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St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo


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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo


 Chapter 65


            It was Friday, May 9, and the St. Nick’s players were getting dressed for the game


against S.I. and had their game faces on because it was war week, the last battle with


Saint Ignatius.  If St. Nick’s won they would sweep S.I. in football, basketball, and two


baseball games, and they would win back the Mahoney trophy that S.I. had had for nine




            Tom Mahoney was a talented athlete in the late twenties when St. Nick’s began.    


He was the catalyst for St. Nick’s winning football, basketball, and baseball


championships in 1928 and 1929.  A local sports journalist gave St. Nick’s the nick-


name of the Fighting Irish because St. Nick’s came from behind in many games and fought


back to win.  Mahoney died tragically a week before he would have graduated.  There


was a fire in his apartment and he tried to save a little girl.  They didn’t make it.  The


following football season the Mahoney trophy was offered to the team that swept the


other team in the three sports.


Woody walked into the gym with a broom.


“Hey, Woody, why the broom?” asked Bobby.


“We’re gonna sweep the cherries.”  He began chanting, “Sweep.  Sweep.  Sweep.”


            The other players joined in.  Mr. Meyer walked in to see what was going on.  Woody


was sweeping the floor and Duke watched the players following Woody.  He could see that


Woody would replace him as the clubhouse king. 


            The starting pitchers were Duke and Graham for S.I..  They had battled for four


years and Duke had won more games.  During batting practice Duke approached Graham


and they talked for a few minutes, then shook hands.  Duke walked back to the batting


cage, got a bat, and took batting practice.


            Big Wreck was filled with students, alumni, and there were baseball scouts from


seven universities.  Duke wanted to go to the University of Southern California and he


would get a good look.  They had a good baseball program.  Jim hoped to have a good


game.  Lupe sat in the first row behind the St. Nick’s dugout, and wore Jim’s varsity


sweater.  Duke finished batting and it was Jim’s turn.  He approached Duke.


”Did you tell the enemy any secrets?” asked Jim.


“Nah, I told Graham about the baseball scouts.  I told him that USC needed


pitching.  I just wanted to throw a little fat in the fire.  Just one more thing for him to


think about when it’s three and two.”  


            “You never stop.  I thought that you’d wish each other good luck and recall four


years of competition.”


            “In a pig's ass.  I want him to sweat.”


            It was game time and Coach Meyer exchanged lineup cards with the ump and the


S.I. coach.  The St. Nick’s players ran onto the field and the umpire yelled, “Play ball!”


            S.I. relied on speed, bunting, and hitting sacrifice fly balls to get a run.  The first


three batters were their offence.  S.I. won low scoring games.  Duke painted the edges of


the plate with various speeds and changed the location of the pitches and his motion. 


Duke could throw a rainbow curve that came at the batter then broke, or a slider that broke


quickly at the plate.  His fast ball would rise.  Duke was the master of the change up. 


Some guys would get faked out of their jock, and take two swings at air.  Duke was


pumped with adrenaline. 


The first batter grounded to Bobby and the next two struck out.  When the ump


called, ”Strike three!” Macell yelled, “No mercy!”  Duke was in a zone.  His feet never


touched the ground when he walked back to the dugout.  The players sensed that


today could be special.  Woody sat quietly and watched the game.  In the bottom of


the first inning Bobby flied out to left, then Cain got a walk, and Jim hit single to right, 


advancing Cain to third.  Brocker came to the plate and he was intense.  He took a few


extra practice swings, which annoyed the S.I. catcher.  Brocker enjoyed annoying the


opposing team.  Cain was edging down the third base line.  If Jim was faster he could have


stolen second.  The S.I. pitcher was starting to lose concentration with men on base and


St. Nick’s best hitter at the plate.  The first two pitches were low. and the next pitch was


high for ball three.  Coach Meyer flashed the signs and indicated to swing away.  The next


pitch was a fastball that kissed the outside corner for a strike.  Brocker foul tipped the next


pitch for a 3-2 count.  Jim crept out a little further from first base.  One out, men on first and


third, 3-2 count to the batter, and the pitcher throws a curveball.  Brocker got most of it and


hit a fly ball to medium deep left field. The outfielder was playing Brocker deep.  He caught


the ball running in and threw with momentum. Cain tagged up and ran home.  Jim saw the


throw go to home and ran to second.  Cain was thrown out at home, double play, and the


inning was over.     


      In the top of the third S.I. had a man on second with an error by Chavez and a fielder’s


choice and he was left stranded after the S.I. batter flied out for the third out.  St. Nick’s


went quietly through their batting order and after three innings there was no score. Duke


was working on  a no hitter after three innings.  Jim sat alongside Duke during every game. 


Duke typically got better as the game progressed.  Today he was pitching like it was the


ninth inning.  Jim teased Duke and said,  “Save some heat for the late innings.”


            Duke turned to Jim,” The ball feels light and it’s popping in Macell’s mitt.”


            In the bottom of the fourth Chavez led off with a walk,  Bobby bunted Chavez to


second, and Jim hit a double and Chavez scored.  Jim stood on second and watched Lupe


cheer.  Duke was the first one to greet Chavez.  “The error is forgiven,” said Duke. 


Chavez smiled and was congratulated by the players.   Brocker came to the plate. He


fouled off the first two pitches and was in the hole 0-2.  The pitcher threw outside for ball


one.  Then Brocker foul tipped the next two pitches.  The pitcher threw low for ball two, and


Brocker foul tipped the next three pitches.  He wouldn’t be denied.  The pitcher threw a


fastball that didn’t tail away, and  Brocker hit a single into right center.  Jim ran to third and


Coach Meyer waved him to go home.  Jim ran home and arrived as the catcher caught the


ball.  His hard slide knocked the ball loose from the catcher’s mitt. 


“Safe!” yelled the ump.  The inning ended when Holmes grounded out to short. 


After four innings St. Nick’s was leading 2-0.


            Woody got vocal on the field and the other infielders joined the chatter.  Suarez was


charting the game.  He couldn’t sit, and paced back and forth.  Six innings had passed and


Duke still had a no hitter.  Jim didn’t sit by Duke after the fifth inning.  No one wanted to


jinks Duke, so Jim sat at the other end of the dugout, leaving Duke by himself.


            The seventh inning began with a strike out. The next batter hit the first pitch Duke


threw for a double in the gap in left field.  Holmes ran it down and threw in to Chavez.  The


no hitter was gone.  Now Duke concentrated on the shutout.  The next batter flied out


to Jim in right field and the runner on second  tagged up and started running to third.  Jim


threw a bullet to Brocker and he ball arrived as the runner slid.  “Out!” yelled the ump. 


Duke turned to Jim and pointed  at Jim acknowledging the good play.  Lupe was bouncing


and waving her arms.  Jim looked at her and tipped his cap.  Duke struck out the next


batter and after seven innings it was 2-0 and Duke had six strikeouts. 


            The bottom of the seventh and the top of the eighth went by quietly.  St. Nick’s


started the bottom of the eighth with a single by Jensen.  Macell bunted Jensen to second 


and Coach Meyer called time.  Woody ran for Jensen at second.  Duke came to he plate


and he was a good hitter for a pitcher.  A pitcher will throw fastball to the opposing pitcher,


but Graham threw curveballs.  Duke foul tipped two pitches.  Graham was tiring.  His next


two pitches were low.  Two balls and two strikes.  Coach Meyer flashed signs.  The pitcher


stood on the mound with his hands gathered at his chest.  He looked at Woody, he rocked


and kicked to begin his delivery.  Woody took off and ran for third.  Duke took ball three. 


When the dust cleared Woody stood on third.  He took a big lead  from third and chattered


relentlessly.  He was distracting Graham.  The pressure was mounting.  The St. Nick’s


students were cheering.  The pitcher threw from the stretch and the ball sailed over the


catcher’s head hitting the backstop.  Duke stepped away from home plate and waved


Woody home.  The S.I. pitcher ran to cover home, while the catcher ran to retrieve the ball.


He threw to Graham, and Woody slid under his  tag.  “Safe,” yelled the umpire.  Woody


sprung up from the dust and hugged Duke.  “How you feel now?” asked a charged up




            “Great, Secret Weapon!” said Duke with a big smile.


            Duke turned to walk to first and saw the hurt in Graham’s eyes.  All of the emotion


had just drained from his body and he stood numb at home plate.  The S.I. coach came


out and brought in a relief pitcher.  He patted Graham on the back and Graham slowly


walked to the dugout and sat at the end of the bench.  He slammed his mitt against the


ground and looked up as if asking why.   The players in the dugout greeted Woody.  Duke


stood on first and watched the new pitcher from S.I. warm up.  He had a good fastball. 


Chavez and Bobby grounded out to end the inning.  St. Nick’s was three outs away from


getting the Mahoney trophy.


            Woody replaced Bobby at second, Bobby replaced Holmes in left field, and Holmes


replaced Jensen at first.  Duke walked to the mound and kicked the rubber.  He turned and


stared at Macell.  The batter walked up to the plate, hit his cleats with the barrel of the bat,


and took a couple of swings.  Duke threw fastballs.  The batter missed the first one, and


foul tipped the next two.  Duke threw the next pitch in the dirt.  Macell called for a change


up.  Duke thought, why not?  The batter hit it for a single to right.   The next batter bunted


on a two ball, two strike pitch, and moved the runner to second.  The S.I. second baseman


came to the plate and hit a slow roller to Woody at second, and was thrown out.  He


advanced the runner to third.  Man on third, two out, and S.I. was one out away from being


swept.  Their first baseman came to the plate.  The infielders played shallow to make a


play at home.  The outfield played deep.  The batter had power.  On a two ball, two strike


pitch the batter hit a ball to shallow right field.  Jim ran as fast as he could.  The ball was


dropping in front of him.  He lunged for the ball and Woody ran by catching it.   They


almost collided.  Jim tumbled to the ground and rolled on his shoulder.  He heard a cheer,


and saw Woody waving his mitt with the ball.  He got up and hugged Woody.  They ran to


the pitcher’s mound and the team was hugging one another. Duke thanked Woody for


saving his shutout.  Coach Meyer watched for a while, then joined the players.  The sheer


joy and the relief of accomplishment surged through the players.  For a brief moment there


were only 24 players on earth.  The noise from the crowd was muted by the numb


exhilaration of victory.  Then reality kicked in, and the roar of the crowd was heard.  The


S.I players lined up to shake hands with the guys from St. Nick’s.  Graham shook hands


with Duke and Duke whispered something to Graham.  Duke nodded and patted Graham


on the back.   Jim looked for Lupe.  She was at the edge of the dugout.  Jim went to her


and kissed her.  


            The players went to the locker room and cheered for half an hour.  Coach Meyer


gave a short speech and reminded the team that there were three games left, and they


were 13-0.  The next game was against Washington.  If they won that game they would


win the city championship.  The players started chanting, “13 and 0.”  Later the players


left the locker room. Duke and Jim were the last two to leave. 


“Why don’t we just stay here, Duke?  Let the others go on with their lives.”


            “Don’t you want to see if we go undefeated?”


            “I don’t want this to slip into the past.”


            “It has, man.  Let go and see if we go 16-0.  Let’s finish it out.”  Duke put his arm


around Jim’s shoulder and they walked out into the sunlight of victory.  Lupe waited


patiently.  “I had to drag him out.  Hell, if I had a beautiful lady waiting for me, I’d be the


first one out,” said Duke.


            Jim hugged Lupe.  Lupe turned to Duke and congratulated him.  He thanked her


and walked away.  “You played a good game, Cookie.”


“Thanks, Angel.”  Jim and Lupe walked across the street to Lincoln Avenue to get


the 21 McAllister bus.  The numbing sensation of the victory was starting to wear off.  Jim


sat with Lupe on the bus and felt the warmth of her body close to his.  He was back from


the euphoria and standing on earth. 


            Jim visited with Lupe for a while.  When he arrived home his mother told him that


Mr. Anconi had called.  Jim was the recipient of the Sons of Italy scholarship for the best


athlete.  The scholarship would pay for tuition and books the first year at Santa Clara. 


Then the next year it would be renewed if Jim met the conditions.  Mr. Anconi said that he


would get a letter in a couple of days acknowledging the scholarship.  Jim called Mr.


Anconi the next day and thanked him for his help getting the scholarship.  Mr. Anconi was


glad to help.












            St. Nick’s was an L-shaped building the length of one block on Ellis Street and the


rectory was on Gough.  The schoolyard was the length of the school less the width of the


two story rectory.  The first floor was the kitchen, the garage, and a small garden with a


gazebo surrounded with flowers. It was an island of escape for prayer.  The second floor


was bedrooms, bathrooms and the chapel. It was Saturday morning and Brother Raymond


sat in the quiet of the early morning.  He prayed for an end to the battle that he stood in the


middle of.  Arrows came at him from all directions.  There seemed to be no place to hide in


the barren wasteland he wandered in. He felt like Moses who had wandered in the desert


for forty years.  Two hours had passed in prayer.


            “Good morning, Brother Raymond,” said Brother Philip.


            Brother Raymond returned from his prayers, “Good morning, Brother Philip.”


            “I have a letter for you.  It just arrived.”


            Brother Raymond opened the letter and read the single page.  When he finished


his hands rested on his lap holding the letter.  He looked up and said, ”Thank you.”     


            Bother Philip smiled.


"Brother Justin has been removed as a candidate by the Regents,” said Brother


Raymond.  He felt like an ox that had the yoke removed after his daily toil in the hot sun.   


"The answer to your prayers.  Do you sometimes feel like we are an island in the


middle of San Francisco Brother Raymond?”


            “I would say an oasis.  Look at what surrounds us the Tenderloin and Hayes Valley. 


We’re in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah.”


            “Yes, Brother Raymond, but this gazebo is sanctuary.”


            “Let us enjoy the new day free of the bondage of yesterday.”


            “Yes.  Let us go forth into the new day,” said Brother Philip.


            The two brothers walked back to the rectory and climbed up the stairs to the chapel.


They joined the other brothers for scripture readings. 









It was Saturday and Foxie and C.J. drove to Java Joe’s on Pier Three for lunch. 


The chili at Blackie’s was starting to burn a hole in Foxie’s cast iron gut.  Sometimes he


had a bad case of indigestion and tried to put out the fire with a couple of beers.  That


magnified the discomfort and made Foxie feel bloated.  Foxie was starting to cut back


on his excesses, and no longer buried the fries with ketchup and removed the big slice of


Bermuda onion from his burger.  C.J. told him, “Don’t look back.  That’s old age creeping


up on ya.”


            After lunch they sat on the dock by the bay and had a smoke.  Two tugboats were


returning from piloting an oil tanker through the channel in the bay to Richmond.   The tugs


were mooring and the Seagulls were floating in the air searching for food from the


tugboats. Foxie was fantasizing about Miss Ida showing her sassy, sexy body, when….


            “Hey, Foxie.”


            “Well, son of a bitch, it’s Benny the scab.  Ya got the info?”


            “Yeah.  Sunday in back of the Jade Palace.  He drives a black Lincoln Continental. 


They count the cash from the week’s take…”


            “How many?”


            “About ten…”




            ”But by two o’clock they’re done.  The others leave.  Shin and his two bodyguards


that stay the night.  Shin likes to blow snow. 




            “Yeah.  He says that he can fuck all night snortin’ that stuff.”


            “No shit.  So about three in the morning Monday we nail’em”


“Yeah, Foxie, and we’re square.  You’s guys gonna bust’em Monday morning?”


            “Yeah, Benny.”


            “Thanks, Foxie.”  Benny looked around to see if anyone had followed him to meet


Foxie.  “It ain’t too healthy being seen with you’s guys.” 


            “Yeah, sure.  I wouldn’t want ya to catch cold, Benny.”         


            “I’ll see ya later.”  Benny quickly walked away and disappeared into the crowd of


people and dock workers who were part of the activity of the wharf.


            “Yeah, Benny.  I’ll see ya. I’ll see ya in hell, ya son of a bitch.”


            “You don’t trust that sack of shit, do ya, Foxie?” asked C.J.


            “Fuck, No! He’s trying to pull a fast one.”


            It was time for Foxie and C.J. to drive back to the Tenderloin and patrol the jungle. 


“Hey, C.J., I think it’s time we look up Tommy the Dink and Spook Williams.  Do you


remember which pool hall they hang out at?”


            “Yeah, the one on Turk by the bus depot.  That joint is crawlin’ with shit.  Ya


gotta’ wear rubber gloves to go in there.”    


            Foxie turned left on Eddy Street, then right on Turk, drove by Willie’s pool hall and


parked across the street.  “This joint gives me the creeps,” said C.J.


            “Yeah, it’s a shit hole.”  They looked through the dirty window.


            “There’s the Spook,” said C.J.


            They opened the door and the smell of cigarette smoke, body odor, and rancid


garbage stopped them cold at the doorway.  “God damn,” said Foxie.  They walked in


and gagged from the stench.  They had entered a sub world of the Tenderloin.  Foxie


called it the bottom world.   It was a world with no laws and kept no promises.  This was a


world of quicksand and snakes.    











“Child, you gonna be late for Sunday go to meeting.  You best get yourself ready




“Yes, mama.”  Ida wanted to make a good impression with the Johnsons and


couldn’t decide if she should wear the blue or the green dress. 


“Girl, I fixin’ to go.  You best be gettin’”


“I’m coming,.”   Ida ran down the stairs.  When all else failed the white dress was




“What you been doing, girl?  You know we gotta meet the Johnsons.”


“Sorry, mama.”   The independent college graduate became the little girl with


pigtails when every mama had that tone in her voice.  They walked the two blocks to


Trinity Baptist Church.  The bell rang as they turned the corner.  They walked up the


steps and took their place in church.  Ida felt disheveled.  This was not the way she


wanted to meet the Johnsons.  She turned and looked in their direction and smiled. They


reciprocated.   Pastor Franklin’s sermon was about helping those in need.  He spoke


about the Good Samaritan, how it was better to give than receive, and that they were a


community of Christians.  He ended by saying, “ We all God’s children and we all got to


take care of our brothers and sisters in this community.”


            The choir replied, amen, and began to sing, “Jesus Is Coming Today.”  It was a


lively song that rousted their spirits.


            The church service ended and Pastor Franklin thanked each member of the


congregation and invited them for fellowship.  The Johnsons remained seated.  Ida and


Sarah approached them.  “Good morning to ya.  I’m Sarah and this here is my daughter,




            “Pleased to meet you,” said Ida.


            “Howdy, Miss Ida.  I’m Lester, and this here’s my wife, Elsie May.  Miss Sarah 


morning to ya,” said Lester.


            “Pleased to meecha Miss Ida and Miss Sarah,” said Elsie May.


            Pastor Franklin joined the group and said, “Praise Jesus.”


            They walked to the hall for fellowship and to help serve the noon meal.  After the


meal they helped cleaned up.  Ida sat with Lester and Elsie May, and explained what a


foster parent was, the obligations, and the payment.  Ida explained that they would have to


qualify to be foster parents.  “We ain’t doing this for money,” said Lester.


            “The county doesn’t expect you to support three children.  The money is for clothes


and food.”


            “I can’t cotton to takin’ no money.  It ain’t Christian.“  Lester was a proud man.


            “We gonna spend the money on the kids, Lester,” said Elsie May.


            “If’en you gots extra, ya gives it to the Pastor on Sunday.  There ain’t no harm in


that,” said Sarah.    Ida smiled at her mother’s enterprising ways.


            “You know mama, there are times when you just amaze me with your interpretation


of the Bible.”  They all laughed.


            It was two-thirty in the afternoon and time for all to go home.  Ida and Sarah


stopped by he corner market for groceries and the latest gossip.  A certain eligible


gentleman had been making inquiries about Miss Ida.  If the man was God fearing and


descent, Ida would entertain the notion of a suitor.  Sarah was more interested than


Ida.  “Why, child, he may have an older brother,” said Sarah.


            “Yeah, mama, much older,” said Ida.  They laughed and paid for the groceries.


They walked home and changed into comfortable loose dresses.  Then they sat on the


sofa on the porch in the back and enjoyed the cool breeze from the bay.  “I sure hope the


Johnsons get qualified,” said Sarah.


            “So do I, mama.”                     



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