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The Po' Boy is known as a baseball hangout—with players, alums and coaches, many of them from Will's old school, Jesuit High School, gathered around the tables to chew the fat—a hardball oasis in a football town. That's one of the things Clark likes best about spending the off-season at home. He can return every fall and be left more or less in peace while the New Orleans Saints are given the celebrity treatment. It is a far cry from his hero's status in San Francisco, where Clark has been tabbed by TV's Evening Magazine as one of the Bay Area's 10 most eligible bachelors.
The Po' Boy hasn't changed much over the years, except for the signed poster of the Thrill in his Giants uniform on the wall behind the cash register. It's the only decoration in the place. Long tubes of exposed fluorescent lights flicker over the blue linoleum floor. Overhead fans push around the heavy air. A cooler full of Barq's root beer stands opposite the deli-style counter, which features fixings for the poor-boy sandwiches that are the specialties of the house—shrimp, meatballs and catfish. A big picture window faces the street, from which a flea-bitten dog wanders in every afternoon to be fed a plateful of leftovers.
These are Clark's roots. He is third-generation New Orleans—he was born and, except for four years that the family lived in Hattiesburg and Monroe, La., raised there—and he calls off-season at home his "get back to sanity routine." He is just plain Will here, the scrawny kid with the goofy grin who grew up to be one of the best baseball players in the land. But it is Bill who commands the most respect in the room. Will hangs on every word as Bill tells the story of the time that Will's team was beaten 1-0 in a Babe Ruth tournament, even though its pitcher threw a no-hitter. The other pitcher, Bill relates, threw a one-hitter, and the lone run was scored on some sort of an error. Will remembers the game too, and he grins.
"Guess who got the one hit?" Will asks.
His father doesn't miss a beat. "George Herra," he says.
Will's mouth hardens in an incredulous frown. Could his father really believe that?
"That's true," Bill continues. "George Herra. I'll bet you."
"That's bull!" Will protests. "I did!"
Bill winks at the other men as they laugh. "Got him that time, didn't I?"
The men continue to discuss baseball for a while, then Bill is cajoled into talking about the days when he played pool to supplement his income. He didn't pick up the sport until he was 16, and before he struck his first ball, he read a book on the theory of pool. "I got my car, my house and my education because of pool," Bill says dispassionately. "I wasn't a hustler. I used to tell guys, 'I didn't come to hustle you. I came to beat you.' " The apple, as they say, never falls very far from the tree. "One thing about a game of skill, you know how good you are," says Bill. "I don't have to have a derrick fall on my head to know if I'm better than you."