butter were served. Mushroom
gravy was poured on the steak and potatoes. For dessert a three-layer German chocolate
cake with layers of fudge topped with more fudge and crushed walnuts was served with a
sparkler on top. The waiter lit the sparkler, and a man with a violin played the anniversary
song. It was a special night.
Jim had been working for Henry at the drugstore since the beginning of the year
until baseball season started and had saved thirty dollars to gave to his parents for their
anniversary dinner. The next day Joe teased Jim and told him the thirty dollars was just
enough for the tip. Mary thanked Jim for the gift. Life is a collection of memories spent
with love ones. Good times and good friends are cherished. Jim was starting to
appreciate the fact the he had experienced so much. He would focus on the future and
savor the past. The people, the memories, and the experiences would always be a part of
his life and he would always carry these treasures with him.
Friday afternoon the team dressed for the game against Balboa. Suarez looked
like one of the guys on the team. He walked with a limp, but carried himself like the
champion he was last year. The school bus drove the team to Balboa Park. Prescot was
the starting pitcher. Suarez stood behind the batting cage and gave words of
encouragement and spent time with Woody and Bobby talking about playing second base.
Suarez had purpose in his life again and respect. He was a player again, one of the guys
on the team.
In the third inning the Balboa batter hit a long fly in the gap between center and right
field. It got by Jim and Cain caught up with it. The runner turned from first and ran to
second. The ball got to Bobby before the runner. The batter slid hard into second and
spiked Bobby’s left foot. No blood but he was sore as hell. It was a bag-bag play. The
ump yelled, “Safe !” Woody replaced Bobby at second. Suarez yelled, ”Look sharp.”
Woody took a couple of grounders from Jensen to loosen up. The first pitch was
hit at Woody, a one hopper. Woody took it on the short hop, and threw to Jensen. One out,
man on second, and Balboa’s best hitter came to the plate. Prescott threw a fat pitch
on two balls and two strikes and the batter crushed it for a home run. It was 2-0. The
Balboa batter touched home plate, and took a bow in the direction of the St. Nick’s dugout.
The St. Nick’s players yelled, “Bush,” and booed the batter. Coach Meyer told the team to
The next inning, the top of the forth, Chavez got a single, Cain walked, and
Woody hit a shot that handcuffed the shortstop. Bases loaded and Brocker hit a frozen
rope into left center that cleared the bases. Woody slid for style points when he reached
home plate, then bounced up and he turned to the Balboa dugout and yelled, “How you
feel now?” Woody ran to the St. Nick’s dugout and jumped into the group of guys waiting
to congratulate him. Jensen flied out and Brocker was stranded on third. When the team
ran out to take the field, Woody asked the St. Nick’s players, ”How you feel now?” The
team was pumped up. Prescott’s fast ball left a vapor trail going to home plate. His curve
broke sharp. Suarez was charting the pitches and was into the game. Woody’s energy
was contagious. Prescott shut down the Balboa batters and St. Nick’s won the game 6-2.
At the end of the game Suarez stood on a chair and said, “I want to thank all of
you for letting me be a part of the team again. I don’t like making speeches and I feel a
little emotional now. The words are in my heart, but I can’t get them out.” Suarez
paused and rubbed his eyes. He looked at Duke and said,” You know what I’m trying
to say, Duke. Thanks.”
The guys cheered and Duke hugged Suarez. “I know what’s in your heart, man.”
Duke walked to Woody and picked him up with a bear hug and said, ”How you feel
now?” Duke proclaimed that Woody was the team’s secret weapon. Jim was glad to
be part of a group of guys who were like brothers. Nothing could replace this magic.
Coach Meyer started chanting 7 and 0, 7 and 0. The team joined in. They were
More next week...