King: You wonder about this new change of command, whether there'll be a significant switch in philosophy. I doubt it. To the Russian temperament, even God is just another apparatchik.
Rig: Fain could even hit Feller. And Bobby could throw that thing. You could hear his curve ball coming. Kind of a whistling sound. He'd take his eyes off you in his windup and you'd want to shout out, "Hey guy, I'm over here! Right here! Remember?" If he hit you, you'd have a hole in you about like this [fingers forming a circle in the rib cage].
King (distracted now from Kremlin-watching): You're right, Rig. What a rich history this game has! You know that's the trouble with young ballplayers now: They have no sense of history. Their total frame of reference is what they've seen on TV, not anything they've ever read. When I was a kid....
Rig: That Burrhead was something else.
King (into it now): Remember Johnny Beazley's herky-jerky motion. [He's on his feet, winding up.] He looked like a puppet on a string....
Rig: What happened to that funeral?
King: There's time. My round.
And so it goes. On a given spring evening, you can expect to break bread with either or both league presidents, Martin certainly, and Sutton, or Bob Lemon, Lou Boudreau, Dallas Green, Harry Dalton, Leo Durocher, Harry Caray, Bob Uecker, Herman Franks, Gene Autry and scores of newsmen and broadcasters. The waitresses and bartenders know each and every one of them by their first names. There's no real need for anyone to be paged at the Pony, since everyone knows who's there, although every once in a while you can hear some magical announcement like "Phone call for Chuck Estrada."
Once Charlie had yakking at his bar a quintet of Lemon, Boudreau, Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle, Hall of Famers all. That's 207 pitching wins and 1,628 home runs cheek by jowl. Charlie boasts that he is a "personal friend" of 25 members of the Hall of Fame. He has a baseball autographed by at least that many, a souvenir that Gwen makes him keep at home, so that, in one of his seizures of generosity, he won't give it away to some guy at the bar. Charlie is a great one for palming off mementos after taking on a few Budweisers. To his eternal regret, he once gave to a perfect stranger a prized autographed photo of Ted Williams and Ty Cobb posed together in Scottsdale Stadium. Cobb and Williams, naturally, were Pony regulars. So was Rogers Hornsby. Pee Wee Reese annually supplies Charlie with souvenir bats from the World Series. Dizzy Dean was one of Charlie's first and best customers.
All Pony customers are loyal to the marrow. Dave Bristol, when he was managing the Giants, and Spec Richardson, when he was general managing them, were regulars of such dependability that they would call in on nights when they weren't coming, so their tables might be made available to less dedicated diners. Baseball people unlucky enough to be transferred to teams that train in Florida will still call Charlie long distance just to soak up some of the Pony atmosphere. For all of the interminable socializing, the atmosphere inside is so decorous that Charlie can recall only one altercation of any real consequence. And this is a place, remember, that is frequented by Billy Martin.