Bob Hale was tired and just wanted to eat, have a beer and perhaps grumble to a stranger. He spotted a flashing motel sign in the distance and pulled his station wagon into its gravel strewn parking lot. There was a small light above a window/door that said, ring bell for service. The bell hadn’t stopped ringing before a short, twerpy guy popped up from behind the window, leaping from a portable cot that was hidden from sight.
“Yeah, I’ll take a room for the night.”
“That’ll be ten dollars for the night and it comes with a hot shower,” the twerp said, adjusting his thick horn rimmed glasses.
Hale pushed the ten spot across the wooden counter, all the while thinking about a card game he had lost a few weeks earlier.
“There a place to get a drink around here?”
“Yeah, The Double Deuce, right down the street. You’ll be in room 5 and check out is at 10.”
“Thank you kindly.”
The Double Deuce was a small place with sawdust on the floor and a jukebox in the corner. There were a few local toughs milling around mingling with their girlfriends. This was a cesspool, a dump, a junkpile and a shithole all wrapped in one, yet it was fine for a few quick drinks before stumbling back to the room with a melancholy residue. Hale was used to the more classy joints in his hometown of Chicago, but he was here on business so the intricacies of this hick town meant nothing to him.
Kansas City Athletics owner Arnold Johnson (L) yukking it up with president Harry S. Truman. (R)
Hale had driven to Kansas City from Chicago a mere 12 hours ago. Arnold Johnson, the Athletics owner had set up a mandatory scout meeting earlier in the day at Municipal Stadium. The meeting was not pleasant in the mind of Hale as Johnson was more of an industrialist-capitalist than a baseball man. He despised men like Johnson who had Yankee Stadium in his possession and were using the game for profit. He also had no respect for a man that had weaseled the team from the Mack family with the help of his rich cronies. Baseball was a little different, a little sadder, for the era of one of the game’s greatest figures in Connie Mack was over.
“What’s it gonna be, buddy?”
“Tom Collins,” Hale said as he lit his Cuban cigar.
“Sorry, pal, we don’t have the mixins’ for that. I can get you a gin and tonic if you’d like.”
One of the locals, the one with the Elvis Presley haircut, stood up suddenly and started barking at his girlfriend. Hale had the prescience to know that this would happen and didn’t move a muscle. There was a minor dust-up until order was quickly restored.
“The kids today and their rock and roll,” Hale snorted.
“Yeah, they’re a goddamn pain in the ass, but I’m not one to turn away customers…say, are you from around here?”
Hale was wearing a Panama hat with cuffed khaki trousers, a sign that he definitely was not from around “here.”
“Naw, but I’m a baseball man…the Athletics.”
“Wow! They sure are big around here, buddy, you can be sure of that! Are you some sort of big-wig or somethin’?”
“Naw. I’m a nobody, an ass-kisser, a smudge, a nothin'”
“Fair enough. Well, we love the team around here…I just took my kid last month.”
“Actually, I’m just in town for a few days to meet up with my shit-kickin’ boss and to scout a local kid for the ball-club.”
“A local kid! Sheeeeeeeit. What’s the kid’s name?” said the bartender as he looked over Hale’s shoulder at the toughs.
Hale took a long drag off his cigar and exhaled just as “Rock around the Clock” poured out of the jukebox. The hoodlums started to dance in unison.
(To be continued……)