The night before
he was to pitch the opening game of a holiday double-header in Seattle a few
days ago, Herbert Jude Score, a tall, blond all-American boy right out of a
Ralph Henry Barbour book, was a guest of honor at a baseball dinner. He nibbled
pizza chips, polished off a steak, sipped politely at a drink and exchanged
pleasantries with another guest, Seattle Rainiers' Manager Johnny Pesky.
"It's nice to see you here, Johnny," said Score. "You were one of
my boyhood idols." Pesky, age 41, ran a hand across his crew cut and
riposted that Score, age 28, had been one of his boyhood idols, too.
Reminiscences flowed till nearly midnight. Punch lines of hoary baseball
stories echoed around the room—"So Yogi said, 'Well, sister, you're not so
hot yourself....' " "Yeh, Ump, but when I get up tomorrow I'll be
sober, and you'll still be blind...." Score confined himself to an
unpolished but gracious little speech to the effect that if he were to be out
of baseball tomorrow he would still owe the game more than he could ever repay.
There was polite applause, and down at the other end of the table a baseball
man whispered a hurried answer to his wife's question. "Nobody seems to
know what happened," he said. "He's wild, that's all."
Score back to Seattle's unpretentious Mayflower Hotel, where the San Diego
team, of which he had latterly become a member, was in residence. He turned in
at midnight, read The Conscience of a Conservative till nearly 2 a.m., then
dropped off to sleep. The forming-up of a holiday parade below his hotel window
awakened him after his customary seven hours' sleep, and he ordered a breakfast
of orange juice, basted eggs, bacon, coffee and toast. He dressed leisurely and
headed out to Sicks' Seattle Stadium for another joust with survival.
There were still
two hours till game time when Score walked through the musty catacombs, past
the pulpits where vendors were stacking programs, past the counters where
frankfurters were hotting up in aromatic splendor and into the
liniment-and-leather smell of the visitors' clubhouse. Three players were
dressing desultorily. A plump coach, nattily attired in white T shirt and
socks, looked up from his copy of the Official Baseball Guide and grunted, in
the mock harshness with which athletes traditionally try to encourage their
troubled colleagues, "C'mon, Score, put your blankin' uniform on. You're
pitchin'." As if Score didn't know.
slowly, reflecting that manifest calmness which has characterized his career
and his life. Around him were the trappings of boondock baseball. DO NOT
ASSAULT UMPIRES, the bulletin board warned, FILTHY LANGUAGE IS DETRIMENTAL NOT
ONLY TO BASEBALL BUT TO THE PERSON USING IT. PAY YOUR DEBTS OR FACE SEVERE
PENALTIES. From a wall radio came loud renditions of contemporary musical
culture ("I love you, I love you, I love you in oooooooh so many, many
ways"). Players arrived in little clusters, and the room began to resound
with the all-purpose four-letter words which form the very foundation of the
English language whenever soldiers and ballplayers get together in their
A mixed bag
amiably with the other players. There were former major leaguers like Kent
Hadley and Jim Bolger, still full of promise, and fighting, like Score, to get
back into the big time. There were veterans like Harry Simpson and Hector
Rodriguez, playing out their strings with elderly esprit. And there were young
hotbloods like Mike Hershberger and Kenny Retzer, inexorably headed for the
majors just as Score had been a handful of years before.
The niceties of
conversation observed, Score walked out through the tunnel and into the bright
sunlight of the playing field, there to hit fungos, take a few cuts and throw
erratically to a warmup catcher for 15 minutes. Just before game time he said
to the trainer, "How about a little hot stuff on the arm, Cookie?" The
rubdown completed, he told catcher Retzer, "O.K., it's 1-2-3 today, eh,
baby?" Retzer agreed that it would be 1-2-3, and the umpire shouted,
Six weeks before,
Score, in the uniform of the Chicago White Sox, had started a night game in
Baltimore. He had pitched to five batters, got none of them out and allowed
four runs before Manager Al Lopez, a man of infinite patience, had mercifully
removed him from the game. Seated together later in the little office assigned
to the visiting manager, the two figures played out another act in the
continuing tragedy of Herb Score. "Well, Herbie," said Lopez, "what
do you think?"
"Gee, I don't
know what to think," Score said. Lopez was silent. "I feel good,"
Score went on. "I can't figure out why I'm as wild as I am."
said Lopez softly, "what do you think about going to San Diego for a few