Bill gets Betty settled into her chair by the big window. "Well be in the office, Mom," he says, and leads me back down the hall to the other end of the house. In the office are shelves of the books he's written. On the wall he has an autographed copy of his friend Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. There's a painting of Stillman's Gym by combat artist John Groth. Beside the desk is a small statue of two boxers, one putting out a left jab, the other slipping it. On the desk is the same Remington portable he's used his entire working life.
After The Professional, Heinz continued to write magazine features, including profiles of quarterback Charlie Conerly and Paul Hornung and Stan Musial and bonus baby Joe Namath. He lived about two miles from Red Smith in Stamford, and the two families were close. ("He was the Willie Pep of the profession," Heinz says, "all solid skill and inventiveness") There were lots of cocktail parties back and forth, the grownups dancing and the children watching from the top of the stairs, lots of dinners.
Heinz was skating on a backyard pond with Smith's son, Terry, during Christmas break in 1961 when Smith called to offer Heinz a book deal. Smith wanted him to cowrite a book with Vince Lombardi as part of a new series he was editing, a book that would take readers inside pro football. Heinz was already at work on a book, one that had grown out of his fascination with medicine. He had written a piece that year for LIFE magazine on J. Maxwell Chamberlain, a thoracic surgeon. He had watched three-dozen surgeries at Chamberlain's elbow and thought there was a novel in what he had seen. Heinz, being Heinz, wrote both.
The Lombardi book, which became Run to Daylight!, tested Heinz's patience as much as his skill. Lombardi was no storyteller and had a terrible memory for any kind of detail that wasn't an X or an O, so Heinz found himself filling his small Woolworth's notebooks with background from Marie, Lombardi's wife. He lived in their guest room for two weeks before the 1962 training camp, interviewing the coach every morning in his basement rec room to get the boilerplate epigrams about winning and losing and then talking to Marie in the afternoons for the color stuff, the psychology and personal history, while Vince played hurry-up, full-contact golf with Green Bay luminaries like Don Hutson and the local Pontiac dealer.
Heinz roomed with Lombardi through camp and preseason, a constant presence players dubbed "the shadow," those pale eyes behind the thick black glasses he wore then taking in everything while he filled those notebooks and Lombardi's office ashtrays. Over time they became guarded friends. Heinz has a sly sense of humor and to this day enjoys letting some air out of the pompous. Lombardi was, at times, as self-inflating as an expensive life raft. During the cocktail hour one night down in that rec room, Lombardi, in front of a large group of family and friends, barked, "Bill Heinz, wait'll you hear this! I got a letter the other day, and the only thing on the envelope was my picture and a stamp. But it came right here!"
Heinz didn't say anything. Bellows-chested and puffed full of himself, Lombardi needed an answer, an acknowledgment. "You're not impressed?"
Heinz paused. The room went quiet, just the sound of the ice in the glasses, everybody waiting for it.
"Coach," he said, "I'd be more impressed if your picture was on the stamp."
The Surgeon and Run to Daylight! were published in 1963. The former was a successful novel and sold well; the latter was a triumph and sold like no sports book before it. In it Heinz subsumed his own voice and gave the reader pure Lombardi. It chronicled a week inside Lombardi's head as he readied the Packers to play the Detroit Lions.
I have been asleep for three hours and, suddenly, I am awake. I am wide awake, and that's the trouble with this game. Just twelve hours ago I walked off that field, and we had beaten the Bears 4-9 to 0. Now I should be sleeping the satisfied sleep of the contented but I am lying here awake, wide awake, seeing myself walking across that field, seeing myself searching in the crowd for George Halas but really hoping that I would not find him.