To look at my
husband, a thoroughly respectable member of the New York Stock Exchange, you
would never guess that he could lead a double life. Ostensibly a member of the
firm of Osterman & Hutner, he can be seen almost any day at lunch in Wall
Street, deep in the back pages of the Times, the picture of a man devoted to
his work. But those figures he is studying so assiduously are not the market
quotations, those names he mutters are not those of Merrill Lynch, Pierce,
Fenner & Beane and the rest of the boys. He's lost himself in the sports
pages again?for my husband is actually a frustrated slow-ball pitcher who
seated himself on the Exchange only to further his real ambition, which is to
seat himself on a dugout bench and mastermind a ball club.
What's more, he
did it. And he took me with him. There's nothing in the marriage contract that
says the for-better-or-worse clause can include the care and feeding of a
minor-league team; but on the other hand there's nothing that says it can't.
Ladies, if your mate is just a routine fan about the game, be kind to him.
You're lucky. You'll never know what baseball trouble really is until you're
married to a club owner.
Of course, I
should have seen it coming. I've known Lester since he was 16, which is long
enough to know what a man's real passions are. He was the hero of his New York
high-school team, and he did a lot of pitching for the University of Virginia.
He even tried out for the Dodgers once and aroused the interest of the head
scout by striking out three men in the second inning of a practice game.
Luckily the wind
took a hand in the proceedings at that crucial moment. A gust blew off Lester's
cap, revealing his prematurely bald head. The scout let out a yell.
"Jeez!" he screamed. "I thought he was a boy!" That's why I'm
not spending my married life at Ebbets Field.
didn't calm down Lester. In our first, blissful years he got in some semipro
ball, down in some dismal spot under the Queensboro Bridge in New York. They
still remember him around there as Fluff, the pitcher who, when things got
difficult, would take a little piece of blue marabou out of his pocket and wave
it in the air like a magic wand. The marabou came off a bed jacket of mine,
part of my trousseau. Madame Florence, who designed it, would come apart at her
elegant seams if she knew of its ultimate fate.
It was only when
I got pregnant that my last, lingering illusions about being Number One on
Lester's heart-throb list were finally dispelled. I admit I timed it badly.
Lester was worried throughout?not for my sake, but for fear that my big moment
would coincide with the Dodgers' opening game. I tried my best, but nature has
no respect for opening days, and when April 19 came around, my labor pains came
Lester was a real
sport about it, though. He said it was okay, that he would take his portable
radio to the hospital. That meant, of course, that he forgot my suitcase.
Because of the shortage of nurses, he had to accept the job of timing my pains,
but he managed to sandwich that in between keeping a box score. When they
finally came to wheel me away to the delivery room, he was really excited.
Jackie Robinson was up, with two men on. Lester's last words were: "See you
after the game!" as he dashed away.
inquire about me during the seventh-inning stretch," I called back
bitterly. Little did I realize that this was only the beginning of baseball's
interference in my life.
There came the
day when Lester brought his baby back to me. He had, he proudly informed me,
become the owner of the Port Chester Clippers, a Class B club in the New
England Colonial League. At a bargain-basement price, too?only $18,000. The
basement was where the team had ended its previous season.
A Class B club, I
gathered from Lester's explanations, was pretty far down in the baseball
hierarchy. The next few months confirmed it. The further along you get in the
alphabet the more uncomfortable the ball parks are, the dirtier the rest rooms,
the more elusive any hope of making both ends meet. In fact, it's an
accomplishment just to keep your losings this side of bankruptcy.