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ANGRY WHITE MALE
The novel is the pursuit of sex and all the other things that make life worth living

 

PROLOGUE

 

MVP

 

“Oh! Come on you people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now

Yes! Come on you people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now

 

“Come on you people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now”

 

--“EVERYBODY GET TOGETHER”

                                              By The Dave Clark Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was hot that day in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Hot in the way the late Summer sun hangs heavy, oppressive and sticky. Hot the way it gets back East, and Stan Taylor felt it on this, the most glorious day of his life.

It was hot when he had gone to bed the night before at the Travelodge. He had turned the air conditioning on all the way, and woke up in the middle of the night briefly paralyzed with fear that his valuable right arm had caught a cold. He had a touch of sore throat from the flowing freeon coursing through the room, and when he got up early it was still hanging on. He was paranoid that something would stop him in his tracks on this day. If it were not the air conditioning causing his arm to be stiff or his throat to be sore, it would be something else. He was nervous about something happening that would sabotage his dreams, everything he had worked for.

As soon as he dressed and walked outside, however, he felt good Karma. It was 85 degrees at eight o’clock in the morning and threatening to get hotter. Stan loved hot weather. What made him nervous was cold, fog, and wind. He was comfortable under a hot sun. He liked the Summer when the days were long and he could wear a short-sleeved shirt at night.

Dressed in shorts with white athletic socks and sneakers, with a stylishly preppy Banlon sport shirt, Stan entered the sunlight and immediately his arm loosened up. His throat was no longer sore.

His skin, dry as a bone after spending the night with the air conditioner at full blast, immediately began to sweat. Within minutes he was covered in perspiration, large stains under his armpits. By the time he returned from breakfast, he needed a shower, so he jumped in and allowed the cool water to cover his body.

Afterward he toweled off, Stan got ready to go to work.

 

Now, five hours later, his work was almost done. 12-year old Stan Taylor was one out away from wrapping up the 1976 Little League World Series for his hometown team from Palos Verdes Estates, California. Stan stood ramrod straight on the mound and soaked it all in. He was a tall kid, almost six feet tall already, but thin. Still, he felt like he filled out his uniform. He perceived himself differently from the way others perceived him. He was a good-looking kid, a tow-headed blonde with blue eyes, and he fantasized that girls liked him. They did not like him at school. They thought he was handsome, but this was unknown by Stan. It was only when playing baseball that Stan felt sexy and cool. Once the game ended, he reverted to being “uncool.”

Not that he ever had the courage to talk to them. He knew from the way they flirted at school that some girls dug him. However, they had been flirting less over the past year or so. He had now finished the sixth grade and was moving to the seventh, only a few days away. Junior high school. He felt that his age of innocence was rapidly ending. He was entering a new, perilous period of life that would not be good. So, this was his “last hurrah,” in a sense. A final chance at childhood glory before moving on to something…ugly. There had been signs that things were changing for him, and not for the better, but he had put off facing that.

  Others his age were already “going steady,” but Stan was not there yet. Sports were his outlet. He was a natural athlete, good at everything he tried. He tried to convince himself that girls swooned over him when they saw him.

There were girls here at Williamsport. Ann Louis was here. Her brother, Chris road the bench, but his family had made the trip. She was blonde and fetching, and looking at him right now. So were dozens of other girls his age, sisters and friends of his teammates, his opponents, and others associated with this annual rite of Summer.

They were all watching him. Stan was just hitting puberty and his hormones were in overdrive. He did not quite know what he was thinking, but he knew damn well that it felt good. He had pornographic visions involving Ann Louis in his hotel room after the game. Somehow she had morphed into Brigitte Bardot in his vision.

The final game of the Little League World Series is a major American sporting event, played before a packed house of thousands on a well-manicured field of dreams ringed by a stadium that could pass for a good college or minor league facility. Only, it is miniaturized to fit its youthful competitors.

The event had started in 1948. Joey Jay of the Cincinnati Reds was the first kid to go from the Series to the Major Leagues, but a number would follow him. Stan knew he would be one of them.

Every year different teams compete for the championship. By the 1960s, it had become an international festival. The way it works is that every community in the United States has a little league. It is as American as apple pie. There is midget league, for kids age eight and nine, followed by the minors, which is for the 10-year olds, and then majors, which is reserved for 11- and 12-year olds.

The league consists of six or eight teams, each team composed of 15 or 16 players. Each team is sponsored by a local business or community organization. Home Market. Taco Bell. Rotary Club. American Legion. Every player on every team has to play in every game if he is suited up. Nobody could pitch more than six innings in a week.

Stan played for Police. They had gone undefeated during the regular season, and Stan won 10 of those games. 

            The regular season, however, is just prelude for the real season, which is “all-stars.” The coaches and managers, usually parents but sometimes a high school kid, or just a guy who likes baseball, then select all-stars. Some of those “guys who like baseball” were men-children with “little Napoleon” complexes. Rob Lateucci, for instance, stood five feet ye high to a grasshopper. He had been turned down by the police academy and worked as a security guard. In his mid-20s he still lived with his mother and always would. He equated his strategy decisions as manager of Rotary to those of John McGraw when he skippered the Giants in the first 30 years of the 20th Century. He also admired Ben Chapman, a racist with the Philadelphia Phillies. Lateuci did not admire Chapman’s racial views, but rather the way he had taunted Jackie Robinson when Robinson broke the color barrier.            

            To the extent that there is any white trash on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Lateucci, who lived in San Pedro, had found them and stocked his roster with these types. The sons of garbage men, auto mechanics, toll takers at the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Kids who carried knives, who had records and done time at juvie. Kids who hung out with dirty girls who put out, the kinds of girls who repulsed and turned on Stan The fact that these losers had chicks like that while he was a novice in that department was nothing less than a travesty.

Lateucci taught them, like Chapman had done to Robinson, to taunt Stan, a single child with a sensitive side. The previous year he had stood on the edge of the dugout and said things to Stan that should have gotten him arrested, and in a scene more appropriate to “Lord of the Flies” encouraged his jackals to do the same. In tears, Stan pitched every inning of a losing rout, and the dirty girls heckled him, too.

            “Rich kid.” “Mama’s boy.” “Faggot.” “Stanleeee.”

But this year he had come back to toss a perfect game at Lateucci’s team, shutting them up with pure excellence, and that night he thought about the dirty girls. If he had learned how to masturbate yet, those girls would have been the objects of his fantasy, but instead he just lay in bed wallowing in repressed sexuality. One thing, however, he knew for damn sure. He was no faggot!

            Then there was Mike Lodeen. His younger brother, Rickie, pitched in the league, and Mike had been the “big brother” of the P.V. Little League for several years. Everybody liked him. He was a cool hepcat, with long hair and hippy clothes. He also was a heroin addict and child molester, information that would come out a few years later.

            The all-stars of Palos Verdes had moved through the obstacle course that is the road to Williamsport on the strength of Stan Taylor’s right arm. They won the regionals in Torrance, then the sectionals in West Covina, the state in Bakersfield, and the Western States’ in Colorado.

            Now they had been given a new set of uniforms. For the first five tournaments they wore uniforms that said “Palos Verdes” on the front. Now they wore a uniform that said “WEST” on it. The eight teams in the Series all represented a different region of the world. There were two U.S. teams, the other coming from New Haven, Connecticut. Over the years, many U.S. towns, big and small, had been represented at the Series. California, especially Southern California, because of the weather, the population and the fact that more great athletes come from there than any place in the world, was represented more than other regions.

            There was a team from Germany, but they were not Germans. They were the sons of American airmen stationed at an air force base, and they represented Europe. There was a team from Puerto Rico, all kids hoping to be the next Roberto Clemente. There was a team from Saudi Arabia. Again, these were American kids whose parents worked in the “oil bidness” in Riyadh.

            For years American teams dominated at Williamsport because baseball is the American game, but by the 1960s the Japanese had become a power. However, by the early 1970s, the Far East was no longer represented by the Japanese, but rather kids from Taipei, Taiwan.

            Once the island of Formosa, Taiwan had become a major flashpoint of the Cold War when Mao Tse-tung had taken over Mainland China in the Communist Revolution of 1949. America’s friend, General Chiang Kai-shek, had fled to Formosa, re-named it Taiwan, and declared it to be the legitimate government of China.

            The United States backed him and sent warplanes to the region as an exclamation point. Despite the political controversy, Taiwan had over the years become, if not a true democracy, a bastion of capitalist success and little league dominance.

            Somebody had come up with the bright idea of pouring money into little league baseball in Taiwan. The best coaches were brought in, and the kids, in the inscrutable way that Orientals go about things, had become baseball automatons who practiced for hours a day and played like robots. Every year the Taiwanese came to Williamsport, and every year they dominated. It also did not hurt that their birth certificates were fabricated. For years, the Taiwanese’ 12-year olds were actually 13- and 14-year olds.

            It had gotten to the point where distressed American moms and dads wanted the Taiwanese banned because their own kids could not compete with them. Accusations of cheating and fudging of birth certificates ran rampant. Some U.S. team would run the gauntlet of regionals and sectionals, make it to the finals, only to be wiped out by the superior Taiwanese, 18-0. It was not fair. The kids would cry, all the success of their magical summers wiped out by those horrid Asians.

            That was the situation that Stan Taylor and his Palos Verdes teammates faced in 1976. Stan pitched and hit his team to victory over Mannheim, West Germany in the opener, and Santurce, Puerto Rico fell in game two. Taiwan, of course, beat Riyadh, 25-0 and Westport, Connecticut, 17-0, and was heavily favored against the Californians.

            Las Vegas posted odds on the Series that year for the first time, and rated Taiwan 50-1 favorites. Stan was asked to stop the Yellow Menace.

            Stan defied the odds that day, and now with two outs in the sixth and last inning, he led 4-0 with nobody on base. Taiwan’s big man, Lin Te-tsung, their ace pitcher and power hitter, taller even than Stan, stood at the plate with fear in his eyes.

            For Lin Te-tsung, defeat in Williamsport was not an option. Unlike the Americans, who would say it is “just a game,” this was about national honor, and to lose the game meant losing face. He might not have to kill himself, but he would face a country turning its collective back away from him.

            Stan toed the rubber. He was sweating like a stuck pig in the afternoon heat, just the way he liked it. The hotter the better.

            He glanced into the stands. There was Brigitte Bardot, er, Ann Louis.

“Man, she looks good,” he said to himself.

A few other 12- and 13-year old chicks dotted the stands. Tanned skin. Long silky hair wearing shorts and tube tops. A pubescent fantasy.

            Then he looked at his mother. Shirley Taylor, a pretty blonde woman in her mid-40s, looked proud.

“C’mon Stanley,” she yelled. Stan winced, but he was not quite sure why.

            His father, Dan, was another story. He was not in the stands. He was standing on the edge of the dugout. His face resembled that of Emil Zatopek heading down the stretch in the 10,000. He did not enjoy his son’s games. He endured them. He had coached Stan in every sport he participated in, and he lived his life completely, totally and vicariously through his 12-year old son.

            Briefly, Stan contemplated his self worth, and considered that because he was about to become America’s most famous 12-year old, his father would value him. Certainly he was thrilled and happy, but deep in the recesses of his mind he knew that if he had given up a few key hits today, and his team had not scored four runs, he would be walking off the field a loser instead. His father would not be very happy about it.          

            The hell with it, he thought to himself.  Win this one for yourself.

With that, Stan Taylor wound and threw a fastball right past the swinging bat of the best Taiwanese little league hitter in the world, for strike three.

            Stan stood patiently on the mound. The tall Oriental kid turned and headed disconsolately towards the dugout, convinced he had lost face forever. Stan was excited, but decided to downplay the moment. At certain times he could be very mature and this was one of them.

            “It’s only little league,” he said to himself, just before his father grabbed him and tried to throw him to the Moon. His teammates followed. Even now there was resentment. The Stan and Dan Show was not popular in Palos Verdes, which like every little league in every town in and out of America is a total soap opera of deceit, prejudice, intrigue, and parental backstabbing. The child molester Mike Lodeen was not the only dangerous adult in their midst.

            Still, Stan had put Palos Verdes on the map. Actually, it was already on the map. Anybody who knows anything knows it is the most exclusive and best place to live in Los Angeles County. Forget Beverly Hills, Malibu or San Marino. P.V.’s the place, and the announcers had made the point on more than one occasion that this team came from affluence.

            Now they had proven that they were more than a bunch of spoiled rich kids, which of most of them were. They were spoiled rich kids who were also great ball players.

            Stan soaked up all the love, unconcerned with the knowledge that it would not last. He would ride it for what it was worth. When the team returned to their dugout, the home folks gave them a standing ovation, and the glad-handing went on all around.

            At the traditional mid-field shaking hands ceremony, Stan made mental note of the long Taiwanese faces. These kids, who all looked 15 anyway, seemingly were now 30 years of age, their childhood, or what there had been of it, completely stripped away by this failure of purpose. For a split second, Stan felt sorry for them. Then an image of his father sitting stone-faced in post-defeat silence appeared to him like the Burning Bush. He knew it was either he or they. That is the way it is in war.

            The obligatory awards ceremony followed. This would be his crowning moment. He would be named the Most Valuable Player of the Little League World Series. Stan had thought a lot about this, and he wanted it. Athletes like to downplay awards with clichés, but Stan had a selfish streak. He was a glory hog, an only child, and he wanted that trophy. He had won the first and third games. He had hit two homers and starred at shortstop when he did not pitch. The TV cameras loved him, and he deserved it.

            Then he thought about his father. He wanted it more than his son. It validated him. Stan anticipated the trophy with confidence, right up until the time it was announced. He knew he should win it, yet a tiny voice, at the last second, told him that for his sins, and for the sins of his father, he would not.

            “Billy Boswell,” came the voice on the public address system.

            Stan felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. A streak of disappointment coursed through his body like pain, and he was unable to hide the grimace of his sweaty face.

            Then he heard it.

            “Shit.” It was Dan, muttering under his breath a yard behind him, and the other kids all heard it. Oh, that would cost him.

            “Fuck you, Taylor,” he heard.

            Then Billy Boswell emerged from the dugout. He was the only black kid on the team, a great athlete whose grand slam home run in the fifth had broken a 0-0 tie and provided all the runs in the game. He raised his arms toward the Heavens as he went out to take the hardware.   

            Stan stood stone-faced. He could hear Billy’s father, Al Boswell, yelling like a crazy for his son. He picked up on his wife’s high-pitched scream, and the other members of the large Boswell contingent, all whooping it up way too much.

Blacks, thought Billy to himself, and at that moment he hated Billy Boswell, and he was utterly and absolutely green with envy. The color of Boswell’s skin most definitely mattered to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

THE RULING UPPER CRUST

 I know I'm free,
And I won't forget the men who died
who gave that right to me, And I gladly stand up next to you
and defend her still today,
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the U.S.A.”

 
--“GOD BLESS THE USA”

                                                      By Lee Greenwood

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles is a town of new people with new money and new ideas. It was a sleepy pueblo at the beginning of the 20th Century, more an extension of Mexico than part of America. In 1906, William Mulholland, the city’s chief engineer, decided that it was time to bring the city into the new century.

            Screenwriter Robert Towne told the story, kind of, in “Chinatown”. What happened was that Mulholland and a few of L.A.’s “City Fathers” made the trek on up to the Owens Valley, which is on the east side of the Sierra’s near the Nevada border, where Highway 395 runs now, and conned the local yokels into siphoning all their water down to Los Angeles in perpetuity.

            By 1932, L.A. was hosting the Olympics and was world famous as the home of motion pictures. After World War II, the population grew and grew and grew, with black shipyard workers, Okies, Iowa farmers, discharged servicemen, con artists, drifters, dreamers, actors, and opportunists of all stripe drawn to its sun splashed beaches and palm tree-dotted boulevards.

            Los Angeles developed a rural mentality despite its size. There was a streak of Southern racism mixed with plainspoken Midwestern values. Mexicans who once ran things were shunted out of power. The Chinese, who had built the railroads that made L.A. possible, were given a little piece of land north of downtown and told not to stray past Temple Avenue.

            Of course, the Mob boys came to cash in and gave L.A. a touch of tanned Guidoism. Of course, there were the Jews, who approached their religion in a decidedly different way than their Brooklyn counterparts. A few of them were in the rackets, too.

            Being black in L.A. was not paradise, but it was decidedly better than being black almost anywhere else. The University of Southern California’s first All-American football player in 1925 was a black guard named Brice Taylor.

            Blacks attended public schools and colleges with whites. They ate in the same restaurants, rode the same buses, used the same bathrooms, and played ball side by side on the same football, basketball and baseball teams. That was the environment that produced a black athlete named Jackie Robinson, who would emerge from Muir High in Pasadena to team with another black man, Kenny Washington, to produce UCLA’s first great football teams.

            In 1939, the film community awarded the Academy Award to a black actress, Hattie McDaniel, for her work as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind”, over Olivia deHavilland, who did even better work in the same picture. That award was a major statement about Los Angeles and the new sensibilities of liberal Hollywood.

            Still, Los Angeles, try as they might, never quite convinced themselves or others that they were sophisticates. San Francisco was sophisticated, a place where people who lived amid the elements of the four seasons would dress up for dinner or a night at the opera. Los Angeles was a La Land of tits ’n’ ass.

            Los Angeles voted Republican and gave the world first Richard Nixon, and later Ronald Reagan. San Francisco was liberal from the get-go, probably because it was the home of the Barbary Coast, where an anything-goes mentality made it a town of gamblers and hookers who would become respectable with age.

            Where L.A.’s immigrants came from the Bible Belts of the South and the Midwest, San Francisco attracted people of secular means from the Eastern Establishment who were eager to break away from the bonds of decorum required in the salons of Boston and Philadelphia. L.A.’s Easterners were slick Italians or Jews. San Francisco’s Italian population was homegrown, a product of its natural harbors, which had made it a place where Columbus’ descendants were drawn to.

            In the beginning, of course, was the Gold Rush of 1849, and this was when the first Taylor’s came to California, leaving the East Coast Taylor’s in Massachusetts, where it was said that they had been since colonial days. Nobody could verify that any Taylor’s had fought for America in the Revolutionary War, but over time it had become a matter of faith that they had, and that the family was of the English blueblood variety.

            The `49er Taylor’s did not strike gold, but they quickly settled in San Francisco and became successful in business. Members of both the East and West Coast Taylor clans had fought for the Union in the Civil War.  In 1880, Stan Taylor’s great-uncle heard about a new college in Los Angeles, founded by a Methodist, a Catholic and Jew. He became the first member of the family to attend USC. He settled in Los Angeles and became a prominent attorney and judge.

His brother was Charles Taylor, a very prominent American. Charles had been born in San Francisco, eight years younger than his brother, and he chose to follow in his footsteps by going to the University of Southern California, where he graduated in 1892. Charles then moved in with relatives in Boston, where he lived while attending Harvard Law School for three years. He graduated in 1895 and moved to New York City, where he took up the practice of law in a tony firm.

The blonde, suntanned, athletic Charles ran into some opposition from the Wall Street crowd, who felt a Californian was more likely to ride the range on a cowboy ranch than handle the intellectual workload of the New York legal scene.

Charles disarmed this attitude with intelligence and good humor, which today would be called charisma. What gave him panache and gravitas was his association with a high-profile client, a few years older than he was, named Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was one of those New Yorkers, but he shared the love of adventure and the great outdoors of this young Westerner, who he took on as a protégé.

In 1898, Roosevelt showed up at Charles’ office and informed him that he was going to take a leave of absence and become a member of his officer cadre in Cuba.

“I am?” said Charles.

“Yes, sir,” replied Roosevelt.

Charles thought about it.

“Okay,” he said.

Charles served as a lieutenant in Roosevelt’s “Rough Rider” unit that charged up San Juan Hill in a victorious war with Spain, liberating the Cuban Island from the Spanish. The war put Cuba under U.S. control.          

When the Spanish-American War ended, Roosevelt told him that he was going into politics. He asked Charles to go to California, where he would rely on him to rally support for him in the West.

In 1899, Charles’ son, Charles, Jr., was born in Los Angeles. Charles, Sr., who turned 30 in 1900, began to lay the groundwork for his own future in Republican politics as well.

The rest, of course, is history. Roosevelt was elected Vice President on the ticket with William McKinley, who was assassinated in Buffalo, elevating Roosevelt to the Presidency at a young age.

This put Charles, Sr. on the fast track. He had been the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket’s campaign coordinator in California, and had settled in with a Los Angeles law firm specializing in water rights.

The firm represented William Mulholland, the city’s chief engineer, and was instrumental in negotiating land rights for an aqueduct that brought water to the desert pueblo from the mountainous Owens Valley.

Charles, Sr. barely had time to establish himself with the firm when he got a telegram from Roosevelt, who asked him to move to Washington, D.C. and serve as an adviser.

From 1901-04, Charles, Sr. served in the White House, and from 1905-08 he was Ambassador to France. On a Christmas trip to California in 1907, the Los Angeles Times interviewed him. He had ominous news.

“Germany will attack France within five years,” he told him.

He was off by two years. The German Chief of Staff, von Moltke, had formulated a plan as early as 1905 to attack France through Belgium, with “the last German’s right sleeve brushing the Atlantic.”

When Roosevelt left office in 1909, Charles, Sr. had a young family to take care of, and he decided to move back to Los Angeles, where he re-joined the law firm he had been with before. By now, with the water deal complete, the firm was a powerful political force in a state that was gaining importance all the time.

In 1912, Roosevelt asked him to help him run for President again, on the Bull Moose ticket. Knowing that Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick” philosophy might be needed to ward off war in Europe, Charles took to the task, despite objections from the Republican Party.

Charles warned anybody who would listen that war drums were banging in Berlin, but in the United States, this issue had little resonance.

“The creation of a massive German state is the creation of a military giant,” he told yawning crowds.

Roosevelt split the Republican vote, unseating William Howard Taft and giving the White House to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. In California, Charles, Sr. did not hear the full brunt of complaint against him and the Bull Moose “cabal” blamed with giving away the store.

He settled into his law practice and semi-anonymity. In 1914, “the sleeve of the last German brushed the Atlantic.” Still, Americans were unconcerned about the European War, until 1917, when Wilson, re-elected a few months earlier specifically on the campaign promise to keep the U.S. out, entered the war.

Charles’ son, Charles, Jr. was a senior at Hollywood High School, where he starred in football and baseball, in 1917. He was exceedingly handsome and popular with the ladies, and planned to attend USC, of course. The U.S. entered the war in April. In June, Charles, Jr. graduated from high school. He spent the summer at the beach, and in August, just a couple of weeks before starting college, he was taken with patriotic fervor. Charles, Jr. decided to join the Army with a friend.

His father was shocked, yet proud. Charles served under the legendary General “Black Jack” Pershing. In the Summer of 1918, he was approached by one of Pershing’s aides on a French country battlefield.

“Taylor,” the man called to him.

Charles, Jr. sprang to attention and saluted the officer.

“At ease,” said the man, who stood ramrod straight. He introduced himself. “George Patton.”

Patton offered his handshake.

Charles, Jr. took his hand.

“Charlie Taylor, sir,” he said. “It’s an honor.”

“I understand you’re from Los Angeles,” said Patton.

“Yes, sir,” said Charles, Jr.

“I’m from San Marino,” replied Patton. “That makes us neighbors.”

“Sure, I’ve ridden some horses out there,” said Charles, Jr.

“Beautiful horse country,” said Patton. “Are you a horse man?”

“Yes, but not like you, sir,” said Charles, Jr. “I understand you competed at Stockholm.”

“Damn gun froze on me the second day,” replied Patton, referring to his ill-fated efforts in the 1912 Olympics.  “I would have won. How old are you, son?”

“19,” said Charles, Jr.

“Helluva an age,” said Patton. “Helluva place to be when you’re 19.”

Patton waved his hand as if to display the war-torn countryside.

“It’ll make a man out of you, though,” he continued.

Patton went on to tell Charles, Jr. that he was an admirer of Teddy Roosevelt, and of his father, and told the young man to relay to his father his desire that Charles, Sr. make a run for politics, based on his having warned the country to be prepared for the “Kaiser’s menace,” as Patton put it.

“Trouble with Americans,” said Patton, “is they’re too secure. They think just because there’s an ocean separating us, we’re not in danger of war. Especially Californians. Californians could care less about anything except sin and perdition.”

He laughed.

“Not that I have anything against sin and perdition, mind you,” he said.

Patton asked what Charles, Jr.’s plans were after the war, and Charles told him he planned to attend USC.

“I have nothing against Southern California, either,” said Patton, “but have you considered West Point? I’d be happy to put in a good word for you.”

“Thank you, sir,” replied Charles, Jr. “I’ll consider it.”

Patton then bid him good-bye, they saluted, and Charles went back to his duties. His mates, seeing the hard-boiled Patton’s obvious good impression of him, gave him a combination of ribbing and respect.

 In October, 1918, shrapnel from a “potato masher” in the Argonne Forest felled Charles, Jr., by now the recipient of a battlefield commission promoting him to the rank of second lieutenant.

Luckily, he recovered from his wounds, and returned along with the rest of the victorious “dough boys,” when the war finally ended a month later. Charles spent the Winter and Spring of 1918-19 recovering in California, and in the fall of 1919 he entered USC, a “grizzled veteran” of the Great War.

When the war ended, Charles, Jr. had given strong consideration to Patton’s recommendation to attend West Point. In the end, he decided on USC, where he attained some notoriety as an athlete.

Patton saw what Charles, Jr. was doing on the athletic field, and the two maintained contact and a friendship. In the 1930s, Patton even hired Charles, Jr. as his publicist when he tried to increase his visibility as a warrior with no war to fight. Charles, Jr. tried to sell a film concept of the man already known as “Ol’ Blood and Guts,” but in the Pacifist ‘30s there were no takers.

In 1920, Charles, Sr. ran for Congress. His number one campaign supporter was his son, who would make speeches for his dad while dressed in his Army uniform, adorned by a Purple Heart. Charles, Jr. discovered a talent for writing, and became his father’s speechwriter.

At USC, he was regarded as special, a man among boys, because of his wartime experiences. Youth and toughness had helped Charles, Jr. to heal from his shrapnel wounds, enough to allow him to play football and baseball at USC. On the football field, he found his speed at the end position had diminished as a result of the injuries, but as a shortstop on the baseball team he possessed excellent skills. After his senior year of 1923, several professional teams in the Pacific Coast League expressed an interest in his services, but Charles, Jr. had been bitten by the writing bug and had other plans.

His father was elected to Congress in 1920, and served for eight years. From 1921-23, Charles, Jr. spent summers working for his father in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation in the spring of 1923, Charles, Sr. asked his son to come work for him full time, to make a name for himself in the political world. The young man was honored that his father had such faith in him, but he was stricken with a serious case of wanderlust. It occurred to him that all his life he had been the “good son.” He had made grades at Hollywood High, was student body president, a star athlete, and a Big Man on Campus.

Instead of ducking military service by attending USC, where he could have played baseball and chased girls, he had enlisted as a buck private. His father had the connections to keep him out of harm’s way, but he had taken on every responsibility, earning his stripes on the field of battle. Roosevelt himself had sent a telegram expressing his great admiration for the son of his loyal friend and advisor. When in Washington, Teddy had personally congratulated him. His feelings towards the youngster were in earnest.

No sooner had Charles, Jr. received his diploma from Southern California than he was on a ship bound for Europe. From May of 1923 until just before Christmas of that year, he traveled on the Continent. In Paris, he found himself drawn to Harry’s Bar, where he found a fascinating group of expatriate Americans. Among them were Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Charles, Jr. enjoyed the Paris café scene. He had an enormous appetite for sex, and found the French girls liberating in their open, sensuous desires.

The Taylor’s were Episcopalians, but Charles, Jr. had not been raised in a highly religious manner. He was struck by the open atheism of the expats, who would come to symbolize what is now called The Lost Generation. For the first time, he realized that he held Christian religious values.

Many of the drifters, wanderers and seekers of Paris café society lacked any real moral compass. One day a drunken Hemingway cornered young Taylor at Harry’s Bar.

“So you wanna be a writer?” asked the former Kansas City Star scribe. “Well, you’re sorely lacking in several important areas.”

“Tell me,” replied Charles, Jr.

“It’s like this now see,” said Hemingway. “I unnerstan’ yer old man’s a high muckatymuck, and you don’t seem to have any hate for the old bastard. Bad form. You’re from California. Nobody from California amounts to shit, but you can overcome that, and your damn respect for the old man. Your problem’s you know when to quit the drink. Don’cha know you gotta hate everything to write any damn good? You can’t believe in God, fer chrissakes. You gotta have a lotta derelict in ya to be able to write.”

Charles, Jr. had to admit that he was, perhaps, too happy and well adjusted to achieve success in the writing game, and now he was even beginning to subscribe to Christianity. In the world of the educated, the enlightened, the dilettantes, Christianity was, as Hemingway had put it, “bad form.” 

He had seriously considered staying in Paris indefinitely, to write novels like the others. He had money stashed away and could have done it, but he simply had too much get-up-and-go to continue with these misbegotten drunks and “intellectuals.” He arrived in Los Angeles just in time to celebrate Christmas with his family. He kissed the ground when he arrived on American soil.                    

In Europe, he had decided to make a go of it in Hollywood, where the silent movies were all the rage. Charles, Sr. had tried to guide him into law school, but there was an artistic side to his son, yearning to breathe.

Charles saw himself as an alternative to the “Lost Generation.” He had served “over there,” been wounded, and attained full manhood. In Paris, Stein, Fitzgerald and Hemingway were painting a picture of disillusionment, but Charles was still patriotic, conservative in his beliefs, a true believer in the promise of America.

He saw the movies as a perfect avenue for his expression of faith in his country. He felt that in the succeeding years the screen would provide for him a greater forum to express this feeling than the law, politics or writing “the great American novel.” At first, Charles, Jr. took a job as a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times. On the side, he began to write a newsletter called “Out and About In Hollywood”, which covered the comings and goings of the celluloid heroes of the day - Rudy Valentino, Clara Bow, Doug Fairbanks, and the like.

It was a perfect gig. His USC connections gave him an in with his old coach, “Gloomy Gus” Henderson, and in 1925, the new coach, Howard Jones. Because he was young and had been a notable player himself, he was given virtual carte blanche amongst the players. In particular, Charles, Jr. became friendly with a ruggedly handsome blocking guard named Marion Morrison.

Morrison had prepped at Glendale High School, and was on scholarship at Southern Cal. When Morrison and Charles, Jr. got to know each other, Charles found that Morrison shared his conservative political values, and particularly was interested in his Hollywood connections, vis a vis, his access to actresses.  

Charles, Jr. knew some of the right people over at Fox Studios, who needed plenty of extras to portray the Roman Legion, Napoleon’s Army, and the U.S. Cavalry in the blockbusters of that period.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association had not yet been formed, and the under-the-table paying of college athletes was rampant, especially at USC. It got so bad that other schools bastardized their fight song, changing the lyrics from:

“Fight on, for old SC,

our men fight on

to victory.”

to:

“Fight on, for old SC

the fullback needs

his salary.”

Coach Jones loved it. At Iowa, where he had coached before, there were precious few inducements to get his players to play there. Now, in Hollywood’s backyard, he could offer his charges a chance to get paid for bit parts in movies. The real inducement, of course, was the glamour of film making, and the pretty girls that went along with it.

In the history of college recruiting, nothing has ever proved to be a better sell than the promise of access to beautiful girls. USC was in the beginning stages of establishing one of the greatest, and most long-lasting football traditions in history. Sex was the driving force behind the Tradition of Troy.

In the mid-1920s, it all came to a head, literally, and Charles Taylor, Jr. was the alum behind it. He arranged to interview the actress Clara Bow at her home. Clara was the “it girl” of that era, a woman of indescribable beauty and sex appeal. Charles, Jr. barely got his interview. He was too busy satiating the sexual needs of Clara Bow, who was a certifiable nymphomaniac if ever there was one.

Finally, after hours of licking, sucking, fornicating and fingering, Clara sat back, covered in sweat and other “fluids,” and let Charles, Jr. finish the interview. When it was over, she inquired of his association with the USC football team.

“I just love football,” she said. “That is, I just love football players. I want you to me a favor.”

What she told Charles, Jr. at that point aroused him so much that he immediately developed an erection more potent than the one he had arrived with, several hours before, and which he used to satisfy Clara’s appetites to the nth degree until he collapsed in exhaustion after midnight in her bed.                  

That week, Clara Bow’s request led Charles, Jr. to show up at Morrison’s fraternity house. He told his young friend that he had to help him with something. So it was that, a couple weeks later, on a Saturday night, the entire University of Southern California football team, along with a few friends, hangers-on and athletes from other teams like baseball and track, arrived by caravan at the home of Clara Bow. 

An English butler seated them and served them drinks. For 45 minutes they sat in chairs and various states of nervous, excited repose in Clara’s living room. Finally, Clara arrived in a fashionably risqué dress. She made small talk with the fellows, then removed the dress, standing in the middle of the room adorned only in French lingerie.

  Marion Morrison was the first to make a move. He walked up to her, and began to kiss her. For the rest of the evening, and on into the wee morning hours, the Trojans gave it to Clara Bow from every conceivable angle. She displayed amazing oral techniques, and demanded to be penetrated anally, which required some doing on the part of the football players who had the gumption to be sodomites in front of their friends. Only a few were able to accomplish this task.

Thus was born the modern gangbang.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, for Marion Morrison, his football career at USC was short-lived. In the summer of 1926, he went with a friend to Newport Beach, where huge waves are created by rock formations under the water, known as The Wedge.

Many have called themselves “Victims of the Wedge” over the years. Morrison may have been the first. While body surfing in an effort to impress some girls on the beach, he was caught by the waves and found his body bouncing off The Wedge. When he emerged, he had a separated shoulder.

Fall practice was only a few weeks away, but Morrison was too scared to tell Jones about his freak injury, incurred while engaging in a frivolous activity and an attempt to impress girls.

When football began, Morrison could not block. He quickly lost his starting position, and with it his scholarship. A kid from modest means, he could not afford life at USC, a “rich kid’s” school, without the financial aid. “Duke,” as he was already called, soon found himself borrowing money from his frat brothers. They asked him to move out, so he went to Charles, Jr. for help. 

Charles arranged for him to meet some executives at Fox, and the rest is the story of John Wayne.       

 Charles, Jr. established himself as a first-rate writer and publicist in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1928, he married a gorgeous actress named Denise Stoneham, and they had two boys. Charles III was born in 1931, and Daniel in 1932, both in Los Angeles. He wrote a sports column for the Los Angeles Times until 1933, and developed his newsletter, “Out and About In Hollywood”, into a leading publication of the silent era.

From 1933-34, Charles, Jr. lived in New York City, where he was financed by an “angel” who paid him handsomely to write three stage plays, all of which were produced to success and acclaim.

He returned to Los Angeles, and sold his trade publication for a good price. Now a successful man of means, he bought a home in Beverly Hills, where the “new elite” was now living. He had grown up in the Hollywood Hills, but by the 1930s, the “west side” was all the rage.

By now he was a successful screenwriter. Despite a happy home life, two rambunctious boys and a perfect wife, Charles, Jr. was unable to be faithful for many years. There were too many temptations. He and Wayne were friends and would tomcat about town, or on boat trips to Catalina Island. He took many leading actresses and starlets of the 1930s to bed, but managed to keep it secret from Denise. Nobody ever knew whether she suspected. If she did, she maintained silence on the subject.

He loved his kids, and raised them to have the best of everything. They were athletic and smart, just like him; the apple of his eye. Eventually, in his late 40s, he had “gotten it out of my system,” and managed to stay faithful to his wife in all the remaining years of the marriage.

In the late 1930s, a writer friend, knowing that he had political connections, asked him to help form the Writer’s Guild.

“I went to one meeting,” he recalled in an interview some years later, “and was appalled to discover the most horrendous group of un-talented hacks you’ve ever seen, all agitating for something without earning it. I don’t s’pose I knew it at the time, but I was surrounded by Communists.”

Needless to say, Charles, Jr. did not help with getting the writers organized into a union.

In the 1940s, Charles, Jr. became a leading producer, and even directed several films. He came to realize what he had not realized at that meeting, that there was a Communist element to Hollywood. With the end of World War II, the alliance with the Soviet Union, and the beginning of the Cold War, it was apparent to him that sides were being taken.

 He saw a growing liberal bias in the entertainment industry, but that was not what concerned him. Liberal bias was one thing. An American had a right to think what he wanted to. What he saw were propagandists for Stalin’s Russia, using their influence as writers and filmmakers to create a product that shed a favorable light on a regime that was now, obviously, an enemy of the United States. 

 He did not see espionage, but he suspected it. It was definitely a part of political Washington and London. In 1950, Charles, Jr. followed his father’s footsteps, being elected to Congress as a Republican. He was an ally of Richard Nixon, who was elected to the Senate that same year over Helen Gahagan Douglas, the wife of actor Melvyn Douglas.

Mrs. Douglas was so far to the left that Nixon painted her as “the pink lady,” as in “almost Red.” Charles, Jr. also found Ronald Reagan to be useful to him. Even though Reagan was still a Democrat, he was influential as president of the Screen Actors Guild in rooting out Communists within the industry, and he was ideologically aligned with Taylor. Charles, Jr. served California in the House of Representatives until 1961.

Charles, Jr.’s first-born son, Charles Taylor III, grew up in Beverly Hills, and played football and baseball at Beverly Hills High School from 1946-50. He was everything a first-born son was supposed to be. Tall, blonde, handsome, regal in bearing, he was a great athlete, a scholar, and popular. He met his wife, Lillith, his freshman year at Beverly Hills. They were married after they both graduated from USC. Everything he would ever touch would turn to gold. He had the Midas touch.

In 1949, Charles III matriculated at SC, where he played freshman football and baseball. In June of 1950, shortly after completion of his first year in college, the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel, launching war on the peninsula. Charles III’s father had lobbied for preparedness and diligence against Communist spies, provocateurs and saboteurs. Now, history was playing itself out. Years earlier, his father had made his political name warning against German war plans, and when they came to fruition he looked like a genius. This now happened to his son. Also, his sons faced a dilemma. Charles, Jr. had opted to go to war in 1917, even though he could have been protected.

In 1950, Charles III, a college freshman, could easily have stayed out of the war, but instead he dropped out of school, and joined the Marines. In World War II, a college dropout would have been welcomed into the Marine Aviators’ Corps, but now jets were the thing. The aviators were made up of hotshot Naval Academy graduates with the engineering skills to handle and understand jets.

Instead of using his old man to protect him, Charles III used his dad to help him cut past the red tape, and to get accepted into flight school without a degree. From 1950-53, he flew for the Marines. His buddies included Ted Williams and John Glenn. Twice he barely landed his flak-scarred aircraft. He was decorated and celebrated.

When the war ended, Charles III returned home to Lillith and a normal life. He played football at SC in 1953, ’54 and ’55, and graduated in 1956. He immediately married Lillith, then moved with her to the East, where he had been accepted at Yale Law School. He maintained his military career in the Reserves, where he eventually retired in 1964 with the rank of colonel, and would go by the title of Colonel Charles T. Taylor III for all the rest of his days.

For one year, Charles III showed promise at Yale Law School. Towards the end of his first year a Marine friend who had gone to work in the Eisenhower Administration offered him a chance to work for the State Department. That friend was Kip Wentworth, a Harvard lawyer who would be Charles III’s best lifelong confidante.  Eventually, Wentworth would rise to the rank of Secretary of State.

Charles III always said leaving law school was the best decision he ever made. From 1957-59 he was a State Department attaché assigned to the staff of the Ambassador to the Court of Saint James in London. He could have made a big name for himself in politics. But he desired a career in the private sector, a chance to “stake my claim” monetarily.

For two years, 1960-61, he worked in a New York public relations firm owned by the father of another of his Marine flyboy pals. At the age of 30, Charles III was already a “man in full.”

He was the son and grandson of a Congressmen and a decorated war hero. He was a college football player of some note, a product of USC and Yale Law School, married with a son, with three years of experience as a diplomat in England. For two years he had worked in the “fast track” of the New York public relations and advertising world. He counted among his friends some of the best and brightest minds in politics, law, the military, and the media.

In 1961, he approached his father, recently retired from the House of Representatives, and asked for a loan to start his own business. His father gave him $1 million, which he used to form Taylor Communications, Inc., on the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. He settled his family in Palos Verdes Estates.

For 10 years, he built Taylor Communications into the leading PR firm on the West Coast. They handled accounts of political campaigns in the U.S. and abroad, as well as top corporations.

In 1970, Charles III did what was expected of him. He ran for Congress, representing the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the South Bay section of L.A. County for 10 years. He became Secretary of Defense in 1981, a job he held during fours years of the Cold War (1981-85). Finally, at the age of 55, he stepped down as Secretary of Defense, and went on to a lucrative, high profile career as an author, television personality, investor and fellow at the Hoover Institute.

Charles III’s younger brother, Dan, attended Beverly Hills High School, where he was an All-CIF-Southern Section baseball, basketball and football star. Dan had it all. He was 6-4, 220 pounds, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Adonis from a wealthy, prominent family. Girls were crazy about him, and he loved them right back.

At USC, Dan starred in baseball for legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. On the field, he was an all-conference pitcher who possessed a flaming 90-mile an hour fastball. He was the starting quarterback on the football team, president of his fraternity, wrote for the student newspaper, and even appeared in school plays when he found the time.

There was, however, a certain amount of tension during this period. Charles III had dropped out of SC to join the Marines in Korea. Dan opted to stay in school, and out of harm’s way. Nobody ever came right out and said it, but there was an unspoken understanding that Charles III had done something heroic, while Dan had not.

For the life of him, Dan never felt guilt. He was proud of his brother, but enjoyed the frat parties, the girls and the easy life of an athlete at a jock school, without giving it a thought that his brother was slogging through much harder times. 

In those days, USC did not challenge one with a particularly rigorous academic curriculum, but Dan took to school with the same enthusiasm that he brought to everything else. He was interested in knowing about things, always wanting to learn more.

At a time when USC was a “rich white boys” school, whose fraternities were closed to minorities, Dan sought out and befriended the foreign students who were already populating the campus in large numbers.

Because of its geographical location, in the middle of an important, cosmopolitan city on the Pacific Rim, USC has always attracted wealthy foreign students. Many of these students are the sons and daughters of prominent businessmen, political figures and royalty from countries in the South Pacific, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Wealthy, attractive white boys and girls dominated the social scene at USC, while the foreign students would move about relatively unnoticed, sometimes in their turbans or other traditional dress. Because they were less tempted by the vagaries of frat or sorority life, these students often are among the most serious at USC.

Dan would find himself trying to study at Doheny Library, which was more often than not a pick-up spot and a place where an athlete such as himself would attract campus idolatry from other students. He found himself at the alternative library at USC, where most of the foreign-born students studied in solitude. Here, Dan found quiet time, and his curious side. He sought these kids out, and after initial confusion over the language barrier and his motives, many of them would open up to the smiling, friendly jock. 

Dan was a solid B+ student, and he found stories of these kids’ backgrounds fascinating. For instance, he wanted to know about the tribal customs of the United Arab Emirates, where one student, it turned out, was in line for the crown.

Many Saudi students came to USC to study in the acclaimed engineering and natural resources schools, taking their knowledge back to their oil-rich states. Many sons and daughters of politicians and diplomats sent their children to USC to learn about democracy, and to soak up the atmosphere of this thriving American megalopolis.

Dan learned from them, and was a good ambassador for his country. More than just a few foreign students returned to their homelands, and informed their fellow countrymen that not all the white kids in the U.S. were vain and self-satisfied.

   Dan graduated from USC, and signed a professional baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox. In his first year in the low minors, he led the league in earned run average and strikeouts, moving up to Double-A ball the next year, where he posted a 10-5 mark with a 3.17 ERA. It looked like he was on the fast track to Chicago and big league fame, but the years in between Korea and Vietnam, the military draft was still in place, and Dan was subject to it.

In order to avoid active duty, he joined the Army Reserves. The Reserves required attendance at a once-a-month “drill.” The soldiers are known as “weekend warriors.” For two weeks every Summer, every unit goes to an active base for two weeks of annual training. Because his Summers were taken up with baseball, Dan arranged with a sympathetic commander, who was a big baseball fan, to do his two weeks in the winter at Fort Ord, near Monterey.

On a cold, wet day, Dan was riding in the back of an Army truck with some other soldiers. The truck skidded on a patch of wet road, and Dan was thrown from the truck, landing on his left arm, his pitching arm. The Army doctor told him he had sustained calcium chip damage to his elbow and shoulder, but he could not determine what the effect would be on his baseball career. He would have to let it heal properly, which would take time.   

The injury occurred in January. In February, Dan reported to the White Sox Spring Training camp in Sarasota, Florida, but he never told anybody about the injury. When he began to throw, he was in pain and was ineffective.      

      Instead of being promoted to Triple-A, or even getting elevated to the White Sox for the trip north, Dan found himself demoted to Class A. That year, he pitched in agony, and was hit hard. Eventually, the White Sox discovered his injury, and he was released.

Dan had enrolled at Loyola Marymount University Law School in the fall of 1956. At first, he had planned to attend in the fall, and to play baseball in the Spring and Summer. Now, released by the White Sox, he became a full-time law student. A few months into law school, the Los Angeles Rams called and asked if he would like to try football again. Perhaps the pain was something that would not affect his ability to throw a football.

Dan came to camp in top shape. while the baseball injury was not a major impediment to his football ability, he had been away from the game for several years, and was not up to the pro game. The Rams cut him after he had performed poorly during their exhibition schedule.

Dan was a guy who found new challenges, and law school now received his full attention. He made it through with flying colors, graduating near the top of his class, a member of the law review, after three years. He passed the California bar exam in his first try.

It was during this time that Dan met Shirley Larson. Shirley was a typical Newport Beach debutante, a senior at USC who drove an expensive sports car with the vanity plates, “ILUVDAD.” She was blonde and built, a sorority girl whose father had been a Trojan, and was a big fan of Dan Taylor.

Shirley met Dan when she interned at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine, a white shoe downtown L.A. law firm run by influential Southern California Republicans. Dan Taylor was sure not a Democrat, and neither was Shirley Larson. Shirley immediately recognized Dan; his name, because her father had so often uttered praise for his athletic accomplishments, and his face, because he had been a regular on television during his football career. She called Daddy that first night, excitedly telling her father about working in a law firm with Dan Taylor.

“If he asks you out,” Walt Larson told her, “I’ll have no objections.”

It was during this period that Dan was studying for the bar, and establishing himself at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. Young lawyers go through an initiation process not unlike internists at major hospitals. They are worked almost to death, both in terms of studying for the bar and handling caseloads for the firm.

Every day, Shirley came to work wearing an attractive, form-fitting dress, her hair done just right, hoping to attract Dan’s attention. They were introduced early in her employment, and she made a point of mentioning that she had gone to USC and knew all about his football career. He had smiled, but not shown much interest.

The fact is that Dan did notice Shirley from the first moment he saw her, but he was too busy to do anything about it. He had graduated from Loyola Law School in May, which was right around the time that Shirley came on board as a Summer intern. She was heading into her senior year at USC. Every Summer up to now she had moved back home, to Newport, for a summer of beach going and parties. However, a tradition at USC is to live ones’ senior year not in campus housing, but in the South Bay.

USC, for all of its wealth and prestige, is located in a bad part of town, on the edge of Watts, in an area known as South Central L.A. Campus housing is none too extravagant. Many of the students prefer to move to the South Bay in their last year. The South Bay, which is a stretch of seaside towns ranging from Manhattan Beach to the north to Hermosa, Redondo, and then Palos Verdes Estates, on a hilly peninsula to the south, is a relatively easy commute to school, offering a free, easy lifestyle of bar hopping and fun outdoor activities to the attractive singles who make up its eclectic enclaves.

To live there is to live in almost surreal surroundings, like waking up every day in the middle of a Beach Boys song, or the set of “Baywatch”. More appropriate to that era, it was like being in a Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello flick. Once a young man has lived there, and seen all the beautiful girls who decorate the bars, or roller skate along the boardwalk, he may be “spoiled” for life.

Shirley had moved into an expensive beach house in Hermosa, sharing rent with three other girlfriends. All of them were sexy USC coeds. That Summer, she worked at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine, reporting more often than not with a hangover and little sleep.

Incredibly, she maintained her sexual decorum. She was not a virgin, but she was not promiscuous, either, although opportunities presented themselves on a daily basis. Guys hit on her in her car, on the beach, at the supermarket, and of course in bars. She and her girlfriends populated every bar from Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach, and the other three were anything but discreet. Her girlfriends often did not come hope at night, or came home with guys. It was a wild Summer.

Shirley had been raised well by her mother and father. They attended an Episcopalian Church every Sunday, and while she was by no means a Puritan, she possessed common sense when it came to matters of chastity, birth control, social disease, and general reckless behavior.

When she saw Dan Taylor, she knew he was the kind of serious man she could go for. All his life, Dan had always been the type of fellow who would have been one of those guys in the bedroom of her girlfriends. Opportunities always presented themselves to him, starting at Beverly Hills High, at USC and in the minor leagues, where women were plentiful.

 Dan’s family was not particularly religious, but he had a sense of honor, nevertheless. Despite his experiences, he preferred “good girls” when it came to serious relationships. At first glance, Shirley did not look like she fit that mold. She was quite beautiful, and dressed in a relatively provocative manner. He had “broken down” many girls like this at school, enjoying the conquest of bedding some rich deb.

Still, he kept his eye on her, when he had a few seconds of free time. The bar exam was held in mid-Summer. Dan took it and knew he had passed immediately. However, the results do not come out until just before Thanksgiving. The passage of time had allowed his mind to play tricks on him, to the point where he was convinced up to the last minute that he had failed. Of course, he passed.

            Normally, after taking the three-day exam, a prospective attorney would relax and take some time off, perhaps to ingest alcohol intravenously. Dan would have gone for that, but the firm just increased his workload once the exam was out of the way. There was no time for partying or women. He was in the office six to seven days a week, often until nine or 10 at night. As a professional ballplayer, Dan had often relaxed in bars after games, chasing girls until all hours, then sleeping in until noon before rising to grab a leisurely meal, read the paper, and head back out to the park.

            Now he was busting his butt in to the office, often on less-than-needed sleep, by nine in the morning. He was living in Hermosa Beach at the time, only a few blocks from Shirley, but he never went out any more, and never saw her. His parents owned his beach cottage. They had purchased it as a semi-vacation getaway.

Dan had lived at home in Beverly Hills during his first year at Loyola. His dad, still in Congress, was often out of town, and his mother spent a fair amount of time in Washington. Dan then moved in to the beach cottage. He liked the South Bay, and thought he would like to live in this part of Los Angeles. He had seen many changes in Beverly Hills over the years. It was increasingly Jewish, and Dan was not Jewish. He had even noticed that sometimes in high school his Jewish classmates referred him to as goyum, or Gentile.

            He also noticed that the Beverly Hills scene was increasingly populated by Middle Easterners; Persians from Iran and Arabs from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Dan, the guy who enjoyed seeking out and talking to foreigners, still felt increasingly out of place in his hometown. He could not put his finger on it. He was certainly not prejudiced. He was a big fan of black baseball stars like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. He had befriended many black and Latino players in his minor league days. Still, there was a sense of falseness in Beverly Hills that had not been there when he was growing up. It had always been a Hollywood town, and his dad, the screenwriter/director, was a part of that, but the “black list” of the McCarthy 1950s had created a division in the industry.

            A sense of  “us vs. them” permeated the business. Charles, Jr. spoke about it. He was old school, a friend of Reagan who had supported him when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, and he had cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, when they came to root out the Communists.

            Charles, Jr., the Hollywood insider who was newly elected to Congress, testified before HUAC as a witness in 1950.

            “Hell, yeah, there’s Communists in Hollywood,” he told the committee, “And they’re using our industry to promote a Soviet version of the world. How can you watch `Song of Russia’ and not see this, plain as day? There’s Communists in the union, for sure. A lot of folks flirted with Communism in the 1930s. We were in a Depression, so folks were desperate. I can even see it, even though I never thought about it personally. I guess I just had faith in my country. But when what Stalin had done to the farmers - collectivization, I think they called it - and millions died, hell…anybody who could read and wasn’t retarded and had access to news could see it wasn’t a system worth livin’ in.

            “I know we joined up with the Reds because of the war, so even then I can sympathize with people supporting them. They were our allies against the Nazis. A lot of writers and people working in Hollywood are Jewish, so they can be forgiven for supporting the Reds against Hitler. But Lord Almighty, enough’s enough. Stalin broke every agreement he made with Truman. He enslaved all of Eastern Europe. Now China’s gone Red, we’re at war in Korea. Hiss was a spy. There’s spies all over this country, and `fellow travelers.’ Yeah, we’ve got Communists on our front door, I know who the hell a lot of ‘em are, and I’m not gonna let ’em ruin my country if I can help it.”

            So Charles, Jr. named names. In the succeeding years, he was supported by some, some, excoriated by others. Increasingly, and now Dan was seeing it, many of those “excoriating” his father and other conservatives in and out of Hollywood, were Jewish. Dan knew that many Jews had been denied membership in frats at USC. He knew many could not join exclusive country clubs, and he had heard the denigrating remarks. “Hymie,” “Jew boy,” Hebe.” But Dan also saw how successful many of them were. After all, to be able to afford to live in Beverly Hills, one had to be wealthy.  

            Dan could not square these two realities, that on the one hand America was an anti-Semitic place, yet on the other, Jews were highly successful at almost every turn. He was as patriotic as one can get, yet so many Jews were ultra-liberal, and seemed to place blame on America for everything that went wrong in the world.

            It was America that had saved Europe, and it was America that had used its political influence to forge the creation of Israel. It was America where a nice Jewish kid could get an Ivy League education, or work in a glamour industry like show business. What could justify leaning so far to the left as to be what Joseph Stalin used to call “a useful idiot”? Why was it so many spies and out-and-out Communist sympathizers were Jewish? The Rosenberg’s, for instance. If ever a group of people should have been conservative and patriotic, it was the Jews.

            So, Dan felt increasingly alienated by Beverly Hills, and more at home in Hermosa, where the neighborhoods were upscale and clean. Not that Beverly Hills was not upscale and clean. For God’s sake, it was so clean you could eat off the ground. It was more than upscale. It was pretentious. Hermosa, however, just seemed, more and more, to be a nice place to raise a family. In the fresh surf air, a kid could live the California Dream.

            Dan had slept with a lot of girls, most of whom he would not bring home to show off to his mother. He had partied with the best of ‘em. Now, for the first time, he felt like it might be time to settle down.

            Shirley knew Dan had taken the bar, and had hoped that the passage of this event would free him up to do something with his time, like take her out. Alas, July turned into August, her internship had precious few days left, and still she had not made any leeway in her efforts at getting Dan Taylor to notice her.

            Or so she thought.

            Finally, on her last day at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine, a cake party was thrown for all the interns. Shirley was there, of course, and for half an hour she looked for Dan, who was a no-show. Finally, most of the lawyers, secretaries and interns had left, and the “party” was on its last leg, when Dan walked in. He had been in court. He looked harried. Shirley saw him, and sensed something. She just thought he looked like he had taken that extra step to make sure he was at this little soiree. Many Adams, Duque employees were not there. A lot of the attorneys were in court or were just busy with clients. Now Dan was here. He looked around, and saw Shirley. He settled on her for just a second, then looked at the cake.

            “Any cake left?” he asked to nobody in particular.

            “Yeah,” said Shirley, instinctively. “Let me get you some.” 

            “Hey thanks,” said Dan.

            Shirley went and scooped up some cake, and handed it to Dan.

            “Looks good,” he said. “I haven’t eaten lunch.”

            “You work too hard,” remarked Shirley.

            “Tell that to the boss,” he said, laughing.

            A couple of seconds passed.

            “So you go to SC,” said Dan. It was a statement, not a question.

            “Yeah,” said Shirley, brightening. “This is my senior year coming up.”

            “You gonna go to law school?” he asked.

            “Oh, I don’t know,” she replied. “What do think of women lawyers?”

            “Women lawyers?” he said, smiling. Then he looked at her, and gave her the once-over. “That all depends who the woman is?”

 Was this flirting?

“How do you like those apartments over there?” asked Dan. “Or do you live in a sorority?”

“Oh, I lived in the sorority for three years,” she said, “But I’m staying down at the beach until I graduate.”

Dan’s eyes perked up.

“The South Bay?” he inquired.

“Hermosa,” she said.

“Hermosa?” exclaimed Dan. “Where in Hermosa?”

“Just south of the pier.”

“How far south of the pier?”

“Three blocks,” she said.

“Son of a gun,” he said. “We’re neighbors.”

Dan told her where he lived. Then arrived the moment of truth.

“What are you doing tonight?” he asked.

“Tonight?” she asked.

“Yes, this evening,” smiled Dan. “After work. After dark. When the sun goes down.”

Shirley Larson            then went for repartee. Momentum was on her side.

“Why, I’m going to dinner with you,” she said.

Dan’s eyebrows arched like Dr. Spock on those old “Star Trek” episodes. He laughed.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

Oh my God, have I made an ass of myself? thought Shirley to herself. Then she started to get mad. She knew she was beautiful. What could be the matter with this guy, was the Trojan football jock gay or something?

“I mean, I haven’t been out with a woman in so long,” said Dan Taylor, “that I can’t guarantee your, uh, safety.”

Shirley could not help but laugh.

“Why haven’t you been out with a woman?” she asked. “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“No time,” he said. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been doing for the past six months? This isn’t a law firm, it’s a slave labor camp. It’s a gulag.”

He glanced around, smiling yet furtive.

“I mean, I’m not complaining,” he said. “For a first job in practice, it’s awesome. I had good grades and everything, but I played ball at USC -”   

“I know,” she interrupted him. “I thought you had your own TV channel. My father likes you more than me.”

Dan thought that was a good one.

“I like that,” he said, smiling, “but somehow doubt it. Anyway, the hours put in by a first-year guy, I’m not even a lawyer yet. Then there’s the bar. It wouldn’t be fair to any girl.”

“So now you have time?” she asked.

“Well, not really,” he said, “but I took the bar a couple weeks ago. All the others who took the exam said they were going to Hawaii or Mexico or some place to get drunk. Me, I was in the office at nine the next day. I felt like the partners were gonna dock my pay for time missed when I took the exam. I haven’t been out, I haven’t had time for bars or restaurants…or women…until now.”

“Why now?” she said, a little smile working the side of her mouth and a twinkle in her eye.

“Because,” said Dan Taylor, “life is too short.”

That night, a Friday, Dan walked two blocks to Shirley’s rented beach house and knocked on the door. Monica Ringwald, an exceptionally curvy girl, answered it. The fact that she had a bikini top on when Dan arrived was by no means an accident.

“Dan Taylor,” said Monica, who had never met him, “it’s about time you called on us.”

Monica was the roommate most likely to not come home at night, or if she did, to not come alone. She was not above stealing boyfriends and dates.

“Stop molesting my boss,” called Shirley, who arrived at that moment, wearing a Summer dress that was sexy, yet did not say, “screw me” the way Monica’s “clothes” usually did.

“You’re boss?” asked Dan.

“Well, not anymore, I guess,” said Shirley.

“Let me get my bar results before I can start calling myself boss,” laughed Dan.

“So, where are we going?” asked Shirley.

“Okay, I’ve thought about this,” said Dan, “and I’ve been waiting for just the right moment, which is now. We’re not driving anywhere, we’re walking to the pier, to that little music joint. They always have live tunes on Fridays. We’re gonna get drunk, and I’m not working tomorrow.”

“Oh boy,” said Shirley, “you’re an older man and you’re gonna corrupt me.”

“Yeah, I’m a veritable Methuselah,” said Dan, “and I’m sure you’ve been corrupted before.”

“Is not working on Saturdays a big deal?” she asked.

“It’ll be a first for me since I started at Adams, Duque,” he answered.

So it went from there. Dan Taylor walked Shirley Larson two blocks to a little rock music hangout. It was still Summer, and their seat next to the window overlooked the perfect Pacific Ocean, where an awesome sunset was settling like a fiery ball beyond the watery depths. People were still milling about on the boardwalk, and in the place, dressed from their day at the beach. It was a casual a place, and the drinks flowed free and easy.

Dan looked at Shirley, who was practiced at drinking from her time as a little sorority sister at USC. She was completely relaxed and comfortable. Later in his life he would try to pinpoint what his feelings were and when he felt them. He knew that he wanted to make love to this girl, that he thought she was the coolest chick he had ever met. He knew he wanted to marry her.

He probably felt all those feelings before the door had closed behind them at her house, and by his third drink (screwdrivers for him, Budweiser for her), he had re-enforced his opinion on each of these matters. He had a way with girls. Since his sophomore year in high school, he had never had a problem trying to get girls to go to bed with him. He felt that if he put on a full court press, this girl would be waking up next to him the next morning.

However, the third thing he felt, that he wanted her to someday be his wife, had been the deciding factor in a decision he made then and there. The decision was that he was not going to take this girl to bed. Not tonight, and not any time soon.

He knew this would not be easy. He was hornier than a bucket of bullfrogs, not having had any sex for months. He had been so busy and focused on his job and the bar that he had almost never “taken matters into his own hands,” to pardon the pun.

In those days, a young, virile man did not have as many outlets for his sexual needs as today’s kids, who have pornography on cable TV, on video and on the Internet to, uh, keep them occupied. Heck, a lot of modern men think it is better than the real thing.

But Dan was disciplined, and he also liked to “hold the edge,” as he called it. He would not have sex, and he would not achieve release. He would let himself yearn for this woman, her body, her sex. It would all be worth it.

Shirley, of course, knew none of this. She knew all about the dark secrets that occupy the souls of young, handsome men, and there was no reason for Dan to be different. She had not made a decision on how she would handle the inevitable approach that would happen, sooner or later. With drinks, probably sooner.

The two were relaxed, laughing at the eclectic mix of partygoers who filled up this joint. They were having a grand old time, drinking and enjoying each other’s company.

Dan was a smart fellow, and while the conversation was light-hearted, he also enjoyed querying her on serious topics, like the split between China and the Soviet Union, and its effect on what people were now calling the Cold War.

Shirley had never been with a man who solicited her opinions on such matters, and discovered to her great satisfaction that, while she was not ready to be a State Department desk chief, she had formed a solid base of knowledge on history, politics and current affairs.

As a young girl, her father had insisted that she read the front page of the Los Angeles Times. She had at first been bored with the process, but Dad stayed on her by quizzing her, and Shirley had a “daddy’s little girl” way of pleasing the old man.

By her junior year at Newport Harbor High School, she was very well read and knowledgeable. Her friends and boys rarely saw it, but in class the teachers would sometimes shift to Aristotle-like give-and-take discussions on matters of importance. Shirley would dive right in, at first to the amusement of her classmates, who would say they never realized she was such a “brain.”

At USC, she carried a subscription to the Times, and she held her own with some of the whiz kids who occupied seats next to her. At SC, the foreign students and the out-of-staters were the most serious. She fell within that category of “Newport Beach sorority girls” or “San Marino debutantes” that were supposed to be there just to look for a husband. She carried a B average. It would have been higher, but she did spend a lot of time socializing, which cut into her study time. Still, majoring in communications, she had gotten a lot out of her college years.

Now, at age 21, sitting with young, hot shot lawyer-to-be Dan Taylor, it was paying off. Dan was totally turned on by her intellect. Furthermore, he discovered that she was a Republican. This was not a surprise, considering the conservative nature of Newport Beach and the fact that USC was a “Republican school,” a holdout in an ivory tower world of liberalism that was taking over campuses from Cambridge to Berkeley.

So, aside from her angelic voice, silky smooth blonde hair, and stunning figure, Dan was impressed with Shirley’s brainpower, which he considered to be a major bonus in the “boy meets girl” scenario. He would not try to sleep with her. If she made advances towards him, he would resist. He quietly shook himself, wondering for a second if there could be something wrong with him for thinking such radical thoughts.

That night, he and Shirley got roaring drunk, laughing every step of the way. They engaged in conversation with other bar patrons, made requests of the band, and had a great time. For Dan, it was a tonic after his long, arduous struggles with the bar exam and his new job.

For Shirley, it was a different kind of party. This was her first date with an “older” man, albeit only a few years her senior, but he was different from the boys she had known in college. She, too, felt she had made a connection with a man she could see in her future.

She also decided that she would sleep with him, and felt that it was inevitable that it would come down to that. She was excited about the prospect, and in fact wanted to please him in every way, to leave him feeling that he had been with a real woman, not a girl.

Eventually, they made the rounds of all the bars that made up the pier area of Hermosa Beach. Her suspicions seemed to be confirmed when, at closing time, the two ambled out of the last bar, arm in arm. Walking home, Dan stopped, gazed in her eyes, and they started kissing. It was a passionate, sexual embrace, full of roving hands and tongues. Dan was hard and Shirley felt it. Excitement pulsed through her body at the thought of being with him.

They kissed, walked, stopped, kissed some more. The two-block walk took 20 minutes. Finally, they passed Dan’s house, which was first on the way home. Shirley stopped him and said, “You live here, right? Want to go in?”

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

“It’s quieter than where I live with roommates,” she responded.

Dan looked at her.

“I know,” he said. “Shirley, you’re the most exciting girl I’ve ever spent any time with, and I’d love to take you to bed and worship you from head to toe. Some day I will. Not tonight. I’ve never turned down sex in my life, but something tells me you are so special that I’m going to wait. When we do make love, it’s going to be unbelievable.”

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“Are you mad?” he asked her.

Shirley thought about it.

“I think you’re incredible,” she said, and then she kissed him.

Quietly, they made their way back to her little house, where they kissed again at the front door. She invited him in, but he declined. When the door closed behind her, Shirley slumped on the couch in the darkness, and stared at the moonlit ocean out her window.

“Mrs. Dan Taylor,” she said to herself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM

 

“I see trees of green
red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day
the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow
so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands
sayin' ‘How do you do?’
They're really saying "I love you"
I hear babies cryin'
I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself
what a wonderful world
Yes
I think to myself
what a wonderful world
Oh yeah”

 

--“WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD”

                                     By Louis Armstrong

By --

 

 

 

 

When World War II broke out, cities located on coasts became shipbuilding centers. Jobs in this industry were plentiful, so much so that, with many young men fighting in Europe or the South Pacific, the call went out for manual labor to come to these cities and build ships.

This began the second great migration of American blacks to the north. Blacks flocked to Los Angeles, where ships were being built in Long Beach, and an entire military industrial complex was sprouting up from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley.

Buck Boswell had played in the old Negro Leagues, but now he had to find a “real job.” In Tennessee, where he had grown up, jobs were scarce. Life for blacks there was no bed of roses.

Buck’s experience in the Negro Leagues had shown him a better life. Not that the league was easy. It consisted of 20-hour bus rides, triple-headers, and more meals in more greasy spoons than he wanted to think about. Buck loved every minute of it. The fact that he and his teammates could not stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as whites in most of the towns did not bother him terribly. He thought about life back in Tennessee, and knew he was better off than those he left behind.

Until the Homestead Grays released him in 1942. Buck tried to sign up with the Army, but he had little cartilage left after several bad knee injuries incurred playing ball. That left him looking for a job in rural Tennessee, a bleak prospect. Tired of racism and poverty, Buck took a train to Oakland, California in 1943. He took a job at the shipyard in Sausalito. When he had some time off, he decided to take a train to Hollywood, a place he had obviously never been to.

At a bar on Hollywood Boulevard, Buck met Stacey Wills. She was pretty and intelligent, and worked as a riveter at the Hughes Tool Company, making airplanes for the war effort in El Segundo. They hit it off, and over the next couple months he corresponded with her regularly. He asked her to see if they were hiring at the Long Beach Naval Shipyards, which they were, so he moved to Los Angeles.

She became pregnant, and in 1944 they were married. That Summer, their first son, Al, was born in L.A. Al was a natural-born athlete. Growing up, he starred in every sport he participated in, and was an All-Southern Section baseball, basketball and football player at Locke High School, which also produced baseball players like Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith.

Upon graduation in 1962, Al turned down football scholarships from USC, UCLA, Washington, and several other top programs, choosing instead the life of a baseball gypsy like his old man. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a $100,000 bonus, an enormous sum of money, especially in those days. The amateur draft was still three years away from implementation, so top high school players were the subject of bidding wars in the pre-cursor to free agency. 

Al had a sweetheart from Locke High named Nanette. She was a real looker, and had a future as an actress and singer. Nanette married Al shortly after his first year in the low minor leagues.

In 1964, Al made his debut with the Dodgers. He hit a home run off of Milwaukee’s Warren Spahn, and Sandy Koufax pitched a shutout to lead the Dodgers to a 2-0 win at Dodger Stadium before a capacity crowd.

Boswell did a stint in the Army Reserves, avoiding the draft and eventually the Vietnam War. The Dodgers had an arrangement with a unit in an unincorporated area near Westwood, next to the Federal Building, for their players to do easy assignments that would have minimal effects on their careers.

Boswell was quickly hailed as the next great star of baseball, and an example of “National League style” baseball. 1964 was also the year that baseball and America experienced a turning point.

In America, the Free Speech Movement, led by a Berkeley agitator named Mario Savio, took full form at the University of California campus. Civil rights became the main issue. The South, still dominated by Democrats, continued to block any efforts at civil rights legislation, as embodied by the new President, Lyndon Johnson. They had thwarted the civil rights efforts of Dwight Eisenhower a few years earlier

LBJ was a flawed, yet courageous man. A Texan and a good ol’ boy, he nevertheless championed the cause of minorities, a plank in his Presidency lost in great part because of his poor management of the Vietnam War. In 1964, he was crafting the Great Society, a series of programs saturated with good intentions and mixed results. The Vietnam War started in earnest that year, although by the time 1965 rolled around, it still was an operation supported by a majority of American citizens. 

The Democratic Party had the appearance in 1964 of a party of new, exciting ideas, the wave of the future. Most Americans separated the national Democrats from Southern Democrats, who were stuck in a racial time warp that still had years to go before it would be broken.

They were the party of the martyred President, John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Robert, who inherited the mantel of Camelot and rode it to victory in the New York Senate race, was inclusive of minorities, while fighting corruption and the status quo.

The Republicans were stagnant, or so it seemed. Their standard bearer, Richard Nixon, chose not to run in ’64 because he knew it was a lost cause. A split emerged between East Coast moderates of the “Rockefeller wing” and Western conservatives in the Barry Goldwater camp.

Americans viewed them as the party of resistance, of country club types who were out of touch with the needs of most constituents. In November, Johnson trounced Goldwater.

Looking back, one finds interesting parallels, or even metaphors, that defined American politics and America’s National Pastime in 1964. In the American League, the New York Yankees represented the Republicans. The Yankees were rich country clubbers wearing pin striped suits. They were white, and the few blacks they did have fell in line with their image. Catcher Elston Howard had settled into the role of a New Jersey suburbanite. The quiet Howard made no waves, and was the perfect father, husband and Yankee. The rest of the American League tried to follow the Yankees’ example, with poor results. The Yankees played “long ball” with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. They were conservative in their approach to the game, not stealing bases or stretching out hits. They preferred to wait for home runs and big innings, and more often than not found this strategy to be a successful one.

Other A.L. teams lacked the Yankees money and talent, and of course their power. Their efforts at duplicating the “Yankee way” failed. They also emulated the Yankees’ racial policy, which was to bring minorities in ever so slowly. Not rocking the boat.         

The National League did it differently. Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier with the Dodgers, a National League club, in 1947. The league was now stocked with talented, exciting, aggressive black and Latino players who brought the Negro League style of play to the senior circuit.

There was Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda of the Giants. In Los Angeles, Tommy Davis was a batting champion, and Maury Wills had revived the art of stealing bases. Milwaukee’s Henry Aaron and Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente were legends in the making.

No team exemplified the new way to play in 1964 like the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals were a melting pot of talent and strong personalities, lighting up a baseball stage before their traditionally faithful fans, who would drive from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and other points throughout the Midwest and Southwest. They were drawn like the swallows flocking to San Juan Capistrano by their super strong radio station, KMOX.

The Cards had always been “colorful,” going back to Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang of the 1930s, but now they were really colorful. At first base they had a college-educated black man, Bill White, who was of All-Star caliber. Second baseman Julian Javier hailed from the Dominican Republic, which was proving to be a treasure trove of baseball talent. Center fielder Curt Flood was one of those “California Negroes.”

Flood was sensitive, intelligent and outspoken. He possessed considerable artistic talent, and was one of the first black players to be considered “militant,” because he dared to tell the truth about the treatment of black players in small, Southern minor league towns. Black athletes of that generation were expected to just be happy to have the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues, but Flood saw himself as a modern day Spartacus.

A few years later, he would change baseball forever by challenging the Reserve Clause in Federal Court. The Reserve Clause was an un-Constitutional baseball rule that bound a player to his team even after his contract expired, and Flood felt that it made players indentured servants.

“I’m a slave,” he told writer. “An $80,000 a year slave, but a slave nonetheless.”

Players like Flood scared the hell out of the white power structure of baseball. They needed players of his ability, but if a player was marginal the nod went to a white player. The owners and general managers denied this, of course, but in 1970, Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” exposed this truth.

Bouton used statistics, showing that approximately half the players among the league’s batting leaders were black, but far less than half of the players in the league were black. A black player had to be a star, a starter, and a main contributor. If he was just trying to make the club, and it was close, the whites were favored.         

Harry Walker was a batting coach with the 1964 Cardinals. He was a Southern racist who was appalled at the attitude of the “uppity” blacks on the Cards, although he was able to separate their off-field actions with their on-field ones, at least enough to do his job, which was teach hitting. He was good at that.

The symbol of the Cardinals was pitcher Bob Gibson. Gibson was in every way the New Breed of black athletes. He was a college man, smart, opinionated and articulate. He was a big, strong pitcher whose remarkable skills would take him to the Hall of Fame. Gibby through hard, and thought nothing of spinning a hitter off the plate with some “chin music,” or outright plunking a man who crowded the dish or was in the unenviable position of coming up after one of the Cardinals had been beaned.

He had perfected the art of the scowl, with his hat pulled low on his forehead, creating a menacing visage. He was as competitive an athlete as ever lived. Gibson also carried a chip on his shoulder as a result of his race. He thought about being black, he was reminded about it all the time, and took it to the mound with him. He used the slights and the insults as ammunition. His competitive juices did not end when he left the stadium. Playing tiddly-winks with his daughter, he had the same desire to win that he carried with him against the Dodgers, Reds and Braves.

Gibson was a uniter, however, and an undisputed team leader. In 1964, the Cardinals had a young white catcher named Tim McCarver. McCarver had grown up in affluence in Memphis, Tennessee, where his parents employed black servants. He never attended school with blacks, nor played against them in sports.

Gibson sensed McCarver’s unease. Once, on the team bus, he saw McCarver sipping a coke. He asked if he could have a sip.

It was like Samuel L. Jackson asking Frank Whaley for a sip of his “tasty beverage” in “Pulp Fiction”. McCarver reluctantly let Gibby take a big ol’ honkin’ sip. Gibby then handed the can back to McCarver, who had to contend with the image of this black man’s slobber on the Coke. Should he finish the Coke? McCarver decided to become a man at that moment. He finished the soft drink. He became Gibson’s partner, his battery mate on the field. They rode to great heights of glory together throughout the 1960s. He became his friend.

The story of Gibson and McCarver is the story of America, as was the story of Harry Walker and Bill White. Years after White retired, and became a successful businessman and eventually President of the National League, Walker called him out of the blue, said he was in the New York area, and wanted to come by. White hesitated, because he was living with a white woman, and thought this would be a source of conflict, so he gave Walker the heads up.

“Aw, I don’t care about that stuff anymore,” Walker said in his Southern drawl.

So it was that that the patrician Yankees battled the rebellious Cardinals in the 1964 World Series, with St. Louis winning the seventh game behind Gibson. Gibson was nothing less than heroic in that Series, winning the championship on short rest, pitching with guts and little else. When asked why he refused to take his ace out of the game despite his obvious fatigue, manager Johnny Keane responded with one of the best quotes in sports history.

“I had a commitment to his heart,” said Keane. 

The National League, like the Democrats, was successful for a while with their new philosophy. They dominated the American League in All-Star games for many years. The American League, particularly the Yankees, like the Republicans eventually changed out of necessity and became a competitive league and team, just as the G.O.P. would up-date and mesh good new ideas with traditional ones to forge the Reagan Revolution.

It was this changing world that Al Boswell entered in 1964. The baseball of Willie Mays and Elston Howard would be replaced by the baseball of Curt Flood and Bob Gibson. Boswell, the Californian, was a modern man. He was not from Alabama or Tennessee, where his father was from. He was coming to believe that in America, a black man had rights, and had a responsibility to himself, his family and his people to stand up for those rights. He was in the Flood-Gibson camp, and felt that as a Major League player he was in the limelight and should use that platform to promote his cause. The New Breed.

In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated and the streets near Boswell’s boyhood home went up in flames during the Watts riots. In 1968, Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists in a Black Power salute during the National Anthem after winning medals at the Mexico City Olympics. That same year, Martin Luther King was assassinated.

On the field, Boswell was a wonder. He was a Gold Glove center fielder who hit .300, powered 30 to 40 home runs a year with 100 runs batted in, and stole 50 bases a season. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1965, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1969, and an All-Star every season. He led the Dodgers to the 1965 World Championship. By 1970, he was the highest-paid player in baseball, and a future Hall of Famer.

Boswell, now making $130,000 a year, moved his family from Torrance, where they had lived, to Palos Verdes Estates in 1970. Among the well-heeled white citizenry of Palos Verdes, a black man moving his family into their midst was cause for concern at that time. However, Boswell was a well-known Dodger star, and any nascent racism was quickly replaced by excitement over his presence in the community.

Boswell, by 1970, was a man of duality. On the one hand, he was surprised at the reaction he received from his neighbors in Palos Verdes. Growing up, he had seen the hilly P.V. Peninsula, at least when it was not too smoggy. The place looked like Oz, a jewel on a mountaintop, completely unattainable to a guy like him.

He had been there a few times, to play baseball, basketball and football in non-league games, or American Legion games, against Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills. He would stare out the window of the bus at the mansions that dotted the hillside. His black teammates from Locke would remark at the opulence, usually with bitterness and class envy that white folks could be allowed to live so well, while they had to survive the mean streets of the inner city.       

A small controversy had even ensued in that Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills High Schools, both top athletic programs who could compete at the highest levels, were happy to schedule urban teams like Locke, but only if Locke would come to their field or gym.

Palos Verdes competed in the Bay League, and one of their opponents in that league was Centennial High School of Compton. Centennial was a baseball factory, producing the likes of Reggie Smith and Don Wilson, but Compton was a gritty center of street crime and drug trafficking. The white boys of Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills were never comfortable making the trek to Compton. Their cheerleaders refused to go, fearing the taunts of the black kids, or worse.

They had to travel to Centennial because they were in their league, but since Locke was not, they eschewed any home-and-home arrangements for a “play here or not play at all” philosophy, which struck in the craw of many of the Locke players and supporters.

In the back of Al Boswell’s mind, riding the bus up Crenshaw Boulevard to the leafy environs of the P.V. Peninsula, he was formulating a plan. He would be a professional athlete and a superstar. Some day, just to spite these white snobs, he would move his whole damn family right into their neighborhood.

This realization came true in 1970. Some people speculated that the move was not a good one for Al. That year, he saw his production drop dramatically. He had become militant with the press, a hard case, uncommunicative with the manager and all but a select number of his teammates.

He also became fond of alcohol. From 1971-76, Boswell performed well for the Dodgers, but there was a sense that he performed just below his great promise. The Dodgers were competitive, but he had not taken them to the level they had hoped he would. He made the All-Star team in most of those seasons, but never approached his MVP year of 1969.

He was traded by the Dodgers to the Chicago Cubs in 1977, and in each of the following three years, played for different teams (Cardinals in 1978, Twins in 1979, Padres in 1980). He retired in 1980. Still, he was great enough to make it into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Had he been as good as he could have been, though, he would have made it to Cooperstown on the first ballot, and he might have eclipsed many of the game’s most hallowed records.

His alcohol consumption hurt him. He liked to drink at the waterfront bars of Hermosa and Redondo, but driving back to Palos Verdes on the cop-infested Pacific Coast Highway, then up the winding lanes of the hilly peninsula that overlooks the spectacular coastal L.A. Strand, was treacherous. Once during his career, and again after he retired, he incurred highly publicized DUIs while making this trek.    

Eventually, Al mellowed and became an elder statesman of the game. He was by nature a jovial guy, with a good sense of humor, a man who liked to sing and dance and tell jokes. His taciturn act had been a part of his youth, but to those who knew him in later years that part of him seemed to be someone else.

Boswell was smart and hip to the world around him. As a black man coming of age in the 1960s, he had found himself in a time warp of sorts, a period in which many of his race had desperately needed an identity. The search for that identity had not been without landmines, but those like himself who had survived these years were wise in ways that cannot be learned in books.

His marriage had survived baseball, infidelity and alcohol. He had broken up with Nanette on numerous occasions, but love had kept them together. To the extent that such a thing exists within the context of real life, Al Boswell had achieved the American Dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

BROKEN DREAMS

 

“…'cause he had hi-i-igh hopes, he had hi-i-igh hopes
    He had high apple pi-i-ie-in-the-sk-y-y hopes…”


--“HIGH HOPES”

  By Frank Sinatra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shirley Larson’s plans had worked out. After her first date with Dan Taylor in August, 1959, they kept seeing each other throughout her senior year at USC. She graduated in June of 1960, and it was around that time that Dan asked her to marry him.

“Yes…yes, yes, yes!” was her answer.

Dan was slogging away as a junior associate at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. In the spring of 1961, the firm took on a new partner. He was Richard Nixon, the former Vice President of the United States.

Nixon was from the Los Angeles area, having grown up in nearby Whittier. He had served as a Congressman, representing a wide swath of L.A. County, from 1947-51. During that time, he had made a name for himself when he caught the highly ranked former Franklin Roosevelt State Department aide, Alger Hiss, in a lie about spying for the Soviets.

The Communists had increased their espionage activities in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They found fertile ground in the liberal Hollywood film community. Outside of the elitists in show biz, however, Los Angeles was Nixon Country, and in 1950 he set out to make the whole state his, so to speak.

He defeated Helen Gahagan Douglas, a left-leaning former actress, for the U.S. Senate. He only held that office for two years. By 1952, California was considered the largest, most influential political prize in the country, and the young Nixon was a star in the Republican Party.

Former General Dwight Eisenhower chose Nixon as his running mate, and when Ike was elected President, Nixon ascended to national office. In eight years, he had a tempestuous relationship with the press. He showed foreign policy moxie, and after some deal making with New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, was rewarded with the G.O.P. nomination for President, to run against John F. Kennedy, in 1960.

Several things hurt Nixon. First, Ike was asked to name some important decision that Nixon had influenced, and he said he needed time to think of one. Then, Nixon’s perpetual “five o’clock shadow” made him look sinister compared to the movie star-handsome JFK in televised debates. Finally, in the worst political crime in U.S. history, Kennedy’s father and Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson orchestrated the stealing of millions of votes in Illinois and Texas, just enough to push Kennedy into the White House.

Nixon was approached by the owners of Major League baseball teams about becoming Commissioner, but opted instead to return to California. He fully intended to jump back into politics, but decided he needed a base of operations that would allow him to make good money.

Nixon became what is known as a “rainmaker” for the downtown L.A. firm of Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. A rainmaker is a lawyer who brings big-money clients with him by virtue of his name, contacts and reputation. Nixon had practiced law in Whittier prior to World War II, and for a brief time after his discharge from the Navy, but since 1946 he had not been an active attorney.

At Adams, Duque, he was paid handsomely, bringing in heavy-duty clients who were attracted to the former Vice President and were willing to pay for “access.” In return, Nixon would be given a light workload that would allow him to travel, make speeches and politick.

At first, Nixon lived in a Wilshire Boulevard apartment, but after a few months, when the school year ended, his wife, Pat and two young daughters, Tricia and Julie, joined him in Los Angeles. They moved in to a mansion in the fashionable Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills, high above the muck and mire of the City of Angels. The purchase of the home was made possible by a sweetheart deal arranged by a political “friend.”

Dan Taylor saw the new celebrity partner as an important person in his future. Nixon had a close association with his father, Charles, Sr. and his brother, Charles III. Dan’s father had been a Republican Congressman, representing the area Nixon now lived in, throughout the 1950s. During that time, he had been a staunch ally of Nixon and Eisenhower, who could be counted on to vote the party line. Charles III met Nixon while working in London for the Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, and in 1961 Nixon was instrumental in arranging for the Adams, Duque account to be directed towards Charles’ new public relations and advertising agency.

“Dan Taylor,” Nixon had said, extending his hand to Dan before he was formally introduced on his first day at the firm.

“It’s an honor, sir,” Dan said.

“I recall you well playing quarterback for the Trojans,” said Nixon. “I was hoping you’d make a go of it with the Rams.”

Dan was impressed that Nixon had known of his sports exploits as well as he did, particularly his short-lived pre-season stint with the Rams.

“It’s just too bad you had to hurt yourself in the Army,” Nixon went on. “I know that you were one of Rod’s best pitchers and no doubt would have been a valuable asset in Chicago. I’ve followed USC sports avidly my whole life. Pat went there, you know, and my first dates with her were attending football games at the Coliseum.”

Dan found that he was a favorite of the new partner, and over time would be asked to have lunch or dinner with Nixon, or to take an audience with him in his palatial office, overlooking the L.A. Basin.  

“You know, Dan,” Nixon told him “I think you should think about your future, and how you can distinguish yourself. I plan to get back in politics, sooner rather than later, and I can use a bright young conservative such as yourself. I sure could. I’d appreciate if you would help me with some things. I’ll be making speeches and putting out position papers - things I can use, you know, uh, to advance my agenda and deal with the press. That sort of thing. You’re in a perfect position here. I’ve arranged the use of the office and the staff, you know. I mean, it would surely be a break from the regular legal briefs and mundane court appearances, I would think. What do you say?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Dan, with stars in his eyes.

Where would this lead him? he wondered. All the way, maybe.

In June, 1961, Dan and Shirley were married at Shirley’s Episcopalian family church in Newport Beach, and Nixon’s attendance helped make it one of the social events of the season. Dan and Shirley were later invited to Nixon’s Beverly Hills estate, where they made friends with Pat and the girls.

In 1962, Nixon ran for Governor of California. Dan’s brother’s company was employed as Nixon’s PR firm and campaign consultants, and Dan was given a leave of absence to travel and work on the campaign. He wrote speeches, did research and helped prepare the position papers that Nixon used to make his points with the media.

“We’re going all the way,” Nixon told Dan. “You and me. From Sacramento I’ll have the stage to launch a national comeback. I’ll need people, people I can trust. I don’t like those Washington elitists, Dan. They all went to Hah-verd, and they’re mostly Jews. Nothing against the Jews, but they have their own agenda. I need God-fearing Westerners like you, Dan. People from a clean land who bring a fresh perspective. I’m taking you with me. You name the job you want, in Sacramento, or you can stay in Los Angeles with the firm. I’ll make you chair of the state G.O.P. You can make money. You need to make money. That was my mistake. Not a mistake, really. You can’t control events. I could have been rich, but of course there was the war, and they weren’t paying much at Bougainville.”

Nixon and Dan laughed at the bosses “humor.”

“So I thought, when I got back,” Nixon went on, “I had a family by then, so I figured the practice would be there and I could make a nest egg, but of course the party came to me and said I had to run against Voorhis. Opportunity knocks only so many times, Dan. I had hoped to make that move later on down the road, but I ran against Voorhis and had no money for my family.

“They don’t pay well in Washington, either. I come from nothing. My father had a lemon ranch in Whittier, and it was the poorest lemon ranch in the San Gabriel Valley. I’m not so sure even about running for Governor, Dan. I’m finally in the pink with Adams, Duque, and I’ve a big nut with the house and the girls in private school, and now I’ll have to finance a second set of expenses in Sacramento. My point is, make your money. Set your family up. But be ready when I call on you.”

So there it was. Dan Taylor, 30 years old, had his future mapped out before him. He would march with history alongside Richard Milhous Nixon. 

Dan’s march was interrupted when Edmund “Pat” Brown beat Nixon that November. No sooner had Nixon told a packed horde of writers at a Beverly Hills press conference, “Gentleman, you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because gentleman, this is my last press conference,” than he was off to New York and a new life.

Nixon, at that point, wanted to shed himself of the California experience and take on the “fast track” of the Big Apple. This meant big money on Wall Street, and eventually a successful run at the Presidency. There were a lot of California loyalists who felt that Nixon had left them behind.

Dan suddenly felt a chill at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. Once a fair-haired boy, Nixon’s protégé, without the famous man around anymore he was suddenly a guy who had not been carrying his weight in the form of case loads, billable hours, and valuable court experience.

In 1964, Shirley gave birth to Stan. By this time, the couple had moved to Palos Verdes Estates. In the Los Angeles hospital where Stan was born, Dan held his baby boy in the air and announced, “This kid’s gonna be a ball player.”

In the mid-1960s, still an associate at Adams, Duque and with no foreseeable prospects of making partner, Dan decided that he needed to make a move. He contacted his brother. His relationship with Charles had always been strained. Charles was the favored older brother, and in most ways had always overshadowed him. Now, Charles was the head of a powerful PR firm. He was a mover and shaker in California politics, where he was advising an actor with political ambitions, Ronald Reagan, on how best to make his move into the public arena. He handled the accounts of top people in the movie industry, and was already a very wealthy man.

Dan was doing fine, but was by no means rich. They would all inherit millions from their father, but Dan was looking for more than money. He wanted respect. He wanted cachet, clout. His brother had it, and he wanted it.

He had corresponded with Nixon for a while when he had gone off to Wall Street, but by the mid-1960s he no longer had any real relationship with him. Charles III’s good friend, Kip Wentworth, however, was somebody he wanted to get close to.

 Wentworth had met Charles III in the Marines, and had arranged for Charles to serve in London as a diplomat. He had held office in the California Legislature, and was respected for his astute mind and photographic memory.

Now, Wentworth headed a prestigious Westside L.A. law firm, and Dan thought it was only natural that he switch over to Wentworth’s firm. He called his brother, and asked for a meeting. Charles hemmed and hawed, not really giving him an answer. Time went by. Dan pressed him, and Charles demurred.

Finally, Dan contacted Wentworth’s office himself. He identified who he was, the brother of one of Kip Wentworth’s best friends and confidantes. He expected to hear something like, “Dan boy, good to hear from you. A friend of Charles’s is a friend of mine. We’d love to have you on board.”

Instead, he got more hemming and hawing. Time passed. Phone calls were not returned. Letters went unanswered.

What’s goin’ on here? Dan asked himself.

Finally, he persisted and eventually made some headway. He arranged with a secretary to meet with Wentworth. He then asked his brother to write a letter of introduction on his behalf. After more hemming and hawing, Charles said he would.

The day arrived, and Dan showed up at Wentworth’s office with his newly polished resume, only the secretary said he did not have an appointment. He sat on his hands, embarrassed, while the secretary called several people to see if they had Dan Taylor on their schedule. None did. Dan asked if a promised letter from Charles Taylor III had arrived. It had not.  

Finally, after two hours in the lobby, watching fat cat clients march in and get the red carpet treatment, an attorney at the firm who was about his age received Dan. The attorney apologized for the inconvenience, or the mix-up, or whatever it was. He asked Dan a few cursory questions, and Dan tried to put on his best game face. It was obvious that he was getting the bum rush.

The interview lasted five minutes, and Dan walked out of the office seeing the future. For the first time in his up-to-now charmed life, he did not see unlimited success. He now examined his past, and tinges of regret began to gnaw at him.

He had chosen to take the safer route of the Army Reserves instead of going to Korea like his brother, and now this seemed to be something that was held against him. He had hurt himself at Fort Ord, and now he thought that perhaps this was some kind of payback. It had kept him from achieving a promising big league baseball career.   

Maybe he should have gone for football right out of school. By the time he had tried out for the Rams, his skills on the gridiron had deteriorated. A golden boy at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine, he had been a “big shot,” or so he thought, flying around the state doing politics with Nixon.

When Nixon lost and left the firm, he found that not just a few people thought he had displayed a little too much hubris. Now, Kip Wentworth’s law firm had rebuffed him. He felt that something had gone on behind the scenes, something that worked against him. 

He was a guy who had led a hell of a good life up to now, and had no right feeling sorry for himself. But his expectations had been awfully high, and when you shoot for the stars, the inevitable failures that come with such aspirations can seem worse than they are.

Dan stayed with Adams, Duque & Hazeltine, but he was not on their fast track. Did they know that he had tried to interview with Wentworth? The time came in which the natural offer of a partnership would have been made, but it was not. Dan began to feel a pit in his stomach. Stress took over. He had headaches, skin rashes, a buzzing sound in his ear that seemed to be a million flies calling him “loser.”

In 1967, the national political landscape began to take shape. Lyndon Johnson held the Presidency, but the Democrats were in trouble over the Vietnam War. The Republicans sensed that the White House could be taken. There were several attractive candidates among the G.O.P. ranks, most notably Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller.

Rockefeller had hurt himself, however, when he divorced his wife to marry his girlfriend, Happy. Nixon was the most viable possibility. He still had youth on his side. After losing in California in ’62, and telling the press they “won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” he had made it in the Big Apple.

Longtime friend and Wall Street powerhouse John Mitchell had helped Nixon re-invent and prove himself to the Wall Street crowd, an important group of movers and shakers who controlled opinion, politics, and money within the Eastern Establishment.

This was an important part of the New Nixon image. Previously, Nixon had been associated with California and the conservative, “rugged individualist” vote that was becoming an important part of the political equation. By making it in New York, Nixon had usurped Rockefeller’s power within the so-called “Rockefeller wing” of the Republican Party, without losing his appeal as a Westerner and a conservative to the Goldwaterites. They made up much of the electorate west of the Mississippi River.

Nixon had used his position to great advantage from 1963-67. Mitchell had made him partner, and indeed he had done real legal work. In addition to his “rainmaker” status as a celebrity name, attracting high-profile clients like Studebaker and PepsiCo, bringing in millions in legal fees, he had also taken on arduous cases. This included arguing before the Supreme Court in a groundbreaking ruling on what constitutes privacy, what kinds of people are most entitled to it, and the elements of malice.

Still, the firm had given him wide latitude to travel, at the firm’s expense, on fund raising and political junkets, giving him a chance to stay in the opinion game. He went to Vietnam, spoke to American and South Vietnamese generals, toured the country politicking for Republican Congressional and gubernatorial hopefuls, and was always available to a hungry press.

Dan observed Nixon’s comings and goings throughout the 1960s. He had made reference in his correspondence to Nixon, to a hope on his part of working with him in New York, or becoming a traveling political advisor. Little encouragement came his way. He saw Nixon speaking in Saigon, being received by European heads of state, and stumping across the U.S. Even when Nixon came to Los Angeles to campaign for Ronald Reagan, running for Governor in 1966, Dan’s efforts to meet with Nixon, or even to have some meaningful involvement in Republican campaign politics, were not satisfactorily met.

What was most galling about all of this was the fact that Charles was playing a major role as a political consultant to both Nixon and Reagan, as was Kip Wentworth. It became a source of real embarrassment to Dan, whose friends would assume that he was part of the “in crowd.” In fact, the lack of communication with his own brother became so obvious that Dan preferred to stay as far away from the scene as he could.

In 1967, Nixon made official what everybody already knew. He was going after the Presidency. His campaign staff was being formulated. While Nixon had his fair share of heavyweight New Yorkers on his team, he still maintained some disdain for the “East Coast elites,” or as he put it, the “Harvard crowd.” This stemmed from the fact that, while he had the grades to get in to Harvard coming out of Whittier High School, Nixon was forced by economics and family responsibility to attend Whittier College instead. 

Nixon’s team was heavily made up of Southern Californians, among them Dan’s brother and Charles’ friend Wentworth. There were downtown L.A. lawyers, Miracle Mile advertising executives, and Orange County businessmen. They brought a fresh, new perspective to national politics.

Nixon had wide crossover appeal, a fact that has been lost over the years. His caricatured visage as a Watergate crook and “Tricky Dick” pol who had a problem with the truth overwhelmed his other qualities. Aside from his carefully crafted image as a Wall Streeter who was friendly to business, and as a Westerner who embodied moral values and the responsible side of law-and-order taxpayers, he also was a hawk.

Nixon, it was said, had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. Many Americans, particularly Southerners, hoped that the secret plan was to bomb Hanoi back to the Stone Age. They did not put it past Nixon.

There was another edge to Nixon when it came to his “Southern strategy.” This was racial politics, pure and simple.

Nixon had grown up poor in Southern California. He had a natural sympathy for the poor and the oppressed, including Mexicans and other minorities whose lot in life was not so different than his own humble beginnings.

At Duke Law School, hardcore Jim Crow bigots surrounded him. Nixon argued long and hard with his classmates, advocating the rights of blacks. He was deeply religious, a Quaker raised on values of peace and love for all.

For all of that, however, Nixon was about “personal responsibility,” because it was his own sense of responsibility that gave him the resolve to pull himself up by the bootstraps and rise to great heights. He believed that in America anybody could succeed if they worked hard.

By 1968, the term “personal responsibility” had become a code phrase among conservatives of what all too many blacks did not have going for them. Many blacks were viewed as “welfare queens” and “jakers” who pimped their women and abandoned their children. Johnson’s Great Society had created, in the minds of conservatives at least, a dependence class, like what had happened in England, where the British Empire had crumbled amid the creation of the Welfare State.

Nixon played his cards perfectly. He courted the John Birch Society, an extreme right wing element of the Republican Party. The extremists were naturally pre-disposed to George Wallace, the bigoted, yet popular, Governor of Alabama, who was still advocating segregation in the Deep South.

Wallace, however, was a Democrat, and therefore represented one of the great historical flaws of the Democratic Party. While the G.O.P. was the “party of Lincoln,” as Nixon aptly pointed out, the Democrats were the party of Jim Crow, lynch mobs, segregation and discrimination. It was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who had denied blacks the right to vote, and for all the liberal nostrums of Democrats in the Northeast, nobody could deny these truths.

The Birchers and extremists wanted power. They wanted a President they could have access to. Wallace was popular, but lacked the national appeal to carry the election in November. Nixon was their logical alternative, not perfect by any means, but just sympathetic enough to their viewpoints to be tolerable.

It is interesting to note that while Nixon used the Birchers to raise money and create voter blocs, once elected he abandoned most of their domestic agenda in favor of liberal government expansion that in many ways carried forward the Great Society.

Dan Taylor had made a lot of phone calls in 1967 and ’68, trying to position himself with the Nixon campaign. For the most part, his efforts resulted in still more frustration. His brother was regularly quoted in the papers, or was seen on the Sunday talk shows, talking up strategy or advocating the Republican side of various debates. Any reference to Kip Wentworth was always followed by something like “a possible member of any future Nixon Cabinet.”

All Dan got were invitations to various volunteer meetings, where he would just be one of the rabble. He could not understand why he was being passed over. His father had been a big shot, a Congressman, and his brother was a power player. He was no lightweight himself, or so he thought. He possessed an excellent education, had done military service, was a recognized athlete of note, and had worked for an influential law firm where he had once been a protégé of Nixon himself. For all of that, he was left out of the game.       

As the campaign progressed and grew, and Nixon eventually captured first the nomination and eventually the White House, it was particularly galling to him when he saw how many of the so-called “USC Mafia” had landed top slots in the Nixon Corporation. Many of these guys he had known at SC, or through his connections as an alum. There was Donald Segretti, who seemed to just waltz into the Administration after a tour in the Army. Dwight Chapin was Nixon’s appointments secretary. Ron Ziegler was the President’s PR spokesman.

Eventually, Wentworth would land a non-Cabinet position in Nixon’s Department of Defense, and Charles, helped by heavy campaigning by Nixon himself, would capture the Congressional seat representing Palos Verdes and the South Bay in 1970.

Dan Taylor watched all of it pass him by in slow motion, and he was unable to do a damn thing about it. He stopped trying. He was on the outside looking in. He came to realize that the feelings he had for his brother were close to hatred. Dan did not much like himself, either.

He began to question who he was and what his life was all about. He had a good marriage and family, but Dan wanted to achieve greatness. His chance to do this was slipping away. He began to drink. Heavily. He started buying pornography at a cheap adult bookstore in downtown L.A., hiding the material from Shirley. He began to feel anger and resentment. Dan would leave his office and see blacks standing on the street corners, peddling drugs or women, or high themselves, or just doing nothing of any value, and he began to feel stronger and stronger negative feelings for them. 

Over time, his attitude about blacks got worse, and expanded towards an overall disdain for non-whites, even for Jews, who he began to see as money-hungry sharks who were quickly filling all the vital roles that he always thought had been reserved for guys such as himself.

Dan had a first-class brain, a good legal mind, but had discovered that he was not a courtroom wizard. All his life, he had been a “plodder.” He read slowly, and lacked great reading comprehension. He had to read over and over, and make meticulous notes, in order to effectively attain knowledge.

He had been in court on more than one occasion, sweating and nervous, with a well-dressed Jewish lawyer on the other side. Every time, Dan had frozen up at the key moments while the Jewish lawyers always seemed to have every fact, every rule of law, at their mental fingertips.   

To a guy who was used to winning like Dan, this resulted not in admiration but disdain. Dan began to frequent a downtown bar near the courthouse called Joe’s. It was an eclectic place. They served good food and had been in business since the 1920s, but the clientele was mixed, especially depending upon the time of day.

After work, the place was packed with lawyers and judges from the courthouse. They drank whiskey and told loud stories. The theatre house was nearby, too, so at dinner when the show was playing, the crowd tended to be artsy types.

During the day, on weekends, and late at night, though, the place was a dive. The “street people” who frequented Joe’s were there all the time, and for the most part were hardcore alcoholics.

The professional people who hung out there and befriended them had a kinship of sorts. Dan Taylor felt shunned by the legal and political circles that he had worked hard to ingratiate himself with. He had discovered over time that marriage and family would cause even old friends and teammates to drift apart. These Joe’s patrons became his new pals.    

The street people of Joe’s were not bums. They had jobs or at least money and a decent place to live. Many were retired longshoremen or merchant marines, manly men who had traveled and experienced the world. Some lived in pension hotels or with their children. Many still worked - bartenders, hotel elevator operators, and the like.

When homeless bums would occasionally wander in, they would be shooshed away in no uncertain terms. There were occasional hookers who would come in, but very rarely to do business. Many patrons knew who the hookers were and might solicit sex, but it was not to be done in an obvious manner. A hooker was welcome if she was not too outrageous in her appearance, and not too plainly working it.

Only one bookie at a time operated out of Joe’s. Over the years, many had made it their “office,” but never more than one at a time, so as to prevent the place from becoming nothing more than a numbers joint that sold alcohol.

Gambling was big at Joe’s. Everybody was in on it all the time. If any one activity banded all the different people who frequented the establishment, this was it, and Dan Taylor developed a pretty rabid fever for it.

The bookies of Joe’s, by and large, were independent. Some were Mob-connected, and there were local organized crime figures who came in, but it never ever became a “Mob hangout.”

Dan Taylor would come in to Joe’s every single day. He was known by everybody there; the waiters, the busboys, the bartenders, the patrons, everybody. Good old Dan.

Here, there were no expectations. Rarely did he ever have to field questions about why his brother had not elevated him up the political ladder, or why Kip Wentworth had not given him the time of day. He did talk up the old times, his football and baseball glory days at nearby USC, how his pro career had been cut short by that stupid injury falling off a truck at Fort Ord. He had become a has-been, old before he was really old.

He drank Bourbon, mixed with Collins mix and Angostura bitters, a special concoction that the bartenders had learned to mix just for him, and which Dan called a Stanerino, after his only son.

To the rest of the Joe’s crowd, Stan was the one thing of great meaning to Dan. Dan talked about his son all the time; his height, his fresh-faced, blonde-haired good lucks, his “chip off the old block” baseball ability in little league. Dan loved his son completely.

Dan routinely powered six to eight Stanerinos at Joe’s every day. At first, he would come in after a long, hard day at the office, but by the early 1970s Dan no longer saw the need to work late at Adams, Duque. Sometimes he left by two, usually by four or 4:30. Sometimes he went to a strip club, or stopped by a porno bookstore, but Joe’s was his constant destination.

Dan was drunk every time he got behind the wheel of his car, but he was usually mired in rush hour traffic, first getting out of downtown, then on the Harbor Freeway. Drunk driving was not as avidly patrolled in those days, and Dan knew to be careful. He was never stopped.

Dan usually stopped at a liquor store on the way home. There were two that he favored. One was on the corner just before picking up the freeway. Dan would illegally park out front, because there usually were no spots available, and go in to buy Bourbon, Collins mix, Angostura bitters, Budweiser, nuts, chips and the like. He would BS with the weathered old guy who ran the place, talking about the Dodgers or the Trojans, or whatever.

Sometimes Dan would stop at a liquor store in Torrance, on his way home after exiting the Harbor Freeway. He could find a parking space there, but the items were the same. Dan thought nothing about opening the cold beer for the ride home, and by the time he pulled up to the house in Palos Verdes Estates, he might have gone through half the six-pack. He would often leave the empties lying in the car. Before MADD, open containers and drinking under the influence were not as taboo.

When Dan got home, he was usually tired from the work and the drive. He gave Shirley a half-ass greeting, but he was all about Stan. He wanted to know about Stan’s day, school, and especially any news that had to do with Stan’s baseball “career.”

 Stan often did not know his father was home until he heard the sound of cracking ice upstairs. That was Dan’s first objective. Crack the ice, make a Stanerino, and relax. The alcohol would flow back in to Dan, and immediately he would begin to laugh it up, cracking jokes, laughing like crazy, cheering everybody with his good humor. Until dinner. Shirley could cook, although she was not on the healthy side of dietary concerns. Neither was anybody else in those days.

Dinner meant wine, usually a California red bought at one of Dan’s preferred liquor stores. The food and the wine would hit Dan like a ton of bricks. After drinking at Joe’s, then on the ride home, then when he got home, mixing alcohol and finishing things off with a heavy meal and some dark wine worthy of a Coppola movie, Dan was done. One could stick a fork in him.

He would sit at the table and stew, long after the meal was finished and his family had departed for clean-up duty (which he never participated in, claiming he had “done all the dishes I’ll ever do in my life” when he was a bachelor). Nobody wanted to touch him with a 10-foot pole once he reached this condition.

This man, this fellow of wit and humor, this great athlete and ladies man, this brilliant student and charismatic figure, who had made good friends with black and Latino sports teammates, who had traveled the country and the world playing ball and loved meeting meeting people of all races and diversities, who had actively sought out foreign students at SC because he wanted to know more…Dan Taylor had sunk into being something else.

Now, foul epithets began to emerge about blacks and Jews.

“Goddamn niggers.”

“Fuckin’ Kuykes.”

He would swear and throw things. Shirley would cry.

The Taylor’s liked to go out to dinner. Amazingly, their favorite restaurant was Joe’s. Not the Joe’s where Dan hung out downtown. This was a different Joe’s, a cleaner, upscale place with the most amazing food in the world. It was located in San Pedro, where L.A.’s Italian community was, and around here one could not get away with “imitation” Italian cuisine like other places in Los Angeles. They had a special baker who made sourdough bread comparable with San Francisco or Rome. Stan loved the cheeseburgers, Shirley liked fish, and Dan was a prawns dore guy.

The food at this place was to die for. Dan took his family out to dinner a lot. He was generous, and a big tipper. He also liked to drink at these places. This inevitably led to many problems.

At dinner in a crowded restaurant, Dan would mortify his son and wife with loud, rude comments about blacks, Jews and Democrats. Shirley would get on him about it, but that just made it louder and worse. Others would stare. Shirley was convinced that some day someone would take a swipe at him.

Stan was horrified, but stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he made a stink about it, he knew the old man would get more belligerent. So he would just sit there and take it, his skin crawling with slimy embarrassment.          

It was moments like this that he despised his father with a venom.

Driving home was hazardous, but Dan always figured out a way to navigate the car safely. Sometimes Shirley and Stan would scream when they were convinced the car was going to ram another vehicle from behind, but miraculously it never happened.

Dan also liked to stop at Joe’s to eat by himself, and then he would bring food home for the family. The problem was that Joe’s often had an hour’s wait or more. Dan would sit in the bar and drink Stanerinos.

Joe’s maitre’d was a blonde-haired woman named Babs. She was hot stuff, with an hourglass, Marilyn Monroe figure. She was not married, preferring to play the field and sleep around. She had affairs with many of the men who patronized Joe’s, and this included a short fling with Dan.

Babs’ brother was a Naval Academy graduate, and a hotshot aviator, but he had been shot down in Vietnam. This was the beginning of the end for Babs, who idolized him and never truly recovered. Both her parents were dead, and her brother was the light of her life. When he died, she began to drink too much. Her shapely figure took on a porcine quality, and eventually she would fade into old age as a never-married old maid.

One day Dan walked in to Joe’s and told Babs he wanted a table.

“How come you haven’t called me?” she asked him, because he had not come around in months.

“I’ve been busy,” Dan replied.

Babs was miffed. Dan was in by himself, eating there instead of taking out. He disdained the counter or the tables set aside near the bar area. The place was packed, and Dan sat by himself, drinking and stewing for almost two hours while Babs called every Tom, Dick and Harry for their tables. 

Dan was convinced that many who arrived after him were being seated ahead of him. This was Babs’ doing. He held his tongue. Finally, fed up and annihilated on Bourbon, he gave up and stormed out of the place, pissed.

The drive home was dangerous. He had to negotiate the narrow San Pedro streets, then the curvy coast-hugging road that leads up the Palos Verdes Peninsula. He barely avoided several cars and made it home by the grace of God.

The next time he came to Joe’s, with his family, Dan lit into Babs like a manager dressing down an umpire. He pointed his finger in her faced, telling her she was fat and didn’t care how “Goddamn big your fucking tits are.”

Dan later apologized, but for years after that there was major tension between Babs and the Taylor’s, exacerbated by Stan’s flippant attitude towards her. When he reached driving age in high school, Stan would patronize the restaurant with his smart-ass pals.

As time passed and Babs looks faded, her prospects did, too. She was abrasive and men, who tolerated her attitude when she filled out a dress in a way that made them hard, were less generous when the lines formed on her face and the flesh grew fatty on her thighs and hips. She was a lousy screw anyway. She refused to give head, and just lay there, frigid. She never had an orgasm in her life. For the most part, the men in her life were one-night-stands or married guys on a fling. They were not the type to go down on her and take the time to please and fulfill her needs. They usually just pulled out, came on her, and departed.

The Palos Verdes/San Pedro community was a close knit one, and rumors were rampant. At some point, Babs heard that Dan had left Shirley. She was exhilarated at this piece of news. Shirley came in to Joe’s with Stan a short time later, not because Dan had left her, but because they had been Christmas shopping and one of their traditions was a meal at Joe’s after such an excursion. Babs smiled, pulled Shirley off to the side, and said, “I hear we’re both in the same boat.”

“What do you mean?” asked Shirley.

“I heard Dan left you,” said Babs.

“No, that’s not true,” replied Shirley. “Who told you that?”

“It’s just what I heard,” said Babs, walking away. Her heart was pierced by knowledge that Shirley had not been abandoned, as she felt she had been abandoned, by life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

STUPIDKID

 

 “My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say, ‘I'm gonna be like you, Dad’
 ‘You know I'm gonna be like you’”

 

--“CATS IN THE CRADLE”

                                                  By Harry Chapin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stan Taylor was born on February 1, 1964 in Los Angeles. Shirley and Dan still lived in the little beach house in Hermosa when he was born, but shortly thereafter, as Dan’s salary escalated at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine, they moved into a gorgeous home in Palos Verdes Estates. Nowadays, only the truly rich could afford to buy there, but back then a young lawyer could move his family in.

The house was too big for a family of three. It had a swimming pool, and possessed an incredible, sweeping vista view that extended from downtown Los Angeles to the east, to the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains, the glorious L.A.  Strand to the north, and finally the blue Pacific and, on a clear day, Catalina Island to the west. It was a 45-minute commute from Dan’s downtown office, only minutes from the crowded, eclectic beach communities of Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan. It was not far from the grittier neighborhoods of Torrance, Gardena, Lawndale and Wilmington that were already becoming populated by minorities. The hilly peninsula, however, was a world removed from these places.

Near-stone silence enveloped the neighborhood at night. The sound of freeways was not in evidence up there. Instead, there were the stirrings of animals living in the nearby woods. At night in the Winter one could hear the surf pounding the coast.

People respected each other’s privacy, but were close to each other. Neighbors knew neighbors. They knew about them. The isolation of living in L.A. is not an exaggeration, but it is different in P.V. To live in P.V. meant that you were special. Kids growing up there were a breed apart. They were well educated, in many ways a weird combination of East Coast preppie and California surfer dudes with their wild blonde hair, rich suntans, and dedication to the beach life. 

Kids in Palos Verdes participated in all sports and the teams were always competitive. They were well read, versed in the works of Shakespeare and Hemingway. They were conservative Republicans and as patriotic as they come.

P.V. people were not the same crowd that lived in Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Westside - liberal elitists, artsy and fuzzy about their allegiance to this great nation, especially during the Vietnam years. Palos Verdes was home to executives in the aerospace industry that fueled America’s Cold War military build-up. Their factories dotted the landscape that ran parallel to the 405 Freeway from Long Beach to El Segundo. FBI agents moved their families there. The Federal Building was built in Redondo Beach, across the street from TRW, and this place was Spy Central. No doubt the Intelligence Community had their biggest presence this side of Langley, Virginia at the corner of Aviation and Pioneer.

After Stan’s birth, Dan and Shirley tried to have more children over the years, but Shirley mis-carried three times. Stan would be their only child.   

Stan was four years old in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated in April, then Robert F. Kennedy in June. These events were very vivid to him. For years after, he claimed to have had visions of their deaths in dream form. Later, he determined that what probably happened was that he had heard the television, and his parents talking about it, while half-asleep, and had awoke with “knowledge” of the events. He recalled the funerals on television as some of his earliest memories.

Stan loved animals like any other kid. His mother would read to him every night. She often read books about dogs. One such book had separate chapters about brave, courageous dogs who saved the lives or did great deeds for their masters. Each night, Shirley would read a chapter. The theme was the same every time. Brave dog saves man, and dies trying.

Finally, after reading about a loveable Saint Bernard who kept an injured man alive in the snow by licking him with his warm tongue, until help arrived, only to be left behind and killed in an avalanche, Stan threw the book out of his mother’s hands.

Crying, he told her never to read about dead dogs again. He was pissed at her.

Shirley usually was dressed in her nightgown when she read the stories. She never noticed Stan’s gaze, which was fixated on her bosom. Stan was not sure what these things were all about, but he knew he liked ‘em. He would be a notorious breast man his entire life.

Stan loved his parents very much. They were great parents, but there were bumps in the road. Once he and Shirley entered a grocery store. She was walking in front of him, and he was pushing the shopping cart. Suddenly, she stopped to look at something, and Stan plowed the cart into her from behind. Shirley turned and screamed at Stan, embarrassing him badly in front of everybody, including other kids, and worse, girls his age.

Stan had been ready to apologize, but before he could she had been on him, so he lashed out, showing a fighting side. He was not pre-disposed to just take abuse.

“I hate you,” he told his mother. He did not mean it, and later apologized.

Stan was the tallest kid in every class he ever was in, and always felt conscious of this fact. He was taller than his teacher in pre-school. However, he was a good athlete and a natural exhibitionist when it came to displaying his sporting skills.

Once, he was sick and had to stay at home. Four cute girls from his first grade class came by the house to wish him a speedy recovery. He really did not know the girls well, but it made him feel great. They thought he was cute, and nothing could be better than that. He was still too young to really formulate sexual feelings. Boys that age are still supposed to hate girls, but the reality is that the mating dance of acceptance and attractiveness to the opposite sex is well in place even at that age.

Shirley made fun of the situation, which ruined it for him. His face got beet red with embarrassment.

“Oooh, cutey,” she would taunt him, to his great chagrin.

For some reason, sex was a subject that Stan was never comfortable with around his parents. It was a mystery to him, something dirty yet exhilarating. On a family vacation, the car stopped at a roadside diner. A cute high school girl was flirting with four horny high school boys. She was dressed provocatively. The sexual tension was tremendous. Shirley was obviously pissed to have her family in the presence of what was obviously the local tramp in this small town. Dan looked at the action, turned on. Stan was so embarrassed he just wanted out of there, but he could not help but be fascinated. He overheard her name, Linda.

In the bathroom, Stan saw a crude drawing on the wall of a girl providing oral sex.

“Linda gives great head,” was scrawled in pen, next to “For a good time, call Linda 864-1136,” and “Linda puts out.” Stan was years from puberty. But in his memory, these words, the high school girl, the whole filthy, sexually charged roadside diner scene, repulsed him and turned him on.  

Once, Shirley made a lame attempt to explain the “birds and the bees” to him, while driving alone in the car. She more or less gave up and told her son, “If you ever have any questions about anything, like where babies come from, feel free to ask.”

The Taylor’s were not particularly religious people. Stan had been baptized as an Episcopalian, out of tradition, but the family did not go to church. Shirley had been a churchgoer, but her husband was not into it. She was tired from raising her son and taking care of the house. She lost the drive to make it on Sundays.

One Easter, they visited the family of one of Dan’s old baseball teammates, and a movie depicting the life of Christ was playing on television. This bearded man fascinated Stan, but he was sickened by the torture he was put through, carrying the cross that he would be nailed to, and then left to die. Stan was made to feel like an outsider when it came to religion. “Christians” were somebody else, some kind of sect that he did not belong to.

That day, eating on the outdoor veranda of a beautiful restaurant overlooking the ocean, the grown-ups began discussing some horrible events in the Middle East, involving a man who had been discovered to be a traitor to his people. The man had been held down, and his tormentors poured oil through an open vat down his throat and into his stomach. The poor, wretched man had died immediately.

This description haunted Stan. Sitting in the warm car on a hot day while driving home, he became sick to his stomach, and associated acts of horror and torture with this nauseating feeling the rest of his life. The idea of killing a person and the person knowing about it while it was happening, particularly by drowning or fire or suffocation; these represented his worst phobias.

Shirley, who had pretty much given up her career plans to marry Dan and raise Stan, did develop a nice hobby, which was to paint. She would paint pretty rural scenes from the Palos Verdes hills, or from snapshots taken during vacations to the desert, or Tahoe, or skiing. Eventually, she became brave enough to show her work.

The local Jewish Community Center allowed her to hang some paintings in their main lodge, so one day she took her work down there, with Stan in tow. Stan accompanied her inside, where she hung her work. Stan observed the people at the center. He went by the pool, where children his age were playing. He was just a kid, with no sense of religion, but to him these Jewish kids looked different. Something about their eyes. They seemed to have a haunted expression on their faces. He heard the word “Jewish.” It seemed like a strange word to him. They just seemed different.

On the way home, out of nowhere, Stan turned to Shirley.

“The kids there looked different,” he said.

“What do you mean, different?” asked Shirley, annoyed.    

Her tone was angry, so Stan let it drop, but to his six-year old mind, they were not the same as he was.

That same year, Shirley took Stan to Europe. Dan stayed home because he had a big case to deal with. The trip took them to Holland, Italy, Germany and England.

In Holland, Shirley took Stan to a park located next to an apartment building. A bunch of Dutch kids were playing baseball, which was a sport of surprising popularity in that country. Stan immediately recognized the sport, and being American, took on the role of being one. He entered the group, speaking in English. Dutch children are often raised bi-lingual, and several understood him. He was invited to play, and was an immediate hit. He came to bat and hit a home run, only the ball broke the window of the nearby apartment. A Dutchman came running out, screaming. Stan just stood there listening to the man swear in Dutch. The other kids fled, for the most part. Shirley tried to apologize through the language barrier, and managed to give him money to repair the window. It was a very proud moment in young Stan’s life. He felt like he had represented his country by hitting a home run that caused a ruckus.

 In England, they were invited by friends of friends to a big lawn party at a mansion. It seemed to Stan to be more of a castle. It was in the countryside outside London. There were many people in attendance, and lots of kids. Many of the children were girls, and immediately Stan was determined to impress these English girls with his American athletic skills.

A huge German Shepherd dog overshadowed the fun, however. Stan was a tall child, but the beast was taller than he was, even standing on all fours. This was a mean bastard, the kind of dog the Nazis used to keep Jews in line at Auschwitz. The master of the house, who owned the dog, explained the rules of conduct.

“Just don’t run or lift your arms around the dog,” he told the 20 or 25 kids who would soon be let loose on his garden estate for the next several hours.

The dog came right up to Stan, growling ferociously, and Stan was scared out of his mind.

“Mommy,” he said, moving slowly backwards to his mother, because he just knew if he moved quickly the beast would attack him without mercy.

“I really wish you’d put the dog away,” Shirley told the owner. “I’d feel much better and safer.”

“Oh, he’ll be fine,” said the man dismissively.

“Whatever you do, don’t run or lift your arms,” Shirley told Stan, who would in a matter of minutes be playing with other kids.

After dinner, the kids went off to do just that, play. First, they found a pond where they caught minnows. The dog was not seen, and Stan forgot about the animal. He gazed at the green expanse of grass, which looked to him like the outfield at Dodger Stadium the first time he had walked through the tunnel and seen it with his dad. He decided to sprint across the grass. He had caught the attention of a cute little English lass with glasses. He would impress her with his sprinting ability.

Stan began to run. The next thing he knew, he was being tackled, like a running back getting nailed in the open field by a faster cornerback. Then he was on his back. He was pinned down, unable to move his arms. In his face was the beast-dog, snarling, ravenous and angry, teeth bared, drooling with lust for the flesh of children.

The dog attacked. He bit a chunk of Stan’s left bicep. He looked at Stan. What next? If he went for his throat, Stan probably would have died. The dog took a second bite out of his little arm. Now, the throat. Stan was screaming, helpless. He was in shock, not actually feeling pain. It was almost unreal, but it was real. That would make it surreal.

Then he saw the dog lifted off him. The owner had rushed to the scene and saved his life. Of course, if he had just put the dog in a room or in an enclosed area earlier, it would not have been necessary. Stan was carried in his arms. Shirley arrived, screaming out of her mind. Stan looked at his arm, and saw a hole where the muscles of his biceps had been. He looked right at the inside of his arm, the sinews, the blood, the vessels, the muscles, the pink flesh. It was damn weird.

Then Stan went nuts.

I’m going to die,” he said about 175 consecutive times, to the horror of all. He saw the cute English girl watching him get carried away. Anybody there that day carried the memory of this event the rest of their natural lives.

Next, Stan found himself in an ambulance. Something about the fact that he was in an ambulance and was not dead struck him with great calm. He stopped screaming, “I’m not going to die,” he said, and smiled at his mother, who was still out of her skull.

“It’ll be okay, Mommy,” he said.

“You’re so brave,” she told him.

He was. For the rest of his life, Stan would look back at this day and marvel at how calm he had become, after the initial “I’m going to die” tantrum had subsided. He somehow felt that if he was ever in a combat-type situation, he would find calm. There was no explaining it. He just was able to maintain calm.

He maintained his poise through the harrowing ordeal of the hospital, where he had to endure shots and emergency surgery. After it was discovered the beast had never been vaccinated, he had to go through the difficult process of rabies shots.

The needles, the knife, the doctors; nothing bothered him. None of that was the beast snarling inches from his throat. The medical care was free since England had socialized medicine. Stan braved the whole process like a champion. It is hard to truly emphasize how stalwart he had been, how re-assuring he was to his mother, who went through hell through the whole, horrid thing. She blamed herself for letting Stan go off by himself knowing that animal was lurking somewhere on the grounds. Stan just told her it was not her fault. He was going to play and run and nothing was going to stop that.

Later, it was discovered that the beast had attacked another child prior to Stan. Shirley wanted to sue the rich people who owned the beast, but was dissuaded by her friends, because they were friends of the dog’s owners. Besides, she would have had to initiate action in the unfamiliar British civil court system.

Dan recommended against it, too. He was naturally not pre-disposed to portraying his family as a victim, probably because all the “victims” he came in contact with as an attorney disgusted him.

After Stan returned home, the dog attacked a third child at another lawn party. It was then, and only then, that the beast was put to sleep.

When Stan arrived home, he looked outside his window seat at an American flag flying at Los Angeles International Airport. He turned to Shirley, and said, “I love America.”

Shortly after they came back, Shirley discovered the telltale evidence that Dan had been having an affair while she was in Europe. He moved out shortly, and she went into crisis mode.

Picking up Stan from school on an appropriately rainy day, she started to cry, which scared Stan a lot more than the snarling beast. She told him flat-out that his father was seeing somebody else, and that they might get divorced.

To the six-year old, this held the potential of disaster greater than all other possibilities. That Sunday, Stan went to church for the only time he could recall in his pre-adult life. Shirley went to pray for her marriage and urged her son to do the same thing. Stan recognized the Christ image on the cross from the Easter movie he had seen on TV. Somehow, he ended up in Sunday school. He went twice, and had no idea what they were talking about. All the other kids were up to speed when it came to the religious phraseology. Stan felt like a moron. He hated feeling like a moron. This was something that he often felt, the concept that he was in a room filled with other kids, all of whom were clued in to some kind of inside information that only he was excluded from. Eventually, Dan ended his affair, and the marriage persevered.

Feeling isolated happened to Stan a lot in school, especially in math. The teacher would start giving instructions. He would quickly fall behind and not know what was being discussed. All the other kids would seem to be following along at warp speed. This feeling would descend over Stan, a pit in his stomach, his head spinning, vision blurred, heart pumping. It was pure desperation, and Stan would pray only that a benevolent God or force of nature would hide his stupidity from all around him.

His teachers could not quite figure him out. At parent-teacher conferences, they always had the same thing to say.

“He’s a bright boy,” they would tell his folks, “but he doesn’t pay attention. He makes jokes and draws attention to himself, but this prevents him from following instructions. He has great potential, but he isn’t reaching it.” 

Indeed, Stan did bring attention on himself. He was a class clown, probably to hide the embarrassment he sometimes felt when he was sure he was the only guy who did not know what was being discussed.

Misery loves company, or so they say, and never was this term truer than in Stan’s case. He would search for some other lame kid who did not seem to understand the instructions, and he would latch on to him. Other “dumb” kids were his life raft in a classroom of supposedly “smart” children.

Shirley introduced Stan to culture. She used to take him to the opera, to plays, and to highbrow films like “Dr. Zhivago”. Stan developed respect for people who might be termed Renaissance Men; athletes and soldiers who were also intellectuals, and dressed with class when not in uniform.

Stan’s childhood was a duality of shyness when he felt inferior, and outgoing behavior when he felt superior. There was not a lot of middle ground. His tendency to show off manifested itself in school plays. He always starred in them. He was the Pied Piper in the play of the same name, memorizing all his lines, playing the role with style and wit. His classmates dumbly mumbled and stumbled over held scripts because they were unable to remember the words, much less read them. Stan could feel helpless and stupid in school, and he also could be brilliant, displaying that brilliance for all to see. He liked attention when he was doing well.

Stan floundered, thrived, was often bored, and occasionally knew more than his teachers, most of whom he did not particularly like or respect. No teacher stood out as being influential in his upbringing. Stan barely hid his delusions of grandeur. His opinion of himself was strong enough to withstand his lapses in school and the vagaries of difficult parents.

Dan loved books and he loved baseball. He had kept all his old books. His father had handed down to him a series of books written from the early 1910s until the 1920s by an author named Lester Chadwick, called the “Baseball Joe” series.

“Baseball Joe” was based on Christy Mathewson, and the books barely disguised other players. Rogers Hornsby, for instance, was known simply as Mornsby. Stan fell in love with these works. An interesting thing happened as a result. He became an expert on baseball in the early days of the century. He got his hands on a book, “The Glory of Their Times” by Lawrence Ritter, an NYU history professor who interviewed numerous old-timers who had played from 1900 to 1930.

Stan loved this stuff. By the time he was in the third grade, he could recite verbatim facts about Connie Mack, Jimmie Foxx, Ty Cobb, and anybody else in baseball history. He knew all their statistics and almost every fact about their lives.   

Stan loved to read, and found refuge in books. Being an only child during a time before cable TV and video games, books were his sanctuary. At school, he preferred the solitude of books to his peers. He did not seem to be able to find a happy medium between class clown and recluse. He was either one or the other. He found a book in the school library called “Baseball’s Greatest Heroes”. It had been written in the 1930s or ‘40s, and had a chapter on each great star of the first half of the century. He read that book over and over again, memorizing everything in it.

Whenever he had free time, he ventured to the library to read that book, or others like it. There were certain times when regular class work would be relaxed. For instance, on the last Friday before Christmas vacation, or the final day of school prior to Summer vacation, the kids would get to listen to rock music on the radio and involve themselves in some kind of fun activity, like making macramé designs, painting murals, or cooking chili con carne. Stan disdained the social scene, and instead went to that library to find comfort in books.    

Eventually, his love of baseball books and baseball history would translate into a love of books and history in general. Stan started to read books on things other than baseball. At age seven he read Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island”. At a young age, he saw the film “Patton”, starring George C. Scott. He became incredibly patriotic and military-oriented because of it. He developed great interest in military history, and read Ladislav Farago’s “Patton: Ordeal and Triumph” while still in grade school.

By the time he was in the seventh grade, Stan could have sat down with a professor from West Point and held his own in a discussion of the merits of Patton, General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, and how these merits played themselves out in North Africa. He knew the politics and the military strategies of the Sicilian Campaign, understood how close the Germans had come to a break-out during the Battle of the Bulge, and took Patton’s side regarding the issue of whether he should have been unleashed on Berlin before the Russians.     

Living up on the hill, Stan was a little bit isolated from other kids. He had to walk up and down the hill to get to the school playground for sandlot baseball and the like. Other children were loath to trek up the hill to get to his house. Therefore, Stan had to find ways to amuse himself. Stan read the Los Angeles Times sports section religiously, each day. He subscribed to sports magazines, mainly Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News.

The Sporting News was his favorite. It came every Friday, and Stan could not wait to get home from school to read it cover to cover. He kept old editions, and pored over them to glean information that he either had missed the first time, or to re-enforce certain memories that he cherished about sports.

Summer time is always a great time for kids, but for Stan it was magic. He tried to milk every ounce out of the Summer, but inevitably time would win out. Stan wanted to have the best possible time in the Summer. He loved warm days with The Sporting News. It meant baseball season, and all the languid joys contained therein.

Sometimes at school, Stan would come across old newspapers with accounts of baseball games from the previous Summer. He would read them and imagine that it was Summer again, and that baseball season was in full swing. When Summer started to wind down, Stan would get very depressed. At first, it was not so much that he disliked school, but he could not help himself. Being an only child he did not share in a lot of the camaraderie of youth, and did not enjoy the joys and expectations that usually come with being that age. Summer represented baseball and some solitude from the ravages of youth. In his own private circle, Stan could be what he wanted to be. He used his imagination a great deal.

The family would take vacations to various mountain-fishing lakes, often in the Sierra Nevada range. Stan would think nothing of taking a walk all by himself, and he would use this time to think, to imagine, to tell stories, and to fantasize. He was fully capable of amusing himself. There was no boredom in it. The power of his mind was rich enough to supply vivid imaginary scenarios, involving many different things.

Perhaps it involved girls, or baseball, or war heroics. Stan was a dreamer. He imagined what something would be like in a year. He could forecast a little league baseball season, going down the schedule and predicting the score of each game, and how it was his star play that would produce victory for his team. He was into mental focus and imagery long before he had ever heard a sports psychologist talk of such things.

Girls were a complete mystery to him. Stan would have been much better served if he could have had an older sister, somebody who would bring her friends around and give him some perspective of what these strange creatures were all about.

There was a cute blonde girl at school, one year older than he was. To Stan, she was a pure vixen, and she was totally off-limits to him. He had no chance, and she did not have the slightest clue who the hell he was. Over Christmas vacation, Stan was riding in the car with one of his parents, and they passed the school. A boy in a grade higher than Stan was riding his bicycle, and the cute blonde was sharing the seat with him, holding him around the waist from behind. The sight was erotic to Stan, who imagined what total joy it would be like to have a girl like that share the bicycle seat with him, and put her hands around his waist.

Around first grade, Stan learned how to swear. He figured that would impress girls. One day when class broke for recess, a new girl, whose family had just moved there from Australia, was within earshot. He let loose, to nobody in particular.

“Fuck, shit asshole, fucking drinking fountain,” he said just before getting some water.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked the girl, in her accent. She was appalled.

Stan was a handsome blonde kid, but there was something about him that did not work around girls. He had no rapport, no style, no pizzazz. His parents were no help. The subject of girls, sex, the birds and the bees, was seemingly impossible to talk about in the Taylor household.

Everybody just froze up. There was no comfort level. No levity or humor to it.  Dan tried to bring up the subject, but his efforts were torture to Stan. He desperately wanted the subject avoided. Dan had “been around,” as they say, but locker room talk just did not happen between Dan and his only child.

Dan would make comments about women and sex, but all it ever did was make Stan turn beet red. Dan would see a woman with large breasts and say, “There’s enough there for two.” Dan would stare at women while driving his car, and Stan would eye women without appearing to observe them. Dan would almost wreck the car when he was looking at girls.        

On a vacation in the mountains, they were driving on a steep dirt road near a camping spot. The road was narrow, with a steep drop-off. If the car were to swerve off the side, it would crash down the ravine. As the Taylor’s got closer to the camp ground, they started to see people. A girl, maybe 18 years old, a Lolita in a halter-top, wearing cut-off shorts, stood on the side of the road, and waved at the Taylor’s. Dan waved back, and stared at her. The car swerved to the very edge of the precipice. Stan screamed for his life from the back seat.

Shirley had a way of screaming that reminded Dan of documentary footage of World War II bombs called “Screaming Meemies.” That’s what he called Shirley, to her great disdain. When Dan came within inches of killing the family because he insisted on staring and waving at a half-naked teenie-bopper, Shirley sounded like one of those “Screaming Meemies.”

“Dear God,” she yelled, hitting her husband with the newspaper.

“You’re an idiot,” Stan told his father from the backseat, in a tone that was not judgmental, but rather matter of fact. It was as if he simply possessed the knowledge that Dan was an idiot.

There were times in which Dan could destroy his son with words, but these events seemed to have a life of their own. This was not one of those times, and Stan got away with calling his old man an idiot.

Dan’s affair had passed by, and his parents had stayed together. Stan wondered if the time spent in church had been helpful in this regard. Shirley was content to be Mrs. Dan Taylor, and forgave her husband his indiscretions. He even told her about his trips to a Nevada whorehouse, explaining that it was just a diversion. Shirley just accepted it and was thankful she did not face the consequences of divorce.

Stan had heard a great deal of what went on between his parents, and knew of Dan’s “activities.” He would often stand at the foot of the stairs and listen to them talk, or argue. They did not know he was there, and did not realize he could hear them. Stan had an ear for information. He never did find out exactly who the woman had been, or what forced it to an end, other than Shirley finding out. He was never sure if Shirley had threatened to leave, or Dan had just ended it in a pique of guilt. He had listened in on phone conversations between his old man and the “mystery woman,” though. She called Dan “sweet thing.”

As much as Stan coveted information, and as much as he loved gossip and inside dope, he could not bring himself to listen to this woman sweet-talk his father. He would surreptitiously hang up the phone, bringing himself to a lather of hate for this woman. He viewed her as the mortal enemy of his mother, and therefore of him.             

When Stan was eight years old, he entered little league. He had demonstrated athletic skills in school, where he was usually the first one picked for dodge ball, kick ball, flag football, and softball. His father had been a ball player and had given him a love of baseball. He had gone to Dodger Stadium and Anaheim Stadium with his father and his grandfather, who he had a special relationship with. The first time he entered a baseball stadium, he had been awestruck by the greenness of the grass.

The players were playing catch in front of the dugout. The Dodgers were playing the Giants, and Willie McCovey, wearing the Giants’ road grays, with black lettering and orange trim, was playing toss. From his perch in the stands, Stan could see McCovey’s throws make their way from his hand into the glove of his partner, as if guided by string. He would watch pitchers throw in the bullpen, and was struck by the same illusion, as if the baseballs they threw defied gravity. The skills demonstrated by these big leaguers awed him.

In 1972, Stan entered midget league. His team was the Dodgers, a great thrill for him. The Dodgers, for obvious reasons, were the team everybody in L.A. wanted to play for. His father did not coach the team. Instead, some high school kids did, and they were “cool cats.” As far as Stan knew they were not homosexual child molesters like Mike Lodeen. They called him “Stan baby,” which made him feel good about himself. Dan would often attend practice. He showed more interest in his son than any of the other players’ dads. One of the high school kids who coached the team once referred to Dan as “your old man” to Stan. Stan immediately identified this reference as being disrespectful. He could think disrespectful thoughts about his dad, but he would not tolerate it in others. To young Stan, Dan Taylor was god.

“You mean my father,” Stan corrected the high school kid.

“Sure, your father,” the kid replied, smiling. There was something about Stan, even then, that indicated to the high school kid he was a piece of work.

 Since his “old man” had been a good player, it was assumed that Stan would be a chip off the old block. He was not at first. Stan might have been the worst player in the league. They stuck him in right field, and in midget league you can go a whole season in right field without fielding a ball. Dan and Shirley sat in the stands watching little Stan’s knees shaking every time he came to bat.

He hit ninth in the order, and never hit the ball. He never hit a fair ball, he never hit a foul ball, he never even tipped one. He did draw some walks, and was hit by a pitch once, but it did not count because he swung at the pitch that hit him, so it counted as a strike instead of a hit-by-pitch. His team lost every game. It was a very dismal effort.

That Summer, he went to a place called Cloverleaf Ranch, which was located out in the desert east of L.A. He missed one week of the midget league season.

Cloverleaf Ranch was a typical boys dude ranch. Stan learned how to ride horses there, and was quite good at it. He had problems fishing. His line always got tangled up. He was all thumbs when it came to tying his flies. Things went pretty well until the last day. Stan got into an argument with one of his bunkmates, another kid who had shared his cabin. Stan did not particularly have a beef with the kid all week, and was not sure what the argument was about, but it turned into a fistfight. Stan hated to fight. He was scared of fighting, afraid of fists, and thus always backing down like a coward.

However, there was a point where Stan would fight. A line would be crossed, where Stan would get mad. Throughout his life did not happen much, but when it did, pity the poor bastard on the receiving end of his wrath! That was the way it was with the freckle-faced little prick who picked on Stan the last day at Cloverleaf Ranch.

Stan beat the squib within an inch of his life. The other kids stared in amazement. All week, Stan had been meek and, for the most part, weak. In the pecking order of kids’ camps, Stan was a follower who chose to maintain as low a profile as possible. However, Stan also had that show-off, braggart side, and this had gotten him into trouble.

The freckle-faced kid had taunted him while Stan packed for the trip home. Stan had taken it. The other kids had started to gang up on him because he had not defended himself. At some point freckle-face had shoved him. Stan took it. The shoves continued. Some punches were thrown. Freckle-face made the mistake of landing one, and this was what it took to get Stan off his ass.    

Stan punched the kid right in the freckles. The kid was stunned and tried to fight back. Stan already had the battle won. Once he “got his back up,” it was over. He did not feel pain. He did not feel fear. He just went after what had tormented him. He was driven by inner demons. The feelings that ran through his mind during these rare, violent episodes were love for the act of inflicting pain on another. He was briefly a sadist, and freckle-face was his victim.

As an adult, Stan tried to analyze this. He would reach the conclusion that it was the devil who instilled these kinds of feelings, the desire to hurt others. Only decency and goodness held most people back.  

The fight, which had started in the cabin, rolled out to the dusty square surrounded by cabins. Soon the chant of “fight, fight” drew a healthy crowd. Stan loved that. It meant he could not just hurt freckle-face, but offer him up for public humiliation.

Stan continued to pummel the little pissant for a few minutes. He was aware that with each thrust he was soaring in the hierarchy of the pre-teen campers. The fight finally broke up when Dan and Shirley arrived. They pulled their rampaging son off the other kid. Freckle-face’s parents arrived at the same time. They were appalled at how the “bully” Stan had beaten up their little prince.

They yelled at Stan, and screamed at Dan and Shirley. Freckle-face wanted none of it. He had been humiliated at the hands of Stan Taylor. His folks screaming on his behalf in front of a hundred laughing children was cause for psychological pain.

Stan and Shirley offered great apologies for the aggressive nature of their son. It was a complete surprise to them. They offered to pay for the other kids’ medical bills, which stung the other kid even more.

Finally, Stan left with his parents. Aside from some perfunctory questions about how camp went and why in hell he had gotten in a fight, it was pretty much a silent drive back home.

Stan Taylor loved every minute of it. He was still bloody and dusty, he had kicked ass, and he was damn proud of it. Dan and Shirley may not have said anything to that effect, but they were proud of him, too. There was some fear in their hearts that Stan had a touch of the pansy in him. His public kicking of freckle-face’s ass had helped alleviate this fear.

Stan’s Cloverleaf Ranch experience did not make him a fighter. There was a timid side to him that never really went away. It took a lot to get him to a fight. He was afraid of getting hurt. Once a fray began, though, something would happen to him. He became exhilarated. His normal feelings disappeared.

When Stan returned for the end of the midget league baseball season, he had renewed confidence. In the final game of the season, Stan enjoyed a major breakthrough. He actually hit a fair ball - two of them. One was a bouncer back to the pitcher, the other a ground ball to second. He was thrown out both times, finishing the season with a .000 average, but the feeling of contact was great.

An older kid named Charlie lived up the street from the Taylor’s. He had a paper route. Sometimes Stan accompanied him. For some reason, Stan got Charlie mad at him. Stan was taunting him, calling “Charlie Weener.” Charlie hit Stan. Stan just kept it up.

“Charlie Weener,” he said again.

Charlie punched him in the nose. Charlie was not the strongest kid ever, and Stan was at the point where the pain was replaced by adrenaline.

“Charlie Weener,” he said again.

Boom. Again with a punch to the face.

“Charlie Weener,” Stan repeated,

“Shut up,” said Charlie, frustrated.

Charlie Weener,” said Stan.

Charlie punched him again.

“Charlie Weener,” the younger kid repeated. “Charlie Weener. Charlie Weener. Charlie Weener. Charlie Weener.”

A punch to the face.

“Charlie Weener Weener Weener Weener is a weenie,” taunted Stan, whose nose was now bloody.

What had started off as a single punch, followed by another one, just to shut Stan up, became a crescendo of violent assaults. Charlie punched Stan, each thrust meant to hurt him. Charlie was older, and he was above average in size, but his punches failed to hurt Stan. Stan simply did not feel pain. As this became evident, the more emboldened he became. 

Stan did not fight back. He simply took the punches, and taunted Charlie every time. Then Stan started to get into Charlie’s head. He played off Charlie’s insecurities and analyzed him.  

“You have no strength,” Stan said matter-of-factly.

Another punch.

“Shut up,” Charlie screamed.

“You simply lack strength,” Stan said, as if he felt nothing. “You’re a very weak weenie of a human.”

Shut up,” said Charlie, hitting him again.

Stan did not sway. He took the punches as if they were nothing more than a stiff breeze.

“If I was your age and was as weak as you I would be most embarrassed,” said Stan, clinically. “You are a zero. Your mother should take you to a doctor to see why you are such a weakling. I’m really very sorry to inform you of your weakness.”

Boom.

“Shut up,” Charlie said in exasperation.

“Dear Charlie Weener,” said Stan, as if reading a letter, “I regret to inform you that after being tested, it is determined that you have a case of weakness. This is a condition you were born with. You were born weak. There is no cure for weakness. You are weak. It is our recommendation that you move to France. Signed, The American Institute For the Prevention of Weaklings.”

Shut up,” said Charlie, unable to say anything else. He punched Stan, again with no visible effect.

The entire episode by this time had drawn neighborhood attention, and not to Charlie’s benefit. He was seen as the bully beating up the younger kid, when in fact it was Stan who was doing permanent psychological damage to him. Stan was literally sticking his face into the punches. They hurt, but not that much. Stan was past the pain anyway.  Shirley came running up and ended the “fight.” She screamed at Charlie, who was chagrined. Stan just laughed at him from under his bloody nose. 

“Don’t worry, Mom,” Stan said, as if he was telling her it was okay to have franks and beans for dinner. “Charlie has no strength, and therefore he cannot inflict pain.”

Shut up,” said Charlie, lunging for Stan. He was so damaged by now that “shut up” may have been the only thing he was capable of saying until he reached majority age.

“Get away from him,” screamed Shirley.

“But - ” said Charlie.

“No, really, Mom,” Stan said. “Charlie is inferior, and you need not be concerned with the likes of him.”

It went on like that, all the way to Charlie’s house. Charlie did not try to hit Stan again, because Shirley was standing between them. By this time he had given up on getting any satisfaction. He believed every word Stan said. He was inferior. He was a weakling.

At his house, Shirley confronted Charlie’s mother. She explained that Charlie had been hitting young Stanley. She was mortified and excoriated her son for doing such a thing.

“But he kept calling me Charlie Weener,” Charlie said weakly.

“It’s quite alright,” said bloody Stan, as calm as could be.

The women just looked at him.

“You shut up,” said Charlie.

“No, you shut up,” his mother scolded him.   

“No, really,” said Stan. “Charlie lacks so much as an ounce of strength, and therefore his punches were not harmful to me. You see, Charlie is simply…”

At this point, Stan leaned forward and looked around, as if conveying an embarrassing secret that, for the woman’s benefit, nobody else would hear.

“Well, they studied about Charlie,” Stan whispered, “and he’s, well, I’m really sorry.”

He looked around, and reduced his voice further.

“He’s a weakling,” he whispered. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this.”

Shut up,” screamed Charlie.

Charlie’s mom grabbed him and turned him around.

“Go to your Goddamn room until I come in,” she said.

She turned around.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ll take care of any medical expenses -.”

“No, really,” repeated Stan, “that won’t be necessary. As I say, Charlie inflicted no damage, as he is simply weak.”

Shut up,” repeated Charlie from down the hall.

It went on like that a few more minutes. Charlie’s mother just stared at Stan. She had never seen the likes of him, a young boy using clinical vocabulary. His words had a cutting effect on her son she could not explain. She began to actually believe that there was such a thing as “weaklings,” and that her boy was a bona fide member of the fraternity.

At home, Shirley continued to express concern over Stan, but he just brushed the whole incident off as if it were nothing. He took a shower, and after washing away the blood, was happy to discover that once his bloody nose coagulated he was fine. He had small cuts, a little discoloration, but no major bruises.

Charlie disappeared into the woodwork. The family moved out of the state a couple of years later. When he turned 17 he had his first sexual experience with a girl, failing miserably in his frenzied attempts to achieve erection. In subsequent trysts with girls, he never came close to getting it up. Charlie never thought he was gay, although out of desperation he tried that once, also without success.

He could masturbate to erection and orgasm, but never attained penetration or completion with a man or woman. In his 30s, he attempted suicide, but failed at that, too. He finally went to a shrink, and after much prodding, Charlie broke down sobbing, and told the “Charlie Weener” story.

“That little bastard was the devil,” he told the psychiatrist.

A couple of years of therapy was unable to exorcise the demon Stanley Taylor from his tortured mind. Charlie eventually just had to accept that he fell into that category of humans who were weak.

Stan had done some minor bullying, but after “Charlie Weener” he never bullied again. He did not show great love for babies or little kids, but he never felt the compulsion to take advantage of weaker kids. So long as they did not try to pummel him.

Despite his first-year midget league woes, Stan had a love for baseball that was ingrained very deeply. His father and grandfather taking him to games and hitting balls to him made the difference. Stan had hit wiffle balls over the garage at the age of three. Despite his poor showing as an eight-year old midget leaguer, he had demonstrated talent.

Stan would walk to the playground and get into sandlot games. It was total joy for him. Hitting the ball, playing the game, everything about baseball thrilled him like nothing ever had or ever would. He was born for this game. He loved it with his every breath. All his thoughts were directed at the game, the game, the game.

When he emerged into adulthood, he would look back on his baseball experiences, his passion for the diamond from his earliest childhood, and realize that to love something in this world that much is a real gift. Few people feel for anything like he felt for baseball. He was lucky.

Stan made “friends” with a kid named Dick Maslin. Maslin never played on his team, because his father managed his teams. The sons of the managers ended up on their dad’s teams. They did play on all-stars a few times, although Dick was not all that good. He had all the right moves, though. Maslin’s uniform fit him just right. His cap was worn professionally. He played catch, chewed bubble gum, and knocked dirt out of his spikes with his bat, just like a big leaguer. Then the game started. Dick could barely hit his way out of a paper bag, and his expensive, perfectly oiled glove might as well have been made out of tin. Dick’s older brother, Mike, was an excellent ball player who might have gone somewhere in baseball if he had not become a heroine addict by his late teens.

Their parents were ‘60s liberal Democrats who thought of the Republican Taylor’s as Neanderthals. Maslin would devastate them when he announced he was a Republican. Maslin really had no philosophy, though, except what was good for Dick Maslin.

He was a smart kid, and a smart ass. Dick was a baseball expert. For this reason he and Stan had something in common. Dick was not really a pal, but he and Stan impressed each other with their mutual knowledge of Lou Gehrig, Carl Yastrzemski, Hal Newhouser and George Sisler.

Dick made fun of Stan behind his back. He jeered him mercilessly during games. But there was a sense of professional courtesy to him. He showed Dan none of the regular boy-man respect, calling him Dan instead of Mr. Taylor, to name one example. But he admired the Taylor’s, in his perverse way. Dick played to win. He was willing to cheat, lie and steal to win, or in order to get his way in anything. In this respect, he was different from his older bro, who was laid back like their folks. Dick liked the competitive nature of the Taylor’s. Dick’s old man coached his teams, but was always about fair play and good sportsmanship. Dick was an adherent of the Al Davis philosophy: “Just win, baby.”

Dick’s father occasionally took him down for some extra practice, but not often. Dick saw that the Taylor’s were getting in additional work whenever they could. He used to see them and join in, offering to shag Stan’s batting practice in return for some BP for himself, or a few extra grounders. Maslin would have done anything to have Stan’s athletic ability, but his highest ground was never going to be high enough.  

Stan was never big on comic books or cartoons. To the extent that he watched any of that stuff, he enjoyed the “Adventures of Superman”. There was a cartoon version on Saturday mornings, which Stan watched. He liked the color blue, which was the color of Superman’s cape and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ uniforms. More than the cartoon, however, he liked the actual TV show starring George Reeves. Stan was finished with cartoons at a very early age. For the rest of his life, he considered anybody who watched them to be a Dumbellionite. He would be amazed at how many college roommates and baseball teammates watched them.

He also enjoyed anything that had to do with the U.S. Cavalry. Again, this had a lot to do with the color blue, which was the color of the Army’s uniforms during the Civil War, and during the Indian campaigns of the 1870s. He had an interest in warfare, as embodied in his interest in anything to do with George Patton.  

While Stan was a product of the “cowboys and Indians” culture in which the cowboys always won, he was still quite fascinated by the Indians - their war paint and shrill cries. He admired the way they entered battle with bows and arrows.

Shirley and Dan bought him a bow and arrow set. It was not the real deal. The arrows could not do major damage, but they would still hurt if one was struck by them with enough force behind it. They could also take an eye out. One day, Dan came home drunk. Stan was lying in wait, like one of Geronimo’s braves. When Dan walked in the door, he fired his arrow at his father. It missed and struck the wall behind him. Dan became enraged. He slapped Stan upside the head, and Stan flew halfway across the room. He slammed into a lamp stand, causing the lamp to fall down on him, and the lampshade to land on his head.

Dan saw what he had done to his young, cherished son, and immediately realized he had done something very wrong. Still, he was not the kind of person who could see himself doing wrong. His personal wiring was out of kilter. No matter how horrendous his own actions, or egregious the thing he did, he not feel guilt, anguish and regret. Instead, he just treated the object of his own bad behavior worse.

He continued to yell and scream at Stan, infuriated beyond comprehension by the fact that he had hurt the poor boy. Instead of hating himself, he heaped venomous hate on his victim for having the temerity to be evidence of his own wrongdoing. The sight of Stan, lying on the floor in pain with a lampshade on his head, shocked and stunned that his own Daddy - the man he loved and revered like a god - could do such a thing to him, just made Dan more enraged. It was as if the boy was taunting him by exposing his faults.   

Dan’s personal flaw would manifest itself thousands of times in a lifetime of confrontations with Stan. It would be the great dividing line between them. Shirley came to his rescue during the lampshade incident. It was the last time he could remember her taking his side. To add to the tragedy, Dan’s flaw became Shirley’s. Many times she would see Dan act like this. So ingrained in her did this behavior become that, as if by Osmosis, eventually she was unable to separate herself from reality. She could not judge right or wrong when her husband decided to lay some hell on her son. The possibility that Stan was right became an impossibility. Rational thought and the instinct of motherly protection went out the window.

Stan Taylor was doomed to face this upside down conundrum over and over again. Stan recalled, for the rest of his days, the feeling of lying bruised and abused with the lampshade on his head, while his father had his mouth clenched in a tight ball, bearing his teeth like the German Shepherd who had eaten his bicep in England.

 

Stan’s duality - shyness mixed with an ache to be noticed once he felt comfortable with his surroundings - made for awkwardness. He could be the class clown, a cut-up putting on a show for others, especially girls. He could do this in a public situation. Then he would later find himself alone with people, and lose his personality. He would become embarrassed easily. Stan could also be a smart ass. Kids played a game called “I eight it.” One kid would say, “I saw a slug and I one it.”

Each kid after that would say, “I two it,” “I three it,” and “I four it,” until the eighth kid was forced to say, “I eight it,” as in “I ate the slug.” Stan was too smart to fall for it. When it came his turn to say, “I eight it,” he looked the others right in the eye and announced, “I seven point fived it!” 

Stan and Dan practiced baseball consistently in the off-season between age eight and nine. Dan pitched batting practice to his son, hit him grounders, had him shag flies, and caught him in the bullpen. Stan read baseball books and studied the game. He took it to heart. At the age of nine, he went from being the worst player in the league to one of the two best. In the first game of the season, he pitched a no-hit game. In his first at-bat, he hit a home run. He threw extremely hard. Once, he accidentally beaned a little kid, breaking his ribs. The kids’ mother came rushing out of the stands, hysterical, and it reminded Stan of the way Shirley had acted when the dog had bitten him. Stan tried to apologize, but he had taken a new role, that of villain. He dominated. He also learned a lesson that would stick with him forever. He had worked for something, and attained it. Hard work pays off. Diligence has its rewards.

Dan did not coach Stan in the midget league, but he did coach him in the minors, which is for 10-year olds. This was where the trouble started. Dan did not seem to grasp what little league baseball was all about. He had been a star who had played for Rod Dedeaux at USC, a pro who had been destined for the big leagues. He was a competitive athlete. His conception of sports was something you tried to win at.

Right from the get-go, Dan ran into problems with other parents. By this time, he had been passed over several times for the big promotions at work. He was drinking heavily. He had not made a splash in politics, although there was some relief in this. Nixon was knee deep in Watergate, and all the “USC mafia” had been swept up in the scandal.     

Dan felt some sense of relief that he had been passed over in, avoiding Watergate. Instead, he had decided to get into the “Stan Taylor business.” His son was going to be a baseball star. He was going to achieve all the things Dan had not. Dan would live his life vicariously through his son. He would guide Stan’s progress, controlling the environment that Stan would operate in. Stan would not repeat the mistakes and pitfalls that had derailed Dan from sports greatness.

Home Market sponsored Stan’s minor league team. Stan continued to be a great little league player. He was tall and athletic, a hard-throwing pitcher, and a skilled shortstop when not on the mound.

Dan ran disciplined practice sessions, based on his experience as a college and pro player. He had many supporters among parents and kids, who loved being involved in a winning program with structure. However, there were those who disagreed with his approach, saying that youth sports should be about fun and games, not winning. These were usually the parents of the kids who were not any good at baseball. There was also a liberal ‘70s attitude that pervaded around that time. An “I’m OK, you’re OK” mindset that tried to de-value the importance of winning.

Dan could have gotten away with structured practices and controlling games with winning strategy. His sin was that he yelled at the kids. A lot. He criticized them. He screamed at them to run faster. He scared some of the kids and a fair number of the parents.

Shirley did not help matters much. She would yell and scream from the stands, echoing her husband. They were the “loud couple.” The worst part was when she would yell encouragement for her son.

“C’mon, Stanleee,” she would yell in her “Screaming Meemies” voice.

If only this could have been avoided. If she had called him Stan, not Stanley, others might have had one less thing to pick up on and mock Stan mercilessly.

“Stan-leee,” he would hear when he came to bat.

Being a star player helped, but if he had not been a star, the attention would not have been on him. Jim Spector coached the Chapel of the Hills team. He was a plumber or an electrician or something. He got up at three in the morning to go to work, for some reason, and coached the team that both his sons, Mike and Steve, played for.

Jim was a red-ass about baseball, but avoided the sort of tantrums that Dan could not help having. His kids were good athletes, but quiet, and they garnered respect from their peers. This peeved Stan. A natural rivalry between the two brothers and Stan, between Jim and Dan, and between Shirley and Jim’s wife, Sophie, was inevitable. What peeved the Taylor’s was the way Sophie would call out encouragement to “my Stevie,” without incurring any raspberries, while Shirley calling her son “Stanley” was the cause of much mockery.

“Stan-leeee.”

Dan would go bananas, and his attitude seemed to infuriate others. One of his players would round third base, heading for home, and Dan would yell, “Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, GO YOU BASTARD, GO!” It could be heard all the way to Portuguese Bend.

These kids were 10 years old.

Stan would be booed when he came to bat. He had seen a picture of former Major Leaguer Jimmie Piersall thumbing his nose at a crowd. He scored a run, and as he crossed the plate, he looked up at the stands and thumbed his nose. Standing at the screen, a foot away, was Steve Spector, who was above taunting and jeering. Stan’s thumbing of his nose appeared to be for him. The boos got louder. 

 

Stan was 10 when his grandfather passed away at the age of 74. Charles, Jr. still lived in Beverly Hills, and every Sunday Shirley would put Stan in a car and drive him to see the old man. Dan never made this visit. Dan and his father had an estranged relationship. Charles, Jr. had favored Charles III over Dan. Just when Dan had felt that it was time to “forgive and forget,” he had run into problems entering politics, while Charles III had become a powerful political advisor and Congressman. Nixon had once held a fundraiser in Orange County. Dan had tried to make contact with Nixon, but to no avail. He called his brother, but he never heard back.

The next day, he saw a photo of his father and brother with Nixon, schmoozing it up. He was pissed.

For these and other reasons, Dan and his father were not close. Stan, however, loved the old man. They had an incredibly close relationship. Stan never got tired of seeing his grandfather. He was never bored. He never chafed to leave early. He loved spending time with him.

Charles, Jr. had a natural affinity for Stan, who was a historian right from the get-go. Charles told him stories about Babe Ruth and Lefty Grove, and Stan knew all about these guys. Charles gave him old books, old magazines, and old games. They were treasures to Stan.

Charles’ other grandchildren, nieces and nephews would visit. They could not possibly have cared less who the hell he was, where he had been or what he had done in his life. They gave him obligatory love. Stan loved him thoroughly. He was genuine about it, and he had deep respect for him.          

Stan read the old books Charles gave him. He absorbed the information and retained it for the rest of his life. This would contribute to his education more than any college courses he would take.

Stan had a board game called All-Star Baseball. It was, by later standards, quite archaic. A round card represented each player with a whole in the middle. The cards were marked by various areas for “single,” “double,” “ground out,” “strikeout,” and so on. The card would be placed in a holder and an arrow would be spun with a flick of the finger. The arrow would land on the card, determining whether the player had struck out, hit a home run, or whatever. The pitcher was no factor, although their cards existed for offensive purposes.

Dan had bought Stan the game. Stan played it, although its limitations frustrated him. Dan had bought Stan the modern version, featuring players of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, and the like. One day at Granddaddy’s, Stan was taken into the garage, where Charles showed him his version of All-Star Baseball. It was like opening up a whole new world. Charles’ game must have been from the 1930s or ‘40s. He had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Ruth’s card had a huge swath for home runs, and almost as big a swath for strikeouts.     

Stan thanked the old man profusely, and cherished that game. Dan saw how much the old board games meant to him. He broke out some of his old, mostly bad football games. Charles, Jr. had passed down to Dan an old game called Howard Jones All-American Football, endorsed by the famous USC coach from the 1920s and ‘30s who the old man had been friendly with. Dan said it was a great game, much better than what he still had. His mother had thrown it out one day when Dan was off fishing.

Dan rushed to the garbage cans, which had not yet been picked up. The game was there, and it could have been saved, but it had rained hard and it was ruined. Dan never forgave his mother for that.

 Later, Stan bought a game called Strat-0-Matic Baseball. This may have been the finest board game ever conceived. Stan had the 1976 version, which consisted of six teams from both the American and National Leagues. He had the Reds, that year’s World Champions, with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and the rest of the Big Red Machine. He had the Dodgers, his favorite team, who had trailed Cincinnati by a large margin in the Western Division despite having a talented squad that included pitcher Don Sutton and first baseman Steve Garvey. The American League included the Yankees, who were swept in four straight in the World Series; the Royals, the Western Division champions; the A’s, who were in their last year of contention during the Charlie Finley era; plus a few other clubs.

Stan did not just play Strat-O-Matic, he absorbed himself in it. He did it all out, which was the way he believed all good things deserved to be done. Stan organized an entire league, and the thing that he loved so much about Start-O-Matic was that he could do it all by himself. He needed no other Dumbellionites to amuse himself. He was on his own. Oh, the glory of this, not to have to rely on anybody else to create fun and excitement. There was nothing else more precious than to have this ability at your fingertips. Strat-O-Matic embodied this concept to him.

He could not wait to get home from school to play Strat-O-Matic. It was even better than reading The Sporting News. He could play this game in the Winter, when his beloved baseball was off the radar screen. In the guest room, where he would set the game down on the big furry rug, it was mid-Summer. Stan kept meticulous score of each game in a Wilson scorebook that Dan bought him. Dan had taught him how to keep score at a very early age. The ability to do this was one of the things that separated worthy people from the unwashed masses.

Dan had also bought Stan a microphone and a tape recorder. Stan would announce the games, pretending he was Vin Scully. He enthused the broadcasts with great hype. On a Tuesday night, Stan would go into the broadcast with, “Good evening, everybody, and welcome to Dodger Stadium, where a capacity crowd of 56,000 is just sitting in to enjoy tonight’s pivotal division contest between the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers.”

  Stan fantasized that every baseball game was one of deep meaning and purpose. He loved the game, preferring it to all others, but was frustrated by the everydayness of baseball. A football game, played once a week, took on great importance and drew capacity crowds. Even basketball, especially college hoops, had that “event” feel to it. But baseball was played almost every day from April to October. No single game, especially during the regular season, had that important and exciting feel to it like a big Saturday college football game between USC and their opponent (who in those days received ritual beatings).

Stan gave the games importance in his mind and in the official recordings of the league. The Wilson scorebook had a line for attendance, and Stan loved this statistic. He filled it in with large capacity or near-capacity crowds for almost every game.  

This seemed to make sense for the Dodgers, who did draw very well, as they always have. Oakland drew dismal attendance, but not in Stan’s league. He liked the A’s. They were his favorite American League club, and in the attendance line for A’s games Stan would write 39,414, or 40,202, some high figure that did not jive with the reality of the Oakland Coliseum crowds of that era. The real attendance was more likely to read something like 6,214. Even if it was a Friday night in July of the early 1970s, with the first place A’s sending Catfish Hunter to the mound against the first place Orioles’ Jim Palmer.

Stan would announce every pitch with flair. He was meticulous in his upkeep of statistics, keeping the player’s season stats on separate sheets of paper. At the end of the season, the Reds had won the National League with a 16-4 record, but the A’s had upset the apple cart in the A.L., defeating New York with a 13-7 mark against the Bronx Bombers’ 12-8. Stan never cheated or did anything that outwardly favored one team over another, but he probably managed the Dodgers and the A’s a little smarter than he managed the Yankees. In the “World Series,” any favoritism he may have felt was of no value to Oakland. Nobody was going to beat Cincinnati, who swept the three-out-of-five series in three straight.

Stan’s favorite pitcher was Tom Seaver of the Mets. There were many reasons why he liked him so much. For one, Seaver was a USC Trojan, the highest form of human being in the Taylor household. But there was another reason. Stan valued intelligence and order, right from the get-go. Seaver embodied this. Stan was influenced in this regard by his father. As a lawyer, Dan was required to stay organized, to be well read, and to be an educated, professional man.

Shirley had become the polar opposite. She was haphazard in the way she kept the house, forgetful and disorganized.  Stan vowed to never be like that. He liked things kept clean and legal, so to speak.

Seaver was smart and very articulate. At that time, some players wore stupid long hair halfway down to their butt. Many uniforms looked awful. The A’s, Padres, Astros and, God forbid, the White Sox of the 1970s looked like softball teams. Seaver kept his hair trimmed nicely. He wore the uniform the right way. The Mets never varied from the traditional look. Neither did the Reds, the team Seaver would be traded to in 1977.

Seaver was everything Stan wanted to be. Dan had adopted him as his favorite. It was because Stan had already done so. Whenever Seaver came to pitch in Los Angeles, Stan and Dan were there. Stan had even met Seaver at USC alumni games, which Dan pitched in every season. Seaver was not particularly gracious, but the Taylor’s overlooked that.

In the Strat-O-Matic league, Seaver was the ace with a sterling 7-0 record, leading in every category - strikeouts, earned run average, and shutouts. The game calculated pitching prowess, pitting the strengths and weaknesses of each hitter vs. each pitcher. However, there was no accounting for fatigue or rest. If Seaver or Palmer was the best pitcher on his staff, statistically he remained the best pitcher all the time, even in the late innings when the real Seaver or Palmer would be tired and required to leave the game in favor of a reliever.

Stan was very careful not to over pitch his guys. As a pitcher himself, he understood this concept well. He admired a manager like Sparky Anderson of the Reds, who was nicknamed Captain Hook because he liberally went to his bullpen and “played percentages” - right-handed pitchers vs. right-handed batters, and so forth.

Stan played Strat-O-Matic in this manner, even though it did not factor in whether a right-hander faced a lefty or a righty. However, he loved Seaver so much that he overused him. This never hurt the card Seaver, as it would have the real flesh-and-blood person. In a 20-game regular season, he was able to usurp Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman enough times to get seven starts, all of which he won. It also explained how Seaver and the Phillies’ Steve Carlton both pitched complete games in an incredible 13-inning, 1-0 victory by the Mets over Philly. Seaver struck out 17. The game was as thrilling to Stan as if he had watched it at Shea Stadium.

Stan liked other sports, all right. He enjoyed college football and was gaga for the Trojans. He had a friend named Dave Bailiff, who lived nearby, albeit down the hill. Bailiff was no athlete, but smart as a whip. His parents were Cal-Berkeley liberals, both teachers, and they knew Stan’s family were rock-ribbed Republicans. They always treated Stan with suspicion, but the children were friends, so they overlooked this “fault.”    

Bailiff and Stan argued some over politics, but this issue did not divide the friendship. All Stan knew at that time was he was a Republican. He had not developed the intellectual artillery to deal with Bailiff if they got into the nitty-gritty.

There were more important things to get into, like Bailiff’s college football game. His board game was not unlike Strat-O-Matic, but did not involve cards representing individual players. His game featured all-time great college teams, such as the 1945 Army Cadets, the 1956 Oklahoma Sooners, the 1966 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers, and Stan’s fave, the 1972 Southern Cal Trojans.

Stan and Dave played various combinations of the teams at Dave’s house over the course of several years. The biggest rivalry was Stan’s ’72 Trojans vs. Bailiff’s ’66 Fighting Irish.

Bailiff had an argumentative side. He was a quiet kid who wore glasses, but he hailed from a family of skilled debaters. Bailiff got it from them. He was not Catholic and his parents probably viewed Notre Dame as being a bunch of imperialists, just like USC. But Stan had the Trojans, so by God Dave would be the Irish.

Bailiff was a smart “coach” who knew his strategy. He played Stan real tough. Nobody really knows who won more and who lost more, but the ’66 Irish played the ’72 Trojans at least even up. This bothered the hell out of Stan. He required victory and undefeated seasons.

In school, Stan was never popular. By junior high he would be downright unpopular, a fact that he blamed on his father. Dan was partially responsible for this predicament. Unpopularity in junior high school is a fate worse than death at that time in one’s life. Stan had relationships with other kids, but he could not trust anybody. Almost everybody who acted like his friend would turn on him like a two-time loser dropping a dime.

One of these “relationships” was a kid named Frankie Yagman. Yagman was the son of a plumber. In those days, there were still working class families living on the peninsula. These families had lived in houses there for 20 or 30 years.

Yagman was white trash, not because his old man was a plumber, but because he was an untrustworthy loser with no class. Yagman’s was ye-high to a grasshopper. He was badly infected with a terrible condition that every man over six feet tall knows all about, called “little man’s disease.” His father never stood more than 5-5, and he passed it on to his only son. In the full plume of adulthood, Frankie would never be more than 5-5, either. Frankie hated being short, and was at war with all tall people. Stan was the tallest kid in the class.

Yagman had some abilities, but he was so badly infected by little man’s disease that he could not take any pride in those abilities. Yagman was not a bad-looking kid. He was not stupid. He was an excellent athlete. But he was a pain in the ass.

Years later, he would see Stan around town, wearing a suit. Yagman had just gotten parole after being caught driving with a bunch of cocaine in the back seat of his car. It would be Dan Taylor who would represent him in court, getting his sentence suspended. Yagman, like the child molester and addict Mike Lodeen, never did pay Dan. Dan took cases like these, representing the last remnants of white trash to occupy the P.V. Peninsula, out of some strange sense of noblesse oblige.

Frankie was good enough to make all-stars in baseball. Despite his size, he competed at a high level in every sport he participated in. He was tremendously aggressive, kind of a childhood Pete Rose, who was his favorite player. The fact that Rose was Yagman’s favorite and Seaver was Stan’s number one describes their differences in a nutshell.

Frankie’s teams never beat Stan’s, which frustrated him to no end. Years later, in the darkness of his jail cell, Frankie admitted to himself that he did stupid things to get noticed, like getting arrested for drugs. He traced this back to an unfulfilled desire to beat Stan Taylor.

Long before the coke arrest or any of that, Frankie would be one of the few classmates of Stan’s to trudge up the hill to his house after school. He did not want anything to do with that hike, but Stan did it every day, and challenged the little grommet to do it, too. It was irresistible to Frankie, simply because the challenge came from his rival.

The two would play catch, shoot some hoops, and play still another board game, called Foto-Electric Football. This game was not as intricate as the college game that David Bailiff had. In Foto-Electric, there was no differentiation between pro and college. There were no teams (Raiders, Rams, Trojans) or individual players. What it came down to was that one player would guess what kind of play the offensive team would run, and place a card designed to defense that play, upside down (so as not to be seen by the offensive player), on the screen, or field, with emphasis either to the right side, left side, or up the middle.

The offensive player would choose a play (wide-out, off-tackle, halfback option), and emphasize a side of the field. When both players had placed their cards on the screen, one would illuminate the field, and the action would play itself out like the X’s and O’s on a coach’s diagram board.

Stan loved the running game. His beloved Trojans emphasized the run. Those were the days of “Tailback U.,” when SC had All-Americans and Heisman Trophy winners at the position every year. He also admired Woody Hayes, whose offensive philosophy was the famed “three yards and a cloud of dust” at Ohio State.

There was something primal to the running game that appealed to Stan’s sense of order and military discipline. If Patton had been a football coach, he would have stayed on the ground. To run the ball with everybody knowing it ahead of time, and to still win, was to thoroughly dominate. That did not occur when the ball was put in the air.

Yagman liked to pass. He tried trick plays, option reversals, anything. Stan played it close to the vest, staying on the ground. Yagman would be convinced that his rival would go to the air. It could be third-and-long. Surely Stan would pass. Nope. Stan would run it for the first down, to the increasing frustration of the little pipsqueak.

Yagman never beat Stan Taylor. Many times he trudged up that hill, only to get his butt kicked in Foto-Electric Football. It wore on him, grated him. It had a lasting impression on him. To the extent that Yagman “went bad” at some point, the 42-7 thrashings he regularly had handed to him by Stan in Foto-Electric had a lot to do with it.

Finally, Yagman thought he had Taylor’s tendencies figured out. He knew Stan would run and stopped him cold. He made smart plays on offense instead of going for long, wild gains that in the past had resulted in heartbreaking interceptions. He had Taylor beaten, 14-0, entering the fourth quarter, and he was in full Little Man Complex. He danced, he sang, he howled. He told Stan in no uncertain terms what he thought of his lanky ass, now that he had him beat.

“Whaddaya think now, Stan-lee?” Yagman ragged his host. “Huh. Not so proud now, are ya? Fuck you, Taylor.”

Stan Taylor was that rare kid who understood what discipline was all about. He lived up on that hill with no siblings and few neighbor friends. He had learned how to amuse himself. He had endeavored to engage in activities that required hard work and dedication. If one put effort into it, one saw the payoffs.

Stan had seen the payoffs. He was the worst player in the Palos Verdes Midget League at age eight. He and his dad spent every chance they could practicing the game prior to the next season. At age nine, he was close to the best player in the league.

Stan would not panic. He would not give in and change his strategy. Plus, he knew that Frankie Yagman was counting on that. Midway through the fourth quarter, Stan got the ball on his own 24, trailing by two touchdowns. There was no time to grind it out on the ground. He had to go to the air, and Yagman was ready.

So, Yagman arranged his prevent defense to stop the pass. Still, Taylor kept running. Even on third-and-eight, his off-tackle would be good enough for eight, sending Yagman into red-faced apoplexy. 

Taylor drove the field on nine running plays to score a touchdown to make it 14-7. He held Yagman, got the ball back, and again defied the smaller kid with his all-ground attack, pushing up field for a field goal to make it 14-10. Yagman was sweating it out, but there was no time. Except that Stan forced a fumble. He drove for another first down, and now had one play left. He needed 21 yards. Yagman knew the tall boy would throw a pass. Surely, now he would pass. He put all his eggs in one basket, looking for that pass that never came.

One can imagine the response Napoleon gave his marshals when, as day divided into night, he received word that the Prussians had returned, and that Wellington had won the day at Waterloo. That was what Yagman acted like when he saw the play develop on that green electric “field.” His safety was ready to meet the ball carrier at the two. Stan’s man moved past the ten, to the five, to the two, and at the last second, as if God was telling him “screw you, pal,” the ball carrier veered away from the safety for the score. 16-14, Taylor over Yagman.

Frankie went crazy. He tore up things. He threw things, which of course pissed off Stan, because they were in his room. But Stan had triumphed. He had done it by keeping his cool and sticking to the plan. A life lesson learned.

Yagman ran upstairs, crying like a baby, straight into Shirley’s arms.

“I can’t beat him,” he bawled.

“Oh, sure you can,” was all Shirley could think to say.

“He’s better at me in everything,” continued Frankie. “I get a B+, he gets an A. I finished second, he finishes first. He’s taller than me and everybody hates me. It ‘s just not fair.

“Life’s not fair,” Shirley told the kid. It was not the best statement she could make. It just reinforced Frankie’s conviction that he was the little man and he would always be the little man. The world would be run by big men, like Stan Taylor, with his blonde hair, his blue eyes, with his powerful right arm that threw strikes, and with that mind of his that had beaten him in Foto-Electric Football.

The bastard.

Frankie was the first person to realize that Stan was a true survivor. Their “friendship” was based partly on the fact that both of them were outsiders, for various reasons. Both of them were unpopular in school. Both of them were egotistical pricks who paid for their personality flaws in the schoolyard jungle.

Frankie loved it when the other kids would gang up on Stan. He would happily fan those flames whenever he had the chance. But he was always frustrated to see Stan come back. Just when it looked like the tall kid was down for the count, Taylor would find a way to survive. The child jackals could not beat him. Frankie saw this, and grudgingly admired his rival for this reason. He knew he did not possess this capacity of inner strength. Few did. 

Frankie was determined to get better grades than Stan, too. One semester, he was all A’s in English, while Stan floundered around F. Then, as the semester neared the end, Stan rebounded and made the obligatory comeback that was his trademark. Just like he had in Foto-Electric Football.

The teacher had called in Stan’s mother. He was a handsome, gay Latino man named Mr. Alvarez. She was told that if the kid did not pull it together he might flunk. Stan had been in a terrible funk, unpopular with the other kids, harassed and depressed. Mr. Alvarez was very sympathetic towards his young student. He explained to Shirley that the other kids made life very miserable for her son.

Instead of giving in to it, though, Stan decided to show everybody that the cream rises to the top. He did it through Excellence. When Shirley visited Mr. Alvarez towards the semester’s end, she asked if her son still was getting an F.

“He’s getting an A,” he announced.

This infuriated Frankie Yagman.

One day, they were talking together about some project, and Stan used the word “miscellaneous.” Yagman just laughed as if he had heard the funniest thing in his life. He had no clue what the hell “miscellaneous” meant.

Stan Taylor just looked at him as if was a Dumbellionite, which he was. Stan was prejudiced from early in life. He was biased against stupidity.

Stan had another friend. He was a sensitive, dark-haired kid named Richard. Richard was of Italian descent, a good-looking boy who was immediately popular with the girls. He was the first person Stan Taylor ever knew who had a girl friend. This was probably around the fourth grade. Richard’s girlfriend was a tall, dark-haired girl named Maggie. Maggie, at least in Stan’s eyes, was a “dirty girl.” She was not especially pretty, but had a “knowing” quality to her. Stan imagined that she kissed Richard. She spoke in grown-up terms of “going steady” and “going with” Richard. All of this made Stan jealous. However, he and Richard were pals. In a weird way, Stan lived vicariously through Richard. Richard would tell him about Maggie, and in this regard Stan was getting great inside information.

Stan often hung out at Richard’s house after school, and Richard would occasionally come up the hill to Stan’s. One weekend, Richard stayed for a sleepover. It was a hot Summer night. The two boys slept in the same room. They lay there and told revealing secrets to each other.

Stan desperately wanted to have a girlfriend, but having a friend who had one was almost as good. When Richard started talking about Maggie, Stan felt a rush of exhilaration. It was as if he had a girlfriend, as if Richard was describing Maggie kissing him.

They were pre-pubescent fourth graders, curious about sex. Stan knew that he liked girls. As he got older, his heterosexuality was reinforced at every twist and turn. At every possible test, he passed with flying colors. Deep in his heart and soul, where people know what they are, he knew what he was.

One other friend was Al Erlanger, who lived up the street from him. There were never many kids his age that lived on the hill, but Al did. Al was a fair basketball player, and they would play one-on-one. Stan always won, which worked out perfectly. Al accepted the defeats graciously, so his place in Stan’s world was secure. Until, one day, he was beating Stan. As he was driving for the winning lay-up to the garage-hung basket, Stan body slammed him into the driveway pavement. Al did not make the shot. He realized how ugly Stan was. They shouted and called each other horrible names. Al stomped off. At first, Stan was smug with the satisfaction that he had not “lost” the game, since Al never officially scored the winning hoop.

Later on, however, Stan realized he had screwed up. He had very few friends, and Al had been one of them. Now he was gone. Stan was ready to apologize to Al at school on Monday, but Al had joined up with a group of his tormentors.

“Pussy, pussy, pussy boy,” he taunted.

“You’re a pussy,” Stan returned to Al, lamely.

“Pussy boy pussy pussy pussy pussy boy,” Al continued.

Stan was enraged. He had lorded over Al. In the hierarchy of things, he had stood higher. Stan was the better athlete, but now Al had caught up with him, at least in one game of driveway hunch. Now he was turning things around.

Throughout the rest of junior high school, Stan felt the tingle of green envy when Al actually had a girlfriend. Nothing could be better revenge than to have a girlfriend, while Stan had nobody.

Al and Stan would go to different high schools. Al played freshman and junior varsity basketball, and the local paper covered the games with small blurbs. Stan would die when he read about Al scoring 12 points to lead his team to victory. Worse, Dan, who knew Al, would always comment on Al’s latest hoops triumph. Stan just wanted to remain silent, as if by saying nothing it did not happen.

Dan would exacerbate the situation by remarking, “If it’s not you, you just don’t care. You don’t want anybody else to have success. You’re the most selfish kid I’ve ever seen.”

“He’s right,’ Shirley would just pile it on. “You’re self-centered. It’s sickening.”

Of course, they were right.  Stan would die a little bit at a time. As the years passed, whenever Dan would bring up the accomplishments of a kid they knew from little league, Stan would pretend he did not remember.

“Bullshit,” Dan would remark. 

Stan had as close a relationship with his father as any kid ever had. It was too close. They were too intertwined with each other. They loved each other totally, but it was with an unhealthy intensity.  Stan idolized the old man. He wanted his approval. He wanted to be like him. He lived his life to shine in Dan’s world. When he failed, his world would crumble around him.

Dan was all about his son. He talked about Stan constantly with friends, acquaintances, clients, barroom pals. At the Elk’s Club, Stan would introduce his red-faced son as “the young man who struck out 16 of 18 Pirates on Sunday afternoon.” In little league, there was very little to disappoint the father. Stan was one of the best players ever to come out of the Palos Verdes Little League, almost a legend, a guy who they talked about for years after he had left.

By the time Stan established himself as a little league icon, Dan’s own personal ambitions had gone down the tubes. His political ambitions had been dashed. He had imagined that he would ride his success as an athlete to greater glory. He felt that being a baseball and football star who had gone on to become a lawyer and an associate of Nixon, was the first step. But he had not taken it all the way.

Somewhere along the line, he found that the train left the station without him. His brother had become a rich and famous Republican, but he had never lifted his finger to help his younger brother. The two never even spoke any more. There was a rift in the family. Dan had become the “black sheep,” his alcoholism and foul mouth making him appear to be a buffoon that nobody wanted to be around.   

Dan just isolated himself. He tried to take comfort in the fact that Watergate had occurred and he had not been one of the “unindicted co-conspirators.” Still, he saw some of those “USC Mafia” that Donald Segretti talked about and almost wished he had been one of them, if only for the sake of the fame and notoriety that he had once coveted.

When Stan came along and started hitting home runs and pitching no-hitters, Dan lost most of his self-identity. He no longer washed his car, and did not fix the various dents that accumulated on it. He just kept driving an old clunker Impala that was an embarrassment. Dan developed an “us vs. them” philosophy and passed it on to his family. Everybody else was an “asshole,” a “cocksucker,” a “shanty Irish bastard,” “a Kuyke Jew,” or a “black asshole.” In his view, this new Affirmative Action world was now against him, and by dint of that, against his son, his family, and his kind.

At school, Stan was taught about the civil rights movement. One day Stan came home and made a remark to his dad that Martin Luther was a “great man.” Dan was caught somewhere between amusement and annoyance.

“I’m not so sure about that,” he told Stan.

There seemed to be strong evidence that Dan was a racist, but it was not that easy. The old man was a complex character, and making the judgment that he was racist was not, pardon the pun, a black and white issue. Like most things in life, his opinions regarding race were colored with gray areas.

Somewhere along the line, he had reached the conclusion that there was too much reverse racism. Too many guilty white liberals. Too many militant blacks. Too many foreigners. Too many ungrateful, unpatriotic Americans.

Dan was a man who loved his country, right or wrong. He had grown up in the 1940s and ‘50s, when America could do no wrong. He felt unequivocally that the United States had saved the world from Nazism, from Japanese Imperialism, and was now the thin red line between freedom and Communism. He had supported the Vietnam War, and viewed the hippy protesters as traitors.

He thought Nixon was a great a President, and blamed the liberal media for bringing him down. He was furious that Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and the Washington Post had devoted all their energies to exposing Watergate.

“Where were they,” he wanted to know, “when Joe Kennedy, Jim Daley and the Democrats were stealing votes in Illinois and Texas? Stealing the 1960 election from Nixon for that fair-haired boy Kennedy? That’s the worst political crime ever committed in this country.”

The Kennedy’s were the target of his greatest vitriol. He viewed John and Robert Kennedy as martyrs whose deaths covered up their numerous flaws. He pointed out that while JFK might have done a good job during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nikita Khrushchev never would have put missiles on the island had Nixon been President.

With John and Bobby gone, he directed his hate towards Teddy Kennedy. Dan was infuriated by the fact that Teddy got off “Scot free” after killing a girl at Chappaquidick. He was a “shanty Irish bastard.” Where Dan got his strong anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiments is unclear. Maybe it was because he admired Winston Churchill and the pluck of the British in surviving the Blitzkrieg. He was pro-Monarchy, and had nothing but contempt for the IRA. It had nothing to do with his religious views. He had none. By the 1970s, Dan was an admitted “agnostic at best, if not an outright atheist.” He despised Notre Dame, which was understandable only because, as a USC man, the Irish were his team’s rivals. However, most Trojan and Notre Dame fans have mutual respect for each other. The rhetoric that surrounds their annual bloodletting never takes on religious overtones.

Growing up in the West, Dan was supposed to be free of the ancient ethnic rivalries that dominated the boroughs and wards of the American East Coast, or the racial baggage that had emerged from the Reconstructionist South. Where did he go “wrong?”

The conundrum of Dan Taylor’s racial views was as confusing as the strange, loving, hateful way he acted towards his only son, or the way he came to treat his wife with equal parts contempt and idolatry.

Dan did not like himself. Why not? He probably had, at one time. He had been a golden boy. He was destined to be a mover and shaker, but his ship never came in. His personal failures coincided with a period of great upheaval in American history, the 1960s. This created a convenient excuse for him. He could blame the disparate elements of the Radical Left for making it politically inconvenient for a man of his traditional moorings to rise above silent membership in the Silent Majority.

Except, he was not so silent. He found little but contempt for many blacks and minorities. This was odd, because he had never been prejudiced. He was not raised to be prejudiced. His parents, his grandfather, his brother; his family was completely lacking in prejudice, especially considering their times. Dan was just like they were.

He took great pride in the fair way he felt about minorities. He was a huge fan of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. In his playing days, he had black and Latino teammates. He had gone out of his way to befriend them, sometimes to the detriment of his relationships with the Southerners, and guys from rural areas. He viewed himself as a fair-haired Californian, above the evils of bigotry.

On a number of occasions, he had invited minority teammates to his home in the off-season, never thinking twice about it. His family always welcomed them with open arms. He would show them around L.A., taking them drinking, chasing women together like he was Frank Sinatra hanging with Sammy Davis, Jr. and his gang was a version of the Rat Pack. He was never offended when one of his black pals hooked up with a white chick, sometimes even a girl he had eyes for.

 He was a smart guy, inquisitive of other cultures, anything but close-minded. Stan had met a number of blacks and Latinos who had known his dad, played with him, gained his trust and friendship. They raved about his father.

The changes were incremental. One such change occurred at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Dan took Stan to see the U.S.-Soviet Union track meet. A distinguished black man was in attendance, and Dan pulled his son in front of the man.

“Stan,” Dan said, in front of the bemused black gentleman, “I want you to meet one of the greatest athletes of all time. This is Jesse Owens.”

“Jesse Owens!” exclaimed young Stan. “Wow.”

“Jesse Owens” just looked at Stan and Dan with a wry look on his face.

“I’m not Jesse Owens,” he said. “I’m Mack Robinson.”

Stan look confused. Dan turned red with embarrassment.

“I’m so sorry,” he stammered. “I thought you were Jesse Owens. You look just like him. You look like an athlete, which of course you are. I played football against Muir, after you left of course. I’m Dan Taylor. I played at USC. This is my young son, Stan. He plays in the Palos Verdes Little League, quite a pitcher. Uh, yes, at any rate, I’m sorry. Take care.”

Mack Robinson just looked at Dan as if he was a Dumbellionite. Dan had spoken to him obsequiously, and felt like every word he said was digging him farther into a hole. Stan was confused by the whole situation. He also knew who Mack Robinson was. The whole thing was odd.

Mack was Jackie Robinson’s brother, and for that reason alone he carried a certain animus towards white folks. He had been a tremendous athlete in his own right, growing up with Jackie in Pasadena, where they starred at Muir High School and Pasadena City College. Over the years, he had dealt with the stigma of being Jackie’s brother. It was a stigma because, if one loved Robinson, well, Mack was simply not Jackie. If one hated Jackie, then Mack was sure to get a dose of that hate. Either way, the fame and success of his brother had escaped him.

Now, this white buffoon was confusing him with Jesse Owens. Typical white man, they think all blacks look the same.

In his entire life, Dan had never felt like a black had viewed him as anything other than a friend and ally, until now. He was angered at the way Mack Robinson had acted towards him, as if he was stupid or something, and in front of his son at that. He did not like that “chip on his shoulder” attitude.

Dan was seeing it more and more now. Blacks in the streets who eyed him suspiciously. Sullen looks. Militants. Black Panthers. The Symbionese Liberation Army. More and more, Dan would watch the news, read the papers, listen to the commentators, the pundits who bayed and barked and complained. Increasingly, he was made to feel like he, personally, was being accused of racism. Dan, like many white people who were not prejudiced, took particular exception to the notion that he was.

No longer on the fast track at the law firm, he found himself assigned to some low rent housing discrimination cases in which he had to go to the Federal projects on several occasions. He would enter the squalid buildings, where human urine, feces and garbage could be found in the fetid, stench-infested staircases. He had no respect for these people, who had no respect for themselves. He found it more and more difficult to make excuses for them, and was ineffective as an attorney arguing their victim hood.

Hanging around at the downtown Joe’s, he had seen the neighborhood go from bad to worse, and he viewed blacks as the cause of this decline. He saw them hanging around the street corners, pimping their women, selling their drugs, committing their crimes, and eschewing the notion of work. He had little respect for any blacks, even successful ones. In his view, successful ones were an exception.

In the 1970s, the downtown area became home to a number of Vietnamese boat people. Dan observed, over a period of years, how these people had come to America with nothing. The new immigrants were on the low end of the totem pole on the streets.  Then he started to see liquor stores and restaurants owned by these people. He would see them driving nice cars and enjoying success. Over time, he got to know some of the shop owners and small businessmen. He became acquainted with their children, and periodically would inquire where one of them was.

“She’s at UCLA now,” would be a typical proud answer. Then Dan would leave the store, besieged by the same black faces begging for money. Pimps and whores. Drug peddlers. It did not have a positive effect on his assessment of the black race. 

The kicker occurred on a trip to Washington, D.C. Dan had business at the downtown courthouse, and afterwards went to dinner at Blackie’s, a famous restaurant and watering hole where the politicians would meet to hammer out deals or make liaison with women, not necessarily their wives.

After dinner, Dan went to his rental car, opened it, and had just slid into the driver’s seat when a black criminal opened the unlocked passenger side door. He entered, and stuck a shiv, which is what they called knives in prison, into the side of Dan’s neck. There, shouting distance from a restaurant where Congressmen at that moment were eating dinner, and just a few blocks from the White House, the black criminal robbed Dan of his gold watch and the money in his wallet.

“Move an’ I’ll kill yo honkey ass,” the criminal told him. “Hear me, yo white muvafucka? Gimme dat fuckin’ watch.”

Dan very carefully took the watch off his wrist. He thought about his blonde-haired son and his lovely wife. He acted with deliberate caution, all the while feeling the knife pressing against his carotid vein. He sensed that the robber was not there to kill, but that he would kill if he must. Dan knew he was vulnerable to circumstances. He was careful not to look at the man, because he felt like the robber would murder him if he thought he was being eyeballed too closely for positive identification.

The robber demanded his wallet. Dan removed it carefully from his coat pocket, took out his cash, and handed it over. In a flash, the man was gone, running like the wind into the night.

Dan sat there, shaking. It was a life-changing experience. He filed a police report. The cops were sympathetic, but not helpful. They were all white and expressed nothing but contempt for the blacks that had “taken over” the streets of the nation’s capitol. Dan knew that these police dealt with black crime every day, and were hardened well beyond the point of excusing blacks of their criminal behavior. The police saw too much to give much credence to the social causes of the black underclass.

Dan Taylor had sympathized with the plight of blacks. He had watched the black-and-white televised images of their violent confrontations with rednecks on the bridge in Birmingham and the courthouse in Montgomery. His heart went out to the memory of slaves. He had what he thought was a good understanding of the disadvantages of being black in America. He desperately wanted very much to be part of the solution for black America, not the problem.

This event was not on television, however. There were no reporters, no camera crews. Just him, all by himself. Dealing with reality. At first, he was in too much shock to make much sense of it, or put a social spin on things. The next night, however, after cash advancing his credit card at the bank for emergency money, Dan was invited by some business associates to a baseball game between Baltimore and Washington at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in D.C.

The crowd was sparse and lacked the excitement of a Redskins football game. The team would soon depart for Arlington, Texas due to lack of fan support. When the game ended, the men made their way to the car in the parking lot. A palpable sense of danger set in. Roving bands of black youths were moving through the parking lot and adjacent streets. Various cries, shouts and menacing threats could be heard. The men said nothing, but moved with deliberation to the car. They eyed the vehicle for vandalism, quickly opened the doors, and departed. They passed several of the groups of roving blacks, in the parking lots and on the streets. The blacks checked the car out, as if looking for vulnerability, potential value and making a risk assessment. They were predators.

The three men in the car, all white men in suits, shifted in quiet nervousness. Not a word was spoken. The man driving the car, a corporate lawyer from Fairfax, Virginia, was sweating bullets. He was charged with properly finding the correct exit to the freeway - and safety. The tension in the car was unmistakable. If he failed to find the freeway exit, if the car were to take a wrong turn and they found themselves lost in the neighborhoods, they would find themselves in a modern day “Heart of Darkness”. All the rules of civilized society, their accomplishments, education, all the barriers they had put up to insulate their families from danger, would be of no value to them should they be stranded in such a place.

The freeway was found, and soon the car was picking up speed on the Washington Beltway. The silence was finally broken when the other lawyer in the car remarked, to no one in particular, “I can see why the Senators don’t draw well.”

It was then and there that Dan Taylor’s attitude towards blacks, and all things that represented this changing world - all things that did not side with his conservative view of the America he had grown up with - hardened in his heart.

In the succeeding years, after never having done so in his entire life, Dan found himself using words like “nigger.” He was a smart guy, a lawyer for Christ’s sake, given to examination. He sometimes found it necessary to justify his newfound attitude, as if he had discovered certain facts after a long study.

“I hate to admit it,” he would say, “but I’ve become prejudiced. I just feel differently now about blacks.”

Dan had become, ironically, what he hated being accused of. Prejudice and bigotry are said to be products of ignorance. Dan was not ignorant. He had arrived at his conclusions and attitudes after years of experience. The question is whether his analysis was faulty. 

He was also an alcoholic in charge of a highly dysfunctional, volatile family. Still, Stan Taylor could never say his old man was not there for him, all the way. Maybe too much, but he was always there. Never, not one single solitary time in his memory, did Stan ever recall his father not having time for him. Stan loved baseball. It was healthy and beautiful, and even at the early age of 11 he sensed that his life was not beautiful, that a cancer was gnawing away from the inside.

But the green little league fields were a place where things could favor him, where the game was still pure. Stan dedicated himself to it. He practiced it. He lived up on a hill, and by the time he was a kid, baseball had ceased to become the sandlot game of myth, when kids would gather like ritual clockwork on an empty lot to play. By his time, kids were riding bikes and getting in trouble. Baseball was either organized or not very available. He had gone to the fields when he was a little kid and found pick-up games, but that sweet memory cruelly eluded him when he would venture to the field with his spikes and glove, waiting around in vain for a game to develop.

So, the kid asked his dad to practice with him. He asked him after school. He asked him on weekends. He asked him during the season and during the off-season. He called the old man at work and asked him to come home early to practice.

Maybe there was a time when Dan told the kid he had other plans. Maybe, but Stan never remembered that ever happening. The old man was there every single time.  Dan was a flawed man and an imperfect parent, but there is no way of downplaying the goodness of such a man who would devote so much of himself to his son. In a world of deadbeat dads, of fathers who ignore or abuse their kids, the love and care that Dan Taylor showed his only boy is immeasurable. Events, time and personality conflicts would create a split between father and son, but the times they had together on the dusty P.V. fields are the tie that binds. The arguments, the yelling, the blaming…powerful elements pulled them apart, but baseball and its memories always would have the power to bridge their differences.

Dan did not just practice with Stan and coach his teams. He took his boy to games, too. Adams, Duque & Hazeltine had a season box at Dodger Stadium. Dan became the caretaker of the seats. It became something of a joke at the firm, that while he had not made partner and probably never would, Dan had the Dodger season tickets, and he made full use of them.

Occasionally, Shirley would come along. Sometimes one of Stan’s teammates would accompany them. But most of the time it was Dan and Stan. When father and son went to games, all was right with the world. The petty confrontations, the problems and differences were part of something else. The experience of the outing was their special world, not to be infiltrated by other things. It was, and would always remain, sacred.

Throughout the years that Stan played little league, Babe Ruth League, and high school baseball, he and his dad attended about 40 Dodger games a year. They had a special route to the stadium, parked in the same space near the exit so as to make a quick getaway, and almost always arrived early to watch batting practice.

It was a major effort for Dan, and played no small role in his “failure” to move further up the ladder in the legal profession. He simply had made the choice to trade his hours in favor of his son. This meant that if the Dodgers were playing at 7:00 p.m. during the week, Dan would leave the office by three in order to get to Palos Verdes Estates by four. He would quickly change, and be back on the road with Dan. They would not eat dinner. They would battle the L.A. traffic back to the downtown area, where Dodger Stadium is, trying to get there by five or 5:30 for batting practice.

Dan would drink beers, and they would indulge in some peanuts, but the two of them would starve themselves throughout the game. Dodger fans are notorious for leaving early. Dan and Stan never, ever left early. Not if the score was 12-1. Not if it was a school night. Not if the game went extra innings. Baseball was religion, and leaving early was sacrilegious.

The entire ritual was never complete until they stopped at Joe’s, the one near where they lived, for a late-night dinner on the way home. They would be so hungry by that point that the food was more than just food. It was sustenance, pure Heavenly sustenance. Dan would drink red wine. Stan had milk. The waiters all knew where they had come from, and they would give a rundown on the game’s activities. If it was a Friday or Saturday night game, or during the Summer, Stan knew he had the luxury of sleeping in the next day, and he cherished every second of the experience.

The Dodgers were their team, but they also ventured to Anaheim Stadium for about 10 games a year. They always made sure to see the A’s when they came in to play the California Angels. They rarely missed any USC football games. They went to the occasional USC basketball game, and even ventured into enemy territory every so often to watch UCLA play at Pauley Pavilion, or a Bruin football game at the Coliseum. Dan also took Stan to see USC’s baseball team play at Dedeaux Field several times a year. They were sports fans. They went to every kind of sporting event whenever they could. They almost never argued or had reason to disagree on these occasions.   

Dan also loved fishing. His father and brother never touched a fishing pole in their lives. They were elitists, but Dan had a natural love for the outdoors. The Taylor’s owned a cabin on Lake Tahoe, and Dan took his family up there every year. He liked to gamble at the nearby Nevada casinos, where he received free drinks from waitresses, who looked like thinly disguised hookers. Dan would lose his money and flirt with the girls with the push-ups bras and too much make-up.

He also fished the lakes and streams surrounding Tahoe. Mainly, he settled on spots on the Truckee River, or other areas north of the lake. He fly fished the Truckee and the West Walker Rivers, or just used regular rods on the streams and high mountain lakes. Sometimes he fished reservoirs. He bought a boat and fished Tahoe, but did not cotton to that. He preferred to stand, to feel for every pulse of the rod, ready to snap it back and hook a trout.

Dan was meticulous about fishing. He spent hours getting ready, selecting the rods, tying the flies, placing his equipment in his vehicle, just so. Once at the location, it was all very serious business. Dan did not want anybody swimming where he was fishing. That disturbed the fish. He would yell at the family dog when splashing in the water.   

Fishing in the Taylor family was a ritual of joy and pain. It brought them all together. At night, they would listen to Scully broadcast the Dodger game on the radio, huddled around it as if they were listening to one of FDR’s “fireside chats.”  It had its downside, too.

Once, they went camping. In the middle of the night, it started to rain. Sleeping in the tent, Stan woke up, and said he had to urinate. Dan did, too, but it was wet and muddy outdoors, so he found a nearby pot.

“I’ll go first,” he announced.

Dan held the pot in the darkness, and urinated into it. When finished, he dumped it outside. Then he held it out for Stan. Stan tried to figure out his position. He got himself ready. Then he let it fly. No sooner had the urine started to flow, than he knew he had missed the mark. Instead of the sound of urine hitting the pot, he heard it hitting his father’s hand and pajama sleeve, splashing back at him and in the sleeping bags. Once he had started, however, Stan was unable to stop the flow. It was a regular free-for-all.

GODDAM IT ALL TO LOUSY ROTTEN HELL YOU GODDAM SON OF A BITCH COCKSUCKING SON OF A BITCH BASTARD PRICK ASSHOLE MOTHERFUCKING GODDAM IT.”

Stan heard the foul words, all applied to him by his dad. He was at once appalled and amused. He was frightened, yet could not help laughing at his father. This made Dan even more enraged.

GODDAMN IT ALL TO HELL YOU FUCKING LITTLE PISSANT GODDAM IT ALL TO LOUSY ROTTEN YOU NO GOOD LITTLE ASSHOLE.”

There was nothing left to do but go back to sleep. Shirley told Dan to stop swearing, but of course she excoriated Stan for urinating on his father’s arm, which somehow made Stan smile. Why he found it funny, he was unable to understand. He just did.

The next day, there was no talk of the incident. The Taylor’s had a remarkable quality, really a tremendous survival mechanism. They could yell, scream and swear at each other, and the next day, even the next hour or minute, act as if it had never happened. 

On another occasion, the Dodgers were playing a day game while the Taylor’s were vacationing at Tahoe. At night, they could pick up the broadcasts pretty easily, but during the day the best reception was in the car. Dan went to the car to listen to the game. Stan strolled up there, too.

They sat for a while listening to the game. Then Stan had to pass gas. He knew that to do so around the old man was a deadly sin. Dan saw no humor in flatulence. So, Stan casually got up as if to stretch. He walked around the car and let a serious gas bomb fly. No sooner had he done that than he could hear Scully say, through the static, “Garvey swings. He connects. This has a chance.”

Stan hurried back into the car.

“…and its outta here. My what a clout for Garvey, and that puts the Dodgers back in the…”

At that moment, he smelled the fart. He had not stayed outside long enough, and it had maintained its presence in his pants when he re-entered the car. Stan knew he was in trouble, for once he smelled it, Dan would get his whiff in one, two, three seconds…

GODDAM ALL TO LOUSY HELL GODDAMN KID WITH YOUR GODDAMN SMELLY ASS GODDAMN SON OF A BITCH!”

The words stung hard. It is a terrible thing for a child to hear such words from a parent. Stan just opened the door and left the car. He could hear his father continuing to swear in the car, mixed with the static-filled sound of Scully exulting the Dodgers taking the lead. Stung, Stan meandered back to the cabin. Despite the pain, a small smile worked the side of his mouth. His father was a source of humor. Dangerous humor, but humor nevertheless. Being able to laugh at his old man was his way of coping.

When he got to the cabin, Shirley asked how the game was going.

“There was quite an explosion when Garvey homered,” he said, enjoying his own metaphor.

Shirley was not inclined to like fishing particularly, but her husband did, and so she learned to like it. She enjoyed the serenity of the high mountains, the clean air and natural surroundings. She eventually became adept at tying flies and baiting her own hook.

Stan was never into fishing in a major way, but he did find joy in it. He wanted to be close to his father. He wanted that bond. He needed it like air. Stan was not popular at school, and not a whiz with the chicks. He was a loner. He was very traditional. His mother had told him the Beatles were evil, and he had believed her. He was a throwback, not a child of the modern era, the bell-bottom ‘70s, the post-hippy modernists. He was a child who felt comfortable living 50 years before his time, and he never liked his peers. He felt above them, as if he knew things they did not know, and he could not explain it to them because they were too stupid to understand. But the old man knew. He was on to the same things. They were cut from the same cloth.

When Stan went fishing with him, he let Dan do most of the work. Stan carried stuff, but the technical details, tying the flies, adjusting the rods, selecting the rods, that kind of thing, he left up to the old man. This was Dan’s territory. Dan was anal retentive about it. Nobody else could do these tasks like he could, so he would tend to them, damn it. 

Stan was okay as a fisherman, but he tended to get hooked up too much. His line was always getting snagged on debris. Usually, Dan would put down what he was doing and untangle his son. Stan was never much good at untangling his lines. If the old man did not do it, he would lose everything - hook, line and sinker.

Periodically, Stan would snag consecutive casts, and he chose not to have Dan bail him out after the first time. He would quietly disengage the tackle, and go for a walk. The kid loved to amuse himself, and these long walks around the lake, the streams, through the woods, were imaginary jaunts of fancy for him. He could keep himself going merely by thinking of things. Stan was a creative genius.

He imagined a million and one things. He imagined himself humping beautiful, exotic girls. He would play the whole scenario over in his mind. In these “dreams,”
 Stan always said the right thing. At first, the girls would ignore him. There would be antagonism, but Stan would “break them down” with charm, talking them into bed and passionate sex.

Sex was not the only thing on this boy’s mind. He imagined himself pitching winning baseball, or leading victorious charges in combat. Most of the time, the object of his fantasy was his own glorification. He would walk along the shore, skipping stones across the water. He had that good arm, and could side wind a stone that would skip 12 times across the lake, dancing like crazy on the top of the shimmering water.

Periodically, however, the old man would get cantankerous. The usual bone of contention came when Stan would get caught up in a “nest egg” with his line one too many times. Sometimes Stan and Shirley would have all kinds of troubles with their lines, and Dan would spend all his time untangling lines, instead of enjoying a peaceful afternoon of fishing on his.

This would lead to “the scowl.” Dan’s face would tighten, and there would be just the bare hint of his teeth exposed, like a snarling wolf. His cheekbones would raise, his brow would furrow. He would be pissed, and when Stan or Shirley saw him look like this, they knew the smart thing was to avoid him at all costs.

Goddamn it all to lousy hell,” was one of the milder things to come out of the man’s mouth, followed more often than not by some other foul phraseology. There was no compromise to him, no sense that you could rationalize with him, or reason things out.

One day, after snagging too many lines in a solo fishing excursion resulting in $40 worth of lost tackle and no fish, Stan and Dan were walking back to the car in silence. Stan knew the old man was bitter, so he just stayed quiet. They walked along wordlessly, when Dan just looked at his only son and said, “Close your Goddamn mouth. Do you have to have that fucking mouth of yours open all the Goddamn time?”

Stan’s mouth was slightly open, the way human beings’ mouths are slightly open during times they are alive, breathing and not dead. He could do nothing except shut his lips tight.

“What’s the matter with you?” his father said, venom in his voice. “Are you stupid?”

However, Stan had a way of saying the word stupid. It came out stue-piid. The first syllable sounded like stew, as in fish stew, but there was emphasis on the u, as in stue. The second syllable was emphasized more than the first, as if the stue just led into pidd. The whole word, stupid, when spoken in this way by a man to a child, gave such condescension to the word as to quadruple its effect. To say it the way Dan said it was to use a verbal sneer, and it did not come out the way the word stupid can come out, which is sometimes a putdown but almost a friendly one. The intent was to belittle, to make the recipient of the word feel one and one half feet tall.

Young Stan Taylor was11 years old the first time he heard it applied to him by the man he idolized. He would never, ever forget what it sounded like on the shores of that infernal man-made reservoir where the fish did not bite and every no-good, lousy-rotten branch and piece of driftwood had found its way across the path of his line.

Man and boy kept walking in silence. Then the next zinger came out of father’s mouth. Father had a beer in his hand. He had been drinking Budweiser’s all day. He was buzzed, if not drunk. But he was on a tear and his son was the target. Dan could get like this. He was like a great fighter pilot who got his target in the cross hairs and will not let go until the enemy is throttled. The boy next to him had to be belittled beyond recognition.

“Stupidkid,” Dan would say, half to himself, half for Stan’s consumption.

Now, this was pronounced in an entirely different manner. This was a one-syllable way of pronouncing a three-syllable two-word word. There was no break between stu and pid, and no break between the word stupid and kid. The result was to personalize the term stupidkid in such a way as to place it on Stan firmly and totally. Stan was the stupidkid. Nobody else. You. Yeah, you. No, no, no, not that other kid. Yeah, you. You’re the stupidkid. You are.

Stupidkid.

The result was that Stan Taylor was convinced he was a dumb stupidkid. This was not an easy thing to do to a boy who felt superior to his classmates in school (when he did not feel inferior). He was a kid who some times felt he was ahead of his teachers. He was the best athlete in school and he knew he was handsome. For a man to get a kid like this to agree with the assessment that he was stupid was no mean feat, but Dan Taylor knew how to push his son’s buttons. He could make the kid feel stupid.

Studpidkid.

Dan felt the compulsion to make the one person he loved more than anybody on the face of the Earth feel small. This is not an Omniscient work, so nobody will ever really know what motivated the man to cut like a knife. What is known is that the effect of the words resulted in a lonely, only child; a child who otherwise would have been full of hope and promise, confident and happy, who instead was made to feel like he could not do anything right. He could not win for losing. None of his good deeds went unpunished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

BEHIND BLUE EYES

 

“No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

“No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

“But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

“ I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free

“No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

“No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through

“But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

“I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free

“When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

“If I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
If I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

“No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes”

 

--“BEHIND BLUE EYES”

                                                By The Who

 

 

 

Being a headstrong young son of a gun, Stan was not a shrinking violet. The feelings he felt for his father, the seething hatred mixed at the same time with intense love, made for strong confrontations. Sometimes one side would back down from the other. Stan could act horribly towards his parents. He was a spoiled, churlish, arrogant kid who answered his parents when he felt like it, and routinely treated them like dirt under his feet. He did it because of the way they trampled on him. The kid was filled with inner, raw emotions, and resentment over the slights of his parents. His childish slights were the only revenge he had at his command.

Shirley was a loving parent, but impatient. She sided with her husband on all things, and unconsciously ganged up on her son when Dan had it in for him. Sometimes, in private, she would extend her sympathy to Stan for the way the old man treated him, and for a while, Stan felt he had an ally. However, when Shirley and Dan were together, it was always two parents vs. one child. Shirley’s private expressions of understanding became treachery from a purported ally.

Her lack of patience was difficult for Stan to take. Stan would ask her to help with his homework, but she would get confused, read too fast, and in no time get mad at Stan for not understanding her poor directions. Why she was so lame in trying to help her son was a mystery. She was a college-educated woman with a worldly view of things, but for some reason she seemed to develop a severe case of Dumbellionitis when she tried to work with her son. Perhaps life with the imperious Dan Taylor had stricken her of her natural liveliness. She had become sloppy and slap-dash, and sometimes her inability to handle even simple directions or instructions was confounding.

She read books about British royalty, biographies of Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli, and developed into quite the Brit-ophile. She did things separate from her husband, and always competently. She traveled and handled itineraries, baggage pick-up, and other complicated procedures. However, when she was under Dan’s shadow, she routinely screwed up phone messages and simple details. She was not learning disabled, it just seemed that way.

When Stan was in the first grade, he came home and asked her to help him with an assignment, which was to learn how to tell time. Stan had problems with the work. The harder he tried, the more he kept screwing it up. Within a short time, Shirley became furious with him. She screamed at him. She called him stupid. She stomped about, infuriated that her son was unable to absorb the knowledge quickly and easily.

Stan finally just walked out, got on his bike, and rode around the neighborhood in tears. When he got home, he tackled the assignment on his own. Without his mother breathing fire on him when he got it wrong, he figured out the clocks, and correctly completed the work.

Stan especially had trouble in math, which was not unusual since neither of his parents was very good at it. Shirley was of no help, which did not stop her from trying to help, only making it even worse. Dan had better skills, but instead of helping his son, he mainly just complained about the “new math” that was being taught in schools, and how the liberals had screwed up the education system.         

In the mean time, Stan developed a phobia about math that would last his entire life. He would always associate math formulas with the sound of his mother calling him stupid. At least she just called him stupid, instead of stue-pidd.

One day, Dan tried to strike up a conversation with Stan.

“How about the Dodgers?” he asked, an innocuous enough question. “Do you think Sutton’ll win 20 this year?”

Stan felt nothing but contempt for his father at that moment. Probably because the old man had called him a stupidkid, or told him he was stue-pidd. Or had embarrassed him publicly, or had blamed him for something he had not done, or a million other possibilities, only a day earlier.

The Taylor’s were dysfunctional, and their coping mechanism was to ignore and forget these incidents. Dan and Shirley never, ever acknowledged their wrongs. They never asked for forgiveness. They never had the slightest inkling that the way they treated their son was unhealthy. Dan could be a beast, and then decide to be a nice guy. He did not understand why Stan still remembered that he had acted like a beast.

So, when Dan would ask him about the Dodgers, it was because he had forgotten he had treated him like crap. He harbored no guilt, and was just moving on. Stan usually operated under the same procedures. But he got dumped on and was an only child with all the insecurities inherent within that frame of reference. He could not always stay calm and on an even keel. Occasionally, he had to “fight back.” The only way he had to do this was to be rude to his elders.

So he just gave his father a dirty look and said nothing. He “treated him like dirt.”

Dan Taylor just stood there, in the kitchen. He needed a haircut. His hair was somewhat disheveled. He looked forlorn at that moment. The ball of rolling thunder could also be vulnerable as hell. This was one of those moments. His chin dropped to his chest. The man looked like a poor lost dog.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, “I just wanted to ask about the Dodgers.”

Oh, he was pitiful. The pain, the agonizing regret, the terrible guilty conscience of Stan Taylor welled up within him. Stan looked at his old man, and he did not see the guy who called him stupidkid, or accused him of being stue-pidd, or made fun of him in front of other kids. This was the generous, gentle soul who never, ever, turned him down when he asked to practice baseball. This was the guy who was there for him every time. This man loved him more than anybody on Earth. Stan instinctively knew that in his entire life, this old guy was the one rock in his existence. Others - friends, wives, acquaintances - would come and drift off, but Dan was always going to be there for him.

So, the disheveled hair, the puppy-dog expression, left Stan helplessly unable to avoid his grip of guilt.

The thing was - the unbalanced side of the whole relationship - was that as far as Stan could tell, neither of his parents ever felt those pangs of guilt for him. Stan died for his father. The hangdog look and unkempt hair stirred in Stan the essence of sorrow and shame.

In later years, Stan would discern the meaning of guilt, shame and judgment as being the cornerstones of morality. Guilt was a good thing. It kept you honest and made you do what was right because you could not live with yourself if you did otherwise. But back in the days of his youth, the kid did not think like that. He was like the Lawrence Harvey character, Raymond, in the classic film, “The Manchurian Candidate”. Raymond never could “beat” his mom, played by Angela Lansbury. Stan could never “beat” his parents, either, because he felt guilt and, as far as he could tell, they did not.

Dan and Shirley Taylor were not psychopaths. They felt guilt. They were filled with compassion. However, they lacked some inner mechanism for recognizing in their own actions, especially as it pertained to the raising of Stan, that they could be wrong. This was the only way they could continue to yell, swear and blame their son for all things big and small. Had they somehow, magically, been able to see what was so obvious, they would have been horrified at how they treated him. If it could have been put on film for them to see, or acted out depicting other characters, maybe they could have seen it. Perhaps the mechanism that prevented them from seeing this glaring fault was what kept them sane.

Stan was a good kid. Parents dream of having children like Stan. Yes, he could be surly and petulant, full of himself. Selfish and egotistical. But he loved his parents and loved doing things for them, with them, pleasing them, living up to their expectations. He loved the same things his father loved: Sports, fishing and good, clean, wholesome activities.

What did he get for that? He got love. He got their time, their attention, and their devotion. He also got blame and invective. He got criticism, strident and deadly. The result was that he had to contend with a very large part of his personality telling him that he was a stue-pidd stupidkid. A stupidkid who was responsible for his dad being miserable and his parents always ganging up on him to unload all their baggage.

He was a kid and he was too young to know they were wrong. So he just lived with himself being the go-to guy who accepted the blame. There came a point in which their ways were affecting him with his peers. This was decidedly not cool. Shirley and Dan started to develop a “bunker mentality” in which the world was divided between “us and them.”  “Them” were all the other kids and especially their parents in the Palos Verdes Little League.

Dan started coaching when his son was 11, and Shirley was ever-present, exhorting her Stan-leee to “beat those kids.” The other kids and parents quickly became enflamed by the passions of the Taylor’s. The Taylor’s wanted to win too much. Dan, the ex-player, treated his players the way he had remembered being treated when he was a college star and a minor league pitcher. That meant taking it seriously, practicing long hours, playing to win, and yelling a lot. He swore, sometimes at his players, sometimes even calling the kids “bastards,” “sons of bitches,” “pissants,” and other lovely, descriptive terms.

He meant well, and had his supporters, mainly from the harder core of the league. Those who also took winning seriously and saw baseball not just as a fun, benign activity, but also as something to excel at. But he and his supporters were in the minority. Palos Verdes was a pretty conservative place, a Republican bastion, but it was still California, and this was the post-‘60s 1970s. Taylor was seen as a dinosaur, and the sniping and cat-calling of his enemies increased as he and his son charged from victory to dominant victory, all cheered much too loudly by the less-than-genteel Shirley.

One day, Stan pitched a beautiful shutout and hit a couple of home runs. The family repaired home, alone but together, for some early evening Summer barbeque. Stan was in high spirits, the top jock, a stud. Dan hit the beer hard, because he deserved it, and Shirley had a few Martinis followed by wine with the barbequed chicken.

It was all quite idyllic. Then the conversation came around to how everybody hated them. Oh, the Taylor’s were proud to be hated. They wore it on their sleeves like a badge of honor.

“Did you hear what that fat Lodeen woman said?” remarked Shirley. “She called Stan a little faggot. That just started the others off.”

“That’s rich coming from her,” said Dan. “Her oldest is a Goddamn fairy. I wouldn’t let him within five feet of Stan. Those Lodeens are trash.”

“What about Wayne Fingers’ father?” said Shirley. “Stanley, did you hear what he called you?”

“No,” remarked Stan, smiling. He couldn’t wait to hear. He knocked back his coke.

“Finger’s said you were an asshole kid,” said Dan. “An asshole kid. His kid’s in juvenile hall and he’s a car mechanic, fer chrissake. They’re just jealous of you, Stanley. Everybody’s jealous of you. They all hate you. Every one of them. They all hate you because of what we have, and because we’re better than any of ‘em.”

It went on like that for 45 minutes. Almost everybody in the league, parents, coaches, players, was singled out and identified for the rotten things they had been heard saying about Stanley Taylor and the Taylor Family. Stan just loved it, smiling, and he repeated the stories he knew, giving them inside information from schoolyard taunt sessions and razzing episodes that had escaped his parent’s ear.

The old man seemed to know everything, anyway. He asked his son every question under the sun and expected straight, detailed answers. If Stan did not give it to him the way he wanted it he just called him stupidkid, or worse.

It began to dawn on Stan that night. A nagging little voice in the back of his head, telling him that something was not right. The smiling faces of his parents, gloriously telling stories out loud about how hated their son was. A little drunken chortling thrown in for good measure.

Suddenly, Stan’s smile disappeared and he just blurted, “Stop it.” He yelled it. He screeched it.

You’re just so full of shit,” he said to his parents.

That brought the heat down on him. The rest of the night was ruined. Full of bad mood and sour stomachs. But it was a revelation for 11-year old Stan Taylor. He was hated. Part of it was his fault. He hit homers and rounded the bases with an imperial gait, the slow trot of a racehorse champion making a victory lap. He laughed at other kids after striking them out, thumbing his nose at jeering spectators. He made an ass out of himself. He did all that. But he was caught up in something beyond his control. That was the whole bunker mentality of his parents, particularly his father. He had bought into it, and now it occurred to him that he was in a bad place. He was an unpopular kid. There are few things worse in the mundane world than to be an unpopular child.

He was not just unpopular. Many kids are unpopular. But in his case it was even worse. He was singled out. Most unpopular kids are able to fade into the woodwork. He was in the spotlight, on the stage of derision.

His saving grace was sports. Years later, when the Columbine killings shocked a nation, Stan understood what those two tortured kids had gone through. While Stan never had it in him to carry out fantasies of murderous revenge, he did know that if he had not had sports, it would have been even worse. This was the place he derived success, bragging rights and identity. However, it was turning out to be a double-edged sword. The very success he enjoyed was what was causing jealousy and making him hated and miserable.

Stan went to school with a Dumbellionite named Barry Azz. Azz was a dim-witted cluck who never learned how to read properly. All through elementary school, the kids would be called on to read passages from books. Stan would read his like a guy on National Public Radio. Azz would stumble over every word. Watching him in these situations was painful. In the black-is-white-white-is-black world of childhood, Stan was made fun of because he read well, while Azz was somehow a cool kid because he disdained intelligence.

Azz played little league with him. He was a mediocre athlete but he was part of the “in crowd.” One day, the teacher was holding a group discussion. It was one of those 1970s “rap sessions” meant to get things out in the open instead of keeping them bottled up inside.

“I know this one kid, his father coaches him in little league,” said Azz, looking at Stan.

It still did not strike Stan that Azz was talking about him. In the back of his mind, Stan felt it, but he had a switching mechanism that allowed him to convince himself that what was obvious was something else.

“This guy’s father’s an ass,” said Azz. “He thinks he’s better than everybody else, and so does his kid. He teaches his son to think that way. The whole family just treats people like crap and think they can get away with it. They yell at kids, and take everything way too seriously. They think winning baseball games is the most important thing in life. This guy just favors his son over everybody.”

Azz just stared at Stan.

“I think we all know who I’m talking about,” said Azz, looking at Stan. “I’m talking about you.”

Stan just looked at Azz, then averted his gaze. He felt his skin tingle, hot and red, as if he was exposed to the whole world. He could have just lashed out at Azz. He could have fought him. He could have defended himself. Instead, he just said nothing, hoping that the whole thing would fade away.

One kid, Chuck Berber, started hassling him. What was really galling was that Berber was very popular. He was a good-looking kid, a decent athlete, and the girls all liked him. He was well liked by the guys, as well. Chuck’s mother was a young, attractive divorcee. Chuck had the panache of being hip.

Berber was one of those guys who would smile and be nice to Stan when it was convenient. If it was around baseball and Stan’s parents were there, Chuck was smart enough be to a decent guy. But at school, when he was in his element, he killed Stan. Stan had no comeback.

Chuck and his friends used to call Stan a pussy and a “mama’s boy,” and would whistle at him, “Stan-leee,” mocking Shirley.

One day, Shirley was giving Stan a ride home from school. Normally, Stan would race from his last class to the parking lot so he could get out of there before the other kids gathered. The parking lot was a round one, with a flagpole in the middle. If one tried to drive out with all the kids walking around, they had to drive very slowly so as to not hit anybody. This was what Stan always hoped to avoid. He did not want the other kids seeing him in the car with Shirley. He knew they would whistle Stan-leee at him, and make fun of him. It burnt Stan’s ears knowing his mother or father could hear the derision.

He would squirm as Shirley fiddled around, taking her sweet time, going through her purse. The other kids would start milling about past the car. Sure enough, here it would come.

“There’s Taylor. Hey Stan-leee. Hootie hoo Stan-leee!”

One day Chuck Berber was talking to Stan when Shirley arrived. Chuck flashed the charm on her, and naturally Shirley offered to give him a ride. In the car, driving Chuck home, Shirley could not keep her mouth shut. She brought up the subject of Stan getting jeered by the other kids.

Oh, no, thought Stan. Please shut up. Please, please, please, pleeeaaassse shut up.

Shirley just kept yakking about it.

“You have to stand up for yourself,” she told her son, with Chuck holding back laughter in the back seat. “Box those kids on the ear if they make fun of you. Don’t let them get away with it.”

At school the next day, Chuck and his group of pals, about five of them, made fun of Stan and what Shirley had said.

“Hey Stanley,” Chuck said. “Why don’t you box some of us? Start right now.”

Stan tried to slither his way out of there.

Stan took crap at school without standing up for himself. Kids are humans. Some times they are devils. They can be filled with hate. Politicians like to talk about “the children.” Athletes are always endorsing some charity that “helps kids.”

Children are just as often little snipers, hyenas gnawing at the wounds of the dispossessed, the unpopular, and the weak. Baying at the chance to belittle, to make fun of, and to put down. A kid’s whole world is the playground, the classroom, the courtyard, and the parking lot. Adult commentary takes on a mundane quality.

“Kids are so cruel,” Shirley would say to Dan. Stan would hear them talking upstairs. He would stand at the bottom of the stairs, hiding behind the corner, listening to them talk about him. It would burn his ears.

“He doesn’t have a girlfriend yet,” she would say.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with him?” Dan would ask.

My God, Stan would wonder in horror, they think I’m a fucking queer.

“The other kids just hate him,” Dan would go on.

Stan’s soul would fill with fury. He hated everything except sports. Stan despised his feelings. Stan Taylor was close to slipping into a funk of depression that he never would have crawled out of.

One day during seventh grade, Dan and Stan drove to Palos Verdes High School to practice baseball. It was the early fall, and baseball season was over for them, but as he always had, dedicated Stan practiced year round.

Palos Verdes High had a parking lot, but the baseball field was out back. Since it was a weekend, Dan would drive the car all the way to the field, past the basketball gym, on a concrete walkway that really was not supposed to be a “road,” but he used it as one anyway.

Around a corner they turned, and there they were. The Pop Warner kids, in full dress and pads, looking tough and mean. Football players, for God’s sake.

Immediately, the car was surrounded. Stan stared in terror at the kids, his claustrophobic head swimming in fear. He made eye contact with Chuck Berber, and a few other kids he knew from school, or little league. He saw no friendly faces. Next to Chuck was a kid named Rico. A little pissant. Some kind of Mexican kid or something. He hated Stan the way the peasants hate the elites.

Rico was a have-not. He always had been and always would be. He was from a family of have-nots. His drunken father was beating him at home. His crazy uncle was always trying to suck him off. His mother was not married to his father and his father was not the only man she spread her legs for. His old man could not keep it up when he tried to give it her anally, but there were men scattered from Santa Monica to San Pedro who did have what it took to take care of her “special needs.” Rico had walked in on his mom taking it up the butt from strangers on more than one occasion. He was swelled with anger at the world. 

He was low class and knew it. He saw Stan, tall and blonde, the lawyer’s kid, a better athlete than he could ever dream of becoming. He saw him and knew that now was the time. His own miserable little life would not amount to a pile of crap. A kid like that had to heap some misery and get in his licks. Right now, he was a decent enough athlete. He was street smart, not stupid. He realized that within a few short years, the awkward, gangly white boys like Stan Taylor would be going to college, gaining the skills to ascend to a ruling class that he could not aspire to. By that time, his hateful words towards the likes of Stan would carry no meaning, for him or the intended victim. By that time, Stan would be a frat boy, a law student, and a professional man. If he saw him in a bar, the tables would be turned, and Stan would laugh him down because by then, Rico would have lost life’s war of attrition. He had to get it in now, and make it count. Right now, the cards were in his favor, and Stan had no aces up his sleeve. He just sat in the car and listened to Rico.

“Fuck you, Taylor,” Rico spewed. “And fuck your old man. Go suck his dick, motherfucker. Faggot.” It went on like that.

Looking back, Stan would wonder how in the hell kids like Rico lived on the peninsula. His dad collected garbage or something. Maybe he was an electrician. He was a pissant, too, of course. Money and race have nothing to do with class. What a man does for a living is not relevant to the question of class. He had taught his son to hate, as much by what he had left undone as by anything he had done. That was why he had no class. Many rich people were classless, too, for the same reasons.

   The realization came to Stan later on down the road that electricians make good money. So do garbage men. The young Stan saw his father wearing a suit and tie with cuff links and a tie clasp. He associated that with money and class. In the 1970s, housing was still attainable, even to a “working man,” and there were families who had lived in Palos Verdes for generations.

Rico was everything that Stan resented. The have-nots, the haters, the tough little bastards. Worse yet, the Rico’s of the world got chicks. The dirty girls who scurried about the stands during games. The girls who were hot and made Stan jealous. They were the “Melissa’s,” the “Cathy’s,” the “Nicole’s” of bathroom wall fame.

“Call Nicole at 379-1105. She gives good head.”

Stan was not yet sure what “head” was, but he knew he was not the one getting any of it. Rico and Chuck, and their ilk - dear God, they were the ones getting head. At least in his imagination they were.

So there was Rico and Chuck, and their crew. There was Stan with Dan, sitting mute in the car, dressed for baseball practice during football season. This alone was reason enough for ridicule. There was a sense that in this socialistic little world of “fairness” and “equality,” the idea that a kid and his dad would engage in extra off-season practice to get a leg up on the competition, was wrong. A lot of guys might have gotten away with it, but not the uncool Taylors.

The cat calling started with Rico, built up momentum, and kept on for interminable minutes. Stan was trapped in the car, staring straight ahead, mortified.

“Faggot.”

“Asshole.”

“Fuck you, Taylor.”

His head was spinning, his back burning, his skin tingling from the very sensation of it.

There was one saving grace. Dan was taking even more heat than Stan.

“Fuck you, Dan.”

Stan was looking for some kind of silver lining. It was horrible, but he found it in the confirmation that the hate Stan was taking emanated from his father. It was his father who stirred up much of the animosity. But Dan could go off to Adams, Duque & Hazeltine everyday, while his son was left to fend off the tender schoolyard mercies.

The Pop Warner football players surrounded the car for a minute or two. It seemed like an hour to Stan. Finally, they moved on their way. Stan and Dan drove to the baseball field, and went about their usual practice session. Stretching, playing catch, bull pen session, grounders at short and at first base, shag some flies, batting practice, and wind sprints. The Pop Warner kids were on the football field nearby, and an occasional shout of hate would come from then.

“Faggot.”

“Fuck you, Taylor.”

“Taylor sucks his kid’s dick.”

“Faggot” was the worst thing a kid could call another kid. Stan was not a faggot. The actual connotation of the word was not what was behind its meaning in this context. It was used, instead, as the worst kind of putdown for anything that needed to be put down.

The practice session went on. The nightmare was not over. The session was conducted in silence, for the most part. Normally, father and son would engage in friendly chatter, but the incident with the football kids had curbed their enthusiasm on this day. Tensely, they went through the motions. There was something solid about how they did it, though. They refused to be brought down, neither one of them. Their spirit could not be broken.

These two were a team. Father and son exasperated each other, but against the world they were united. They did not let the shots taken at them by lesser lights break their personal loyalty, even when they blamed each other. They were stuck with each other and had a bond that was too strong for Rico, Chuck Berber or anybody else to tear down.  

There always seemed to be an ironic sense of timing that, in Stan’s mind, worked against him. The whole practice, he had his eye out for the footballers, wondering when they would break their session, and what the fall-out would be.

Would some of them wander over to the baseball field to dispense vitriol? Stan wanted to make sure that he and Dan had an “exit strategy,” that they could make a clean break from the field, drive the narrow “road” that wound past the gym, and be gone before the football kids came back to clog up the road with sweat and hate.

Stan saw everything unfold before him, as if in slow motion, when he heard the Pop Warner coach call out, “Gather up, fellas.”

Oh, God, thought Stan, practice is over.

He finished his wind sprint. Normally he ran 15. This time he jogged in - fast - after his eighth.

“Let’s go,” he said to Dan.

Dan began to move at the speed of a slug. Stan packed his stuff, and stared out to the football field. The football team was packing it in.

Oh, no, he said under his breath.

Dan saw what was going on, and moved even slower. He did not make any indication that he knew the situation, but he knew. Had he moved with normal, decent deliberation, they could have had the stuff put in the car, and been off, with time to spare, before the Pop Warner’s clogged the road.

Instead, he dawdled. What he did was torture his son. Stan Taylor said nothing. He was between a rock and a hard place. He wanted out so bad it was killing him. Either get out now, or wait until the road was clear and the kids were in the showers. Instead, Dan seemed to time every slow, tedious action, so that the car would be stuck among the walking Pop Warner team. If Stan could have chosen to die instead of endure the agony of another stall in the middle of his enemies, he would have chosen death.

All of it seemed to be orchestrated by Dan Taylor. Whether Dan took some perverse pleasure in his son’s pain, or hated his son for not being part of the “in” crowd, or perhaps realized he was the reason the boy he loved was so hated; for whatever reason, he worked it just so that the car did, in fact, stall in the middle of those kids.

It was unbelievable. They moved into the car ever so slowly, then inched along. Stan saw the football team in their white practice uniforms, hauling their gear - the shoulder pads, the tools of boyish manhood. He saw some of the dirty girls, those lousy, rotten little bitches who went for these bastards and not for him. Some of then had gathered like Goddamn groupies here at P.V. High.

The final kicker, the last, incredible moment of agony occurred when Dan turned the corner. He was ahead of the football kids. He had a straight shot to get out. It did not require speeding up or driving dangerously. All he had to do was just drift the car, at regular speed, and they would be just ahead of these guys, just past their radar, and out of the parking lot unscathed.

Dan Taylor, instead, moved an inch at a time. He did not actually stop. He just inched. Waiting for the football players to gather around the car. To Stan, it was a terrible act of unkindness.

“What are you doing?” asked Stan. He tried to stay calm, unruffled. He did not want to appear to be sweating, but he was going out of his mind.

“What do you mean?” asked Dan.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Stan.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Dan, as if he did not know.

“Nothing,” said Stan, dying. If the car had been perched on a cliff and he could have just opened the door and tumbled to his death on the rocks below, he would have given that serious consideration.

Then it happened.

“There’s Taylor.”

“Fuck you, Taylor. You sucking tour old man’s cock?”

“No, he sucks his.”

“Faggot.”

Stan’s head felt like a vise had gripped it, and he was spinning. Everything seemed fuzzy. The words hit, his mind ached, the scene was out of this world. The white uniforms, the faces peering in at the car, the fingers pointed up in the “fuck you” sign.

The car eventually started up again, only after the last Pop Warner football players had filed into the locker room. Stan could hear the laughter, surely directed at him, from inside. He was the subject of their hate and the source of their amusement.

Kids. Stan Taylor would never really like kids. He knew too well what they were, what they were capable of. The German philosopher, Nietzsche, once said, “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” When adulthood finally, mercifully came to him, opening the gates of freedom after years in purgatory, he would embrace their meaning.

 

Stan went to a public school. To the extent that the Taylor’s had a religion, it was Episcopalian, but they never went to church. Stan had been baptized, but that was about it. The Catholics on the peninsula sent their kids to St. Cecilia’s School, gathered there for worship on Sundays, and raised their sons in the Catholic Youth Organization.

The CYO was home to a pretty fast basketball league. The public schools played basketball, but the CYO did it better. The CYO also invited non-Catholics to play. One did not have to attend St. Cecilia’s to play for them. Stan was tall and a good athlete, so he was invited in the sixth grade to play for St. Cecilia’s. Dan Taylor was asked to coach the team.

Stan thought this was a bad idea. He just knew that he was going to get in trouble, that his dad would muck it up for him with a whole new group of people. A lot of these people, close-knit Irish- and Italian-American Catholics, did not really know him. A lot of them came from San Pedro or Redondo, and were not privy to Dan’s yelling, screaming, and swearing tantrums with little league boys. They knew he had been a good athlete, and that he was a coach. That was good enough for them. Dan had approached St. Cecilia’s. He had to be up close in his son’s life. He could not back away.

Stan wanted none of it. He liked hoops. That was not the problem. But he wanted to fit in on his own, not as “Taylor’s kid.”

Early in the sixth grade season, October, 1975, Dan called for a practice. It was on a Wednesday night. The World Series was going on between Cincinnati and Boston, and it was one of the greatest Fall Classics ever. Stan Taylor decided to make a stand.

“I’m not going to practice,” he calmly told his father.

“You most certainly are,” said Dan.

“Dad, it’s the Series,” said Stan. “Please don’t schedule for when the Series is on. There’s only one or two more games.”

“If you don’t practice, you don’t play on the team,” said Dan.

Dan had miscalculated.

“Dad, that’s fine,” replied his son. “I really don’t want to play CYO. It’s your idea, not mine. So, thanks, I’ll just watch the Series, and you coach            the team if you want.”

Stan Taylor was as serious as a heart attack. He had no desire to play CYO with his dad at the helm, and live through more hell trying to be the old man’s son. He was not comfortable being the tall, Protestant outsider with all those cloistered, close-knit Catholics. But Dan Taylor’s face clinched, his teeth bared, and he went to into that rage that could not be defended against by an 11-year old boy.

“Now you listen to me Goddamn it,” said Dan. “You’re gonna practice and you’re gonna play CYO, and that’s all there’s gonna be, Goddamn it. Goddamn it. Goddamn you all to lousy hell.”

“No,” said Stan defiantly.

“You listen to me,” said Dan. “You’re playing. I don’t care about coaching a lousy CYO team. I’m doing it for you. I’ve done everything for you, and you are ungrateful. Goddamn it all to lousy rotten hell. Goddamn you.”

Stan tried to tell his father, gently, that he did not want his help. He just wanted to be left alone to play sports for fun. Not to glorify his father. Not to make him proud. Not to live up to something, and certainly not to feel pressure, pressure, pressure.

Stan liked basketball just fine, but his dad being there took all the joy out of it. Going to CYO practice was a job. He looked forward to it the way a guy looks forward to digging ditches.

Stan was powerless to actually do as he pleased. He went to that basketball practice, and when it was over, he got in the car and turned on the radio. The game was in extra innings, and the announcer was telling millions of baseball fans that this was one of the greatest games ever played.

“Millions of fans will remember where they were when these two teams played Game Six of the ’75 World Series,” the announcer said. Dan hated Stan because Stan would remember where he was, and who had forced him to be there.

Carlton Fisk would hit a home run to win it for Boston, using “body English” to direct his game-winning line drive to hit the foul pole. Pete Rose would tell the writers that it was an honor just to have played in a game like that, even in defeat.

 Stan Taylor had missed all of it because his father insisted that he be a part of something he wanted no part of. Stan felt resentment towards him for making him miss that game. He complained about it. Baseball was not a game to him. It was religion. Missing Carlton Fisk’s game six home run game was too much to bear. The old man just dismissed him, saying it was not an important game, who cares about the World Series?

The quintessential answer to that question was STAN TAYLOR. Bastard.

Then the old feelings of guilt would creep back. Hating one’s father is serious business, especially when one loves his father. The rationalizations set in. Yes, Dan did sacrifice for his son. Yes, coaching CYO was an act of kindness by Dan towards Stan. Yes, Dan was always there for Stan. He gave of himself, his time and his love. Stan was only being a spoiled little brat if he wanted out of this “contract.”

When Stan was 12, he played for the Police team in the P.V. Little League. Dan managed the team. They had a good ball club.

The previous year, they had a second baseman named Greg Grillo. Greg was a little kid, but good looking. His mother was a foxy 29-year old Latino beauty with long black hair. She was unmarried. Nobody was really sure who Greg’s dad was. Grillo was his mom’s maiden name. She had never actually married any of the men who moved through her life. She had been a hippy in the 1960s, routinely sleeping with men of all shape and stripe. She had gotten pregnant and Grillo was her love child. He had been raised in a series of “homes.” Communes, apartments, campsites, and the like. He had long, curly hair. He was totally cool. Of course he was. His parents had not brought him up. His “parents” were The Who, Jim Morrison, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Stones, and the Jackson Five.

The dirty girls loved Greg. Greg lost his virginity at the age of 11. He was as comfortable around girls, and with the subject of sex, as Frank Sinatra. Why not? He had grown up around orgies, love-ins, and the whole “tune in, turn on, drop out” culture.

By 1976, however, times had changed. His mother was now living with one man, trying to raise her son in some semblance of normalcy. Part of that was to sign him up to play little league baseball. They lived in a trailer park on the San Pedro/Palos Verdes border, and Greg should have played in San Pedro, but his mom did not know any better and signed him up in P.V. He had ended up on Stan’s team, playing for Dan.

Greg’s mother loved Dan’s yelling, screaming approach. After years of being a hippy, she somehow got it in her mind that this was what her son needed. In fact, she was right. The kid took to it. He had talent for baseball and a love of the game. He never talked back, and absorbed the teachings of the game imparted by Dan. After all his bluster, Dan knew the fundamentals.

The problem was that her “old man” had no job, no income and no money. The “family” had to leave their trailer park to live in a commune of displaced people out in the desert. This meant that the Police team had no second baseman. They needed a good, sure-handed middle infielder to back up 12-year old Stan Taylor, who was expected to attain great glory in this, his final little league season.

The solution was that Greg Grillo would live with the Taylor’s. He would visit his mom on weekends. Nobody ever asked Stan how he felt about it. He was okay with it at first. He liked Greg. He was impossible not to like. He was handsome and smiled all the time. Greg was nice to everybody.

Greg opened Stan up to a whole new world. His first weekend at the house, he found a radio and tuned it in to KRTH, the local rock station. It was their “countdown 100” weekend of the best songs ever. The two kids hung out, playing catch, shooting hoops, playing board games, and listening to rock ’n’ roll.

Stan had never heard of any of this stuff. His whole life he had never been exposed to rock music. His parents hated it. They liked classical music and the opera. Maybe Frank Sinatra. Elvis Presley was too heavy for them. They did not appreciate the British Rock Invasion. The Beatles were “evil” acid droppers and potheads.

To their way of thinking, and to millions like them, rock music represented something terrible and foreboding. It was synonymous with hippies, drugs, anti-war protest, and un-Americanism. But out on the Taylor’s sun splashed porch, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Stan heard for the first time “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” and “Papa was a rolling stone” and “Break on through to the other side.” He was still not hooked, but he could see that there was something sexy to this sound. Greg knew every word in every song. He knew the meaning behind the songs. He knew the names of the lead singers, the drummers, guitarists, and the bass players. Heck, he knew the keyboard players (“Ray Manzarek is so cool”). He knew stories.

 “Morrison didn’t really, die, man,” he said.

“Morrison’s, uh, the Irish guy?” Stan asked.

“That’s Van Morrison,” corrected Greg. “I’m talking about Jim Morrison.”

“And he’s the guy who OD’d on drugs?” Stan inquired.

“No, man, that’s what I’m tryin’ a tell ya,” replied Greg. “He didn’t die. Janis and Jimi, they died. Jim Morrison just moved to Africa and will return using the name Mr. Mojo Risin, which is Jim Morrison with the letters scrambled.”

It went okay for a while, but after a week or two, Greg started to get on Stan’s nerves. Basically, he did it by being nice, polite, and helpful. He helped with the dishes. He picked up his room. He offered to help Shirley bring in groceries. These were things that Stan did, too, but he had to be dragged into these activities, kicking and screaming.

Both Dan and Shirley loudly verbalized the contrast. They put down Stan, in front of Greg. They talked about Stan, in front of Greg. They aired dirty laundry about Stan, in front of Greg.

None of this was Greg’s fault, of course, but slowly Stan came to hate Greg just for being so damn perfect. However, the bad-mouthing was nothing compared to the phone calls that started coming in to the house.

The phone would ring. Shirley would usually answer, and a puzzled look would come over her face. She would be confused and stammer and not know what the hell was going on. Then, after half a minute, she would come to some realization and hand the phone to Greg.

“It’s for you,” she would say. “Some girl.”

Stan, lying on his back watching a game on the tube, would feel the stinking green slime of envy.

“Some girl.” No girls ever called for him. This was the unspoken knowledge permeating the room. Although it was not verbalized, it was what Shirley, Dan and Stan thought.

The dirty girls. The little 12-year old tramps walking around showing their tanned arms and bare midriffs. They flocked to Greg like groupies to a rock star. He gave out the Taylor’s phone number, and in no time they were calling all the time. Not just one girl. Different girls.

Christy. Jo Anna. Lana. Girls whose names made Stan fantasize. They sounded exotic and sexual. Stan desperately wanted to have sex with a girl, but he had no shot. He was a gangling, peeved, repressed kid. He had no outlet for his frustrations. He had not learned about masturbation yet. He had no access to pornography or nudie magazines. Cable TV had not been invented.

A few years earlier, playing at his friend Carlton Gaston’s house, Carlton had shown him his father’s hidden collection of Playboy magazines.

“They’re prettier when they’re naked,” remarked Stan. Bright kid.

The Taylor’s next-door neighbors, the Halstead Family, included a teenage girl and a boy, who was a couple of years older than Stan. Stan was brutal in math, and the Halstead boy was great with numbers. Shortly after Greg left at the end of the Summer, the Taylor’s paid the Halstead boy to tutor Stan. He was a nice, easy-going guy, and Stan enjoyed going over there, even if it was to study math.

He especially liked it when the Halstead boy showed him his Playboy collection. Stan almost had a heart attack when he got a full dose of these girls. He was able to appreciate them more than he had when he was a little boy hanging out at Carlton’s.

In particular, Stan went gaga for Carol O’Neal, a 1972 centerfold who was super-tanned, with the tightest body imaginable. She did not have huge breasts, but her face was breathtaking. She was a fantasy. Carol had been a bunny at the Chicago Playboy Club, who dated Bears’ quarterback Bobby Douglas.

Douglas was mediocre, at best, so Stan figured if a second-rate guy like that could get Carol O’Neal, sports definitely had a future for him. He would go home at night, after his math lessons, and dream about Carol. He was still a couple of years away from masturbation and his first orgasm, but he knew he had to have Carol.

One night after the sun went down, Stan went to the Halstead’s. The downstairs door leading to the boy’s room was open. Stan walked in. Technically, he was not breaking and entering. He walked silently into the kid’s bedroom, opening the drawer where he knew the Playboys were, but they were not there!

“What the hell’s he done with ‘em?” Stan muttered to himself. Then he heard a noise.

“Oh, shit,” he whispered.

Stan silently moved out of the room, and through the hall. A light came on the stairwell, and the sister called out, “Is anybody there?”

Stan was out the door. He could hear it open behind him just as he was turning the corner. He was not a fast runner, but he could have captured Olympic gold that night. He knew that it had been a close escape, but that he had made it undetected. He could not fathom the possibility of being caught, and he questioned his personal judgment. Stan had a reckless streak that allowed him to place himself in these kinds of potentially embarrassing situations. He did not have Carol O’Neal and her smooth, tanned skin, but the exhilaration of the close call took care of the urge to be thrilled.

What would he have said to the Halstead’s, to the police, to his parents, if he had been nabbed red-handed? He would have tried to play it off as a straight robbery of money or valuables. This was less horrid than admitting that he was stealing Playboy magazine, even though he was not yet old enough to know what to do with it.     

Looking back at pictures of himself, Stan would always be amazed at how poorly he fared with girls. He had drawn some interest in the second and third grades, but somewhere along the line it became uncool for girls to want to be with him. But the pictures did not lie. He was a very good-looking boy. His mom and dad always talked about how handsome he was. His parents’ friends admired how “strapping” he was. He had blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He was tall and thin, and this made him feel awkward and self-conscious, but he was very athletic and carried himself well. Some very tall kids are painfully uncoordinated, but not Stan.

The result was that Stan found females to be a complete mystery. In his mind, girls wanted nothing to do with boys. The reality, which is that girls are boy crazy, did not permeate his understanding. He saw other boys get girls, but this was unreal to him. To his way of thinking, boys wanted sex, and girls did not. His understanding of women would emanate from his terrible, early misunderstanding of girls. He was afraid of them, afraid of rejection, afraid of being made fun of. They were a threat to him.  

His looks did him no good with girls. One mean-hearted chick even called him “ugly.” Stan replied that she was “a faggot.” She just laughed at him, as did her friends. Stan did not know what a “faggot” was. He knew it was a putdown. So he applied it to a girl because he could not think of a cleverer comeback. What a dufus he was!

The greasers and bad boys had it all over him. Greg Grillo was a banjo hitter, while Stan was the star, a fireballer who slammed homers and roamed shortstop like a spry ballet dancer. Great athletes get the girls, right? Christ, even Bobby Douglas and his 38 percent completion percentage got Carol O’Neal.

Stan Taylor was the exception to the rule. This seemed to be the story of his life, a theme that haunted him. The exception always seemed to work against him. Greg was like the Buddy Love character in “The Nutty Professor”, full of suave and charm, and girls called him. That was the ultimate in teenybopper success, getting them to call you.

Stan hated Greg Grillo for that.

There was another player on the Police team who got under Stan’s skin. His name was Rick Purdue. He was a pretty good player and a straight arrow. During pre-season practice, and in practice games, Purdue rivaled Stan on the field. He pitched, hit and fielded well. The mere mention of Purdue being as good as Stan infuriated him.

Stan started making fun of his name, Purdue. He would emphasize the due, as in Purdooo. Dan was constantly finding fault with Stan. He said he rounded the bases too slowly when hit homers.

 “Stop showboating, Goddamn it,” Dan yelled while Stan would circle the bases, feeling the hate from the other kids. Afterward, Dan would go over his laundry list of Stan’s faults.

“Purdue hit a homer and just circled the bases with his head down, not drawing attention to himself,” Dan told him. “You circle the bases, looking around, showing off.”

“I dooo,” Stan replied, making fun of Purdue’s name. 

The jealousy bug bit Stan. He craved the spotlight. He had low standing at school, so he felt the need to make up for this in sports, where he would shine.

An amiable Italian-American mail carrier named Andy Gamboa lived on the peninsula. His family had been there forever. Andy had a son named Mario, a pretty good left-handed pitcher. Andy volunteered to be Dan’s assistant coach with the Police team when Stan was 12. At first, there was no question that Stan was number one, and Mario was number two. However, in an early-season game, Mario was unhittable while tossing a shutout. The next day at school, Stan was conversing with some peon who was on the team Mario had vanquished. The subject was, Who is the hardest-throwing pitcher in the league? Naturally, Stan volunteered that he was. That was the right answer. Otherwise he would not have brought the subject up. The peon demurred.

“Forget that,” he said. “I’d rather face you than that Mario guy.”

Stan felt jealous rage. Mario was a nice kid, and seemed to like Stan, which should have made him Stan’s favorite person. Finding friends was no easy feat. But as long as he threatened his perch of baseball supremacy, Mario was the object of his silent scorn. Stan had to be careful about holding his true feelings in, but his sarcastic remarks and facial expressions gave him away.

Dan was the biggest reason why Stan was disliked, but Stan did not help his own cause. As the season wore down, Stan maintained the edge over Gamboa, who was unable to sustain his early hot start. All the statistics favored Stan by season’s end, much to his satisfaction. This gave further credence to the strong feeling that Stan already held, and would harbor the rest of his life. The cream rises to the top. He most definitely was the cream. Persistence, determination and hard work are rewarded with success.

CHAPTER SIX

 

SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA PITCH INSIDE

 

“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

 

--John Wayne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan and Stan continued to go to lots of games together. Their favorites continued to be the Dodgers and the Trojans. When they did not go to games, they watched them on television and listened to them on the radio, often to Shirley’s consternation. Her birthday fell in October, when the play-offs and football are in full swing. She had a fit if it fell on a Saturday when USC was playing a big game at the same time that a post-season baseball game was going on.  Stan and Dan did not think twice about going to a football game at the Coliseum, then driving to Dodger Stadium to see baseball. 

Stan loved watching sports with his father, but was frustrated at how terribly negative he was. USC could be undefeated, but if they fell behind in the first quarter, he came down with a serious case of negatives.

“Oh, shit,” he would moan, “this isn’t their day.”

After the Trojans had scored four straight touchdowns and led, 45-7, at the end of three quarters, Stan would lean over and say, “Gee, Dad, imagine what the score would be if this wasn’t their day.”

If the Dodgers gave up a run in the first inning, the pitcher “just doesn’t have it.” Same thing. He would settle in, and in the eighth Don Sutton or Clause Osteen would be working on a four-hitter, winning 6-1.

“Holy cow,” Stan would say, “I can’t believe how good a game Sutton woulda pitched if he had it tonight.”

If one of their teams really did play a bad game, then Dan was the mayor of Misery City. It could make for a long, long day. What Stan could not figure out was Dan’s apparent lack of understanding of the nature of sporting contests. Here was a guy who had pitched at the highest levels and had been intimately involved in athletics all his life. Even if he had not been a player in his own right, Dan had watched enough games as a fan to gain an expert’s understanding of the ins and outs.

Despite that, he had a confounding black-and-white view of the contests. A pitcher who gave up runs simply had pitched poorly. Even when he was a little kid, Stan watched athletics with the practiced eye of a coach or scout. He could see if a pitcher had made a good pitch, but the hitter had either guessed, gotten lucky or was just zoned in. Dan did not.

“Aw, shit,” he complained. “He can’t you get anybody out.”

“Dad,” Stan said, “for a guy who’s watched as much baseball as you, you sure do act like you don’t know what the heck you’re watching. That was a great sinker that Rhoden threw, but Madlock had the hit `n’ run going and had to protect. That was a good pitch.”

Dan did not seem to take into account the factors and variables that shade the final result of athletic endeavors.

When little league was over, Stan moved to the Babe Ruth League. This was the jump to the big field. It is a major separation point for many kids. Every year, little league heroes have their hopes for success in baseball shattered when they move to the Babe Ruth League. They find the long throw from shortstop, the relay from the outfield, the 60-foot, six-inch distance from the mound to home, and the distant fences, to be their personal Maginot Lines. These would be obstacles that they would never be able to cross.

Stan barreled through these imaginary Maginots like the tanks employed by his hero, Patton. Stan was 13 and still a star. That year, a fellow named Dave Rancid, a taciturn truck driver and, according to him, a one-time pro ball player, volunteered to assist Dan with the team. Dan followed his son to Babe Ruth League and was still the manager. Rancid brought his son, Dave, Jr., along. Dave was a big, tall, blonde kid who looked like a Viking warrior. He was an excellent athlete, a star in football, track and wrestling. However, he was not very good at baseball. He struck out almost every time up and just did not possess developed baseball skills.

He had natural tools, though. By season’s end he had mastered baseball and was challenging Stan for team stardom. Hard feelings developed between the two boys, and between the two fathers. It was ugly and typical of youth sports. The petty wars, one-upmanship, rivalry, jealousy, and horrible favoritism took much of the fun out of baseball.

Babe Ruth League is for 13- to 15-year olds. The children range from seventh graders to high school sophomores. If a seventh grader turns 13 in the first half of the year, he is assigned to the Babe Ruth League. If he turns 13 in the second half, he will be assigned to his last year of little league, since for this reason he would have started in the third grade instead of the second. Stan had started in the second grade, since he had a February birthday.  

Stan was a seventh grader. Dave Rancid was a 13-year old eighth grader, but he would actually turn 14 in July. He was, for all intents and purposes, a year older than Stan, but considered 13 for purposes of league classification. Sometimes, a 15-year old high school sophomore, if he was really good, made the varsity and possibly even excelled at that level. Then he would then play his last year of Babe Ruth ball. This was joke. If a guy was good enough to compete with 18-year olds, to play with young men who were being scouted and offered college scholarships, he was much too advanced to be competing with 13-year old seventh graders.

Some communities eschew the 13-15 Babe Ruth League for Pony League or some other leagues. There are 13-year old leagues, 13-14 leagues, and some leagues even devise a smaller playing field, which is between the size of the little league and Major League diamond.

The Palos Verdes Babe Ruth League featured a kid named Eddie Andrews, who was 15 when Stan was 13. Andrews was unbelievable. He had no mother. His father was an alcoholic who spent time in and out of jail. Andrews lived, more or less by himself, in an apartment, which was paid for by the baseball coach at Rolling Hills High School. He was basically shacked up with his girlfriend, Kim. Kim was a surfer girl who was built like a brick outhouse and was the inspiration for Stan’s fantasies. She was a year older than Eddie, and would miss her senior year of high school to live with her grandparents and have his child.

Eddie was a superstar who had dominated every level of ball since little league. He was already 6-4, 220 pounds, and he threw smoke. He was one of those rarities who played on the varsity as a freshman, where he made a strong contribution towards Rolling Hills’ 1976 Bay League championship. He was All-Southern Section as a sophomore, and had thrown a perfect game under the lights at Long Beach’s Blair Field against Millikan in a play-off game. Millikan had several players who were drafted and offered scholarships. They were a Southern California power. They had produced shortstop Doug Stokke, who would be an All-American on USC’s 1978 National Championship team.

Andrews’ perfect game came on a Saturday night before several thousand fans, and dozens of scouts. It established him as one of the prep prospects who would receive national attention over the last two years of his eligibility. He was dominating young men like Stokke only a week before he took up the roster spot waiting for him with the Taco Bell team in Babe Ruth League, where he would be competing with 13-year olds like Stan Taylor. Andrews had no business playing in the Ruth League. He should have been pitching for the Palos Verdes American Legion team, which consisted of players from Rolling Hills and P.V. High. However, Legion rules state that the league is eligible only for 16- to 18-year olds. That meant that some teams had players who were just coming off their freshmen years in college. Other teams, usually the ones managed by the local high school coach, refused to use these college-age players, sometimes even banning recent graduating seniors. This was because they viewed Legion ball as training for the high school season, and gave up the glory of winning in the Summer in favor of preparation for the Spring.

Legion ball is supposed to be district-based. If a player lives in the district boundaries of the designated Legion post, he is supposed to be able to play for that team. The district usually encompasses several high school districts, plus there are players from private schools. Some high school coaches who are Legion managers will exclude players who do not attend the high school where they coach, which helps to create hard feelings, cheating, lying, and all the other wonderful off-shoots of modern youth sports.

Santa Monica had won the American Legion National Championship the previous year, led by a wunderkind named Tim Leary. Leary would go on to make All-American at UCLA, and would be a 17-game winner on the Dodgers 1988 World Championship club. Palos Verdes might have competed for national honors in 1977 if Andrews, another July birthday boy, was pitching for them that Summer instead of Taco Bell.

Andrews was over pitched at Rolling Hills High. He probably threw harder his sophomore year than he did his senior year. Still, he was an All-American his last two seasons there, and was drafted in the second round by the Houston Astros. He would have gone in the first round, but the scouts’ radar guns told the story. His consistent 94-mile per hour heater was down to the 89-90 MPH range.

Eddie was a tragic figure. On the field, he was a coach’s dream. He worked hard and was a leader. In football, he starred as a linebacker and running back. He was as tough as they come, felt no pain, and seemed indestructible. Eddie’s girlfriend was nice, but nasty. At a football party one night, girls watched in horror and guys watched in awe while she deep throated Eddie’s impressive nine-inch schlong in full view of everybody. Her mother was a member of the Junior League, and her father was with the FBI. Kim was a very friendly and intelligent girl. She kept score for the American Legion team. She was an expert at keeping score, which is a rare quality for a girl to have. Eventually, she would become a successful rock ’n’ roll disk jockey.

The day of the junior prom, Kim scored the game in the dugout in her prom dress while the team stared at her rack. It was not particularly different from when they stared at her rack on other days, when she would wear a halter-top. Eddie pitched the first game of a twi-night doubleheader. He had his tuxedo in the dugout. Eddie was a “sweat hog.” Some guys really sweat more than most. Eddie was one of those guys. He changed into the tux right there in the dugout, and off they went. Later that night, Kim went down on him for some sweaty deep throat.

 Eddie lived for baseball, because every other aspect of his life was screwed up. His father had beaten him up until Eddie became old enough to knock the old man out cold. He was an F student, but his coaches begged, pleaded and cajoled the teachers for four years to keep him eligible for sports. He never would graduate. Once, he was sleeping through a Spanish class. Everybody had headphones on, listening to the conjugations of Spanish verbs. Eddie’s snores became evident to his laughing classmates, until the teacher, a hard-faced German-born lesbian named Miss Bernstein, screamed into the microphone for all to hear, “Andrews. Andrews. WAKE UP, ANDREWS!”

Eddie woke with such a start that he broke his desk and injured himself, but it was not enough to keep him from pitching when he should have rested. His valuable right arm was badly overused by the coach, Jim Ambers. Ambers was a bad man who was more interested in his own glorification than the welfare of his players, and Eddie was neither the first nor the last prospect whose career was hurt by him.

Eddie was dumb and could be manipulated. He hung out with younger kids. One of those pals was a budding drug dealer named Skip Beam. Beam’s father was a doctor. His brother would go on to Harvard. Beam would go on to inspire the TV show “Miami Vice”. Not Don Johnson’s Sonny Crockett role.

Beam found out about a guy who was growing a big marijuana harvest in a green house near the beach. He and Eddie went there at night to steal it. Actually, Eddie broke in and pilfered the pot, while Beam waited in the car. If Eddie had been caught, Beam would have split, leaving Eddie hung out to dry. They were supposed to split the harvest equally, but Beam kept the quality stuff for himself, leaving Andrews with buds and seeds. Beam sold his for a nice profit. Eddie had trouble selling his stash, so Beam offered to sell it for a commission, and in the end Eddie saw almost no money. Confused by numbers, he thought Beam had done him a favor.

Eddie’s pro career came to an end after five years. Ambers had sapped his best stuff out of him, and by the early 1980s Eddie was no longer a prospect. He went from Houston to the Yankee organization, and finally an independent league, until his final unconditional release.

Back in L.A., he went to Skip Beam, by then a millionaire cocaine dealer after a daring Colombia-to-Miami run in which he had smuggled several kilos of the white powder under the noses of DEA agents. Beam gave him a go-fer job, running errands. One day, Eddie tried to sell some drugs to a black dealer in Watts named Omar Miles. The dealer was an old pal of his, an ex-football player from Centennial High who had played against Eddie. Eddie was ignorant enough to call blacks “niggers” in their presence, but he was such a lug head that his racist remarks were often dismissed.

“That cracker, he’s a dumbass,” Omar said.

Omar paid Eddie for the pot. Eddie handed him the stash.

“Wanna smoke some, man?” Omar asked.

“No, blood, gotta go,” said Eddie. He then turned and high-tailed it out of there. Eddie was a bad actor. Skip Beam could double-cross anybody and keep his cool. Eddie had no poise for that kind of thing. Omar had him figured out immediately. He did not even need to look at the lid. The decent weed was on top, and the rest was all seeds and sticks.

“Motherfucka,” Omar muttered. It was not a big sale, and Omar might have sought retribution at a later time. But Eddie had called him a nigger to his face and behind his back. Something snapped in Omar. He had a Saturday Night Special under his coat. At Centennial, he had been an all-league cornerback. After playing at L.A. Southwest JC, he had even gotten letters from Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton. His failure to pass a single class ended that possibility. In high school, he had chased down Eddie Andrews on numerous occasions. Eddie was tough and strong, but not blazing fast.

Omar took off after Eddie. Eddie turned and saw him. Just like the Centennial-Rolling Hills game in 1978.

Shit, thought Eddie.

Omar had caught his ass at the 10-yard line that night. Eddie remembered that he could not outrun the ex-corner, so he stopped and decided to just kick his butt instead. Normally, he could accomplish this easily. He was a great street fighter, and utterly fearless. The scars on his face made him look like Frankenstein, but they were proof that he had made his bones in the jungle, so to speak. He had a knife and knew how to handle it. Eddie was a nice guy, ready with a smile. He even helped old ladies with their groceries. But he was a psychopath who felt no remorse slicing another human being like a piece of meat.

Omar Miles knew this. There were black gangbangers on the street watching, and they would take Eddie down if he got into it with Omar. But this was no comfort to Omar, who would be cut in half by the time they got to Eddie. What did give him comfort was the Saturday Night Special.

Eddie produced the knife, but Omar killed him with a shot right through his forehead.

“Damn,” said the first gangbanger on the scene. “That’s a dead white boy.”

“Motherfucka don’ call me nigger no mo’,” said Omar. He had liked Eddie, but he needed to justify his actions. Under street rules, this seemed to be a reasonable motivation for killing a man in a drug-deal-gone-bad.

“Motherfucker,” said the gangbanger. He and Omar slapped each other five.

The L.A.P.D. eventually arrived on the scene. Since Eddie was white and had been a baseball and football star “on the hill,” as the P.V. Peninsula was called by flatlanders, that spurred them to give the case more than the usual drug murder courtesy. Omar was identified, sent to San Quentin, and died there three years later when an Aryan Brotherhood member knifed him in the open yard.

It was said the killing was revenge for Eddie, who had known some of the Brotherhood during his jail stints, as well as a lot of Hell’s Angels. The authorities were never able to determine what the true reason for Omar’s murder was.

Within the circles of the Palos Verdes baseball community, Eddie Andrews’ legend was already established in June, 1977. Stan Taylor was moving up the ranks himself. He had pitched the Major League All-Stars to the Little League World Series championship the previous year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In his first Babe Ruth League game, he had started on the mound against a 14-year old ace named Paul Krill.

A big, expectant crowd showed up to see how Taylor would do on the big diamond. Most rooted against him. Actually, he did have admirers and supporters, those who valued his hard work, his serious approach to baseball, and the obvious success he enjoyed. They were the silent minority.

His pitching opponent, Krill, was an interesting case. A quiet, unlikable kid, he dressed well and was smart. He admired Stan, and they often had walked home from school together. But in mixed company, he taunted Stan. He was the subject of taunts himself, so he did this to deflect attention. When Stan batted against him in the first inning, he verbally challenged the 13-year old, catcalling him all the way back to the dugout after striking him out on three hard fastballs.

At first, Stan was out of his league. Krill’s heaters were untouchable. On the mound, the new distance slowed his fastball down. He was uncomfortable and could not find the plate. He walked hitters, and was knocked out of the box in the fourth inning. When he went to shortstop, he muffed the first grounder, then after fielding another, threw the ball in the dirt. The first baseman was unable to scoop it, and Stan’s error let a run score. The long throw from the hole at shortstop looked to him like the Grand Canyon.

Three times Stan batted against Krill, and three times he whiffed air. Entering the bottom of the seventh (and last) inning, Stan’s team trailed 6-2. Dan was in full pissed-off mode, his usual reaction to his son not pleasing him. Stan’s teammates were making snide remarks about the 13-year old who thought he would be a big star, but was getting his comeuppance. Krill and his teammates were jeering him unmercifully, as were the crowd. Almost every player in the Palos Verdes Little League and Babe Ruth League was there, and they smelled blood.

“Go home, Taylor.”

“Stan-leee.”

“You suck, Taylor.”

“Hey Taylor, take your kid and fuck off.”

Stan had struck out to end a first and third rally to end the sixth. He glumly sat in the dugout. He took off his spikes to put on his sneakers, because the game was over for him.

After the first batter made out, the next made first base on an error. The dugout began to take on a semblance of life, but Stan had no encouragement for his teammates.

“C’mon, Taylor,” one player said to him. “Stop sulking and root for your team.”

Stan ignored him. Dan was quiet, too, but Dave Rancid was leading with hopeful shouts. The team rallied. Stan sat there. He could not care less about the rally. He had failed and that was his primary concern. The other kids were furious with him for just sitting in a dark corner of the dusty dugout.

But the rally kept up, and with one out, Rancid’s kid came to the plate with a runner on first. Krill was clinging to a 6-5 lead. Stan was on deck, but he had not paid attention.

“You’re on deck,” Dan suddenly told him. Stan had to find his spikes, remove his sneakers, and lace himself back up.

Krill smoked three fastballs by Rancid. Two outs. Stan emerged from the dugout. His own teammates shouted a word or two, but remained mostly in silent judgment of the prima donna. Krill was tired. It was a hot day and he had thrown a lot of pitches.

Stan dug in at the plate. The other team was jeering him, using foul epithets, and so were the hyenas in the stands. It was Stan vs. the world. For some reason, he liked it that way.

Krill’s first pitch was a straight fastball, right down the middle, without the hop that he had exhibited earlier in the game. Right in his wheelhouse. Stan swung, made solid contact, and started running with his head down. He heard shouts and yells and screams. Then there was silence. He touched first and dug in for second. Then he looked up. The second baseman was standing in front of him with his hands on his hips.

“It’s a home run, asshole,” he said disgustedly. Stan stopped. The other team was walking off the field. He looked at the outfield fence. Beyond, he could see kids on bikes chasing his home run ball, which had cleared the fence in straightaway center.

Then he heard his team shouting like there was no tomorrow, led by his father, who was whooping and hollering to beat the barn. Paul Krill was walking off the field dejectedly. Stan then went into his patented home run trot. When he got home, his teammates were the only ones cheering him, save for his mother and a few of his teammates’ parents.

His team lifted him on their shoulders and carried him to the dugout. Then Dan lifted him on his shoulders, parading him around in front of the dugout, in front of the people in the stands, the hating kids, and the resentful parents. His son had shut everybody up. Their display was anything but sportsmanlike.

The losers had to wait for the Dan and Stan spectacle to end to engage in the post-game handshakes, and Dan was as smug as could be when he made his way through the line. When he came to Krill, Paul had tears in his eyes, but he shook Stan’s hand and showed real admiration for him.

“You’re a son of a bitch,” Krill said, but it was meant as a compliment. Stan smiled at Paul.

“You pitched a helluva gave, asshole,” he said.

Stan’s team, Tarridge Sporting Goods, was undefeated, as was Eddie Andrews and Taco Bell, when they first played each other. Eddie and Stan would duel each other on the mound. Eddie was a figure of almost god-like dimensions to Stan, just as he was to everybody else. He was a full-grown man. Stan was tall, but still painfully thin.

At school and throughout the league, the talk was about this game, and how Eddie Andrews would show Stan up for what he really was. Nobody was rooting for Stan, except of course for that silent minority of admirers that was growing every day. The prick Rico played for Taco Bell, and he would have it in for Stan.

The stands were packed for this game. Several high school coaches from the area came to see it, including Eddie’s own coach, Jim Ambers. Stan was totally pumped. He was confident and loved the pressure. He felt like he was David and Eddie was Goliath, but he had that rock going for him. In the top of the first, Eddie struck out the side, including Stan, who hit third in the order. He threw three heaters that Stan never saw. In the bottom of the first inning, Rico led off against Stan. Stan poured that “rock,” intentionally, right off Rico’s helmet on the first pitch.

Rico went down like a pile of bricks. There was silence on the field. Stan took two large steps towards home plate. Rico looked up at him, stunned and in pain.

Fuck you,” Stan said to him.

“What did you say?” was Rico’s incredulous reply.

“What the fuck did you think I said?” replied Stan. “I know Goddamn well I said it in English. You unnerstan’ English, don’tcha? Fuck you.”

“Fuck you, you - ” Rico tried to say.

“I didn’t give you permission to speak, asshole,” Stan said, and by this time he was half way to home plate. Players were starting to leave their dugouts, which is unheard of in the Babe Ruth League. “Get your ass to first base and take notes. I won’t even charge your sorry ass for the lesson.”

Rico was beaten. He trotted to first base. Stan stared down the entire Taco Bell team. There was momentary silence. He focused on Eddie Andrews. Eddie was not somebody he wanted to tangle with.

“I’m gonna kick your ass, then I’m gonna kick your old man’s ass,” came a voice from the Taco Bell dugout. It was not Eddie. It was Wayne Fingers. Fingers was 15 years old, but he was just finishing the eighth grade because he had flunked it. Fingers was a full-blown juvenile delinquent. He and Eddie smoked pot together. Fingers had been busted for smoking dope. He also had a rap sheet for various assaults and robberies. He was from a Portuguese fishing family that had lived in the same old house since the 1920s, although his father ran an auto shop in downtown L.A. The shop was right next door to Joe’s, and Dan had brought his car in for repair on numerous occasions. They had developed into friends, of sorts. Dan would listen to Mr. Fingers lament about what a loser his boy Wayne was, and how he wished his son’s could stay on the straight and narrow like young Stan. 

Wayne was Rico’s best friend.

Stan was so pumped with adrenaline that his skin was ready to come off his body. He had a wonderful quality, the ability to rise to a challenge. When he was like this, he did not feel fear. He felt invincible.

“I’m here, Fingers,” Stan yelled. “Come and get me.”

“Go back in the dugout, Finger,” Shirley Taylor was yelling from the stands. When she got excited she mispronounced names, and in this case omitted the “s.”

“You’re mama can’t protect you, Taylor,” Fingers screamed.

“I hear a police siren, Fingers,” retorted Stan. “Better run.”

“You’ll get yours,” Fingers yelled.

By this time, everybody on both sides was getting into it. Dan was yelling across the field at Fingers’ dad, who was Taco Bell’s assistant coach. The elder Fingers was cussing right back. The stands were getting heated.

Stan went back to the mound. Rico took his lead at first. He was screaming vehement hatred at Stan. Stan had opened himself up. Now he had to put up because he had not shut up.

Stan struck out the second batter. Next up was Eddie Andrews. He hit a shot right back at him, past the mound and into center field. Rico advanced to second, and was taunting Stan from there.

“Yer gonna get yer tits lit, pussyboy,” he was yelling.

Stan came this close to walking to second and telling the little pissant to take advantage of his vantage point from second base to watch Stan, and therefore to learn something about the craft of pitching. But he was a little bit scared. Wayne Fingers was coming to the plate. Stan knew that if he fared poorly today, he would not live it down. He already knew that Fingers was out to get him. Fingers was Taco Bell’s second pitcher. He threw sidearm, and brought pretty good heat. He liked to bean guys, and Stan knew he would be a target. Not to mention, Fingers would be waiting behind a tree some time to beat the crap out of him. Stan was not afraid of a physical beating, but rather the result of getting his smart aleck ways thrown back at him if he failed to pitch well.

Stan had taken his shot. He was an object of derision. He decided that steering clear of controversy had not worked, so he would make it work for him. He would shove it up their asses. He had to do it, though.

Fingers batted right-handed. He was a power threat; a big, mean bastard, standing 6-1 and 200 pounds. He wanted to get a hit off Stan Taylor so bad he was almost grinding his bat handle off.

Fingers hit a rocket down the third base line. Rico rounded third and head for home. Then the home plate umpire called it foul. Fingers worked the count to 2-and-1. Then Stan sawed him off. Fingers hit a two-hopper to the first baseman. He had an aluminum bat. If it had been wood, it would have broken. The awkward swing at the up-and-in pitch, which would not have been a strike, caused him to lose a step or two coming out of the box. Stan immediately directed the first baseman to get Eddie at second, and sprinted up the first base line. The play worked perfectly. The shortstop stepped on second.

“Double play,” Stan was yelling. He was ahead of Fingers. The shortstop made an errant throw to first base, just up the line. Stan was drawn off the bag. If Fingers had slid, he could have avoided the tag, but he ran straight into Stan. His desire for revenge made him try to knock the tall kid down. Stan had the ball in his glove and came around with a hard, wicked, ball-in-the-glove tag right on Fingers’ ugly face. It immediately caused his nose to bleed, and the umpire called him out for an inning-ending double play.

Stan spiked the ball like a pro football player after scoring a touchdown. Fingers had murder in his heart.

The events of the first inning laid the foundation for a game that would go down in P.V. legend. Eddie was unhittable. He pitched a no-hit game. An error by Rico at second prevented it from being a perfect game.

Stan had worked out of that first inning jam, and that had taken a load off his mind. Now he could settle down. He knew he had the goods today. He just had to concentrate. Over seven innings, he gave up seven hits. Andrews had four of them, but Fingers and Rico were held hitless all game. At the plate, Stan never saw a thing big Ed threw at him, and he struck out again in the fourth and the seventh.

At the end of seven, the score stood 0-0. Babe Ruth League rules stated that a starting pitcher can only pitch seven innings, so both Andrews and Stan had to come out. Eddie went to first base, and Stan moved to shortstop.

In the top of the eighth, Tarridge Sporting Goods scored a run to take a 1-0 lead. The eighth inning is extra innings in the seven-inning league. Tarridge sent Rusty Potter to the hill in the bottom of the frame. He was a lefty who threw junk. The first hitter was Andrews, and against all odds, Potter struck him out. Eddie threw his helmet and bat at the bat rack.

Taco Bell’s coach had forgotten his team’s batting helmets. They had to borrow Tarridge’s. Dan Taylor had paid for the helmets. Taylor saw Eddie throw the helmet.

“Hey, Fingers, tell your guys not to throw my helmets,” he yelled. “I paid for those.”  

Predictably, Dan’s request was met by derision.

“Low class bastards,” he said to nobody in particular.

One of Fingers’ pals was standing near the fence and overheard the remark.

“He called you low class bastards,” the kid yelled out to the Taco Bell dugout.

More derision hailed back at Dan, who was beyond caring. The emotions of the day had drained him of normal feelings.

Fingers came up and drilled a line drive single.

The next batter popped out. The next hitter was Jerry Lowell, who had been a rival of Stan’s throughout little league. He was one year older and a dangerous hitter. Lowell parked a long drive to left center field, in the gap. Fingers was off and running. Stan ran way out to the outfield to get the cut-off. He knew he had to get as far out as possible to get that throw. Fingers picked up steam past second, then rounded third and headed for home. The throw came in to Stan.

Stan turned to throw home to nab Fingers. It was the most perfect moment of his life, as if he was One with the Universe. Athletes talk about the zone. Nobody, except really good athletes who have experienced it, knows what the hell the zone is. Stan was in it. He knew, he just knew he was going to throw Fingers out at home plate.

Stan had never made a throw this far before. He had lacked the arm strength until now. The ball flowed off his fingers. Stan calculated in microseconds where Fingers was, how fast he was running, and when the throw would arrive at the plate.

He could have turned around and shut his eyes, and he would have known the results. It was too glorious to miss, however. The ball sailed as if on wings, and landed a perfect strike in the catcher’s glove. The catcher was a husky kid. Fingers tried to run him down, but the kid held on to the ball to tag him out to end the game.

Fingers exploded at the umpire. He pulled Dan Taylor’s bought-and-paid-for helmet off his head and threw it to the ground so hard that it shattered, causing Dan to run out and get in his face.

Tarridge’s players jumped for joy. Stan ran past the pitcher’s mound celebration to home plate. Fingers was trailing the umpire, challenging the poor bastard to a fight. Dan Taylor was right behind him, screaming at him for breaking his helmet.

Fingers turned and was ready to strike Dan, when Stan arrived. Stan went right up to him and put his face half an inch from his. They were eyeball-to-eyeball.

“You are…OUTTA HERE! he yelled. Fingers was too shocked to do anything at first. Stan taunted him. He was not smiling. He had assumed complete smartass mode, and was talking in a weird monotone, meant to illicit full irritation from Wayne Fingers.

“Outta here,” he said again, in a way that sounded as if he had known all along exactly how Fingers would lose, as if there never had been a doubt. He was backing off just a bit.      

Fingers lunged for Stan, but Dan grabbed him. Fingers managed to get a punch in on Dan. Then Mr. Fingers interceded, and grabbed his son very roughly. He violently wrestled and hit him. It was obvious he had been forced to put some hurt on his boy to keep him down in the past. Dan escaped with a swollen jaw. Stan stood pointing at Wayne. Now he was smiling and laughing at him. Rico and a few others were trying to taunt him, but their words were rendered meaningless.

Stan raised his arms in triumph. The clique of Tarridge’s family and friends accorded him hero status. Stan just reveled in it. What a game. What a day. Talk about validation!

Stan was worried about Fingers, who threatened great bodily harm to him, to Dan, to his mother, and to their house. His father apologized for his son. Fingers was arrested a couple of weeks later for breaking and entering into another house. The ensuing investigation found that he was part of a crystal meth ring, and he went away to spend more time at juvie. Stan never heard what happened to him beyond that.

Stan continued to lead his team throughout the Summer of 1977. At the end of the season, all-star teams were selected. The Babe Ruth League has a 13-year old all-star team. Very few 13-year olds are good enough to make the regular all-stars. Stan was an exception.

Dave Rancid’s kid had picked up his game nicely in the second half of the season. He played third base and played it well. He still struck out a lot, but hit with good power. The better he got, the more he started to get on Stan’s nerves. Stan was a chatterbox, and Dave Rancid, Jr. was very quiet. He seemed to garner more respect than Stan, which rubbed Stan and his father the wrong way. Friction developed between the families.

By the time the all-star selection process came around, there was talk of Dave making the regular all-star team. Although there was no official rule, the league’s managers always had said that in the rare case of 13-year olds making regular all-stars, there should never be more than one from any single team in the league.

Stan was by far the more qualified player, but Rancid was popular. The fact he never smiled and was still popular bugged the hell out of Stan and Dan. By this time they had become obsessed with those damn Rancids. When the league’s managers and coaches met to vote on all-stars, somehow Rancid had become a favorite for regular selection. The vote came down, and it was tight. Dan held his vote back. Finally, he was the last one to vote. It was tied.

Dan voted for his son. An audible moan went up. Dave Rancid, the father, cussed him out. The legend of the Dan and Stan show was ratcheted up a notch, and not for the better.

“Those two deserve each other,” Dave Rancid, Sr. remarked.         

Stan took sports seriously. He started to realize that he took it too seriously. Having a father like Dan opened his eyes to the kind of obsessive behavior that can happen in sports, and Stan sensed that he did not want to become like that.  Stan began to question the meaning of life. By that, he began to question the game of baseball. He and his dad tended to go down and practice less than before. Going to the park was more of a chore. The burden of being the “bad guy” and the son of Dan Taylor in the Palos Verdes baseball community was wearing him down. He rode the exhilaration of his on-field triumphs. However, the treatment of his “enemies” was breaking him down, at school and at the ballpark.  

Shirley was a tennis player, and she had always encouraged Stan to play that game. Being tall, strong, and angular, he was a natural athlete, agile and quick, although not actually fast. Stan took to the game. He enjoyed it as a diversion from baseball, perhaps because he felt less pressure. The Taylor’s belonged to the Palos Verdes Racquet Club, a tony establishment filled with overstuffed grown-ups and obnoxious teenagers. He would go and play tennis. He regularly beat these tennis snobs.

Stan’s abilities were obvious. Shirley took him to a local pro named Bruce Damon. Damon taught Stan the American serve, the volley game, the topspin backhand, and many other aspects of strategy and technique. Stan kept improving. After only a few sessions, Damon took Shirley aside and told her that she had a prodigy on her hands.

“He can play at the highest level,” Damon told them. “He can become a professional, but he’ll have to give it everything he’s got. He needs to quit baseball and basketball and concentrate on tennis year-round. If he does it, with proper instruction, he can be a champion.”

“I think I can play professional baseball,” was Stan’s reply. Somehow, telling Damon this re-affirmed his love for baseball. While he may actually have been a better tennis player than a baseball player, his heart was in baseball. Baseball was not much fun lately, but he had committed to the game. He felt a loyalty to the game, and in choosing not to give it up, he confirmed something that he felt about himself. Damon told Shirley that it was his way or the highway. Stan refused to give up baseball. Damon resigned as his coach.

Still, Stan played for fun. First, his junior high school set up a challenge match with another junior high. The other school featured a kid named Pat Sanguillen, a local junior Davis Cup contender, considered one of the best players on the peninsula. Stan was the best his school had to offer, but he was given no chance to beat Sanguillen.

Few at Stan’s school even knew he played tennis. His classmates derided him, as usual, and offered that he would lose - big time - to Sanguillen. When the match came around, the court was packed. There were whistles and catcalls, and Stan’s classmates continued to make fun of him.

This, of course, was Stan’s place to shine, because he was a gamer and a winner. He thrived on challenges and, as usual, used nerves and fear to his advantage. Sports were the place he would show all the boneheads who was in charge, and so it was - again - on this day. Everybody could sense it right from the get-go. Many of the kids were watching Stan play tennis for the first time. Warming up, they were amazed at his smooth, powerful strokes, and his heavy topspin backhand.

Then he practiced service, and put on a display that awed everybody, most of all Sanguillen. Stan’s opponent was beaten before the match started when Stan pounded searing line shots that stuck into the fence on the other end of the court. It was an incredibly impressive display.

Sanguillen was tough, but Stan was tougher. In a close match, he held on and beat him. He turned his detractors around and had them rooting for him. He could hear the pretty girls who never gave him the time of day whispering, “C’mon, Stan.” He just excelled.

Shirley enrolled Stan in the Daily Breeze Tennis Tournament. This included the best talent in the South Bay and beyond. Players from Long Beach to Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, all the way to San Marino, competed in this prestigious event.

Stan was unknown and unranked. He had spent his Summer playing Babe Ruth League baseball while the other kids were playing tournaments, traveling to places like Kalamazoo, Michigan to excel against top competition.

The competition on the peninsula was excellent. Tracy Austin and Pete Sampras earned their spurs there. Stan had to face seeded players from the very first round. The marquee matches were played on center court before larger crowds, while he was relegated to playing on court 10 next to the overgrown weeds.

Still, every opponent fell like Eastern Europe under Stalin. Stan drew attention and created fear. He created fear because he was not known, and his opponents, who knew how to play all the usual suspects, were taken by surprise. His photo adorned the Daily Breeze sports page. His game was not hard to figure out. Stan dominated with serve-and-volleys. He rushed the net every chance he got, and with his agility and reach turned the angles in his favor. He won the Daily Breeze tournament and was heralded as the next great junior star.

If he had taken up tennis full-time, and followed Bruce Damon’s advice, Stan Taylor might have gone onto greatness, or semi-greatness. However, it was not in him, which was curious. Stan was a “me-first” kid, a guy who lorded over others and brought enmity upon himself for it. He was a soloist, a prima donna, a star. Tennis was perfect for his kind of egocentric personality. Yet, he chose baseball, a team game.

Baseball is a game of individual performance, but one player cannot make a team a winner, no matter how good he is. In little league, maybe even in high school, a dominant pitcher can do just that - dominate - but the game requires back-up; teammates who can field and throw, hitters to score runs.

Tennis is one-on-one. Stan would look at his fielders, glaring at them after they made errors that cost him precious, glorifying shutouts. He had one fat-ass catcher who, Stan was sure, allowed passed balls with a runner on third to break up his shutouts.

Stan would scream at him, and the fat ass would just reply with “Ah, who cares about the shutout? We’re up by 10.”

This, of course, infuriated Stan, who would demand that his old man remove the malcontent. The fact that Dan would do that just made it worse for Stan, who was seen as a glory hog, with his father right there with him.

But in tennis he could make his own glory without anybody else raining on his parade.

Stan knew a kid named Dave Dolmite. Dolmite was, like Stan, an excellent athlete. He was one of those guys who at one time might have been considered to be Stan’s equal in sports. He played baseball, basketball, football and tennis. Dolmite played in a different little league than Stan, but they competed on the same CYO basketball team. Dolmite and Stan were the only non-Catholic kids not attending St. Cecilia’s who played for the school.

They were not exactly friends. Dolmite had it together. He was confident and popular. Stan’s confidence manifested itself as arrogance. But they both played tennis. Stan started to invite Dolmite to the tennis club. Dolmite was the perfect opponent for Stan. He was a good, competitive, worthy opponent. He also could not beat Stan in a million years. Stan loved playing him. Dolmite accepted defeat graciously. Stan hated to lose. He took it personally. Anyone who could beat him was an object of hate, not a worthy opponent. Somebody that Stan would obsess over. Beating Stan in tennis, or any sport, was cause to go on his personal “shit list.”

Dave had the gift of maturity. He made good grades and was a clean-cut, All-American type. Stan admired him. Dolmite also had a girlfriend, which put him in a different social league.

One day, Dolmite’s baseball team practiced at Stan’s junior high school. Stan saw Dolmite, but some of his classmates were still hanging around. The catcalling was happening. Dolmite saw how unpopular Stan was, and if Stan could have dug a hole, he would have. He desperately wanted to hide the fact that he was so hated. Now, Dolmite saw the way it was, which just killed Stan.

Stan knew a lot of kids who went to other schools, but they would all be attending Palos Verdes High together. Stan dreaded the day this would happen. The kids who knew and loathed him would continue with their harassment. He knew when this happened, some of his sports associates would see this. Not everybody knew the full extent of his reputation. At least, he did not think they all did. He was repulsed by the prospect of full disclosure of his “dirty laundry.”

He did not look forward to attending Palos Verdes even though he knew he would be a sports star. Success in sports had not overcome his unpopularity. He knew the only way he could change things would be to get his father away from the action, where his crazy antics, his yelling and screaming, his swearing and high-ventilation act would no longer be the big issue that crowded the way everybody felt about his son.

In Stan’s mind his father was a bogeyman. Stan overlooked his own actions. Hiding his stature among his peers was one of Stan’s great pre-occupations. If he befriended somebody outside school, or found somebody who saw anything redeeming in him, he strove to keep his “other life” secret.

Stan had a cousin named Cathy. She was a shy girl, quiet. She had her own demons to worry about. Somehow, while the two were never close - they had little in common - there was an unspoken bond between them. They were both outsiders.

Cathy would stay at the house on occasion. Stan always made an effort to preen about and try to impress her in some way. He had her going for a while. She seemed impressed that he was such a good athlete. Stan even had a friend over to the house once who said the right things, making Stan look good.

Everything came crashing down one day after CYO basketball practice. Dan was coaching the team. He was a taskmaster. He yelled and screamed at the kids, and had quickly worn out his welcome. Parents were complaining about his methods. Dan would just reply that they were all a “bunch of assholes.” He openly favored his son. Since they were the non-Catholics, this did not go over well.

Stan took the brunt of it, just like he always did. In the locker room, on the road trips, in the car. He was egotistical, but Stan never hurt a fly. He never meant to harm anybody (except when he put an 83 mile per hour fastball in Rico’s ear). Furthermore, he was smart and funny. He had a great sense of humor. Somehow he could not get past the open hostility, to the point where his jokes, his easy-going style, could let him be one of the guys. He so desperately wanted to be one of the guys. Outside of the strictures of actually playing the games, he was an open and friendly soul. This aspect of his personal nature had always been held tightly shut, not allowed to explore and expand. He was caught in the middle, unable to break free.

So his teammates made fun of him. They threw garbage at him. They tweaked his ears when he wasn’t looking. They stole his gear, threw his stuff in the garbage, hid things. Life with the CYO basketball team had become almost as unbearable as school. Worse, Dan Taylor saw it all.

One day they came home from a practice in which his own son had been the open butt of jokes. They just rode in silence, and the anger in Dan was palpable. There was anger at the pissants who tormented his son, but there was hostility at his kid for being the object of that torment. Dan was exasperated at him for taking it. He was psychologically blocked from realizing that he was part of the reason Stan was so badly mistreated.

Cathy was staying at the house on this particular night. There were cursory hellos when the “men” arrived, but it was in the air. A “shit storm” was brewing. Dan was on the warpath, and when that happened Stan Taylor was going to get it. It was inevitable. Especially after Dan started drinking. That was when the silence turned into barbs.

What made it worse on this night was Cathy’s presence. Stan came to realize something that he had seen before, at practices, in groups, and when his friends were at the house. Dan liked to embarrass him in front of people. He did it in front of grown-ups. He did it in front of his peers. He liked to jump on an imaginary stage, when people were watching and listening. He would do it in restaurants, talking loudly, drunkenly, making fun of his son in such a way that anybody within earshot knew that STAN TAYLOR was getting ridiculed.

Dan ridiculed Stan in front of Cathy, because they were in front of her. He said things he normally would not have said. Cathy’s presence meant that the words would cut like knives. Stan saw it coming, but was helpless. To argue or spar insults would only exacerbate the situation. He knew his best course was just to take it. So he did, as long as he could.

Then Dan started in on the treatment Stan received from his teammates. He began to detail the torments, the indignities, making sure Cathy knew and understood his meaning. He wanted his son to feel that extra red blush of embarrassment because of it.

“Those kids don’t like you,” Dan said. “They make fun of you.”

Stan wanted to scream back that they did not like him because they hated Dan. He could not. It was a futile statement, and it would only reinforce the facts. He could see Cathy staring at him. In reality, Cathy felt sorry for him. She knew what Dan was like, especially when he was drinking, but Stan only felt singled out for humiliation.

Eventually, it got the best of him, and he started in on his old man

“That’s a load of shit,” he said.

His use of swear words infuriated both Dan and Shirley.

Shirley by this point had lost all semblance of what she had once been. The vibrant college student and freethinker was now Mrs. Dan Taylor in thought, word and deed. Her natural tendency towards being nice in situations such as this had been replaced by a terrible gang mentality. When Dan jumped on Stan, she jumped on him, too. She never defended him. She was Dan’s backup, and she was good at.

She no longer seemed to have a hold on reality, or so it seemed to Stan. She misunderstood things, always to Stan’s detriment. Stan would accidentally hit his funny bone, and yell out in pain. Ray Charles could see what had happened, but Shirley would just say, “What’s the matter, you idiot?”

Stan would accidentally bite his tongue, and his face would grimace in pain.

“Are you an idiot?” was her standard response to this, and a million other things.

Stan became convinced that he lived in some kind of parallel universe in which white was black, black was white, and the idiots ran the asylum. He knew he was not the idiot. Shirley would be driving her car. Stan was sure some unseen force was the only thing that kept her alive. She would approach green lights and stop. She would drive through a stop sign.

“What…are…you…doing?” Stan would squirm. He looked and saw other cars come to screeching halts, fists of drivers raised in anger.

“Why are you acting like an idiot?” Shirley would ask him impatiently. Her face would pinch in a way that just disturbed Stan.

There must be some explanation for this, Stan would think to himself, but it was beyond his understanding. If he had a dollar for every time his mother called him an idiot, he would have had $207,113. If he had a buck for every time the old man called him an “asshole,” that would have garnered him an additional $311,419. “Cocksucker” was a rarer epithet, but he could have picked up a grand if the gods had been paying for that wonderful phrase.    

This caused great frustration for Stan. He wallowed in this hell, fighting with parents he could not beat. The last essence of manhood and dignity was stripped away from him in the presence of his female cousin. Any chance that Stan had of portraying himself as a knight, a man, and a winner, was stripped away by his father.

He hated him. He loved him. His mother, the same. The man who went out of his way to make his son look bad in front of his peers was the same man who went out of his way to do anything for the boy. He was generous, he had tremendous love in his heart, and he had that quality of puppy dog vulnerability. He would yell loudly, with such a foul mouth, using horrendous language in a judgmental rage. Still, he could stand there, his foppish hair askew, a look of wonder on his face.

Stan was the boy of conscience. He hated himself for the feelings he felt for his dad. He could not stay with these feelings for a long time. He blamed himself. Surely, it was his fault. The problems of his world were his doing, and he would just accept the blame.

Stan’s rival on the St. Cecilia’s team was a transfer student from back east named Jack Tibbetts. Tibbetts was almost perfect. He was attractive, a great student, the son of an Air Force officer who dressed impeccably. Jack acted like an adult.

Tibbetts was immediately accepted and respected by his teammates. This made Stan green with envy. The only thing he was recognized for was athletic skill, but that was not enough.

Tibbetts replaced Stan as the leading scorer on the team. Stan was obsessed with statistics, so this was almost too much to accept. Stan had a great way to change all that. Just as he had Start-O-Matic baseball, Foto-Electric football, and had played that college football game with Dave Bailiff, he also had an NBA board game. It was a couple of years old, and contained cards for each player - John Havlicek, Pete Maravich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, and so on.

Each player was rated for various skills, like shooting and rebounding. Stan’s answer to Jack Tibbetts was to create cards for each player on his CYO team. Stan rated them all, going over their skills. He gave himself the edge on Tibbetts in several important areas, particular as it pertained to scoring. Then he created opponents, using various teams from around the local CYO league. Once he was done with that, he started playing games. Naturally, Stan outscored and out-rebounded Tibbetts. It made him feel superior.        

On his first day of junior high school, Stan saw a girl named Jo Petrini. She was absolutely beautiful, the first girl he ever knew who was his age and had breasts. In his mind, she was way out of his league. She dated a kid named Ray. Ray was a pipsqueak, but a good-looking pipsqueak. He was tanned with dark hair. Ray and Stan had nothing to do with each other, and Stan felt no particular anger towards Ray. He was just grateful that Ray was not one of the kids who did not make his life miserable.

However, Ray’s best friend was a kid named Lou. Lou was one of Stan’s tormentors. One day, Shirley was driving Stan home from school, and they passed Ray and Lou. Stan was afraid that Lou would yell something at him, but figured he might not, since he was with Ray, and Ray was quiet.

They were in a conversation and missed Stan’s car driving past. Ray and Lou had gone to a different elementary school than Stan. Stan picked up a snippet of their conversation. They were talking about “sixth grade girlfriends.”

This had a strange effect on Stan. Stan never had a girlfriend, much less one narrowly classified as being a sixth grade girlfriend, as opposed to other girlfriends. He despised Lou because he was popular with girls. That was salt in the wound. God, life was unfair. 

When Stan was 14, he heard an older kid tell a bunch of his CYO teammates a dirty joke, about the sperm that is set on impregnating the egg first. The sperm buys a new set of running shoes, trains for the event, and on the big day, when he is launched forward on his quest, he gets way out ahead of the pack. Then, the sperm has a terrible realization. A few stragglers can hear his last words.

“Oh, nooo,” the sperm is heard exclaiming. “It’s a blow job.”

Every kid laughed knowingly. Stan smiled and pretended to think it was funny, but he was not sure what the joke meant.  

The CYO kids seemed to be more sexual than his public school counterparts. They were always talking about “getting on” some girl. Girls were usually referred to by their last names, as in, “I got on O’Reilly last night.”

They claimed to be getting more ass than a toilet seat. The reality was that all but one of them was a virgin. Some occasionally got into some kissing or petting, but it never went beyond that. This did not change Stan’s perception that all of them were John Holmes.

The CYO cheerleaders were fantasy objects, in their Catholic girl uniforms. They were better looking than the junior high girls. At first, they had shown him some interest, but that faded after a while. Stan was too weird, too unsure of himself with girls, too uncool.

It was not his looks. He was not popular with the boys, and lacked the kind of sympathetic, rebel-like quality that would make him a James Dean figure with girls. At the games, he would look at the girls gyrate during their cheers, and all he could do was imagine. In the eighth grade, Stan read “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. It was much more influential on him than “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. “Ball Four” opened up a world of possibilities to him, about sex and baseball. He imagined that some day he would play in the Major Leagues, and then he would live out the fantasies Bouton wrote about in “Ball Four”.

Bouton wrote about “beaver shooting,” which is essentially men looking up the dresses of women, in various forms. Stan had a biology teacher named Miss Ovis. Miss Ovis was in her 20s, not a bad looking woman, although no beauty queen. She had a shapely body, and wore short skirts.

One day in the library, Stan walked by Miss Ovis and purposely dropped something on the floor. He bent over to pick it up, and started staring up Miss Ovis’ dress.

“What are you doing, Stan?” Miss Ovis asked him.

“Beaver shooting,” replied Stan confidently.

“I read ‘Ball Four’, Stan,” said Miss Ovis.

Stan was mortified.

It was around this time that Dan represented Mike Lodeen on child molestation charges out in Barstow. Dan had to make numerous trips to the high desert town, and he would come back filled with inside, attorney-client-privileged information about Lodeen, which he shared with Shirley. Stan heard most of it.

Lodeen was as “queer as an eight-dollar bill,” a habitual drug abuser and child molester. Dan did an excellent job as his attorney, and got him off with a suspended sentence. Lodeen never paid Dan a dime. Dan whined about it for years afterward. Stan thought his father had no reason to complain. He knew what the Lodeens were. They did not have a speck of honor, so why would he have ever expected to get paid?

Lodeen had been the coolest of the cool when he coached in the little league. All the kids looked up to him. His brother Rickey was a good pitcher and also considered cool. When Stan discovered that Lodeen was the worst kind of sexual deviant, an actual “faggot,” the worst thing one could be in the lexicon of adolescent vocabulary, he felt better about himself. Here was a guy who everybody thought highly of, but he had fallen. Nobody outside the Taylor’s or the Lodeen’s knew he was gay or a child molester, except for Dick Maslin, who prided himself on inside information.

Stan knew. He wondered why Lodeen had never tried his molesting ways on him, and smiled because he did know. Lodeen knew Stan was straight and not “in play.” This was good news for Stan. Lodeen’s low rent mother occasionally worked as a yard monitor at his junior high, and when the child molestation case came up, she started to act hatefully towards Stan. She knew the kid knew about her beloved son. How dare this kid have knowledge of what we are? she thought to herself. This would be a persistent theme that Stan understood. If somebody knew you had knowledge of something negative about someone, that someone would hold it against the person who had the knowledge. It did not really make sense, but was a fact of human nature.

One day, Maslin was at Stan’s house. He told Stan that he knew Lodeen was “queer,” and he knew Stan knew. Stan never found out how Maslin found out, but if anybody had a way of getting this kind of stuff, it was Dick.

“Wanna play a good joke?” he asked Stan.

“Sure,” said Stan.

Maslin picked up the phone and dialed a number.

“Mrs. Lodeen?” he asked, changing his voice into that of a convincing adult authority figure. “This is John del Greco with the California Highway Patrol…Yes, I’m afraid so, ma’am. I regret to inform you that your son, Mike, has been killed in an auto accident.”

Maslin had to hold the receiver away from his ear, and Stan could hear the shrill shriek of “Miiiiikeeee,” from the phone.

“My condolences, Mrs. Lodeen,” said Maslin/del Greco. “Somebody from our department will be in touch with you about the remains.”

  Maslin just loved himself when he pulled these kinds of stunts. Stan was repulsed but impressed. Stan was always searching for competence. The kids who made fun of him were, in his view, inferior. He was beset by the duality of trying to be one them, and looking down on them. Maslin was worthy in his view because he possessed a certain wit and humor that was above the ordinary.

Stan was friendly with another kid named Carl. Carl was a blonde cherub, the only son of Norwegian immigrants with chips on their shoulder. Carl was open and friendly, however. He was one of those guys who went through life unnoticed, as opposed to Stan, who seemed to wear a sign on his chest that read, “I’M IN THE SPOTLIGHT.”

Stan was attracted to people like Carl, who were usually not in sports. Smart students but not prominent, with quiet personalities. These types were not likely to join in the chorus of boos that he heard every day. Carl sympathized with Stan because of the way the others treated him. Carl got his jokes, enjoyed his quirky personality, and understood his peculiarities as being plusses, not negatives. Carl could not understand why Stan put himself out there so nakedly, seemingly asking for abuse. He could not relate to the desire for recognition that was in Stan, which was so strong that he was willing to place himself in the crosshairs of juvenile putdowns. Stan was proud and strong enough to withstand it, which amazed Carl, and was the source of his admiration. He could never have taken one-tenth of the treatment himself.  He did not see behind Stan’s blue eyes, into his inner psyche, which suffered far more than anybody knew. Nobody, not Carl or anybody else, truly knew what it was like to be faded, to be baited, to be hated.

One day, Carl told Stan that he was a pretty good tennis player. Even though they had known each other all their lives, this fact had somehow had escaped Stan. Stan was elated, and arranged to hit with Carl. What joy, a chance to play meaningful tennis with a nice friend.

Then they started to hit. Carl had no athletic ability, not for tennis or anything else. Stan was deflated. Carl simply was so clueless about sports, that he thought he was good. 

“So, what do you think,” he asked Stan?

“Hey, you’re good,” Stan smiled. He did not like to hurt anybody’s feelings.

 

Before Stan started the eighth grade, Dan had occasion to meet Jim Ambers, the baseball coach at Rolling Hills High School. Ambers ran a top program. It was an era in which players wore funky uniforms. Players had long, flowing hair coming out of their caps.

Not if you played for Jim Ambers. Eddie Andrews played for Ambers. Left to his own devices, Eddie’s hair would have grown to his butt, but under Ambers he looked like a Marine, just like everybody else on the team.

Ambers ran a year-round program. He managed the American Legion team in the Summer, and in recent years had run a top notch “Winter league,” otherwise known as Fall ball because it actually ran from September to Thanksgiving. Ambers had once played briefly for the 49ers, too. He had been asked to take over as the defensive coordinator for Rolling Hills’ football team. That meant that he needed somebody to coach his Winter league team. The subject came up with Dan, and it was agreed that he would coach the team.

They played every Saturday in the Fall. Stan was not yet in high school, and not even slated to attend Rolling Hills, but he was given a uniform and a spot on the roster. There was a little grumbling among the Rolling Hills players, and a lot of grumbling from everybody who knew the Taylor’s from P.V. youth baseball.

Taylor and Eddie Andrews immediately hit it off. Eddie admired the kid who had beaten him earlier that year in the epic Babe Ruth game. Once the games started, there was no more grumbling amongst the Rolling Hills crowd. Stan pitched, played first base and shortstop, and handled himself very well. He loved playing with older kids, and competing evenly. In fact, he was better than most of them. He was quickly treated as a phenom, a rookie who was way ahead of his age group.

The team traveled, and it was all great fun. What was really great about it was the fact that he was accepted and treated as an equal by the high school kids. They laughed at his jokes. They did not taunt him. Stan felt like he was out of place with his peers. He was ahead of them in many ways. He was not mature as much as he was advanced. He just felt comfortable with the older guys. Back amongst the rabble at school, with the pissant coaches in the Babe Ruth League, and that crowd, he was not viewed the way he wanted to be. The general consensus there was much different.

“They all think Taylor coaches the Rolling Hills team so his kid can play,” Dan said to Stan and Shirley. The way he said it implied that all blame should fall directly on Stan.

Stan was a lover, not a fighter. When he got his back up, he would take action, but it always took a lot to move him to that point. The “Charlie Weener” punching incident, the aggressive baseball actions in the game against Rico and Wayne Fingers; these were isolated incidents. If life were a movie, he would have earned his spurs, everybody would have accepted him, and he and his new girlfriend would live happily ever after.

Stan’s athletic prowess had not gotten him any closer to a girlfriend or peer respect. He could not understand why he could make the high school kids on the Winter league team laugh, while he engendered continual enmity from those who were his own age.

Dan was peeved and perplexed. He was amazed at the way Stan went after Rico and stood up to Fingers, but was frustrated at the way his son would revert to timidity at school. Dan befriended Dan Colgate, the physical education teacher at Stan’s school. Dan was a big, beefy ex-wrestler who resembled Hoss from the old TV show “Bonanza”. He liked Stan, and was also frustrated at the way he let himself get kicked around the schoolyard. Mr. Colgate was a good guy, and thankfully did not focus on Stan’s treatment from the other kids. He treated Stan like an equal and took an interest in his athletic ability. Stan impressed the hell out of him. He enjoyed talking sports with this tall, smart kid.

Dan approached Mr. Colgate, and used him as a psuedo-spy. Mr. Colgate gave him detailed descriptions of Stan’s playground problems. The two of them could not understand why Stan did not stand up for himself. He had size and strength, but lacked the mental toughness. He was intimidated. Finally, when the weather started to turn hot in the Spring of his eighth grade year, something snapped inside Stan. He engaged in not one but two knockdown, drag out brawls on school grounds, both within a week of each other.

The first was with a kid named Stillian. Stillian was tall, thin and dumb. He had known Stan his whole life, since kindergarten. They had never been friends. Stillian possessed no athletic skills, was a weak student, and simply envied Stan. This was the conundrum of Stan’s youth. On the one hand, he envied others for their popularity and social skills. On the other hand, others envied him for his sports skills. He was shy because he wanted to hide his unpopularity, and a showboat who enjoyed demonstrating in front of others.

Stillian was like Frankie Yagman. Both of them were frustrated that no matter how much heat came down on Stan, he refused to yield. He had taught never to quit. Stan took this advice to heart. Stan realized that most kids are not taught this philosophy, especially in the cut `n’ run 1960s and ‘70s. New Age parents in California were telling their children that if it hurt their feelings, it was okay, do something else, and pass the tofu, please.

Stillian was not the toughest kid in school. He was a target Stan could deal with, and so he did. One day Stillian got on him with the usual crap.

“Pussy boy,” Stillian called him. This was a typical kind of expression, along with “mama’s boy,”  “faggot” and the normal putdowns. They were down by the tennis courts. Stan started to return the verbal volleys, and Stillian did not relent. The others were laughing at him, the usual scene. Then he punched Stillian in the face.

Ka-pow!  

Stillian was stunned.

“Oh, Stan hit me,” taunted Stan. “Try this on for size.”

Stan then punched Stillian again. Stillian had no chance. Stan beat him to a bloody pulp. He did it quietly and efficiently. Finally, Mr. Colgate pulled him off of Stillian. Colgate did not say a word to Stan, and did not punish him.

About a week later, a younger kid named Trey Brien taunted Stan. Brien was a rich kid. His dad was a doctor. He was smart and utterly obnoxious. He had gone to another grammar school, and the minute he arrived in the seventh grade he saw the way the eighth graders treated Stan. He was more than happy to jump in with both feet.

They were near the bathrooms when Brien started to make fun of Stan. This time, Stan put on a performance that made his beating of Stillian pale in comparison. He went after Brien, bitch-slapping and punching him. That was not the half of it, though. He gave commentary on it.

“Feel this,” he said, then punched Brien.

“Did that hurt?” Stan asked.

It obviously had.

“The reason it hurt,” Stan told Brien, “is because I wanted it to hurt. Here, how ‘bout this?”

Again, a whack to his face, drawing blood. Brien was in serious pain. A crowd had gathered to observe Brien’s humiliation.

“Do you like getting your ass kicked in front of girls?” Stan asked. Many girls were present.

Bam.

“Now I know that hurt,” Stan said. “I wanted it to hurt, ya see. So, understand this, you are in pain now because I have decided for you to be in a pain. Now look at me.”

Brien stared at Stan.

“I’ve decided I want you to feel more pain,” said Stan. “So, in a few seconds, you’re gonna feel more pain. Again, the reason you’ll be feeling this pain is because I just want you to.”

With that, Stan rocketed Brien with a series of shocking strikes to his face and upper body. Brien dropped to the ground. Stan gave him a swift kick in the ribs.

“I’m done with you,” he said, and walked away.

A few days later, Dan came by to pick Stan up from school. He arrived early and found Mr. Colgate, who told him about what happened. Both men thought it was great.

A kid named Kyle Manson had grown up with Stan. Manson’s father was a banker. The Manson’s hated the Taylor’s. They despised the entire concept of “playing to win” in youth sorts. This was because their son was one of the worst athletes in U.S. history. 

Occasionally, the Taylor’s would run into the Manson’s at a restaurant, and the Manson’s would not acknowledge them, even after Dan smiled and offered a big handshake. Mrs. Manson’s face would have broken if she smiled.

Kyle was, like Stillian, a thorn in Stan’s side, until one day Stan had enough of him. Stan did not kick his ass the way he had with Stillian and Brien. Instead, he humiliated him by slapping him upside his face, hard and consistently, while telling him how stupid, slow and useless he was. Manson never said another word to Stan.

Apparently he did not tell his parents about his humiliation, either. A few years later, Dan went to Mr. Manson for a bank loan. Mr. Manson, who got a commission off the deal, suddenly became the Good Humor Man.  

Stan was not the only kid who got picked on at school. One was Katie Winthrop, otherwise know as “Windbags” because she was fat. Poor Katie had little going for her, and was unable to defend herself from the boys or the girls, who ganged up on her equally. Stan felt sorry for her, although he sometimes found her to be convenient. When the kids were taunting her, they laid off of him. Katie never would recover from her childhood. She overdosed on drugs in her mid-20s, and went in to a coma for six years before finally dying.

Another kid who got the treatment was Laura Hoskins. Stan only knew her for the two years he was in junior high school. Laura’s parents were divorced. Her stepfather, a stockbroker, had molested her. She was a bitter, broken person by the time she was 13. She came to school smelly because she did not bathe regular. She had bruises. She was somebody who could not feel friendship.

There was another thing about Laura. She had enormous breasts. Stan loved her breasts. Stan fantasized about them, and tried to make friends with her. His efforts were rebuffed. She could not understand that the attempts were real. Then Stan tried to woo her. His efforts were not good.

“It’s `Big Tits’ Hoskins,” he announced when she entered the room.

Stan, in his stupid junior high mind, actually thought she might like having her large rack recognized. Instead, she attacked him, hitting him with her purse.

Laura would drop out of high school and became a street hooker.

Finally, there was a gay kid name Albert. He was totally effeminate. Whether Albert knew he was gay or not at the time was not known, but everybody else knew.

“Did you have a gay time this weekend?” kids would ask him on Monday mornings.

Even Stan, who was sympathetic to ostracized kids, asked him this question. Like Katie Windbags and Big Tits Hoskins, Albert deflected his own problems. Albert, the son of a top executive at Hughes Aircraft, thought about suicide about once a week until he was 19. He eventually found happiness and learned to live with himself. He became a millionaire record producer, although his career ran in to a roadblock when he was involved in a nationwide payola scandal.

Stan finally graduated from the eighth grade in 1978. As Spring turned to Summer, he fretted about what high school would be like. He would be meeting a lot of new people. He would also be in school with people who knew him, but had not been in school with him previously. This included some of his baseball partners and CYO teammates.

At the end of the 1978 Babe Ruth League season, before the Taylor’s took off for their Tahoe vacation, Stan spent two weeks at the Loyola Marymount University Athletic Camp. Few knew him there, except for a few kids who had seen him in the Little League World Series. 

Stan figured it would be a good chance for a fresh start. Things did not work out for him. The kids stayed in the dorms, and within days Stan was the object of catcalls. This was a major disappointment for him. He had vowed to stay out of harm’s way, to avoid making an ass of himself. Somehow, he had managed to brag, tout his record, and predict his success. Whatever he did, he quickly became unpopular.

The Loyola experience was tough because Stan could not blame Dan. He did it to himself, and he had done it in record time. He just did not pick up the ebb and flow of early teenage humor, sexual innuendo, and bathroom grunge.

Stan was viewed as effete, a rich kid, somebody not willing to get his hands dirty. He looked down on other kids and could not hide it. One incident occurred at the camp that formulated a kind of Karma, a destiny that Stan would feel followed him for years. One of the most popular players at the camp, a kid named Dusty, had brought his brand new baseball glove to the camp. Everybody liked Dusty immediately. He was kind of a little guy, and not a great player. He was the kind of guy the kids liked almost as if he was a mascot. He had what it took to “hang” with everybody. He was one of the guys.

Dusty’s glove disappeared from the bench one day. It was after a practice, and there were a handful of kids who were at the field, raking and dragging it.

Dusty discovered that his glove was missing. Nobody knew where it was. Dusty started to cry. Stan was one of the kids dragging the infield. He had nothing to do with the missing glove. He immediately felt that all eyes were on him. He could not shake the feeling that he was being accused.

    Back at the dorms, it happened. A dirty, foul-mouthed kid named Jack just plain accused him.

“I saw Taylor take it,” he announced.

“What?” said Stan, incredulously. “I didn’t take it.”

It did not matter. Jack made people laugh with his horrid descriptions of taking a dump, his ability to fart and burp at will, and his filthy sex jokes which made it look like he actually was getting some.

Dusty jumped in, as if Jack’s accusation was proof that Stan stole his glove. Nothing Stan did or said could change the flow of events. Now he was a thief. Stan never did find out who stole the glove. It was Jack.

On the field, Stan starred at the camp, which had the same, weird effect it had throughout his “baseball career.” The fact that he was a good ball player frustrated his “enemies,” and created a quiet core of admirers.

The camp also changed his life. Jim Ambers was one of the coaches. He had scouted Stan since he pitched in the Little League World Series. He had seen Stan beat his own ace, Eddie Andrews. Recruiting was illegal in the California Interscholastic Federation, but it was a common practice anyway.

Stan wanted to impress Coach Ambers. He knew he would be facing Ambers’ team in the Bay League. He was horrified at the possibility that Ambers was aware of the stolen glove accusation, and the general antagonism he engendered at the camp. Ambers was above all of that kind of stuff. He had an imperial way about him, and carried himself like a god.

Ambers had a way of walking on his tiptoes, strutting about as if he was Doug MacArthur. He was tall and built, tanned and leathered from years working outdoors. He had been a fine athlete in his day, and was a very handsome, youthful powerhouse of a man in his mid-40s. Ambers was married, but openly flirted with women. He was a man’s man, but the kind of guy who caused his contemporaries to be envious. Ambers was a strict disciplinarian who could cut a kid down with his mean yells. He would put his fingers in his mouth and whistle loud enough to drown out a foghorn, or a stiff wind. Off the field, he made colorful jokes, liked to drink Bourbon, and smoked a pipe. He liked to say, “This program’s not a Democracy. It’s a dictatorship.”

On the last day of camp, Ambers called Stan over.

“Are you going to P.V.?” he asked him.

“Yes, Coach,” replied Stan.

“How would you like to go to Rolling Hills?” asked Ambers.

“I’d like to,” replied Stan. That was it. When Dan arrived, Ambers got together with him, and told him he wanted his boy to play for him. Dan agreed. There were a few administrative hurdles to cross, but nothing that could not be handled. Instead of attending Palos Verdes, Stan would be a Rolling Hills Titan.

Palos Verdes Estates and Rolling Hills Estates border each other. There were a few kids who lived on the border, and a small group of kids Stan had played with in the P.V. youth leagues actually went to Rolling Hills. Eddie Andrews, who switched residences constantly because he lived in apartments with his drunken dad, or with Kim, or wherever he happened to be staying, was at Rolling Hills. Nobody really bothered to try and enforce his situation.

Stan was ecstatic. Rolling Hills would be his salvation. He would be playing for the legendary Jim Ambers, who wanted him there. He would not have to face his go to school with his junior high tormentors anymore. He could start fresh.         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

RIVALS

 

“Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”

 

--NEW TESTAMENT

                                                      John 9: 41

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Baseball Player Who Ever Lived was born on June 16, 1964 in Torrance, California. Billy Boswell was brought in to this world to play the game.

The first six years of his life, Billy was in all ways a normal kid. His surroundings were anything but normal. He hung out at Dodger Stadium, where his father was one of baseball’s great stars. He made a pest of himself in the clubhouse.

Torrance was a whole new world for the Boswells. Geographically, it is not far from the gritty urban landscape of the L.A. ‘hood that Al and Nanette had grown up in, but for a black family that makes the move there, it is a different world.

Billy did not notice much of anything. He was a happy child. He recognized that he looked different from his white pals, but thought little of it. It was not until the family moved a few miles away, and “up the hill” to Palos Verdes Estates that he began to discern that he was, indeed, different.

The Palos Verdes move shook the Boswells up. It was the realization of a dream on Al’s part, but he was frustrated that it did not produce the kind of inner satisfaction he thought he would achieve. Al was a searcher, and he had not found what he was searching for.

This sense of longing filtered down to the family. Nanette kept things together. She was the rock. Billy and his sister, Tabitha, sensed that unease in their father. Billy saw his performance on the field slack off from his spectacular first six years in the league. He saw that Al was bitter about something, but was too young to put his finger on it. Billy began to recognize that since he was black, he was different from the other kids.

In Torrance, he had played and gone to school with white kids, too, but he was young and had not really formulated an opinion. In Palos Verdes, the opulence of life there contrasted from the more-pedestrian landscape of Torrance.

The biggest impact on young Billy, however, was when he went to visit his grandparents, on both his father’s and mother’s side, in Los Angeles. They were inner city black folks, living in neighborhoods that, year after year, were beset by the woes of drugs and crime.

Billy was young and impressionable. He could not, and perhaps never in his life would, put his finger on what these impressions meant to him. In the early 1970s, he became a “problem child.” He did okay in school and was no trouble for teachers, but he became a moody kid. He got in fights. He made friends and then lost them, usually because he would piss them off in some manner. He had “attitude,” and held himself above the others. He was confused.

Part of Billy was Palos Verdes. Part of him was inner city L.A. Just when he was comfortable and had made friends in Torrance, he was ripped from away from there. Now he was in a wealthy place, but the creature comforts of P.V. had no value to a child of his age.

In 1972, eight-year old Billy played his first year of little league. The teams were picked via draft, held after try-outs in the Spring. He was the best eight-year old in the draft. The Cardinals drafted Billy first. Stan was picked second, by the Dodgers. The reason Stan was picked so high was because people knew his dad had been a good player, so they figured maybe he was, too.

Billy was a star from the get-go. Stan was one of the worst players in the league. Billy was the only black kid in the midget league. Stan looked at him and was mystified. He had not met more than a handful of black people in his life. He had a vague sense that to be black was a negative thing, but he had not formulated any kind of feelings about the subject. What he did know was that Billy was out of his league. He knew his father was a star. Billy was placed on a pedestal, one that Stan, at that age, had no chance to attain. It was a weird conflict for Stan, who viewed Billy as a mythic black icon.

When Stan was nine, through hard work and love of the game, he flowered into a great player. It was a toss-up who the best player was, Stan or Billy. Stan never said a word to Billy. He did not speak to his mother, who worked the coke shack and drove her son, and his teammates, to and from games and practices. The Taylor’s and Boswell’s never conversed. There was something unsaid going on, as if both sides sensed that they were rivals. Both sides felt the other was unfriendly and arrogant. Neither really had any personal experiences to back up this proposition.

Al usually did not make it to the games, because he was playing in the big leagues. When he did show, it was a big production of autographs and hero worship. The Taylor’s resented it for reasons they could not put their fingers on.

Billy had a lot of “friends.” In actuality, they were not really his friends. They wanted a piece of him. White kids thought it was “cool” to hang with the black guy. Their parents encouraged them. The changing sensibilities of America were manifested in the way Billy was received growing up. It amazed his father and grandfather, who had seen real prejudice. Now they saw the opposite; a liberal white stance of extra-acceptance.

Stan saw Billy’s popularity and contrasted that with his own shrinking reputation. They were natural rivals, of course, since they usually competed for the title, they were the headliners, and they never played on the same team. Billy was “billed” as the good guy, Stan the bad guy. Billy was cheered. Stan was booed. It was like a pro wrestling match.

Stan would look at Billy, and saw no reaction in his face. Stan would be taunted, and he saw that Billy knew exactly what was going on, but Billy never joined the taunting. Neither did his folks, or his grandparents, who came to the games. In a way, Stan would have preferred that they join the chorus of dissent but they were above it. They had an imperial manner about them. All the Boswell’s had it. It frustrated Stan. He could not gauge them. They were mysterious.

Matt Hobli was Billy’s best friend. They had met in grammar school, before Billy even started in the little league. Matt and Billy went to different schools than Stan. They played for a different CYO team.

Matt’s father was a Princeton-educated doctor. They were fabulously wealthy and Jewish. There were not a large number of Jews on the peninsula. Rich Jewish families in Los Angeles tended to live in Encino or Beverly Hills. At one time, Palos Verdes Estates might not have opened its arms to Jews. By the late 1960s, however, things had changed. If one had the right credentials, i.e., money and career, Palos Verdes was the place to be. The Hobli’s and the Boswell’s had the right credentials.

Dr. Russell Hobli was a Democrat, which put him in the minority on the peninsula. He had grown up in Massachusetts, and at Boston College had faced prejudice from the Irish fraternity boys. He harbored the certain conviction that Harvard had turned him down because they had already met the 1950s-era quota of Jewish students.

Hobli probably could have gotten into Harvard Medical School, but opted not to apply in silent protest of their earlier admissions policy. Princeton was even more anti-Semitic, but medical school was such a grind that he had no time for a social life, fraternities, or to pay much attention to any slights that came his way.

He was brilliant, made excellent grades, and earned respect through these traits. When he became a doctor, he worked on the East Coast for a couple of years, married, and started a family. Dr. Hobli wanted a new life in a new place. He thought about Miami, but heard there was a lot of drug activity in South Florida. He applied for and was accepted as a surgeon at the Centinela Medical Center. The doctor moved his family to Palos Verdes Estates.        

Matt was his oldest child. He was small, but quick enough to handle most sports creditably. Matt was intelligent, but had a mean streak to him. He was ingratiating and looked for opportunity. He saw it in Billy Boswell. Matt knew Billy’s dad was a baseball star. Billy was not open. He had been taught from a young age to be suspicious, especially of white people. Perhaps because Matt shared the trait of natural suspicion, they formed a friendship.

Billy and Matt became tight. They did not let many people into their little world. They shared each other’s secrets. Matt became Billy’s sidekick, his shadow, and his assistant. Matt developed as Billy developed. He derived his social status and standing to Billy’s. What was good for Billy was good for Matt.

Matt played for a different midget league team than Billy, but he was at all of Billy’s games. They were two peas in a pod. Like Billy, Matt was aloof around Stan. He did not taunt Stan like some of the others. He was as much a mystery to Stan as Billy.

Matt’s parents were not much into sports, and rarely showed up for games. Matt became part of Billy’s extended family. There was some sniping behind his back, but nobody dared get on him about it up front. Except for Dick Maslin, who had opinions on everything and was not afraid to air them.  

When they were 10, Billy was drafted first in the minors. Stan was not drafted, because his dad managed his team, and players whose father’s coach in the league automatically go to their dad’s team. Billy and Stan were the two best players in the league. Stan’s team won the championship. When they were 11, Billy was drafted first in the majors. Again, Stan was not drafted because his father managed the team, so he again automatically played for his dad. Billy played for Rob Lateucci’s team, and they beat Stan’s team for the championship. That was the team that taunted Stan in the most merciless manner ever, led by the “little Napoleon,” Lateucci. They beat Stan badly, in the worst game of his youth baseball career. Stan pitched through the tears, but noticed something conspicuous.

Matt Hobli was on Lateucci’s team. He broke his usual silence and screamed horrible obscenities at Stan. But Billy remained silent. Billy never said a damn thing. In some ways, Stan wished Billy had joined in. By staying above it all, Billy was maintaining his mystery. Stan was becoming obsessed with Billy. He wanted to be beat him, he wanted to be better than him, and he wanted to understand him. He was competing with Billy, but it was not easy. He had no way of understanding him.

  In 1976, Stan’s team beat Billy’s for the title. They then teamed up for all-stars. With Billy, a left-handed thrower and switch hitter, playing center field, and Stan pitching and playing shortstop, Palos Verdes went all the way to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. They beat the fabled Taiwanese juggernaut for the World Championship. Billy was named MVP.

Hobli had been Billy’s teammate for two years, from age 11 to 12. He made all-stars at age 12 and was part of the World Championship team. During the entire play-off season, as the team moved through winning tournaments, traveling long distances from home until they finally reached Williamsport, Billy and Stan never said two words to each other. Hobli never spoke to Stan, either. They looked down on him.  Stan was galled by this action. He was much more comfortable with open hostility.

When they were 13, Billy and Stan entered Babe Ruth League, which separates the “men from the boys.” Stan and Billy played on different teams again, although they had played together on all-star teams throughout little league.

In 1977, Billy and Stan both made regular all-stars. Throughout little league, there had always been grumbling that Stan got favored treatment because of his old man. This criticism was always muted by the fact that he was without dispute one of the best players in Palos Verdes. Except for Billy, who was the best player. 

At age 14, Billy led his team to the championship. That fall, Billy entered Palos Verdes High School. Stan was supposed to attend P.V. High, too, but after being recruited by Coach Ambers, he was at Rolling Hills High School, which had a baseball program with a better reputation.

In their freshman seasons, Billy starred on the frosh football team. He made the varsity basketball team, and was the starting center fielder on the varsity baseball team, and made All-Bay League. It is extremely rare for freshmen to play varsity sports.

Matt Hobli played freshman baseball and basketball. Over at Rolling Hills High, Stan got off to a good start. Dan coached Rolling Hills’ Winter league team, and Stan showed terrific promise despite his youth. He lifted weights and began to put on size, increasing his strength. Stan played freshman basketball, and in the Spring he reached his goal of making the varsity in baseball.

The newspapers began to play up the two kids who had starred on the Palos Verdes Little League World Series winners, then made Babe Ruth All-Stars at age 13. Now they were the only freshmen playing varsity in the Bay League. 

Eddie Andrews was a senior that 1979 season. Ambers had over pitched him over the previous three seasons. Scouts who had been watching him closely noted a significant loss in velocity. Still, Andrews was a star. He went 12-2, leading Rolling Hills to the league championship. They had won the CIF-Southern Section title the year before, with Andrews shutting out Lakewood at Dodger Stadium, 1-0 in the championship game. Andrews beat Hoover High of Glendale in the first round in ’79, but Rolling Hills lost in the second round.

Stan had a ball. He started several games during the pre-season, and beat Redwood High of Marin County in the championship game of the San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament, earning all-tourney honors. He started one league game, and was used as a key relief pitcher, closing out several close wins. He was also used as a backup shortstop, hitting over .300 with two home runs.

Stan found himself a celebrity of sorts on campus. Being a freshman on the varsity made him a hero to all the other frosh, who usually get treated like second-class citizens, or are ignored by the upper classmen. He also reveled in his public success, to the usual chagrin of his many detractors “left behind” at P.V. High.

His greatest triumph came in a night game against Palos Verdes played before several thousand fans. In the fifth inning, he came on as a pinch-hitter. He could hear boos and catcalls coming from his former “associates.” They had been taunting him ever since he arrived at the field, but Stan was up to the challenge. He was proud to be a Rolling Hills Titan, and knew that his presence on the varsity roster spoke for itself.

With the score tied, 1-1, he hit a home run. Stan stayed in the game and played shortstop. Eddie Andrews walked the first batter in the seventh, and then gave up a single. Stan, who had warmed up in between innings, was brought in with the tying run on third and the winning run on first.

The place went crazy. It was electric. There was less taunting from the dugout than the stands. The Palos Verdes players were all older than Stan. They were not the same kids who had played little league and Babe Ruth with him. They had not received the “Dan Taylor treatment.” The freshmen who did know Stan had filled the stands, however, and they were begging for the guy to get beaten. The first hitter powered a shot to the left field fence. It looked like a surefire extra base hit to tie the game. The runner on third assumed that was just what it was. He trotted home with the winning run. But wait!

Gary Zuchini silenced the P.V. fans. He was a great defensive player who lived up to his reputation. Zuchini ran the ball down at the base of the fence to make the catch. The runner had to return to third, where he bowed his head. His mistake had cost his team a chance to tie. The runner at first might have scored if he had been running all the way on a ball that was not caught, but he respected Zuchini’s glove skills. He held at first, and then advanced on the tag to second. Now Stan was faced with the tying and winning run on second and third.

The next hitter went down on three straight fastballs. Now Billy Boswell came to the plate. Years later, people would look back at this at-bat with great nostalgia. Major League pitchers would routinely walk him in these situations. Not Stan.

Boswell was still only a freshman, and P.V.’s best hitter was on deck. Coach Ambers came out to the mound to discuss the situation. He told Stan to pitch aggressively, but not give in to Billy with a base open.

Facing the left-handed slugger, Stan worked him carefully until the count reached three-and-two. Then Stan let loose a wicked slider that broke in on Billy’s hands. Billy swung and missed.

Rolling Hills’ players ran out to the mound and lifted Stan in the air, led by Eddie Andrews. Coach Ambers knew that he had found another star. Stan had denied his foes again.

The morning after that game, the phone rang at 5:00 a.m. in the Taylor household.

“Hello,” answered Dan, groggy as hell.

“Mr. Taylor,” came the voice on the phone. “My name’s Dan Grogian. I write the prep column for the Daily Breeze.”

“Yeah,” said Dan, still asleep.

“Mr. Taylor,” said Grogian. “I understand that your son, Stan, was supposed to attend Palos Verdes, that you still reside in the P.V. school district. But you chose to send him to Rolling Hills. We’re doing a story on athletes who transfer to schools not in their districts.”

There was some more conversation, mostly unintelligible on Dan’s end. Grogian never explained or apologized for his dawn wake-up call. 

Finally, Grogian got to the point.

“Could you tell me if Jim Ambers recruited Stan?” he asked.

“Our point is that Palos Verdes is a bunch of losers,” said Dan, still not awake. “Rolling Hills has a great program and my son has a future in baseball and he can best realize his potential at Rolling Hills.”

Dan went on like that for a few more minutes, and Grogian asked a few more questions, but the damage was done.

Dan hung up the phone and went back to sleep. He had done some pretty good drinking the night before in celebration of Stan’s big game. He forgot all about the phone call and did not tell Stan.

A couple of days later, Stan came home and picked up the Daily Breeze in the driveway when he got home. He came inside, opened it up to the sports page, and there it was.

“‘P.V.’s a bunch of losers,’ says Taylor’s father,” the headline read. There was a picture of Dan, taken during a game. It had to be the most unattractive photo of Dan they had on file. Underneath it was a picture of Stan, looking like he was yelling at a teammate.

Stan read the whole thing, which was a very negative take on the whole Taylor family.

“Thanks, Dad,” he said to himself.

Dan never apologized to Stan about it, even though it would cause Stan plenty of headaches in the form of taunts at Palos Verdes-Rolling Hills games for three more years. It also was the subject of letters to the editor in the Daily Breeze for two weeks. There was a scathing editorial in the Palos Verdes school newspaper and the free weekly papers that are delivered on the peninsula, Hermosa and Redondo. There were death threats called in to the Taylor’s.

Dan started showing up at his basketball and baseball practices. He went to all the games, home and away. He rarely stayed past five o’clock in the office. He often worked from home, if he worked. He arranged all his appointments, filings, and court dates around Stan’s sports schedule.

At basketball games, Dan would fill the gym with the cacophonous sound of his voice, screaming and yelling at Stan and his teammates. He loudly verbalized his disdain for teammates who failed to pass the ball to Stan. The frosh coach hated Dan. Stan’s teammates made snide comments about him. He often appeared to be somewhat intoxicated.

The frosh team was practicing on the outdoor courts because the varsity was using the gym. Then Stan’s teammate, Walter Coleman, pointed and yelled, “It’s the Dan!”

“The Dan” was Dan Taylor. He was peering at his son’s practice, hiding from behind the corner of the coaches’ offices. Everybody started pointing and laughing.

“The Dan!” Coleman yelled again.

When Dan saw that he had been had, he disappeared. The practice went on. Stan was red-faced. These were new kids to him. He was trying to fit in, and now he and pops were a source of amusement and scorn again. They were on to the Stan and Dan Show.

“Shit,” Stan muttered under his breath. Coleman, a rich kid and the team’s clown prince, did not let up.

“The Dan,” he jeered. Coleman had a way of speaking in a stentorian tone. He had talked like that since he was seven. It was authoritative, deep, yet funny. It was a cross between a parliamentarian at the House of Lords and old Eastern money. The guy was an absolute piece of work. A unique human being. “Peering around the corner. Peer on, my Dan, peer on. Ha.”

Then Dan appeared again.

“Oh God,” Stan said.

Coleman pointed at Dan, laughing hilariously. His teammates joined in. They were not laughing with Stan, they were laughing at him - and his old man.

It got worse during baseball season. For years, Dan had coached his son. Now, he had to squirm while others took over the duty. Dan would score the games, arguing over calls. He always wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to his son to keep his earned run average low. If the shortstop booted one, the guy scoring in the press box might call it a hit. He would come down to the dugout, where some high school gal, known as a “ball girl,” was scoring. These girls knew little inside baseball and made many mistakes. None of them were as good as Kim had been. If those mistakes cost his son his ERA - their mistakes were more likely to hurt him than help him - he would get infuriated. His antics, just as they had in the P.V. baseball community, quickly put Stan in an unfavorable light.

Dan would keep all of his own statistics, then lobby Coach Ambers to change any discrepancies between his records and the official team stats. Scorers who failed to learn the rules for winning pitchers would particularly frustrate Dan. This could get complicated. In American Legion baseball, the games were nine-inning affairs. A starter had to pitch five complete innings, leave with the lead, and his team would have to make that lead hold up the rest of the game. In high school, a starter need only pitch three innings of the seven-inning game to earn a win. The scorers would gyp his son out of wins by failing to understand that he was in the game when the winning run scored, or some other variation of the rules.

All of this quickly had parents and players grumbling about “Taylor and his old man.” This was what Stan had feared.

Stan still made friends at Rolling Hills. One was Walter Coleman. Coleman’s parents were Canadians, and Walter himself had been born in Toronto. He would not become an American citizen until his 18th birthday. This struck everybody as odd, since the guy was the most patriotic, flag-waving, Commie-hating little bastard on the peninsula. Coleman made fun of Stan, such as the time he discovered Dan peering from behind the coaches’ offices. He was a cut above the rabble Stan had dealt with prior to high school. Walt’s father was a top insurance executive, and his mother a mousy housewife. Walt had a little sister who was so intimidated by him that many of his friends swore they were in their 30s before they heard her speak.

Walt went to about 50 Dodger games a year with his various pals. He knew all the bus lines to Dodger Stadium. He also knew about a little, unknown spot behind the pavilion where he would sneak into the stadium for free. He was savvy and knew how to avoid the ushers. His pals were not as smart and were always getting in trouble trying to keep up with his daring escapades. Walt himself was infallible.

In junior high school, various sycophants worshiped Walt like an icon. One was Bennie Hussein, a guy with an image problem if ever there was one. Bennie’s father was Palestinian. He hated Jews and ranted on and on about the situation in the Middle East. The problem was that his wife was Jewish.

Naturally, Walt started calling him The Kuyke. Hussein did everything Walt wanted.

“Kuyke! Get me a coke,” Walt bellowed.

“On it,” said Bennie. Walt would have his coke. Bennie was a terrific youth league athlete. He was tall, big and strong, a legend in the Rolling Hills Little League and Babe Ruth League. A catcher, he had a great arm and loved baseball. Unfortunately, he was one of those people who reached his full height and weight by the time he was 15. His skills petered out early, and he would never live up to his early promise.

Mr. Hussein would drink too much and got fat quickly. He sold rugs and made a good living. He was the embodiment of the American Dream, having moved from Palestine to Boston, then to Los Angeles where he lived in a crappy part of town and started his business in the garment district. It was there that he met his Jewish wife. She was an immigrant, too, from Russia. They eventually bought a house in Gardena, kept getting rich, and eventually moved to Rolling Hills Estates.

Neither mother nor father was particularly attractive, but in that weird kind of cross-blending way, which seems unique to America, their son was extremely handsome. Girls loved him from the get-go. This, of course, was a source of amazement to Stan. Chicks would pass him over and go for the Arab-Jewish kid instead. Bennie looked like he was the product of some cosmic swing party in which Omar Shariff hooked up with Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Walt loved to go over to Bennie’s house and give Mr. Hussein crap. Like everybody else, Walt mesmerized the Hussein’s. His opinions, his quips, quotes and insults, all fell like strawberry blossoms. Mr. and Mrs. Hussein loved Walt like he was their son. In fact, they liked him a lot more than Bennie. Walt especially liked it when old Hussein started to uncork the whisky. The man had a low threshold for alcohol, and in no time the house was the freaking Gaza Strip.

Mrs. Hussein would quietly get plowed on Manischevitz (“Fucking Jew wine,” according to her husband), and after taking his insults for an hour, she would lay into him about Allah, the Six Day War, and various remarks about camels and what the Palestinians liked to do with them. Walt would just laugh at them. So did Bennie, who was actually dieing inside. Bennie would avoid religion like the plague throughout his entire life.    

Bennie continued to be Walt’s de facto slave when they got to high school. In the locker room, Walt would “order” Bennie to attack Stan. Stan would smile and try to play it off as fun. Stan and Bennie were actually friends. But Bennie would get his orders, and next Stan would find himself getting tackled, or taking the sharp end of a towel whipping. Stan spent all his time around them in a state of nervousness. It was still better than his junior high days, though.

Walt could be incredibly foul. Once, he had pulled his pants down and taken a dump on the center court of the junior high gymnasium. Then, for good measure, he had gotten on his stingray and made “skid marks,” leaving it all for the Mexican janitor.

Walt was a snot-nosed little S.O.B. How prejudiced he really was is debatable. Those who tried to psychoanalyze him always excused his biases. He did it all under some guise of fun, light-hearted humor, or non-seriousness. How he did it no one could truly explain. He just had a way about him. You had to like him.

Even Reggie Holloway liked him. Reggie was a 6-6, 230-pound black basketball and track star from Lawndale who had been recruited to attend Rolling Hills. He was a junior on the varsity hoops team. Walt was a mere freshman. One day Reggie went strolling by. Everybody glad-handed him. He had a big Afro with a comb sticking out of it. His wardrobe was straight out of an episode of “What’s Happening?” He was menacing, but friendly. Everybody liked Reggie, including Walt. That did not stop Walt from saying, “Dance me a jig, nig.”

Reggie stopped in his tracks. He went to Walt and picked him up. It could have been a tense situation. If it had been anybody else, it would have been. This time, it was not. Reggie and Walt both had smiles on their faces.

“What you call me, Walt?” asked Reggie.

“Aw, don’t worry about it, Reginald,” said Walt. “It’s cool.”

It was. Somehow, it was. There is no explaining how it was. There was a look in Walt’s eye, a disarming tone to his voice that said that you really did not need to take him seriously if you did not want to.

“Yeah, ‘kay Walt,” said Reggie. He liked Walt. He had just heard the worst word that could be applied to him, and he just smiled it off.

“How’d you do that?” asked Stan incredulously, after Reggie departed.

“Dumb nigger doesn’t know whether I’m laughing with him or at him,” said Walt. Everybody laughed with him. He was despicable. The worst kind of spoiled brat. He was a horrible racist, and yet he was not. He had a quality that allowed others to just excuse it. It was not that all his white friends were racists. They were not. But they simply did not take his act seriously. 

“Ah, that’s just Walt,” they would say. In his heart, Walt was not racist. He was a clown.

His family had a black maid. Walt would purposely leave his room as messy as possible for her.

“One of these days I’m gonna shit on my bed and leave it for her,” he would say.

But she loved Walt as if he was her son. Around her, he was a barrel of laughs. He joked with her, flirted with her. There was probably some form of Uncle Tom going on, but Mabel had fallen for Walt like everybody else. He was irresistible.

Stan was amazed at Walt. His entire life, he had been misunderstood. Everything he ever said came out wrong. Everybody suspected the very worst of him. He clung to Walt like a puppy hanging on to his mother. In his own way, he idolized him like Bennie Hussein did.

As far as Stan was concerned, the greatest thing about Walt was that Walt liked him. He knew how much crap Stan had taken in junior high, but he never let on. When Stan was taking heat from a new group of semi-tormentors at Rolling Hills, Walt never jumped on it. He had his own way of playing with Stan, but it was genuine friendship.

There are lots of reasons why people become friends. Sometimes they have something the other needs. In this case, it was one-sided. Walt was totally confident. He needed nobody. Everybody needed him. That was the crux of his friendships with Bennie and Stan. It was at the heart of his relationship with everybody who knew him. All who knew him liked him. Even blacks who had been called “nigger” by him.

Walt was a cut-up of the first variety. When asked by the student newspaper about what he was doing to conserve water during drought season, he replied, “It’s all a Communist plot. I spit in the toilet and flush it.”

In Spanish class, he sat surrounded by Stan, Bennie and the rest of his worshipers. He would crack awesome jokes and highly intelligent, cutting-edge quips that had everybody around him going crazy. Then the teacher would see what was happening. Everyone was rolling in the aisles except Walt, who would have his nose in his book. All the laughing people would get punished. He never did. Nobody ever got mad about it. It was his gift.

Another time he sat in the back row, leaned back, hocked a loogie, and spit a huge missile at the blackboard behind him. Anybody else would have been caught. Walt never got caught.

One substitute teacher quit his assignment when Walt drove him to distraction.

“Are you a prejudiced man, Mr. Atwater?” he asked the bespectacled sub.

“What?” replied Atwater.

“Have you ever stuck your finger up a Kahuna?” he asked matter-of-factly.

The sub tried to punish Walt. Walt just laughed at him. The class laughed at him. The sub left the room in tears.

 “I have taught at Fremont,” he told the superintendent. “I have taught at Gardena, at Banning. I’ve taught in North Long Beach! I have never seen such impudence.”

He was never seen again in the Palos Verdes Peninsula School District.

Walt could make fun of anybody at any time. He worked at the pool to make some extra cash. The basketball coach supervised him. He was a big, round, bald man named Richard Marder. Marder told him he would be working up to a certain day, but Walt had already scheduled a vacation in Lake Arrowhead and had no intention of being at the pool until Summer’s end.

“Oh, how wrong you are, sweet Mellon Head,” Walt said of Marder as soon as Mellon Head was out of earshot.

Walt had stock responses to most things.

“Standard,” he would respond to something ordinary. When asked what “standard” meant, he would reply, “Anything that is time honored and obligatory.” Most people his age had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but it sounded good.

If something seemed outrageous to him, he would exclaim “Horseshit!” except it did not come out “horseshit.” It came out like this: “Haarz-shit.” Or he would say, “Jesus,” which sounded like “Shay-soss!”

Stan understood him. He knew every nuance of his character, and was perfectly willing to be his foil. He was Ed McMahon to Walt’s Johnny Carson, who happened to be Walt’s favorite. He pronounced Carson “Caar-son,” and made a big to-do about catching the comedian’s monologue.

During freshman baseball season, an African transfer student would watch practice. Coleman decided the kid’s name was Johnson.

“Johnson!” he yelled when he saw the kid. “Jungle bunny Johnson!” Everybody laughed. If it were anybody but Coleman, they would have been suspended. Walt’s coaches just praised him. In basketball, he was a deadeye outside shooter who routinely fired from all over the floor. Conservative coaches like Marder, who came from the Hank Iba school and normally would have sat him down instantly, let him get away with it.  

Walt was something good and funny in Stan’s life. After the “peering” episode with Dan, Walt took to calling Stan “Dan” or “The Dan,” although he never differentiated his reference to father Dan as “The Dan.” Nobody ever offered a good explanation of it. He would call Stan “Dan” and Bennie “Kuyke” the rest of their lives.

Walt was a wunderkind for sports, just like Stan. He knew every stat, every record, and all the players in every sport. His favorite was baseball. The Dodgers were everything to him. He also loved the Lakers, UCLA basketball and USC football.

Walt was a good athlete, but nobody ever predicted that he would go very far in sports. He could shoot, he never got tired or winded, and in baseball played some middle infield and threw a knuckle ball.

Everybody liked him, including upperclassmen, which was highly unusual. He was respected, even though he never hid his semi-racist-conservative-Red-baiting rants. Even when others started picking on him, Stan would find comfort with Walt. Walt never stood up for him, or told him something sappy like, “Forget about those guys,” or “You’re alright in my book.” Never in a million years. He made Stan an equal and a trusted friend through laughter and fraternity. Everybody was welcome in Walt’s fraternity. Stan, like Bennie and a handful of others, would maintain permanent membership. Walt’s humor simply overwhelmed the pain that Stan had always felt growing up with a domineering father and tormenting classmates. It made Bennie feel like an equal instead of a comic Arab-Jew rug seller’s son.

There were a few blacks around Rolling Hills. Aside from Reggie Holloway, Walt would occasionally meet up with them, usually through basketball. He befriended them, and they, like everybody who knew him, thought he was hilarious; a nut and a great guy.

Stan had determined that he would find a girlfriend at Rolling Hills. The place was crawling with beautiful babes. California beach blondes and sexy fourth-generation Japanese girls. The peninsula had an active Japanese community before World War II. Many of these families had lost their land when they were interned during the war, but they came back. They were smart and hard working. Nothing could keep them down. Now their progeny again populated the hill. They made good grades and went to USC and UCLA. They lived the American Dream.

Walt was not a ladies man. He could have been. He was not a great-looking fellow, but he had the capability of making good rap. He was by no means shy or afraid of girls. But he was still a kid and he acted like it, albeit unlike any other kid anybody had seen.

In his freshman year, Stan had a class in English literature. They read “Romeo and Juliet” and a few other classics, none of which sunk in in the slightest way. He was a baseball player and not much else. A blonde girl named Sandra was in the class. She was friends with a black girl named Doris. Sandra liked Stan, and Stan liked her. Since they were only 14, this manifested itself mostly in insults and put-downs. As the semester wore on, the back-and-forth took on increasingly tense sexual overtones.

Sandra wished that she was a slut. She loved to talk nasty trash. Her mother and father were both doctors, but one would never have guessed it. She seemed to be pure trailer park material.

She repulsed Stan. He also had a big hard-on for her. He had no idea what to do with it and knew it. Doris laughed at him and called him Romeo, which puzzled Stan. For the first time in his life, he was having regular conversations with a member of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, it was terribly crude and awkward. Being called Romeo inferred that he was somehow attractive to the ladies, which he liked. He just could not get a handle on it.  

“Know what a woman has in common with a frying pan?” Sandra asked him one day.

“Tell me,” said Stan, hating himself for not knowing the answer.

“They both gotta be hot before you put the meat in?” she said, laughing.

“You wish,” he said, not knowing what else to say. “You’re a slut. Why don’t you suck my fucking cock?”          

Sandra seemed quite interested in that suggestion, but the teacher, a diminutive, not-unattractive 30-something woman, heard this filth and had had enough.

“That’s it,” she said to Stan. “You’re coming with me.”

She dragged Stan into the office of Ms. Ruth. Ms. Ruth wore her hair in a severe manner. She had a bad hip and walked with a cane, and gave off the impression of being one big bore.

“I’m concerned with Stan’s attitude towards women,” the teacher told Ms. Ruth.

Ms. Ruth listened while the teacher described Stan, basically, as a pervert. Stan tried to defend himself. He tried to say that the girl was a slutty little tramp who drove him crazy, but of course verbalizing these feelings just dug him deeper into a hole.

Ms. Ruth just looked at him as if she was Sigmund Freud. Stan could swear she had just a little smile working the corner of his mouth, but he could not put his finger on it. Many years later, he would be waiting with a pal in the bar at Joe’s. They got into a discussion with some drunk. Somehow, Ms. Ruth’s name entered the conversation. The man recognized Ms. Ruth. It turned out that she enjoyed going to swing parties, which might have explained the little smile she had when she heard about Stan’s suggestions to Sandra.

Stan’s hormones were going crazy his freshman year. One day Dan took him out to the field for some extra practice. Stan noticed that two girls were sunbathing in right field. He made sure a few stray baseballs made it out their way. When he went to retrieve them, he was blown away. The girls were nude. He could see their soft pubic hair pushing up, in that sweet taint area below their asses.

My God,” he exclaimed.

One of the girls awoke, looked up and smiled at Stan.

Stan was stunned. In his mind, the girls were Playboy Playmates.

“What the hell’s goin’ on?” asked Dan, sounding clueless. He could not tell the girls were even there.

Stan insisted on Dan hitting fly balls to him in right field for about an hour. Later, he fantasized about the nude sunbathers, imagining that they wanted him. He told himself that he could have had them if it had not been for his old man being in the way.

Yeah, right.

The Taylor’s subscribed to the Los Angeles Times in the morning, and the Daily Breeze in the afternoons. Dan usually picked up the L.A. Herald Examiner from a newsstand and would bring it home. Stan would read the sports page, but he also liked checking out the ads for strip clubs in Hollywood.                            

“Ultra sexy,” they would say, “Come feel the sensual thrills of Kiki, Rhonda, Trixi and Bunny.”

When Dan and Shirley were out to dinner, he worked himself into a particularly torrid erotic frustration. Dan was 15, but he had yet to have sex. He had not even learned how to stroke and release, the favorite pastime of most boys his age. He simply did not know how to do it.

The pictures of the girls appeared in the ad.

“Kiki,” Stan mused to himself. “Hmm. Oriental. Naw. Rhonda looks okay. Trixi, nope, she’s black. Ah, Bunny. Blonde with big tits.”

Bunny it was. The strip club’s address and phone number appeared in the ad. He called it.

“Seventh Veil,” came a husky voice.

“May I speak to Bunny, please?” said Stan, effectively disguising the youth in his voice. He had the gift of a husky voice anyway.

Momentary silence. The phone was put on a desk. Stan heard some muffled sounds. His heart was racing.

“Bunny,” the man was calling out. “Yeah. Yeah. Tell Bunny it’s for her.”
30 or 40 seconds later, Bunny came on the line.

“Hello,” she said.

Stan was ridiculously horny.

“Hi, Bunny,” he said. “It’s Mike.”

“Um, Mike?” she asked.

“Sure, baby,” said Stan. “I know you remember me.”

“Well, did I meet you at the club?” she asked.

“Sure you did,” said Stan. Then he blurted it out. “I fucked you.”

”Oh,” said Bunny. “Umm.”

She seemed pleased.

“You remember?” asked Stan.

“Sure I do,” she answered.

Oh my God, thought Stan. Then he recovered.

“I want to see you,” he said. “I got somethin’ for you.”

“I bet you do,” she cooed.

“When can I see you?” he asked.

“Just come on down to the club,” she said.

“Oh, oh okay,” he said. “We’ll go out afterwards. What time do you get off?”

“Two,” she said.

“Okay,” he said. “Two it is. See you then. I can’t wait.”

“It’ll be worth the wait,” she said. In the background, Stan could hear somebody call her name. “I gotta go. I’m on stage next. Bye.”

“Bye,” said Stan.

He hung up the phone. Man, was he ever pleased with himself! He had carried on a real conversation with a beautiful girl. The episode was very instructive to him. First of all, it told him that he was capable of talking to girls, even if he pretended to be somebody who did not exist. No problem. He could use this persona, re-invent it, change it.

The other thing that struck him was how easy it was to fool this girl. He looked at her picture. The girl identified as Bunny in the ad was gorgeous. She had blonde hair and big breasts, and filled out her bikini beautifully. Dumb blonde? Yes, probably.

The other thing that occurred to Stan was how promiscuous beautiful women were. This was easily the best-looking girl he had ever spoken to. All his life, ugly girls, plain Janes, and almost every other girl he had known in school, had given him the cold shoulder.

Now he had gotten some encouragement from two beauties. First was the naked sunbather who smiled at him when he was shagging fly balls. Now a stripper, of all people, had encouraged him to come see her. To carry it to its logical conclusion, she had “agreed” to have sex with him. It was a ruse on his part, but he was encouraged.

He had always looked at girls as Untouchables. Sometimes he would come across somebody like Sandra, but she seemed dirty. To him, girls were people who did not like guys. They certainly did not like him. They rebuffed the advances of men, thwarted their sexual desires. Men were the ones who wanted sex, not women. Maybe there were exceptions to this philosophy, and maybe this stripper was one of those exceptions.

The conversation left Stan to conclude that she had enjoyed sex with this guy “Mike.” However, the fact that he could convince this bimbo that she had had sex with Mike seemed evidence that she slept with a lot of men. She was beautiful and she slept around with a lot of men. It was apparently easy to get her to take her clothes off and get it on with guys. She liked it. This was a revelation to Stan. Even though he did not formulate the thought fully in his mind, he was beginning to feel that the best-looking girls are the sluttiest. This was a very hopeful concept for him.

Having concluded this, young Stan then realized that she was waiting for him. Here he was, sitting alone in his big, comfortable home on the hill in Palos Verdes Estates. 20 miles away, at a strip club in Hollywood, a gorgeous blonde dream girl was to be had.  

But how? He had no car, no driver’s license and in fact had no idea how to drive. There was no train service, no subway, and taking a bus would involve a journey to the center of the Earth. He had $2 to his name, and was not the type to steal. A cab ride was out of the question.

Even if he did get to The Seventh Veil, he was way underage and would never get in. Surely he would need money to get in a place like that. The whole thing was problematic.

If he did get there, and he did get in, then what? Bunny would laugh at him, right? The sunbathing beauty had smiled at him, though. Maybe she would think this young guy was cute. But she would know she had not had sex with him. Would she get mad at him, or think it was funny?

Stan had seen “Summer of ‘42”, in which an “older” woman in her 20s had sex with a young guy around his age. If that guy Herbie could get Jennifer O’Neil, maybe he could get Bunny.

It was all for naught, of course. He was stuck in this royal doghouse. The Lakers were on TV. The familiar voice of Chick Hearn was going on about some “popcorn machine.”

Stan needed something other than sports this night. He looked at the Saturday night TV schedule. Then he saw it. “The Graduate” was just coming on. Stan had heard of this movie. It was 12 years old, but Stan had never seen it. It was supposed to be racy.

“Jesus,” he said to himself, and turned to the station. There was Dustin Hoffman standing on the people mover at LAX. Simon and Garfunkle were singing “Sound of Silence”, and Stan knew that he was watching something as good as “Patton”.

The movie was the final kicker. So far, he had wooed a stripper, and now he was getting a load of Katherine Ross in her prime. She was unreal. He had no outlet for his desires, so his mind raced in a conflicted manner. He was hot and bothered. On top of everything, he had to sweat out his parents return from dinner.

He was not sure where they went. If it was Joe’s, then he could count on them being gone awhile, because it was always a long wait, especially on a Saturday night. The Taylor’s had two televisions. One was in the main living room, where he was. The other was in their bedroom. If they showed up, he would have to switch stations. If he turned it to the Lakers, Dan would ask him details about the game, and he would not know. Then Dan would ask him why he did not, if he watched the game? Like virtually all conversations with his old man, it would lead down a bad path for Stan, especially after dinner. Dan would be intoxicated. God knows what stage he would be in. If he was in the “mean stage” he did not want to tread in that territory.

Stan would hate to have to turn off “The Graduate”. There was no pay-per-view, no Internet, no VCR. He would not easily get a chance to see it again. He had to endure commercials and the chance to see it now, or maybe not for a long time to come.   

It worked out. The whole glorious movie played for him, right down to Katherine Ross’s Elaine screaming for Hoffman’s “Ben!” on her wedding day. Just as Ben was blocking the exit of Carl Smith’s church in Santa Barbara, Stan heard Dan’s car pull up.

“Shit,” he said to himself.

Stan wondered how much more of the movie was left. He decided to sweat it out. Ben smiled at Elaine. Elaine smiled at Ben. The door opened. In walked Shirley and Dan.

“What are you watching?” asked Shirley.

“Uh, I dunno,” stammered Stan. “I just turned the station.”

“See the Laker game?” asked Dan.

He should have said no, that he had read a book, but he did not think fast enough.

“Uh, yeah,” he said.

“What happened on that call?” asked Dan.

“Uh, gee, I missed it,” said Stan.

“I thought you said you watched the game,” demanded Dan.

“Are you watching ‘The Graduate’?” asked Shirley.

“Oh, is that what this is?” asked Stan, trying to sound surprised.

“Did you learn anything?” asked Shirley, laughing at him.

Stan’s face turned red. There, the credits. Thank God, it was over.

“Huh,” huffed Dan. “Yeah, did’ja learn about sex?”

Stan just maintained silence, hoping the moment would pass. It did. The movie was over, and his reason for staying in the room no longer existed. He went downstairs, and congratulated himself on talking to a stripper and watching “The Graduate”. All in all, he had had a pretty good night for himself. 

Stan made friends with another kid his freshman year. His name was Brad Cooper. Cooper had a different relationship with Stan than the one he had with Walt. Brad had played in the Palos Verdes Babe Ruth League when he was 13. Stan remembered him as “the kid from San Francisco,” because he had just moved from the Bay Area. They did not know each other personally. Stan’s sports reputation preceded him at Rolling Hills, of course. When they met during freshman basketball try-outs, they discussed the Babe Ruth days. Cooper had been beaned by a hard, side armed Wayne Fingers fastball. Their mutual fear and disgust of Fingers made for immediate conversation.

Brad’s father was a hardcore disciplinarian who was bringing up his boys as strict Catholics. Which meant that none of them would be strict Catholics. The old man was no strict Catholic, either. He just figured it was a good way to keep his charges in line. Nothing like fear and intimidation, as everybody from George Patton to Vince Lombardi had said.

There were five Cooper children. All had been born within a year of each other. By the time old man Cooper had reached the ripe age of 25, all his children had been born. Mr. Cooper was a robust, athletic man, and his wife a beautiful blonde. The first son was Jeff. Jeff was a stud; great looking, smart and a good athlete. In Mill Valley, where they lived before moving to L.A., Jeff had dated the daughter of a husband and wife duo who were big rock icons of the 1960s. In the eighth grade, he had already lost his virginity. The celebrity offspring was one of his conquests. His brothers idolized him.

When he moved to the peninsula, Jeff was an immediate hit. Everybody wanted to be his friend. He had more girlfriends than Stan could ever hope to have his in his life. The family lived on the P.V./Rolling Hills border, which was why Brad had played in Stan’s Babe Ruth League. They lived in the Rolling Hills school district, though. They lived on the same street with the Lavers and the Hernandez’s.

The Cooper’s, Laver’s and Hernandez’s consisted of a lot of boys. They were all within a few years of each other. Everyone was competitive, testosterone-filled and sports-crazy. There were enough of them to make up several basketball teams, a football team, or a baseball team. They lived on a wide street next to a school with a good playing field. On any given day, sports were played amongst the families.

That was not all that was going on. Some of the kids started to get into petty and not-so-petty crime. Eventually the parents began to figure whom to separate from whom, in order to keep trouble to a minimum.

Jeff wore his hair long and the chucks dug him. When he was a freshman, he dated sophomores. When he was a sophomore, he dated seniors. When he was a junior and senior, he got them all. The college girls came back for more.

Jim Ambers and Richard Marder hated Jeff. They had short hair rules. Jeff refused to cut his hair, and immediately made a political issue out of it. He was student body president and took the issue to the student council. Ambers and Marder never did give in on the issue, but the papers got hold of it and turned Jeff into a celebrity.

The next brother was Brad. Brad was smaller and not as handsome as Jeff. He was passionate about sports, though, and rivaled his brother in that regard. The brothers were fierce competitors, but totally loyal to each other.

The third bro was Darren. Darren loved sports but lacked ability. He was, however, the smartest in the family. He would joke in later years that he was “born 30 years old,” and indeed it seemed that he was. Stan nicknamed him “The Efficient One”, because he was so “damned efficient.” Darren never got in trouble. He was the kind of guy who would write his term paper the first week of the semester. He was conservative and awesome. When he talked, he addressed his “subjects.” He occasionally finished his conversations with “I’m finished with you now.”

Darren, being very corporate and Republican, was expected to follow his father into the stock market, but he had an artistic side. Darren was a natural-born actor, and would take that as far as he could.

The other Coopers were not in the Rolling Hills picture. Mr. Cooper divorced his wife and moved to L.A., where he took a position with Goldman Sachs in their downtown office. His ex-wife remained in Mill Valley with the youngest son and their only daughter. These two were nice, cheerful, intelligent and attractive, but were terribly overshadowed by the three older brothers.

Stan bonded with the three L.A. brothers. They accepted him as if he was a fourth sibling. Jeff was their idol. Stan wanted to be near his light. Mr. Cooper was a different story. They had a pool and a big yard. Mr. Cooper was always up at the crack of dawn, doing yard work or building a wing to the house, or something ambitious. Stan would wander on over to hang out with Brad.

On a hot day, Stan and Brad were chewing the fat in the kitchen. Stan opened the refrigerator. There was a lone Coca-Cola in there. Stan grabbed it, flipped the tap, and started to drain it.

At that moment, Mr. Cooper walked in. He was covered in dirt and sweat. His face was beet red from hours laboring in the heat. He opened the refrigerator and started scouring about.

“Brad, have you seen my Coke?” he asked.

Then he saw the cold, sweaty Coke in Stan’s hands.

“Yeah,” he muttered.

“Excellent work,” Brad said to Stan. 

Brad was his buddy. Like Walt, Brad was a sports fanatic. Because he lived fairly close to Stan, Brad would bum rides home, usually with Shirley. Waiting for Mrs. Taylor, or just hanging around, the two of them developed a language of their own. It was infused with a sense of humor, and a code of fun unique to them. Nobody else could understand or relate what they had together. It was totally personal. Making a friend like Brad, like his friendship with Walt, was liberating to Stan. It saved him.

Brad and Stan would be standing around and begin riffing on anything that came to their minds.

“This is neither the time, nor the place, to be discussing your jockey underwear,” Stan said. Then they would repeat this inanity during the ride. Shirley was clueless to their wanderings, and more often than not would be irritated by it.

The freshman basketball team had their team picture taken by a Swedish photographer who constantly had the players changing around, and would said, “not like ziss, like ziss.”

For two years, Brad and Stan went around saying, “not like ziss, like ziss.” One of the kids on the team had a case of bad acne on his back, so the skit they invented turned the Swede into a Nazi commandant, and went, “Not like ziss, like ziss. No, no, no, no, svine. You have rude contusions. Ziss iss not acceptable. Rude contusions!”

They thought they were regular Laurel and Hardy’s. Anybody who looked at them was non-plussed.         

Bill Ozlow lived near Cooper. He weighed about 300 pounds by his freshman year. Eventually, he would become a drug dealer, but he was a damn smart one. He competed with Skip Beam for the peninsula’s drug trade for years. Everybody called him “Fast Oz”.

Beam kept trying to ride his drug fortune to legitimacy. He bought property, re-modeled homes, and sold them at a profit. Years after he was supposedly “out,” he was brought back in for a big score. It was a set-up. The D.E.A. had a long memory. They had never forgiven Beam for foiling them. Beam was busted and, because of his past, given a long stretch at a Federal penitentiary. Fast Oz avoided the big-time problems associated with drug trafficking and became a successful restrauteur and family man.

Fast Oz had little regard for Stan. During Christmas of his freshman year, Dan bought Stan a letterman’s jacket. Nobody wears a letterman’s jacket without a letter, and one only earned a letter by playing on the varsity. At the time, Dan was hoping he would make the varsity as a freshman, but it was no sure thing. Even if he did make the team, he would not get his letter until after the season, in May.

In a terrible miscalculation, Stan started wearing the jacket around school. This caused immediate and total ridicule. Stan knew he had made a big mistake. Dan and Stan went to a Rolling Hills varsity basketball game. Stan emerged from his room wearing a sweater.

“Where’s the jacket I bought you?” Dan asked.

“In my closet,” answered Stan.

“I didn’t buy it for it to be in your Goddamn closet,” Dan said. “Go get it.”

A man who had played high school and college varsity sports would know that a kid does not wear a letterman’s jacket before earning his letter. Stan wanted to tell his old man that he did not think wearing it at a basketball game was a good idea. Talking to him about matters of this kind was an exercise in futility.

Stan put the jacket on. When they got to the school parking lot, he took it off to leave in the car.

“Why are you such a Goddamn studidkid?” asked Dan. “Put the jacket on.”

“But it’s not cold in there,” answered Stan.

“I bought it for you to wear it,” Dan answered.

14-year old freshman Stan Taylor, the new kid, a good athlete but already notorious for his arrogance, sheepishly entered the gym wearing a Rolling Hills letterman’s jacket, sans the letter. His father was a piece of work.

A couple thousand people did not jeer him, mock him and scream epithets at him. It just seemed that way. Stan sat in the stands with his father. Nobody sat with his or her fathers at these events. The pecking order of high school demanded that one sit with your friends. Stan did not have any friends in the student rooting section. He would feel out of place. Who would he sit next to? His being alone would just seem so obvious.

He moved into the stands with Dan. He walked past Fast Oz. Fast Oz saw the letterman’s jacket.

“You are…unbelievable,” Fast Oz told him.

  Stan endured these events. His father would insist on going to all the games. Stan had to sit with him, and he had to wear that God-awful jacket.

On the other hand, Dan continued to help Stan with extra practice. Stan felt he needed the practice. He became more dedicated than ever. His parents supported him. They yelled and screamed about stupid little things, but if he needed something in a pinch they backed him up.

Dan was almost a cartoon character, but there was a side of him many never saw. For instance, several of his clients were old ladies, whose estates he handled. Dan would personally drive to see them once a week. He would bring them things, and go far out of his way to make them comfortable. It was much more than personal service. Nobody else at his corporate law firm ever paid that kind of attention. Dan did not handle big money clients, but he treated them like they were. He did it out of compassion. He felt it was the right thing to do.

Stan admired his father for this. There were many things for him to admire. Dan had great work ethic. It had not manifested itself in Dan becoming an elite attorney or political figure, but the old man had put tremendous time and energy into his family, and this meant Stan. Stan knew it. Stan could never stay mad at his father. He could never allow his hard feelings for him to control him forever. He loved Dan intensely. Dan was a worthy role model and hero figure, despite his many faults.

Drinking was one of them. Stan wanted him to stop. He took to leaving notes in his car that read, “Dad, I love you and want you to be all right. I hope you don’t drink today.” Stan just crumpled the notes up, threw them away, and drank anyway. Stan never rebelled against him by growing his hair long, doing drugs, slacking off in school, or losing his desire for sports. He wanted to be like his father. He wanted his respect. Dan had a hard time figuring his son out. He was such a chip off the old block, but fell short in some key areas.

Stan was not the student Dan had been. Dan could not understand that. Stan pulled okay grades, but he was not an academic star. He was smart enough, but school just did not inspire him as it had Dan. Dan looked at his son and wondered if the kid was living up to all those Taylor’s who had made their great mark in politics, journalism, sports and the entertainment industry.

Stan’s life was not about living up to the Taylor legacy. What mattered to him was making friends and making it with a girl. He had found in Brad and Walt an anti-dote to the Fast Oz’s of Rolling Hills. His new friends were his saving grace. They were his hedge against the abyss of teenage unpopularity that had threatened to overwhelm him during his junior high days.

 Stan knew that he came from a prominent family. He sensed that he was above the pedestrian taunts and put-downs of high school life, but he could not use the Taylor Family Crest as a buffer. He had to make it on his own merit. This was why sports had always validated him. Between the white lines, money and connections were of no value. Sports were the most merit-based activity there was. 

Fast Oz bummed rides with Shirley. He was like the obsequious little league kids who were nice to Stan when his parents were around. Stan knew it was an act. The tension was there.

With Brad around, Stan put on a different persona. The Taylor’s had a dog named Laddie. Laddie was a great big tri-Collie. Brad and Stan sat up front with Shirley. Fast Oz sat in the back, with Laddie slobbering all over him.

Shirley would stop at Ralph’s to pick up groceries, and let Laddie run in the field behind the store. Laddie always took a big old honkin’ dump. Laddie was a hairy beast. When he defecated, some of the feces would end up on some of the fur near his butt. In the car, Laddie would turn, so his crappy butt was in Fast Oz’s face. Fast Oz would be disgusted, but he was getting a free ride home.

Stan and Brad would observe it, to their amusement.

“Ozzie,” they would say, in mock English accents, “my good man. Ya stink, man.”       

It did not take Fast Oz long to figure out a different way to get home from school.

Brad and Stan invented new “skits.” Adopting various accents, they made funny faces, creating characters and caricatures. Nobody else got it, except for Jeff and Darren. They seemed to be the only ones with the personality and the intelligence to “get it.”

“Wah allo Guv’na, and a Guv’na allo,” Brad and Stan said in Cockney accents, to a sophomore. The sophomore hated them. Stan and Brad did not give him a hard time, or play tricks on him. They represented something totally foreign to him. What he could not put understand, he chose to hate.

They invented a character named Leroy. Leroy was a black stud in the tradition of plantation slaves. He was based on a Hustler pictorial that Jeff had lying around, in which a Negro with a 12-incher gives the high, hard one to a girl made out to be a Southern belle.

“All shall rise,” the skit went in the style of a bailiff calling a courtroom to order. Then, stage whisper: “Not that way, Leroy!”

They created a Colonel Sanders-style Senator who recognizes, in a full Southern drawl that both kids handled impressively, “the chair recognizes the Senatah from the greeaatt, whiiitte, PREJUDICED State of Kentucky. I see judgin’ from new photos of Senatah Kennedy of Massachusetts in the company of a young lady of questionable morality on a boat, that he has changed his position on off-shore drillin’.”

 Stan would pull these sayings right out in the open. Nobody else got what he was talking about, which meant ridicule. He could care less. Brad was more PR conscious. As they got older, he usually reserved his “performances” for private sessions.

Stan wanted to write for the school newspaper. They did not allow freshmen. There was an empty room next to the cafeteria, which was used by the local police when they busted miscreants for smoking dope. It was a bare room, but it had two things that were gold to Stan. There was a typewriter, a crude copy machine, and green paper. That was all he needed.

He started the Rolling Hills Sporting Green. He wrote articles about Titan football, basketball and baseball games. He wrote about his friends, giving emphasis to the deeds of Walt and Brad. He wrote about himself in the third person.

“Stan Taylor came on to close out the victory, striking out the last two Vikings on seven pitches for his third save,” he would write.

He built up enmity by omitting the accomplishments and emphasizing the failures of others, while glorifying himself. It did not matter. He was published. He made copies and handed the Sporting Green to everybody he saw.

“If you don’t like it,” he told detractors, “publish your own paper.” The Sporting Green became popular, which made an enemy out of Mrs. Johnson. She was the journalism teacher who supervised the official school paper. She had told Stan he was too young to write for The Titan. When Stan went forward with his entrepreneurial venture, she was pissed. She viewed such action as defiance, and was frustrated that so many read the little green rag.

She did not admire Stan’s spirit, willingness to do something constructive, natural writing talent and creativity. This fact did not escape Stan.

Mrs. Johnson was a neighbor of Brad’s. Brad and Stan were hanging around at Brad’s house. As usual, they were up to no good. They came across an ad for “Swinger’s Hotline.” It was some kind of pornographic material for people who enjoyed “alternative lifestyles.” In other words, swingers are men and women who go to swing parties and have orgiastic sex with as many people as possible. This is an old variation on what used to be called “wife swapping.” In the 1970s it was popularized by “key parties,” in which couples would go to a house and put their keys in a bowl, drawing them out like matched lottery tickets to determine who would have sex with whom.

The “Swinger’s Hotline” newsletter promised plenty of information on how to engage in these activities. Better yet, it was free. Apparently it was paid for by the ads and sponsored by the various organizations charging membership or asking couple’s to pay to for the parties.

It was too good to be true. Stan dialed the number and asked to be put on the “Swinger’s Hotline” mailing list. He gave the name “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.” Brad knew Mrs. Johnson’s address. The publication began arriving the following week. It came every two weeks for several years. The Johnson’s had no clue how it got there. They started blaming each other. Both adamantly denied any knowledge of it. They called the number on the newsletter and asked to be taken off the list. They were assured they would not receive it anymore. It kept coming anyway. Eventually, they started reading it. In 1980 they actually attended a swing party that they saw advertised in the publication. It was a disgusting affair in some Hollywood hovel. All they really saw were piles of bodies in the corner. They never spoke of the incident again.  

In their sophomore year, the two incorrigible friends made it on to The Titan staff. The boy geniuses walked around, saying in murmured tones, “Swinger’s Hotline”, when walking near Mrs. Johnson. She figured out that it was them.

The Winter Olympics were at Lake Placid, New York. The United States defeated the Soviet Union in ice hockey. It was one of the greatest moments in Americans sports history, punctuated by announcer Al Michaels’ call, “Do you believe in miracles?”

At the paper’s staff meeting the next day, Brad and Stan were beyond themselves. They were wrapped in patriotic fervor and the glory of this Cold War sports victory over the hated Russians.  They went on and on, filled with youthful enthusiasm. Then Mrs. Johnson walked in the room.

“Hush now,” she said sternly. “Let’s direct the discussion to something relevant.”

Stan almost had a heart attack.

“Mrs. Johnson,” he exclaimed, managing to sound like an English barrister. “I shall have you know, madam, that discussion of the American victory over the evil minions of Communist Empire is the single most relevant topic of discussion in this classroom, to date.”

That did it.

“Mr. Taylor,” said Mrs. Johnson, “please come with me.”

Stan got up and accompanied Mrs. Johnson into her little office.

“Mr. Taylor,” she said, “I know you are behind the horrid pornography that keeps arriving by mail at my house every two weeks.” It was like when Laurence Olivier looked at Kirk Douglas and said, “Spartacus…you are he!” Stan had been found out. “ I will not put up with your impudence one minute longer. You are hereby no longer a member of The Titan.”

Brad was behind the “Swinger’s Hotline” material, too. They were notorious cut-ups, but it was Stan who was nailed. He was obvious. He was out there. Unlike Walt or Brad, he was not discreet about his hi-jinks. Stan was gone.

A year later, Stan had another class with Mrs. Johnson. The term paper was a historical retrospective of well-known subject matter. Stan decided to cover the 1951 pennant race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, culminating in Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘round the World.”   

Stan typed out a 14-page essay covering every aspect of the teams, the individuals involved, the dramatic stretch run, and of course the winning moment. Mrs. Johnson gave him a B-, calling the effort “trite.”

Years later, Stan would become friends with Leonard Koppett, a Hall of Fame sportswriter who was on the New York baseball scene during that era. Koppett was known to be the leading expert on baseball history. He was a bit of a curmudgeon, not given to easy praise.

Stan found the old paper and read it over. He was amazed at how well written and researched it was. It was worthy of a chapter in any baseball history book. He showed it to Koppett, but hid his original grade. He wanted Len’s honest assessment of it. The next time he saw the old writer, Koppett had read it over.

“This wasn’t written by a 16-year old,” he told Stan. “C’mon, who wrote it?”

Once convinced that young Stan was the author, Koppett said it was an A+ paper. He told him that if he had been the teacher and found a student capable of doing that, “I would realize I had a prodigy on my hands, and I’d do all in my power to get that student into Harvard or the Columbia School of Journalism.”

Tears came to Stan’s eyes when he thought about the lack of encouragement from Mrs. Johnson, or any of his useless, paycheck-collecting teachers. Had he been given some real direction then, he might have discovered his love, his passion and his career at a young age, instead of much later.

The bitch Mrs. Johnson said it was “trite.”

Stan took typing in school. He barely made a C. He could type 60 words a minute. He was an expert typist. It was a fantastic skill, which would serve him his entire life. The problem was that he had taught himself. Dan had bought him an Olivetti when he was in the seventh grade, and he learned it on his own.

Stan already knew how to type better than anybody in the class, including the stupid teacher. He typed by sight-and-touch, using just two fingers on each hand. It was unconventional and it looked funny. It worked for him. That did not save him from getting a C because of his unconventional method. The Dumbellionite who graded him would have flunked Jimi Hendrix out of a music class because he did not play his upside down right-handed guitar “correctly.”

The experiences with Mrs. Johnson and the typing teacher were typical of his entire academic career. All he ever got were coaches interested in their glory or teachers just punching a clock. Inspiration would have to be something he came up with on his own.

Walt and Brad were his inspiration. They thought The Dan (as in Mr. Taylor - The Dan could be Stan or Dan depending on the context) was hilarious, not the monster some thought he was. They did not judge Stan over the letterman’s jacket incident, Dan’s yelling, or the Sporting Green. They either encouraged or tolerated Stan. They were their own men. They did not need anybody else’s opinion for them to form their own.

Walt and Brad were not dorks, misfits or ugly. They were popular. Neither one was a big hit with the chicks, but there was time down the road to earn those spurs. They were not shrinking violets, scared of their own shadows, either. They were not driven by horrid teen peer pressure, which seems to dominate every aspect of life at that age. Mainly, they were Stan’s friends.

Stan never had gotten his hands on the Playboy magazine that his next-door neighbor, Halstead, had stashed away. He did not really know when he hit puberty. Brad and Stan wandered into a 7-11 store. They meandered on over to the magazine rack, and checked out Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and the usual publications.

Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler were right there, in plain view. The depictions of gorgeous, sexually charged women adorning their covers were enough to drive Stan and Brad (who was also a virgin) right off the edge. These magazines were off limits, though. Or so Stan thought, until Brad casually picked up Playboy. He opened it up to the centerfold, and there she was.

Candy Loving was a coed at the University of Oklahoma. Hugh Hefner had chosen her as their 25th Anniversary Playmate. She was awesome, a brunette with large, beautiful breasts and big, sensuous lips. She was a wet dream.

Brad and Stan had no intention of buying the issue. They were not 18 yet and figured they would be carded, with poor results. They were not loaded with dough. Paying for Playboy would leave either of them broke. But the age and money issues were secondary to the embarrassment problem. It meant walking Candy Loving to the counter, where the elderly clerk (7-11 clerks were not yet refugees of the Iranian Revolution) would eye them for being the buyers of such smut, which is ironic since the clerks were the ones peddlin’ smut. Worse than the moralistic clerk was the paranoid fear that a cute girl or somebody’s mom would walk in the door and see them buying Candy Loving.     

So Brad did what seemed to be the logical thing. He stuck it into his coat and walked out. Just like that, followed by Stan. No problem. They were not caught.

Stan thought this was just awesome. He marveled at Candy Loving.

“I think I’ve hit puberty,” he mused. He just did not know what to do with it. Then the issue of who would take the magazine home came up.

Stan just had to bring it home, but Brad had a stubborn streak. He did know what to do with it. So Brad took it home for a whole week. Every day, Stan bugged him about letting him have the magazine. Brad told him to get his own. Stan approached several convenience stores with this in mind. He chickened out every time.

Finally, after eight long days, Brad gave him the Candy Loving edition of Playboy. Stan stuck it into his backpack, and sweated out the rest of day. He snuck several peaks at it, and imagined her all afternoon. Finally, at home and in the privacy of his bedroom, he found himself alone with the 25th Anniversary Playmate.

Candy Loving. Wow. Eye candy. Except Stan literally did not know what to do. Nobody had ever taught him. He did not have an older brother. In junior high, he had been at a guy’s house when a “blue movie” was shown. But it was one of those old jobs, black-and-white on 30-milimeter film. All it really was, as he recalled, was a sexy stripper girl in a bathing suit, which she took off at the pool. There was no sex.

He had heard people talk about “cum,” and “jerking off,” but this was still uncharted territory. So he looked at the pages, and finally went to bed. In bed, he held on to his pillow and pretended it was Candy Loving. He pretended they were having a sexy conversation. He was hard as a rock against the pillow. He eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, a Saturday, he was scheduled to pitch a game. He woke up with the same raging woodrow, and pretended the pillow was Candy. Something remarkable began to happen. This feeling between his legs. He was not sure what the heck it was, but it felt damn good and he was not about to stop. It was daylight and Candy’s centerfold was in plain view. He kept humping that soft pillow, and finally ejaculated.

“My God,” he exclaimed to himself. He had drenched the entire pillow. It was an enormous load. Unbelievable. He was really good at it. What a talent! Stan had average size equipment, but when it got “angry” it swelled up. Women would be very fond of it. It was nicely shaped, and some of the more cerebral women in his life would call it “esthetically pleasing.”

When he was not aroused, his equipment looked to be between small and average. In locker rooms, Stan always would take heat from teammates, who talk about anything. They would laugh at him.

“For a dude your size,” guys would say, “you sure got a little pecker.”

Stan did not care. He would know that his women knew. He would get hard and thick. He would have what it took to turn women on and make them feel sexy.

All of this was in the future when Stan “accidentally” ejaculated for the first time, courtesy of Candy Loving. Pitching that afternoon, all Stan could think about was Candy. He was relaxed, and pitched a terrific game. The normal pressures of baseball seemed to wilt away, now that he had discovered the great combination of Playboy and masturbation.

Stan kept Candy between his mattress and box springs. Naturally, Shirley entered his room, snooped around, and within a few days found it. Here was an adolescent boy who did not have a girlfriend, had been taunted by his peers, and whose courage and “manliness” had at times been in question.

Yet, the kid had Playboy magazine. This was evidence of normalcy. He was fantasizing about some of the most beautiful women in the world, just like millions of other kids for decades.

She left it on his bed, so that when Stan came home he would see that she had discovered it. She did not put it back where it was. She embarrassed him. He was beet red with shame.

Thanks, Mom, Stan thought.

After procuring the Candy Loving issue, Brad and Stan made regular forages to various convenience stores, looking for Playboy and the other men’s magazines, plus the fine side publications that Playboy published. There was Playboy’s “Girls of Summer”, “Girls of the Pac-10”, and “Wet ’n’ Wild”.

Stan knew that Shirley would rummage through his room like an F.B.I. agent with a search warrant for Al Capone. He went through elaborate gyrations to hide his stash. His favorite publication was Playboy’s “The Women of Pompeo Posar”.  Pompeo Posar was Playboy’s leading photographer, and the magazine published a special publication dedicated to his greatest work. It was outrageous. Donna Michelle. Karen Christy. Barbi Benton. A veritable Hall of Fame of sex. It was just as good as the All-Star Baseball game with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that Granddaddy had given him in his garage.

Brad and Stan never bought these sex pictorials. They stole all of them, developing sleight of hand, always wearing a coat for the occasion. Once they were detected and had to run down the street while the clerk yelled at them. That was their closest call. They planned their adventures and called them “heists.” They would approach Darren, who would hear none of it.

“I shall have nothing to do with this, how you say, heist,” Darren addressed them like an English schoolmaster He was younger than the unholy duo, but light years ahead of them in maturity.

Dave Hunt played on the JV baseball team. He was older than Stan. Stan was at his house, and he discovered a treasure trove. Hunt’s old man had been subscribing to Playboy since the early 1960s, and they were all kept in order. Stan simply had to have them. Luckily (depending on one’s point of view), Hunt had just hooked up with his first girlfriend. According to teenage rationale, he was now “above” such things as Playboy. He sold the whole collection to Stan for $30.

Stan did not have a girlfriend. He had the “Women of Pompeo Posar”.  High school girls were no comparison with Cindy Wood and Marilyn Lange. Plus, he actually read the articles, in particular the Playboy interview. Stan could name every Heisman Trophy winner, World Series champion, Most Valuable Player, and now every Playmate!

He had centerfolds of the 1970s spread on his bed. He achieved full wood.  His father opened his door and barged right in.

“I need to talk to you about tomorrow’s schedule,” said Dan.

Stan just lay there holding himself. Dan saw the magazines. Instead of easing his way out of the room, he sat there and discussed the stupid itinerary. Stan pulled the sheet over himself and covered up the magazines as best he could. He nodded stupidly. Dan knew his son was embarrassed.

In 1980, Stan and Brad added telephone fraud to their repertoire. They found a random phone number from the South Bay phone book, dialed the operator, charging a call to the Playboy Club in New York City, which was allowed at that time.

“Playboy Club,” came the female voice on the phone. A real bunny? Probably.

“Yes, this is Richard Betkivich,” Stan said, using the name of the guy they found in the phone book. “I’d like to book a bachelor party, please.”

From there, he put together an expensive party at a future date for Betkivich, who could never have imagined what a high roller he was.

“Shecky Green’s available that week,” said the bunny.

“Oh, yes,” said Stan. “Book him.”

The whole bill was mailed to Betkivich’s address, which was in the book, too.     

The Playboy bachelor party scam was not enough. Stan decided to go for the coup de grace of pranks, something that required real wit, humor and innovation. Ordinary kids were into stink bombs and toilet paper parties. He was way beyond that. Stan was no ordinary kid.

In 1980, Tom Seaver was having a lousy season in Cincinnati. Stan decided to trade him. He wanted to trade him to the Dodgers, but he had recently heard an interview with Spec Richardson, general manager of the San Francisco Giants. Richardson sounded like Slim Pickens. Stan had mastered Pickens’ famous phrase “What in the wide, wide world of sports is goin’ on here?” from “Blazing Saddles”.

The Dodgers GM was Al Campanis. Capturing the gruff voice of Campanis was not in his repertoire. The call went out to Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, from the payphone in front of the Rolling Hills gym. Another poor slob was randomly selected out of the phone book to pay for the call.

“Cincinnati Reds,” said the operator.

“Richard Wagner,” said Stan. “This is Spec Richardson of the Giants, sugar.”

“Yes, Mr. Richardson,” she said.

  “Hey, Spec, what can I do you for?” said Wagner.

“Well,” drawled Stan “Richardson”, “I got a deal for ya.”

“Is that right?” inquired Wagner, surprised that a division rival wanted to trade with him. “Whaddaya got?”

“Tom Seaver for Jack Clark,” said Stan. “Straight up.”

There was a moment of silence on the line. Seaver for Clark? That was a great trade for the Reds. Seaver was a future Hall of Famer, but he was having an off year.  Clark was one of the best young hitters in the game.

“Done,” said Wagner.

After a little small talk and some details, Wagner said, “I’ll get it on the wire,” and they parted company.

Brad was awed. The ability to carry this out so calmly and easily was a gift. That afternoon, they listed to Dodgertalk on KABC 790, and host Geoff Witcher announced the Seaver-for-Clark trade. Dodger fans were calling in, demanding why Campanis had failed to pull off this kind of trade. They were in a pennant battle with Houston. 

Wagner did inform the Commissioner’s office of the trade, but the Giants never consummated it, of course. A call went out to Richardson, who was asked why he had not put Clark on the wire to make the trade official.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he responded to the baseball official calling from New York.

Richardson then got to thinking about it, and decided it was not such a bad trade, after all. He called Wagner, but he wanted the Reds to throw in some prospects. Between the new demands and the overall embarrassment of the trade snafu, Seaver-for-Clark never came down. The media got a hold of it, and speculated on the “joke,” but the issue eventually went away.

“George, you’ve performed magnificently here in Europe,” Brad said to Stan, as if he were Karl Malden playing Omar Bradley in “Patton”. “Ike’s up against a whole new set of priorities in London. I’m gonna have to slow you down a bit.”

“Naw, you can’t do that,” Stan imitated George Scott’s Patton. “Sounds like Montgomery.”

“Now just hold on, George,” Brad said. “Hitler’s killing more civilians in London than he is soldiers in the field. There’s serious issues here. Political issues.”

By God it is Montgomery,” Stan thundered. “You give me that gas, I’ll gain ground. I’ll kill Germans. You give me 100,000 gallons, I’ll go straight to Berlin.”

“Now, there’s use arguing with me about it,” Brad replied.

“If you didn’t want me to fight, why’d you pick me?” Stan asked.

“I didn’t pick you,” Brad answered. “Ike picked you. George, you are loyal, trustworthy, you’re one of the best tank commanders I’ve got, but you just don’t know when to shut up! George, you’re a pain in the neck.”

“I got a lot of faults, Brad,” Stan says. “But ingratitude isn’t one of ‘em. I owe you a lot.” Then Stan pauses, and shows some real acting talent.

“I’m a prima donna, Brad. I admit it. What bothers me about Monty is he won’t admit it.”

Stan would pretend to hold binoculars at Al Gatar, and say, “Rommell, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD, I READ YOUR BOOK!”

Brad and Stan did a skit they called “I KNOW.” It could be anything. One of them would start in on a subject he knew the other had complete knowledge of.

“You see, Stan, the Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958,” Brad said in a cocksure manner.

“I know,” Stan replies.

“Well you didn’t realize they came from Brooklyn -. ” Brad says.

“I know, Brad,” Stan interrupts.

“But ya see, they were the Dodgers in Brooklyn, too,” says Brad. “They used to be the Suburbas, then the Trolley Dodgers -”

“I know, Brad,” Stan says patiently.

“But you see, they came out here and played at the Coliseum,” Brad continues. “That’s where SC plays football -.”

“I know, man, okay,” says Stan, still showing patience.

“Oh, well, they built Dodger Stadium in 1963 -.”

“1962,” says Stan.

“…And the team drew almost 3 million fans, a record -.”

“I know.”

“And they won many pennants with Dandy Sandy and Big D and I went to a lot of games and ate Dodger Dogs and Walt’s Malts and -.”

“I know.”

“…And they won the Series in ’63 and ’65 -.”

I KNOW, BRAD. I KNOW. Dear God, man, I know.”

Stan bellowed it out loud enough for everybody within shouting distance to hear. He patted Brad on the head as if he was a child who realized he had erred.

“I know, Brad,” he would finish it off softly.

“Ehhhhhh,” was Brad’s stock response.

They made faces, hiding their upper teeth with their lips, making them look goofy.

They would talk in faux Irish accents.

“`Tis a fine, fine doggy,” Brad would say, petting Stan’s dog, Laddie, while looking at the dog with an exaggerated look of youthful love.

“And a fine, fine Daddy as vell,” Stan would finish it off.
               Brad and Stan could be just as stupid as they could be witty when it came to things that made them laugh. They started taking used, wet towels, and throwing them at each other. The one with the towel draped on them would gingerly peel it off, using the ends of his fingers as if the towel was a heinous object.

“Hmm,” he would say. “Translucent in substance. Sticky. Hmm, let’s see. It’s…why, could it be? Hmm, it’s…it’s…why, it’s…”

Then mock “realization” would be followed by horror.

“It’s SPEEEERMM!!!”

Anybody standing around them looked at them as if they were jackasses. They could care less. As much as they loved each other, though, Brad and Stan could only take so much of each other. They both had a selfish streak. Brad never would grow out of his. Even as adults, they would be at each other’s throat on occasion. Confined spaces, road trips, long periods of time together, would create small contempt. Brad would always maintain a Brad-is-first attitude.

Walt, on the other hand, had an insouciant way of fluttering though life offending everybody, yet really offending nobody. He was a teenage version of Hunter S. Thompson, spouting various inanities that could pass for wisdom; making announcements and pronouncements about any and all things as if he were a supreme authority, all of delivered in mock jest.

              

In 1979, freshman all-league sensation Billy Boswell hit .400. Stan was not an all-leaguer, but had struck out Billy in their dramatic head-to-head match-up. Billy still overshadowed him.

Ambers put everything into coaching the Rolling Hills varsity, and had decided not to manage the American Legion team in the Summer. Rolling Hills’ Legion team had not been a really serious club for a few years. They played a regular league schedule, rarely practiced, and did not go anywhere in the post-season.

Ambers asked Dan Taylor to manage the Legion squad in 1979. Stan had mixed emotions about it. Dan had coached in the Winter league, but he felt his old man was a loose cannon who, unleashed upon the Rolling Hills baseball program, could have the same effect he had had on him when they were in Palos Verdes.

On the other hand, he thought there might be some advantage to having his family closely associated with Ambers’ program.

That year, it was decided that they would not just allow graduating seniors to play, but even 18-year old college freshmen who had gone to the school. It was decided that they would put together an American Legion juggernaut. They would practice regularly, simulating a minor league professional organization. At the first meeting, held in the gym, Dan gathered his team together.

“As far as you’re concerned,” he told them, “I’m Jim Ambers, and you’re to pay me the same respect you pay Coach Ambers.”

The remark went down like dead weight.

“Yeah, sure,” one 18-year old, who had just finished his first year at Loyola, remarked.

Something had happened to Dan since his days playing at SC, and in the White Sox minor league system. For all his moxie and savvy, all his maturity and baseball experience, his methods seemed to be a thing of the past. He was a caricature of the 1950s, dealing with kids in the late 1970s. They wore their hair long, they did drugs, and they were not virgins. They respected authority only if it was forced down their throat, which was Ambers’ way. Ambers demanded and received respect through intimidation and fear. Dan did not have that in him. A kid needed to know that the threats were real, and if he felt a hint of weakness, that was the end of it.

Stan was eligible to play his last year of Babe Ruth baseball, but had chosen not to do it. He still lived in the Palos Verdes district, and would have to play with all those kids who hated him. It would have been a disaster going back there after going to Rolling Hills. Many had determined that he had cut ’n’ run.

He could not actually play Legion ball, since the rules required 16-to-18 year olds only, but Dan took care of that. The league schedule consisted of 24 games, but Dan scheduled games almost every night in the Summer. The team played close to 60 games from Memorial weekend until the post-season in August. They traveled all over Greater Los Angeles, including Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando, up to Ventura and out to San Bernardino.   

It was a fantastic Summer. Stan pitched, played shortstop and first base in the non-league games. He built on his freshman performance, establishing himself as a top player. He was 6-0 with a 1.57 earned run average. He beat some of the top teams in Southern California, including the powerful Long Beach Connie Mack team in a game under the Blair Field lights. A switch-hitter, he belted a couple homers and hit over .300.

Rolling Hills ended Santa Monica’s dominance and went all the way to the Legion World Series in New Mexico before losing. Over in Palos Verdes, Billy Boswell hit almost .800 in his last year in the Babe Ruth League. He took P.V. all the way to the Babe Ruth World Series, but they lost in the semi-final game. A lot of folks were mad at Stan for not playing out his last year. If he had pitched, they might have won, just as they had in little league three years prior.  It was absolutely ludicrous for a player of Billy’s skills to be playing in that competition. He also played in non-league games for the Redondo Beach Legion team, which consisted of players mostly from Palos Verdes and Redondo Union High.       

 In his sophomore year, Billy starred as an All-State football and basketball player, and was an All-American in baseball. Stan played Winter league baseball. His dad again coached the team. He was a substitute on the varsity basketball team, and the ace right-hander on the baseball team. He did not throw all that hard, but he had great control, and a mastery of four pitches: Fast ball, curve, slider and change-up.

As good as he was, he was still in Billy’s shadow. Stan was 11-1 and made All-Bay League, but Billy was already being featured in national magazines like Prep Sports and Cal-Hi Sports. Perhaps the highlight of Stan’s sports career came in early June, however. All season, he and Rolling Hills had battled Billy and Palos Verdes for supremacy and bragging rights. Both teams made the play-offs, and moved through Southern Section competition. The two teams met each other in the title game at Anaheim Stadium, the home of the California Angels.

Almost 20,000 people showed up. Most of the peninsula was on hand, and both school’s entire student bodies made it to Orange County. With the score tied, 2-2 in the fifth, Billy connected for a two-run homer off of Stan. Taylor was devastated. To have Boswell tear his heart out was almost too much to bear. He could see the little pissant, Matt Hobli, yelling like crazy from behind the P.V. dugout. Hobli had played on the junior varsity that season.

In the top of the seventh, Stan came to bat with his team trailing, 4-3, and runners on second and third with two out. Palos Verdes considered walking him, but chose to pitch to him, which fueled him even more. The count went full, and still they came in with a strike.

Stan stroked a doubled to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs. He held the lead in the bottom of the seventh, and was pictured in the Los Angeles Times’ sports section and the Daily Breeze front page being carried off the field by his teammates, the 1980 CIF-Southern Section champions.

That Summer, Dan again coached the Legion team. Stan was like a conquering hero, a celebrity. He was the super sophomore who had pitched and batted his team to the title. Pro scouts and college recruiters checked him out.

This time, Ambers did not allow seniors or college boys to play, limiting the roster strictly to returning players in the Rolling Hills program. Rolling Hills beat out Redondo for the league title. Boswell hit over .500 that Summer, but it was not enough.

When a Legion team advances to the play-offs, they are allowed to pick up three players from their league for the post-season. Billy was picked up by Rolling Hills. The team advanced past the first two tournaments, which included a trip to Yountville, in Northern California.

During this entire time, Billy and Stan never said two words to each other. Since Dan managed the team, he had occasion to talk to Boswell, but the communication between them was held to an absolute minimum. Boswell’s large family made all the trips. Even his father, Al, who was with the San Diego Padres, made it to a regional game in Fullerton. The Boswells and the Taylor’s never said a word to each other. Matt Hobli showed up. He hung with the Boswell entourage, and never anything to Stan, Dan or Shirley in the stands. Shirley never spoke with the Boswells. The whole thing was surreal.

It was not that the kids, or the families, were enemies. They had never fought with each other. There was, however, an unspoken rivalry that mirrored the real rivalry that had developed between the two kids. They were the two best athletes in the South Bay; one white, one black, and while there was not any outward racial animosity, a palpable tension existed. They had chosen sides early on and stuck to it.    

They respected each other. The papers talked about the rivalry, and their teammates acknowledged it, but the kids themselves left it up to others to make hay of it. Billy did not badmouth Stan to his family or Matt Hobli. Stan had nothing bad to say to Stan or Shirley, to Brad or Walt, or anybody else.

Others tried to fuel the fire. Dan would bitch about Billy, calling him sullen and unfriendly, but even he could not put his finger on what made the kid tick. Stan never took the bait. When the subject came up, he just maintained his silence.           

At Yountville, things fell apart. A team from Sacramento blew out Stan. Billy never got a hit the entire time. Rolling Hills was forced to return home with their tail between their legs.

Jim Ambers was none too pleased, but the failure of his team to advance very far was not his only beef. Ambers had a son named Marty. Marty was a mediocre ball player. He was a liability in the field, and could not hit. He was also a complete prick, just like his old man.

When Marty arrived at Rolling Hills, there was another kid who had come up through the little leagues and the Babe Ruth League with him, named Nick Tolan. Tolan lived, ate and breathed baseball. He was talented. He was a far better player than Marty.

A gruff, big man named Jesse Pentilla coached the freshman team. Nick beat out Marty for the starting job and had an excellent season. The next year, Marty played on the varsity, even though he had no business being there. Nolan started on the JVs. Nick again languished on the JVs his junior year, when he should have started on the varsity. Marty started on the varsity.

Nick was so heartbroken by his treatment that he gave up baseball and got heavily into drugs. Marty hit .103 as a junior, but stayed in Ambers’ starting line-up despite intense grumbling. His senior year he was named captain, although he could not lead a dog. He batted .197.

Dan butted heads with Ambers when it was time to choose his 18-man roster for the Legion play-offs. He could bring only 15 Rolling Hills players, since three spots were left open to all-stars from the league. One of them was Billy. Another was an excellent second baseman from Bishop Montgomery High named Rich Bixby.      

Bixby took Marty Ambers’ spot on the roster and played his position. Ambers was vacationing at Big Bear Lake when he heard about it, and he called Dan to rip him a new anal cavity.

“What the hell are you thinking, Dan?” he yelled.

“But, Rich Bixby’s -.”

“I don’t give a shit what Rich Bixby is,” shot back Ambers. “You get him off that team and you do it now.”

“I can’t,” said Dan.

“What the hell do you mean, you can’t?” asked Ambers.

“I submitted the rosters to the American Legion office,” said Dan, sweating. “It’s too late to change it. It’s official. The rules are, even if he gets hurt, that’s it.”

“Ah, shit oh dear,” said Ambers, using one of his favorite expressions. “You are one sorry ass motherfucker and you’re Goddamn kid’s gonna pay.”

Dan could feel his head swelling, his heart racing, his pulse quickening. He was in full stress mode, holding the phone in his hands, listening to the dial tone after Ambers hung up on him.

In the other room, Stan heard his father’s side of the conversation. He knew he was up the creek.

Marty was even less impressive as a human being than he was as a baseball player, but he knew he was a crappy player. His father verbally abused him at home. Marty abused his position as the coach’s son with teammates, peers, teachers and other coaches. He had no respect for authority other than his own father.

Marty once asked Dan him if Shirley gave him head.

Dan repeated this story at home to Shirley and Stan. Stan was afraid of Marty. He knew he would not serve himself by making an enemy of him, even though he hated the kid. Marty ridiculed Stan, and hung with a small cadre of delinquents who made fun of him, too. Marty drank, smoked pot, and snorted blow. Stan was a straight arrow. Marty knew he was not in Stan’s league in any way. He was no intellectual giant, and Stan was something of a brain. Few understood Stan’s psyche and his sense of humor, except for a small group of kids like Walt and Brad. What kids like Marty did not understand, they made fun of. Marty just knew that as the years went by, Stan would ascend while Marty would sink into ignoble mediocrity. Like the Frankie Yagman’s, the Rico’s and the Wayne Fingers’ of the world, he was determined to get his licks in while he still could.

That is what high school is all about.

Success in sports was helping Stan to develop some sense of popularity. It was not genuine popularity. He had a whole new group of kids taunting him at Rolling Hills, but he was slowly, yet surely, finding a niche and an outlet in which to express himself.

What he still wanted was a girlfriend. His stash of Playboys helped him through lonely nights, but he needed the human touch, other than his own. Looking back at his years at Rolling Hills, Stan always kicked himself over his handling of Staci Hartley and Lyndsey Pallas. In some important ways, he had a lot to learn.

Staci and Lyndsey were his age. He met them in the same Spanish class in which Walt got everybody but himself in trouble. They were cute as hell. Staci was tall, thin yet athletic, with a heart-shaped face. She looked like a blonde Debra Winger. Lyndsey was tall, with unbelievable, long black hair, and an incredible body. She had some Cherokee Indian in her, and looked like Cher.

Staci and Lyndsey were bi-sexual and boy crazy. They did not lose their virginity until their junior year, but they enjoyed taking some lucky guy to Staci’s parents house, and seducing him in the hot tub. They had their eye on Stan.

Stan, dingbat that he was, was convinced that they were not smiling at him, but rather laughing at him. The girls were nice as can be, and tried to make friends with him. Stan just did not get it. He thought they were total foxes, but he was too shy and too scared of girls to take advantage of the situation.

Staci and Lyndsey figured he must be gay, which made them want him even more. Bennie and Walt had grown up with the girls. Bennie was much more hip on these kinds of matters than Walt.

“Hey man,” he said to Stan. “Those girls like you.”

“Ya think?” asked Stan.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Bennie. “Go talk to them. Trust me.”

Despite Bennie’s attempts to clue Stan in that a great opportunity was at hand, Stan was paralyzed.

His sophomore year, he sat on a bench eating lunch with Ron Walker, a senior, back-up catcher. Staci and Lyndsey came by, flirting like crazy with Stan. They wore tight, form-fitting jeans, with belly shirts showing plenty of cleavage and tanned skin. Their hair flowed down to their butts. They could be had at the drop of a hat. All Stan had to do was take just a little initiative.

“Hi, Stan,” said Staci.

“Hi, Stan,” echoed Lyndsey.

“Hi,” said Stan.

Awkward silence followed. The girls looked at each other as if to ask, Why is this guy ignoring us? Walker stared at Stan as if he was an idiot.

“Stan, what are you doing this weekend?” Staci inquired.

“I dunno,” answered Stan dumbly.

“Wanna come to our house?” asked Lyndsey.

“Uh, I dunno,” said Stan. This was the guy who successfully convinced the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds to trade Tom Seaver for Jack Clark, and he could not lift his eyes to talk to these girls.

“Want my phone number?” asked Lyndsey.

“Uh, yeah,” said Stan.

“Why don’t you come to our house after school?” asked Staci.

“Uh, I got practice,” said Stan.

It went on like that.

If he played his cards right, he could be naked with these high school honeys in a hot tub. A high school sports star, in a hot tub having passionate sex with two gorgeous California girls overlooking the Pacific Ocean! It does not get any better than that. Stan was too stupid with girls to see it. He did see it, he just failed to overcome his own inhibitions. Those inhibitions had been drilled into him since he was a child, and manifested themselves in terms of insecurity, poor self-esteem, and tentativeness. He was conflicted. The same guy who wanted the ball in the seventh inning of a tight game, a natural leader on the warring fields of athletic strife, he had challenged Rico and Fingers head on with everybody watching. But he was scared with girls.

The girls left after the unsatisfactory exchange.

Ron Walker observed the whole mating dance, utterly incredulous.

“Are you a fool?” he asked Stan.

“I, no,” said Stan.

“Horseshit,” said Ron. “You’re a fool. Those girls are the two sexiest women at this school and they want to get naked with you, and you’re tellin’ `em you got practice. We don’t got practice. What the hell’s the matter with you, man? Wake up.”

“I gotta lift weights after school,” said Stan.

Lift weights?” asked Ron. “Jesus, you can lift weights any time. Shit, lift them on and off of your dick. Do pushups in and out of them. Those chicks’d let you do anything you wanna do. If they wanted me, I’d be there so fast…”

“I know,” said Stan. “You’re right.”

“Go get `em,” said Ron. “Go. Now. Before they leave.”

The girls were just meandering along. Lord, Lyndsey turned and smiled at him.

Stan just sat there eating his sandwich.

“You’re fucking hopeless,’ said Ron. “You’re a hopeless case. I give up.”

Stan just knew that if he simply got up, walked 15 yards and said, “Okay, let’s go,” he would within an hour be having fantasy sex. It was in his grasp, within the palm of his hand. He could not make himself do it. He sat there, looking at his sandwich. Ron stared at him as if he was from another planet.

 

As a junior, Billy was an All-American football quarterback and basketball forward, and again an All-American baseball center fielder. His football, basketball and baseball teams all won the Southern Section title.

His friend Hobli played JV basketball and baseball. Billy really started to break out with the girls. He was terrific looking, and being black at a mostly-white high school worked to his advantage. He was hung like a horse, and word of his endowment spread among the girls of Palos Verdes Estates. Hobli went out with him on double dates and often helped him in his never-ending struggle to juggle girlfriends. Hobli would occupy one girl while Billy was finishing with another, unbeknownst to each other. The rich, white suburban girls just loved the whole taboo of having sex with a black guy. Billy played it perfectly. He was well mannered, polite and nice to these girls. He led them smiling down the primrose path.

Billy stayed away from drugs. He had seen substance abuse swallow up a lot of great athletes. His father was nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career that could have been even better had he been more focused. Billy had grown up at Dodger Stadium. His playground had been big league ballparks, his playmates Major Leaguers. He was gifted with great talent, and treated as a special person from the beginning. His being black worked to his advantage, too. All in all, he was already full of himself. There was nobody to tell him he should feel any other way. His father did not do that. Neither did his mother or his coaches. Matt Hobli was practically his servant. By his junior year he had a posse of sycophants, worshippers and groupies.

Billy was hugely popular despite treating a lot of people poorly. He was nice to beautiful girls. Everybody else got the cold shoulder, unless he was in a mood to be nice. It did not matter. Everybody kissed his royal ass.

Stan also eschewed drugs, but not for the same reasons that Billy did. Stan was a sheltered kid who simply was not exposed to these kinds of things. Kids at Rolling Hills had money, and drugs were easily obtainable. There were dealers on the peninsula, and if one wanted to slum it, they could venture into Torrance, Gardena, and L.A. to mix with the crack heads.

Stan did not party. He was not invited to parties. He had no girlfriends. He was not a popular member of the “in crowd.” His teammates tolerated him because of his ability.

In his junior year, Stan started and made all-league in basketball. He was 6-5 at the age of 17. Normally, he would have weighed about 175 or 180 pounds, but he had lifted weights religiously for three years, and was up to 215. He was strong and muscular. He was still not very aggressive, however. He felt a surge of confidence with his new strength, and threw harder because of it, but he was not yet sure of himself as a man.

Ambers was old school, one of those guys who thought baseball players should not lift weights because it would tie up their muscles and cause injuries. Stan infuriated him by lifting weights for hours, whether Ambers liked it or not. What really galled Ambers was that Jesse Pentilla had taken Stan under his wing, and was supervising his workouts.

Pentilla was the guy who sat Marty’s butt on the bench in favor of Nick Tolan when he coached freshman baseball. Ambers had given him grief about it, just like he had with Dan when he had the temerity to leave the little prick off the American Legion play-off roster. Pentilla refused to take any of Ambers’ crap. He was 6-6, 245 pounds in his own right. He had been a tough Mexican-American kid who survived the streets of East Los Angeles, had excelled at the University of Santa Clara on an athletic scholarship, and had played professional football for a couple of years. He was a colleague of Ambers, and refused to see the man as a legend (“except in his own mind”). Pentilla believed in fairness and honesty. He saw in Ambers greed and manipulation.

When Stan first entered his weight room, he stood 6-2, 135 pounds. He could shower in the barrel of a .22. Pentilla prescribed a meat ’n’ potatoes diet, and had him doing squats, dead lifts, and bench press. Pentilla relentlessly pushed Stan to work his butt off in the weight room.

“I don’t wanna see nothin’ but assholes and elbows,” was one of his favorite expressions.

“Some day you’ll be 6-6, 235,” he told Stan.

“No way, Coach,” replied Stan.

“I guarantee it,” Pentilla told him.

 By his junior year, Stan and Ambers were hardly speaking to each other. They had a “marriage” of convenience. Stan pitched Ambers’ team to victory, so Ambers wanted him around. But the incident with Marty the previous Summer had changed things. Dan still showed up at practices, and sat in the stands during games. He did not hide his opinions. Dan’s opinion was that his son was the greatest thing in the world, and Ambers did not appreciate what he had. It got to the point where Ambers barely spoke to Dan.

Dan always sat behind home plate. He preached to Stan that he needed to keep his arm up when delivering pitches. Occasionally, Stan tended to short arm. Dan hounded him about it. Stan would be on the mound, trying to concentrate on the batter. Behind home plate, Dan would get this look. It was a serious look. His face had a “long” quality to it. Shirley would sit next to him until it got unbearable. Then she had to move. Dan swore and moaned and was pissed. Others gave him fair distance. He yelled at his son. He embarrassed him. Stan would have done anything not to have his old man sit right behind home. He hated looking at him every game. He would dearly love a breather from the old man.

Just take a few games off. Maybe when I do not pitch. Stop coming to practice. He tried to hint around these issues, but the result was shame and martyrdom, with Dan nailing himself to the proverbial cross in order to gain maximum guilt out of his kid.

“I practice with you every chance I get,” he would say. “How dare you not appreciate the sacrifices I’ve made for you. I’ve spent thousands of dollars to make you better. You ungrateful brat.”
             He was right. Stan knew it, and had no comeback when Dan rolled out the big guns.

Dan always pumped Stan for information. Who is starting the next game? What did Ambers say to him? Was Ambers happy with him? No detail was too unimportant for Dan to know. It drove Stan out of his mind, but he had been raised to answer all his old man’s questions, so he did. Stan often wanted to tell the guy to mind his own business and stop asking him all these lame questions. He knew that this was unacceptable. The fallout would be terrible consternation, blaming, maybe even a little violence.

Dan drank heavily and acted it. He drank beers in the car and left the empties lying around. He drank at the games. His breath smelled.

If Stan pitched well, and he usually did, Dan was ecstatic. He would jump around cheering and hooting like a maniac. He would greet his son with a big hug, and fill him with compliments. Shirley would follow suit. Dan would go over the whole game, asking what pitch Stan threw to certain hitters, or in particular situations. He would marvel at how Stan had pitched out of a jam, or struck somebody out at a key point in the game.

“You deserve a meal at Joe’s,” he announced. That was Stan’s reward, dinner at Joe’s with the folks.

When Stan did not pitch well, the misery and pain was worthy of Shakespearean drama. Stan would watch his father’s face in the stands after he walked hitters, gave up hits, and worse, after opponents scored runs against him. He had that tortured Emil Zatopek look to him. The real torture was for Stan, who had to look at the old man, knowing he had let him down. Stan knew what was in store after the game. It would not be prawns and spaghetti at Joe’s.

Emerging from the locker room, Dan would be moping in the car. Stewing. Stan would get in. There would be no discussion. Dan would start the car, and they would drive home in abject silence.

It was not entirely Dan’s fault. Stan took baseball as seriously as any kid. If he failed, he took it hard. He was not in a mood to talk or joke around, either. If Dan had tried to get him to open up on these occasions, Stan would not have had much to say anyway.

So they just sat there like lumps of coal. Shirley was less attuned to the mood after a poor performance. She still harbored the illusion that it was still “just a game.” She would break the silence with her chatter. In contrast to the Stan and Dan silent movie, it was embarrassing and grating.

Things just did not occur to Shirley any more. Living with Dan and the soap opera that was her son’s precious sports career had its effect. She would demand conversation and get none. Then she would start in on Stan, berating him for his bad attitude.

Dan headed straight to the freezer, loudly breaking ice for the first of many Stanerinos. Shirley got on him.

“Goddamn it all to hell,” Dan yelled at her, “get off my back.”

“Do you have to drink?” she asked.

“Goddamn it get off my back I told you,” he yelled.

Dinner was a terrible affair. It took place in stone silence or amid yelling and swearing.

Dan was in a particularly nasty drunken state and Shirley had had enough. She called Stan in to her room. Stan sat at the bed of his crying mother.

“I just can’t take it any more,” she told him.

“I know, Mom,” said Stan lamely. Stan was amazed that Shirley had stuck with Dan. When she was alone with Stan, Shirley had more sense about her. She became fairer. She seemed to have her blinders lifted. She could see that Dan was a mutual “enemy.”       

“Stan,” she said to him, “you have to ask him to stop drinking. He has to stop drinking. I just don’t know what I’ll do. I just don’t know if I can stay with him.”

Stan approached the old man, who looked at him as if Stan had just announced at a press conference that he was a gay Communist who hated baseball.

“Dad,” Stan would mutter. “I’ve spoken to Mom. She really wants you to stop drinking.” 

Dan would say nothing. He dug in. He was pissed and drunk. He stopped looking at Stan. Dan wanted only to avoid the subject. Through body language and mental aloofness, he kept Stan’s words as far away from him as he could.

Dan stopped drinking a few times. It never lasted more than a week. He tried to drink only wine. He tried to go “on the wagon.” Stan waited until his folks were out to dinner, and he poured out well over $100 worth of Scotch, Bourbon, wine, Tequila and Rum.

“Liquor, liquor, lousy liquor,” Stan called it.

Dan came home and saw what he had done. He appreciated Stan’s concern, but he expressed to Stan that he should not have done it. The liquor should be kept in the house for guests.

Stan immediately recognized this as a lie or an excuse. He was right. The liquor always returned.   

Dan was a tough pill to swallow, but Stan felt that he would not have stayed married to Shirley, either. She was scatter-brained, kept the house in a state of disarray, had zero patience, yelled at the drop of a hat, and misunderstood things. Her competency had been depleted through fear and intimidation. She seemed to have lost the ability to think for herself. Now, she just lived with Dan’s abuse.

When Dan jumped on Stan, she jumped right in with him. Stan dealt with this convergence of two fronts. Shirley never provided friendly skies to abate the storm.

Stan walked in to the kitchen, and the place looked like a disaster area. Already a history buff who did imitations, Stan incorporated some style into his barbs.

“Jesus,” he’d say out loud. “This place looks like post-war Berlin. It looks like Atlanta after Sherman was finished with it. We’ll have to call FEMA to get Federal matching funds.”

“Oh, shut up,” said Shirley, but with a twinkle of a smile because Stan’s commentary had some merit.

“I believe it should be the stated purpose of this great family,” Stan said in an excellent John Kennedy imitation, “to send men in to clean this kitchen, and return them safely to Earth before the end of this decade. I ask Congress for the necessary support, and while the task before us shall be hard, we as a family can attain these lofty American goals!”

“Smart ass,” said Shirley.

Shirley had a habit of talking with her mouth full. Stan could not understand what she said.

“What?” he would say.

“You heard me,” Shirley would say.

Stan had not heard her, because her mouth was packed full of food. Stan never spoke with his mouth full. If asked a question while his mouth was full, he carefully chewed and swallowed it before answering. Before he could answer, Dan or Shirley said, “Goddamn asshole,” or “Spit it out,” or “Answer us,” or “Stop treating us like dirt.” This went on for years. 

Stan was conscious of the California water shortages of the 1970s. He blew his nose using toilet paper, threw the paper in the toilet bowl, but did not flush it. It would harmlessly sit in the toilet until the next time. After relieving himself Stan would flush the water. He did it to save water.

“Goddamn it all to hell,” Dan said when he saw toilet paper in the bowl. He went in to Stan’s room.

“Come here,” he said.

Stan followed him in to the bathroom.

“How much Goddamn paper do you need to wipe your fucking ass?” asked Stan.

“Enough to remove the feces from the inner reaches of my asshole,” replied Stan.

“Don’t give me a lot of shit,” said Dan. “There’s always Goddamn toilet paper from you stuffing the bowl. Why do you have to use so much paper?”

“I do not,” replied Stan in an unemotional tone. Instead of explaining why the paper was in the bowl, he decided that when his father applied words like “Goddamn” and “fuck” to him, he eliminated himself from the privilege of receiving such explanations.

Why’s there all this Goddamned paper in here?” asked Dan in a tone better suited to ask, “Why are you selling heroin out of my house?”

“To save water,” replied Stan, which was precisely why he did not flush the water.

“You’re a Goddamn asshole,” his father said.

Stan had always concluded that his father called him an “asshole” because he was an asshole. He blamed himself for his parent’s attitude towards him. As he got older, he began to question the logic behind this reasoning. Maybe his father called him an asshole simply because he needed to call somebody an asshole. Stan was an easy, available target.

Stan took on the opposite traits of his parents. Where his mother was unkempt and terribly unorganized, Stan maintained perfect cleanliness. He was orderly. He made his bed. His bathroom was always clean. He kept papers, documents and records in well-maintained filing cabinets.

His father went off the handle. He yelled and screamed. He was impatient. Stan was patient and spoke quietly. His parents, who called him a “fuss bucket” or “Felix Unger”, jeered his commendable habits. Stan was conflicted. He wanted to please his parents, and when he failed to do so, blamed himself. But common sense told him that being clean, organized and patient was not a bad thing.

 

Rich Lopez and Frank Ferrigno grew up together in Hermosa Beach. Hermosa Beach is a pretty little town, and a great place to be a teenager. It is just 15 or 20 minutes’ drive from Rolling Hills Estates.

Lopez lived with his grandfather, who owned a big, old house that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The house had been in the family for generations. He would walk out of his house and be surrounded by gorgeous beach girls. What a life! Lopez, however, had an identity problem. He was of Mexican descent, but none of his friends were Hispanic. He was a super good-looking dude; tall, strong and athletic. He was also supposed to be a tough guy. In actuality, he was not so tough. He just wanted everybody to think he was. So, he affected a cholo persona. He wore stiff homeboy jeans, known in the barrio as “shit kickers,” with hard-as-hell pointed-toe boots. He wore white T-shirts, rolled up to show his biceps. He slicked his jet-black hair with Brylcreem. He did a very good job convincing people he was a bad ass.

Lopez started out at Mira Costa High, but there was only one “in crowd” at Costa: Surfers. Lopez had grown up right next to one of the most popular point breaks in the South Bay, but instead of taking to it, he rejected surfing and surfers. He liked their women, though, and sampled several at Costa. One of these freshman girls was going steady with a junior, who was also a big surfer boy. Surfer boy and his crew started hassling Lopez, so Lopez beat the holy crap out of them. Five of them at once.

This made him quite a legend, and of course every girl at Mira Costa wanted what he had after that. But the school administrators wanted no more to do with the stiff-jeaned Chicano miscreant, so they kicked him out. Lopez could have transferred to Redondo Union, but they were the same bunch of white surf boys as Mira Costa. So, he went to North Torrance. The reason he chose North Torrance was because it was in a declining neighborhood, and had a lot of Mexican kids, some of whom were gangbangers, or at least psuedo gangbangers. Lopez wanted to get down with his element.

He immediately ran into problems at the beginning of his sophomore year. The Mexican kids did not accept him, because he did not speak like a Mexican. He was smart, and spoke the English language like a blueblood. In fact, he was a California blueblood. His family had been in the area since the 1830s. They owned property, stores, and businesses. But Lopez was determined. He jumped in with both feet. He got in a lot of fights, and some of them were pretty hairy. He learned how to use a knife and to fight dirty, using his “shit kicker” boots, or anything else at his disposal. Within a few months, he was damn popular at North Torrance.

Lopez hated blacks. Like most things in his poseur life, he really did not hate them. But they were the natural enemies of the cholos who vied for L.A. territory. By his junior year, he was constantly getting in fights with black kids, at school and away from school. North Torrance High finally had enough. He was kicked out and told to find another school for his senior year.

Lopez might have simply dropped out of school, but he also played baseball. He was a pretty good ball player. He was not great, but he had an excellent arm, played right field well, and hit for some power. He had played varsity ball at North Torrance as a junior, and made honorable mention all-league.

Ferrigno had grown up down the street from Lopez. He came from a huge family. His father was a mailman, and Frank was the oldest of 10 kids. They were Italian-American Catholics. Ferrigno and Lopez were friends, even though they had little in common. The bond between them was baseball and church, where their families had been members for decades. Frank was a left-handed pitcher, and a good one. He was soft, though. He got scared when the game was on the line.

Frank pitched at Mira Costa for three years. He pitched on the JVs as a sophomore, but his junior year he made second team all-league. Baseball at Mira Costa, however, was a pretty low-key affair. Football was hot there, but by the Spring, most of the kids were into going to the nearby beach. Baseball took a back seat to surfing and beach volleyball.

Frank was not like the other kids. He loved baseball. He devoted his life to it. He wanted to be around others who were devoted to it. Frank had a falling out with Mira Costa’s coach, and told his dad he had had it playing there. The old man knew right where to look.

Enter Jim Ambers.

Ambers felt that Frank could be a big star. He was not tall, with a classic build like Stan, who fit the mold of a professional pitcher. But Frank threw harder than Stan. He was about 5-10, a stocky left-hander with a short, whippet throwing motion. Frank was one year older than Stan, too.

Frank and his father drove up to Jim Ambers’ house in August of 1980. A few strings were pulled. Recruiting and transferring in and out of districts is supposed to be hard to do, but enforcement of the rules has always been a joke. So now Ambers had a new pitcher on his staff.

The first guy Frank told about his new school was Lopez. Lopez had been kicked out of North Torrance, but he wanted to play ball somewhere his senior year. He was looking at some of the more hardcore schools in the area, like Lawndale, Gardena, Banning, Carson and Narbonne. He figured there would be plenty of opportunities to fight and prove his manhood at these “inner city”-type schools.

Frank told him he should transfer to Rolling Hills with him. Lopez thought Rolling Hills was for sissies, and worse. They were a bunch of rich white kids; the sons of lawyers, doctors and the like.

Frank introduced Lopez to Ambers. They clicked right off the bat. Ambers was a hard ass in the tradition of Bobby Knight. He was the first authority figure that Lopez ever felt natural respect for. Right off the bat, Lopez became an Ambers disciple. He needed the direction and structure that a coach like Ambers provided.

When Stan arrived at school his junior year, he knew nothing about Frank and Lopez. He knew about them. He had pitched (and beaten) Frank in varsity and American Legion competition, and had pitched with success against the free-swinging Lopez.

He saw them in the hall, talking to a couple of his teammates. Lopez was already scamming the hot Rolling Hills girls in the hallway. They seemed to be celebrities. Stan’s teammates were fawning all over them, showing them around. Stan immediately felt a sense of danger.                    

In the gym, where everybody had to sign up for Fall classes, he met Lopez.

“Hi,” Stan said, extending his hand with a big smile. “I’m Stan Taylor.”

  Lopez did not take his handshake.

“I know who you are,” said Lopez. “You ain’t shit.”

Call it chemistry, bad vibes, or Karma. Call it first impressions. Stan was Lopez’s immediate enemy. Lopez wanted it that way. Stan was a diplomat, perfectly willing to make friends with anybody. Lopez knew all about Stan in advance. He identified in Stan everything he despised.

Lopez saw a tall, blonde white boy who could be pushed around and would not fight back. A mama’s boy. A lawyer’s son. A kid who had been born on third base but thought he had hit a triple. Stan was, in his view, coddled. A little league celebrity and a super sophomore who led his team all the way, then followed that up with a spectacular American Legion season. He was arrogant and conceited. He needed to be taught a lesson.

Frank and Stan liked each other immediately, even though it was assumed that they were rivals. They competed, but had respect for each other. Frank loved guys who took the game seriously and worked hard at it. He knew Stan fell into this category. Stan and Frank spent the whole Fall and Winter working out together. They both dominated the Winter league, which was no longer coached by Dan. Ambers took it over and up-graded the whole program in terms of practice time. He instituted a weight-training program. He never gave any grudging credit to Stan, but the reason he did it was because he had seen how much Stan had benefited from it.

Stan and Frank became inseparable on the field and in the weight room. They lifted together, spotted each other, ran wind sprints, stretched with each other, and competed for the role of “ace.”

Stan had been ready to rest on his laurels. Ambers accorded Stan the number one slot that he had earned. Stan pitched first, Frank second in workouts. Stan started the Winter league season opener. But he sensed that he was in for a fight. Ambers loved Frank, and had thinly-disguised contempt for Stan. Stan knew that the animosity between his father and his coach would bite him in the butt sooner or later.

At the root of his sense of dark tidings was Rich Lopez. Lopez immediately was one of the most popular guys at Rolling Hills High School. It was absolutely unbelievable and galling to Stan, who despite his athletic prowess was somewhere between tolerated and disliked. He had improved upon his social status from junior high, but not by much.

What the hell’s the matter with me? Stan asked himself. Here was this juvenile delinquent - Lopez  - who struck out entirely too much, transferring in after being kicked out of two schools. He was accorded James Dean status right away. He was too cool for school.

Lopez’s animosity towards Stan quickly became downright physical hatred. He beat him up in the locker room. Stan did not fight back. Stan hated the bastard. He called him a “fucking Mexican,” and Lopez kicked the crap out of him. Lopez took things out of his locker and threw them around the room, which drove Stan out of his mind. Guys took his tossed around gear, hiding things, laughing at him. He was despising life.

The worst part was that Lopez loved Frank. That Fall, Stan and Frank pitched tremendous ball. Both of them went the entire Winter league with ERAs under 1.00. Lopez showed no respect for Stan’s pitching, while extolling the virtues of his longtime friend Ferrigno.

Frank was impressive. Stan had to admit that. There was a palpable shift away from Stan. His teammates were increasingly impressed with the flame throwing Frank. Lopez lobbied for Frank, and Ambers seemed to be aching to put Stan in his place.

Having a violent semi-criminal like Rich Lopez dedicated to kicking his butt every day was not the worst part for Stan. The worst part was that Dan saw no redeeming value in adding Frank Ferrigno to the program. The fact that it would make the team better was of no concern to him. All he saw was a threat to his son’s place in the Darwinian hierarchy of prep sports. Stan was forced to walk a fine line. He had to be a good team player, to accept Frank as a teammate and a good pitcher. But he had to put up with his father’s disdain for the guy.

Dan did not know about Lopez’s attitude toward his son, but he immediately sensed that Lopez was bad news. The kid never said hello, and gave him dirty looks.

“What an asshole,” Dan said of Lopez.

Dan was barely able to hide his contempt for Frank, or for Ambers, who had brought the new kid in. Frank’s parents came to all the games, and they were just as nice as can be. Dan and Shirley managed to be friendly with the Ferrigno’s, who either did not know the way Dan felt, or chose to play it off. Lopez never had any relatives show up. He came from a huge family, but one would have thought he had grown up in Boys Town.     

The first game of the 1981 varsity season was played on a cold, windy, foggy night. Rolling Hills hosted powerful Millikan High School.

In the first inning, Stan nervously worked the first hitter to three-and-two. He was not comfortable on the mound. He felt herky jerky. But he managed to blow a high fastball past the swinging hitter for the strike out. He then settled down and struck out the side. Stan trotted in from the mound, and all was right with the world.

“It looks just like last year,” a pretty ball girl said.

We’ll just see who the ace of this staff still is, Stan thought to himself. Who the hell does that asshole Lopez think he is? I pitched us to the title at Anaheim Stadium, and I’ll do it again this year.

Rolling Hills scored four runs in the bottom of the first, and Stan headed out to the mound with the confidence exploding out of his pores. Then it happened. A double. A walk. A triple. A line drive out. Another double.

By the time the carnage was over, Millikan had scored four runs, and Jim Ambers was on the warpath.

“Shit o’ dear,” he yelled. “You’re pitching yourself out of the rotation, Taylor. I got plenty of other pitchers if you’re gonna pitch like this.”

Ambers yelled these things from the top step of the dugout for everybody, especially Dan, to hear. Stan stood on the mound, his ears ringing. Trying to figure the worst part of it was not easy. Getting pounded by Millikan High School was no fun, but he could justify that.

He was having a bad game, but it happens. Millikan was a good team and they were pumped to face the vaunted Taylor. They had been gunning for this game from the first day they saw Rolling Hills was on the schedule.

Being yelled at by Ambers was a nightmare. No question about that. Ambers had a way about him. He cut him to pieces. He was not like other coaches. Jesse Pentilla was a big time screamer. He would jump all over his players. But they loved him for it. It was all exuberance, excitement and passion. With Ambers it was different. It was very personal. A kid who performed poorly for Ambers was insulting the coach. Ambers demanded to be glorified.

Ambers was waiting for the opportunity to embarrass Stan, and this led to the worst part of the whole day. Dan heard every damn word Ambers said. Stan could see Dan doing a slow burn in the stands. He stared at his son, with his long face. Dan’s silence, his looks; his very presence was brutal.

Ambers made one trip to the mound.

“Goddammit, get your head out of your ass, Taylor,” he said. “I’ll replace you so fast it’ll make your head spin. We’ve got a whole staff of good arms just waiting to take your place.”

Stan continued to get hit, and when Ambers came out the second time to take remove him, the coach had only this to say to him: “Get out of my sight.”

Stan started walking off the mound.

“Run off,” everybody on the bench yelled at him. Stan forced himself to run into the dugout, his head down.

“Show some hustle,” some scrub said to him.

Stan was boiling inside. The last time he had pitched for this team, they had carried him off the field. Now guys who were on the JVs the previous year were yelling and scolding him like he was an unproven rookie.

What a bunch of assholes, he thought to himself.

“I guess it’s not gonna be like last year,” said the pretty ball girl.

The only guy who gave him any love was Frank. He sat down next to him.

“No worries, bro,” said Frank. “You were throwin’ good, I thought. That was the hardest I ever seen you throw. You’re pumped up a lot more than last year, from weight lifting, and you were bringin’ it, but I don’t think you had a handle on throwin’ that hard. They were just makin’ contact because you’re stuff was straighter because it was harder, but when you get a handle on it you’ll be awesome. You just need to get that natural sinker of yours going again. Nobody hits that nasty shit you throw. ”

That meant a lot to Stan. Frank was right on point. Stan had gotten stronger in the weight room, and he was throwing hard. But his new velocity had resulted in a loss of movement. The natural sinking action of his fastball had straightened out, and Millikan, expecting his usual sinking stuff, had jumped on a few mistakes up in their strike zone. 

He’s a good guy, he thought.

The inning ended with the team now trailing, 5-4. Some nobody came in and got the last two outs to keep the score within range. Lopez lead the charge from right field.

“Let’s get ‘em now,” he roared. “Now we’ve got someone to pitch, let’s score for him.”

Everybody just yelled and pumped and agreed with Lopez’s assessment.

Asshole, thought Stan. He’d never say to score for me. This guy’s not half the pitcher I am and he’s backing him like he’s Christy Mathewson.

The relief pitcher might not have been half the pitcher Stan was, but he was tremendous that day. He pitched great ball the rest of the way, and Rolling Hills went back on the offensive to win big, 11-5.

Everybody had a good game, except for Stan. All the hitters did their job. The defense was sterling. The bullpen came through. Stan pretended to smile, clap and cheer his team on. He put on the facade of a team player who was not interested not in his individual performance.

He knew he was a fraud. He knew everybody saw through him, too. He felt ostracized. In a matter of minutes, all that he had built up for himself as a baseball player at Rolling Hills was down the tubes.

The game was played on the last day of February. When Stan emerged from the locker, it was pitch black, windy and foggy. Dan waited in the car. Stan just got in, and before he could close the door, the car was off and running. There was no talking. Stan was pissed at his father’s attitude, for two reasons.

One, he hated having his performance be the be-all and end-all of his old man’s happiness. Second, Stan did play a team game, and his team had won. There should be some kind of joy they had won, but Dan exhibited none of that. It was all about Stan.

Things got worse after that. The next game was Frank’s Rolling Hills debut. He pitched five perfect innings, struck out 10, and the Titans won, 3-0. Lopez was jumping around, extolling Frank like he was the greatest pitcher of all time. Everybody just raved over him.

“It looks like we’ve found the next great Titan pitcher,” Ambers told the Daily Breeze. Stan liked Frank. He smiled, he clapped him on the back, and inside he hated him. He liked him, but he still hated him.

The next game was down in Orange County, against Newport Harbor High. This was Stan’s start. Of course it was. At practice, Stan threw on the side, did his running, and prepared for the game. Ambers said nothing to him. Dan showed up, and he watched every single move at practice like a hawk. He was looking to confirm that his son was, indeed, starting the game. He saw the telltale signs that it was not a sure thing. He bugged Stan incessantly for confirmation that he was starting. Stan had not been given the information, so therefore he had nothing for his dad. However, it was his natural start. Normally, it would simply have been assumed, but because of his last game, all bets were off.

“I guess so,” Stan told Dan when he asked again about the start.

“I’m sure I am,” he said the next time the old man asked him. “It’s my turn.”

The day of the game, the starting line-up was usually posted in the locker room in the morning. Everybody made their pilgrimage over there in between classes to see what it was. On this day it was not posted.

Stan was there at 8:30, again at 9:30, and twice after that. No line-up.

Surely I’m starting, he thought to himself. The whole thing played itself out like a slow motion nightmare. It was inconceivable to him that Ambers would not start him after only one bad game. But Stan had developed a sense of dread and foreboding about life. To him, baseball was life. There was a feeling in his gut that things were not designed to go his way. That his past good record would never be used as collateral to counter times in which he failed. The world was filled to the brim with people, from Jim Ambers to Rich Lopez and on down, just waiting for him to fail. When he failed, he would be made to pay, and to pay in a publicly embarrassing way. His failures would be fully viewed by his pissed off, disapproving father. Stan was beginning to believe in Murphy’s Law, which is that “if something can go wrong, it will.”

In his case, he was thinking that the “law” meant that if there was a 50/50 chance that something good could happen to him, as opposed to something bad, the forces of nature would always be aligned in favor of “bad.” Stan knew he was lucky in many ways. He had good looks, smarts, athletic ability, and good health. He had parents who took care of him. He lived in a beautiful home, in a great, safe environment in the greatest country in the world. But he had sinned, and for his sons he would always have to deal with the cuts. Like not starting against Newport Harbor.

Newport is about 40 miles south of Palos Verdes Estates, in south Orange County. It is a pretty good haul to get there any time, but this game was scheduled for a Friday, and the end-of-the-week traffic makes for a brutal commute.

Naturally, Dan cut out of work at mid-day to battle every inch of that traffic and be in Newport Beach. Stan rode the bus, and the whole way down, there was no indication that he would start. Most of his teammates assumed he had the start. Ambers said nothing to him.

Finally, when the team settled in to the dugout, Ambers posted the line-up card. Stan ambled on over, and there it was.

“Campanella, P.”

Stan was starting at first base, where he played when not pitching. Tony Campanella was a pretty good left-handed pitcher. Like Stan, he was a junior, and he had been battling hard for his chance. He was competitive and talented. His teammates congratulated Tony on getting the start. The underlying theme was that Stan was getting his come-uppance, and that was a good thing. At this moment, Stan hated him.

Then Dan arrived. Stan saw him. Dan was waving at him. He wanted to know whether Stan was starting or not. Stan pretended not to see him. He avoided him, standing next to the dugout. Dan was getting frustrated, trying to find out if his kid was starting.

Finally, Campanella headed down to the bullpen to warm up. Stan glanced at Dan, who was watching the telltale sign that Tony was starting instead of Stan. The look on Dan’s face was disappointment mixed with anger. Dan was mad at Ambers. He knew that not keeping Marty Ambers on the American Legion play-off roster was coming back to haunt him (and his son). But Ambers did not ride in his car or live in his house. Stan did. Stan knew that his father would blame him. He had let his dad down. He was the reason the old man would be angry.

Fuck you, Stan quietly said to himself. He could live with not starting. What he hated was having his life, all the petty, stupid things that mattered to him, be so damn important to his father.   

Of course, Campanella pitched the game of his life. He went five innings, and got the victory in a tidy 5-1 win. Stan was desperate by game’s end. He was hoping to get the last two innings in relief, but Ambers never so much as looked at him. He was 0-for-4 at the plate, which did not help his cause, either. Dan sat in the stands looking like he was made out of stone.

Frank Ferrigno pitched brilliantly in his next two starts, and Campanella took Stan’s place in the rotation. Stan did not see the mound. Ambers did not explain anything. He just stuck it to him where it hurt the most. Stan was dumbfounded that after establishing himself as a star, one bad game had cost him his job.

He learned another major lesson. He had long ago discovered that hard work paid off. Now he knew clichés were true.

What have you done for me lately?

Don’t rest on your laurels.

You’re not paranoid, there is really is somebody out to get you.

Life’s not fair.

He knew it was not one bad game. It was his dad pissing off Ambers. The coach was exacting revenge. This was the pattern he saw his life taking. He would be the guy who would not be allowed to slip up. He would be the guy who crappy things happened to.

Sure, Stan thought the world revolved around him. He was egotistical and selfish…and he paid for it.

Finally, the team made their trip to the San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament. Frank would pitch the first game, Campanella the second. Surely, Stan would pitch the third game. Ambers continued to say nothing. Stan, in a funk over losing his spot in the pitching rotation, had stopped hitting, too. He was benched from first base. What a disaster. His glorious high school career was going right down the drain. If he did not have success in sports, he was nothing. His teammates had taken to treating him like an outcast. Nobody felt sorry for him. Little slights were aimed at him. He had to carry equipment, normally a “rookie’s” job. He was on the outs.

Everybody loved Frank, and Tony Campanella was a popular, cocky guy who rubbed in his new status ahead of Stan. Lopez was like a rock star. He gave Stan verbal and physical digs every chance he got. Ambers saw it, and did nothing. Stan was alone.

Frank pitched a shutout in the first game, and Tony pitched a sterling game to win the second. The tournament’s title game was scheduled for Saturday night. Dan was staying in the team’s motel, of course. His long face and silences were constant reminders to Stan that he was failing him.

Finally, on Saturday morning, Ambers called Stan to his room and told him he was starting that night against Redwood High, a traditional power from Marin County. Stan had pitched against them in a winning effort his freshman year here at the San Luis Obispo Tournament.

Finally, Stan told Dan, who had asked him about 85 times if he was starting. Stan was determined to get the job done, to earn his spot back. He was a winner, and nobody was going to keep him down.

San Luis Obispo is a pleasant, warm place on California’s central coast, but on this March day it was bitter cold. The wind was whipping in at 75 miles per hour off the ocean. Player’s hats were flying off their heads. It was barely above freezing.

Stan warmed up and took the mound. Immediately, he was in trouble. He walked the leadoff man, then gave up some hits, and within no time runners were scoring, the bases were loaded, and there was only one out. Stan also did something to his back. It hurt like hell. But he was so discomfited by the weather and the bad feedback that Redwood was showing his pitches; the crowd, the taunting, his father’s long face behind the plate.  He tried to pitch through it. Each pitch made it worse.

Ambers was beside himself. He stood out in front of the Rolling Hills dugout, yelling and screaming at Stan.

“Shit o’ dear,” he screamed. “If you throw another Goddamn ball, you’ll never pitch for Rolling Hills again.”

Stan pitched. A ball.

“What’s he got?” Ambers yelled at catcher Rod Orson.

Orson, a senior, was another cocky, unfriendly sort, but a good ball player in his senior year. He had no love left over for Stan.

“Nothin’,” he told the coach.

“That’s it,” Ambers said. He came out to the mound, and took the ball from Stan.

“You’ll never pitch for this program again,” he told him in the meanest possible way. Crestfallen, Stan barely jogged off the mound.

“Run,” his teammates yelled.

Stan purposely ran slower. He did not care any more.

Stan was ostracized in the dugout. He found a corner, and bundled himself against the cold with a jacket and blanket. His teammates kept yelling at him to get up and root for the team. Stan just sat there like a lump of coal. He was through, he knew it, and he had no inspiration or energy to root for any of these jackals. Nobody had helped him. Nobody was ever there for him when he was down. Screw ‘em.

Stan then realized his back was badly hurt. He could barely move. Normally, the team trainer would have given him ice for his arm. The trainer was a 400-pound piece of blubber named Barney Russo. He was in his early 20s, already embarked on a lifetime career as a loser. He hated Stan, and offered no ice. He ignored him. He ignored none of the other pitchers when they were finished pitching, just Stan.

Stan realized he was hurt, so he approached Barney.

“Hey man,” he told him. “I think my back’s badly fucked up.”

“Who cares?” Barney replied without looking at him.

Stan sat in the dugout the whole game, trying to move as little as possible. Redwood led 4-0 when he came out, but his team rallied. The wind and cold got worse. The combination of the weather and his own stiffness made Stan feel like a mummy, wrapped in jackets and whatever else he could find to stay warm.

In the seventh inning, with Rolling Hills ahead, 6-5, Redwood rallied. They put runners on second and third with no outs. Ambers had used every pitcher on his staff, including Ferrigno and Campanella, who had pitched the day before.

“Shit o’ dear,” he said. He turned to Stan.

“Get warm,” he said.

Stan was dumbfounded. He had not given any thought to being put back in the game, and assumed he could not once he had been taken out. The tournament had a return rule, so it was a legal move. Stan knew he could not pitch. His back was in bad shape, and the cold weather had made it worse. But he had no choice. He could not tell Ambers no.

Ambers had no business telling him to get warm, certainly not at the last minute. He should have consulted him earlier. He should have given him enough time to stretch and get loose. He just told him to get up, when he was stone cold, and to get ready.

Ambers walked out to the mound. Stan got up. He felt shooting pain in his back. He took his jacket off, and ran out to the bullpen. He barely made two throws, and then saw the umpire motioning him into the game.

He was in a real bind. The game was on the line. If he let the tying and winning runs in, he would be might never get out of the doghouse. He also knew he was in danger of hurting himself permanently. Ambers either did not know his injury, or if he did, he did not care. He wanted only to win the tournament.

There were a couple thousand people in the stands, and the place was loud. Both benches were going crazy. Stan made his way to the mound. His face was contorted in pain, but Ambers showed no concern. Ambers said something to Stan, but Stan did not hear it. His mind was racing with concern over his back and his arm. He would have to go at full speed with no warm-up, which is a very dangerous thing for any athlete. But his fear co-existed with the adrenaline of pitching with the game on the line. Fear and adrenaline are greatest resources for athletes. Coaches try ways to instill these emotions into their athletes, usually without success. Vince Lombardi and Bobby Knight have been the masters of it. Few coaches can get his charges to feel the way Stan Taylor felt at this moment. But fear and adrenaline affect people in different ways. Most are not mentally equipped to handle it, and would break down like a baby if placed in such a stressful position. Stan was not like most people.  

His first three warm-up pitches were a joke. He barely tossed it up there. He was stiff, and in great pain. He knew he had to be ready when the first hitter came up. His fourth warm-up was thrown with more exertion. He threw the last three hard.

Amazingly, the pain was being replaced by the adrenaline. He put the pain someplace else, and prepared to do battle. What Stan did next is a testament to his competitive nature. He was a guy who came through in the clutch, a “money pitcher” in the parlance of baseball talk.

The first hitter hit a shot right back to the mound, and Stan knocked it down with his glove, scrambling after it despite feeling searing pain in his back. He picked it up, held the runner at third, and threw the runner out at first base.

He struck out the next hitter. He went to 3-and-2 on the next man, a catcher named Chad Kreuter. Kreuter would go on to a long Major League career, and was a tough out. With the count full, Kreuter parked a game-winning home run, except that it curved foul at the last second. He fouled off three more pitches, but Stan got him on a wicked slider on the outside corner to win the game.

  Stan collapsed on the mound, tears in his eyes. His teammates came out and picked him up. They saw the tears and assumed it was emotion. Stan tried to tell them to stop pushing him around. He was almost paralyzed. The hyenas did not hear him. He was their Main Man again. They lifted him up and gave him hero’s adoration.

Jim Ambers came out to the mound and hugged him as if there was no tomorrow. Lopez, for God’s sake, gave him a bug hug.

Bunch of front-runners, Stan thought to himself.

A few minutes later, the all-tournament team was announced, and Stan made it. He was lying down on the bench, and was unable to get up, his back hurt so bad.

“C’mon, Taylor,” they urged him.

“Can’t do it,” is all Stan said.

“You hurt?” asked Ambers.

“Yes, sir,” Stan said.

  “Shit o’ dear,” Ambers muttered. He never considered that he had misused the kid. He only thought that an asset to his team might be unavailable. Ambers was supposed to be a teacher. He was supposed to care about his students, to take an interest in them as people, and in their future. What a joke! All he cared about was winning and Jim Ambers.

Dan came down and saw his son lying down in pain. He and Stan made eye contact. Dan’s long face and miserable expression was replaced by great pride and joy.

“Great game, champ,” he said.

Stan smiled.

Yeah, right, he thought to himself. You’d be actin’ like your dog died if I’d blown that game. Is it really worth it to have your happiness depend on me?   

Stan needed a stretcher. The tournament had one available. He could not ride the team bus, because he needed to lie down. Stan was placed on the stretcher, and carried to his father’s car. Dan hovered over him, extolling his virtues. At the hotel, some of the guys helped with the stretcher to get him to his room. Somehow, he managed to take a shower. It was a weird night, in which the joy of saving the game was tempered by his having been knocked out of it, and the ensuing injury. Dan did not seem to realize how much pain his son was in. He smiled and joked because Stan had made the all-tournament team. Stan spent a sleepless night, tossing and turning. In the morning, he was in agony.

Stan’s season was over. He could barely attend school after that. He would have back problems the rest of his life. Ambers accused Stan of faking the injury. He knew it was hurt. He knew he was responsible for the injury. Instead of taking responsibility, he preferred to shift the blame. He called Stan a “shirker,” and the team picked up on it.

Stan went to a physical therapist. He put him in traction. Stan attended practices and games, but was able to do little. He could not run, throw, or do much else. He had irritated his sciatic nerve, and the pain ran from his upper back to his heels.

Rolling Hills did fine without him. Frank Ferrigno was unbelievable. He won 15 games and struck out two batters an inning to make most of the prep All-American teams. Rich Lopez made Stan’s life even more miserable. He openly accused Stan of faking the injury, and pushed him around. Stan was unable to do a thing about it.

Tony Campanella was all-league, and the team had another good season. Unfortunately, they did not have enough to overcome Billy Boswell and Palos Verdes. Stan was stunned when, before the Palos Verdes game, Lopez and Billy embraced each other. Somehow, they were friends, which Stan found to be odd. Naturally, the guy he despised was buddy-buddy with his biggest rival. Now that he was injured, Stan was insignificant. Boswell never acknowledged him.

Ambers wanted Stan ready for the play-offs. In the last week of the regular season, Ambers set up a practice game for Stan to pitch. Stan knew he was still injured, but Ambers kept pushing him, trying to convince him that he was ready. Stan pitched, and was in immediate pain. His teammates hit him, hard. It was a terrible disaster that set him back several months. Had he rested, he could have pitched the second half of the American Legion season. Ambers’ forcing him to pitch destroyed his Summer. Ambers was mad because he would not have Stan in the Southern Section play-offs.

Boswell was out of control. He hit almost .600, slammed 14 homers, and pushed his team to the Southern Section championship. The title game was played at Dodger Stadium between P.V. and Rolling Hills. The previous night, a Friday, Frank had thrown a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts against Villa Park.     

The title game was played on Saturday. Campanella started against Palos Verdes. He pitched pretty well, but Boswell drove in three runs with a double and triple. In the sixth, Ambers had Frank warm up in the bullpen. Frank’s arm had started to hurt down the stretch. He threw too hard for his age. He was not fully developed, but Ambers just pitched him and pitched him. In the bullpen that night, he hurt himself. He had no business throwing the day after pitching a complete game. Frank was like Stan, though. He had guts. Frank pitched to one hitter in the sixth, and got him out with the bases loaded. He came to the bench and approached Barney.

“I hurt my arm,” he told Barney. Barney had him remove his shirt, and applied ice packs to his shoulder and elbow. Rolling Hills entered the top of the seventh (and last) inning trailing, 3-0. The game was, for all intents and purposes, over. The first two batters made outs, but then Rolling Hills rallied. Ambers argued a call with the umpire for 37 minutes. A throw had gone in the third base dugout, but the umpire had called Rolling Hills’ runner, who had gone home, back to third base. Ambers knew it was the right call, but he stayed on the field while the crowd booed and Palos Verdes’ pitcher cooled his heels. When play resumed, the pitcher was stiff and lost his location. That was Ambers’ intent. Rolling Hills pieced together a remarkable comeback to tie the game, 3-3.

As it became apparent that Rolling Hills might have to go out on the field again, Ambers’ mind was racing. He stared at Stan, who was in uniform, but he was injured and there was no way he could pitch.

“Taylor,” he barked, “we need you.”

Stan just stared at the bastard. He said nothing.

“You’ve been skating on me all year,” Ambers said.

“Come on, Taylor, get ready,” somebody said. Stan just stood there, his head spinning.

God help me I wish I could pitch, he thought to himself.

“Fuck you, Taylor,” said Lopez. “I’m gonna kick you’re ass after this game.”

“Shit o’ dear,” Ambers said. He turned to Ferrigno, who was topless with ice packs on his throwing arm. “Frank, Taylor won’t pitch. He cares more about himself than the team. I need you to stay in the game.”

Frank stared at Ambers, and knew that this was the moment his career was coming to an end. He knew he was hurt. He was already iced, and this guy was telling him to go back out there and pitch.

Frank started to remove the ice pack.

“That’s a team player,” Lopez said to Taylor.

Frank did it on guts. He had a high pain threshold. Stan sat in the dugout wishing he could disappear. Frank was stoic. He knew he should not pitch. He was smart enough to realize he was putting himself at risk. He was the high school hero, so he answered the call to glory. In the back of his mind, he knew he was giving up greater glory down the road. Frank had what it took to pitch in the big leagues. He certainly was going to get his shot, if he was healthy. He had tolerated Ambers because they had a good business relationship, but he knew he was being used and abused by the coach. He said nothing. Frank just gutted it out.

  Frank pitched three scoreless innings. Finally, after getting the last out in the ninth, he told Ambers he could not continue.

“Goddammit Ferrigno,” said Ambers, “you gotta show me some guts. You’re gutless. They were right about you at Mira Costa.”

Frank Ferrigno attacked Jim Ambers. His teammates had to pull him off the coach. Ambers said nothing. He just smiled and walked to the end of the dugout. Ferrigno went into the Dodger Stadium visitor’s clubhouse and tried to tear the place apart. A security guard almost had him arrested. His teammates, including Lopez, had to restrain him.

“Frank, don’t worry about the asshole,” Lopez said. “You’ve done everything you can do for this team. Nobody can ask more of you.”

“Fuck it,” said Frank. He slipped his glove on and went back out to the mound for the 10th. He courageously pitched the 10th and 11th. In the 12th, with the score still 3-3, Frank came out to face Billy Boswell. Ferrigno had nothing left. Boswell tagged him 405 feet over the right-center field fence to give Palos Verdes the title.

Stan watched all of it in his own personal hell.

The San Francisco Giants drafted Frank Ferrigno a few weeks later in the 17th round. He would have been drafted in the first three rounds, but the scouts all knew that Ambers had hurt his ace pitcher. Faced with a low bonus offer, Ferrigno chose to accept a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. Frank figured that he should at least get an education. He never threw a pitch at Fullerton. His best friends there were the physical therapists, not baseball teammates. His arm was destroyed, and his career had ended. Had he not been hurt, he might have pitched in the Major Leagues.

Rich Lopez never did beat Stan up. He played two years of junior college ball, and then joined the Marines. A few years after he got out of high school, Stan went to a party and Lopez was there. Stan was nervous, until Lopez came up to him. He was smiling. He shook his hand. He was the nicest guy in the world!

Lopez had bit off more than he could chew. He got involved with the some serious Latino gangbangers, got in a fight, and was cut up within an inch of his life. The event convinced him that he had to change his path, so he did. After that, he lost his anger.

After the Marines, Lopez became a personal fitness trainer. He developed a perfect body, and with his looks and newfound personality, became a ladies man of the first order. He developed a Hollywood clientele, training movie stars in Beverly Hills and providing stud service on the side. Everybody who met him said he was a nice guy.

Go figure.

Ambers and the Taylor’s were not on very good terms by the end of Stan’s junior year in 1981. However, Stan still had a year left, and Ambers knew he would need him his senior year. Everybody just decided to live with each other. Dan managed the American Legion club again. Dan put thousands of dollars into the program, and spent so much time scheduling, practicing, traveling and managing games, that from May until August, he hardly worked in the law.

The Rolling Hills baseball field is located on a plateau. Staring from behind the stands along the third base line, one sees a fabulous view of the L.A. Basin, with luxury homes in the valley below. Marty Ambers liked to take the brand new baseballs that Dan bought, and with a fungo bat would hit them into that valley, trying to break windows and hit cars.

Frank Ferrigno played on the team. He tried to pitch a few times. Dan was aghast at the damage to his arm. After three tries, he called it quits, hoping that if he rested he might be able to pitch at Fullerton. He never did.

Stan just sat on the bench most of the Summer. He and Jesse Pentilla spent most of their time in the weight room, trying to strengthen his back muscles. Stan regularly saw the therapist, and by August he was ready to pitch again.

The team had a mediocre year, however. Redondo, led by Billy Boswell, won the league championship. When they picked their three all-stars from the league for post-season play, they chose Stan. It was a weird experience for Stan. A fair number of the players were guys he had known playing in Palos Verdes. They were not exactly friends of his. However, he had established enough of a name for himself in sports to earn grudging respect. 

His “relationship” with Billy Boswell had not changed, either. They never spoke. Matt Hobli was always around. Wherever Billy was, so was Matt.

The team went all the way, though. Stan was pleased that his back had healed, and he pitched well for the Redondo club. Boswell, who had been named National High School Baseball Player of the Year by Prep Sports, was the American Legion National Player of the Year, too. Redondo advanced to the Legion World Series in Massachusetts, and in the championship game against Coral Gables, Florida, Stan pitched a three-hitter to win it. He was back. Of course, when the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award was announced, it was Billy. Just like at Williamsport. 

Off the field, Stan’s life improved that Summer. The back injury had robbed him of his junior year. It was a terrible dilemma. But he was beginning to come into his own as a young man.

Stan got his first driver’s license. Walt and Brad still hung out with him. Stan particularly enjoyed hanging out with Brad’s older brother, Jeff. He had a communications class with Jeff and a lovely, blonde girl named Susan Hicks. Susan was one of Jeff’s girlfriends.

Stan watched in awe the way Jeff handled these high school fantasy girls. One day he and Brad drove out to the beach. Stan, who had never been a beach guy, started going down there now that he had a driver’s license. Susan and a girl named Connie Hannity, both of whom were Jeff’s girlfriends, were hanging out. They looked awesome in their bikinis, and were very friendly with Brad.

“Why don’t you hang out with us?” Connie asked Stan.

Stan actually felt like he was attractive to women. He had been lifting weights with Coach Pentilla for three years, and the sun had given him a great tan to go with his blonde hair. He was not yet 6-6, 235 pounds, as Pentilla still insisted he would be, but he was 6-5, 215. He was nicely developed and athletic.

The girls were digging him. Jeff showed up, and invited everybody back to his house. The old man was gone for the weekend. At the Cooper’s home, Stan was hopeful than maybe he would lose his virginity.

“Where’s Jeff,” Stan asked Brad.

“Go check his room,” said Brad, with a funny look on his face.

Stan went to Jeff’s room and knocked on the door. Fleetwood Mac softly played on the record player.

“Come in,” said a girl’s voice.

Stan entered. There was Jeff, naked on the bed. Connie Hannity was giving him a blowjob. Susan Hicks was nude. She was checking out the records. Also on the bed, sharing Jeff was a voluptuous babe named Caroline Kitzke.

Susan laughed when she saw Stan. He was stunned at what he saw.

“Uh, gee whiz Jeff,” said Stan, starting to smile. “I’m sorry you’ve got it so rough.”

All the girls laughed. That made Stan feel good. They were laughing with him, instead of at him. He was hoping he would be invited to join the festivities.

My God, Jeff Cooper has three of the best-looking girls at Rolling Hills High in his bed, he thought. Surely he can spare one.

The moment passed, and Stan just picked out a record.

“Uh, hey, just wanted to borrow your Beach Boys album,” he said. “Holler if ya need any help.”

Stan closed the door, and heard the girls laughing, but they were not making fun of him. For the first time in his life, Stan was beginning to feel like he was in on life’s jokes instead of being the butt of it.

“Jesus,” Stan told Brad, “you’re brother’s havin’ sex with Connie Hannitty, Sue Hicks and Caroline Kitzke. Holy Moley.”

“Aw, that’s my brother,” said Brad, who knew what was going on. He had sent Stan in to see for himself. 

Stan started listening to music. Greg Grillo, the kid who stayed at his parent’s house when they were 12, had given him an introduction. He still was not hip, but he started to get into the music of Boston, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys represented something special to him. They were a bunch of guys from the South Bay. Stan began to understand how lucky he was to live in the South Bay, with its beaches, sunny weather, and beautiful girls. The Beach Boys were part of the fantasy, and Stan wanted to live the California Dream. He wanted that elusive life that was offered in their songs. He still lived a repressed life, but sensed that he was due to break out soon. He did not have to actually go anywhere. He already lived there. 

At home, things were dicey. Stan Taylor loved his parents, and they loved him. Maybe, Stan thought, they all loved each other too much. Shirley was still a beautiful woman, but alcohol was aging Dan.

Stan knew that the problems with his folks were partly his fault. He knew that he was selfish and snotty. He could be a brutal teenager, and sometimes hated himself for it. He could not help himself. He drove his parents crazy, and they did not handle it well. There was not a lot of understanding in the Taylor household. There were too many short fuses.

Shirley read constantly, and had great interest in European history. She saw to it that Stan was introduced to the arts. She took him to plays, and to the opera. Classical music played in the house all the time.

Stan took to it. Unlike many teenagers, who would disdain Mozart, Shakespeare and Dickens, Stan found himself mysteriously drawn to great works. He read Twain, Melville, and Steinbeck. He developed his intellect. In an English class, Stan read “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. Because they were school assignments, he barely gave them his attention. Dan saw him reading them.

“That’s a great book,” he told Stan, who was holding “Heart of Darkness”. “If you can understand what Conrad’s saying, you’re on your way to real understanding of the human condition.” 

“What do you mean?” asked Stan, who was happy to have a conversation with his old man about something other than whether Ambers had told him he was starting on Friday.

“Well,” said Dan, “when he faces Kurtz, he faces himself.”

“Himself?” said Stan.

“Yeah,” said Dan. “Kurtz is us. All of us. He’s our temptations run amok. He faces evil. It’s in himself, just as it is with all of us. Mostly we’re not faced with the choices Kurtz has to make. We have restraints on our lives. Kurtz no longer has restraints, and given the choice to ‘be god,’ he chooses to glorify himself.”

“But he knows he’s wrong to do it,” says Stan.

“Yes,” said Dan. “He knows.”

“Do you think most people know when they are wrong?” Stan asked.

“Yes,” said Dan.

Up until then, Stan mostly read sports books. Now, inspired by his father’s attention, he read “Catcher in the Rye” and “Heart of Darkness” on his own time, and enjoyed them. 

Stan was not a great student. He carried a B- average. He was poor in math, languages and science, but when he found something that interested him, he got A’s.

He got an A in government. He wrote a book report on “A Day In the Life of the President”, which detailed the activities of former President Gerald Ford. The teacher, Mr. Bakey, handed back the graded reports.

“Before I hand the reports back,” he said, “I want to mention one in particular. That is Stan Taylor’s report on ‘A Day In the Life of the President’.”

Oh, Christ, Stan thought to himself. He knows I only read the flaps.

“In my 20 years of teaching,” Mr. Bakey went on, “this is the finest book report I’ve ever read. Congratulations to Stan Taylor. You are not just a great athlete, but a great student-athlete.”

The class applauded him.

Stan was flabbergasted. He also learned something. He already knew he could write. Now he knew he could BS people. 

Brad and Stan took a music appreciation class together. It was taught by Mr. Wilson, a jazz lover who stood about 6-5 with big, floppy ears that made him look a cab going down the street with its doors open. Brad and Stan paid no attention to the music, choosing instead to joke around.

Wilson kicked Stan out of the class. Brad escaped his wrath because, like Walt, he was better at hiding his indiscretions. After that, Stan and Brad constantly made fun of Wilson. Wilson would be walking through the cafeteria, or the bench area where kids sat and socialized. They would hide, or make themselves inconspicuous, then change their voices.

“WILSON!” they yelled, loud enough for the teacher to hear it.

This went on for two years. Mr. Wilson would stop, and dumbly look around. Stan and Brad would observe this, careful not to expose themselves. It always caused great hilarity.

Brad’s brother, Jeff, legendary because of his sexual prowess, told Brad about a “whorehouse.” Brad knew the address. They drove up to the place at night. They wanted to go inside and sample the girls. Jeff had said that all they had to do was enter the house, and lingerie-clad lovelies would surround them. Naturally, he was such a catch that they serviced him for free, according to Jeff.

The house was at the end of a long, winding driveway. Stan drove the car up to the front door. Instead of getting out, they started to flash the lights, honk the horn, and scream, “Whorehouse, whorehouse.”

Then they peeled out of there. A few minutes later, after the laughter subsided, they decided to do it again. When they emerged back on to the main street, the flashing lights of a police car were waiting for them.

The cops approached the car, and the owners of the house came out. They were a couple of gay men.

“What the hell’s goin’ on here?” asked the cop.

“Well,” said Stan, “we heard this was a whore house and were just having some fun.”

Then the cop saw three full cans of beer in the back seat of the car.

“You been drinking?” he asked.

Stan saw the beers and moaned. He and Brad did not drink. The beers had been left in the car by his old man.

“Shit,” he said, “my dad.”

It was never determined whether the two gay men operated a whorehouse.  They pressed no charges. The boys were let off with a warning.

This adventure did not stop the two from becoming budding hellions.

They discovered a dry cleaner operated by a Chinaman. The Chinaman slept in a cot next to the window at night. Stan and Brad would drive the car right up to the window, then flash the lights and honk the horn like nuts. They thought it was hilarious when the Chinaman’s head would pop up above the windowsill, his eyes bugging out, to see what all the racket was.

Brad had a friend named Zalman. Zalman was a genuine intellectual. He and Brad were good friends, but Zalman thought Stan was suspect because he lacked maturity. Brad was just as immature, but he had a developed intellect and was in Zalman’s league.

Stan had a car, though. He drove Brad and Zalman to the Pussycat Theatre in Santa Monica to see “Deep Throat”, the famous porno movie starring Linda Lovelace. Stan was amazed. He had never seen anything like it. Linda performed fellatio on Harry Rheems. Some years later, he had suspicions of his own about Zalman.

“Hey Brad,” he said to his friend. “You know that Zalman? I’m not so sure about him. I think he might be gay.”

“He’s queer as an eight-dollar bill,” Brad replied, nonchalantly. “Didn’t you know that?”

It turned out Zalman was watching Harry Rheems a lot more than Stan and Brad.

Brad and Stan developed more “skits.” One concerned a district attorney from Los Angeles who sends an innocent man to the gas chamber. Stan would play the D.A. Brad played a friend of his and also the mother of the condemned man.

FRIEND: “Hey, Stan, I understand congratulations are in order. You’re the new D.A.”

D.A.: “Why, thank you, Brad.”

FRIEND: “Uh, yeah, listen. I understand you, uh, well, had to pull a few strings.”

D.A.: “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.”

FRIEND: “Yeah, but Stan, I heard that black kid was innocent.”

STAN: “Well, sure he was innocent, but I needed to get the conviction to become the D.A. As a matter of fact, he’s gettin’ fried at San Quentin today, which leaves me just enough time to fly up, witness the execution, and get back here in time for some prawns `n’ spaghetti at Joe’s. Hey, gotta git.”

MOTHER: “You, Mister D.A. Man. Today my boy’s gonna die because of you. I swear to you, as God is my witness, he didn’t do it. HE DIDN’T DO IT!!”

STAN: “Well, there you have it. Gotta run if I’m gonna get back in time for a beer and some prawns dore.”

Nobody really got the skit, except for Brad and Stan, which was par for the course.      

Shirley became increasingly odd. Her voice took on a shrill tone. She would answer the phone and seemingly not understand what people told her until the second or third time. People would identify themselves, and her response would be a disconcerting, “Whoooo?

She tended to talk down to people, and to make questionable racial comments, reflecting the influence of her husband. She would talk about “blacks who won’t work.” She was disdainful of American blacks who “won’t work dirty jobs,” as opposed to Africans and Mexicans, who she had respect for because they were not above manual labor. She continued to cut off cars, then calling the other driver an “idiot,” in a high-pitched voice. Stan would ride in the car and wince.

The Taylor’s next-door neighbor’s let their dog run free. The dog was always tearing up the Shirley’s flowerbed. Shirley asked the neighbors to tie the dog up. They tied the dog up on their front porch. The porch was elevated. The dog tried to run after something. He jumped off the porch, but the rope around his neck caught him and hung him to death.         

Shirley did not see the dog for a few days. She and Stan were doing some yard work when she saw the neighbor.

“Where’s your dog?” she inquired.

“He hung himself because we had to tie him up,” the neighbor said. He was mad at her, blaming her for forcing him to tie the dog up. Stan heard him and understood what had happened.

“What’s that?” asked Shirley. Things did not occur to her. Ideas and possibilities did not seem to germinate in her mind any more.

“The dog died,” said the neighbor.

“Oh, dog days,” said Shirley, blithely. She just turned and went about her business. The neighbor stared at her as if she was out of her mind. Stan just slunk away out of embarrassment.

Dan was now 49 years old. He still worked hard and was a good attorney, but he had given so much of his time to coaching his son’s baseball teams that his career would never recover.

In the fall of 1981, Stan started his senior year. He was not highly popular and he was not the “big man on campus,” even though his accomplishments should have granted him that stature. But Lopez had mercifully graduated. All the teammates who had jealously given him a hard time had been older than he was, and they were gone.

His teammates now were his age or younger. They had watched in awe as one of their own had pitched on the varsity as a freshman, and starred as a sophomore. There were a lot of kids in the program who had no use for Ambers. They knew that the coach had treated Stan poorly.

Stan still did not have a girlfriend, and had never been with a woman in any capacity. He was still timid. He did not go to parties, he did not drink, and he did not do drugs. He hardly socialized. He was not an average high school kid.

Dan had been popular in high school. He got the girls. He had never been like Stan. He looked at Stan, and wondered about him. He knew the kid had athletic talent, and the make-up to take it all the way. But the kid would not fight even if someone took him on. He had beaten the crap out of a couple of kids in junior high. Surely he had been pressed into similar situations in high school, but he had chosen weakness. He was still burdened by fear and intimidation.

Dan saw himself as everything he wanted his kid to be. While Stan’s athletic feats met expectations, he was neither tough nor popular. This frustrated Dan. He felt like Ted Williams teaching hitting to mediocre batters. Dan had difficulty relating to his son outside of sports. He knew his son liked girls, but Dan was amazed that a handsome athlete like Stan was not more successful with them, as he had been. He was also concerned with his choice of friends. He viewed Walt as a drunken bigot, which was amusing because Walt was not the only one who viewed Dan like that. Dan thought Brad was okay, but the two seemed to always be on the verge of getting in trouble. But none of the top athletes at Rolling Hills were close pals with his son.

Walt and Brad played on the teams, but in the hierarchy of Rolling Hills’ sports pecking order, they were not in Stan’s class. Stan’s injury-marred junior year had been a disappointment, but he had achieved major notoriety as a sophomore. The scouts had been out in force to see him come back in the American Legion World Series, and he entered his senior year as a member of Prep Sports’ Pre-Season All-American team.

Stan made friends with people who normally would not have hung out with a star jock. Stan took drama classes. He played Felix in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple”. He would have been more involved, but sports took up too much of his time. He became friends with the artsy kids in drama. He did not realize it at the time, but a lot of them were gay. In fact, half the teachers at the school were gay. Stan was still gullible enough to avoid believing people were gay, despite telltale signs. The drama teacher was openly homosexual, and still Stan did not realize it. Rolling Hills’ cross-country coach brought his “significant other” to basketball games. An avid surfer, he had an old “woodie” that he also used to drive runners to practice in remote parts of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. On lonely, windswept running paths, he had sex with several of his runners over the years, but was never caught. 

Stan liked drama class for two reasons. He enjoyed the plays. Shirley had introduced him to the stage, and he enjoyed it. He had done “skits” with Brad and had natural acting talent. But he also discovered the hidden secret of drama class.

There were always cute girls in drama class. They were not the please-like-me-I’m-so-popular cheerleader types who dated quarterbacks. Those were the girls who had gravitated to Dan when he was in high school. The drama girls at Rolling Hills were earthy and intelligent. Stan was still too shy to make much time with them, but he enjoyed being around them.

Stan also hung out with the kids nobody ever remembers from high school. Kids who might by called “nerds” or “geeks.” Guys who were into computers. There was a natural inclination on their part to be wary of Stan. Well-known athletes were not supposed to be a part of their crowd. But Stan loved hanging out in the library, and he would shoot the breeze with these guys, who sat around there, shooting the breeze. These kids tended to be big sports fans. They knew statistics and baseball history. Stan would talk ball with them every chance he got. There was nothing he loved more than sharing his passion for the game.     

Dan had become ever more vocal regarding his attitude towards minorities. Walt and his pals, who by this time were smoking a lot of marijuana, drinking beer and listening to the The Grateful Dead, liked to swing by Stan’s house to “get a load of The Dan,” as in Dan, not Stan.

Dan would always be in the bag. He was disgusted at the way the “news media caters to the damn blacks.

“You guys have it much harder,” Dan would go on. “In my day, if you were the best man for the job, you got the job. Nowadays, the niggers get the jobs. They get into schools through affirmative action. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing a black face. Every commercial is blacks.”

“Damn right, Mr. Taylor,” Walt would egg him on. “Fuckin’ niggers.”

Stan would watch, half agreeing and half horrified. He could see that Walt was a “shit disturber” who loved getting a rise out of his old man. Walt actually did not hold these racist views. It was all a big joke to him. Walt would be drinking. Stan still did not drink. Walt came to the house with an open beer. When he was finished with it, he looked in the refrigerator and saw a six-pack of Budweiser.

Walt grabbed the Bud, but Dan saw him.

“Walt, I’m sorry, but you can’t drink that,” Dan told him. “If you drink in my presence and leave here intoxicated, and get in an accident, there’s case law that says I’m liable.”

“No problem, my Dan,” intoned Walt. “Do you mind if I drink milk?”

“No,” Dan said, “drink all the milk you want.”

Walt broke out the milk, but hid a Bud behind it. Stan saw what he was doing, and made some noise to hide Walt flipping the tab. It went on like that for the entire six-pack. Walt and the boys sat listening raptly to Dan go on and on about blacks, minorities in general, Jim Ambers, gays, Democrats, and any number of hot button issues. Once on a tangent, he went into orbit. Stan was happy to have friends at the house, but he knew his father was more an object of hilarity than respect.

Early in his senior year, a number of important events occurred in Stan’s life. Now that he had a driver’s license, his parents let him borrow the car, but he did not have one of his own. Dan would drive him to school every day. This was always a source of tension.

Stan never was and never would be a “morning person.” Shirley would call down to him to get up for school. Stan would be asleep in bed. Either he did not hear her, or he was too groggy to effectively call back loudly enough for her to hear him. It had gone on like that for years.

“Stan,” Shirley would call.

No answer.

“Stan,” she would call out.

Stan would barely hear it, roll over in bed, and mumble to himself.

By the third “Stan,” it was all over.

“Goddammit, answer me,” she would yell, and her voice would take on high-pitched agitation. Screaming meemies.

She would stomp downstairs, open the door without knocking, and say, “Answer me when I call you you little…bastard.” Her voice would break. It got very high when she was agitated. Some variation of that scene was the way Stan Taylor met almost every school day of his life.

Shirley and Dan both asked Stan questions. Stan would answer them in a normal, conversational tone.

“Answer us when we talk to you,” Shirley would say, while Stan was answering them, or before he could answer.

“Goddamn asshole son of a bitch, treats us like dirt under his feet,” Dan would say.

It was always unfair. Stan never got the benefit of the doubt. His job was to be the object of their anger. That was what he was there for. He realized that, and had always blamed himself for the heat that came down on him. As he got older, though, he was asking whether he truly deserved this treatment. He was intelligent enough to question it. When his parents would lay him out, he could have explained things, like telling them he had answered them, only they had not heard him. But he figured that they yelled and swore at him because they had some psychological need to do that. Stan reasoned that if they were going to act like that, parents or no parents, they gave up some of their rights     

When Stan started his senior year, he began to defy his father.

“Here are the ground rules,” he told Dan. “For every pound of shit you hand me, I’ll give five pounds.”

“Goddamn lousy rotten son of a bitch fuckin’ asshole cocksucker bastard prick son of a bitch fucking no good lousy rotten little fuckin’ prick bastard Goddamn you all to hell, Goddamn you,” Dan responded.

Stan would get out of bed and read the L.A. Times sports section. Shirley would make breakfast. Stan would then go to the bathroom. Every day, Dan would go to his car, get in, start it up, and idle in the driveway. He never told Stan he was going. He just assumed that if he was ready, Stan had to be ready.

If Stan did not get in the car within 10 seconds, the horn would start honking.

“Goddamn you son of a bitch Goddamn prick bastard lousy rotten cocksucking son of a Goddamn bitch bastard Goddamn you, Goddamn you!” Dan would say to Stan.

Stan listened to that on his way to school for years. Stan started to give it right back. He used logic.

“Okay, if you’re gonna talk that way to me, you’ll get talked to twice as bad right back,” Stan would say calmly. “Here’s the new rules around here. When I identify that with which you say to be not acting like a decent human being, you’ll be called on it. Period. No more listening to all your crap.”

Dan’s face would clench. Reasoning with him was of no value when he was in full “shitstorm” mode.

“Lousy rotten ungrateful cocksucking bastard prick Goddamn you,” he responded. Stan had told him that he would give it back worse than he got it, but he was not capable of such vulgarity. He could swear, but not like his father.

Thank God for it.

Dan started in on Stan, for no good reason, before breakfast.

By 8:30 in the morning, Stan had been called a “cocksucker” five times, an “asshole” four times, and three times been “damned to hell” buy his father. He went into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and cried. He had a sudden urge to take a dump, so he sat down and did what he had to do. The tears were still coming down his face, when he heard the horn honking.

Fucking prick, he thought to himself.

Stan took the toilet paper, and started to wipe. It took quite a bit of paper, and a few minutes, to sanitize himself enough to get dressed and depart for school. Dan was apoplectic, screaming, “Goddamn you,” “fucking cocksucker,” and “asshole bastard.”

Stan emerged from the house. He could see neighbors staring from across the street. They were used to hearing Dan swear with the windows open. Watching USC and the Dodgers on television often resulted in horrid scream sessions, but now he was outside.

Dan leaned on the horn, and his voice cascading through the canyons of Palos Verdes Estates.   

My father is a certified asshole, Stan wearily said to himself.

He saw the look in his old man’s eyes. It was pure evil. This was in the morning. Dan was not drunk. He was livid. Stan purposely moved slowly. He meandered. He checked his books. He paused at the car. He opened the door…

“Goddamn you cocksucker little prick Goddamn it all to lousy hell Goddamn you son of a bitch fucking lousy rotten son of a fucking no good lousy fucking fuck of a son of fuck bitch you fuck Goddamn you Goddamn you all to lousy hell,” Dan said to his son.

Stan got in the car. He reached over to close the door. He felt himself jerked forward. Dan gunned the car out of the driveway. Stan lost his grip on the door, which swung open. It was too late. The car’s wheels were spinning, and the car just flew right out. The door caught the mailbox, knocking the mailbox off its hinges, and the door tore right off the car.

Dan was out of his mind. He kept screaming and yelling at his son. Incarcerating people for using that kind of language is a good idea. Stan started to cry. Finally, five minutes from school, Dan was exhausted from yelling.

“Let me tell you something, old man,” Stan said. “You’re Goddamn lucky to have a son like me. I’ve done everything you’ve ever asked me. I’ve never given you trouble. I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t get in trouble. Who the hell are you to say things like that to me? Huh? I’ve loved you and Mom with every pore in my body all my life, and I don’t deserve to be treated like this. I just don’t.”

The car pulled up to the curb, and a sobbing Stan departed. His old man never said a word. It was one of those rare times in which he was shamed by what he had said, but he was not genetically programmed to apologize. He just drove away.

Stan then tried to pull himself together for school. He managed to sleepwalk through five periods, and at lunch he just found a quiet bench to eat his sandwich. Tears were streaming down his face, making the bread soggy. He thought about killing himself.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” said a voice.

Stan looked up.

His name was Marty Frazier. Stan hardly knew him. He was a quiet kid. He had never had been an athlete. He was known as a “Jesus freak” because he was always telling people about the Bible.

“Whaddaya want?” inquired Stan.

“I want to tell you the Lord Jesus Christ loves you,” said Marty.

Stan just looked at him. He found it hard to believe anybody loved him at that moment.

“That’s nice to hear,” said Stan. “I could use a little love right now.”

Marty was kind, gentle, and understanding. Stan felt comfortable with him. They began to talk.

“My father hates me,” said Stan. “My mother doesn’t defend me against him. I can’t take it any more. The things he calls me - I’m a good son, man. I love my parents. They love me, I guess, but they just are so horrible to me. Why is my father, why do my parents treat me the way they do?” 

“Let me show you something,” Marty said. He opened his shirt, turned his back, and revealed some ugly scars. Stan stared at them. Marty put his shirt back on.

“My father’s beaten me all my life,” he said.

Stan hugged him, and started to cry.

“I just hate myself sometimes,” said Stan. “My parents have given me everything. My Dad’s sacrificed for me. I’m a spoiled brat. Everything’s been handed to me all my life, and what have I done for it? I must deserve what I get. I can’t do anything right. I’m no damn good. I think I’m hot shit, but I’m fooling myself. If my parents blame me for everything all the time, there’s gotta be a reason for it. It’s my fault, every time. It has to be that way, I must really be a screw-up. I just hate myself. I hate what I am. I have no redeeming qualities.” 

“I have some advice for you,” Marty said. “That’s a destructive path. I don’t know you’re dad. But I do know him. And I know you’ll never out yell him. You can’t give him more pain than he gives you. He doesn’t hate you, he hates himself.”

“Man, I just can’t do anything right,” Stan lamented.

“Listen,” Marty said, “I used to believe that about myself. It wasn’t true with me, and it isn’t true with you, either. You can’t change your father, you can’t change your parents. They’re gonna give you a hard time. They’re gonna yell at you -.”

“I call `em ‘shitstorms,’” said Stan.

“They’re gonna give you ‘shitstorms’ when it’s time to give you ‘shitstorms,’”
said Marty. “You can’t stop `em. Think of it like the weather. You can’t stop the weather. You don’t get mad at it, you just shelter yourself from it. It’s not your fault and never has been. I’ve seen you around. You’re a good guy. Sure, you’re full of yourself like all the jocks, but a lot less than most I know. I’ve never seen you hurt anybody, or badmouth anybody.”

“I don’t,” said Stan. “I never mean to hurt anybody.”

“I know that’s the way you are, I can tell,” said Marty.

“But there has to be something wrong with me,” Stan said. “I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t think my parents are proud of me. They deserve better than me. My dad’s an attorney. He played at USC and for the White Sox. He was a baseball star. My mom was somebody that everybody at USC wanted to marry. My parents were, like, the perfect couple. And look at me. I’m a loser. All I do is disappoint `em. That’s why they blame me for everything and yell at me and swear at me. That’s why, because I deserve it. I don’t deserve to be loved.”   

“Now you listen to me,” Marty said. “You are loved. You’re loved by the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you familiar with the Lord?”

“I was baptized Episcopalian,” said Stan, “but I never go to church.”

“Jesus loves you,” said Marty. “He also loves your parents. I know all about what you’re going through. I love my parents, and they love me. But my father beats me because he can’t help it. Don’t hate your parents. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek. You have to come to two conclusions. First, when your folks blame you and yell at you, it’s not your fault. Do you know that?”

“I dunno,” said Stan.

“It’s not your fault,” repeated Marty. “Okay? You’re not to blame. Now, there is something else you have to learn and understand.”

“What?” said Stan, looking up at Marty.

“You’ll never be able to match your dad in a shouting match,” he said.

“No kidding,” Stan said, allowing a smile.

“Listen to me closely, Stan,” Marty said. “You’ll have to live this. If you follow my advice, it’ll change your life for the better. Here’s what it is. From now on, when your old man - your parents - yell at you, swear at you, blame you, try to make you feel lousy - just ignore it. Don’t fight back. Turn the other cheek. You’ll never convince `em their wrong. They have to live with themselves. Don’t yell back. Just take it. Pray for them. It’s not your fault. If you argue with them, you’re acknowledging that they might be right. You’re authorizing them to keep doing it. If you react to it, you’re giving them credence. Don’t do that. Do I make sense to you?”

“Yeah,” said Stan, “I think I do.”

Marty went on to explain the Bible to Stan. He talked about the sacrifice that Christ made, and how the sins committed by Dan, Shirley, Stan, and everybody, were forgiven because Christ had died for humanity.

Stan began to realize what a great deal this is. He could forgive himself. He could forgive his parents. Christ had already forgiven all of them. Stan became a Christian that day. He was different after that. He would live not for his parents, but for himself and for God. He would honor his parents. He would love them, but he would not let their words, their bluster and their blame - their sins - ruin his life. Stan was a human, and he would have his letdowns. He would continue to be flabbergasted by his parents, and he would not maintain strength every day. But he had a relationship with Christ now. This provided him a guidepost. A sign up ahead.

Stan Taylor was always a complex person. Becoming a Christian created a conflict. He did not become a devout churchgoer. He did not read the Bible very much. He simply became comfortable with his place in the world. He became spiritual. He talked to God. He also started to sow his wild oats. He had been repressed for a long time. This would amount to some considerable sowing. But something told him that it was the dawn of a new season in his life.

Christianity would be the rock at the center of this new adventure. He yearned to experience everything. Not everything he wanted to experience was wholesome. He wanted women. He wanted to party. But Marty had told him that Christians were not perfect, just forgiven. He could be forgiven for wanting to measure himself in the world.      

The first thing that happened was that Stan got a car. Shirley bought a new one, and handed down her Plymouth Fury to Stan. It was a convertible. Stan was grateful to his parents for the car. They could be so mean to him, and they could be so wonderful. Stan drove that car to school. He hung out afterwards. He drove it to football games. It made him popular.

Stan, Walt and his other pals, Seth Hillmire and Pat Flood, would drive by the front of the school. The other guys knew girls.

“Hey, wanna take a ride in Taylor’s convertible,” Pat yelled out to a group of girls.

The next thing he knew, Stan was driving to the beach with three high school honeys in the car. It was full of hilarity, and for Stan, a taste of Heaven. He would come home to the burden of his father, and see the old man in an entirely knew light. He began to break the parental chains. His parents would lay the same old crap on him. Stan just smiled. He had a car, he had friends, and he could sense that his virginity might be coming to an end, too.

Kimberly Biagini was one year younger than Stan. She was Italian, and as far as Stan was concerned, beautiful. She was also one of those girls that might be considered slutty in high school. Kimberly had unbelievable 40D breasts.

People joked that Kimberly’s breasts arrived in the library five minutes before she did. What saved Kimberly from a really bad reputation was her intelligence and personality. She was a smart girl who would go on to UC-Santa Barbara. She was always smiling and friendly. She had lost her virginity at age 13. In the eighth grade, she had sex with two guys in one of the guys’ pool. That made her legendary.

Kimberly did not have to go steady with a guy to have sex with him. She liked jocks as much as German transfer students. The guys marveled at her incredible breasts. She would let guys mount her breasts and slide between them. She gave great blowjobs.

Kimberly was one of those girls who occasionally ended up in Stan’s car along with the other kids. Stan got to know her a little. He was encouraged that she seemed to like him. Kimberly knew he was a good athlete. She did not seem to know that Stan had been considered something of a nerd. She was unaware that he had been pushed around in his earlier high school years. He was a senior with a car now. Those days were slipping into the past.

The Fall dance was held in October. Stan went with a kid named Ken White. Ken had grown up with Kimberly. He had started to hang out with Stan because he had a car. Stan cultivated the friendship because Ken had a great music collection. He had also known Kimberly since grade school. Through Kenny, he wanted to get to Kimberly.

At the dance, Kenny and Stan stood together.

“There’s Biagini,” he told Stan. “Go get her.”

Kimberly was wearing a paisley cocktail dress. She was tanned, and her breasts seemed to explode against the material. Stan had been waiting for this moment for weeks. He knew exactly what he was going to do.

Now that the moment arrived, he was completely unable to do it.

“What are you waitin’ for?” Ken asked him.

“Next song,” said Stan.

Kimberly was standing by herself.

Next song?” exclaimed Ken. “Jesus, man, are you high. That’s Kimberly Biagini. Her tits are hangin’ out of her clothes, man. That chick’s got a short shelf life, dude. You don’t just wait around when she’s standin’ there. You know how many guys wanna give it to her?”

“Okay, okay,” said Stan. His head was starting to spin.

He just stood there.

“Yeah, well, okay?” inquired Ken.

Stan remained silent.

“Listen, man,” said Ken, “I know you like the chick, and I wanna help. But if you don’t take some action, I’ll be forced to take drastic measures.”

“What drastic measures?” asked Stan.

“I’ll tell her you told me you had a wet dream about her,” said Ken.

“Jesus, man, no,” said Stan, frantically.

“Listen, Stan,” said Ken, “here’s the story. She likes you. She told me she likes you.”

Ken was lying, but this was the encouragement Stan needed.

“You lie,” said Stan.

“She told me not to tell you, bro,” said Ken, “but she likes you. Now go.”

Stan walked across the dance floor, staring at Kimberly and her massive, tanned breasts. The closer he got, he felt the walls closing in around him. He was as nervous as he had ever been.

Finally, he was face to face with her. She smiled.

“Hi, Kimberly,” said Stan, “wanna dance?”

“Uh, sure,” she said.

They went out to the dance floor.

“Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight,” were the lyrics to the popular disco song that was just ending as they got on the dance floor. Then it happened. Perfect timing. The disco dance song ended. A slow dance Bee Gees love song came on. It was too late to turn back.

Stan reached his arm around Kimberly’s shoulder, and she did the same. They started to move to the rhythm. Suddenly, Stan felt her monumental breasts squeezed up against his chest. It was like nothing he had ever felt in his entire life. It was beyond magnificent.     

Stan sprouted the biggest, hardest, most spectacular erection in the history of sex. His equipment felt like it was 18 inches long. His testicles felt like they were filled with concrete. It was impossible for Kimberly to slow dance with him and not feel it. It brushed up against her leg. Stan pulled her closer to him. He was grinding into her.

The guys in the locker room could give Stan grief about the size of his unit, which was not impressive when unaroused. But he also knew he had what women needed when it counted, and as Jim Morrison once said, “The men don’ know, but the little girls unnerstan’.” Kimberly understood. She almost thought it was a joke at first, that Stan had a baseball bat between his legs. Then she realized it was his natural equipment.

“Jesus, Stan,” she said, wide-eyed, “are you happy to see me, or did you bring a Louisville Slugger.”

Stan thought the Mae West-style comment, and the fact this girl knew what a Louisville Slugger was, made her the sexiest woman ever.

“You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” Stan whispered into her hair. “I want to make love to you.”

“I guess so,” said Kimberly. Her hand slipped on to his equipment. Stan’s pants were in serious jeopardy of splitting from the force of his erection.

“Let’s go someplace and be alone,” he said.

“You sure like to work fast,” she said, smiling.

This was the greatest moment of Stan’s life. He glanced around the room. His baseball teammates watched him with the legendary Kimberly Biagini. He was a stud. Kenny was giving him the thumbs up sign.

The song ended.

“Wanna go to my car?” said Stan.

“Okay,” she said obediently.

Ken walked out of the gym with Kimberly. Every eye was on him. He was going to attain his manhood.

When they got to his car, Stan started kissing her. He was very good, a natural. He had his tongue down her throat, and was running his hands up and down her sides. Stan was pressed up against her so her massive breasts were squished against him. His tremendous erection was pressed against her thigh.

Into the car they went. The radio came on.

“More Than A Feeling” by Boston was playing. It was too perfect.

They kissed some more, felt each other out, and then Stan had her breasts out of her dress. He started licking and kissing them. Then he managed to unzip his trousers, and out came his unbelievable hard-on. Stan was utterly amazed at himself. He could not believe hard and big he was.

Kimberly was on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich. It felt like fleshy rock in her mouth. Stan felt like all the power in the world was between his legs. He was ready to ejaculate immediately. Stan knew that if he let himself cum, he would literally soak Kimberly, her dress, his pants, and his car. He wanted to hold it back. He figured from here he would take her to bed and make love to her. He was not sure where. His house was out of the question. Maybe her place. A motel?

Then it happened.

“Hey Taylor, go for it,” came the voice. A hand pounded on the windshield.

“Oh My Dan, carry on by all means,” said Walt Coleman in his stentorian tone. He was with Brad Cooper, Pat Flood and Seth Hillmire. They had a couple of open six-packs, a bottle of booze, and a water cooler. They had the car surrounded.

“Is that Kimberly Biagini?” asked Brad. “Jesus, Dan, good work. For God’s sake man, good work.”

Stan did not like being interrupted, but his great triumph was something he was proud to have his pals see. They were clapping, hooting and hollering. Kimberly withdrew from him.

“Put that back in your pants,” she said. She was not mad, but she was insistent.

“Hey guys,” said Stan, “how ’bout a little privacy, okay?”

Kimberly’s head moved away from his equipment, and the fellows saw his massive woodrow.

“Holy shit, Dan,” exclaimed Walt, “did’ja get an implant?”

Kimberly opened the door.

“I’ll see you inside,” she said.

“Wait,” said Stan, but she had put herself back into her dress, and was out the door.

In later years, Stan would kick himself over what he did next. He should have gone after her, smoothed things over, and taken her to a quiet place away from the school grounds. Instead, he allowed himself to be glorified by his pals.

“Wanna snort?” asked Hillmire. He had a water cooler.

“No, man, I gotta get that chick,” said Stan.

“Oh, don’t worry about it my Dan,” said Walt. “Have a beer.”

“What’s in the cooler?” asked Stan.

“‘Tommy the Tigers’,” said Brad. “Vodka, orange juice and Olde English 800.”

Stan had drunk the equivalent of a six-pack of beer in his life. He had had a beer with his dad fishing a few times. This seemed like a good moment to start drinking in earnest.

“Want one?” asked Brad.

“Sure thing,” Stan replied.

Hillmire produced a plastic cup, poured the orange liquid into it, and offered it to Stan. Stan drank it. He could barely taste the Vodka and malt liquor. The orange juice was sweet and went down smoothly.

“Dynamite combo,” announced Stan.

“To The Dan getting his cock sucked,” announced Walt.

Everybody lifted their drinks in a toast. Stan was on top of the world.

The boys sat at his car for 45 minutes drinking beers, “Tommy the Tigers”, and Bourbon. Stan became very intoxicated. He wanted to go inside and find Kimberly, to resume their adventures, but he was having the blast of his life getting drunk with his friends. Finally, everybody meandered in to the dance. Stan was looking for Kimberly, but could not find her.

“Where’ve you been?” asked Ken.

 “Every once in a while,” Stan announced, “a man’s gotta do a little bit a drinkin’.”

“Jesus,” said Ken, “I never seen you drink before.”

“I’m makin’ my debut,” said Stan. “Now, where’s that tittie monster?”

“Hey dude,” said Ken, “she left with that German exchange student guy. Heinrich something.”

“German exchange student?” asked Stan. “You gotta be shitting me.”

He was still too exhilarated by the events of the evening and the alcohol, to be disappointed. He continued to have a terrific time. That night, Stan partied. He made up for everything he had ever missed. They hooked up with other guys who had alcohol, and Stan drank until he was wasted.

Finally, when the dance ended, Stan was ready to get Kimberly.

“Who knows where Kimberly Biagini lives?” he asked.

“I do,” said Ken.

“I’ll drive,” said the drunken Stan.

Everybody piled in his car, and Stan peeled out of there. Ken directed him to Kimberly’s house. Miraculously, he evaded a DUI.

“Maybe she’ll do all of us,” Pat Flood said. “I hear she’s into it.”

The house was dark. The guys stood by the car for about 10 minutes, formulating a plan.

“Fuck it,” Stan finally said. “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. If I’m not back in 20 minutes, call in an air strike. The coordinates are almighty almighty Zulu foxtrot somethin’ or other.”

“Good luck, my Dan,” announced Walt solemnly. He lifted his beer in a toast to Stan, who stood and saluted.

Stan crept along the driveway that led to the back of her house. Kimberly lived in an old house that had a gravel driveway, and each step was loud as the rocks crunched under his feet.

“You’re mission, Mr. Taylor, should you decide to accept it,” Stan said softly to himself, “is to find one Kimberly Biagini, reputed to have the finest set of female breasts on the face of the Earth, and fuck her.”

Stan worked his way around to the back of the house. He looked up at what he figured had to be her bedroom. There was a dim light in there. The only way up was to climb the transom. Stan grabbed hold of the pipe, and pulled himself up.

“I gotta be out of my mind,” he said to himself.

Suddenly, the backdoor opened. A 270-pound guy who looked like a hit man for the Gambino crime family stood in his underwear, wearing a “wife beater” tank top. He was holding a rifle. Stan fell on his ass, onto the gravel.

“Who the fuck are you?” asked Kimberly Biagini’s father.

“Uh, shit, I’m a friend of Kim’s,” said Stan.

“Get the hell out of here before I call the cops, or worse,” said the man.

 Stan got up and high-tailed it out of there.

He ran to the car.

“Get in,” he said. “Luca Brasi’s gotta gun.”

Everybody got in the car, and Stan drove off. Everybody just busted out laughing. It had been a memorable evening.

The next day, Dan and Stan went down to the field to practice. The whole time, Stan just thought about Kimberly’s incredible breasts, and what her mouth felt like wrapped around his erection. He figured he would make her his girlfriend. He could not wait to consummate the relationship in a nice, private place. Stan was walking on air.

Even Dan sensed that things were changing for Stan.

“I think he’s starting to sow his wild oats,” he told Shirley.

At practice on Monday, all his teammates were buzzing about Stan Taylor, born-again ladies man.

“So there’s Taylor,” said Larry Starr, a reserve outfielder, “dancing with the women. Stan, we never knew.” Stan loved it. There was nothing that would up-grade his social status more than to be successful with the girls.

The next time Stan saw Kimberly at school, he became nervous. He did not approach her, figuring she would come to him. She did not. A week passed, and then Stan saw her with the German exchange student, Heinrich. He was a 6-3 soccer player, good-looking with long hair. He wore a headband.

It turned out that after their fellatio interruptus in the car, Kimberly had gone back in to the dance, where she hooked up with Heinrich. She took Heinrich back to her house, and was having sex with him in her room when her old man had caught Stan.

Kimberly stuck with Heinrich exclusively the rest of that school year. She decided not to be such a slut anymore. Getting caught by a bunch of guys blowing Stan Taylor was the last straw. She was going to clean up her act. Kimberly and Stan spoke a few more times, but the chemistry was not there. She was not mad at him. She did not blame him because his friends had discovered her giving him head.

Stan pined for her the rest of his senior year. He never did get a girlfriend, and he never “officially” lost his virginity. The next year, when Kimberly was a senior and Stan was gone, the German kid returned to the Fatherland. Kimberly decided to go back to her old ways. She and her friend Patty, a gorgeous girl who would have a successful modeling career, started doing ménage a trois’ with guys. Stan heard about it, but never participated. He kicked himself for missing out on that, just as he had blown his chances with Stacy and Lyndsey. He certainly used the mental images to fuel his fantasies, though.

Stan did not place a lot of emphasis on his grades. He was sure he would get a baseball scholarship and would be admitted to college. He wanted to go to USC. After his phenomenal sophomore year, he figured that was a fait accompli, but his junior year had put everything up in the air. Nothing in school excited him very much. When he went to take the SATs his senior year in October of 1981, it fell on the day USC was playing Notre Dame in South Bend. Stan rushed through the SATs, not particularly caring what his score was. He wanted out of there so he could catch the second half of the Trojans’ 14-7 victory.  

One night Shirley and Dan went to dinner. Stan went rooted around their bedroom. He found some interesting pornographic items, including magazines, some 30-millimeter movies and a projector. He set the projector up, and proceeded to watch three porn movies. They were old-fashioned and grainy, but the girls looked hot. One of the movies looked to be Swedish or German. The girls were attractive. The best action was the fellatio. Stan had himself stripped nude with a bottle of skin cream, and was holding Mr. Fullwood in his hands when suddenly he heard the front door open.

Oh, Christ, he thought to himself.

 Stan grabbed the still-playing projector, and threw it into the closet. He rolled up the screen. He kicked the movies under the bed. He threw his clothes on. He was sweating like a stuck pig.

“Stan,” Shirley was calling out. “We’re home. Stan?” If his parents had come straight into their bedroom, he would have been a goner, but they lingered in the kitchen. Finally, Stan came out.

“Why are you so red?” Shirley asked him.

“Abbada aw sweat abbada,” said Stan.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” asked Dan.

“Abbadda aw abba da,” said Stan.

“Stupidkid,” said Dan.

“Yeah, ah,” said Stan.

Stan sweated out the rest of that night. Remarkably, the closet had a dark corner, and his parents did not notice the projector, which had been thrown in there. The next morning, Stan snuck in and put everything back together the way he had found it. The whole episode was a close call.

The next time he and his pals had some time to kill after school, they all rode up to his house. Shirley was taking tennis lessons, and Dan was at work. Stan set up a screening room, and about eight guys sat around watching his parent’s porn movies. This occurred several times.

Once, Shirley came home unexpectedly. Stan and his pals managed to shut the projector down and get everything back in place without detection. VCRs were still novelty items. Discarding the projector was a lot more hassle than ejecting a videocassette.

On another night, Stan attended a Dodger game with Dan and Shirley. It was a rare cold evening at Chavez Ravine, and they brought a blanket. The blanket was inside a plastic, with a zipper. It served as a seat cushion until it got cold. Then Dan unzipped it and took the blanket out. That was when Stan saw it. Inside the clear plastic was a porn magazine. The cover showed a pretty girl giving head. The title of the magazine was “Cocksuckers.”

Dan and Shirley did not see it. Stan saw that the elderly couple sitting behind them did. This situation went on for about an inning. Finally, Dan noticed the blowjob magazine.

“Ooh, ooh,” he blurted out. “Shirley, Jesus.”

He showed it to Shirley.

“How did that get in there?” she asked.

Stan laughed so hard that he had to hide his face in his jacket for two innings. The incident served to humanize his parents. He could laugh at things now. He had a new perspective of his folks. He prayed to Jesus that he would be forgiven for looking at the pornography. He had a smile on his face.     

Stan’s life was changing. He took up surfing. Within a few short months in the Fall of his senior year, major and diverse changes were occurring to him. He had become a Christian and gotten his first blowjob within weeks of each other. He was obsessed with Kimberly, had learned how to drink, and discovered porn. He still had basketball and baseball season ahead.

Stan re-dedicated himself to baseball. All the hard work in the weight room, the conditioning and running, had become drudgery to him. Now that he was having fun like a normal teenager, he found that he had new mental energy to devote to his training. All work and no play did not just make for a dull boy, it made for a stale athlete. He was determined to come back from his junior year injury and make his senior season the best it could be, on and off the field. His new religious convictions made him feel that he had something solid to come back to when he was finished partying. It might not have been a perfect plan, but God works in mysterious ways.

Stan and Tony Campanella were the two aces during Winter league. Ambers knew he needed Stan. Frank Ferrigno had been used and abused. Over at Palos Verdes High, Billy repeated his three-sport All-American performance. The football team that he quarterbacked was undefeated, won the Southern Section title, and was named “mythical” National Champions. Billy was all-everything, including Southern Section Player of the Year, L.A. Times Player of the Year, Southern California player of the Year, and California Player of the Year.

In basketball, his team made it to the Southern Section finals, and Billy was close to winning the consensus Player of the Year awards. He and Stan went at it on the basketball court, too, and the action got plenty physical. Stan was a good hoops player, but not in Billy’s league. But he pumped it up for his games against his rival, managing to hold his own. Stan made all-league again.

Matt Hobli never made it past the junior varsity, and his “job” as a senior was to be Billy’s entertainment coordinator. Billy had so many women at his disposal that he could not keep track of them. They came from everywhere. Girls emerged from out of the woodwork. Girls from other schools traveled to Palos Verdes Estates to have sex with Billy. He was a god at P.V. High. He received tremendous publicity and total adulation. Sports Illustrated called him “the greatest high school athlete of all time.”

As good as he was in football and basketball, Billy was beyond comprehension in baseball. He hit over .600 with 20 home runs, and by the time he was finished, owned most of the single season and career offensive records. He was named National High School Athlete of the Year. Palos Verdes had a tremendous team, and they rolled undefeated through the pre-season, the Easter tournament, and the first seven games of the Bay League season.

The big question for Jim Ambers would be who his “ace” pitcher would be, Campanella or Taylor. Ambers knew that the road to both the Bay League and Southern Section championships went through Palos Verdes. He was glad that he had recruited Stan away from P.V. If Stan were pitching against him instead of for him, Rolling Hills would have no chance. He also knew that Stan’s greatest competitive juices flowed when he faced his old P.V. “buddies,” particularly Billy Boswell. Ambers decided to put all his eggs in Stan’s basket.

The coach sensed that Stan had changed. He was impressed with the ferocious determination that Stan had. Ambers figured that determination was the only thing that had a chance to slow Boswell down. Ambers had heard the new “Taylor stories.” He knew his star pitcher had gotten a blowjob in his car, and had started to drink. But Ambers had been around high school athletes his whole life. He had been a fine player in his own right, and he knew that sometimes the guys had to blow off steam. Taylor would be a better, more relaxed performer instead of an up-tight kid who was obsessed with pleasing his meddling father.   

Stan had a newfound sense of outward confidence in himself. He was no longer the unpopular geek. The Kimberly Biagini incident had made its rounds, and he was enjoying the legend. He had his own car, and a tight knit group of friends.

Stan felt balanced for the first time. He felt free at last. He had perspective. He found himself better able to withstand the slings and arrows of his father’s barbs. He no longer blamed himself for the way his parents yelled at him. Stan, the selfish jerk, was not suddenly Mahatma Gandhi, but he now the saw world in color, not in black and white. Dan just seemed to see things in black and white.

Stan also came to realize something else. His father had always required information out of him. Stan had learned early on to give it to him, and not hold anything back. He was expected to tell both his parents everything. He analyzed his life, and saw that his parents used what they knew against him. They criticized his actions. They held the information until it could be used against Stan.

When he turned 18, Stan figured the less he told his parents, the better. He did not want to be secretive. He had little to hide. But information was like high-pressure build-up with them. If he kept it to a minimum, he could keep the “shitstorms” to a minimum, too.

His strategy was not without pitfalls. Now that he had a car and a social life, he was getting asked, “Where were you last night?” and “Who were you talking to on the phone?” in addition to the usual “Are you starting on Tuesday?” questions.

After hanging out with Walt, he answered, “I was over at Walt Coleman’s house.”

“That Goddamn Coleman’s a troublemaker,” Dan responded. “Shit, he’s not even on your team. What the hell’s he doing, anyway? Is he even going to college? His parents just let him run around unsupervised all day. God knows what kind of trouble you can get into with him, do you hear me?”

Each remark would spin off to more questions, and the Q & A would become a nightmare of interrogations, accusations and judgments. Stan began to hold back.

 “I was out and about,” he said.

This was not a good answer, either. Dan demanded to know where his son was, where he was taking the car, and what he was doing.

 “Oh, just hangin’ around,” Stan said.

“Goddamn kid, can’t answer me,” Dan harrumphed.

What Stan learned was that it came down to a simple choice between two evils. The greater evil was to answer in full and have every detail picked apart. The lesser evil was to keep the information to a minimum.

“Think of it as levels within the CIA, and you’ll hear your information on a need-to-know basis,” Stan, who got a carried away with sarcasm, told his old man when he demanded to know more. 

That did not sit well with Dan, but it disarmed him quicker than full disclosure, which was Stan’s ultimate goal. Dan’s tirades were coming, just like the weather. Nothing could stop them. He was an occasional hurricane. Stan just knew that his only defense was to batten the hatches as best he could. Period.

When it was time for Ambers to choose his opening game pitcher, he went with Stan, who by now was over 6-5, and weighed 222 pounds. Stan looked to have a real future in baseball. He pitched brilliantly throughout the pre-season, winning the Most Valuable Player award in the San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament. In the Bay League opener, Stan threw a no-hitter against Santa Monica.

Stan was keeping a close eye on the exploits of Billy Boswell. He was obsessed with beating Billy in his senior year. Billy had stolen his thunder for the last time. Stan wanted to prove conclusively that his decision to come to Rolling Hills had been a sound one.

He was still jealous of Billy. He was was piqued by the fact that Billy never acknowledged him. Billy was interviewed all the time, but he never said anything like, “We know we have to beat Taylor if we’re gonna win it all,” or “Taylor’s the best pitcher in the league, and he’s always been tough on me.” He just ignored Stan. Stan also knew about Billy’s remarkable record with the girls.

Why do all these white girls throw themselves at a black guy? he thought to himself.

Stan had heard his father’s racial tirades all his life.

I’ll never be like that, he told himself repeatedly. He had baggage, however. Billy had repeatedly one-upped him, fair and square, but Stan needed to create the concept that Billy had some kind of unfair advantage. Stan was not able to admit that Billy was the better athlete. He viewed him as aloof, with a posse of sycophants like Matt Hobli, kissing his behind. This appalled Stan. Why was Billy so good? Why was he so popular? Why was he getting more ass than a toilet seat?

Oh well, Stan thought. I got half a blowjob from Kimberly Biagini.

As Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.”

On the last Friday of April, 1982, the Boswell vs. Taylor rivalry was jetted up half a notch. Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills met under the lights before 3,000 fans. The game drew media attention not only from the Daily Breeze, but the Los Angeles Times. Several local radio and TV stations sent crews.

Palos Verdes was 23-0 coming in. Rolling Hills was 22-1. The game was for first place in the Bay League, and peninsula bragging rights. Billy was already projected as the top pick in the amateur draft, which would come in June, and the stands were packed with scouts armed with radar guns.

Stan was 12-0 with an earned run average of 0.94. He had two no-hitters to his credit, and had completely come into his own. Ambers was kissing his butt every chance he got. Dan could find nothing to give him any heat about.

That afternoon, Stan tried to take a nap before heading to the ballpark. The phone rang. It was USC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux. USC had been recruiting him. Stan figured they would offer a scholarship.

“Tiger,” said Rod, “I know you got a game tonight, so I don’t wanna break your concentration. But I wanted to let you know we’re offering a full ride scholarship. I sure hope you decide to be a Trojan, just like your old man.”

“Yes,” said Stan. ”Of course. I’ll sign the letter of intent, absolutely. There’s no place else I want to be.”

Stanford and UCLA had come after him. So had both Arizona schools. Miami, Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, and all the other big name college baseball programs wanted him, but Stan wanted to be a Trojan.

After hanging up with Dedeaux, the phone rang again. This time it was the college baseball writer for the L.A. Times.

“Have you given a verbal commitment to USC?” he asked Stan.

“Yes,” he replied, “I’ll be a Trojan.”

“What about the draft?” the writer asked.

“Well, it depends on where I’m drafted,” said Stan. “I’ll listen to any offers, but my dad pitched at SC and I’ve dreamt of being a Trojan all my life.”

“Did you hear about Billy Boswell?” the writer asked.

“No,” said Stan.

“He signed with UCLA,” he said. “If neither of you sign, you’ll be carrying this rivalry right into college.”

“That’s great,” said Stan, thinking to himself, Will I ever get out of this guy’s shadow.

After hanging up with the writer, the phone rang again.

“Stan, it’s Tom Gamboa of the Milwaukee Brewers,” said the scout on the line. He wanted to know whether Stan was committed to USC or not.

“We’re projecting you to be a third-to-fifth round pick,” said Gamboa. “That’s if you are signable.”

“I’ll listen to any offers,” said Stan.

“Fair enough,” said Gamboa. 

That night, Stan was not in anybody’s shadow. Billy batted three times and went down on two grounders and a pop-up. Stan homered in the first inning, and pitched a seven-hitter to win, 2-1. It was not his best game. He had runners on base all day, but good defense in the form of two double plays bailed him out. His teammates mobbed him after the game. The whole school was there. They treated him like a conquering hero. Little kids lined up for his autograph. Ambers hugged him. Dan and Shirley showered him with praise. Girls called his name. Amid the great accolades, Stan thought about his life. He thought about being taunted in junior high. He thought about his parents. He had love in his heart for them. They had sacrificed for him, and supported his efforts to be the best he could be. He thought about Billy Boswell. He knew that whether Boswell acknowledged it or not, he had given as good as he had taken in their rivalry.

Stan also thought about the film “Patton”. At the end of the movie, Patton walks alone, away from the pomp and circumstance of military success, and George Scott’s voiceover tells a cautionary tale.

“Throughout the centuries,” Scott says, “Conquering Roman emperors would parade through the city, displaying the defeated armies. Strange animals would be paraded along with the spoils of war. At the emperor’s side would be a slave, whispering in his ear, ‘All glory is fleeting.’”

“Just walk with God,” Stan said to himself, feeling magnanimous. “Walk with God.”

The next day’s L.A. Times ran a story about Billy Boswell signing with UCLA. It was the lead of the story. “Boswell signs with UCLA” overshadowed Rolling Hills’ 2-1 win, which was not mentioned until the third paragraph, which started, “USC-bound right-hander Stan Taylor led Rolling Hills to a victory that will be remembered for years on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.”

Stan maintained his focus and discipline in the second half of Bay League play. Billy resumed his heavy hitting, and the two teams kept winning. The re-match drew another huge crowd. This time, the team’s came in with identical 29-1 records. They were tied for the league lead, and ranked one-two (with Palos Verdes holding the one) in Southern California and national polls.

This time, Billy got his revenge. Stan was 14-0 coming in to the game, but Billy tagged him for two home runs in a 4-1 Palos Verdes victory. Both teams made the Southern Section play-offs, and they matched up again for the title game at Dodger Stadium. Stan had pitched and won the semi-final game against Long Beach Poly to get his team into the championship match. Campanella pitched the title game. Naturally, the opponent was Boswell and Palos Verdes. The press was calling the Palos Verdes-Rolling Hills rivalry, particularly the long battles between Billy Boswell and Stan Taylor, one of the greatest in high school history. They said it was the prep version of USC-Notre Dame, Alabama-Auburn or Oklahoma-Texas.

Tony was terrific, giving up only a solo homer to Billy. He led, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the seventh. Ambers already had Stan warming up. He should have had him resting, since he had pitched the night before. Ambers was no more concerned with Stan’s arm than he had with Eddie Andrews or Frank Ferrigno. When Tony walked the leadoff hitter, Stan was brought in. He had succeeded many times in these very situations. He was hungry for the ball.

The first hitter to face Stan was Billy. Stan challenged him with two fastballs, one called for a strike, the second swung at and missed. Billy took a vicious cut at the second one. Then Stan came up and in, brushing Billy off the plate. Billy glared out at Stan, who swiped the throw back from his catcher and returned the stare. 

Come on, Billy, Stan thought to himself. Come out here if you want some of me.

The next pitch was the key. Stan tried a “backdoor slider,” and everybody thought it had nipped the outside corner. Boswell was caught flat-footed after the “purpose pitch,” but the umpire was caught flat-footed, too. He called it a ball.

Stan challenged Billy on 2-and-2, but got it up. Billy smacked a screaming liner off the right-center field wall for a triple, driving in the tying run. He now represented the winning run at third with no outs. The place was going bananas.

Stan struggled to stay within himself.

Fucking umpire, he thought. Anybody but Billy Boswell and I get that call.

He probably was right. Boswell had already established such a reputation that he was getting the benefit of the doubt from umpires. It did not matter now. Stan bore down and struck out the next two hitters.

He looked into the stands. There was Dan, sitting next to Shirley, and he had that face. Behind the P.V. dugout was the entire Boswell clan. Big Al had made it for this one. There was Matt Hobli, sitting next to one of Billy’s girlfriends. Two white kids sitting in the middle of this large black family.

“Weird,” thought Stan.

Stan bore down to the next hitter, until the count was 1-and-2. His catcher was Bennie Hussein. Bennie was finally getting his chance. He rode the pine his whole Rolling Hills career, but had never quit. Now he was flashing the number two sign, for a curve ball.

All right, Stan figured, he would get the key strikeout with a breaking pitch. He wound and threw, and it was a beauty. A big, hard-breaking roundhouse. The Uncle Charlie.

The hitter froze.

“Strike three,” called the ump.

The ball broke sharply. Bennie gloved it, but the ball bounced out in front of home plate. The hitter saw this and took off for first. Bennie turned to look behind him.

“In front,” screamed Stan, but the crowd was loud and Bennie did not hear him. It was an easy play. Just pick up the ball at his feet and throw to first. But Bennie did not know where the ball was.

Bennie took two steps behind him, but could not see the ball. Billy, at third base, saw this. He calculated that Bennie wood not pick up the ball’s location, and that this was his team’s last, best chance to beat Stan Taylor. He darted for home. Stan ran for home, too. Damn, Billy had speed. Bennie never saw the baseball. It was resting a few inches in front of home plate. Had Bennie seen it, he could have picked it up and tagged Billy out with room to spare. Billy came sliding in. Stan scooped it up, and lunged to tag Billy out at home. It was a bang-bang play, but Billy hooked and came in just under the tag.

Stan lay on the ground surrounded by Palos Verdes players, who came charging out to hug Billy. He looked around and saw the faces of guys he had played with in little league and known since he was in grammar school. Chuck Berber was on the team. So was Frankie Yagman. He felt like they were dancing on his grave. He looked into the stands, and saw Al Erlanger. But nobody was mocking him. He had proven himself a worthy opponent and had earned their respect. It had all been decided fair and square, the way it was supposed to.

Palos Verdes was the Southern Section champ, and later would be voted number one in the nation. Had Rolling Hills won it, they would have captured that elusive “mythical” National Championship. The greatest era in the history of prep sports on the P.V. Peninsula was over.

In his last high school match-up with his greatest rival, Stan had come up short against Billy Boswell. A few weeks later, Billy made headlines again when the Chicago Cubs made him the first pick in the amateur draft. His dad negotiated with the Cubs, who he had played for in 1977. If they had retained an agent, Billy would have lost his amateur status and would not be able to play college ball, which was his main source of leverage. Al wanted $1 million for his son, an unheard of sum for a high school player at that time. Al battled over the big bucks with another famous battler, Cubs’ general manager Dallas Green.

The Boston Red Sox drafted Stan in the fourth round. Dan represented him in negotiations with Boston’s Haywood Sullivan. Coach Ambers tried to weasel his way in, but the Taylor’s did not want him anywhere around. 

Billy and Stan both made the Summer circuit while their fathers negotiated.  First, Billy teamed with Stan on some all-star teams. This included the California North-South game, in which Billy was named MVP after hitting a gargantuan home run. Then came the California-Oklahoma All-Star Game, in which Stan pitched five scoreless innings. For the first time, they actually began to communicate with each other.

“Dude, you were the toughest pitcher I ever faced,” Billy told him.

“Coming from you, that’s pretty high praise,” said Stan.

“Man, I wished you’dve stayed at Palos Verdes,” Billy said.

“You guys did pretty well for yourselves,” said Stan.

“So you gonna go to SC?” Billy asked.

“I’m sure I will,” replied Stan. “I really wanna go to college before I sign. What about you? You gotta sign.”

“To be honest with you,” said Billy, “I’m gonna play at UCLA. I know the Cubs are gonna come in with a lot of cash, but I don’t wanna sign and play in the minors right away like my dad. I’m kinda thinkin’ about all that fine pussy in Westwood, too.”

The two laughed.

“Yeah, I heard about you,” said Stan.

“Man, every time I went over there the girls were better and better lookin’,” Billy said.

“You visited SC, too,” said Stan. “How did they compare?”

“Oh, shit,” said Billy. “That’s like asking me which ‘Charlie’s Angel’ I wanna bang, right?”

“Let me guess,” said Stan. “Farrah Fawcett’s UCLA, and Jacqueline Smith’s USC.”

“Right,” laughed Billy. “I visited Texas and ASU, too. I’d have no complaints, there. Oh, man, at Austin, these ‘hostesses’ showed me around campus. Two of the best lookin’ Southern belles you ever seen. I left `em both beggin’ for more. Justine and Billy Jo. You meet them?”

“Yeah,” said Stan. “I met Justine and Billy Jo.”

“Then you know what I’m talkin’ about,” said Billy.

“Yeah,” said Stan. “Two of the hottest chicks I ever seen.”

They were hot all right, but neither one of them had offered themselves to prize baseball recruit Stan Taylor. He imagined them with Billy Boswell. Both of them at the same time.

Christ, thought Stan to himself, and I’m still a virgin.

He kicked himself over having let four years of high school pass without ever doing a ménage a trois with the dynamic duo of Staci and Lyndsey. He thought about the Texas cuties. They were nice to him, but never flirted with him in a big way.

What the hell was the matter with me? he thought.

Where Billy went, Matt Hobli went. He followed Billy’s lead. After his man smiled at Stan, Matt was all smiles, too.

“Hey, man, you were the shit,” he said to Stan.

“Not enough,” said Stan.

“Hey, you stopped us the first game,” said Matt.

“Not when it counted,” said Stan.

“I got a feeling you and Billy’ll be facing each other a bunch more before you’re through,” said Matt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

“AN ANCIENT LUNATIC REIGNS IN THE TREES OF THE NIGHT”

 

“Wild child full of grace
Savior of the human race
Your cool face

“Natural child, terrible child
Not your mother's or your father's child
Your our child, screamin' wild

“An ancient lunatic reigns
In the trees of the night
Ha, ha, ha, ha”

--“WILD CHILD”

By The Doors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Al Boswell and Dan Taylor tried to pry money out of Dallas Green and Haywood Sullivan, their sons continued to play on teams that Summer. Billy toured with USA Baseball across the country and internationally.

Good college baseball players play in what are known as the collegiate Summer leagues. The top leagues were the Alaskan League, the Jayhawk League, and the Cape Cod League.

The marquee teams in the Alaskan League were the Alaska Goldpanners, who played in Fairbanks, and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. Other teams included the North Pole Nicks, who also played in Anchorage; the Kenai Peninsula Oilers; and the Palmer Valley Green Giants.

The Boulder Collegians were a powerhouse in Colorado, and in the Jayhawk League, top teams played in Liberty and Dodge City, Kansas. Some fast Summer ball was played in the California Collegiate League, too. In Eureka, the Humboldt Crabs were a top program, and at the other end of the state, the San Diego Aztecs had a fine club. At the end of the Summer, winners of leagues and qualifying tournaments met in a 32-team tournament called the National Baseball Congress, held each year in Wichita, Kansas.

In Canada, various independent teams were formed in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In the early 1980s, Kamloops, B.C., Canada hosted a prestigious tournament, and baseball was so popular in Red Deer, Alberta that when the team played on weekends, the whole town would shut down to attend the games.

A team was also formed in Prince Georges, B.C. The manager of the team put out a call to American colleges that he had a top team that would play a tough schedule.

“Send me your young players,” his letter read.

While Dan was talking to the Red Sox, Stan wanted to play in one of these collegiate leagues. He was lobbying his new coaches at USC to place him in Alaska or Colorado.

“I got a team for you,” said USC assistant coach Kevin Brown. “Prince Georges, British Columbia. They got a new team up there. You’ll get a lot of innings instead of competing with All-Americans with the ‘Panners or the Collegians.”

So, Stan found himself on a plane to Seattle, then two more flights before landing in Prince Georges.

A burly lumberjack with a beard to his chest picked him up at the airport.

“I’m George,” he said. “Welcome to Western Canada. Ya hungry.”

“I ate on the plane,” said Stan.

“You can’t eat the shit they feed you on a plane, eh,” said George.

George went on about the team. He identified himself as the first baseman. He was about 35 years old.

“You play on the team?” asked Stan. “I thought you were the manager.”

“I am, laddie,” said George.

Stan’s heart sank. Coaches and assistant coaches from American colleges managed good collegiate Summer teams. Their teams were stocked with college players. Sometimes a recent professional who still wanted to play for the scouts would hook up with the teams. They did not have 35-year old local yokels who looked like Rip Van Winkle playing first base.

“So how many Americans are on the team?” asked Stan, wincing because he suddenly knew the answer.

“Eh, you’re the first we’ve ever had,” said George. “It’s an honor for us here in Prince Georges, a real baseball player, from California no less.”

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh shiiiiiitttt, Stan thought to himself. He just smiled so as not to give away his disappointment to the lumberjack.

The “collegiate Summer team” that he had been sent to was not even a “semi-pro” outfit. Nobody who ever played pro baseball had ever even been to Prince Georges, much less played on their team. They were a weekend beer league team. They had only converted from softball to hardball two years prior. The “players” were all guys who worked in the local brewery or were lumberjacks who lived in town on weekends. The field had no lights.

George swung by the “baseball field” from the airport. It was worse than any high school yard Stan had ever played in.

How in God’s name did I get sent here? Stan thought to himself. I was pitching at Dodger Stadium 10 days ago.

George was married with three kids. Stan apparently would be living at his home. The family was very nice. His wife was actually kind of pretty. The kids started tugging and pulling at him like he was a piece of taffy.

Lumberjack’s wife fixed up some tasty stew. As soon as she and the kids left the room, George whispered, “Would’ja care to go out for a beer?”

“Sure,” blurted Stan. For the first time in his young life, he needed alcohol.

After dinner, Stan put his bags in the guest room.

“Stan and I’ll go meet some of the guys,” George told his wife.

“Okay, honey,” Mrs. Lumberjack said. They kissed, and George gave his kids a hug.

George drove Stan to a local pub. Three men, all lumberjacks, two with beards and one clean-cut, already were into their third pitcher of Extra Old Stock. Everybody welcomed Stan like he was the Second Coming. Stan was put off at first, but the Extra Old Stock was the best beer he had ever tasted, and the lumberjacks were the four most gregarious, fun loving, wiseacres he had ever met. As the beer took its effect, Stan opened up.

They were all husky outdoorsmen who worked their rears off all week. By Friday afternoon, they needed to blow it out. The beers were flowing. Stan was feeling no pain. Stan did not spend a red cent that night.

The guys fought for the privilege of buying the next round. They were a piece of work, three lumberjacks with money in their pockets. They bought Stan beer after beer after beer. Extra Old Stocks, a malty Canadian brew. Anybody who has ever tasted Extra Old Stock fell in love with it.

After a while, they started powering shots of Canadian Club. Stan joined them on a bar hopping excursion. Prince Georges was like a town in the Old West, with swinging door saloons and lots of wood paneling. The bars were filled with lumberjacks and Canadian Indians. The few women looked like they had hit every branch on the ugly tree. The lumberjacks adopted Stan as their mascot.

Stan got drunker that night than he ever would in his life. They ended up in a sleazy strip club. It was the first time Stan had ever been in a strip club. Stan was so wasted that he went on the stage and started to gyrate with one of the ugly dancers. All the strippers were ugly. A bouncer removed him from the premises. Stan passed out on the sidewalk outside the club. A local cop was ready to arrest him, but Stan was rescued by one of the lumberjacks at the last minute, who had come to see where he was.

“We’ll take care of him, officer,” said the lumberjack. “He’s our mascot.”

“Yer mascot’s had enough,” said the policeman. “Get him to a bed.”

George gave Stan to a taxi driver with instructions on where to take him. He tipped the cabbie extra to haul Stan out of the car and put him to bed. Stan was driven home. He was completely passed out, and unable to tell him anything. The cabbie took him into the house.

Stan was put in the rollaway bed in the guest room. He was zonked out. In the morning, the lumberjack’s children came in to view him, like he was an animal their old man had shot and dragged home from a hunting trip. They pawed him and pondered the 18-year Californian. Stan woke, and saw the children. He mumbled something. His head pounded beyond comprehension. He would have gotten up to throw up, but was too destroyed to do that. He just lay there in agony.

The children were soon whisked off by their mother, who did not want them around Stan or their father’s three buddies, all of whom had crashed in the house and were occupying space like orbiting satellites. Once the missus was gone, the boys were up and about, whooping and hollering and carrying on. God, they were drinking. It was only 10 in the morning. Music went on the record player. Stan was kept awake by all the noise, but was completely unable to move. He was as miserable. George came in to wake him up to go to breakfast with him.

“The old lady took the kids,” he said. “We’re free men, laddie.”

“Go away,” is all Stan could muster.

Try as they might, nobody could move Stan. They kept him awake with their noise. Eventually, Stan got up to throw up. The lumberjacks saw how sick he was, and agreed to let him sleep it off. The lumberjacks left, while Stan kept snoozing. They never turned off the record player.

Devo’s album featuring “Secret Agent Man” played through, but there was something wrong with the machine. Instead of just ending, the album just started over again. It went on for hours. Stan gave very serious consideration to the possibility that he had died and gone to hell.

I shoulda been nicer to my parents, he managed to think to himself. I shouldn’t a watched those porn movies. I wish’t I’d gotten laid.

He got up in the afternoon, threw up, and wandered in to the room where Devo was playing at full blast.

“Secret Aaagent man…Secret Aaagent man,” Devo was singing.

Stan was too sick, blurry and stupid to figure out how to turn off the damn record player. He looked for the plug, but it was hooked up behind some kind of entertainment center that would have required breathing and movement for him to find. He gave up, went to the bathroom, threw up again, and went back to bed. He crashed on the disheveled sheets and tasted the rotten bile of his own vomit.

I am in hell, he thought. He opened his eyes, expecting to see the devil. No devil.

Still could be, he muttered.

The lumberjacks came back around three. They had already been to the pub.

“Wake up, you pussy,” one of them screamed at Stan’s head. “Don’t they teach ya to drink like a man in California, eh?”

“Aaarrghhrrgh,” said Stan.

At six, George entered the room.

“Stan,” he said, “me `n’ the boys’ ’r’ goin’ to the pub, eh. Come along, we’ll getcha somethin’ to eat, eh?”

“No,” Stan said into his pillow, which had yellow spots of bile on it.

“”Er, shit, boy,” said George. “C’mon, ya can’t keep layin’ here.”

“No,” said Stan.

“Well, the missus is stayin’ at her folks the night with the kids,” said the lumberjack. “There’s some stew left from last night.”

“Thanks,” said Stan. His eyes never opened.

Finally, the noise - the voices, Devo, the lumberjacks - was gone. The shades were pulled to provide proper darkness. It would not get dark in this part of the world until almost midnight, and the Northern Lights could be seen on the horizon.

Stan awoke about 10, and managed to go outside. It was a beautiful June evening. It was still bright out. Stan threw up again. He went back to bed and slept the night. He never ate food.

The next day, George woke him up.

“I gotta go,” he said. “The missus is at work, and the kids are at the nursery. There’s eggs in the fridge.”

“Thanks,” muttered Stan.

About 10:30, Stan pulled himself out of bed. He was still just as hung over as if he had drank the previous evening. He scowered the kitchen and managed to find some food, which helped. He watched some television. He took his floss, toothbrush, toothpaste and mouth wash into the shower. He scraped and cleaned his mouth until his tongue, teeth and throat were no longer coated with bile. He stood under the water as hot as he could stand it, and slowly revived.

Stan did not shave. He dried, and dressed himself. He went to the living room and found a phone. He called Braniff Airlines and made reservations to fly to Los Angeles that night. Then he called Walt Coleman, told him the whole story of his soon-to-be aborted trip to Canada, and told him he would treat him to “a meal at Joe’s” if he would pick him up at LAX.

“My Dan,” said Walt, “consider it done.”

Stan called a cab, packed, and left the house when the taxi showed up. He left no note. He became a legend in Prince Georges. Nobody ever knew what became of him. One story had him running away with the stripper he had danced with, because she left town, too. Another tale had him killed by a bear that ate him alive when he fell drunk outside George’s house. The lumberjacks even faced loose accusations of killing him in and the stripper in a drinking ritual. The police investigated the latter story but found no evidence. Of course, a few calls to the airlines and taxi companies would have solved the question, but the Prince Georges law authorities were not from Scotland Yard. To this day, a plaque memorializes Stan in the pub where he got so drunk with the lumberjacks.

“He was a ghost, a waif. The mystery of California Stan,” it reads. “He came, he drank, and he disappeared with the Summer wind.” Prince Georges residents would speak his name and then go “do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-, do do doooo,” like the music from old “Twi-Light Zone” episodes.

Walt picked Stan up at LAX. They drove straight to Dodger Stadium, and arrived in the fourth inning of a game against the Mets.

“A meal at Joe’s,” Walt announced after the game.

At Joe’s, they ordered cheeseburgers, a side of spinach, and Coors. Stan felt old after his crazy weekend. Unshaven, he looked like he had just returned from a special ops mission on the Mekong Delta. The waiter did not question the order for beers.  

“I’ll take care of it,” Walt told Stan when the check came.

“No, man,” said Stan, “it’s on me.”

 “I’m makin’ cash dollars at Rite-Aid,” Walt announced.

“Thanks, Walt,” said Stan. “You got enough?”

Stan walked outside. Walt sprinted out.

“Hurry,” said Walt.

He had pulled a “runner.” They got to the car and drove off.

“Any decision on college?” Stan asked him.

Stan had been trying to get Walt to go to USC with him. Every week in his senior year, Walt walked up to Stan.

“Dan,” Walt said. “I shall be matriculating at the University of Hawaii.”

The next week it was, “Dan, I’m gonna be a Bruin. It’s UCLA for me.”

Followed by, “Dan, I shall pursue a conservative education at Chapman University, located in that bastion of Republicanism, Orange County.”

The next week it was San Diego State, “America’s leading party school,” according to Walt.

“El Camino Junior College,” was Walt’s answer.

The day after his return from Prince Georges, Stan was on the phone to Coach Brown. He did not tell Brownie about his drinking binge. Neither USC nor the Red Sox would have been happy to hear that their prospect had almost died of alcohol poisoning. 

“Is there still a team you can place me with?” he asked. “I don’t want to play Legion ball or semi-pro this Summer. I need good competition.”

“There’s one more spot for a pitcher in Kamloops, B.C.,” said Brown.

“Not Canada again,” said Stan.

“Trust me,” said Brownie. “This is legit.”

 Stan was sent Kamloops to play on a team of players from various colleges. The team was run by a Seattle Mariners scout and managed by a respected coach from Spokane Junior College. Stan and a shortstop named Danny Camara, whose brother was a wild-armed (and wild-eyed) pitcher in the big leagues, roomed at the home of Kamloops’ richest citizen, the owner of the local brewery and sponsor of the team.

It was a crazy Summer, filled with more partying and excellent baseball. At 18 he was away from home. Camara seemingly slept with every girl in town. Most of Stan’s teammates were getting laid left and right.

A black second baseman named Al Timmons was banging every white Canadian woman in sight. Stan was not real happy that everybody was getting so much trim, because he did not get any. Still, he became good friends with Timmons, who had a wining personality. 

Stan read two books that Summer. “No One Here Gets Out Alive” was Danny Sugarman’s biography of Jim Morrison of The Doors. Stan was getting in to their music. He particularly liked Morrison’s lyrics, “An ancient lunatic reigns in the trees of the night.”

Stan recalled his drunken night in Prince Georges.

Truer words were never spoken, Stan thought to himself.

He also read “Amityville Horror”. In the final scene, a family on Long Island is confronted by a ghostly specter that points a bony finger at them, directing them out of their dream house. The house Stan stayed in with Camara was on a hill. There were no other homes around. When Stan came home at night, he had to walk down a long driveway, with the trees whistling in the wind. It was spooky. Once inside, he had to cross a big living room. In order not to leave the light on, he had to turn the switch off and cross the room in the dark. After reading “Amityville Horror”, he barely had the courage to sprint across the room.      

Stan was the ace of the team, with a 9-2 record and a 1.93 earned run average. Kamloops had a big ballpark, with lots of foul territory and distant fences. The pitcher’s mound was elevated to the pre-1969 height. In 1969, baseball lowered the height of the mound after the Year of the Pitcher, when Denny McLain won 31 games, and Bob Gibson’s earned run average was 1.12. Stan was unhittable in Kamloops.

Stan was still a virgin. He thought he was going to break his streak after a game against Walla Walla, Washington. Stan pitched a perfect game, winning 6-0. One of his teammates, a junior college pitcher from Spokane JC, had his girlfriend and her sister visiting him. He invited Stan to go out with them after his great effort.

The girls were delicious-looking blondes. Stan was flush with success after pitching the game of his life. The girls had seen the game. They were impressed. They went to a local bar. None of them were 21, but nobody ever carded in Kamloops. Stan got good and loose drinking Extra Old Stocks, and cliqued with the girl. Finally, they all went back to the house where the JC pitcher was staying with his host family. The JC kid and his girlfriend went to bed, leaving Stan and his blonde date. The girl took her clothes off. She sat there in her white panties and bra. Stan did not kiss her. He did not make a pass at her.

“Well, it’s getting late,” he said to her.

“It was nice meeting you,” said the girl.

That was it. Stan left. He walked out the door, and immediately identified himself as the dumbest slob that ever lived.

She was just begging for it, he said to himself. Or was she? Did she take her clothes off because she wanted to have sex with him, or because she was tired and wanted Stan to leave. Stan recalled the words of one of his sex-crazed CYO basketball teammates.

“When in doubt,” the kid had said, “whip it out.”

He had flinched. When the pressure was on in a baseball game, he wanted the ball. But here, he hesitated and blew his chance. He knew that wherever Billy Boswell was at that moment, he probably had a friggin’ harem, for Christ sakes. Stan, on the other hand, could not close the deal. He was still almost as helpless as he had been with Staci and Lyndsey. 

Dan wanted reports of all Stan’s games in Kamloops. Stan showered and headed out on the town after games. He was anxious for beer and a chance at broads. It was not on his agenda to recite every detail, and answer pain-staking questions from Dan.  

Stan called him after the first two games, both impressive victories. The calls were pretty easy to make. The third game was on the road, and he had to make the team bus. When he finally got back to the house of the family where he and Camara were staying, it was 4:30 in the morning. A note was on his bed, which read, “Call your father as soon as you get home.”

Thinking there was an emergency at home, Stan called. The phone was picked up almost before it made a sound.

“Stan!” came Dan’s urgent voice.

“Yes,” said Stan. “Are you all right?”

  “How’d you do?” said Dan. “How come you didn’t call?”

Stan just stared into the phone. Camara, his roomie, just smiled as if to say, “Aren’t you the lucky one.” He had heard several weeks of “Dan stories.”

“Stan, are you there?” asked Dan. “Answer me.”

Stan recited his performance. Seven innings, three hits, one run (earned), one walk, and eight strikeouts. He got credit for the victory over a team from Vancouver, 5-2.

“How come you didn’t call me from a pay phone?” asked Dan. “I’ve just been sitting here stewing.”

“We were pretty rushed, Dad,” said Stan.

Dan asked a few more questions. It was now after five in the morning.

“Can we cut this one short, Dad?” asked Stan. “I’m pretty bushed.”

In the other bed, Camara just laughed. After Stan finally hung up, he started talking about his own father. Camara’s dad had been born in Mexico. He had worked the fields and now he was the manager of a produce market in Salinas, California. He put in 14-hours, six days a week, and never missed church on Sunday. The Camara’s were devout Catholics. Camara was devoted to his wife, who Danny said was the best cook in the world. The old man was strict with his kids, and accepted no crap. His two wild boys kept his hands full. 

“One time I had this broad,” recalled Danny. “We had no place else to go, so I chanced it. We couldn’t go to my bedroom because it was right next to my parents and they’d hear me, so I banged her on the couch in the dark. When I was done I drove her home. Then I came back and went to sleep, figuring I was so smart, I’d pulled one over on `em, you know?

“In the morning, I’m sound asleep and my old man’s standing over me. `Come with me, Danny,’ he says. I’m thinking, `Oh, shit.’

“He leads me - I’m in my underwear - to my mother’s favorite couch. Now it’s light and I see this huge cumstain on it.

“‘What’s this, Danny,’” Camara imitated his dad.

“‘Uh, nothin.’

“‘Bullshit, Danny.’”

Camara and Stan would stay in touch with each other for years. “Bullshit Danny” was their standard greeting. Camara liked Stan. He knew the guy was not getting girls, while he seemed to have a surplus of them. He did not judge Stan on his lack of success. Stan was embarrassed by his failures, and Danny did not press the subject. Stan did not admit he was a virgin. He intimated without getting into specifics that he had been with girls. He stretched and expanded his descriptions of the potential Staci/Lyndsey ménage a trois, and his Kimberly Biagini episode. He hated to lie, but if somebody asked him if he had ever been with a chick, he did not come right out and admit that he had never had intercourse.

The Kamloops team traveled to Edmonton play a tournament. In the title game, Stan started against a club from Santa Clara, California.  His undefeated record was broken, and he was beaten badly. Santa Clara had a first baseman from San Jose State named Greg Rosales. He gave Stan a particularly hard ribbing. Rounding third and heading for home after Stan had yielded a double, Rosales yelled, “Tits lit, tits lit,” at Stan.

“You’re going down, Rosales,” Stan yelled.

Stan kept getting hit. The manager was ready to pull him, but he talked his way into staying in the game long enough to face Rosales again. The bases were loaded. That did not stop Stan from firing a 90-mile per hour fastball directly into Rosales’ ribs.

A huge brawl ensued. Stan found himself swinging at anybody wearing a Santa Clara uniform. Rosales sustained some severe bruising from the bean ball, but nobody was hurt in the fight. Few injuries materialize from baseball fights. Stan was thrown out of the game.

Stan called his old man from the hotel.

“I got hit pretty hard,” he told Dan.

The silence at the end of the line was deafening.

“Did you take the loss?” Dan asked, the way a man might ask, “How many times did you rape her?”

“Yes,” mumbled Stan.

On these occasions, Dan did not yell. He swore under his breath. He was disappointed. It was agony for Stan to endure. Dan wanted all the gory statistics. How many innings? Were all the runs earned? Any home runs? Giving up long balls was a particularly egregious sin.

Stan finally ended the call. He had no chance of recovering and enjoying the rest of the day. Playing for Kamloops was serious stuff, but it was still Summer ball. The kids were supposed to have fun. Baseball was not fun for Stan. It was business, and it had been since he was 10 years old.  

“Shit, I need a drink,” he said to no one out loud.

In Los Angeles, Dan negotiated with the Red Sox throughout July and August. The club had until the first day of school to sign him. If not, he would be ineligible for the draft until his junior year. If he signed while there was still time, the Red Sox would ship him to their rookie league affiliate.

Dan got the Bosox to $35,000. He told Stan he should sign. Dan said they had to get to $45,000.

“Don’t be greedy,” Dan told Stan.

The season ended with the Kamloops International Tournament. For three days, teams played to capacity crowds. Stan won the opener, 6-1, pitching a one-hitter. He started the championship game, too. USC’s coaches and the Red Sox were furious that their prospect was used so much. Stan lost the title game to a strong North Pole Nicks squad. They were composed mainly of players from Pepperdine, UCLA and Cal-Berkeley. He pitched well, though. All four runs he gave up were unearned, and he was rewarded with the Top Pitcher award.

The last night in Canada, Stan and his mates went to Champions, a sports bar they frequented. Stan met a beautiful blonde fitness trainer named Jan. She was 21, and thought herself “too old” for Stan, but Stan was on her like white on rice. They spent most of the night kissing passionately. Stan tried everything he could think of to get her to go to bed with him.

“It’s my last night in Canada,” Stan begged her, as if he was a flyboy going up against a squadron of Messerschmidts the next day. “Give me something to remember.”

“I don’t sleep around,” Jan said. “Although you are awfully cute.”

Almost everybody else on the team was paired up with a girl. In the end, Stan had to go home frustrated.

“What about me?” he moaned.

If he could have stayed in Kamloops longer, he might have turned Jan into his girlfriend. It was just his luck that he met her his on last night before going back to California. Stan and Jan exchanged phone numbers. Her heart-shaped lips, framed by a pretty face with long, silky blonde hair, would only be a sweet memory.

 

Stan was not greedy. He did not really want to sign a pro baseball contract. He wanted to go to USC. He felt that life at the University of Southern California offered golden promises that he needed to experience. It was not just the academics. He wanted the imprimatur of “college man” on his resume. He pictured himself being a golden boy, a Big Man On Campus. He had heard all the stories. His grandfather had gone there, as had his uncle, his dad, everybody. All those SC sorority girls were waiting for him.

Billy turned down the money, too. The Cubs came after him hard. They met Al’s $1 million demand, so Al upped it to $1.5 million. They met that, too. But Billy would not sign. When UCLA began Fall classes, the Cubs were out of the running. Billy was playing football for coach Terry Donahue no matter what, since the NCAA had made athletes eligible to play one sport even if they were pros in another.

When it was announced that Boswell was indeed accepting his full ride baseball scholarship to UCLA, the Chicago papers went crazy. Cubs’ management was blamed, but so was Billy. He was viewed as greedy and dishonest in his dealings. Dallas Green was furious at both Billy and Al.

The media said it was just another example of Cub bungling. No wonder they had not won the World Series since 1908. How could they waste the first pick in the draft on a high school player they could not sign? One Windy City columnist quoted Sun-Tsu’s “The Art of War”, which emphasizes knowledge of how the battle will play out before it is fought. The Cubs had entered into the Billy Boswell sweepstakes “flying blind,” wrote Hall of Fame scribe Jerome Holtzman.

At UCLA, Billy played on the football team his freshman year. He started three games and demonstrated great potential. In the Spring, he was a First Team All-American center fielder in baseball.

Stan moved into a student apartment called the Regal Trojan Arms, on West Adams Boulevard, near the USC campus. His roommate was a junior college transfer from a working class family in Syracuse, New York named Mark Terry. Terry was tall, ruggedly handsome, and smart as a whip.

Terry had never been to California. The previous day, he had arrived at L.A. International Airport. It was 107 degrees. He hailed a cab and told the driver to take him to USC. The driver took the Baldwin Hills route, instead of the crowded rush hour freeways. Terry looked out his window and saw ghetto neighborhoods, filled with inner city blacks and Mexican immigrants selling fruit on street corners. He saw cars with no tires, broken windows, boarded-up houses and burned-out business. The neighborhoods got worse and worse. He thought he was descending into a nightmare.

“Is this L.A. or Beirut?” Terry asked the cabbie.

The cabbie was from Beirut.

“Beirut much better,” he said.

After what seemed like two hours, he saw the looming presence of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which made him a feel a little better. Then he glanced at a liquor store being held up on Vermont Street. The cab drove past the campus, which looked nice. The surrounding neighborhood was a disaster area, though.

He had thought that USC was in Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He was looking for blonde Amazon girls and surfer dudes with dark brown tans. He saw something else. Terry was unaware that people could be so black. They were loitering in the streets of a burned-out urban core. Terry was a tough Irish kid, but he felt fear. He had been to Yankee Stadium, located in one of the worst neighborhoods in The Bronx. Terry’s first instinct was that this place was much rougher. He was not safe and he knew it. The cab dropped him at the Regal Trojan Arms. The ride cost $75. Terry had $100 in his wallet.

“Jesus H. Christ,” he muttered while handing his dough to the cabbie. The temperature had gone from 107 at the airport to 111 in South Central L.A. Terry hauled his bags up to the apartment. His roommate had not yet moved in. Terry had seen a grocery store on his way in, called the 32nd Street Market.

He put his stuff away, and knew he needed to get some food. He walked in the scorching heat, past homeless bums, Mexican familias, black street people, wealthy fratties, uppity college chicks, and the brutal fumes of dilapidated Los Angeles busses, to the 32nd Street Market.

Knowing he would need money after buying groceries, he cashed a check at a window located at the front of the store. It cost him $7 to get $50. He bought essential groceries, and exited the store holding heavy plastic bags in both hands. He started walking in the scorching heat, past the same homeless bums, Mexican familias, black street people, wealthy fratties, uppity college chicks, and the brutal fumes of dilapidated Los Angeles busses.

He walked for 15 minutes. Then he stopped.

“Shit,” he said.

Every street looked identical. The houses in this neighborhood were all the same. It had been a good neighborhood when Stan Taylor’s great-great-grandfather attended USC in the 1880s. That was then. This was now.

Terry saw the Mexicans, the black street folk and the dilapidated busses, but suddenly the wealthy fratties and uppity college girls had vanished. He was west of Ellendale, which was tantamount to being a Protestant waving the Union Jack in the Catholic section of Belfast.

He tried to ask some people where West Adams Boulevard was. The Regal Trojan Arms?

“No se,” was the best he could get.

For two hours, sweat poured through pores in his body that Mark Terry did not know he had. He fumbled and swore his way through the mean streets of South Central. Terry was a Catholic. He had gone to Mass every Sunday growing up. He called on his personal Lord and Savior for help in his time of need. He normally tried to reserve his prayers to the Almighty for times of real need. An illness to his little sister. A friend in a coma who had been run down by a car. The Red Sox against Cincinnati in the ’75 Fall Classic.

“Dear Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name,” Terry recited the Lord’s Prayer. “Thine Kingdome come, thine will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And deliver us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen”

 Not satisfied that he had enough spiritual power working for him, he went into the Nicene Creed. Then he recited some rosaries. He dropped his bags and blessed the sign of the cross. He put in a fresh dip of Copenhagen.

He needed fluids and was getting dehydrated. He told God he was sorry he had not gone to Notre Dame, or stayed near home and gone to Boston College.

“No, I had to come to California and look for pussy,” he scolded himself. “This is not real. It’s an Eagles song.”

Another half hour in Hotel California yielded no good results. Terry was almost ready to just give up. He figured the cops would find him eventually. He had morally and physically given up when he saw the Regal Trojan Arms.

In later years, Terry became a captain of industry. Rich, powerful and respected. When he felt the need to feel humble, he always reminded himself that he had actually given up that day in Los Angeles. He viewed all his days thereafter as Redemption.                  

Terry was a devoted Boston Red Sox fan who could talk baseball and baseball history with Stan, nose to nose. He was addicted to chewing tobacco, and offered Stan a pinch between his cheek and gum.

“Sure,” said Stan, who had never tried tobacco products, smokeless or otherwise. He had seen teammates pack a dip, though, and executed his first one flawlessly. It felt good at first. After about three minutes, his head started to spin. He felt as if Terry had given him LSD instead of Copenhagen. He wanted to vomit. He did not want to make an ass out of himself within five minutes of meeting his new roommate. He held the line. He worked through the spins. He refused to give in. It was a battle of life and death. Stan won it.

After about three minutes of crisis, the spins started to go away. A few minutes passed, and while he was still weak, he felt good. He had survived his initiation into chewing tobacco. He was hooked, and would remain hooked until 1996.

“Wanna go to a frat party?” asked Terry. “Gotta be a lotta hot chicks.”

“Y-yyyyes,” said Stan.

Stan and Terry got a bite to eat, showered and dolled up. They strolled over to frat row. Parties were going on everywhere, and gorgeous SC girls roamed the warm the August night.

They all looked tanned, sexy and rich. Stan and Terry drank as many beers as they could pour down their gullets. Stan was unbelievably excited to be there. He kept pinching himself and saying, “I can’t believe I’m a Trojan. My dad wanted me to sign. I’m so frickin’ glad I didn’t. This is awesome.”

He and Terry immediately discovered they had the same offbeat sense of humor. They had a wry way of looking at others and finding something funny. Terry was an extension of Brad Cooper and Walt Coleman. They both rushed the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The frat president was Brad’s brother, Jeff, who was already a legend at USC because he got as many girls there as he had at Rolling Hills High School. They were both accepted. Rush was not hard. Stan was hoping he would have to have sex with a hooker or some easy sorority sister in order to get in, but no such luck.

Stan and Terry took an oceanography class. Stan studied very hard. He felt that now that he was in college, he owed it to himself to get the most out of his education. Terry rarely went to the class, and never even bought the assigned texts, much less studied them. Terry got a better grade on the final than Stan. They both pulled Ds, and that was only because the instructor, Dr. Bernard Pipkin, was a big sports fan. The best part of the class was taking a boat trip off of the Palos Verdes Peninsula to study marine life. Stan got a kick out of seeing his house from the boat.

“This ought to teach you a lesson,” said Terry after they both received the same grade in oceanography. “Don’t waste valuable party time studying for a class you’re gonna get a D in anyway.”

Terry had a point. Stan was willing to put in the time, but he lacked good reading comprehension. If he read something that did not interest him, or he lacked a frame of reference for, he failed to retain the information. He had labored under the illusion that he could remember what he read, because he recalled baseball stories so well. But oceanography was different from the 1927 Yankees. 

In Fall ball, which ran from September to Thanksgiving, Stan met his match. He was a prized recruit, and counted on to contribute as a freshman. But he was facing top college competition, and he had his hands full.

Stan faced some problems among his new teammates. He came in with some attitude. He knew he was good. He had gotten a lot of publicity, and his peers sized him up. He had a big ego. Stan was smiling, full of jokes, and a prankster. Everybody did not understand his personality. Mark Terry understood him perfectly. They became inseparable friends. But he was in the minority. It had always been that way.

Still, Stan took to college life.  High school had been better than junior high, and college was better than high school. He felt some resentment and jealousy, but overall he was accepted.

His vision of SC had been some kind of jock paradise, in which he could pick and choose from among a coterie of gorgeous coeds. He was going to parties, socializing, and no longer felt restricted. He was free. Girls did not throw themselves at him, however. 

Dan was still an ever-present part of his life. His office was just a few minutes from the USC campus. He swung by practice all the time. Stan would be in his apartment, and there would be a knock on the door.

“Maybe it’s women inviting us to have sex,” Terry would call out.

Stan answered. It was his old man letting himself in. This engendered a mini-panic to remove any pornography, contraband or other like items of an incriminating nature.  

Drugs had been plentiful at Rolling Hills High, with all the rich kids, surfers and rockers. Walt was into smoking weed. Stan had puffed on a few joints. He never took to it. To say that alcohol “helped” Stan is dangerous territory. In one year, he had gone from getting intoxicated and trying to break into Kimberly Biagini’s house, to coming perilously close to succumbing to alcohol poisoning with the lumber jacks in Northern Canada. Now, he was regularly drinking with Mark Terry at USC.

Stan was a young man battling the demons and dangers of alcohol. He had yet to learn his tolerance level. The only way to do that was through the experience of making mistakes. He went from feeling great to throwing up and always kicked himself for crossing that unpleasant line. But it was a social lubricant. When he drank, his personality flexed his verbal muscles. He learned to refine his humor for public consumption. Whereas only he and Brad understood their old “skits,” now Stan regaled an audience into laughter. Stan enjoyed getting a reaction.

He also developed a tremendous love of rock music. He owned three records when he entered USC. These included a Beach Boys greatest hits album, Boston’s first album, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “One More From the Road”.

After reading “No One Here Gets Out Alive”, he picked up The Doors’ important albums. He went through musical discovery. He understood what Greg Grillo had tried to teach him between the sixth and seventh grades. Stan started to drive a car in his last “wonder year” of high school. Listening to music on the radio had whetted his appetite. Now, he bought magazines and read up on music of the present and, most particularly, the past. He was as much in awe of music in the 1960s as he had been with baseball history.

Within a very short time, he became an expert on The Doors, The Who, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and many other rock groups. He knew the names of the band members. He knew the lyrics to their songs. He knew the years their hit albums came out. He got to the point where he could recite rock “stats” the way he could with baseball.

Sure, Ty Cobb hit .420 in 1912, but “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was nipping at his heels with a .408 mark. Rogers Hornsby hit .424 in 1924. Jack Chesbro had 41 victories for the 1904 New York Highlanders. He now also knew that The Doors’ first album, called simply, The Doors, had lit up the music world in 1967. Jim Morrison had gone to UCLA Film School with Francis Ford Coppola. Most of the group Boston had been brilliant students from MIT, which explained their revolutionary use of synthesizers. Pete Townsend of The Who was the “thinking man” of rock ’n’ roll. Mick Jagger had attended the London School of Economics before becoming a Rolling Stone.

Stan also became a film buff. He entered USC as a communications major, but took History of American Film. He thought it would be easy. All he had to do was watch movies on Monday nights.

The professor, Caspar McAndrews, was a flaming homosexual who would say things like, “Out of this wasteland of ‘40s noir, financed by the fantasies of men-children such as Howard Hughes, an entire new wave hit Hollywood, and this wave was a phenomenon that manifested itself in a tits ’n’ ass syndrome that was…Marilyn Monroe.” McAndrew would finish his sentences in a flourish of speed words, as if he had to say it before somebody unplugged his microphone.

Athletes at SC were routinely kept eligible if they showed some effort and a little bit of interest. Stan was looking for a “courtesy B” in History of American Film. There was just one problem. History of American Film was part of the School of Cinema-Television. Stan did not know much about the School of Cinema-Television, more commonly referred to as the film school. He did not know that George Lucas went there, or that the school had turned down Steven Spielberg. He figured it was like a bunch of kids watching movies at the Cineplex on a Saturday night.

He was wrong. The class was made up mostly of freshmen, but they were unlike the other freshmen at the University of Southern California. Many of them were older people who had spent several years making independent student films, and writing scripts, in order to impress the entrance committee at the film school. Rather than get on with their college careers at some other school, they had chosen to build up their “resumes” in order to get into one of only four film school that counted. In addition to USC, the others were UCLA, Columbia, and NYU. Everything else was the minor leagues.

The freshmen that came straight from high school were a whole new breed of cat. They hailed from Massachusetts, Colorado, Spain, Mexico and other places. They were not the folks sitting in the Coliseum rooting section at football games. The girls were a trip. Many of them were lesbian. They all disdained the Newport/San Marino “I love daddy” blondes who made up such a visual presence at SC. They had glasses, with clipped hair, wore heavy coats on hot days, smoked cigarettes, and swore profusely.

“Kubrick is a fucking genius.” “Oh, Goddard, now there’s a fucking genius.”

They used terms like noir, mosaic, motif and genre. Stan had no clue what the hell they were talking about. The very first night, McAndrew screened “Apocalypse Now”.

“This is one of the most important films of all time,” he announced, to applause.

What the hell is he talking about? Stan thought to himself.

 He had gone to see “Apocalypse Now” with Brad Cooper in December of 1979. He knew the main actor, Marlon Brando, and remembered having seen Brando, fat and bald, in a People magazine pictorial. He knew Francis Ford Coppola, and had enjoyed “The Godfather”. He expected big things out of this over-hyped movie that had taken five years to make. 

When he and Brad went to see it, for some reason they had gotten into the theatre early. It was playing on several screens at the Cineplex. While waiting for seating to open up, they snuck in to see the ending of “Apocalypse”. There was an unrecognizable guy, covered in some kind of goop, making his way through what looked like a bunch of Aborigines or something. The music was intense. Stan had never heard Dolby stereo before.

What the hell is this? he thought.

When he sat and watched it from the beginning, it still confused him.

“I’m here a week now,” says Martin Sheen, playing Captain Willard, “waiting for a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service.”

A mission? thought Stan. Is this guy a missionary, a religious guy or something?

Stan managed to figure out the first half, especially the Colonel Kilgore character, played by Robert Duvall, and the surfing scenes. Blowing up the Viet Cong village seemed an especially John Wayne moment, which was okay by him. Then the movie seemed to sink of its own weight. It got dark, literally and figuratively. The final scenes, with Brando in shadows quoting poets Stan had never heard of, was just a waste. Killing the cow was sick. At the end, Stan could not tell what the hell had happened.

“Did Sheen kill Brando?” he asked Brad. “Did they blow up the village in the credits?”

Years later, Brad would tell anybody who listened that he understood the film’s classic sensibilities from the get-go.

“I have no fucking clue,” he told Stan in December, 1979.

Now, sitting in a darkened classroom at USC, Stan watched it again. He had become a big Doors fan, so the opening scene using “The End” was splendid. The film played itself out, and Stan was transformed by it. Everything he did not grasp the first time, he now understood. That which repulsed him in 1979, was awe-inspiring in 1982. Brando’s method acting no longer looked like a joke.

“He’s a poet-warrior in the classic sense,” says photojournalist Dennis Hopper, who seems to be almost an apparition. Stan realized now what Brando’s Colonel Kurtz was trying to say. His reading of “Heart of Darkness” came back to him, and he saw the battle between good and evil that raged in his mind. Kurtz was a man who could not separate his humanity from his vision of military necessity. The unresolved conflict resulted in madness, which he justifies when the native villagers make him pagan idol.

  Robert Duvall was a tour de force. Sheen bore his soul on camera. When the lights finally came on amid thunderous applause, Stan knew he had seen one of the greatest films of all time. He also was beginning to feel like a USC film student.

He bought the required texts, and started reading them. The history and politics of movies. The Black List of the McCarthy Era, which never really ended until Kirk Douglas had the balls to give Dalton Trumbo a screen credit for “Spartacus” in 1960. How “The Manchurian Candidate” was shelved after the Kennedy assassination because it hit too close to home.

Stan had to write a report on “Apocalypse”. He put great thought into it, studied the texts, used sources and quoted them intelligently. McAndrew gave him an A-. He started hanging out with other students, talking about film. He no longer called them movies. Stan made a few mistakes, but learned quickly. McAndrew gave him an A- on his final. That was his final class grade.

Stan could always do accents. By now, he was perfecting them. His friends were becoming mature enough to appreciate his “talent.” He would regale people with perfect imitations of Ronald Reagan (“Wellll, there ya go again”) and Winston Churchill (“Never, in the course of human events, have so many, owed so much, to so few…This is England’s finest hour.”)

He could do Kennedy and Richard Nixon. He could imitate actors. He memorized sayings from movies and could repeat them verbatim.

“That’s a helluva lot a money for a nigger boy from Philadelphia to be carryin’ in his pocket,” he said in a perfect Rod Steiger rendition from “The Heat of the Night”. He uncannily captured Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Black players on his own team raised their eyebrows when they heard it, but admitted, “white boy does sound like Dr. King.” He repeated phrases from “Apocalypse Now”.

  “Do you smell that?” he said, sounding more like Duvall than Duvall. “That’s napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. One time we had a hail-bomb. The whole hill. When it was all over, I walked up. I couldn’t find one of `em. Not one stinkin’ dink body. But the smell, the gasoline smell. It smells like…victory.”

He spontaneously broke into, “I coulda been a Governor Corleone. I coulda been a Senator Corleone…”and “Barzini, dead. Tattaglia, dead,” and “I’m gonna blame some of the people in this room,” and other memorable “Godfather” moments. People told him he should pursue acting.  

Walking on campus he came upon a ROTC unit in formation, standing at attention. From the side, Stan perched himself on a bench.

“No bastard ever won a war, by dieing for his country,” he announced in a loud George Patton spectacle that had heads turning every which way. “He won it, by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

Later, the ROTC boys told him it was one of the best things they had ever heard. Stan walked up to teammates and whispered in their ear, “All glory is fleeting.”

 “What the hell,” the teammates said. “Oh, Taylor, it’s you. You’re a weird dude, man.”

“Thank you,” Stan replied.

Stan became notorious for “mooching” chewing tobacco from his teammates. When he ran out of Copenhagen, he bummed it off others. He rotated his mooching so as not to get the same guy over and over. It became a running joke, with Stan resorting to obsequiousness to get his fix taken care of.

“Hey man,” he said to teammates, in a squeaky voice. “Man, you’re a cool dude…you’re a good-lookin’ guy…I bet the chick’s dig ya. You’re a baaad duuude. Gimme a chew!”  

There were not a lot of black players on USC’s baseball team, but there were plenty on the football and basketball squads. Stan got to know a lot of them. Some came from the ghettos. He had never been around a lot of blacks, but he liked it. He enjoyed the diversity. He liked being a fellow blue chip athlete. There was an easy camaraderie and respect that athletes accord each other, and he was happy to be a part of it.

Stan made good friends with Jack Oliver, a black outfielder from Lancaster. Lancaster is in the high desert, where Edwards Air Force Base is located. Edwards was the home of the great test pilots who made up the U.S. Space program in the 1960s. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier there in 1947. Oliver was known as “Black Jack” behind his back. Oliver called everybody by single initials.

“Whas’sup, T?” “Hey Mr. M.”

Oliver was a junior who hit left-handed but threw right-handed. He had transferred to USC from Barstow Junior College after his freshman year, but was disappointed with his playing time. He was the kind of hitter who could wake up at midnight on New Year’s Eve and hit line drives to hang clothes on, but he had brutal defensive skills.

“Clang,” his teammates said when he bungled balls hit to him in left field. Consequently, he was used as a designated hitter   

Oliver had played high school ball with a guy who was now with the Oakland A’s. He talked about him constantly. Most of his teammates were sick about hearing “Murph this and Murph that,” but Stan enjoyed the stories. Once Jack realized he had found a friendly ear, he gravitated to Stan. They began to hang out together. Oliver had a cocaine habit. He knew Stan was not into it, so he kept it hidden from him. They did enjoy drinking together, though.

When Christmas vacation rolled around, Stan found out that Jack’s father, who was in the air force, had been transferred to Wiesbaden Air Force Base in West Germany. Jack’s family was no longer in Lancaster, and he was faced with spending the holidays alone. Stan invited him to stay with his family. Jack spent two weeks with the Taylor’s in Palos Verdes Estates. Dan thoroughly enjoyed his company.  

The guys liked to hang out at the California Pizza & Pasta Company, but everybody called it the 502 Club. Presumably, that was because a drunk driving charge could be found in Section 502 of the California Penal Code.

Carl, an amiable guy in his late 30s, ran the 502 Club. Carl’s father had been a screenwriter who was beaten down by the blacklist. That turned off Carl from going into show biz. He ran the place as part restaurant/bar, part drug distribution center, and part whorehouse.

Carl was a good-looking guy who resembled rock impresario Bill Graham. He wore his shirts with the first six buttons undone, exposing his hairy chest. He was and always would be a terminal bachelor.

The 502 Club was different from the other campus drinking establishments. The 901 Club, on Figueroa, was strictly a frat bar. The 32nd Street Café and Saloon had live bands and a yuppie feel to it. Julie’s, near the Coliseum, was just for football coaches and alumni.

The Five-Oh, as it was called, had personality. The students who drank there tended to be less arrogant than the average rich USC student. Most important, the Five-oh was the one place where locals from the surrounding neighborhood hung out. They were an eclectic mix of hangers-on, losers, gamblers, pensioners, hustlers, out-of-work actors, hookers, elderly gay black gentlemen, crazed Vietnam vets who tended to have flashbacks, and college students. The place attracted SC’s many star athletes, some of whom were celebrities in their own right. The girls who hung out there tended to be a little looser than most USC coeds. The athletes liked to party there because they usually hooked up with these females.

Stan fell in love with the place immediately. Nobody ever carded him, even though he was 18 when he first walked into its dark, dank environs. There were two bartenders. Antonio was a handsome, hail-fellow-well-met guy from El Salvador. He had a big, bushy moustache, a ready smile, and a pitcher of cold brew at the offing. He had come to America as an illegal alien. He had gotten a green card and hoped to become a citizen. He was married with five kids and owned a house in Bloomington, which was a brutal, 50-mile commute that kept him on Interstate-10 for four hours a day.

Bernie, the other bartender, was Jewish and from Chicago. He lived with an ugly woman in the Fairfax District and hated his life. Mostly, he hated serving alcohol to arrogant college students and neighborhood losers all day.

Fans had long come to the Five-oh from the Coliseum after SC, UCLA, Ram and now Raider games. Many of the players came in after these games. The cheerleaders were there, too. After a big game or event, the place had as many celebrities and Beautiful People as any establishment in Beverly Hills. Bernie could care less if O.J. Simpson and his blonde bombshell of a wife, Nicole, were standing in front of him, acting bored and pissed. Actors like Robert Conrad, James Garner or James Woods meant nothing to him. Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett were just high-maintenance drunks, as far as he was concerned.

Anthony Davis came in to the Five-oh after an SC game. Davis was a Trojan legend. In 1972, he had scored six touchdowns to lead SC to a resounding victory over Notre Dame. In 1974, SC trailed 24-0, when Davis, known as A.D., took over. He scored four touchdowns. USC powered 55 straight points in 17 minutes. Those who were there that day (including Stan and Dan) say it was the greatest sporting event they had ever attended. Davis was accorded god-like status at SC. He could drive his sports car up to the steps of Heritage Hall and park without getting a ticket. He was A.D.

Davis played a few undistinguished years of pro football, which included a stint with the Southern California Sun of the now-defunct World Football League. He was retired now, but still totally into himself.

“Pitcher,” he brusquely told Bernie.

He had a couple of hotties waiting for him.

“That’ll be two-fifty,” surly Bernie told him.

Davis looked at Bernie as if he was from Mars.

“I’m A.D.,” he said.

“I don’t care if you’re Jesus Christ Himself,” Bernie deadpanned. “That’ll be two-fifty.”

For some reason, Carl took to Terry and Stan. They would come in and order pitchers of beer, meatball sandwiches, and carrot cake for desert. Several pitchers of brew quashed it all down. Pretty soon, Carl told his pretty waitress, Lisa, not to charge “the boys.”

“I like those kids,” he said.

“On the house,” Lisa said to them.

Stan and Terry would never pay for food or alcohol at the Five-oh. They would call the beer the “endless pitcher.”

“Bar wench,” they would call out like Henry VIII, “endless pitcher.”

“Coming, m’lord,” said Lisa.

They had a regular crowd of friends. Bruno pitched on the junior varsity baseball team, the Spartans. Everybody called them the “Spartoonies.”

One-Armed Bob was always sweating.

“That guys always looks like he just got caught jacking off,” was Terry’s description of him.

Pit Boston was an intellectual alcoholic from Las Vegas who had grown up Catholic. Pit had seen too many Mob movies. His older brother was a labor lawyer, so Pit exaggerated descriptions of his “family connections.” He was a devoted liberal and held many political arguments with Terry and Stan, both conservatives. The jousting was of excellent value to Stan, who had yet to earn his chops as an advocate or debater, but showed promise. 

Some of the locals included “Green Bay Ray”, a bookie of questionable moral turpitude, and his dull-looking girlfriend, Laura. Ray had lost his ability to function sexually. He said it had happened in Vietnam, but it had happened courtesy of Jack Daniels. Laura liked to screw guys she picked up on at the Five-oh, while Ray would sit in the shadows and watch.

Otis was in his late 60s and apparently wealthy. He was also black and gay. Otis enjoyed preying on young athletes. Somehow he seemed to know who was susceptible. He had quite a bit of influence at USC as a community leader who could rally support for various causes associated with the school. He never thought about making a pass at Stan or Terry.

Eric was a young black man from suburban New Jersey who was studying accounting at USC. He had a new conspiracy theory for every day of the week. He was convinced The White House was called that because it was “white people who lived there.” He also had a heart of gold and was given to sentimentality. He and Stan did not communicate very much when they were sober. Once they were in their cups, they became best friends. Their conversations centered on racial questions. Eric told Stan that America would never elect a black President. Stan told Eric that America would elect a black President, but only from the Republican Party.

“Would you vote for a black man?” asked Eric.

“If he were a conservative Republican,” answered Stan, “all else being equal, I’d vote for the black candidate because I think it would be good for the country.”

A tear came to Eric’s eye, and he toasted Stan. He teared up at the drop of a hat.

“Big D” was a black guy in his late 40s. An ex-boxer, he was from Oakland but could not go back there because he owed too many people money. Big D operated a bookie operation out of the 502 Club, and had a lot of access to Trojan football players. He was close with a big-time construction magnate who had USC and Raider season tickets, and was known as a heavy bettor. A few years later, legend had it that he fixed the 1989 USC-Notre Dame game by getting quarterback Todd Marinovich and cornerback Cleveland Coulter to throw the game.

“Woofer T” was from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This was a source of discussion with Stan, who had enjoyed his great little league triumph in Williamsport. Woofer T worked for L.A. County, but was in the 502 Club at all hours of the day or night, drinking beer. He often took over the bartending duties. Students who attended USC for four years never knew he was not an actual bartender there. He weighed 265 pounds, had a long beard, looked like a Hell’s Angel, and had a deep baritone laugh. Woofer went to all the SC football and baseball games. He had a wife and lived in Hermosa Beach. Nobody ever saw his wife or knew how he managed to negotiate the drive to the South Bay after drinking all those beers.

Rich Lighter also made the daily drunken drive from the Five-oh. He never attended USC but loved the school as much as any alum. He was in his 50s and coached SC’s rugby team without pay. Rugby was not an official NCAA sport at USC. It was a club sport, and Lighter did not just coach, he played. He had the machismo of a Green Beret. Rich had finally married after a lifetime of bachelorhood. His wife was a Republican Japanese-American Superior Court judge. The couple had no kids. Rich considered athletes at USC to be his children. Rich’s politics were right wing. He was a probation officer for L.A. County. He and his wife lived in Palos Verdes Estates on the strength of her earnings in the legal profession. Like Woofer T, nobody ever saw his wife. It was rumored that Rich’s contacts with law enforcement, and his marriage to a judge, saved him from DUIs when he made the drive to the peninsula, particularly the final shark-infested trek up Crenshaw Boulevard.      

While Stan enjoyed being around the eclectic people who frequented the 502 Club, along with his new freedoms at SC, he never strayed from his dedication to baseball. He pitched effectively in a series of games against other local college teams in the Fall, and continued to hit the weights hard. He had lifted in the basement of the millionaire’s house in Kamloops, and by New Years Day, 1983, he was up to 225 pounds. He could bench press almost 300 pounds, and his fastball was in the low 90s.

Stan also became more aware of religion in his life. He had long conversations about the “meaning of life” with Terry, Pit Boston, Eric and the other barroom philosophers of the 502 Club. His “chance encounter” with the young Christian who proselytized him in high school had opened his mind to the after life, and what being Christian is.

Stan was concerned with complicated theological questions. He worried about his parents. Shirley had gone to church growing up in Orange County, but Dan had never been religious. Outside of getting married and baptizing their son in the Episcopalian Church, the tradition for both families, they had veered away from religion.

Stan had not told his parents he had accepted Christ. He feared ridicule from Dan. Both his parents showed open contempt for organized religion or any concept of judgment, particularly the prospect that hell existed.

“Bible thumpers,” Dan called anybody who brought up the subject.

Stan thought it was interesting, however, that Dan and Shirley regularly used phrases like “My God,” “Dear God,” “God in Heaven,” and of course his father’s old favorite, “Goddammit.”

Stan’s understanding of good and evil was that if there is absolute good, there is absolute evil. He accepted the concept of Heaven and hell. He had “found God,” and with that surrendered some of his self-centered side. He was still competitive, and therefore vulnerable to the sins of jealousy, vanity and pride. While he had become more respectful of his parents, he no longer took their criticisms of him as hard. This was a positive step.

Stan was confounded by the new dualities that tugged at him. When he had been a teeanage agnostic, he had lived like a monk. Soon after “seeing the light,” he found himself engaging in hedonistic pleasures. He feared the devil. 

If I die and ascend to Heaven, Stan wondered, but those I love the most - say my mother and father - did not believe in God and therefore are denied Heaven - how can Heaven really be Heaven? How could a soul be truly content if the people he loves the most are doomed to eternal damnation?

His was a benevolent Christianity that gave him hope that Jews, Muslims, Hindus, even non-believers, could be saved. What about unborn children? The unbaptized? Natives born in the jungle? He felt that if somebody lived a good life with love in his heart, a God would reward him or her. Stan prayed every night for the souls of his parents, his deceased relatives, and for friends and relatives who “may not believe in you as I do.”           

The Athletes in Action basketball team came to play USC at the Sports Arena. At halftime, the AIC players spoke to the crowd about their personal relations with Christ. Listening to the young Christian athletes, Stan felt something profound happen to him. After that, he went to church with Terry a few times.

Terry attended a gorgeous old Catholic Church at the corner of West Adams and Figueroa. Most of the parishioners were local Mexicans. USC had a Catholic Church for students, but it lacked the grandiosity that Terry had grown up with on the East Coast.  Stan learned how to make the sign of the cross and was fascinated by Catholic rituals. Terry, immersed in Catholicism since birth, had grown bored with it. He questioned religion. Stan enthusiastically espoused his new belief in Christ. He made Terry answer his many Biblical questions, which were new and exciting to Stan. Through this process, Terry was able to keep the faith.    

Stan wondered why he had never found love with a woman. He began to think that prayer was the answer. He went to the old Catholic Church on West Adams and asked God to help him find love. God works in mysterious ways. She had the appropriately religious name of Rebecca. She was a fallen angel. 

It was the Spring of 1983. Stan hung out with Mike Hoffmeister, a 6-5 right-handed pitcher from Redwood High in Marin County. The Los Angeles Times called Hoffmeister the “enigma.” In 1979, he had beaten out Granada Hills’ John Elway and Palisades’ Jay Schroeder, and was voted Prep Sports magazine’s National High School Athlete of the Year. He had won 40 games in four years at Redwood, and was considered the best high school pitcher in the country. Drafted by Boston, Hoffmeister accepted a scholarship to USC instead. He had dominated the Pacific-10 Conference his sophomore year. As a junior he tailed off badly, prompting the “enigma” moniker. He was not even drafted after that season. In 1983, Mike was still in SC’s starting rotation. This was his last chance at continuing on the glory road that seemed to have been paved with gold just a few short years before.

Mike was a character of the first order. He was everything that Stan was not. Mike had thrown harder than Stan, but he never lifted weights. Stan worked at building his strength, and his velocity was catching up to him.

Everything always came easy for Mike. Stan was driven by his work ethic. Stan was happy to be at SC, and eager to make himself a better student than he had been in high school. He wanted to make use of his opportunities at USC. Mike could care less. He had a genius IQ and was almost a straight-A student in high school. He had accomplished this without ever picking up a book. He charmed teachers, BS’ing his way through. He was a mathematical prodigy with a calculator for a mind. Instead of taking his talent into the field of science, physics, or geometry, however, he simply used it as an unfair advantage on trips to Vegas, or to cheat unsuspecting opponents in poker.

Mike was too damned good looking for his own good. He was the kind of guy women wanted to be with, and men wanted to be like him until they saw through him. He lied, cheating at cards or any other endeavor that could win him money. He was quickly found out because he did not seem to care about being exposed. “Lies, Lies, Lies” by the Thompson Twins became known as “Mick’s Ballad” at SC.

Mike had many women at USC, but this did not stop him from lying about having sex with girls he had not yet been with. One of those was Lisa, Carl’s carefree, vivacious waitress at the 502 Club.

“I’d love to tag on that,” said one of Mike’s sycophants.

“Been there,” Mike said casually.

“You screwed her?” Mike’s friend asked.

“Shit, I had to tell her to leave after a while, “ Mike said. “I had to get some sleep. As Jagger says, ‘Hey, I ain’t got that much jam.’”

Well, awlright,” the other guy said in mock Jagger-speak.

When Mike and his friends took over a booth at the Five-oh, Lisa came over, smiling at the guys. She knew who they were, and was naturally flirty. She loved athletes, and had slept with her share of them. She and Mike had chemistry, but no specific communication occurred. It seemed perfectly natural that they had slept together. Lisa had gotten wind of Mike’s claims. She reached her hand out to Mike, shaking it.

“Hi, Mike,” she said cheerfully. “My name’s Lisa. I thought we should be formally introduced, being as how we’ve been sleeping together.”

“Hey, how are ya?” Mike replied casually. “Coupla pitchers.”

Hoffmeister was cocky and handled situations easily. Everybody knew he lied, but his lies seemed more like stories. It was his world and he lived in it. If you wanted to be part of that world, you took him with a grain of salt. Even girls like Lisa could not help but smile. He was raffish and a rapscallion, a modern Rhett Butler. Mike was incorrigible, and he charmed everybody’s pants off.

Mike had given up on getting an education. He had never really declared a major and would never graduate. He showed up at class the first day, never bought the books, and found smart, cute girls to help him cheat. He was just successful enough to stay eligible for baseball every year. He had lost a considerable amount of juice off his fastball over the years, but still harbored the illusion that the riches of big league glory awaited him. Mike had partied so much that his great body and athletic skills had withered since high school, though.

He partied by night and slept in all day, missing all classes except for tests. He would stop for lunch in the University Village, play some pinball or Pac-Man, then meander on over to practice.

Mike needed partners to go drinking with. He found them among the freshmen and junior college transfers, who were mesmerized by the senior. He liked the younger players. The older guys had seen his act over four years and it had worn pretty thin. The younger players were impressed by his handsome looks and fun-loving persona. He was a self-promoter who painted a vivid description of himself as God’s gift to women and the second coming of Nolan Ryan.

He took to Stan right away. They ventured to parties, bars and other places where Mike pursued alcohol and women on weeknights. Stan quickly realized he could not burn both ends of the candle. A few had tried to hang with Mike and were burned, seeing their grades drop, their eligibility lost, their college opportunity wasted or placed in jeopardy. Stan tried to pick his spots but fell for Hoffmeister’s siren song a few times. Mike inferred that he would pass his women on after he was done. “Left overs,” he called them.

Mike and Stan were standing together in the middle of the 502 Club. Stan had just finished a beer. He had a plastic cup in his hands, which he had stuffed with paper towels. He took a can of Copenhagen out of his back pocket, and expertly packed it. He opened it, grabbed the pungent-smelling black tobacco using three fingers, and applied a “fatty” between his cheek and gum. He worked the snuff into the most comfortable place under his lip, then expectorated brown tobacco juice into the “spit cup.” Bernie had learned to stock his bar with these paper cups. Then he looked up and saw her.

Rebecca was 17 years old. She looked like a young Linda Carter of  “Wonder Woman” fame. She had long, jet-black hair, which fell to her shoulders. Her cheeks had adorable dimples. Her mouth was shaped like a heart, accentuated by red lipstick. Her eyes were penetrating and exciting. The look on her face was youthful and enthusiastic. Stan had never seen such vivaciousness. She was a combination of sexual abandon and fresh-scrubbed good cheer.

Rebecca had a long neck that resembled a swan. She was six feet tall, and had an athlete’s build. She had run track at San Marino High School and was on the women’s track team at USC. She had full, pear shaped breasts that seemed to heave with every breath she took. Rebecca’s skin was as smooth as butterscotch ice cream. She looked delicious. Every man in the Five-oh wanted to eat her with a spoon.

The kicker was her dress, a little black cocktail number straight out of an Audrey Hepburn movie. It hugged her hips and held her heaving breasts. Little spaghetti straps were all that kept her breasts from rising like a volcano out of the dress. The small of her back was a sensuous mystery.

“Jesus H. Christ,” said Mike Hoffmeister.

“Delivereth me not into temptation,” Stan muttered… “Oh, shit, look, she’s comin’.”

Rebecca moved from the front area of the Five-oh, where the open front door revealed the last vestiges of dusk. A weird light bathed her as she parted a Red Sea of drunks, athletes, the bartender, Carl, and Lisa. She proceeded straight to Stan.

Stan was not looking at a human being. She was the cover of Elle or Vogue.

“What the fuck does she want with me?” he thought to himself.

“Can I bum a dip,” she said to him.

“Uhhh…sure,” said Stan.

He handed her the can of Copenhagen. She packed it and pinched a big fatty in between her fingers. He fingernails were adorned with red polish. She popped a dip in between her cheek and gum.

“Thanks,” she said. There was an insouciant, eager quality to her young voice, but it trailed into a knowing, sexy sort of laugh. Her words were slightly slurred, but it did not seem that she was drunk. Rather, her words had a pleasant kind of charm, loaded with erotic double entendres.

“I’m Rebecca,” she offered. She might just as easily have said, “I want you to fuck me hard.”

“I’m Stan,” she said. “This is Mike.”

“I know who you are,” she said to Mike, who for the first time in his life was speechless.

“I’ve never seen you before,” said Mike.

“But we’ve seen you,” she replied. “Girls talk, you know. Women’s track. Heritage Hall. Taping.” What she really meant was, “I know you fuck everything that walks, you sexy motherfucker.”

“You’ve been found out,” Stan said to Mike. “You seen me around?”

“Never seen you in my life,” was her answer.

The three of them stood there for about five minutes trading sexual innuendos. Stan ordered a round of drinks. She and Rebecca both got rid of their dips.

“I’ve never seen a girl chew tobacco before,” said Stan.

“I’m originally from North Carolina,” Rebecca said, as if that explained everything.

Suddenly Rebecca’s eyes were diverted to the mirror behind Stan. She was casually alarmed.

“Come with me,” she said to Stan.

Just like that, she grabbed Stan by the arm and led him away from the gaping Hoffmeister, into the kitchen. They walked past assorted El Salvadoran cooks, busboys and waiters.

Ola, ola,” said Rebecca. The Spanish-speaking help stared at her lustily. They knew her. Rebecca led Stan past the hot stoves and the spray of the dishwasher, all the while cheerfully jawing with the help in perfect Spanish, which overjoyed them. She had the confidence of a politician working a crowd. They left the kitchen and entered the staircase. Stan said nothing. Rebecca knew the territory. She opened an unlocked door at the top of the stairs.

“We’re in,” she said.

She flipped the night switch, and before them was an unkempt room with a bed and a bathroom area. It had a toilet, sink, and shower stall, with various toiletries and towels on the floor.

Rebecca plopped herself on the bed. Stan stood over her, looking at her. Rebecca’s eyes were mischievous, her face aglow with wonder and awe. Life had infinite possibilities.

Weeeell,” she said, laughing uncontrollably, “here we are.”

Stan had no response.

“I saw my date,” she said matter-of-factly. “I just wanted him to come in a few minutes later than he did. Now, let’s see what we have here.”

With that, she reached over and grabbed Stan by the balls. He took a step and a half towards her. She quickly undid his belt and zipper, slipping his pants to his ankles, and Rebecca was met by boxer underwear covering a hard-on that could have been made out of titanium.

“Hmmmm,” she hummed.

Off came the shorts, and Stan’s enraged male manhood defied all the laws of gravity.

“I do appreciate a man who can get it up in time,” she said, and her sweet, huge laughter filled the room. She was the most thoroughly alive human being Stan had ever seen.

Her mouth surrounded his member, and her hands skillfully manipulated his balls, his ass, and his buttocks. Her tongue felt like velvet, but her mouth worked ravenously, swiftly, and with purpose.

Rebecca did not just give head with her mouth. She used her whole body. Her face seemed to swivel as she moved up and down the shaft. Her hands worked furiously over the sensitive areas. She shuddered, spun and swayed, her back arched. She positively quivered. Rebecca was the girl in every sexually charged rock tune ever written, from Lou Reed to AC/DC.

Rebecca devoured him, deep throated him, spat on him and rubbed him. She masturbated him and the spit dripped off Stan, on to her hands, and got all over her mouth, which was slimy and shiny, smearing her face and her lipstick. Rebecca could not care less. She made purring kitten noises, interrupted by great gusts of laughter. Humor emanated from her.

Stan did not much enjoy it so much as he was shocked by it. It represented nothing that he could hold on to in his memory banks. It was too sudden, too unexpected and monumental. He was like a soldier in combat. He knew the facts, but it was all a blur.

The lioness Rebecca, having brought Stan to full girth, suddenly and rapturously threw herself on to the makeshift bed, which was where Carl had taken floozies for lo these many years. She thrust her ass up at him. Stan ended the final, official status of his virginity by plunging himself past her thong panties. She moaned, panted and laughed, having immediate, wet orgasms that filled the room.

Stan felt as if he was 12 feet long and could arch his back and lift her off the ground. He was in complete control, not a whimpering, prematurely ejaculating teenager, but rather the full measure of a man. He reached over, grabbed her breasts, and mushed them out of her dress, holding them and fondling them violently. Rebecca loved it. They kissed, for the first time. It was all tongues, lipstick and wet saliva.

“I love you,” said Stan. He had fallen totally for his vision. Suddenly, she was off of him.

Her mouth devoured Stan like a suction cup. Stan thought he was in control. Suddenly he was not. It was Rebecca’s game. She eyed him while sucking him off, and laughed. The laughter caused vibrations in Stan, and more saliva came out of her mouth. She used her hand to jack him off, and pecked at the long strands of spit, her face smeared in sweat and fluids.

She suck-jerked him, and Stan erupted, an enormous load of jizz. Rebecca took it all in her mouth. She swallowed the first gulp, but had never gotten anything quite like it. Stan came like a geyser. Rebecca could not swallow it all. Jizz spurted out of her mouth, all over her lips and hands, and immediately landed in great gobs on her breasts, smearing her black dress. Cum dripped in thick, glazed white globs off her lips.

“Guess whose coming to dinner?” Rebecca said, and laughed as if she had told a great joke.

Stan suddenly started to laugh. He was still hard and coated with white cum.

“Clean up operations,” she said. Rebecca licked, drooled and swallowed all the remainders off Stan, licking her fingers.

“Finger lickin’ good,” she said.

“Let me guess,” said Stan. “You like sucking cock.”

Rebecca just roared in laughter.               

Stan collapsed on the bed. Rebecca tried to touch herself up, but she was too flighty and carefree to care that much.

“God, I need a drink,” she said.

Her hair was askew. Her lipstick was smeared. Her face glistened. Her black dress had white splotches on it. It was on her shoulders, she smelled like a tuna boat. That was what she looked and smelled like when she and Stan emerged from the kitchen.  Carl stood right there.

“Jesus,” he said, knowingly.

Then Stan emerged.

“Staaaannn!” he said, proudly. “I see you’ve met Rebecca.”

“Met her?” he said. “Inhaled by her, is more like it.”

Carl directed his attention to Rebecca.

“He’s here,” he said. “You’re a disaster.”

“I’m a disaster,” Rebecca said to Stan, in a knowing, funny way, smiling, then laughing again. Stan had never met a girl who laughed so much.

Suddenly Rebecca’s date showed up. Dr. Harold Weitzman, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, about 45 years old and graying, was dressed casually but expensively for a night of dining and pleasure with this 17-year old Vogue cover model-type.

It immediately struck Stan what the situation was. It was not the incongruity of the April/August “relationship,” and the pertinent question of whether the good doctor was paying Rebecca, or maybe Carl, for her time. Rather, what occurred to Stan was that whenever Weitzman put his hand on Rebecca, or kissed her, or went down on her, or had intercourse with her, he would be in territory that Stan Taylor had rent asunder just a few minutes before. This was a very good thing.

“Uh, Rebecca,” said the doctor. “Are you…alright?”

“Just great, doc,” she replied without batting an eyelash.

“You look…flushed,” he remarked.

“I feel great,” she said. “Hey Carl, can you get me a Cuba libre for the road.”

“Of course, madam,” said Carl, mocking an English butler.

“We’ve got dinner reservations,” said Weitzman, “In Beverly Hills in 10 minutes.”

“We’ll get there, Doc,” said Rebecca. “Drive fast.”

She winked at Stan. Weitzman stared at Stan. Weitzman sensed that his million dollars and his thriving medical practice, in which he was perfecting the recent art of breast enhancement for the betterment of Western society, was not worth a tenth of what this kid had right now.

Stan had lost his virginity in the most spectacular way imaginable, in the most glorious of tawdry circumstance. Half his team had watched him leave and now they were gathering about. Everybody knew what had happened. He was a hero, a stud, and man’s man. The experience was priceless.

It was the final, official, nail in the coffin of the “old Stan,” the one who got picked on in junior high and razzed and attacked by Rich Lopez in high school. All of that was a distant memory now.

Hoffmeister started it, and his other mates picked up on the theme. They all clapped for him, and for Rebecca. Rebecca acknowledged their ovation with a huge Marilyn Monroe-style kiss and a wave good-bye, all while holding Dr. Weitzman’s arm. Weitzman just tried to scurry out of there before further damage could be done to his reputation, psyche or date.

“For parting is such sweet sorrow,” Rebecca cheerfully addressed Stan, and out the door she went. The baseball players all ran to the door, to watch every single gallop she took to the car. She walked like a wild animal.

Stan did not join them. He meandered on up to the bar. Antonio was working today, and he just smiled at the young man.

“A beer, for my man Stan,” he said in broken, joyful English.

Carl showed up.

“Stan,” he announced, “you’re getting your picture on my wall.”

Carl gestured to the wall above the bar, where various caricatures of famous Five-oh patrons - athletes, coaches, semi-celebs - hung in glass-encased frames.

“So, uh, ya liked Rebecca?” Carl asked lasciviously.

“Jesus, man,” replied Stan, “what’s not to like? I didn’t know they made women like that.”

“They make women like that,” said Carl, as if he was telling some Universal Truth, “for guys like us.”

They toasted each other.

“Guys like us,” thought Stan. He was in. He was now officially a guy like Carl, and at age 19, what could be better?

A month later, the artist did Stan’s caricature, and his cartoon hung on the Five-oh wall until the place closed in the mid-1990s. A legend was born.

There was still baseball to be played. As a freshman, Stan made a nice contribution to the USC varsity. He started non-conference games during the week, and was used as a middle reliever in Pac-10 games. He started one Pac-10 contest, against Stanford, leaving with the score tied, 2-2, after six innings. Over all, he compiled a 4-1 record with a 4.17 earned run average. The team was talented but failed to live up to their potential. They had some pretty good players, among them an All-American first baseman named Mark McGwire and a 6-10 fireballing lefty named Randy Johnson.

Coach Rod Dedeaux was on his last legs, however. He had been wildly successful for years, winning 10 National Championships (including five in a row from 1970-74), but he no longer had the fire necessary to push and prod a college program to the highest echelons of achievement.

Dan was not satisfied with Stan’s pitching time. Another freshman, right-hander Curt Bankhead out of Crawford High in San Diego, was used more. Dan approached one of the coaches to complain. The coach told Dan that he thought Bankhead was “awesome.” That infuriated Dan, who complained to Stan, as if it was Stan’s fault. He walked around muttering, “Awesome…what a load of shit.” Stan despised stuff like that.   

Stan’s manliness was still tested. His public stud show with Rebecca had elevated his status, but people were still out to bring him down. His real nemesis that freshman season was not Bankhead, but was a junior college transfer named John Dinuba.

Dinuba was, like Stan, a right-handed pitcher. The song “Backstabbers” was written about him. His smile was faked. He recognized that Stan was his competition. USC had a lot of good pitchers and only so many innings with which to use them. Dinuba had been drafted out of Merced Junior College, but did not sign. He was no student, but had accepted a ride to USC because he hoped to parlay that into a higher draft pick and some decent bonus money. The pressure was on to secure a position on the staff where he could pitch enough to impress the scouts. Unlike Stan, his time was now or never.

Dinuba was a born liar and white trash with no sense of loyalty to anyone or anything, unlike Mike Hoffmeister. Mike had problems with the truth, but he was not malicious and would give his friends the shirt off his back. Dinuba loved hard rock music, and under this guise pretended to be Stan’s friend. They listened to AC/DC and Van Halen. Dinuba approved of some of Stan’s favorites, especially The Who and The Doors.

Dinuba was ugly and women avoided him. Supposedly he had a wife and kid in some hick town in Central California, but nobody ever saw her, heard him talk to her on the phone, or saw a picture of her. Stan pictured her as truly unattractive.

When Fall ball was over, Dinuba was disappointed that he had not made the starting rotation. He was in the bullpen, competing for innings with Stan. Stan could not figure him out. He was not like Lopez, who never hid his feelings for him. Dinuba was a snake. He would have private conversations with Stan, acting like they were buddies. When others were around, Dinuba cut him to pieces. He hated Stan, the son of a lawyer and nephew of the Secretary of Defense; the rich boy from Palos Verdes with all the advantages. Dinuba felt that guys like Stan should know their place. Sports were for hardscrabble guys like him. Let Stan be a frat boy and a Yuppie in a pinstriped suit. It was not fair that a guy have all the advantages Stan had and still be an excellent baseball player.     

“You’re gonna have to kick that asshole’s butt,” an outfielder named Danny Ferrara told Stan. He befriended him and saw through Dinuba.

“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” was Stan’s answer.

“So am I,” said Ferrara, who was popular with the ladies but adept with his fists, “but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. A lotta guys think you don’t have the guts because you’re a rich kid.”

It came to a head on a road trip to Hawaii. Stan returned to his room and found his bed overturned, and his stuff scattered all around the room.

“Who did this?” he asked his roommate.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“Dinuba?” asked Stan.

“He’s your enemy, not mine,” the roommate replied. It was Stan’s bed that had been overturned, not the roomie’s. It was Stan’s stuff that was a mess, not the roomie’s. Stan marched down the hall. A bunch of players were playing cards and drinking beer. Dinuba was holding his cards.      

“Who fucked up my room?” Stan asked, a general question not aimed at any one person.

“Fuck you,” someone said.

Stan walked up to Dinuba.

“Was it you?” he asked.

“I didn’t do shit,” Dinuba said indignantly. “‘Five- fifteeeoin.’” He mocked the words to The Who’s classic “5:15” from the Quadrophenia album, one of Stan’s favorites. Stan liked to sing the lyrics, and Dinuba made fun of his pronunciation of the words.

“Hey Dinuba,” Stan said calmly, “do you still suck as much cock as you always have?”

Dinuba was a farm boy who had been beaten by a vicious, alcoholic father. He was a mean cur, but not really a fighter. He was formidable, though. He had size and strength. He intimidated Stan, in part because Stan did think of himself as the rich kid from Palos Verdes Estates, while Dinuba was the tougher, harder breed.

“That’s a bold motherfucker of a statement,” said Dinuba.

“Hey, man,” said Stan, “so you suck tons of cocks. Some people are cocksuckers. You’re one of `em.”

Everybody stared at Dinuba.

There were general guffaws, and laughter. Dinuba looked awkward. Stan’s back was up, the way it had been when he kicked some butt in junior high school. The fear of fighting was gone, replaced by the exhilaration.

 “Who did it, cocksucker?” Stan asked.

Dinuba tried to ignore him.

 “Okay, then,” said Stan, “this is your unlucky day.”

“What the fuck you talkin’ about?” asked Dinuba.

“So you didn’t fuck up my bed,” Stan said calmly. “Unfortunately for you, I’ve made a decision. The decision is that you did. Maybe you didn’t, but I say you did. That means your shit outta luck.”

“Go spin,” said Dinuba.

“Naw,” said Stan, the calm before the storm. “I’ve decided I want you to take some pain tonight.”

“Whose gonna -.”

“Shut up,” said Stan. “I’ve just decided, because I want you to feel some pain, that you’re gonna feel pain.”

Now everybody was watching him. They were all seeing a new side to him.

“You want it outside or you want it in here?” asked Stan.

“Yeah, John,” somebody said.

Dinuba just turned his head and dealt a card.

“Okay,” said Stan, “here goes. Five, four, three, two, one…”

Stan punched John Dinuba smack in the face. Dinuba fell right into the card table, sending cards, beers and spit cups everywhere. He lay there, looking up at Stan, but not fighting back.

“Now,” said Stan, “it looks like you’re done. Now, John, you feel that stinging sensation in your vortex or whatever it is doctors call it. That’s courtesy of me. You feel that because I just choose for you to feel it. And you wanna know what?”

“What?” asked Dinuba.

“I want you to feel some more,” said Stan. “Therefore, because I want you to feel some more pain, you’re gonna feel some more. Courtesy of me.”

Stan punched him again, even though he was down and in no position to defend himself. Stan then just walked out of the room. Dinuba never bothered him again. Mainly, he kissed his ass. Stan pretended to be his friend.

After an uneventful season, in which the innings Dinuba needed were assigned to Stan, he was not drafted. He had not attended classes in the Spring semester and had little chance of getting eligibility for a senior year. A Yankee scout signed him for a pair of spikes and tin of Copenhagen. He was sent to Paintsville of the Appalachian League. He pitched one year of pro ball, was released, and six years later was sent to jail for beating his ugly wife.

Stan had not gotten a phone number for Rebecca. He wanted to make her his girlfriend. She occupied his mind constantly after that amazing night. Stan returned to the Five-oh hoping to find her. Carl did not have her number.

“She just comes and she goes,” he said.

She had intimated to Hoffmeister that she was involved in women’s sports at SC, which seemed utterly incongruous to Stan. He could not picture a girl that beautiful and that wild running track. He spent time spying around the women’s track team, but did not see her. He was careful not to be too conspicuous. He especially did not want to arouse suspicions that he was trying to watch the girls dress in their locker room.

A few weeks passed. Stan was in the Five-of with One-Armed Bob and Brad Cooper. Brad was playing baseball at El Camino JC, but visited his buddy regularly at SC. Something amazing had happened to him in a space of about eight months.

Whereas Brad’s brother, Jeff, had always been very handsome, Brad had been small, and his face was undeveloped. Suddenly, he had grown to six feet tall and the muscles in his face seemed to tighten up, raising his high cheekbones, and seemingly out of nowhere he looked like a young Robert Redford.

The SC girls went crazy for him. With his newfound looks came confidence. Brad was as smooth as James Bond. Stan, Brad and One-Armed Bob were drinking, chewing and BS’ing when she walked in. This time, Rebecca looked like she had just finished riding horses. She wore form-fitting jeans that hugged her never-ending legs (“Six feet of legs and a pussy,” was Hoffmeister’s assessment). She wore a tight T-shirt with no bra. Her breasts were perfect. The nipples poked against the cloth.

“Oh, he’s recovered,” she said when she walked in and saw Stan.

“Dear God,” was all Stan could say.

“Is that her?” One-Armed Bob mumbled.

“Is that her?” Brad mumbled.

Rebecca entered the room like a whirlwind. It was as if life just surrounded her. She strode like a colt now, laughing loudly at her own words, smiling and giving off great vibes to any and all who admired her. She was the happiest person Stan had ever seen. She was perfect.

“Ooh,” Rebecca said, and she just summed Brad up from head to toe. She had him screwed, fellated and spent in one wildly obvious sexual stare.

“And who is your friend?” she inquired of Stan.

“Brad, Rebecca,” Stan said. “This is Bob.”

Rebecca worked Brad over with her eyes, then looked at the sweating Bob. She saw that he had no left arm.

“What’s up, Lefty?” she smiled, offering a long, distended handshake.

What happened next further added to the legend. They drank, they chewed tobacco, and they drank some more. They played golden oldies on the good ol’ Five-oh jukebox. They got smashed. It was one of those hot Southern California nights. They danced, flirted and touched. Rebecca was totally infatuated with Brad. There was no doubt that they would end up in bed together.

Stan enjoyed himself, but he had to play second fiddle to Brad. His previous sexual encounter with Rebecca seemed to have made him old hat already. One-Armed Bob was the third wheel, but Rebecca was so sexual that he held out hope.

The three of them partied wildly until the 502 Club closed down. Then they made it to Benjie’s Liquors just in time to pick up a couple of six-packs, and headed to Stan’s apartment. They entered the place at 2:00 a.m., making slightly less noise than the Allied armada at Normandy. They played The Doors, The Who, Credence, and The Stones, loudly. They yelled and stomped and drank. Three times the security guard had to come up, all to no avail.

Finally, Rebecca took Brad by the arm and led him into the bedroom. Terry had a girlfriend by now, and he was staying there most nights by this time. His bed was unoccupied. Rebecca ravaged Brad with kisses and a blowjob and everything in between.

In the front room, Stan sat with One-Armed Bob, listening to tunes and drinking beer. Finally, Stan got up and said, “I’m going to bed.” He did not offer any explanation to One-Armed Bob, who was sweating profusely. It was still hot as hell.

Brad had Rebecca in Stan’s bedroom, and since he had been with Rebecca before, he was not shy about entering the room. One-Armed Bob followed. Brad had mounted Rebecca and was giving her the high, hard one.

“Hi fellas,” Rebecca said cheerily.

Stan just stood there and watched his friend have sex with this her.

“What is that?” Stan asked. “It’s translucent in substance.”

“It’s…it’s…it’s sperm,” said Brad, mocking their high school skit.

“Umm, I hope so,” Rebecca said.

One-Armed Bob edged closer. Rebecca’s tanned breasts were standing at attention right before him. Brad had edged off to the side to accommodate the sidetrack discussion. Then One-Armed Bob reached with his one hand and touched Rebecca’s breast. He was desperate for sex. Rebecca was the kind of girl who would have sex at the drop of a hat. She would have sex with more than one guy. However, she only had sex with guys she was attracted to. She was not attracted to One-Armed Bob.

“Please stop that,” she said politely to One-Armed Bob. She did not want to hurt his feelings, but she definitely did not want to have anything to do with him.

“Bob,” said Brad.

One-Armed Bob kept fondling her.

Bob!” exclaimed Brad in the manner of an English schoolteacher. “Say Bob.”

Bob just removed his hand and left the room.

“See ya later, Bob,” Stan called out. They all heard the front door shut. One-Armed Bob went to his apartment, broke out his impressive porno collection, and masturbated himself into a frenzy for several hours.

Stan did not hesitate to unzip his pants, pull his shorts down, and put his throbbing erection in Rebecca’s mouth.

“Why hello, old friend,” she said before blowing him.

Brad and Stan tag teamed Rebecca until the sun rose. She suggested “double penetration,” but neither guy was sure of this act, which required sodomy. They were depraved, but depraved enough.

Rebecca was an animal, devouring everything they had. There was no place her tongue did not travel. She had no fear of any of their bodily fluids. Finally, Stan, sated, left her in bed with Brad, where she fell asleep in his arms. Stan crashed in his own bed, and drifted happily to sleep.

The next morning, Stan woke up to bright sunshine. It was the beginning of another 100-degree day. Brad was still snoozing in the other bed, but Rebecca was not there. Stan pulled his hung over self out of the rack and headed into the front room. There, he saw Rebecca, standing and holding the phone in her hands.

She was wearing his USC Baseball T-shirt, which hung halfway covering her pubic hair. Her tanned, lithe legs and butt poked out of the T-shirt. Stan immediately discovered that he had another hard-on.

“Number One is up,” Rebecca said to somebody on the phone.

Stan grabbed her and started kissing, fingering and fondling her while she tried to carry on a conversation on the phone.

Then Brad entered the room.

“Number Two is up,” she announced to her phone friend, laughing. “Yeah, I was a bad girl last night. What else is new? I don’t think these guys will be getting over me for a while. It could be another case of the Rebecca Syndrome.”

Rebecca gave some more graphic descriptions to her phone mate, and then hung up. Brad just slumped on the couch and turned on the TV. Stan was ready for more. He chased Rebecca around, stopping her, alternately entering her, getting some head, entering her again, and kissing her. Finally, Rebecca just got on her knees and started giving him a blowjob in earnest.

“I better slow you up, big guy,” she said, “or you’ll be in a straight-jacket by evening.”

Rebecca blew him, and within two minutes Stan came in her mouth.

“It was either that or the doctor’d have to lance it,” she told Brad, who just stared in semi-amazement. Rebecca then went about making breakfast for the boys, all the while wearing just the T-shirt, and revealing everything below.

The door was open, and the drapes open, too. Stan and Terry had accumulated a pyramid of empty Copenhagen cans on the windowsill, but it was not yet high enough to blot out the view. People were walking by. There were students who lived in the complex, but also parents.

“What the hell’s goin’ on here?” asked Stan.

It turned out that it was some kind of special “parents day” that Stan had not heard about. All the rich USC moms and dads were traipsing by, and getting an eyeful when they looked into Stan’s apartment.

Is that Linda Carter prancing around half-naked? the dads wondered. God I wish I were younger.

Stan and Brad sipped coffee and tried to recover from the previous evening’s festivities, but the excitement of the whole night was overwhelming. They had sealed their friendship beyond anything they had ever known in high school. Sharing a girl and high-fiving each other over her back was better than waking up some Chinaman with their high beams. Rebecca, they decided, was a national treasure.

When Stan went outside to pick up the L.A. Times, Rebecca was holding on to him, grabbing his manhood, and asking for another helping. Stan was laughing like crazy. Then he looked up to the floor above him, and there was Chris Vilnius. Chris wrote for the Daily Trojan and was a huge sports fan. He had become one of Stan’s better pals. Stan called him Vildebeast, because he was a big former high school tackle with an exceptionally large head. He had a tendency towards boredom. His girlfriend would come over and fall asleep while they watched “Cheers”. It was no wonder when they split. Chris was the kind of guy who would never engage in the type of activity that Stan did. He tended to impose quasi-judgment.  He just stared down at Stan, who saw him.

“What’s up, beast?” asked Stan.

Chris just shook his head at the sight of Stan with the sex-crazed, pubic-exposed Rebecca grabbing him in a prick-frenzy.

Finally, everybody settled down with coffee, eggs, and the newspaper. Re-runs of “The Twi-Light Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” showed on channel five. Stan was drained. Brad was too tired to pursue anything. Rebecca was in repose. Finally, they started to have a normal conversation. The mystery of Rebecca began to unfold.

She had been born in North Carolina, where her father had been an Army doctor in a Ranger unit. Her mother was a beautiful debutante from a rich Southern family. When her father was discharged from the Army, he moved the family to San Marino, one of the ritziest sections of Los Angeles County, and set up a lucrative practice in nearby Pasadena.

Rebecca’s mother was an old school matriarchal type who wanted her daughter to grow up like she had, attending Cotillion balls and upholding the families’ dignity. Rebecca had been on that path through high school, but she was so pretty that men could not help but fall in love with her. She was irresistible, but not in a bombshell way. Her figure, her face, her winning personality and smile made men want her completely.

When Rebecca was a junior, her uncle came to visit. He was only 30 years old, and a very handsome man. He was her first lover, and taught her every position in his arsenal. Rebecca discovered the joy of sex. She was a certified nymphomaniac. Once she had tasted the forbidden fruit of her uncle, she became insatiable.

Her senior year in high school was painful for her mother, who tried to hold on to the fiction that her daughter was virginal, or at least respectable. In reality, Rebecca went through the guys at her private school like Hitler invading Poland.

By the time her parents had enrolled her as a freshman at USC, they preferred not to know what she was up to. Her mother barely talked to her anymore. Her father, the practical doctor, simply told her how to prevent venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancy.

Rebecca was smart as a whip. She had maintained mostly A’s in high school, and took to college courses with enthusiasm. She rushed a sorority, was accepted, and moved in there. No sooner had she occupied a room, than she was kicked out for having sex with the boyfriend of one of her sorority sisters. She moved into the room of a fraternity. Needless to say, she kept most of the boys there happy.

Rebecca had been a pretty good high hurdler on her high school track team, and walked on to the women’s track team as a USC freshman. She was kicked off the team for partying, drinking and screwing. Her grades maintained at a decent rate, mostly B’s, but she was carrying on too much for her own good.

She did not drink or do drugs in high school. Rebecca started to party at the 502 Club, where she met Carl. The first night she was there, she went to Carl’s makeshift “bedroom” upstairs and had wild sex with him. Carl immediately recognized that she was a sex machine. He started bringing some of his older friends around. Rebecca took to them with the same enthusiasm that she had for younger men. Age was not a factor.

Carl polluted her further. She loved his cocaine and drank like a fish. At 17, she was still so young and indestructible that it did not show, but she was already headed down a bad path. Carl had been supplying USC’s athletes with drugs for years. He got Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Charles White hooked, and partied with him until the sun came up the night before White led the Trojans to their stirring 17-16 victory over Ohio State in the 1980 Rose Bowl.

Dr. Weitzman was a cocaine client of Carl. Carl introduced Rebecca to Weitzman. The deal was that Weitzman would pay Carl to “date” Rebecca. Rebecca would get free blow from Carl.

She told most of this to Brad and Stan. Rebecca seemed to be under the influence of a 24-hour a day truth serum. Stan immediately felt a connection to her. He wanted to help her. Stan knew that drugs were destructive. Somehow he felt like her big brother. He was conflicted because big brothers do not debauch their little sisters from the left, the right and the side.

Finally, everybody cleaned up. The boys walked Rebecca back to her residence at the nearby fraternity. They passed by One-Armed Bob’s room. His door was open, and Rebecca gave him a big wave and a smile.

“Bye, Lefty,” she called out.

When they said good-bye to Rebecca at the frat house, Stan turned to Brad.

“What a woman,” he said.

“They broke the mold,” replied Brad.

During the Spring semester of 1983, Watergate conspirator G. Gordon arrived at USC on a book and speaking tour. Liddy was traveling to college campuses with drug guru Dr. Timothy Leary. In the 1960s, Liddy had been the District Attorney of Duchess County, a bedroom community near New York City. As fate would have it, Leary was occupying a large estate in Duchess County. He was offering LSD and orgy parties to high school and college age girls. It was the beginning of the Sexual Revolution, and the good citizens of Duchess County were aghast at how many of their fair maidens were dropping acid and their panties. A man with a white horse was needed. That man was Liddy.

Liddy and a posse of law enforcement officers descended upon the house, and happened to find numerous couples en flagrante delicto. Leary came out to see what the hubbub was. He stood at the top of the stairs. Liddy stared up at him and saw more than he wanted to see. Liddy wore a shirt and nothing else.

The arrest propelled Liddy into the political limelight. He ran for Congress but dropped out of the 1968 Republican Primary in lieu of a deal with the incumbent, Hamilton Fish. Fish promised that if he did not oppose him, and Richard Nixon won the White House, Liddy would get a job in Washington as a Presidential aide. That is what happened. From there, Liddy became one of the infamous “plumbers,” was arrested at the Watergate Hotel in 1972, and served the longest, harshest prison sentence of anybody. His tough stance and refusal to “rat” on Nixon made him a conservative icon.

After Jimmy Carter pardoned him, Liddy wrote his biography, “Will”. It was a best seller and launched his newfound popularity. The more the Left excoriated him, the more the Right embraced him. He turned his book tour into a national campus road show in which he and Leary argued in crossfire of ideological opposites. A television movie, starring Robert Conrad, further added to the Liddy legend.

When Stan and Mark Terry went to Bovard Auditorium to hear him speak, Leary was not there. But Liddy’s solo act was highly entertaining. USC is a conservative institution, one of the few major universities that are not desecrated by liberal bias. Liddy spoke to a receptive, testosterone-charged crowd. He had them laughing and applauding him with standing ovations.

Liddy went into detail about the current military situation at the time.

“The Israelis have the best air force in the world,” Liddy explained, “because their pilots go on three times as many missions as anyone else.”

Liddy described the deal that brought him to work for the 1968 Republican Presidential nominee, “Richard Nixon of California,” as he said it. Liddy’s FBI expertise was put to use by the White House in clandestine operations coordinating former CIA assets.

“This leads me to a discussion of something I know a little bit about,” he said to the rapt audience, “and that is the practice of es-pio-naaage!” It was like a Robert Ludlum novel being brought to life.

Liddy talked about spending time in prison.

“I had four children in private school,” he said. “I was banned from the practice of law, out of work, in debt, and in prison facing a long Federal sentence. My reputation was destroyed. But I still had my wits, my education, and my will. I was about to enter the most interesting period of my life.”

Liddy spoke without notes for one hour. Hundreds of students bought his book for him to sign.

“You got balls,” was the typical student’s refrain.

“Best, Stan, G. Gordon Liddy,” he wrote in Stan’s copy of “Will”, which Stan read from cover to cover in the next couple of days. By the time he had finished the book, Stan, for the first time in his life, began to think of a future other than baseball. He was inspired to pursue law school, and possibly politics or work with a government agency like the FBI or CIA.  

That Summer, Stan pitched for the Boulder Collegians, a fast team in Colorado. It was a highly competitive club, with several All-Americans on the roster. Stan fought for pitching assignments. They played every night, sometimes double-headers. He was able to get his share of innings. The team made it to the National Baseball Congress in Wichita, Kansas. Stan had a record of  6-3 that Summer, and had to work for everything he got.

Billy Boswell played for the Alaska Goldpanners and tore up the Alaskan League. The Goldpanners won the NBC, and Boswell was the Most Valuable Player in Wichita. He was easily the best amateur player in the country.

In the Fall, Boswell was UCLA’s starting quarterback. After a slow start, he led the Bruins to the Rose Bowl and was named All-Pac-10. Socially, Boswell took things to a new level. His sexual prowess at Palos Verdes High was nothing compared to his harem of UCLA coeds. Word spread, and opponents talked about Billy Boswell’s women. They sat together in the stands at baseball and football games, like groupies touring with Led Zeppelin. They oohed and aahed over this super athlete who was headed towards great riches. He was already a famous star.

Stan had arrived at USC during a down time in the school’s heralded sports history. The football team played poorly under new coach Ted Tollner. The glory days of John McKay and John Robinson were gone. Critics began to call them “Yesterday U.” instead of “Tailback U.”  Stan hated to see his Trojans lose to a UCLA team led by Boswell. Billy turned UCLA into a major power in baseball, too. They up-graded their program when they built the gleaming new Jackie Robinson Stadium, replacing their dilapidated field near the Veterans Administration. Despite players like McGwire and Johnson, SC’s baseball fortunes took a dive.

Stan came back for his sophomore year, enthusiastic about returning to Southern California after his Summer in Colorado and traveling around the Midwest. It had been an interesting experience. He saw America from a bus, staying in seedy motels, and got a taste of the amazing humidity. He spent some time with Brad and Walt before school started. Walt had written him letters in Colorado, filled with Hunter Thompson-esque statements about any and all things. He wrote about acquaintances that “continue to smoke vast quantities of evil weed,” and continued to make solemn pronouncements about his latest choice of college, which still changed every week.

Both Walt and Brad returned for their sophomore year at El Camino. Walt had been cut by the basketball team his freshman year, but would made it as a sixth man in his second try. Brad continued to play on the baseball team, holding out slim hope that he could move on to another level.

Stan and Terry went to Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood on their first night together after Summer vacation. Barney’s was once the preferred drinking establishment of Jim Morrison, who had lived at the Alta Cienega Motel a block away on La Cienega. It was just a short, steep hike downhill from the Sunset Strip. Barney’s was strictly a macho rocker’s pick-up joint that disdained the fact that it existed in an unincorporated section of L.A. that was overwhelmingly gay. They flaunted their homophobic attitudes by printing, “Fags stay out” on the matchbook covers. Many rock stars were still hanging out there in the 1980s.

“Hey, man, look in the corner,” Terry said to Stan.

“David Lee Roth,” said Stan.

It was Van Halen’s lead singer, talking to two hot girls. A giant bodyguard stood between him and the rest of the bar crowd.

“I gotta ask him something,” Terry said. Terry walked up to the bodyguard, introduced himself politely, and asked if he could speak to Roth about something. Roth nodded that it was okay.

“Hey, Dave, it’s an honor,” Terry said. “My name’s Mark Terry.” They shook hands. “Over there, that’s my roommate, Stan Taylor. We go to USC.”

“What can I do for you?” asked Roth.

“We were wondering,” said Terry, “whether you’d be willing to do a benefit concert?”

“Benefiting what?” asked Roth.

“The Nicaraguan Contras,” said Terry. “Congress keeps trying to de-fund `em, but they’re fighting Communism in Central America. You could call it Contra Aid, ‘Rocking for the Republicans.’”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” asked Roth.

“Just an idea,” said Terry. “Think about it. See ya.”

A few years later Farm Aid and Live Aid were successful concerts. They were convinced the “aid” concept originated from Terry’s suggestion of Contra Aid. Terry had a way of predicting things. The Soviets shot down the Korean Airlines Flight in the Summer of 1983. Everybody thought the only solution was to defeat them in combat.

“No,” Terry argued. “I say we should just outspend `em. Make them try and stay with us militarily. We’re the United States of America. They can’t keep up with us. It’s that simple.” When all the pundits were finished analyzing how Reagan won the Cold War, Terry’s simple suggestion that the U.S. “outspend `em” was how they did it.

Brad introduced Stan to an El Camino teammate of his named John Bruk. Brad had moved into an apartment in Redondo Beach with Bruk and a drug dealer named Brady James.

Bruk and James were L.A. characters worthy of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Bruk had grown up in Mar Vista and attended Venice High, where he was considered one of the best pitchers in the city until he was thrown off the team for drug possession. By the time he finished (without graduating from) high school he was a minor scourge with the cops who patrolled the beach areas. He was 18 when he was convicted for drugs and assault. The judge told him he had a choice of jail or the Army. He chose the Army.

Bruk was not great military material. Stationed in Alaska, he was thrown in the brig for stabbing a guy in a bar. It was self-defense. The man had come after Bruk because Bruk had been screwing his old lady. Bruk spent months in a cell until he was released and dishonorably discharged.

Bruk was “6-3, 220 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal,” as he liked to say. He loved baseball. It was his only wholesome joy. He decided to play at Santa Monica JC. After one week of Fall practice, Santa Monica coach Marty Berson kicked him off the team. It was early enough in the semester for him to transfer to El Camino. He lived with his alcoholic father and long-suffering mother, and had nothing else to do.

At El Camino, he befriended Brad. He liked Brad because he was good-looking, and figured he was a worthy partner to “chase wool with.” Brad also had a car and a credit card.

Bruk threw a baseball 90 miles an hour. Had he been harnessed and disciplined, he may have had a future in baseball. His lack of discipline and respect for authority drastically reduced his chance at success under the strictures of a team game like baseball, however. He was a remarkably good-looking guy who grew a beard and looked like a cross between the TV character Grizzly Adams and Jim Morrison during his “L.A. Woman” period. Bruk was as sure of himself with girls as any man Brad or Stan had ever seen. No female was off limits to him. His success ratio at “pulling pussy,” as he termed it, was incredible.

Bruk was 24 by this time. When Brad wanted to find his own place to live, Bruk suggested his drug dealer, Brady James. James lived in an apartment near the beach. He was 30. James was a classic beach boy with long, bleach-blonde hair and a terminal tan. He played volleyball and surfed every day. He went to Santa Monica Pier a lot and played volleyball with Wilt Chamberlain. His “clients” included a lot of celebrities from the L.A. sports and entertainment world. He was handsome and possessed a phenomenal gravelly voice, formed from years of Tequila and cigarettes. Brady was a would-be rocker who claimed to have played with Mitch Mitchell in Amsterdam after Jimi Hendrix’ death.

Brady’s uncle, who lived in Brentwood, was an old vaudevillian. Brady had a beautiful girlfriend who modeled part-time. He kept her at bay while chasing every other girl he came across. They were numerous. Brady had lost a roommate and needed somebody to make up the rent. Brad and Bruk fit the bill. Brad took the other bedroom, and Bruk slept on the rollaway couch in the front room.

Bruk and James were in a constant battle to see who could get more women. Brad, now in full flower, was the younger, more wholesome man. He was able to hold his own with them. Their apartment quickly was dubbed the “tuna boat.”

 Stan thought this arrangement was too good to be true. He started hanging out with them and they made the L.A. scene. They went to bars, nightclubs and strip joints. They went to Yesterday’s in Westwood, Gazzari’s on the Strip, the Rainbow in West Hollywood, Barney’s Beanery off of La Cienega, Sloan’s on Melrose, the Red Onion in Redondo, Hennessy’s in Manhattan Beach, Flanagan’s (known as Big Daddy’s) in Marina del Rey, the Oar House on Main Street in Santa Monica, Mom’s in Brentwood, the Quiet Lady in Orange County, and discos in the San Fernando Valley. They mixed it up with actors, models, porn stars, hookers, athletes, celebrities and wanna-be’s of all stripe. It was the pre-AIDS era, and Los Angeles was at its height of conspicuous sexual consumption.

Brad and Stan were not of legal age. They both went to the Department of Motor Vehicles, claiming to have lost their driver’s licenses. They filled out a form stating they were 21, and were issued temporary licenses. Combined with their ability to finesse and the relaxed nature of the times, they were allowed full access to a new adult Disneyland. The two suburbanites, rich and naïve by upbringing, got an education that cannot be learned in college.

Bruk and Brady liked their drugs. Brad began to fall prey to drugs. Stan partook, but never cottoned to it. He smoked a little grass, snorted a few lines, but was able to say no. He did drink, however. He was still learning how to handle alcohol, and not very effectively. One night, he and Brady put down a bottle of Tequila, until Stan had a “peyote high.” He started having conversations with a “higher power.” He felt at the height of his drunkenness that he was talking to God. Stan took notes because he felt that he was being told the meaning of life, or something like that, and feared he would forget it after the effect of the Tequila wore off. He was right. His notes, which had seemed so lucid and of such importance when he wrote them, were unintelligible scribble when he attempted to read them the next day.

Brady had Stan approach bands at the nightclubs they went to and told them that Brady had sung with Mitchell, was a local celeb, and would they mind having him sing one song? Most of the time, the answer was yes, so Brady sang “Down” by B.B. King. Brady never sang all the lyrics. He just sang “down, down, down” over and over again. He had the voice and enough stage presence to reasonably pull it off.

Stan found a ratty old couch and brought it over so he would have a place to sleep when he came over, which became too regularly for his own good. He would get drunk and not want to drive back to USC on the Harbor Freeway. Staying at the pad meant for some interesting developments. Brady liked to go to Hollywood Park and gamble on the horses. He picked up one girl hitchhiking at the entrance to the San Diego Freeway. He brought her home, took her in to his room, and started having sex with her.

Stan,” Jay suddenly belted, “get in her!”

Stan entered. Jay was screwing her. Stan had his pants off and put his manhood on her mouth. He was not terribly excited, and what he had was as limp as cooked spaghetti. Not impressive. Stan’s tepid member touched the girls closed lips, but she did not kiss it or touch it.

“You can wave that thing in my face all night long,” she said, “but until I get a line of coke, I ain’t gonna suck a Goddamn thing.”

Stan decided that discretion was the better part of valor and left the room. On another occasion, Bruk brought some barfly back to the pad and started to get it on with her right in front of Stan. Stan offered to help out, which was fine with Bruk but not okay with the girl.

“What kind of girl do you think I am?” asked the 21-year old girl, whose legs spread from one end of the room to the other.

Bruk and the girl finished and fell asleep. Stan discovered he had wood of his own, and started to jerk off. He got up and stood above the girl, holding himself, not sure what to do. He was afraid to touch her, for fear that she might get angry, but he needed release. He jacked off on the girl. Amazingly, she did not wake up. The next day, she figured the crusty white stuff was Bruk’s.

When Stan got off a plane at LAX with his teammates after a baseball trip, a stunning blonde rock musician named Peggy met him.

“Are you Stan?” she asked.

“I sure am,” he said.

“Come with me,” she replied.

His teammates boarded a bus for SC, while watching Stan leave with this beauty. Brady waited for them in his sports car.

“I shoulda known it was you,” said Stan.

“The night is young,” announced Brady. He, Peggy and Stan proceeded to barhop from Santa Monica to the South Bay. When they finally got back to the apartment, nobody was there. Bruk had a girlfriend in Westwood and Brad was visiting his mother.

Brady was highly intoxicated. Peggy and Stan dug each other and started having a nice conversation in the kitchen.

“I’m going to bed,” announced Brady. He expected Peggy to follow, but she stayed with Stan. Stan then made his move, and the two of them began having sex on Stan’s couch. Brady came back in, wondering where the hell his woman was. All he saw was the back of Stan’s ass and Peggy’s legs in the Johnny position. Brady joined in, and Peggy was all for it.

Then something weird happened to Stan. He lost his erection while inside Peggy. It was very embarrassing. Neither Peggy nor Brady let him off the hook.

“Jesus,” said Peggy, “most of my men can maintain an erection.”

“Christ,” said Brady, “I bring you a stunning blonde and you go limp on me. What a disgrace.”

Stan got up, got a drink of water, and watched Brady make love to Peggy. He masturbated himself, and after a while started to get the power back.

“Move over,” he said to Brady, tapping him on the back.

Brady pulled out and lit a cigarette. Stan entered Peggy again, feeling hard and excited. He went deeper and deeper with each thrust. Peggy started to get in the mood, squealing and squirming like crazy.

“I’m cumming,” she announced. “Oh, shit, I’m…I’m cumming.”

Indeed she did. Stan gave it to her hard and deep for about eight minutes. Then he pulled out, put himself between her breasts, and shot enormous streamers of semen, decorating Peggy with his glorious load.

Brady observed his performance.

“Man, that’s the best comeback I seen since SC beat Notre Dame in ’74, man,” he said in his gravelly voice.

They high-fived each other.

Brady found one 19-year old beauty at the bus stop. She was the classic Midwest story. Prom queen comes to L.A. to start a film career. Brady had plans for her, and it had nothing to do with a screen test. She was too smart for him, though. After staying at the tuna boat for a day (but not submitting to his charms), she escaped for the bus ride to Hollywood. A year later, Brady saw her doing a shampoo commercial.

“Good for her,” he growled.

Brad bought groceries. Brady and Bruk never did, but they ate his food. Brad woke up and found that Brady had eaten all his eggs. Worse, he had left the remains in a pan on the stove, and had not turned off the burner. The pan, which belonged to Brad’s mom, was burned beyond repair. Brad barged into Brady’s bedroom, where he was sleeping one off. He rocked him with his hand.

One of Brady’s bloodshot eyes opened.

“You ate all my eggs,” Brad accused him.

“Hey, mon,” Brady gurgitated, “I didn’t eat your eggs.”

While Brady was a scoundrel and con man who lived for sex, drugs, sports and gambling, down deep he had a relatively good heart. Most of his problems stemmed from substance abuse. He partied almost every night.

John Bruk was charming, too, but he was a bad apple. Bruk had a girlfriend named Vanessa Tail-feather. She was of Cherokee descent on her father’s side, and hailed from Fresno. Vanessa was foxy as hell. She was a majorette with the UCLA band. She was smart, vulnerable and ambitious. A drama major, she would someday produce and direct independent films with an accent on Native American themes. Aside from her last name, however, she made no attempt to highlight her ancestry. Vanessa looked and talked like any other Valley girl. She loved to shop, party and have sex, which she was quite open about.

Bruk had a way with women, but theirs was an odd match. He had little real education and was obviously a born loser. Stan theorized that Vanessa saw in him something from back home. Maybe unconsciously she felt that, being an American Indian, she could not do better than a guy like John, which was crap.

Stan, the golden baseball star at USC, the lawyer’s kid from Palos Verdes, would have done anything to get a girlfriend like Vanessa. Vanessa flirted outrageously, which was just enough to drive Stan to distraction. She openly talked about hardcore sex acts with Bruk, in front of Stan. Vanessa made love to Bruk on the rollaway while Stan pretended to sleep on the couch.

“I know you’re watching,” she cooed to Stan.

“You’re driving me crazy,” Stan said.

“Why don’t you join us,” she said.

There was awkward silence.

“Just kidding,” she said, laughing.

“Jesus,” Stan said. He thought about jacking off, but decided to hold the edge - just in case.

Stan woke the next morning when Vanessa crawled to the couch and blew him for about 10 seconds. Then she put her hand to her lips, indicating quiet, and crawled back in bed with John.

“Gee, thanks, Vanessa,” Stan said, more frustrated than ever. “That really helps me out a lot.”

Vanessa had a roommate named Marta Rubenstein. She was the original JAP - Jewish American Princess. Marta had gone to high school with John Elway at Granada Hills. She was always bragging about dating Elway, and how her “best friend” was “Three’s Company” star Valerie Bertinelli. It was always “Val this” and “Val that,” but nobody ever had known Valerie Bertinelli to call the apartment, or for Marta to spend any time with her.

Marta was a blonde bombshell. She also was a virgin, as far as anybody knew. She despised Bruk, who she immediately recognized as being beneath her class. Stan tried hard to get her to go out with him. His recent adventures had totally changed his attitude with women. Suddenly, he was aggressive, asking girls out, trying to pick up on them in bars, and generally acting like he was God’s gift to women. Marta ignored his advances, which frustrated Stan because she often came along for the ride. Stan and Bruk often went to Vanessa’s off-campus apartment. They took the girls to football and basketball games. They even went to a gay dance club in Hollywood, which was an eye-opener for Stan. The girls wanted to see the place, and liked it because they could dance without being in a “meat market” atmosphere.

These nights had the earmarks of a date, or double dating, except that all the kissing, holding and loving was between John and Vanessa. Stan would try to hold Marta’s hand, kiss her on the cheek, or put his arm around her, all to no avail.

When Brad was brought around, it looked like the ice princess would break down.

“I’m gonna dress up really sexy for this guy,” Marta told John when she got sight of Brad.

She went to her room and returned in her most revealing short dress. It looked good for Brad, and Stan returned to his SC apartment that night. He was proud that it was his good buddy who had finally gotten Marta. It was as if she was the Germans holding out in the Argonne, and Brad was the American battalion that had finally broken their defenses.

That is, until three in the morning when his phone rang. It was Brad, calling from a pay phone in Westwood. Marta had let him kiss her, but had not even let him come in the apartment, not even to make a phone call.

Neither Brad nor Stan ever knew a man who had sex with Marta. Mike Hoffmeister saw her one night at the 32nd Street Cafe and Saloon and declared that he had done her, but that was as suspect as an O.J. Simpson alibi.

John cheated on Vanessa every chance he got. He was capable of performing any time, anywhere. He would “service” Vanessa and be in some other girl’s pants an hour later. The youthful Stan and Brad almost idolized him. Almost.

Brady saw him as a rival and declared that he got more women, or that his women were classier. John did more damage, cutting a sexual swath through Greater Los Angeles. He got coke whores on the street and 18-year old high school virgins. He had married women in the Valley. Bar girls, one night stands, girls he could not remember. He had slips of paper all over the place with phone numbers on them. He was an unorganized slob who never kept an address book. Stan had a meticulous address book, with the phone number of every girl who ever gave him her number. He wrote the numbers of John’s girls in his book, which John appreciated because he would call them.

Stan became a running joke in the apartment. John, Brady and Brad all got their own girls. Stan was the “garbage man” who got their leftovers. Stan had no trouble copping to this.

“I’m like Phil Esposito,” he said, in reference to the Boston Bruins hockey player who mainly just hung around the goal, knocking the puck into the net after Bobby Orr had created a melee near the net. What did Stan care? After years with no girlfriend, he was free and getting laid. With these guys, the leftovers were still high quality.

An example was Joanie, a high school senior who John found at The Music Box on the Pacific Coast Highway near Pacific Palisades. He brought her home and took her into Brad’s room. When they were finished, Brad came out with a towel wrapped around his waist. He woke up Stan, sleeping in his regular place on the couch.

“Hey, dude,” he said, “John and I’ve got some chick in my room who digs cock.”

“Open up that towel,” said Stan.

Brad did, revealing an impressive erection.

“Let’s ddddddd-do it,” said Stan.

So they did. The girl was a young hottie. Once the other guys were done with her, they left her to Stan. As usual, Stan did not mind “sloppy seconds.” He invited her to sleep with him, and held her tight through the night. He made love to her in the morning, and tenderly cleaned her in the shower afterward. Stan was grateful to get sex. He did not treat women like sluts. Joanie had been high the night before, and in the sober light of morning was questioning herself.

“My mom’s gonna kill me,” she said.

“You want to call her?” asked Stan.

“You mean right now?” she said. “What do I tell her? ‘It’s okay, Mom. I just got picked up and fucked by three older guys. But it’s okay because none of `em came inside me.’”

“You know what I think?” asked Stan.

“What?” she said.

“I think you’re beautiful,” said Stan.

“You do?” she replied.

“Any guy’d be lucky to have a fox like you for his girlfriend,” said Stan. “I’d love to go out with you some time.”

“Really?” she asked. “I don’t think your friends would want to see me again. They just think I’m a little slut.”

“I think you’re great,” said Stan.

She was a rich girl from Brentwood, but a wild child who liked to hang out at dance clubs looking for musicians. John had fed her a line about being a drummer for somebody, and that was all she needed to hear. Stan got her phone number, and called her. He went out with her once, but she had a boyfriend who got wind of it and answered her phone when Stan called.

“Is Joanie there?” asked Stan.

“You listen, Stan,” said the boyfriend. “I know all about you, and Joanie don’t wanna see you no more, so if you call hear again I’m gonna call the police.”

“You sir, are an idiot,” said Stan, hanging up the phone.

One night Bruk and Stan were in the Oar House on Main Street in Santa Monica. Cher was there that night.

“Watch this,” said Bruk, “I’m gonna fuck Cher.”

“I think you’re amazing,” said Stan, “but I do not believe you can pick up on Cher.”

“Betcha $50,” said Bruk.

“You’re on,” said Stan.

An hour later, Stan knew he was $50 lighter when Cher and Bruk were locking lips.

“See ya tomorrow,” Bruk said to Stan as he headed out to Cher’s limo arm-in-arm with her. “And have my fitty for me, bra.”

Stan was happy to lose the bet. Hey, it’s Cher!

“Perty good, perty good,” he mimicked Jim Morrison. “Perty neat, perty neat.”  

All good things must come to an end. Stan’s “education” became all too real on the night of his twentieth birthday. Stan drove John and Brad to The Music Box. Brad scored early and left with a girl, leaving Stan and John. John spotted a disco girl in a halter-top, and started to talk to her. Suddenly, John moved quickly.

“Get the car,” he told Stan. “We’re in.”

Stan went around and got the Plymouth convertible. It was the perfect vehicle to tool around the beach towns of Los Angeles. John and the girl came out, and got in the back seat of the car. Stan was not introduced to the girl. He did not say two words to her.

They were driving home. Stan decided to take surface streets instead of the freeway, for some reason. The idea was a two-on-one. They passed Flanagan’s on Lincoln Boulevard in the Marina. Now it is a giant Kinko’s Copies store, but it was a legendary pick-up spot in L.A.’s disco era. People called it Big Daddy’s because the image of a Big Daddy Bigbucks character dominated the front facade of the building.

Shirley had bought Stan a disco shirt, and God help him, he actually wore it once or twice. But disco fever was on the wane, and Big Daddy’s was now attracting mostly black people.

“My friend’s in there,” the girl said. “Stop. I have to go in there.”

“Hey baby,” Stan said, “I don’t wanna go in that place.”

“Yeah, but my friend’s in there,” she said. “I have to go in there.” Stan reluctantly pulled in to the parking lot, and they entered Flanagan’s. Another reason Stan did not want to go in was because he had been kicked out of there for putting his dick in a girl’s hand while they slow danced. She went to the bouncer, who 86’d him, saying, “I know all about guys like you.”

That actually made Stan feel good, because he had thought it was cool to be a guy like that. Stan’s Christianity was in question his sophomore year. He would need it on this night.

The bouncer who had kicked him out was not working on this night, so Stan was able to get in. Once inside, the guys had weird vibes. The girl went off to do her thing, and Stan and John did theirs. The place was crawling with white babes and black dudes looking to score. A pervasive, yet innocent, sexuality permeated the atmosphere. Deadly viruses, sexually transmitted diseases and “safe sex” were not on people’s minds. Flanagan’s was a poor man’s Studio 54.

Stan thought the ménage a trois was off. Then the girl came up them.

“Let’s go,” she said.

Back in the car, John and the girl again got in the back seat. Stan hardly said three words to her. He did not even know her name. Stan was legally intoxicated. He started driving south past the airport, on to Sepulveda and past the airport. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw John kissing the girl. He had her halter off and was sucking her breasts. She was moaning and enjoying it.

So far, so good.

Stan maneuvered through Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and into Redondo. Just before Catalina, a Redondo police car came up behind him, flashing its lights. Stan parked.

The girl jumped out of the car.

 “They held me against my will,” the girl yelled, running to the cops.                  

“Jesus,” Stan muttered.

Both cops drew their guns. Stan and John were ordered out. They were made to spread-eagle against the car, handcuffed and read their rights. They were ushered into the squad car, and driven to the city jail.

“Why were we stopped?” asked Stan while they drove there.

“You were swerving,” said the cop, “and the girl appeared to be struggling with you.”

“She wasn’t struggling with me,” said Stan. “She was making out with my buddy in the back seat.”

“She was in the front seat,” said the cop.

“She was in the back seat,” said Stan.

“She was in the front seat,” said the cop, “and she was being held against her will.”

“She never asked to be let out of the car,” said Stan. ”This is wrong.”

Stan reiterated that as far as he could see she had been making out with John in the back seat.

“This is just crazy,” Stan muttered.

“You callin’ me a liar?” said the officer.

Stan, the attorney’s son, was smart enough to zip it up.

At the jail, they went through the booking process, and were told they were being arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and sexual assault.

“What’s the punishment for kidnapping?” asked John.

The cop picked up a dog-eared codebook and found the page.

“You can get death for that,” he said, smiling. Stan was scared out of his mind, but deep in the back of his brain a tiny voice was saying, He’s fuckin’ with you because he can.

“John,” he told Bruk, “don’t open your mouth again without a lawyer.”

Stan was allowed a phone call.

“Hello,” said Dan. It was after midnight.  Stan had not returned his earlier call wishing him a happy birthday.

“Dad,” said Stan, “it’s me.”

“Happy birthday, champ,” said Dan.

“Dad,” said Stan, “I’m in jail.”

Stan explained what had happened. Dan listened to all of it. He was as calm as could be, and assured his son that everything would be just fine, and that he had his full support.

Stan hung up the phone, and thought to himself, Jesus, the guy calls me an asshole if I spill water on the kitchen floor, but now this and he’s no problem. 

Dan was like that. He could be miserable to live with, but when times got tough, he was the best friend a guy could have.

John was the first to be questioned. The girl had told the officers that he was the mastermind of the operation; that he had hit her, assaulted her, forced himself on her sexually, and would not let her leave when she tried to get away. Then the cops informed John that they had another warrant out for his arrest. He had sexually assaulted a girl in the alley behind his mother’s house in Mar Vista, and she had pressed charges. The cops had come looking for him there, but could not find him. His mom claimed not to know where he was, and there were no formal record of his residence in Redondo. John had not told the guys about it, and figured it would blow over.  

“You’re fucked, my friend,” said the detective, a dark-haired, handsome Latino man with a moustache, who was in his early 30s.

Stan was brought in.

“My Dad’s a lawyer,” he said. “I don’t know what the hell this is about, or what you got on John, but I didn’t do shit.”

“Listen to me, dipshit,” said the detective. “I deal with punk rich pricks from the peninsula all the fucking time, and I got enough on your ass to put you behind bars for 30 years.”

“I don’t know what she said,” said Stan, “but I never touched her and I didn’t do a thing. I better get a lawyer.”

“Perps who commit crimes always want their lawyer,” said the macho detective, obviously trying to get Stan to take a dump in his pants. “Fuck lawyers. Just tell me everything I wanna know if you know what’s good for you.”

A tiny smile worked the side of the cop’s mouth. Stan was shaking, too scared to think, but he saw that little smile. Suddenly, something inside him kicked in. He became calm. He put himself in another place, on the mound with the bases loaded in a tight situation. He had pitched his way out of tight spots many times before. The reason he performed well under pressure was because he wanted the ball. There was an inner mechanism that allowed him to remain calm and collected in a crisis. Now was one of those times. This was different, yet the concept was the same.

Stan leaned back in the chair. He casually folded his leg over the other as if he was sitting in somebody’s living room.

“Alright, Detective…” he said, “…Martinez is it? I’ll tell you the God’s honest truth. But before I do, I wonder if you’ll do me a great courtesy.”

“What?” said Martinez, sensing this change in demeanor.

“I got a can of Copenhagen that was confiscated from my coat pocket,” Stan said. “That’s like cigarettes, only smokeless. Could you get that for me and I’ll give you everything.”

A few minutes later, Martinez returned with the snuff. Stan packed in a nice fatty, and spit into a garbage can under the table. Then he leaned back and looked disconcertingly into Martinez’s eyes.

“Here’s what I know, Detective Martinez,” he said. “You’re about 30 years old and this is Redondo, not the L.A.P.D. Not much happens in Redondo. Some drug running, mostly down by the pier, but the Feds get the juicy stuff and leave you guys dealing with dopers and drunk drivers.

“You’ve seen too many movies and that ‘I got you for 30 years’ stuff is from one of them. I also have an advantage over you. While you are not really sure if I’ve committed a crime - actually you’re pretty sure I didn’t - I possess actual knowledge that I didn’t. So I’m working on that premise. You’re arguments to the contrary, should you choose to go in that direction, will have the same effect on me as saying, oh, I don’t know, that California is not a State in the Union. You can say it isn’t. I can even nod my head yes, like I agree with you, but I will still have this knowledge that I’m right and you’re wrong. Do I make myself clear?”

Martinez just looked at him.

“Here’s what happened tonight,” said Stan.

Stan went on to give details of how they found the girl in The Music Box, on PCH near the Palisades. He never knew her name. She was in the back seat of the car with John. They stopped at Flanagan’s, and then drove to Redondo. Again, she and John were in the back of the car.

At this point, Martinez became agitated.

“See that’s where you’re fucked up,” he interjected. “I got two officers say she was in the front seat.”

“I’m sorry, Detective,” Stan replied calmly, spitting juice into the can. “They’re mistaken.”

“They’re trained professionals,” said Martinez. “You telling me they’re liars?”

“They’re human beings,” said Stan. “I drive a convertible but the top was up with a plastic back window that’s fuzzy, and light shines off it in a weird way. Or maybe there wasn’t enough light. What it breaks down to is this: Maybe they think everybody was in the front seat. Maybe they’re fairly sure everybody was in the front seat. I’m not kinda, sorta, fairly sure everybody was in the back seat. I actually know they were in the back seat, period. End of discussion about that.”

Stan elaborated on John kissing the girl. He had her top off and was sucking her breasts. He said that he thought she was enjoying it. Stan freely admitted he was horny and was hoping to have sex with this attractive girl at the apartment. He added that he had no knowledge of the sexual assault allegation against John from behind his mom’s house, but John was aggressive with girls and drank too much.

“He’s my friend,” said Stan, “but that is not surprising.”

When Stan was finished, he just sat back. Martinez said nothing for a while.

“You can go back to your cell now,” he finally said.

Stan spent a sleepless night with John in the cell. At six in the morning a uniformed police officer came to get him. He was led into Martinez’s private office.

“You’re free to go,” said Martinez, smiling. “You can pick up your stuff on your way out. Sorry about what happened. I like to get a piece of tail now and then, too. I know what that’s all about.”

“What about the girl?” Stan asked.

“She’s a whack job,” said Martinez. “Druggy. Total nut case. Nothing she said held up, nothing was the same twice.”

“Then what about John?” asked Stan.

“John Bruk’s a menace to women,” said Martinez. “We’re holdin’ him on sexual assault charges from some girl who said he tried to rape her in L.A. He’ll do time if the system works.”

“Jesus,” said Stan.

“Want some free advice?” Martinez asked.

“You bet,” said Stan.

“You seem like a good kid,” he offered. “Stay away from guys like Bruk. Those guys’ll only bring ya down.”

“Thanks,” said Stan, and he left. As he was walking out of the Redondo City Jail, it occurred to him that he had committed a crime, but had gotten away with it. He had been driving under the influence of alcohol, no question, and very likely had been weaving on PCH. That had aroused the police suspicions in the first place.

If the girl had not started yelling that he had been held against her will, he would have gone through a curbside sobriety check, and he might have failed. He would have failed a breath or blood alcohol test as sure as he was alive. But the kidnapping allegations had diverted the cops from the DUI. The kidnapping obviously had no merit, so he had escaped unscathed. He smiled to himself.

Stan walked to where he had parked his car the night before. It was not there. He had parked in a tow away zone. The cops had not noticed, or if they did, they did not care, or they were busy. The bottom line is that his car was towed.

Stan took note of the phone number to call, found out where the car had been towed, and walked for 45 minutes to Torrance, where the lot was. The gate was open. He saw his car. There was no attendant minding the store. He felt for his keys.

“Oh, yes,” he said to himself determinedly.

Stan proceeded to the car, unlocked it, got inside, turned the ignition, and drove the beast out of there. He had a huge smile on his face when he heard some guy calling, “Stop.”

“Fuck yooooouuuu,” Stan said breezily. He was taking his property home. Boy, did that make him feel good. 

Luckily, Stan’s “kidnapping” experience never reached the USC baseball program. Bruk’s arrest was publicized in the Daily Breeze and the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, with no mention of Stan. Bruk was kicked off the El Camino baseball team.

Stan’s biggest regret was having called his dad. If he had not made that call, there was no reason for the old man to have found out. After Dan had found out, he got in touch with John’s mother. A few weeks later, she called Dan at work and asked him to represent her son. Dan met with John, Stan and Mrs. Bruk, at the L.A. County Jail, where John had been transferred.

“Mr. Taylor,” she said, “my boy’s being held on $30,000 bail. We’re poor people and you’re a lawyer up on the hill. I’m askin’ for that money from you, on account of my boy.”

Dan was a sentimental, generous man. Mrs. Bruk looked desperate. Dan looked at Stan, who really wanted to say, “Don’t even think about it.”

Instead, Stan quietly said, “He’s my friend, Dad.”

“If he’s your friend,” said Dan, “then I’ll provide the money.”

Dan told Mrs. Bruk he was not a criminal lawyer, and although he had handled a few special cases, like Mike Lodeen’s, he did not feel that an assault case was the kind of law he would be comfortable or competent handling. In truth, he wanted nothing to do with representing the lowlife John Bruk. He recognized him as trash from the moment he saw him.

Dan was stunned that his precious son was hanging around with a hoodlum like that, but he did understand it. Stan was sprouting wings. Seductive guys like Bruk were out there, saying, “You’re in L.A., you’re young, let’s cut loose and have fun, man.”

The girl dropped her case against Bruk when the assistant district attorney explained what it would be like on the witness stand. She had worked as an escort and had a reputation for picking up guys at biker bars. She had big hair and big breasts. Her past promiscuity would be brought out in trial. She had been on her knees blowing Bruk, and had only rebuffed intercourse with him because she was on her period when John tried to force himself on her.

Mrs. Bruk called Stan at USC.

“Tell your Dad not to worry about the bail money,” she told Stan. “We take care of our own.” She did not tell Stan that they did not need the money anymore, preferring to proffer the fiction that the family could come up with the dough without the help of some fancy P.V. lawyer.

John Bruk was simply unable to stay put of trouble, though. Without baseball, his last vestige of self-discipline, he hooked up with some Hell’s Angels on a meth lab operation in Lancaster, and was arrested again. When his date was set, Mrs. Bruk called Stan.

“I don’t have a car,” she told Stan. “Since John let you stay at his apartment rent free, I think you owe it to him to drive him to Lancaster for his court date. It’s Monday at eight in the morning.”

Stan muttered that he would do it. In the course of the conversation, he told Mrs. Bruk that he would be at his parent’s home on Sunday night. Then he started to think about it. He knew Bruk would never do it for him. He also knew Bruk never paid rent at the apartment. Brad paid half, and Brady paid half. Stan crashed there occasionally and provided a lot of food and alcohol. He used to take Bruk out to dinner, using Dan’s credit card. When they went bar hopping, he often did the driving.

I don’t owe that guy a damn thing, he thought to himself.

Shirley had a friend named Maggie. Maggie was divorcing her husband, and was no longer staying in their house. She and her youngest son were staying at the Taylor’s house. Maggie was a substitute teacher. She had never liked Stan. She thought he was arrogant and showed no respect for his elders. She had been one of those little league parents who hated the Taylor’s because their teams always won. The truth is, her older kid, Reggie, could not hit Stan with a 10-foot pole. Somehow, she had ended up in a tennis club with Shirley. Now they were friendly. The Sunday night before Stan was supposed to drive Bruk to Lancaster (about a two-hour haul), she was at the Taylor’s house.

Everybody went to bed. Stan had decided he did not want anything to do with driving the derelict Bruk to Lancaster. He knew Mrs. Bruk had the phone number to the Taylor house. Sure as heck, if he was not at their Mar Vista home at six in the morning with bells on, she would be calling. So, he took the phone off the hook and stuck the receiver under a pillow on the sofa.

The next morning at 7:00 a.m., Stan was snoozing peacefully when the door to his room opened. It was Maggie. She was an ugly woman anyway, but a real sight in the morning with her hair shaped like a pillow.

Stan thought it was a bad dream, until Maggie opened her mouth.

“You Goddamn son of a bitch,” she spouted venomously. “I’m a Goddamn substitute teacher. I only work when I get phone calls in the morning, and you had that fucking phone off the hook, so I’m not working today, you fucking fuck.”

Stan stared at her, then put the pillow over his head and said, “No wonder you’re husband split on your ass.” From under the pillow he heard her say, “You’re out of this house. I want you out. You’ll never stay here another night.”

Stan was unsure whether Maggie simply had lost touch with reality. She apparently forgot that she was a guest in his house, not the other way around. She slammed the door behind her. Everybody in the house could hear her screaming and swearing. Stan felt bad for a second. Then he figured that she deserved it.

Fuck her, he thought to himself.

Over in Mar Vista, Mrs. Bruk called and got a busy signal, but she was not calling Stan. She was trying to track her son down. He had gone to a strip club in West L.A. the night before, and talked his way into going home with one of the girls. He was snoozing at the stripper’s Culver City condo at six. If Stan had busted his butt to pick him up, it would have been all for naught.

Stan never saw John again. It had been a wild ride over a short period of time. John would be in and out of jail on minor and not-so-minor scrapes. Eventually a biker in Banning, near Palm Springs, would kill him.  The biker caught him stealing his money and drugs, and screwing his old lady.

Brady died a few years later of a drug overdose.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

PURPOSE PITCHES

“Can't you see, can't you see, what that woman, she been doin' to me

Can't you see, can't you see, what that woman been doin' to me

 

--“CAN’T YOU SEE”

                             By the Marshall Tucker Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the “kidnapping” episode, Stan decided to tone his act down a bit. Eventually, Brad moved out of Brady’s apartment and back in with his father in Palos Verdes Estates. They had gotten in the habit of going out on weeknights, and the overall pace of things had taken its toll on both of them. Stan’s grades suffered in his sophomore year. He majored in communications, but continued to take classes in the film school. It was the only class he did well in. He was becoming more and more of a film buff, and was making friends within SC’s tight knit cinema community. Stan was getting to the point where he could discuss film with other bright students and not feel like a fool. He pulled C’s and D’s in his other classes, however. His A in Introduction to Screenwriting during the Fall kept his grade point average above the magical 2.0 mark needed to maintain eligibility for baseball his sophomore year. In the Spring semester, despite getting a B in “American Cinema of the 1960s”, his GPA dropped below a C average. He had to take a class in the Summer and get a B in order to maintain his 2.0 and his scholarship before the next Fall. He did this by arranging with a friendly cinema professor to write a screenplay over the Summer, which he did. It earned him an A in Advanced Screenwriting, and cemented in his mind, for the first, the possibility that a career in the movies might not be totally improbable.

Stan’s extra-curricular activities hurt his performance in baseball in 1984. Stan was accorded a position in USC’s starting rotation, but his work ethic had tailed off considerably. Partying with Brad and his motley roommates left only so much time for school and baseball. He often missed class, and his weight-training regimen suffered to the point where he saw a noticeable decrease in his fastball.

Dan was disgusted. Stan lacked the focus and drive that had always characterized his athletic career. Dan had partied in college and dated a lot of girls. But it had never gotten to the point where his pitching career was in jeopardy. Stan felt Dan’s anger and disappointment. He was simply unable to get out of his funk. He was in a rut, and the worse he felt, the harder it seemed to be able to dig his way out of this self-imposed hole.

A lot was riding on his sophomore performance. The Olympics were scheduled for Los Angeles in the Summer, and baseball would be played as a demonstration sport at Dodger Stadium. It would be a showcase of talent. If Stan could make the team, he would be able to position himself as a potentially high draft pick for his pivotal junior year.

Every night, Stan went to bed and vowed that the next day would be the “first day of the rest of my life.” He needed to buckle down in school, get back on track in baseball, and keep the partying in check. Instead, every day was a malaise. In his mind, it was hotter that Spring that it had ever been before. It seemed like it was 100 degrees every day. The heat was oppressive, and Stan was lazy. He just could not get motivated. Stan had learned, when he was nine years old, the value of hard work. Now, at age 20, he was learning another lesson. Success never comes easy, and you cannot rest on your laurels.

In Stan’s mind, alcohol and rock music had played a positive role in his life. It had loosened him up and made him “one of the guys.” It had helped him get over his shy nature with girls. He had engaged in wild, promiscuous acts of hedonism. It had made him a “man.” But it had come too fast. He had lost focus of the important things in his life. Dan had been restrictive, but he had kept him in line. He still needed the discipline that had been part of his life growing up in his parent’s house.   

Stan felt a sense of foreboding in his sophomore year. The “kidnapping” farce was a warning that everything he had worked for could be destroyed. He had to stay clean, but bad tidings followed him around. Early in the season, the Trojans traveled to Las Vegas to play a series against UNLV. Stan found himself rooming with a pitcher named Al Groth in the team’s hotel, located not far from the Strip. Groth did not like Stan. He was a left-hander from West Covina and was big on Christianity. He always led the team in prayer, and was talking about Christ in his life.

“You have no direction,” Groth told Stan. “You need Christ in your life.”

“I have Christ in my life,” said Stan. “I just don’t feel the need to talk about it all the time.”

“If you had Christ in your life,” announced Groth, “you would not make the stupid choices you do.”

“I make some bad choices,” said Stan, “but I don’t believe it’s all about Christ controlling your actions. I’m going through changes in my life that I feel I need to go through. I’m not perfect, but neither are you. Yet you act like you are somehow. I think it’s about the process of learning, not being on the right path every second.”

Groth had little use for Stan. The real problem was not Christ, it was that Groth was in competition with Stan for a starting spot in the rotation. When the season started, Stan won the job, which galled Groth.

The two of them made uneasy roommates in Las Vegas. Stan had been hit hard in losing to Cal State, Fullerton in his first start. He needed a good outing against the Rebels to stay in the rotation. He was scheduled to pitch against them on a windy Saturday afternoon.

While warming up, Stan heard a familiar voice.

“My Dan,” yelled Walt Coleman from the stands, and the way he said it was unmistakable. Only one person in the world under the age of 60 spoke in the manner that Walt did. “Don Galuuuuu. Father of Rod Carew. Converted Jew.” His inanities made no sense to anybody unless they knew his little inside jokes, which usually centered on some racially questionable premise.

“Standard, my Dan,” he shouted. “It’s been a standard for years.”

It was Walt’s birthday, and he was celebrating in Las Vegas.

The game started in shaky fashion for Walt. In the first inning, Nevada-Las Vegas’ shortstop, Matt Williams, powered the first pitch he saw from Stan 475 feet over the right-center field fence for a home run.

“The Dan’s peering,” yelled Walt from the stands. Indeed, Dan was there. He had said hello to Walt, but was increasingly uncomfortable at Walt’s drunken jeering. Walt was well into a smuggled-in six-pack by the first pitch.

Stan walked the next man, then gave up two singles to load the bases. Dedeaux had the bullpen in full heat. Stan looked over and it looked like 15 pitchers were throwing wildly, ready to replace him not just in this game, but in his SC career.

The next batter hit a shot back to the mound. Stan knocked it down, scrambled after it, and got the throw to first just in time to get out of the inning with only Williams’ homer. He had kept it small, as pitching coaches like to say.

Stan managed to settle down after that, pitching six innings. The Trojans went to work on Vegas’ pitchers, rolling to a tidy 9-1 victory. Afterwards, Walt was ready to party with Stan. Stan went off to do some celebrating with his buddy, much to the consternation if his father, who was left to fend for himself.

Even though it was a Saturday night in Vegas, the Trojans were under a curfew because they had a day game scheduled the next day. They would have to be at the park by 10 in the morning.

Walt and Stan enjoyed a few cocktails in the hotel casino, but Stan excused himself in time for the midnight bed check. Walt had no room of his own, and Stan gave him his keys. He told him he was welcome to sleep on the floor of his room.

At about three in the morning, Groth and Stan were asleep in their room when the door opened with a bang. The lights were turned on, and in traipsed Walt with the skankiest black chick imaginable.

“Wake up, boys,” Walt announced loudly. “Meet Sonia. She’s gonna suck ya all off.”

Stan just smiled at his preposterous friend. Groth thought the whole thing was hilarious. Sonia was a Vegas street hooker who could be had for about $30. She propositioned Stan and Groth. There was give and take in the negotiations, but neither pitcher really wanted to touch her.

Finally, Walt went inside the bathroom with her. Groth and Stan eagerly listened to the goings-on. She was giving him head. After a while, they heard Sonia say, “Now you gonna tell me when you is gonna cum?”

“Sure, Sonia, sure,” said Walt reassuringly. A minute later Sonia was gagging and spitting.

“I thought you was gonna tell me when you was gonna cum,” she muttered.

Groth and Stan laughed uproariously. Stan spirited Sonia out of there, and the pitchers fell asleep. When they woke up in the morning, Walt was asleep on the floor. Groth and Stan got up and went about their business. When the players departed, Walt crawled into Stan’s bed to get some more shuteye. The pitchers went off to the game. Walt eventually packed it in for the drive back to Los Angeles.

At the field, UNLV was taking batting practice. The Trojans went about there stretching, and were going to take their batting practice. Pitching coach Bill Bordley called everybody into their locker room. Guys were staring at each other, trying to figure out what was up. Stan had told Dan Ferrara what had happened with Walt. As they were heading into the locker room, Ferrara said, “Do you think this is about you and that Walt guy?”

“You didn’t tell anybody, did you?” asked Stan.

“No,” said Dan.

“Then nobody’d know,” he said.

Bordley presided over the meeting. Assistants usually handled dicey situations.

“It has come to my attention,” said Bordley, “that we have a serious breach of team rules by one of our pitchers, Stan Taylor.”

Stan’s heart sunk like a lead weight. He hardly heard a word the rest of the meeting. Bordley knew every little detail about Walt and the black hooker. He spelled it all out in the worst possible characterization. Stan felt like crawling into a crack in the cement floor.

Then Bordley asked the captains to speak. They were a couple of heavy partiers. Stan had been with them on drinking expeditions. He had seen them put themselves in precarious situations with women. He had seen them make bad moral judgments.

Now they were acting like Billy Graham, the preacher, not the rock impresario. They sounded like the judge at Nuremberg. Stan felt as if he was being accused of crimes against humanity. Worse, he had let his team down. He had shown no respect for them.

When Al Groth volunteered to speak, Stan’s cluttered mind cleared just enough to realize that Groth had simply marched up to the coach and ratted Stan as thoroughly as one teammate could rat another.

“Taylor has disgraced the whole program,” he announced. “He doesn’t deserve to be a Trojan. I say we hold a team vote and recommend that he be voted off the team.”

This seemed preposterous to Stan, but Bordley let the vote go. Amazingly, Stan was allowed to stay on the team by only two votes above majority. He realized there was still a lot of jealousy and resentment towards him.

“So here’s what we’re gonna do,” Bordley said after the vote. “Taylor, we’re putting you on a plane to L.A. today. You’re not making the rest of the road trip. You’re off the team. If you want to come back to the team, it’ll be up to Coach Dedeaux. If he does let you back on, we have 14 pitchers in the program. You’ll be 14th on the staff. Where you go from there is up to you, but I could care less. You got anything to say for yourself.”

“I’m real sorry,” he mumbled. He explained who Walt was, and how he had just shown up in Vegas. He said he knew how it all looked, but he had just offered his key to friend so he would have a place to crash. He said he had no idea the guy was going to come in with a hooker, and that his roommate, Al Groth, seemed to think it was amusing at the time. He said that he knew guys in the locker room who had done some outrageous things, too. The difference was that their deeds were not being examined in the manner of a prosecution. He managed to look around. He saw no friendly faces. 

“I’d do anything to make it different,” he said. “I apologize. It’s just that I don’t see what the big deal is.”

He could not have chosen a worse phrase worse than “I don’t know what the big deal is.” Groth had said it was a big deal. The captain had said it was. USC baseball said it was. Therefore, it simply was. The one thing required of his sorry ass at that point was to acknowledge that it was a big deal! 

Stan walked out of the locker room in a daze. In the stands, his father was beaming at him proudly. Stan called him over to a private place, and forced himself to tell the old man what had happened. Dan was so disappointed in his son that he could hardly contain himself. Stan’s jail time was fresh in his mind. This was a continuation of that. Stan had forgotten about the kidnapping episode. If the coaching staff knew that story, how much worse would this have been? Stan shuddered at the thought. 

It was not what Dan said, but what he did not say. His face took on that angular, long quality, as if three feet separated his forehead from his chin. Stan knew Dan had never done anything like this to disgrace the Taylor name. He realized that not only was this a personal indictment on him, but a stain on the Taylor Family. The legacy of being a Taylor had never meant that much to him before. He had always been too busy trying to make his way in the world. Avoiding the jeers of junior high teammates or the hazing of Rich Lopez had always been more important than family honor.

But in the last year, he had begun to take stock of his place in the family hierarchy. Uncle Charles was a national political figure, and Stan knew that he had responsibilities to uphold. Growing up had its share of growing pains. His drinking and carousing was fun and made him feel good, but at the same time he realized just how much growing up he had to do. He was not living up to his end of the bargain.              

Dan and Stan flew back to Los Angeles in total silence. Dan gathered the facts about Walt and what happened. Beyond that he was a piece of stone. It was almost beyond agony for Stan, who still had to endure his mother finding out.

The next day it got worse. The sports page headline of the Daily Breeze read, “Sex scandal rocks Trojans.” There was a photo of Stan with his USC hat on, and underneath it read, “Stan Taylor…had hooker in room.” The fact that he was the nephew of the Secretary of State was mentioned, but there was nothing about his earlier arrest.

Al Groth’s father had heard every juicy detail from Groth. He immediately called the Daily Breeze, the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the L.A. Times, the L.A. Herald Examiner, the Pasadena Star-Tribune, the Orange County Register, and the Associated Press. Only Stan’s hometown paper had chosen to print the story. The Times told Groth that if Stan had played on the football team, or maybe the basketball team, it would be a story fit for print, but college baseball was not a big enough venue to advertise such a thing. Groth tried for almost 45 minutes to get the Times to print something. He called two sports columnists, including Scott Ostler, the sports editor, and a gossip columnist, all to no avail. He tried to make hay of Stan’s relationship with the Secretary of State. If the Internet had been invented then, Groth would have had it plastered all over the web. His only tool at the time was a telephone. He even missed that day’s game because calling all the papers took the entire day. Because Stan had not broken any laws, the media, for the most part, chose to ignore the story.

Naturally, Groth was placed in Stan’s spot in the rotation. Stan placed himself in a personal purgatory, convinced that he was a clown who always manages to blow it at the crucial moment. When Dan read the Daily Breeze, he exploded. A guy named David Einstein had written the story. Einstein had a big, thick black beard and looked to Dan like a Marxist. He had never liked Stan. Actually, he had never liked Dan. He did not think Dan embodied the spirit of youth baseball with his screaming, his ranting, and his emphasis on winning. Einstein never came right out and lambasted Stan, but he painted him in a negative manner. His “tributes” were written more as left-handed compliments. Dan had developed an intense dislike of the man.

Now, Dan let it all hang out.

“Goddamn fucking Kuyke Jew bastard,” he extorted. Dan was not taking into account that while Einstein wrote the story, the sports editor probably had chosen the headline and front-page assignment. That did not matter. Dan ranted on and on. Instead of blaming his son or finding fault with what Einstein wrote, he could not help but throw religion, race and politics into it.

“Goddamn Democrat,” he said of Einstein. He did not actually know that Einstein was slightly more liberal than Jane Fonda, which he was. He deduced that this was the reason the man was such a “low down, no-good prick.”

Stan sat around in a state of shock for a couple of days. On the third day, like the risen Christ that was within him whether Al Groth believed it or not, he rose again. He called his old catcher, Bennie Hussein, who came to work out with him at the Rolling Hills field. He put himself through a hard workout on the weights. He ran the stairs at the football field, up and down, until he had purged himself of his demons.

He went back to USC, showed up for classes, and took notes. He marched himself up to the baseball office at Heritage Hall and asked for forgiveness. He was still on scholarship and considered a top prospect. Despite this “14th man on a 14-man staff” ridiculousness, he knew he would get his shot sooner rather than later.

“I want to be a part of this program,” he said.

The coaches were not very sympathetic to him, but they accepted his apology, and he was at practice that day.

Stan worked his tail off. He simply rose above his circumstances through sheer will. He was in the starting rotation by the time the conference season opened, and he ran off five straight wins to up his record to 6-1. As soon as he started winning again, the Vegas episode was forgotten. Almost everybody, including Al Groth, came up to him and told him how funny they thought the whole thing was. They told him how he had gotten the shaft. It was because it had happened early in the season, when discipline is more readily enforced. He was made out to be an example, sacrificed. What he had done was no big deal. Guys who had spoken out against him were telling personal stories of wild things they had done that were far more egregious than giving his key to a friend to sleep on the floor, and not kicking him out for bringing a hooker into the bedroom.

It occurred to Stan that even if he had kicked Walt and the hooker out of the room, Groth would have gone to the coach and ratted him out anyway. Groth was that kind of guy. He could not have won for losing.

Stan laughed and accepted his return to team normalcy, but in the back of his mind he could not help but think about their pack mentality. Where were these guys when he needed somebody to speak up on his behalf? It was like the time he had been accused of stealing that glove at the youth baseball camp. There had been people in that room who knew he had not stolen it. They could have exonerated him, but instead they just shut it down and let him get flayed in the open.

Two months after the Vegas incident, Al Groth got so drunk at a frat party that the cops had to be called when he started throwing beer bottles, smashing them against cars, the street, and the sides of buildings. Groth had just smiled and laughed at Walt and the girl. He had never said, “Get her out of here,” or “I need my sleep,” or “This is not right.” He just filed it and used it to hurt Stan.

Groth held his spot in the starting rotation. He was a pretty good pitcher, although Stan could not tell for the life of him how he got guys out. He seemed to throw a straight 80-mile per hour fastball right down the middle, but hitters would swing and miss. He must have had a good change-up or something. Whatever it was, he was fairly effective.

Unfortunately, Stan’s season did not end well. He went on a losing streak, and the team folded like a tent down the stretch. Stan finished with a 7-4 record, and was not a starter during the last two series of the season. This meant that he did not pitch against Billy Boswell and UCLA.

Bos was wrapping up a masterpiece of a season: .427, 33 homers, and 87 runs batted in. Both The Sporting News and Baseball America named him the College Player of the Year. He won the Golden Spikes award as the nation’s best amateur baseball player. There was considerable opinion among baseball punditry that said he was not just the best college player, but simply the best baseball player alive! He took UCLA to their first-ever College World Series championship at Omaha, Nebraska.

Stan hated him by this time. He had gotten so far ahead of him there was no longer a comparison. Rivals? The papers had talked about the rivalry, but Boswell made a mockery of this. Boswell’s rivals were All-Americans, not struggling pitchers getting thrown off their teams for having prostitutes in their hotel rooms. UCLA was the National Champions, just as Palos Verdes had won the Southern Section and been ranked number one, all at Stan’s expense. Sportswriters were saying that if Boswell had signed out of high school instead of going to UCLA, he would have been the Rookie of the Year, maybe even the MVP.

Billy being a Bruin just seemed to rub salt in Stan’s wounds. Having grown up bleeding Cardinal and Gold, he had no love for UCLA. Now this guy had led their football team to the Rose Bowl, and their baseball team to the Promised Land. SC had talent, but they were lackluster. The whole season was a waste of ability and opportunity.

Stan was invited to pitch for the Alaska Goldpanners in the Summer of 1984. Normally, he would not have merited the invite based on his season, but the ‘Panners were not getting the best players that year. That was because it of the Olympics. That was where Billy Boswell went. Stan had held out hope that he would get a chance at the Olympic team, but he was never contacted for the try-outs, despite the fact that Dedeaux was the United States’ coach. The try-outs were largely a waste of time. The team was pretty well picked out ahead of time. Mark McGwire of USC made it. So did Mississippi State’s Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro. Arizona State’s Barry Bonds did not make the team.

In future years, baseball analysts like Peter Gammons would say the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team was the finest collection of amateur talent ever assembled. That said, they still managed to lose to Japan at Dodger Stadium.

The Summer of ’84 was a comeback road for Stan. Pitching in the relative anonymity of Alaska, he re-dedicated himself to his craft. Installed as a starter on the Goldpanner staff, he found pitching in Fairbanks to be a dream come true. It was everything he had ever hoped that it would be. Stan lived with a family in town, and painted fences three days a week for spending money. The country life of an Alaskan Summer was just the anti-dote after his year in the Los Angeles fast lane. No Bruk’s, no Brady’s, and no drugs. No wild Sunset Strip nightclubs, sex parties or floozy women.

Stan was still that little kid who loved nothing more than to practice baseball with his dad, and to please him. In one year, he had gone from being the guy on the team who never had a girl to the guy who had to be reigned in. While his SC teammates kept their dalliances within the limits of the university, Stan had branched out to an “adult” world. Like Eve biting the apple, he had tasted Original Sin. It had, like watching Linda Lovelace in “Deep Throat”, both repulsed and excited him.

The indulgences he had experienced in the past year were not available in Fairbanks, or the other sleepy Alaskan towns the Goldpanners traveled to. He went out with the guys and drank beer, but Stan even made it to church on Sundays with his host family. The players had free gym memberships, and Stan got himself back into tip-top condition lifting weights. He never had a date or had sex, but was not terribly disappointed about it.

Stan was 8-4 with Alaska with a 3.54 earned run average. On the way to Wichita, he beat the Olympic team, 3-1. A lot of scouts saw that game, and Stan felt a significant amount of satisfaction in beating the vaunted Olympians. He pitched the Goldpanners to the National Baseball Congress title game, and was named All-American by the NBC. He had set himself up nicely for his junior, draft-eligible year.

Back in Los Angeles, Stan went into the 502 Club and, lo and behold, there was Rebecca. Rebecca had dropped out of school early in the Spring semester of the previous school year. She had some good modeling offers, and a few others that might not have been so good. She was still young and gorgeous. When she had dropped out of school, nobody knew where to find her. Carl had no clue. The guys at the frat house did not know. Stan tried the San Marino phone directory, but he did not know her last name. She was like a ghost, and now she had re-appeared in his life.

The night Stan saw her at the 502 Club, she was straight, and fairly reserved, as if life had not proven to be all parties and sex over the past months. She did not say if anything had happened - a run-in with the police maybe, a family spat perhaps - but there was just a tinge of sadness to her.

The 502 Club was quiet on this evening. Just a few locals, and not the usual riotous students, which would naturally produce a phalanx of horny guys just drooling over Rebecca. Instead, Stan bought her dinner, and they talked about real life. She was so beautiful. Now she was vulnerable. Stan fell in love with her. In his mind, they were both misfits who were meant for each other.

That night, he took her back to his empty apartment. He maintained his pad at the Regal Trojan Arms for his entire USC career. With Bruce Springsteen gently crooning on the record player, Stan made sweet love to Rebecca while a bright moon shone through the window. It was the first time he had ever made real love to a woman. His prior sex adventures had been drunken pick-ups, psuedo-gangbangs, and various spin-offs of that theme.

This was a first for Rebecca, too. She had only known how to be manhandled and objectified. She had learned how to please men in a million ways, but she had never insisted on being pleased herself. 

“You’re the most exciting woman I’ve ever been with,” Stan said to her while staring into her eyes and kissing her lips. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she replied.

They embraced, and kissed, their tongues probing warm mouths. Stan performed acts on Rebecca he had never thought he would do. He took her into the shower, scrubbed hear clean, and spent an hour satisfying here every need. He discovered that he was a natural expert. Rebecca melted into the bed.

Then she returned the favor. They made love in various positions, and Stan maintained an endless state of readiness. After hours of sex, he had a shuddering orgasm, and they fell into each other’s arms. They kissed and held each other tight, and told each they loved one another over and over again. Stan had never been happier.

Whatever Rebecca was, she was young, beautiful and intelligent. She had a heart of gold. She came from a good family. Her upside was tremendous. Stan could care less if she had been with a lot of men. Now she was with him.

The next day, Rebecca left. Stan asked for her phone number, but she was evasive, saying she was unsettled, and would call him. Stan was confident that she would.

Brad had finished up his sophomore year on the El Camino baseball team. He was a left-handed relief pitcher, and his prospects were not good. He had thought about transferring to a four-year school. Maybe Pepperdine, maybe Cal State, Long Beach. That Summer, while Stan was pitching in Alaska, Brad had been dating a pretty Tennessee debutante who had come to Hollywood seeking acting fame. She had been cast as the Nurse Ratchet character in the Long Beach Playhouse’s performance of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. She was too young and pretty for the role, but she was a fairly accomplished actress, so they gave it to her.

Brad was infatuated with her, and he started hanging out at the Long Beach Playhouse just to be around her. They were still casting for the McMurphy role, that Jack Nicholson had made famous in the 1975 film. Then it hit Brad. He was perfect for the part. Especially the baseball scene, where McMurphy rattles off an imaginary play-by-play of the 1963 World Series when Nurse Ratchet refuses to allow the TV to be played.

Brad had done some acting in high school. He decided to spread his wings. He got a hold of the script, memorizing the lines of the play-by-play. He studied by picking up the cadences of Vin Scully, the Dodgers’ announcer, and went for the role. He was great. The director was enthralled as Brad rattled off about “Koufax with the big fucking curve ball for strike three,” doing it in perfect Scully-speak. This was especially amusing, because nobody had ever heard the actual Scully, a man of infinite integrity and class, swear, especially on the air.

Brad got the role, and performed all Summer to rave reviews. A talent agent discovered him. He told him that he knew of modeling and acting opportunities in Paris. Brad had never much thought of anything outside of baseball. His brother, Darren, was the actor in the family. Darren was studying drama at USC, where he would run into Stan and chastise him for partying too much and “wasting the talent God - if such an entity were in fact to exist - gave you, my friend!”

So, Brad would go to Europe. While he was waiting to go overseas, Brad continued to live at home, but he partied at SC with Stan on weekends. Brad, like Stan, had extended himself during the Bruk-Brady year of 1983-84. He had, in fact, gone even farther, delving into the drug habit that Stan eschewed. He had had a few close calls. The whole experience was a wake-up call for him. Brad had tremendous good looks. He was now better looking than Jeff, finishing up his senior year at SC. Darren had never had the looks of his brothers. He was more studious and serious.

Brad was at the point where his looks made things easy for him. He had landed the “Cuckoo’s Nest” role partly based on this quality. He could get any girl he wanted. Now, he had modeling assignments waiting for him in Europe. Something inside him was seething for something more, though. He felt kinship with Jim Morrison. Morrison had been loved for his sex appeal, and frustrated that his poetry, serious lyrics and intelligent philosophies were overshadowed by his tight leather pants and flowing black hair.

Brad started reading poetry, Greek mythology, Irish mysticism, and world history. He devoured Keats, Kipling, Descartes, Hemingway, Shakespeare, anything he could get his hands on.

He would show up at the Regal Trojan on Fridays, having spent the week in his father’s den reading books. He was ready to let it all hang out. Brad moved through a coterie of USC girls that he met with Stan at the Five-oh, or the Three-two, as the 32nd Street Saloon was called. At first, they tried to keep their wanderings local, as if the innocence of the college atmosphere would protect them from themselves. They had both seen a deviant side of themselves in the previous year.

Enter One-Armed Bob. Bob idolized these two guys for their looks, their athletic skills, and their ways with women. He also had a car and was perhaps the most skilled driver in the L.A. Basin. One-Armed Bob could drive a stick shift down the Sunset Strip at 9:30 on a Friday night, drinking a beer, putting in a dip of Skoal, chewing, drinking, putting in quality tapes in his cassette, and on top of that the man always found a place to park, right in front of where they wanted to go. If anybody else were doing the driving, they would have to park in some residential neighborhood in West Hollywood. The locals hated the savage weekend partiers who invaded their fair neighborhoods. They made loud noises, pissed on their lawns, and left empties to be picked up in the morning.

Not so with One-Armed Bob. The man would pull up to Barney’s Beanery or the Rainbow. Parking spots opened up like the Red Sea. One-Armed Bob was Stan’s “exit strategy” after a night of drinking. He had had a few close calls with drunk driving. Left to his own devices, Stan had no intention of getting behind the wheel intoxicated. But One-Armed Bob was as safe and reliable as the Secret Service.   

By his junior year, the Strip had become the weekend destination of Brad, Stan and One-Armed Bob. They usually started at Barney’s, then the ‘Bow, or perhaps Sloan’s. Brad, the aspiring actor, was in his element in these Hollywood haunts.

For all their carousing, they were safer than they had been hanging around the Redondo drug element. There was a collegiate quality to their efforts. An interesting pattern began to develop. Brad had become so adept at picking up girls, that he was overshadowing his buddies. One night at Sloan’s, Stan and One-Armed Bob met up with Brad and his buddy Timmy, an aspiring film editor/producer/writer, who in reality was driving some Hollywood lowlife around town.

The drinks were flowing, the barbs flying, and good times were being had by all when Stan hooked up with some amazing bimbo. She was blonde, a little ancient for them (maybe 33), with breasts that threatened to tear her sweater off. She had the body of a 19-year old ballet dancer. She claimed to be a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

The girl was intoxicated on drink and drugs, and from the get-go she was an obvious candidate for rough sex. Stan was prepared to service her needs. The things she whispered into his ear were so foul, so deliciously vulgar, as to arouse in Stan an animal mechanism that scared him. That he could be capable of filling her foul necessities was not in line with his Christian beliefs. Briefly, he thought about his mother, and his apple pie upbringing in Palos Verdes Estates.

You’re not in Kansas anymore, baby, he told himself.

Of course, he was more than happy to handle all of her requests. Her claim to be a former NFL cheerleader created in Stan’s mind an image of hung black pro football stars lined up for a tag team.

It was a fait accompli. Sex would occur between Stan and this broad, whose name he never could remember even though she had told him several times. She grabbed his balls and whispered things in his ear as they departed the premise. One-Armed Bob trailed them because he was the driver who would get the lovebirds back to Stan’s off-campus sanctuary. She had not acknowledged One-Armed Bob’s presence, but she was obviously so nasty that he held out some hope that she might just throw a blowjob his way.

As they were walking out, Stan’s arms draped around her shoulders, one hand caressing her breast. Thy ran into Brad and Timmy.

“Hey, man,” Stan said, “I gotta go.”

“Whaddaya mean, ya gotta go?” asked Brad. “You can’t go. We’re drinkin’ tonight.”

“Dude, this chick’s a freak,” Stan said, nodding at the girl.

“Oh, yeah,” said Brad contemptuously. He eyed her, and she eyed him right back. Introductions were made. Then Stan and his girl left, followed by One-Armed Bob.

In Bob’s car, the blonde sat on Stan’s lap while Bob performed his magic driving skills. There were several ways he could get back to SC from Sloan’s, but as fate would have it, he chose Melrose headed east towards the 101, which would intersect with the 110. That was the Harbor Freeway, which would get them back to their little place in the world.

Melrose on a party night is a true sight, filled with neon lights, mini-malls, gay bars, strip clubs, seedy dives, ancient hotels, restaurants, and a million other city delights. Stan and his girl were locked in a kiss. Her sweater was off, and Stan’s mouth wrapped around her mammoth breasts. Stan’s erection was going full steam. Suddenly everything stopped.

“Park the car,” she exclaimed.

“What?” said Stan.

“I have to go in there,” she said, referring to some gay strip club they had just passed.

What is this, déjà vu all over again? thought Stan, thinking about the crazy girl in the halter-top who had gotten him in trouble with the Redondo Beach Police Department after telling him stop at Big Daddy’s. It turned out that “Debbie Who Does Dallas” had a gay roommate, that he was in this bar, and she had to tell him she would not be coming home tonight, or else he would worry. This seemed to be a reasonable request, but in the back of Stan’s mind he figured that this chick was the kind of girl who would disappear for two weeks to be the main course at a Hell’s Angels barbeque. What was up with this touchy-feeling BS about letting some limp wrist know where the hell she was?

The traffic on Melrose was intense, and parking almost impossible. One-Armed Bob could easily have just kept moving with the flow, and the next thing they knew, they would have been on the freeway. The pure flow of traffic would have provided the excuse that they had not been able to stop. This did not square with One-Armed Bob’s incredible driving skills.

“There ain’t no place to park,” said Stan, and he was right. All he wanted was to get this sexpot into his bed and pleasure himself beyond imagination. But One-Armed Bob was Mario Andretti negotiating the backstretch at Daytona. He swerved one car, avoided another, sped up, slowed down, backed up, and within seconds they were legally parked directly in front of the gay joint.

Tittie Monster got out and went inside. Stan and One-Armed Bob reluctantly followed, drawing the usual gay stares. The place was disgusting, not because its patrons were queers, but because it was beyond Sunset dive motif. Drugs and illicit behavior seemed to ooze from the walls.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Stan said to himself, let me fear no evil.

 Tittie Monster found her guy. No introductions were made. She told him she was going home with the tall, straight man waiting for her by the door. He checked Stan out, figuring him to be an athlete, and told the girl she needed to be careful, because “some of these All-American types are real freakoids, baby.”

The girl was counting on that, and Stan was ready to deliver the goods. Out the door they went. Now the way was clear to paradise. Back into the car they went. Hands on crotches. Lips and tongues, sweat and saliva, hard-ons and wet pussy. All the things that make life worth living.

There was the 101 Freeway, the last straight passage to unfettered sex. Closer and closer One-Armed Bob’s car got, getting past heavy traffic, red lights, pedestrians and cars blocking, and crossing, Melrose Boulevard.

We have to go back to Sloan’s,” came her words.

Stan’s head just sunk, his chin hitting his chest. A sense of inevitability hung over him. She was too sexy, her breasts were too large, her sexual inhibitions too enormous. Getting a girl like that was simply too good to be true.

The conversation took its normal, natural twists and turns. One-Armed Bob could have ignored her words, as if he had not heard them, just as he could have ignored her pleas to park in front of the gay bar. But he was skilled. He made a few more experts turns and the next thing they knew, they were headed back towards Sloan’s.

Why One-Armed Bob so quickly and expertly followed her orders instead of driving back to USC was beyond Stan’s understanding. He just chalked it up to some cosmic law that he was beginning to think existed. The law, more or less, said that good things did not happen to him. Or, just as possibly, he was being protected from bad things happening to him. This girl had all the potential of being a genuine femme fatale. She was straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel.

Stan tried to talk her back into the sex lane, but something had changed. There was no explanation from her, but the hands, the touching, the stroking, kissing and licking ceased.

At Sloan’s, One-Armed Bob found a perfect parking spot in front. The blonde quickly bounced out of Stan’s lap and was in the bar. Stan and One-Armed Bob reluctantly meandered into the place. Stan realized that if he wanted to visit the Promised Land tonight, he would have to buy the same real estate twice. The price had doubled.

Stan re-entered Sloan’s. It was a great bar filled with girls, but they held no enticement for him. He had lost his edge. He found Brad and Timmy. The blonde was on Brad as if she had ordered him from a stripper’s telegram service.            

The whole thing was not fully explained to Stan. The blonde ignored him as if he did not exist. It was Brad she wanted. There must have been some kind of offer when she saw Brad the first time, she had considered it, and before committing to Stan had decided Brad was the better choice.

Stan and One-Armed Bob kept drinking in quiet anger. Brad and Timmy left with the girl. Stan and One-Armed Bob then left. Stan knew where Timmy lived. He had a place near Pico and Robertson. He instructed One-Armed Bob to go that way. One-Armed Bob did just that. They parked and walked to Timmy’s pad.

The two guys traipsed on up the steps to Timmy’s place. The door was open. They entered. On the couch, Brad was on the bottom. The girl was sandwiched between them. Timmy was on top. They had her in full double penetration.

For a brief seconds, Stan thought about joining the party. One-Armed Bob was hoping for the blowjob that never seemed to come around. God knows he needed one.

“Get out!” yelled the girl.

“Get out!” yelled Timmy.

“Get out!” yelled Brad.

Stan was done. You could have stuck a fork in him. He and One-Armed Bob just drove home with their tails between their legs. 

Brad did some major damage before leaving for Europe. He would pick up on the daughter’s of famed movie stars and directors, telling Stan and One-Armed, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” The next day he would drag back to Stan’s apartment looking like something the cat had dragged in. 

USC was filled celebrity kids. Jack Nicholson's pretty daughter, Jenny was a regular at the 502 Club. Laker owner Jerry Buss's daughter, Jeannie, was there. So was James Garner’s daughter. Actress Ally Sheedy attended SC. It was a fun, exciting place to be, filled with Beautiful People.   

In October of Stan’s junior year, Brad departed for Europe to begin his acting and modeling career. He had courage, going to a distant land in which he knew little of the language. He did not have much money, and would be on his own. But Brad was a survivor, and he was determined to stake his claim.

With Brad gone, Stan hung out more with his roommate, Mark Terry. Terry liked to hang out with the fellas. He had all the earmarks of being a man’s man. He chewed tobacco, drank beer and played cards. Terry loved hearing the ribald stories that Stan told of his adventures with Brad and One-Armed Bob. But he was a one-woman man. 

When Terry broke up with his girlfriend, this was a development of great interest to many women at USC. He was 6-3, 220 pounds, with deep, dark eyes, black hair and the face of an Irish scoundrel.  He was a hunk. Terry carved out a sexual niche of own.

Terry also gave Stan a nickname that would last for years. Jim Murray of the L.A. Times wrote a column about a racehorse titled, “This big horse is a little psycho.” To Mark Terry, this was the perfect description of big Stan Taylor. Stan was a “big horse” who was definitely  “a little psycho.” Terry started to call Stan Big Horse.

Stan and Terry threw a bash at their apartment. Two female tennis players showed up. They were both attractive “party animals.” Stan got very drunk and belligerent. At the end of the night, the two pretty tennis players bid Stan and Terry adieu. Stan probably could have had sex with both of them if he had played his cards right.  Instead, he drank, chewed tobacco, and loudly quoted “Apocalypse” and “Patton”. He went up to girls and said, “Hey baby, take yer clothes off.”

The theme of clothing removal became a weird obsession of phrases.

“Well awwwriigjht,” he screamed like Mick Jagger, “take yer clothes off, and let’s have a look atcha.”

“You know, Big Horse,” Terry tried to tell him. “A lot of these girls think you’re a big strapping guy when they see you around school, but I don’t think quoting ‘Patton’ is the way to their hearts.”

 The two tennis girls thanked Stan and Terry as they were leaving.

“Thanks for inviting us to your party, Stan and Mark,” they said. Nice girls.

Stan stood like a specter on the top of the staircase and watched them as they walked down.

“Yeah,” he yelled, “just leave. Drink all my Goddamn beer. Listen to all my records. Just use me for your own guilty pleasures and leave. Shee-it!”  

“Bye, Stan,” the tennis girls said sweetly. They thought he was pure comedy.
                  “You know, Big Horse,” Terry, who had observed the exchange, said with a smile.  “You really ought to take over that column from Miss Manners. ‘Big Horse Manners Rules of Etiquette.’ ‘Big Horse Manners.’ Horse. Horse B. Manners. Horace B. Manners. Horace ‘Bad’ Manners. Horace B. Manners. Horace. Horace B. Manners, and the ‘B’ stands for bad. Bad manners.”

Stan heretofore became known to everybody at USC as Horace B. Manners. Over the years, anybody who knew him in his last two years at the University of Southern California knew him as Horace. 

Stan started to hang out with a couple of girls that Mike Hoffmeister had introduced him to. Tammy Rubenstein was Marta’s sister. She had dark hair, was just as cute, and a lot more approachable. Stan had struck out with Marta, but hoped to score with Tammy. Everybody wanted her in the worst way. She dated most of the star athletes, but claimed she was a virgin. This was technically true, although every skill position player on the Trojan football team had engaged her in the “69” position.  

Tammy’s partner in crime was an exotic beauty named Sandra.  She and Tammy were regulars on the SC party scene. They saw Stan all the time, and they became friends. Stan wanted sex more than friendship, but neither girl was interested. They thought he was hilarious, though.

Both girls dug Terry. Girls were always using Stan to get to Terry. Stan had spent hours “working” on a sunbathing blonde at the Regal Trojan, only to discover she wanted nothing to do with him. She was obsessed with Terry. It was the same old story.

Neither Tammy nor Sandra knew Terry, but they were determined to.  The competition was on between them. Sandra made the first move, using her friendship with Stan. Stan knew about a film school party, and arranged for Terry to make extra money as the doorman. Sandra and Tammy both planned to attend. Sandra told Tammy she would meet her there. Sandra showed up early, and found Stan.

“Hi, Stan,” she said. “Would you do me a favor?”

“Sure,” said Stan.

“Will you introduce me to your roommate?” she asked. 

“Oh, I see how it is,” said Stan, smiling.

Sandra smiled demurely.

“Are you sure I can’t ask you out first?” asked Stan.

“Come on,” said Sandra. “Please.”

“You got it,” said Stan.

Stan brought Sandra to Terry.

“Hey, roomie,” Stan said with a smile. “Don’t say I never brought you a present.”

Sandra worked Terry like she was running for mayor. Tammy showed up a few minutes later. She tried to interject herself. She was not above stealing boyfriends, but Terry was hooked. Stan tried to offer himself as Tammy’s consolation prize, but she was not interested in doing 69 with him. She preferred black running backs and DBs, anyway.

After that, Terry was again “One-Woman Mark”, and Stan hardly saw him. Sandra lived over at the Moon Apartments with another sexy girl who was getting phone calls from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Hallo Juleee,” Arnold would leave messages on the machine. “Dis is Aanuld.” Terry enjoyed erasing Arnold’s messages, which probably benefited Maria Shriver. Stan tried to get Julie to go out with him, too, but she had gotten wind of all the Horace B. Manners stories and was not impressed.  

Stan managed to get into the worst fight of his life at Tammy’s birthday party, which was held at Marta’s apartment in Westwood.  The lovebirds Sandra and Mark made a quick exit. It was a crazy affair. Stan found himself sitting next to Marta and Tammy’s mother. She was very well put together.

“How come I can’t get either one of your daughters to go out with me?” lamented Stan.  Stan worked Mrs. Rubenstein for 45 minutes, no doubt trying to re-live “The Graduate”. She was friendly but not willing to play Mrs. Robinson to Stan’s Benjamin.

Once she was out of the picture, Stan reverted to his practice of heavy drinking.   By 1:30 on the morning he was standing on the street with his pal, Pit Boston. Pit managed to get into a heated argument with an enormous guy who was a tight end on the football team and a wrestler at UCLA.

“Apologize,” Pit told the behemoth. That was all Stan heard. Blind drunk with false courage, Stan stepped in front of the behemoth.

“You’re not gonna fight him,” he told him. “You’re gonna fight me.”

Words ensued. Stan never really knew what happened next. It was later described to Stan that he had literally walked into the punch. Stan remembered being blindsided. The punch was bad enough, but the real damage came when Stan’s head hit the pavement, opening up a bloody gash.  Being drunk and stupid, he tried to throw a punch from his knees.

“Stay down,” yelled his baseball buddy, Bruno. 

Too late. Stan caught another punch and was down for the count. When he reached consciousness, he and Pit, who had taken a punch for good measure, walked away, holding each other up. Wrapped in makeshift bandages and covered in blood, they looked like the drum-and-fife corps from Revolutionary War paintings.  

To add insult to injury, Stan noticed Billy Boswell and Matt Hobli just before he got in the car to depart the premises. Boswell was all over Tammy Rubenstein.

69 is divine, he said to himself. Neither Pit nor Stan had represented SC in this fight with UCLA, but nobody could say he had backed off a challenge.

“Sometimes you gotta throw a purpose pitch,” Stan muttered in the car. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor, especially when the other guy is 6-3, 250 pounds. Stan was taken to Orthopedic Hospital, where the doctor stitched up his head. His combination hangover and stitched-up dome made for a brutal hangover the next day, but he was young and strong. He survived. It was not as bad as Canada after his night with the lumberjacks.  

 

Ken MacDonald had been Mike Hoffmeister’s roommate. He was from the Bay Area, and everybody called him Mac. He was short and slight, with fiery red hair. He loved sports and liked to liked to kick around with a football, shoot hoops or take a little batting practice. He had not participated in organized athletics since his freshman year in high school, though.

Mac’s father, Frank, was a motivated self-starter, a lone wolf who took care of business his own way. He had been a Marine fighter pilot, fitting the fighter jock profile of a rugged individualist. Frank had graduated from Notre Dame. Outside of his family, the two things that aroused his greatest passion were the Marine Corps and Notre Dame football.

Frank had always harbored the hope that his son would follow in his footsteps, first to Notre Dame, and then into the cockpit of an F-16. Mac went to South Bend for his freshman year. But Mac was a different breed of cat. He liked warm weather, fun bars and beautiful women. None of these things could be found within 60 miles of the University of Notre Dame.

He was not Rudy. After one year of purgatory in South Bend, Mac transferred to the University of Southern California. The old man was aghast. Not only was his kid leaving his beloved alma mater, he was transferring to the Irish’s biggest rival. For this privilege, he would be required to fork out 20 grand for tuition, books, room and board.  

Mac was just like Hoffmeister. The two of them were unlike anybody Stan had ever seen. True cards. Mac never went to class, either, except when he absolutely had to. In fact, he did not even live in Southern California! 

Mac’s friends in the Bay Area would see him on Wednesday nights at a bar called the Black Oak Saloon.

“Hey, man,” they would say. “I thought you were going to SC.”

“I am,” he replied.

He virtually commuted from San Francisco to Los Angeles, driving all night to take a test, then driving right back. He and Stan went to the SC bars, then to Tommy’s on Beverly Boulevard. Like the Orginal Pantry on Figueroa, Tommy’s was an L.A. landmark, where USC students mixed with Latino gangbangers and inner city blacks to eats the nastiest, greasiest chili cheeseburgers ever invented.

“You don’t eat a Tommy’s burger,” Brad once said. “You wear it.” 

Hoffmeister had once managed to drop his cheeseburger on the oily, unwashed sidewalk. Millions of feet had trampled that sidewalk. It had not received a semblance of a washing in eons, and like the song says, it never rains in Southern California. Hoffmeister had looked at the line, winding around the corner. It was always like that around two a.m. If he got back in line, it would be a 30-minute wait. He had taken a deep breath, bent over, scooped the remains of cheese, meat and chili, and scooped it onto the bun. Then he ate it.  

Mac and Stan had gone to Tommy’s after a party. Afterwards, Mac dropped him off at the Regal Trojan. Stan came in, and then realized he had left something in Mac’s car. Mac was staying at Steve Heslop’s apartment on Ellendale. He called him up. It was 3:30 a.m.

 “Yeah,” said Heslop, a left-handed pitcher from a town near Palm Springs.

“Yo, Hes,” said Stan. “I gotta talk to Mac.”

“He went to San Francisco,” said Heslop.

“Oh, he must not have come in yet,” said Stan. “Have him call me.”

“He’s been here,” said Heslop. “He’s come and gone.”

“Whaddaya mean?” asked Stan.

“He went to San Francisco,” said Heslop.

“What are you talkin’ about?” asked Stan. “I just saw him a few minutes ago.”

“Man,” said Heslop, “he came in, grabbed his coat and left for San Francisco five minutes ago.”

That was Mac’s M.O. It did not matter how much he had to drink or how far he had to drive. He thought nothing of getting in his car and “commuting” between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Mac was an expert driver who was almost never pulled over. But he also knew ways to beat the system. He would keep gym clothes in his trunk. Before starting to drive, he would put the gym clothes on. Once he was pulled over by the C.H.P after a night of heavy drinking. Mac was a step ahead of the officer.

“Where you comin’ from?” inquired the lawman.

“24-Hour Fitness,” Mac answered. He was sweaty and red-faced - just like he would look after an hour on the Stairmaster.

“Oh,” said the officer, observing that Mac was wearing shorts, T-shirt, white socks and athletic shoes. “You take care, man.”

“Knuckleheads,” was Mac’s assessment of people who went into police work.

Mac was not a details guy. He majored in business at USC, but he was on the six-year track to graduation. He finally finished up at SC. He went back home, where he did little more than hang out at his parents, drink with his pals at the Black Oak Saloon, and sleep in until one in the afternoon every day. His Marine Corps father was in a constant state of consternation.    

Months passed, and Mac never received his diploma in the mail. He called SC, figuring they had the wrong address. When he finally got somebody who had access to his records, he was told that he had not graduated.

“There’s several classes you have to pass before we can award you a B.S.,” said an advisor. Mac was not heartbroken. Instead of tackling a real job, he could loaf off for another semester of college. Mac consulted his dog-eared USC Business School catalogue, figuring out what classes he needed, and enrolled in them. He commuted to tests, just as he always had, mindful not to miss “Tequila Night” every Wednesday at the Black Oak Saloon.

 When the semester was over, he again waited for the diploma that never came. He called the counselor, who went over his transcripts and informed him that he had still not met all the requirements for graduation. It turned out that Mac was using a 1977 business school catalogue. The requirements had changed since that time. He never would graduate.

Mac was as sharp as a tack, though. He was one of the world’s best test takers. A night owl who never studied prior to midnight on the eve of test day, he would pull all-nighters and go right into the test, acing them every time. He took this approach to professional tests, passing the N.A.S.D. Series 7 stockbrokers’ license, the insurance exam, the real estate test, and half a dozen other tests. He probably could have passed the bar or become an intern if he fancied it.

That was not the half of it. Mac took most of these tests for other people, which was a felony. He never thought twice about it. He showed whatever I.D. his friends gave him, forged their signatures, and took tests for them. 15 or 20 people found themselves licensed to sell stocks, insurance, real estate and other things on the open market, courtesy of Ken MacDonald.

Stan, now a junior, wanted to re-focus himself after two years of drunkenness and skirt chasing. He wanted to get something out of his education, and to live up to his potential on the baseball field.

“It’s time for that ancient lunatic who reigns in the trees of the night to get off his branch,” he said.       

Like his father, Stan found himself enjoying the diversity of USC. His frat was mostly white, but Stan found fraternity life to be boring and unsatisfying. The school had always attracted an ethnic mix because of its location on the Pacific Rim. By Stan’s time, they had made an effort to highlight this part of life at the University. The old elitism was a passé concept.

      His pals were on the baseball team or in the Five-oh. Baseball had opened his eyes. Growing up in Palos Verdes Estates, the only black guy was Billy Boswell. Boswell’s race was not what obsessed Stan. It was his greatness on the field. Boswell overshadowed him every step of the way. In four years at Rolling Hills, Stan had one black teammate, and he was a marginal player. There had been a couple of blacks on the basketball team when he first came to school, but none by his junior and senior years. The football team had one black kid, who transferred in as a junior. There were some Orientals and a few kids of Middle Eastern descent, but by and large he had known only white suburbia.

Now, he had minority teammates. He knew a lot of black athletes who played football, basketball and ran track at SC. Stan was grateful that sports had put him in a position to befriend people from different backgrounds. Like his father before him, Stan chose not to study at Doheny, but at the “ethnic” library, at Von Kleinschmidt Center. It was there that students from the Middle East, Asia and the African Continent surrounded him. Charles Mansour was a black man from a prominent family in the Sudan. He was studying engineering at SC, because his family ran an oil exploration firm in his native land.  

Stan liked Charles and invited him to the Five-oh. That was where Charles got into trouble.  Charles ordered pitchers of beer and drank right out of them, without pouring it into a glass. He did not hold his alcohol well and quickly became surly. Stan would sit with him until he started to get nasty. Then he would leave Charles to himself. He would stew in the dark corner. The drunker he got, the madder he got at the ills he perceived in society.

Mike Stowe was a 6-9 black basketball player at SC. Charles could not stand Stowe or the other black athletes at school. He could not understand why they got special treatment while he had to bust his tail. Charles had seen devastation in Africa; starvation, wars, riots, ethnic cleansing, famine, and all the other horrors of the Third World. The Communists had come and gone, to be replaced by the warlords. He knew how lucky he was to get an excellent education, and the opportunity to rise above those circumstances was not lost on him.

These American blacks were an abomination to him. They were on scholarship to play sports, but ditched class and treated school like a joke. What a tragedy, to treat education in such a way! Furthermore, beautiful girls threw themselves at them. They were unsophisticated, illiterate baboons, as far as he was concerned. Yet he labored in obscurity while they were accorded status because they could run or shoot a ball through a hoop. The white boys fawned over them and catered to them.

Does nobody see what I see? Charles asked himself.

“These blacks in America are such a waste,” Charles told Stan. “If not for sports, they do not hold jobs. They treat their women like whores. Do they not know how few of them will play sports for money? Do they not see the value of education?”

“Well,” said Stan, playing devil’s advocate, “what about slavery? Are they not owed something after what happened to their ancestors?”

“Such foolishness,” said Charles. “How are they owed something for that which did not happen to them? It was not always Europeans who enslaved them. It was blacks in Africa. Believe me, I know this.”

Stan realized that bringing Charles into the 502 Club was not such a great idea. He knew that the more he drank, the more likely he was to get into a confrontation. Mike Stowe exacerbated that confrontation.

“Yo, homes,” Stowe called out to Charles.

“Are you speaking to me?” asked Charles.

“Who the fuck else am I speaking to, homey,” said Stowe. He looked at his pals, muttering, “Motherfucker.”

“What did you say?” asked Charles.

“Oh, no,” said Stan.

“I said, ‘motherfucker,’ motherfucker,” said Stowe.

“My mother is a woman of honor in my country,” said Charles.

“Oh, is she a ‘woman of honor’ in Zoo-zoo land?” mocked Stowe. “Well, my mother is a woman of honor at a hunnerd `n’ first `n’ Wilmington.”

Charles stared at Stowe. Stowe made a circular motion with his hands.

“You are my asshole,” he said.

Then Stowe made a long, distended motion with his hands.

“You are my peee-nis,” he said to Charles.

Charles stared at the laughing Stowe. His crew was laughing at Charles, as was Stowe’s girlfriend, a lovely black girl. Charles addressed the girl.

“You are a whore,” he said to her. “A beautiful whore, but a whore, nevertheless.”

Stowe then lunged at Charles, but Stan, who knew this was coming, managed to step in.

“Hey, Mike,” said Stan, “he’s drunk. Let it go.”

Stan then grabbed Charles and marched him towards the door.

“That was fun, Charles,” he said, “but play time’s over for tonight.”

“Keep your African friends outta here,” yelled Bernie as Stan was exiting with Charles. “Damn troublemakers.”

Charles was never allowed in the 502 Club again.

Rebecca would re-appear on occasion like a thief in the night, whenever she needed some tender lovemaking and a little respect. Stan was happy to provide that for her. She was hanging out with drug dealers, who used her for sex. She always made sure to get herself cleaned up whenever she saw Stan. She respected his athletic career and All-American persona. Rebecca never wanted Stan to see her when she was strung out. Stan knew what was going on, but his influence was limited.

Her rich daddy saw to it that she had plenty of money to spend. He had to have known it was being spent on drugs and alcohol, but he preferred to live in denial. She got her money via a trust fund administered by a white shoe bank on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Stan drove Rebecca to the bank. Parking on Wilshire is expensive or sketchy, at best. Stan decided to stay in the car while Rebecca went in the bank. Sitting there in the hot sun, he decided to amuse himself with some musical accompaniment. He pulled out a cassette of The Doors' first album, and started playing "The End". Loud, with the windows wide open.

Suddenly, a longhaired man with a shaggy moustache appeared, sticking his face in the car.

"Are you looking for me?" said the man.

Stan recognized him. He was Danny Sugarman, the one-time Doors' office helper, and later their manager after Morrison died. He had survived the drugs and craziness of the 1960s and '70s to write "No One Here gets Out Alive" and "Wonderland Avenue".

"Uh, no," Stan manage to say.

"Do you know who I am?" asked Sugarman.

"Yeah, I do," said Stan.

Sugarman, it turns out, had an appointment at an address on Wilshire, but he could not find it. He had heard "The End" and thought it was a siren song trying to draw him to it like a modern Ulysses.

Stan was a junior in the Spring of 1985. Over at UCLA, Billy went ballistic. He was a consensus First Team All-American quarterback on UCLA's Rose Bowl-winning football team, and again The Sporting News, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball named him as the National College Player of the Year in baseball. He won his second consecutive Golden Spikes award, and was generally accepted as the finest college athlete ever. He was favorably compared with multi-sport superstars like Jim Thorpe of Carlyle, Ernie Nevers of Stanford, Jackie Jensen of California, John Elway of Stanford, Bo Jackson of Auburn, and Deion Sanders of Florida State. There was no question that he was the best college baseball player of all time. The Bruins again won the national title in baseball.

Stan was a First Team All-Pac-10 selection on the mound. He compiled a sterling 10-3 record with a 3.02 earned run average, but he could not stop the Bruins or Boswell. Two of his losses came at their hands.

In the Fall of his junior year, Stan took a journalism class and noticed a tall, pretty, voluptuous blonde. She was attractive, but there seemed to be something a little different about her. She appeared to have a head on her shoulders. Shortly thereafter, he was hanging out with his pals at a USC football game at the Coliseum. The pretty SC cheerleaders were doing their thing. The tall blonde from his class caught Stan’s eye.

She's a cheerleader, Stan noted to himself.

After that, Stan saw her around, in class, on campus, and at the Five-oh. She was a sophomore, and dated a member of the football team. One night at the Five-oh, she was hanging out with one of her male pals. She was the kind of girl who made friends with guys because she did not trust other women.

The other guy was a gay dance student. He slicked his hair with grease and had a 1950s-style ducktail in the back. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and “flood” blue jeans, and was the spitting image of rock icon Jerry Lee Lewis.

“Yo, Jerry Lee,” Stan yelled at the guy.

“Jerry Lee” earned extra money working as a grocery clerk at the nearby 32nd Street Market. Stan had seen him there, and always called him “Jerry Lee.”

“Hey, asshole,” said the girl, “don’t you have anything better to do than hassle people?”

“I can handle myself,” “Jerry Lee” told the girl.

“Hey,” said Stan, “I’m not hassling anybody. I just think he looks like Jerry Lee Lewis.”

Stan extended his hands to the guy.

“I’m Stan Taylor,” he said.

“Aaron Albee,” he said.

“Good to meet you, Aaron,” said Stan. “I didn’t mean to hassle you, man. You’ve seen me at the Three-two Market. Why don’tcha introduce me to your friend?”

“Karen,” he said, “this is Stan Taylor.”

“I know who you are,” said Karen. “You're in my journalism class, and you're the best pitcher in the Pac-10 Conference."

"Are you a baseball fan?" he asked her.

"I love all sports," she said, "but football's my favorite."

“I apologize if you think I was hassling your friend,” said Stan. “I was just havin’ a little fun.”

“No problem,” she replied, smiling.

Stan stayed away from the subject of her being a cheerleader or dating a football player. Her knowledge of sports was impressive, and not just for a girl. She was a football fanatic of unbelievable intensity. She described the intricacies of a "true red dog blitz."

The rapport and attraction was instant. Her full name was Karen Morton. She was from Arcadia, and was an A student majoring in journalism. Stan had managed to get his major switched from communications to film. He never could have gotten into SC's film school originally, but by now he had taken many film classes, fulfilled all the requirements for the major, and had earned his way in. He discussed film with Karen, and was amazed at how knowledgeable she was.

Rebecca had dropped out of school and again was out of sight. She had never really been his girlfriend. She had flitted in and out of his life, providing a night of wild sexual release, followed by weeks of frustration. Stan was beginning to think about his future, and what he wanted out of life. He was beginning to think he might actually graduate from college. He liked the study of film, but was intimidated by Hollywood. He liked to study movies in school, but the idea of competing as a screenwriter or director with all the other wanna-be’s seemed to be a long shot. His grades were improving. He was toning down his partying, and he had a good future in baseball. He was coming around to the idea of following in his father’s footsteps and attending law school once he graduated. He could do that in the off-seasons while pursuing a pro baseball career.

A girl like Karen fit in with his plans. He could never bring somebody like Rebecca to the house. What kind of scene would that be? A party girl practically falling out of her dress! Probably drunk, or high! Karen was stable, safe and respectable.

At first, Karen was going out with the football player and seeing Stan on the side. Stan pursued her. He showed interest in her, and respected her. He was smarter than most of the football players she knew at SC, and she liked that about him. She had dated several football players since high school, and always felt like an ornament with them. Karen was too smart to feel like an ornament. Stan was the first athlete who ever treated her like an equal. She fell for him.

Karen was the first girl that Stan ever brought to see his parents. They loved her immediately, and were relieved to see that Stan had somebody. They had little clue what Stan's "love life" had been. They had heard snippets of information as a result of the John Bruk "kidnapping" incident, but Stan sugarcoated that period of his life. He had not dared tell them about Rebecca. Karen made Stan feel like he had arrived.

The June, 1985 draft saw Billy Boswell again drafted number one in the entire nation, this time by the New York Yankees. George Steinbrenner went through unusual orchestrations to arrange for his team to get that pick. He gave up three All-Star caliber stars to the San Francisco Giants in a move that is relatively common in pro football, but rare in baseball. $3 million later, Boswell was a Yankee.

For one week, while Billy was starring at Omaha, his agent hammered out the details of the agreement in personal negotiations with Steinbrenner in New York. On Sunday afternoon, he led UCLA to the National Championship. After celebrating with his team, Billy showered, packed his bags and flew to New York. The rest of his team flew back to Los Angeles. When Billy arrived at Yankee Stadium, he signed the contract. An enormous New York media throng attended the press conference that followed.

Billy never played in the minor leagues. The next night, a Monday, Billy started in center field and batted in the clean-up slot for the Yankees against Oakland. A capacity crowd showed up to see his debut at Yankee Stadium. In the first inning, as if the baseball gods had ordained such a thing just for his personal destiny, the Yankees loaded the bases for Boswell’s first at-bat.

Billy worked the count to 3-and-2. He sent the pay-off pitch deep into the right field seats for a grand slam home run that sent the Yankee fans into hysterics. New York fans have seen it all, and they are as cynical as they come. Billy Boswell was beyond even their jaded expectations. He had them falling all over themselves.

Throughout June and July, Billy eclipsed all previous rookie performances. He was the greatest new sensation anybody had ever seen. He slammed an unbelievable 15 home runs and was hitting .404 at the All-Star break. Other players had come out of the June draft and straight to the Major Leagues. None had ever made the All-Star team, until Billy. None have done it since.

Billy tailed off a little down the stretch, but he still finished with 20 home runs and a .333 average. He was named to The Sporting News American League All-Star Team and the Associated Press Major League All-Star Team. Billy won a Gold Glove and was named American League Rookie of the Year.

Stan was drafted by the Oakland A's, but in a very disappointing position. He was sure that he would be accorded prospect's status and drafted in the first five rounds. Instead, he went in the 17th with Oakland. The scuttlebutt was that he had partied too much in college. Stan never really found out who told whom what, or what they knew. He was paranoid that his “kidnapping” incident had gotten out, although the papers had never printed anything. His “hooker in room” debacle had been publicized. Stan thought it was incongruous that he should be penalized for being a party kid. Yes, he had gotten wild, but he still thought of himself as the dedicated guy who practiced baseball with his father in Palos Verdes. He had made noticeable gains in the weight room. His low draft status, however, served as a wake-up call to him.

Dan again negotiated, but Stan felt that he would give USC his senior year instead of turning pro. He again went to Alaska, where he was 12-1 with a 2.37 ERA and led the Goldpanners to the NBC title at Wichita. Stan’s strong Summer performance served notice that the Major League clubs had missed out by drafting him so low. Some scouts at Wichita expressed to him that they were “dumbfounded” that he had not gone until the 17th round.

“Where were you when it came to arguing on my behalf?” Stan told them. He was now up to 6-6, 235 pounds. He looked like a tanned Greek god. His stomach was ripped with six-pack abs. His arms were sinewy with veins popping against the skin. He shoulders were husky, and his legs spiked with bulk. He bench pressed “three wheels,” which is well over 300 pounds and considered the barometer of great strength. The day he weighed in at 235, he called Jesse Pentilla and thanked him for his prediction back when he had been 6-2, 135.

In the late Summer of 1985, after returning from the NBC, Stan was staying at his folks' house when Brad Cooper returned from Europe. Brad had stayed alive in various Continental capitols by playing the guitar in train stations, doing some modeling, and a little acting in the English theatre scene in Paris. Something happened to him over there. He looked like a tanned demi-god. His features had formed into angular cheekbones, he had grown another inch or two, and he was now a very impressive sight.

More importantly, he had grown as a man. Brad learned to speak fluent French, and read everything he could get his hands.  He was the spiritual descendant of the Lost Generation that had inspired artists like him to move to Paris since the 1920s.

At dinner, Brad wowed Shirley with his intellect and good looks. He demonstrated great political knowledge, too. Brad now understood world affairs with a global perspective. He got into a detailed discussion with Dan regarding the Cold War, America's objectives in Europe, and the changing face of U.S. politics, via the Reagan Revolution. Brad’s father was a Republican. Jeff and Darren were staunch conservatives. Brad, however, was beginning to lean toward the left. His Catholicism was replaced by a belief in God, but not in Christ. His European perspective had changed his view of a market-based society. He had the goods to back up his arguments and views. 

Dan sat there, talking with Brad while drinking red wine. Stan sat mute. He was completely awed by his friend. The intellectual divide between the two was enormous. The more impressive Brad sounded, the less Stan had to say.

A couple of hours passed.

"How come you're such a stupidkid?" Dan suddenly said to silent Stan. It was the same old Dan. Drunk, red-faced, and virulent. His point was to embarrass his son in front of his peer. He succeeded perfectly.

"You don't know a Goddamn thing about what's happening in the world," Dan continued. "What the hell are you gonna do in the real world? You don't know you're ass from a hole in the ground. You haven’t the foggiest idea what's going on, you just play baseball and go along like some kind of asshole. You better shape up, mister. You can't compete for anything in this world."

Stan just sat red-faced. Brad was embarrassed and felt for his friend, but could say nothing. The next day, Brad and Stan went down to the pier. The things Dan had said were the topic of discussion.

"When did you become so worldly?" Stan asked Brad.

Brad went on to tell Stan that he agreed with Dan.

"You're intelligent and have potential," he said, "but the only thing you care about is baseball. Decisions are being made. Either you participate in the discussion and have some choice in the matter, or have your decisions made for you by somebody who knows more than you. Start off by reading the L.A. Times. On the second page they have a news summary. Just read that page and get a grasp on what's happening in the world."

It was the start of a revolution for Stan. After that, he made a point of reading the entire newspaper, not just the sports section. He purposely read the front section first. He read the editorials, the business section, the lifestyles section, and the entertainment section. He started watching the news and reading Time magazine.

Stan threw hard in baseball. His fastball was consistently clocking in at 90 MPH-plus. He had rebounded from his sophomore year, and while he was no teetotaler, he was in much better control of his life. He was making decent grades in school and making a name for himself at the film school. His newfound quest for knowledge helped his academic performance in school. Few athletes major in film at SC. The demands of writing scripts and producing student films often prohibit athletes because of the time-constraints. Stan had developed enough discipline to work it out, and his professors gave him some leeway.

Dan again recommended that he sign, just as he had after his senior year at Rolling Hills. Dan again declined to turn pro. Not having signed with the A's, Stan entered his senior year at USC in the Fall of 1985. For the first time in his life, he was entering a new season in which Billy Boswell would not be his greatest rival. In his entire senior year, he never saw Rebecca, either. He settled down with Karen, and felt that he was in love with her. She was practical yet fun loving, and wild about sports.

Stan's drinking curtailed tremendously, and he was on pace to graduate on time. He put together a fine season, winning 12 games, and was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year. The Trojans did not play well, however, and were also-rans.

The smarter choices that Stan made at this point in his life could be summed up in an event that occurred near the end of his senior year. Many of Stan's teammates lived at a place called the Hoover House, near campus. This included pitchers Robby Rand and Brick Simms. The Hoover House was the scene of debauchery above and beyond the usual college order. The daughter of a prominent coach had gotten drunk there and had sex with numerous guys before passing out.

His friends were starting to give him a hard time about not going out anymore, saying he was “pussy whipped.” With Karen at home in Arcadia, Stan and the boys went to the 502 Club. There, they met up with two girls who knew Robby, a legendary ladies man. The girls were beautiful and hot to trot. Robby's gal was older and more obviously sexual. Her younger friend looked like a Playboy centerfold. Everybody got drunk, and since there were about eight guys and two girls, group sex seemed a possibility, as it always was at the Hoover House.

Everybody went back to the Hoover House. Robby and his gal went to his room. The guys waited a little while, and then came in to observe the girl blowing Robbie. Robby was famous for the size of his unit, and had come to be known as "Robbie Wad" after the famous porn character “Johnny Wad” Holmes. The guys were cheering Robby while the girl fellated him, and she just smiled as if she was in Heaven. One future Hall of Fame ball player who was in the room used the knob end of an aluminum baseball bat to gently probe the girl's ass while she blew Robby. When he came, everybody cheered.

Now, it was on to Brick's room. Brick was operating in a more covert manner, with the lights low. The guys went to his window, which was at floor level, and were easily able to observe him having sex with the girl.

Eventually, Brick achieved orgasm, the guys repaired to the front room, and Brick came out.

"Well, I'm done," he said. "Whose next?

It was not made clear whether the girl was requesting sex with other men. Bruno stepped forward without hesitation. He took his clothes off and entered the dark room, and with a muffled voice said, "Turn over." He proceeded to have anal sex with the girl, who moaned with pleasure. At this point, she thought she was getting a repeat performance from Brick. Therefore, she must have thought Brick to be quite the stud, especially considering that Bruno was known as The Girthmaster because of the size and width of his rod.

Bruno gave the girl all she could handle, pulled out, and came on her back. He left the room, and now it was decided that Stan, "Horace" to his buddies, was next. The girl was a freak, as far as the guys were concerned. Many girls had been banged in this very apartment over the past couple of years. This was just another in the line of succession.

Stan thought about Karen, but he still wanted to go in. He wondered if the girl still thought that she was only having sex with Brick. Surely she must know by now she was having a “train” pulled on her. He dressed down to his underwear, but in the end made the decision not to do it. He took some heat from his pals, but felt that if he had, he would have been found out and the girl might have called the authorities.

Earlier, hanging out with Bruk and Brady, he would have dove right in, consequences be damned. Some years later, Stan would read a legal case about a guy who had sex with a girl under the auspices of being somebody else, and got convicted of rape for his effort. This girl was beautiful, but not worth that kind of aggravation.

The 1986 draft saw Stan go in the sixth round by the St. Louis Cardinals. He was still disappointed that he was not a higher selection. His draft status was a mystery to him. He had the kind of size and potential that should have made him a major prospect. He had pitched great ball against the best college and Summer competition for four years. He had cleaned up his act off the field and made himself into a legitimate student. But he quickly put those questions behind him. After eschewing professional ball twice, it was time to get out there and prove himself once and for all.

Stan signed the contract for a $65,000 bonus. The night before he was to fly to Johnson City, Tennessee to report to the Cardinals’ Summer Class A team, he had dinner with his parents and Karen at a fancy steak house on the Redondo Beach Pier.

It should have been the happiest day of his life, but Stan was totally stressed about playing pro ball. He had been waiting for this since he was a little kid and it was now or never. In the middle of dinner, Stan excused himself, walked out to the pier, bent over the railing, and threw up into the Pacific Ocean. That was not the half of it. This would prove to be a day of great magnitude in his life.

That night, Stan took Karen to bed, and she started to cry.

"What's wrong?" Stan asked.

Karen would not say.

"Come on," pleaded Stan. "Tell me, please."

"Stan I'm pregnant," blurted Karen.

A million thoughts raced through Stan's head.

"I sure hope I'm the father," he said.

"You are," she assured him. "There's no doubt about that. It was you and me at your room at school on graduation day."

That had been the second Friday in May. It had been very hot. Stan had sweated it out in his cap 'n' gown, to get his diploma from the film school.

"So let's get married," Stan said.

Karen started to cry.

"What, you don't wanna marry me?" Stan asked, smiling.

"Stan, I'm a bitch who’s made everybody's life who’s ever been involved with me miserable," she told him.

"Well, I don't see that," said Stan, and he really meant it. He could not understand what Karen was talking about. She was alluding to some truth in her life, something before Stan perhaps. But Stan was young, pliable and cocky enough to think that he was different. If she had indeed been a “bitch” with everybody else, he had changed that. At 22, people think like that.

"Marry me," he pleaded again.

"I'm not ready for kids," she said.

"You're not saying what I think you're saying?" he asked.

Karen started to cry even more.

"I was pregnant my senior year of high school," she said. "But I aborted." She was crying steadily.

“I was raped,” she said.

“What?” said Stan, astonished.

“It was a boy I knew in high school,” she went on. “We were at the fair. It just happened. We were messing around and it went too far. I wanted to say no, but I liked him and didn’t wanna make him mad at me, so I let him.”

That doesn’t sound like rape, thought Stan, but he had more important issues to deal with.

"That's not right," Stan said weakly, "but it wasn't my kid, and if I have anything to say about it, my kid's not gonna become an abortion."

Stan had chosen Christianity a little over four years prior to this day. He had only gone to church about 15 times since then. He had eagerly participated in sexual activities worthy of Caligula's Rome. But he knew in his heart that abortion was the killing of an innocent, living baby. Since that baby was his, he felt the animal instinct to protect it. It was like the few times he had gotten his back up enough to throw a punch, like in junior high or in his freshman year with John Dinuba. He felt the courage now that he had felt when he had gotten in Rico's and Fingers' faces during Babe Ruth League.

"It's your body," he said, "and the choice should be yours -.”

"Oh, great," Karen said, as if she wanted nothing to do with making that kind of decision.

"But I'll never support an abortion," he continued. "It may be your decision, but don’t expect my blessings if you abort. Not if I have anything to do with it. I'll raise it, I'll support it, but I won't kill my baby." 

So, that was it. Stan and Karen decided then and there to get married.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

HIGH HARD ONES

 

“When I think about the joys of life

One thing is perfectly clear

Never am I happier

Than when you are near

 

“The one I love

My little one

That perfect feeling I get

 

“When the one I love

My little one

Gets her hair all wet

 

“It's such a pure, unconditional love

So pure and true

 

“It's you

 

“The one I love

My little one

And God knows it's true

 

“It's you

 

“My Sweetie

My joy

 

“The one who makes me pure

 

“You love me

I love you

And God knows of this I'm sure”

 

--"THE ONE I LOVE"

                                                             By Steven R. Travers

 

Stan's mind was full of hope, anxiety, doubt and joy on the day he embarked on his professional career. He fully expected to someday land in the Major Leagues. But he was conflicted. He knew that many distractions are available to professional athletes. He had experienced college. He had sampled the delights of L.A. Loose women and shady characters had come in and out of his life. He was far from the sheltered kid who had grown up on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

He had heard all the stories about "baseball groupies" in the minor leagues. There had been groupies in college, but this promised to be different. Now he was far from home. He was getting paid and expected to make responsible choices. He was suddenly a family man. This created extra pressure to succeed. 

His parents did not yet know about Karen’s pregnancy. When Stan arrived in Johnson City, he wrote a letter to them. He wrote that he had asked Karen to marry him and she had agreed. He wanted to marry her when he came back after Labor Day. He also wrote something else.

For years, Stan had dealt with his father in close proximity. Dan had ingratiated himself with his coaches, often to their irritation. He offered his loud opinions and oft-unhappy observations of all things involving his son and his baseball career. Dan had made outright enemies of Stan’s rivals. This was a constant source of strain for Stan and the teammates he had to live with. Stan understood the concept of team play. Winning trumped individual concerns. Dan, the former athlete, should have understood this concept. Instead, he seemed to disdain it. This was the cause of much strain for Stan, who had to balance his duties as a teammate with his personal success - and failures. He had even been named team captain in his senior year at Rolling Hills High School, and again in his senior year at Southern Cal. Stan had demonstrated to his coaches that he was a team guy.   

Dan had attended almost all of Stan's games. Not just home games, but many away games, too. When SC went to Hawaii, there was Dan. Dan showed up in Tempe, Arizona and the Motel Six in Fresno, California. When the team checked in to their hotels in Berkeley and Palo Alto, there was Dan. Dan showed up at practice. He went to Winter league games.

Summer had been a time of some respite for Stan. He had played in Canada, Colorado and Alaska. Dan had made a few trips to these locations, but he could never stay the whole Summer. Dan had always insisted that Stan call after every game he pitched. He wanted complete stats, rundown and analysis, as if Stan were Peter Gammons on “Baseball Tonight.” When he pitched well, these reports were not hard for Stan. Most of the time, he had good reports. But the calls after a loss or bad outing had never gotten easier. He dreaded the long, painful silences and the probing questions in Dan's pained voice. It was not as if he was asking Stan how many runs he gave up, but how many times he had put his hand on the little boys’ crotch.

Dan had had enough. He wanted freedom. Tennessee seemed to offer enough distance and an opportunity to take a stand. In the letter home, after telling them he planned to marry Karen, he wrote the following:

"I have also decided on a policy. If I am a starting pitcher, I will inform you what nights my turn in the rotation falls. If I win or pitch well, I will call home. If I do not pitch well, I will write you a letter and include the game story from the local paper. I simply have no desire to subject myself to the long silences and feeling of disappointing you, Dad, on days I do not pitch well. I will have enough on my mind already."

When Dan got the letter, he immediately called his son at the Mid-Town Hotel, where he was staying. The subject was the marriage to Karen. Dan probed and asked and pried. There was very little in the way of congratulations.

If you would just lighten up I would have conversations with you, Stan thought to himself. He simply chose to tell his father as little as possible. His experience was that to tell him things almost never resulted in anything good for him. The old man giving him crap about not telling him things was always better than the crap he gave him for not telling him things.

The question of Stan calling home win or lose did not come up.

As far as baseball was concerned, Stan was off and running. He won his first start, 3-1, over the Kingsport, Tennessee Mets, then left after 10 innings of a scoreless tie against the Bluefield, West Virginia Orioles. After a month, he was leading the league in ERA and was thrilled to see his name among the league leaders in The Sporting News.

He dutifully called his parents after his scintillating performances. As soon as he satisfied Dan that he had pitched a gem, the old man treated him as if he had just won the Nobel Peace prize. Off the field, he fit in and enjoyed minor league life.

One foxy local girl had sex with all the members of the Bristol, Tennessee Tigers. By mid-season, she had moved in on the Johnson City Cardinals. Stan was going out a lot, but he kept himself in check. He was determined to stay true to Karen in California. The girl in Tennessee came to be known as Roster Woman because she was bent on having sex with every guy on the roster. She moved in for the kill. She was cute as hell, and according to her "victims" had a mouth that did not stop. But Stan was thinking about his girlfriend, carrying his baby. He resisted her advances. The Mid-Town Hotel was not an easy place for a young guy to stay faithful. It had two wings. One wing included Cardinals' farmhands. The other included local hookers. He managed to steer clear of those temptations, too.

His biggest problem came in July when Kingsport lit him up like a Christmas tree. Stan had dominated the Mets in two previous starts, including one 15-strikeout performance, but he did not have it on this day. He was removed with two outs in the first inning, five runs in, and the bases loaded. He took the loss that night. His beautifully carved earned run average took a beating that dropped him from The Sporting News' league leaders.

That night, Stan did not call Dan. He bought two six-packs of Budweiser, and sat around with some teammates getting hammered. At about four in the morning, the phone rang. There were about 12 people in the room, all laughing, partying and having a blast. Somebody answered the ring, and after some confusion, Stan heard a voice from among the melee.

"Hey, Taylor, it's your old man."

Stan felt like a man walking to the gallows as he approached the phone. He thought about telling the guy who answered it to tell his dad he was not there. He picked up the receiver.

"Yeah," he said.

"Stan?" said Dan.

"Yeah," said Stan.

"I can hardly hear you," said Dan. "What the hell's goin' on there?"

"The usual post-game revelry," said Stan.

"How did you do?" asked Dan.

"Two-thirds, six runs, five earned, five hits, a walk, took the loss, 11-4," deadpanned Stan.

"You took the loss?" asked Dan.

"That's what I said," said Stan.

There was long, painful silence. Then the clinical questioning started. Dan asked to confirm that Stan had taken the loss three times. He was like a detective at a crime scene who keeps saying, “Tell me what happened one more time.” Stan was this close to saying, "I know damn well I said that, I said it in English, I said it clearly, and that you understand English, so why the fuck do you keep asking me?" But he did not.

Dan was apoplectic that Stan had not called.

"How come you just let me sit here like an asshole without calling?" Dan quizzed him.

"I told you in my letter, Dad," Stan replied patiently, "if I don't pitch well, I'm not callin' home. I don't need these kinds of phone calls."

Stan had come close to forgetting about the game, amidst the beers and his teammates' camaraderie. His father could drag him down every single time. Dan tracked Stan down in the wee morning hours after a couple of other less-than-sterling efforts that Summer. He was a regular Sam Spade who successfully found his son in motels in Paintsville, Kentucky and the blue hills of West Virginia.

Stan wrote another letter around mid-season telling them that Karen was pregnant. His mother called him and was thrilled that she would become a grandmother. His season was an overall success. Stan made the Appalachian League All-Star team. He was a prospect on the move.

Stan returned to California after Labor Day. His parents managed to organize his wedding while he was away. It was held at the Episcopalian Church in Palos Verdes Estates that Stan had attended a few times. They were married in mid-September. Karen was showing but not yet in an obvious way.

Stan’s best man was Brad, who had returned to Europe and forged a successful acting career. Brad flew to Los Angeles for the wedding in honor of his friend. It was a beautiful wedding that went off without a hitch, even though it had been put together in a relatively short period of time.

Walt was there. His life had changed dramatically in just a few years. He had gone to El Camino, and after all his prognostications had ended up at Cal State, Long Beach. He had met a liberal Jewish Brandeis girl from Long Island and was living with her. His father had arranged for him to work for the re-insurance company he was in charge of. Walt wore a suit and tie and worked in a high rise in the Wilshire District. He did not call his girlfriend “Kuyke.” He no longer spouted racist rants or jingoistic calls to “bomb the Communists back to the Stone Age.” He followed his girlfriend’s politics now. That meant endorsing uni-lateral disarmament and getting out of Nicaragua. When reminded of his regular use of the “N word,” Walt shrugged and hoped that all that would be forgotten.

Mark Terry, now engaged to Sandra, was an usher. Mark had played half a season of Rookie League ball for the Giants before being released. After graduation, he went to work for the Coca-Cola Company, and was on their fast track.

Bennie Hussein was an usher. One-Armed Bob, Pit Boston and Tammy Rubenstein made their appearance. Mike Hoffmeister had spent one year in the Mariners’ organization before getting released. He and Ken MacDonald slept in and missed the wedding, but showed up for the reception. Jack Oliver was in attendance. Stan thought it was kind of funny how nice Dan was to Jack. He always seemed to make an extra effort to be nice to his black friends.  None of Stan’s little league teammates or classmates from grade school and junior high was there.

Stan’s Uncle Charles and the rest of the Taylor Family were in attendance. Stan had never had much to do with Uncle Charles. He had resigned as Secretary of State at the beginning of 1985. A multi-millionaire who had made brilliant stock market investments, he was now a regular on cable TV political shows. His autobiography was due out in a few months, and it would make the New York Times Best Seller list.

Stan pulled him to the side and had a long discussion about politics and national affairs. He was eager to demonstrate to his famous uncle that he was not a dumb baseball boob.

The reception was held at the Taylor's house. Shirley handled most of the preparations. The entire day was a grand success, and one of the happiest of Stan’s life. Karen and Stan went to Hawaii for a two-week honeymoon. They moved in to the Taylor's home in Palos Verdes Estates upon their return.

Dan stepped up in a big way. With his help, Stan and Karen were able to buy a little house in Redondo Beach. They moved in shortly after Christmas. Karen went downhill with her pregnancy. The one-time USC cheerleader had been voluptuous and beautiful, but she gained a tremendous amount of weight during the pregnancy. One of her Christmas presents was a raincoat. When she put it on she looked like racecar driver Andy Granatelli, who wore a raincoat when he did TV commercials for STP oil.

 Kaitlyn Taylor was born in Los Angeles on Stan's birthday, February 1, 1987. A couple of days after giving birth, Stan and Karen brought little Kaitlyn home. Stan was happy on his wedding day. He was delirious when Kaitlyn was born. His whole life, he had been selfish. He had never cared about children or little babies. Shirley would go gaga over babies. Stan would stare at them as if they were aliens. But now, little Kaitlyn brought out in him feelings of love above and beyond his ability to comprehend.

Stan changed totally when Kaitlyn was born. His tender feelings for her were as real and genuine as the feelings any man has ever had for a child. She was so sweet and perfect. She made his life complete.

Stan was in the operating room when Kaitlyn was born. It was messy, but it thrilled him. He was happy that he had decided to be there for this great event. After Kaitlyn was born, Stan looked at his wife and was shocked. Everything drained out of her - puss, blood, menstrual fluids, water. Her breasts had inflated to twice there normal size throughout the term. Suddenly, everything was gone, not just the size but her shape. Karen’s body was now distorted and misshapen beyond recognition. Her once-beautiful breasts, which had filled out the white USC cheerleader sweater, now looked like bananas. They were distended in the manner of a starving Ethiopian woman. 

No longer pregnant, she developed a habit for Moosehead beer, six to 10 at a time. Still, Stan was infatuated with her. He was in love for the first time in his life. He had felt an odd mixture of love and lust for the wild and crazy Rebecca, but Karen had been the first woman who had given herself to him, accepted him, and become a part of his family.

Shortly after Kaitlyn was born, Karen had a terrible case of post-partum depression. She threw a piece of furniture at Stan, swore at him, and told him she wished she had never met him.

Stan was stunned, but that event passed. She was always sick. She had constant colds, coughs, yeast infections, and a myriad of ailments. None of this fazed Stan. He felt only affection for her no matter what. He held their little baby in his arms. In those arms was his whole life. He was done. The heart and soul of Stan Taylor was captured.

A weird but good thing also happened with the birth of Kaitlyn. Stan noticed that his parents treated him better. The existence of Karen, and Stan being a father, seemed to give him the imprimatur of respectability. His new family was a buffer against Dan’s tirades and swearing put-downs.

Stan loved it. The air seemed fresher. The sun shined brighter. Everything was wonderful. During that off-season, Stan truly began to educate himself. He had his degree, and he was well versed in film. He had begun the process after his father had put him down in front of Brad the previous year. His conversation with Uncle Charles whetted his appetite for political knowledge.

Television had always been disdained in the Taylor household. Shirley called it the “idiot box.” The Taylor’s watched sports, news and good films on TV. They were not a Nielsen Family, wasting their hours on sitcoms or other drivel. Stan felt guilty if he spent too much time in front of the TV. He viewed it as the lazy recreation center of the Dumbellionite Class. Stan had a theory about the Dumbellionites. They are the largest human tribe in the world. In ancient times, the Israelites, Mennonites, Canaanites and other peoples roamed the plains. Eventually, most of these tribes were dispersed or made to be part of a larger group. The largest remaining group was the Dumbellionites. They grew larger every day! Stan was not a member of the Dumbellionite Class.    

He had begun the habit of reading the entire L.A Times every day. He bought the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He subscribed to Time magazine and read National Review, Human Events, California Journal and The Nation. Stan had no trouble reading liberal views that differed from his. He read Richard Nixon’s “Memoirs”, William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and Theodore White’s “The Making of the President 1960”. He developed a fascination with politics and history. Driving with his father to games and other places, he talked about these subjects. For the first time, he was able to speak as an equal to his old man about events of importance, other than sports. He talked about his family, and Stan felt like a real man. Having sex, getting drunk, and getting guys to laugh at his jokes did not make him a real man. Fathering a child did not make him a real man. Being a father to his child made him a real man.

He felt that his father finally respected him. Sports had never been enough for Stan to feel like he could gain his father’s admiration. For every shutout, there was a team that beat Stan on a given day, a hitter who had his number, or a pitcher who out-dueled him. These events served to set Stan back in his never-ending quest for his dad’s approval. Marriage, family and his newly acquired intellectual curiosity did serve this purpose. He had taken to heart what his father had said that night with Brad, challenging him to upgrade himself into a man of the world, beyond the petty boundaries of the jock’s world. Not that Dan came out and acknowledged that Stan had met his challenge, but Stan had done it and could tell his father was impressed.

He thought about what he would do if baseball did not pan out. He considered the law politics. He had found inspiration in hearing Liddy speak, and felt the need to serve in the military. Stan was fiercely patriotic. All the Taylor’s before him had been citizen soldiers at some point in their lives. If Stan were to pursue a political path, he wanted to punch certain tickets. He already had a strong background as a USC graduate and professional ballplayer. He came from the right family. If he could show military service and succeed in the law, he might be able to parlay that into a political future. His father had thought the same thing, but it had not come to fruition. Stan would be different.

His film school background did not drive his ambitions. Now that he had a family to support, Stan put any Hollywood ambitions he may have had on the back burner. Stan wanted to become a Renaissance Man, a well-rounded poet-warrior who combined athletic strength, military discipline, educational attainment, professional accomplishment and intellectual savvy.         

As Stan grew into his skin, he no longer obsessed with one Billy Boswell. While Stan was making the Appalachian League All-Star team in 1986, the Great Wizard of Bos, as the New York media had come to call him, was the Most Valuable Player in the American League, hitting 46 homers with 141 runs batted in, hitting .353. This earned him baseball’s first Triple Crown (winning the league home run, RBI and batting average titles) since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The Yankees won the World Series. Boswell was the MVP of the All-Star Game, the A.L. Championship Series and the World Series. He was The Sporting News American league Player of the Year, was named Major League Player of the Year, and was the center fielder on the junior circuit’s All-Star and Gold Glove teams. He was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and received the Hickock Belt as the Professional Athlete of the Year. The sports pundits estimated that he had made the most thorough sweep of available awards and honors of any pro athlete in history.

Stan was even able to feel good for his old rival. Somehow, seeing Bos in pinstripes did not enrage him as much as seeing him win the MVP award at Williamsport, or wearing the Bruins’ blue and gold uniform. Mostly, though, Stan was obsessed with his own good fortune. Being a family man and father was better than anything he could imagine. Let Billy win the Triple Crown and another MVP award. Stan’s had a better award. She was named Kaitlyn.         

At the beginning of 1987, Stan was strong, ripped and powerful. He came to Spring Training more mentally and physically prepared than he had been for anything in his life. He was prepared, and in fabulous condition after running an Ironman Decathlon that Winter. 

After pitching 17 scoreless innings in Spring Training, Stan was elevated to the Cardinals’ AA farm club in Little Rock, Arkansas. Pitching for the Arkansas Travelers, Stan started the season 9-0. By August, he was 14-4 with a league-leading 2.23 earned run average. The St. Louis papers were touting him as the Cardinals’ best pitching prospect. He was slated to be called up to the Major Leagues prior to September 1. The Cardinals needed him in their desperate stretch run against the New York Mets, and wanted him eligible for the post-season. Boswell had the Yankees in first place in the American League East. He envisioned a Card-Yank World Series, facing Boswell with everything on the line.   

Dan, Shirley, Karen and little Kaitlyn came out to see him pitch. He responded with a shutout. Stan was popular and respected among his teammates. He joked and hung out with them. The pretty Baseball Annie’s who make up the Texas League’s groupie scene made themselves available to him. Stan summoned the willpower to resist them. It was not always easy.

“Jail Bait” replaced “Roster Woman”. Jail Bait were two young girls who Stan would see driving around the condo complex where most of the team lived. They had a flashy red Corvette. Both girls were hot stuff, with short shorts and halter tops exposing dark tans. They had high heels and big hair.

Stan left his condo on his way to lunch. A few doors down the hall were a line of teammates, most of them black and Hispanic. He passed by and saw a fellow named Mickey, a 6-10 ex-basketball player from Sacramento State.

“What the hell’s goin’ on here?” asked Stan, knowing the answer.

“Gonna pinch a bitch, man,” said Mickey, smiling.

“Hey, I’m not cuttin’ in,” said Stan, “but I gotta see this shit.”

Stan opened the door and took a step inside. Both girls were displayed on the bed.  The sexiest girl was lying on her back while several studs stroked wood near her. She had puddles of semen on all over her. Above her, on his knees, was first baseman Greg Rosales.

Yes, the same Greg Rosales who Stan had beaned and started a brawl with after he yelled “tits lit, tits lit” while rounding third in Canada. Rosales and Stan had recognized each other and become fast friends with the Cardinals. Stan loved Rosales’ Mick Jagger imitations.

“Start me up, uhhh,” Rosales sang.

Now, Greg was getting his knob polished when he noticed big Stan in the doorway.

“Hey Taylor man,” Rosales said when he saw Stan, “c’mon on in and get some head. It’s free.”

A small angel appeared on his right shoulder.

“Get the hell out of here, Stan,” the little angel told him.

That was all Stan needed to hear. Stan walked out and headed straight to the coffee shop. After dining on water, French dip, fries and a side salad, he returned to the complex.

Flashing police lights were everywhere. Half his teammates were hauled away in handcuffs. The main ringleader, the son of a prominent big leaguer, was being taken away on charges ranging from statutory rape to contribution to the delinquency of a minor. Both girls, it turned out, were 16. One of them was the daughter of a nearby town’s mayor. This, unlike the girls, did not go down well. At all.

Stan congratulated himself on passing another “test.” He did not desire other women. Nothing could stand in his way.

Half the teams in the Texas League were not in Texas. The Giants had a farm club in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Travelers went to Shreveport, and Stan went to warm up against them. It was hot and muggy, as usual. Stan liked the Southern weather in the Summer. The humidity and bugs the size of birds did not bother him.

Stan had a regular routine. He jogged across the outfield, stretched, played catch, extended that to long toss, then threw about 40 warm-pitches in the bullpen. He had done his jog and was stretching when the oddest-looking man he had ever seen in his life interrupted him. The man looked to be about 6-4, 120 pounds, with a shrunken face contorted in a cartoonish set of jowls and wrinkles. He wore what might be described as a baseball uniform, but it was all lopsided, out of place, with the stirrups on backwards, the shirt inside out, and the hat perched on his bony head like a pixie. A question mark was where his number should have been.

“Hey, kid, I gotta talk to you for a second,” the man said to Stan. Stan recognized who he was. His name was Max Patkin, a well known “baseball clown” who performed an act at minor league parks for decades. He later portrayed himself in “Bull Durham”, starring Kevin Costner.

“Yeah, I know you,” said Stan, putting his warm-up routine on hold.

“Listen, kid,” said Patkin, “I’m gonna be doin’ my act out there. I’ll interrupt the game in the second inning. The umps are in on it. I’ll just be clownin’ on you and the players, but don’t get the red-ass, it’s just my act.”

Baseball fan Stan, who had read of Patkin in The Sporting News, spoke with him for a while. When Patkin and he were done talking, Stan looked at the clock on the scoreboard and realized he had miscalculated the time. He only had five minutes before the game. Because it was so hot, he felt loose enough to start throwing without stretching his shoulder. He uncorked his first warm-up after Patkin’s departure with gusto. As soon as he released the ball, he knew he was in trouble. Something popped in his shoulder. Stan struggled through the rest of the warm-ups, but his heart was troubled. He knew he done something to his shoulder.

In the first inning, Stan had nothing. The Giants tagged him hard for four runs. He went out to start the second inning, and after barely making eight warm-ups, was set to face the first hitter of the inning. He went into his wind-up, and was just ready to release the ball when the crowd roared. Out of the corner of his eye Stan spotted a giant geyser of water spouting from somewhere behind first base.

He halted his motion, but it was awkward. In so doing he exacerbated the damage in his arm. Stan slumped to the ground in pain, and nobody noticed. He was writhing, on his knees, in tears.

Max Patkin had “entered” the game, blowing a huge stream of water out of his mouth, or some secret water pump he carried in his “uniform.” Stan never knew how Patkin did it, nor did he care. He just knew his career was over!

Eventually, the Cardinals’ manager and trainer saw Stan.

“Jesus God,” they seemed to say together.

Stan was taken out of the game. His season was over. The Cardinals sent him to the Kerlan-Jobe Sports Clinic at Centinela Medical Center in Inglewood. Dr. Kerlan performed rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder. The surgery was relatively new at that time, although Kerlan had already established a track record of success. His surgery on Stan was unsuccessful.

Dan Taylor slipped into a brutal funk. He had gotten wind of the Max Patkin story and filled the air with expletives about “that fuckin’ clown.” He viewed the injury as some kind of cosmic plot to make life miserable for he and his. The fact that his son had suffered a career-ending injury, just as he had been hurt at Fort Ord, simply could not be a coincidence. He looked for people and institutions to blame and laid it on all of them. Being around him was pure misery, and poor Shirley simply had to endure him. 

As terrible as the injury was to Stan and his plans in baseball, he maintained a great deal of optimism about his future. He had a college degree, a wife and a beautiful child. He still felt that the world was a place he could conquer. He was young and strong. He was in love, and when he held Kaitlyn in his arms, there was no room for pain. She brought him only joy. He avoided Dan.

Stan knew he was lucky just to be living in America. He was lucky to be healthy, and to have the opportunities that he had. As much as Stan loved baseball, he was surprised to discover that the prospect of not continuing with the game did not leave him in a state of despair. He had no doubt that he would be successful in anything he set his mind to. The injury was a blow, for sure, but he had given the game everything he had. He knew he would not have to look back and find blame in himself if he failed to make it, for whatever reason.

Despite Kerlan’s failed surgical procedure, he decided to give baseball one final try. During the 1987-88 off-season, Stan went through rehab. He worked as hard as he ever had. Shortly before reporting to the Cardinals’ Spring Training camp in St. Petersburg, Florida, Stan was informed that he had been traded to the Oakland A’s. If St. Louis had kept him on their roster, they might have been liable for his medical bills should he choose to pursue future medical procedures.  The Cards knew he was damaged goods, and baseball is a business. The A’s decided to give him a look-see, with no promises and a minimum salary. He never pitched in Spring Training. After a month in Modesto, he had pitched seven ineffective innings and was deemed washed up.

“Stan,” manager Keith Lieppman said to him after a game, “would you step in here please?”

After Lip released him, Stan waited in his office before going to shower and clear his locker. This is a tradition in baseball. Nobody wants to be around a released player. He might as well be dead.

Stan’s unconditional release from the A’s created more angst for Dan. It was a strangely liberating experience for Stan. He had been gripping a baseball since he was eight years old. He realized it was baseball that gripped him. The game had been the end-all of things for too long. It still was to his father. After getting married and ascending to the top of the St. Louis Cardinals’ prospect list, Stan had briefly “earned” Dan’s respect. Now, he was back in the doghouse. The vitriol that he felt was not openly directed at him. Dan knew his “failure” to become a Major Leaguer was not his doing. But the “culprits” were not readily available for Dan to berate. Stan was, as usual.   

Dan said that the scouts had gotten together to downgrade Stan’s draft status after his junior year at USC. Had Stan had been drafted higher as a junior, he would have entered professional ball younger and healthier, and less likely to get hurt. He felt the coaches at USC must have given bad reports to the draft bureaus. He was down on Rod Dedeaux, who had lost his edge as a coach and retired.

“You never got any coaching out of Dedeaux,” Stan exclaimed bitterly.

Dan dwelled on the many innings his son had thrown for Jim Amber at Rollings Hills. He was mad about Stan’s back injury his junior year, and the way Ambers brought him in the day after pitching an entire game to relieve against Palos Verdes in the Southern Section title game in 1982. He had been over pitched at SC and in Alaska. A loose cabal of doctors, managers and player personnel directors had conspired to bring his son’s career to an end.

Dan directed anger at Stan’s black manager in the Cardinals’ organization. He said he had pitched his son too much and ignored the “warning sign” of his injury, then “given up on Stan after he was hurt.” The racial angle did escape his view of the A’s. Stan was replaced on the Modesto roster with a black pitcher who happened to be the son of a Major League player. The Major Leaguer had been a teammate of the A’s big league manager.

  “I got it straight from the manager of the team,” Dan claimed, after having called Lieppman, “that you were replaced to make room for that black asshole because he was the son of a friend of the manager.”

Why were you even calling Modesto? Stan thought to himself.

Everything Dan said might have been true. Some of it probably was. Stan knew that, but as Frank Sinatra said, “that’s life.” Stan simply did not to pay credence to these theories. To spend the rest of his life harping on it was a recipe for disaster. He had hurt his arm. Max Patkin may have been to blame, but the reality was that it just happened. Stan was more concerned with his family, and his future, than in dissecting his past. The problem with hearing his father was that the “blame,” in one form or another, ended up on him. Especially when Dan was drinking. It was Stan who felt the stinging barbs, and the unshakeable feeling that his father’s bitterness was a part of his life he never could escape.

Stan was now a man of the world. He had played with blacks and Dominicans, Southern “rednecks” and New York “wise guys.” He got along with everybody. He was popular, outgoing and respected for his talent, work ethic, character, humor and intelligence. Stan had morphed, like a butterfly spreading its wings, from a painful child to a confident man. The one reminder of his past was Dan.

Stan began to think about the Taylor Family. Heck, maybe it was more of a dynasty. Somehow, Dan had been left in the cold. Stan suspected that he knew why. Stan wanted to live up to his name. 

Kip Wentworth had become Secretary of Defense, serving in the Cabinet with Charles. Dan had labored in anonymity at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. His brother had never lifted his finger to help promote Dan. Dan had received an invitation to the Presidential Inauguration, but it had come from the Republican National Committee, because he gave money to the party. He did not get any invites to the inside events, where the real power players were. Charles would never invite him into that sanctum. 

Charles’ son and grandchildren all seemed to fall into a certain “type.” None of them seemed to show the slightest interest in Charles’ successful career. They were rich trust fund kids, all of them. All they cared about was the stock market and USC football. They never even read the newspapers.

Stan had spent very little time around his uncle and his cousins. With the birth of Kaitlyn, he felt the need to introduce her to the family. He started to make contact with the “other” Taylor’s. He reached out to Uncle Charles. Stan was naturally curious about the life his uncle led. Charles was walking, talking history.

Stan queried Charles about his years in politics, the important decisions he was involved in, his dealings with Soviet leaders. He was rebuffed at every turn. The man could turn on the charm for television and the “talking heads.” He clammed up around his family. He was not unkind, just uncommunicative. 

Stan was part of a dysfunctional family. Stan missed his grandfather. He would have satisfied his curiosity. Stan had been the only one who paid any real attention or unforced love for his grandfather once the man became truly old.

Karen became increasingly difficult to live with. She also expressed dismay at the way Dan and Shirley treated Stan.

“Don’t you realize that they treat you like shit?” she asked Stan, accusingly.

Stan had seen much worse growing up. To him, he was treated well.

“It really pisses me off to see them treat you like they do,” she told Stan, “and it really pisses me off that you don’t stand up for yourself.”

Stan was caught between his parents and his wife. He also had to make a living.

A few weeks after being released by the A’s, Stan paid a visit to a Marine recruiter, who told him about a special deal the Marines were offering. They were looking for officer candidates, and would be willing to pay for graduate school in return for a tour of duty. It was a deal too good to pass up, and fit in with Stan’s vision. He saw himself as a leader and special person. The new generation of Taylor’s no longer thought about making their mark. He was the only one left. Let them play the stock market, Stan thought to himself.

The Marines offered to fulfill two of Stan’s goals at once. He could become an officer and a lawyer on the same ticket. He would have to make it through Basic Training and Officer Candidate School. He was obligated to two years of active duty, which started when he signed his contract before Basic Training. After O.C.S., he could attend law school while serving in an active capacity. The Corps would pay for law school and he would receive an officer’s salary. If he completed law school, he would owe the Marines three years in the JAG corps. If Stan dropped out of law school, he would have to finish the remainder of his two-year tour of active duty, then serve four years in the Reserves.

The Marines train their recruits in two places, Parris Island, South Carolina and Camp Pendleton, California, near San Diego. Camp Pendleton drill instructors are known as “Hollywood Marines.” Stan requested and was granted as part of his contract, that he be assigned to Camp Pendleton so his family could visit. Visitation was not allowed until the second half of the training cycle, and by that time Stan was aching to hold Kaitlyn.

Basic Training was a drag, but not because of the physical requirements. Stan’s greatest challenge was separation from his family, no freedom, and mental drudgery. Stan had two main drill instructors. One of the Marines was an unlikely “jarhead” with a strange accent. He was half Louisiana Cajun, but had been raised in Puerto Rico. He was not the rock hard kind of guy one expected the D.I.’s to be, and Stan took to calling him Deputy Dog behind his back. Others were scared of the D.I.’s, but Stan saw through their act and never showed the slightest fear.

This D.I. was tough and reliable. One day, he was teaching a man how to pull the pin on a hand grenade and throw it. The recruit was so nervous that he dropped the grenade, but the “ragin’ Cajun” quickly scooped it up and got it over the wall, avoiding disaster. He casually told recruits to “drop and gimme 20” push-ups. “No, no, no, ‘til I get tired.”

The other Marine was a black sergeant who never said 10 words that were understood by Stan. At the firing range, he would use his hands to make a point, in a way that looked like the Atlanta Braves’ “tomahawk chop.”

“Dare ain’ no reason dat…you can’ hit dat tahget out dare,” he said. After a while, Stan figured that he was saying, “There ain’t no reason that you can’t hit that target out there.”

He was right. Stan hit it 17 out of 20 times to qualify as an expert marksman. The sergeant was a stickler for good hygiene. He saw Stan in the shower without a hand towel. Stan was using a bar of soap to lather up his buttocks area.

“Yo better clean yo ass,” he yelled. “Where yo han’ towel? How yo gonna clean yo ass?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant,” Stan said, holding back snickers.

One recruit made the mistake of calling the D.I. “Sarge.” He paid for that by lifting his M-16 over his head for four hours.

The firing range featured another Marine nobody could understand. He was in charge of the range. Like most Marines placed in charge of property or territory, he jealously guarded it with his life. It was his personal fiefdom. With all the Marine recruits lined up in front of foxholes, M-16s at port arms, the firing range Marine gave his spiel.

“You will put your weapawn on safe and make it a complete safe weapawn and you will not fire your weapawn until told to do so you will not leave your hole you will place your weapawn in front of you,” he said in one single monotone sentence, spoken in some kind Louisiana/Alabama dialect that was understood only by the two drill instructors, and then only because they had heard it 100 times.

Still, it seemed pretty obvious. He wanted to make sure the Marines put their M-16s on safe, making it a complete safe “weapawn,” or weapon. Fine. Stan went into the hole. The signal went up, and he cracked off 20 shots. Excellent firing. After a minute, the range sergeant began to bellow, “Ceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaase fiiiiiiaaawwww ceeeaaase fiaww make sure yo weapawn’s on safe make sure you got a complete safe weapawn ceeeeeaaaase fiaww cease fiaww!”

What he had said was, “cease fire, make sure you’re weapon’s on safe, make sure you got a complete safe weapon, cease fire, cease fire!” Nobody really knew what he said, but common sense dictated that he was telling the recruits to cease their fire.

The Marine next to Stan was scared out of his mind. He had been picked on by the D.I.’s since day one. If it had been a movie, he would have been the poor slob the D.I.’s called “Gomer Pyle.” Stan never heard anybody called “Gomer Pyle.” They were called a lot worse than that. The guy was shaking in his boots, afraid of the weapon, the range sergeant, the drill instructors, and his own shadow.

“Wwww-whadid he say?” he asked Stan.

Stan could not help himself. All he could think about was an order George Patton had given his men when they caught the Wehrrmacht with their pants down at Al Gatar.  

“He said ‘fire away,’” said Stan. “`Fire at will.’”

The recruit dutifully raised his weapon, pointed it at the target, and cracked off three distinct shots that seemed louder than 100 Marines firing at once.   

The range sergeant went ballistic. He traveled 50 yards in three and a half steps. He jumped in the foxhole, pulled the weapon out of the recruit’s hands, and placed his face not near, but on his face. He spouted off about ”complete safe weapawns” and “cease fire” orders. He pronounced that the recruit had just made Marine Corp history. He said he had created a new definition of stupidity and ignorance. 

Stan was lucky that his quiet admonition to “fire at will” never came back to him. After Basic, Stan made it through O.C.S. in Quantico, Virgina, graduating as a Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to duty at the Pentagon. It was great duty. He moved Karen and Kaitlyn out to the Washington, D.C. suburb of Fairfax, Virginia and found himself working as a clerk in the Judge Advocate Corps.

Stan loved it. It was not typical Marine duty. He had to keep his hair high and tight and wear the uniform. He had to be up early, and adhere to the usual discipline, but it was not dirty or gritty. It was a professional office atmosphere, intellectually stimulating, and it was at the Pentagon. Stan was often tasked with going to D.C. proper on various assignments. He had the distinct impression that he was, every day and in every way, laying the ground work for a successful career in the law.

Stan entered Georgetown University law school. It was the perfect situation. Technically, he had duties at the Pentagon, but the Marines were very supportive. Mainly, his workday consisted of studying and using the law library.

Stan took to law school with everything he had. He was not a natural student, and he had problems with reading comprehension, but he made up for it with hard work. The problem was at home. Karen hated military life. She missed her family in Arcadia. She was lonely, taking care of Kaitlyn while Stan went to school. He was up at the crack of dawn and did not come home until after dark. She completely let herself go. She ballooned bigger and bigger every day, completely losing the shapely figure she had when she had met Stan.

She sat around the rented house they lived in, wearing ragged, smelly sweat pants, or a half shirt from her sexy days that she should have thrown away. It accentuated her big stomach and wide hips. She would go without bathing for a day or two. She never picked up the house. She did not cook or clean. Stan came home, exhausted, and picked up dirty clothes lying all over the place. He loaded the dishwasher and put food back in the refrigerator. She used their credit cards and ran up debt that Stan could not keep up with.

When Stan looked at Karen, he thought about one of his USC frat brothers, Larry Thatcher. Larry was a rich kid from Newport Beach who had gone to USC for a year before transferring to UCLA because he hated SC’s neighborhood. Then he went to Pepperdine Law School for one reason: The surfing in Malibu. Larry flunked out of Pepperdine and went into construction. He was a real piece of work. The first time Stan saw him in a bar, he was saying to nobody in particular was, “Get wasted.” Larry was a typical California beach kid with hair to his butt. He looked like David Lee Roth and sounded like Jack Nicholson.

At the frat, Larry got up and announced, “I gotta take a dump.”

“There’s no shit paper, man,” somebody said.

“I’ll cut if off clean,” Larry replied, and he was serious. Everybody looked at him as if he was crazy. Stan thought of something Larry once said, when Stan saw his Karen lying around the house in a state of disarray.  

“Hey man,” Larry had said, describing a friend of his father’s, “this guy works his ass off all week. He’s got a mortgage and debts, a wife and two kids. His wife’s fat and ugly and don’t do shit. She sits around the house, don’t clean up, and bitches and moans about every fuckin’ thing with a bad attitude. Man, that’s supposed to be my old man’s buddy’s pay-off? Shee-it, that sucks. That ain’t no pay-off.” 

Stan contemplated whether that was his pay off. Eventually, Karen moved out of the house and took Kaitlyn with her to Arcadia. Stan finished his first year of law school. He had the world by the short hairs, except that his marriage was breaking up. He decided to try and save the marriage.

Stan exercised his contractual opt/out with the Marines. He quit Georgetown and served out the remainder of his active duty at the Pentagon. He returned to Los Angeles, where he joined a Reserve unit.

Stan called on his alma mater. The baseball team was looking for a bullpen coach. Stan got the job. He still owned the house in Redondo, but it was lonely without his baby girl. Every day he finished up the day’s baseball work at SC, whether it was a game or a practice. He bantered with the other coaches, smiling and joking. Then Stan took a shower, got in his car, and picked up the Harbor Freeway. He inched into rush hour traffic. By the time he passed Vernon Avenue, he was crying like a baby.

He tried to have Kaitlyn on weekends, but the baseball schedule usually interfered with this. Karen wanted nothing to do with the marriage. She had, in fact, made good on her word, which was that she was “a bitch who’s made everybody’s life whose ever been involved with me miserable.”

The latest on the list of les miserables was Stan Taylor. Karen hated the military lifestyle. She hated his ambitions. She hated law school and lawyers. She told Stan she was a Democrat when they met, but she had hidden how vehemently she hated Republicans. She hated Stan’s flag waving patriotism. Stan tried to introduce her Christianity. She hated that, too. She hated Stan for being in tip-top physical condition. She hated the other “jarheads” and their wives. She used the word “hate” 20 times a day.

Stan thought she was compatible with him. She was blonde, blue eyed, and at one time voluptuous and beautiful. She was a USC girl, and a sports fanatic. But her looks left her faster than a Sandy Koufax fastball. She was moody and clinically depressed. She had no spiritual moorings and was not the kind of person who finished what she started. She was a quitter. The things Karen and Stan had in common were overshadowed by their differences and her shortcomings.

Stan had been a good husband, an excellent father, and never cheated on her, even when beautiful baseball groupies offered themselves. She became a smelly slob; constantly sick, coughing, and saddled with yeast infections. Stan knew he had made a mistake giving up a promising legal and military career for this woman. It hurt him much more than ending his baseball career. He blamed himself. Dan and Shirley were furious at Karen, but this did Stan no good. Their loud exhortations of disdain made Stan feel like it was aimed at him. He could not stand being around them.

During the divorce proceedings, Karen wanted the house and full custody. Stan petitioned for joint physical and legal custody. Handling his own case, he ran into continued problems with the Los Angeles Superior Court. The clerks, who were members of the Dumbellionite Class, kept kicking his petition back to him for small “infractions.” There were no infractions. The clerks were incompetence and sloppy.   

Dan stuck his head into the situation, and suggested that he stop trying for joint legal and physical custody in favor of expediency. Stan looked at him as if he was from outer space.

“Here’s what’s gonna happen,” he told his father. “I’m gonna fight for all my parental rights. That means I’m gonna see my daughter when I want to and not when some court tells me to. That, my friend, simply falls into that category of things that’re GONNA happen!”

Stan wanted to live in the house. Karen would not let him have it. They sold it and split the proceeds. Karen had never put a dime into its purchase or upkeep.  The petition was finally approved and the divorce was final.

26-year old Stan Taylor was now a fractured golden boy, his “perfect” life flawed by real life disappointment and failure. The experience of a broken marriage left him feeling washed up and wiped out. The settlement may have called for joint legal and physical custody of Kaitlyn, but the reality was that Karen got her. Stan got heartache and pain.

Kaitlyn stayed with Stan on a Friday night. The arrangement was for Stan to return her to Karen at the 502 Club the next day. They were both attending a football game at the nearby Coliseum. Stan had decided that no matter how much he despised Karen, he would be nice to her for Kaitlyn’s sake.

The nicer Stan was, the more hateful Karen got. She could not handle the fact that she had hurt this fine young man so badly. She was not nice by nature. In order to justify what she had done, she blamed Stan for everything that was not his fault. At the 502 Club, she embodied evil. Stan’s friends were stunned that such a fat, slovenly woman had been married to this 6-6 Marine officer. Stan tried to keep things smooth, but Karen was into her beer.

“Kaitlyn will learn the truth about you,” she spewed. “I wish I could prove her not to be yours, you’d never see her again you son of a bitch.”

Stan was not kind of sure that he was Kaitlyn’s natural father. He knew that he was. It was factual knowledge that he possessed. Karen’s words backed him up in a way that rarely happened. He felt the way he did when he told Wayne Fingers “You are OUTTA HERE!!!” He got into Karen’s face like Leo Durocher arguing with Harry Wendelstedt. She was forced to retreat several steps and knocked over a Budweiser display. People around them stared.

“Karen,” he said, “What it is is and it’s like this now see! I will defend my legal rights as a parent. Every single one of them! Learn that and let it burn into your consciousness. You will not come between me and my little girl.”

“Oh, don’t give me any of your bullsh - ”

“I’m not having a discussion with you,” said Stan, “I’m informing you that I’ve identified this slander of yours about my not being Kaitlyn’s natural father as untrue. I am aware that you know it to be untrue, yet you repeat anyway. There is a word for that. The word is lie. Now I’ve informed you that your lies are exposed.”

Stan had her braced up against the wall. Several men were ready to intervene on her behalf, thinking he was going to hit her. Karen was frightened. She had never seen this side of him before. He had always been patient, forgiving and apologetic, no matter how moody and bitchy she acted. She was treading on sacred ground now. Kaitlyn was Stan’s whole world. She meant everything to him. Karen knew that being an obstacle to Stan being a daddy was not a smart move.

“Fuck with me on this issue,” he snarled, “and you’ll lose.”

She would have as much chance as a Viet Cong village against an F-16 Tomcat. 

Karen could not deny Stan his rights, but she did drive another stake through Stan’s heart. Karen’s mother moved to Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Karen moved with her and took Kaitlyn. Now, Stan’s little girl was not 40 miles away. She was 400 miles away.

Stan strongly considered going back to law school. He picked up applications to Loyola and Southwestern. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait. Stan’s Marine Reserve unit was called up and sent to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Stan was assigned as a paralegal to a JAG unit charged with handling cases under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. It was hot and dusty in Saudi Arabia. The Americans were not allowed to drink or socialize outside of their base. The few cases that came up were boring. The only excitement was when Saddam Hussein launched an occasional SCUD, but the American Patriot missiles knocked them out of the sky. After four months, Stan was rotated back to the States.  

When he returned to California, Stan received a call from an old buddy who had been running a baseball team in Rome, Italy. His friend had been offered a scouting job. Would Stan be interested in replacing him as manager of a team in the Italian Professional League?

The position did not pay all that much, but it meant a chance to live and travel in Europe for a year. Stan accepted the job. The team consisted of players from different countries. The roster included several players from Italy. Italy has enjoyed baseball for years, and the Italians were good players. There were American players of Italian descent, mainly guys who had played in college but were not drafted. Each team was allowed three Americans who were not of Italian descent, who had played professionally in the States. Stan fell into this category. The rest of the club included a few other international players - one South African, an Australian, and a guy from Taiwan.

Stan was given a pensione and an expense account. Perks included free gym membership and admiring Italian girls. Blonde hair is big in Italy. In Rome, he had time on his hands. He sometimes worked out twice a day. Stan looked like a toned Adonis. His skin was tanned from the hot Mediterranean sun. By night, he partied at wild Rome discos and nightclubs. He did not speak Italian, but that was no problema. The Italian women knew the language of love. His sex life was outrageous. Girls fought over him. Sometimes they partnered up and shared him. Stan lived a fantasy life. His travels took him to the European capitols of Berlin, Paris and London. He somehow managed to get over Karen!

The pay was not great, so Stan began to look for an opportunity to make money on the side. One of the discos he frequented was the Magic Balloon. It was always filled with beautiful, horny girls. Stan would party in the main bar, but there was another section of the club that was “ladies only.” Stan found out that male strippers entertained the girls in there. He had a brainstorm.

Stan was in the best physical condition of his life, and in a place far from home where nobody would know what he was doing. He approached the Magic Balloon’s owner, and told him he wanted to be one his male strippers.

A week later, the marquee at the Magic Balloon advertised the “California Dream.” For several months, Stan was a popular strip act at the club, where the girls dressed impeccably, hair nicely coiffed, and they were enthusiastic over him. It was a full strip act, and Stan had no trouble letting the ladies take “liberties” with him.

One night an awesome, huge-breasted girl sat in the front row. When Stan danced in front of her, she went all the way. Stan had a full erection working, and the girl grabbed him and sucked him off until he ejaculated all over her lips. It was spectacular and drew a big cheer from the girls. After Stan left his dressing room, the girl was waiting for him. Her name was Sarah Young. She was English, but was a tremendous porno star in Germany. She was filming a movie for her production company in Italy, and asked Stan to be in her movie. Stan agreed.

He appeared in an adult movie, one of seven men having sex with Sarah Young at the same time. She wanted him to be one of her regulars, but Stan decided that his porn debut would be his porn finale.     

The baseball experience was not without its hitches. Stan had taken the job thinking he was strictly the manager. When he got to Italy, he learned that he was a player-manager. He tried to pitch, but his rotator cuff injury left him ineffective. The Italians were not familiar with rotator cuff injuries. They thought he was the same flame-throwing pitcher who had starred at USC and in the minor leagues. Instead, Stan was a relic of his old self. In his first game, he was touched for four runs in the first inning. His teammates and club management, expecting a no-hitter, were shocked.

“But, they hit you,” the team’s general manager said, in shock.

Stan had been hired with the understanding that he would manage the Italian National Team, which would mean staying an extra year. When he got to Italy, he learned that he was in contention for the job of managing the national team. The Italians were about as committed to the truth as Bill Clinton. After his disappointing pitching performance, his team failed to make the upper tier of the league play-offs. Stan was not offered the managerial job.

“You have had your chance, and you have failed,” was the way they put to him. After spending some time traveling, Stan returned to Los Angeles. Stan’s parents had arranged to have Kaitlyn with them when Stan arrived home. When he got off the plane at Los Angeles International Airport, she was standing before him wearing a cute little dress and holding a plastic lunch pale. She looked like a little doll.

Daddy!” she exclaimed.

It was the greatest moment of Stan’s life. Stan rushed to her and embraced her. They kissed and held each other. The entire plane exited, right down to the flight attendants. Stan still hugged Kaitlyn. He loved this child with a fervor that cannot be described by mere words on this page.

The Redondo house had been sold, and he had to stay with his folks. The look on Dan’s face said it all. The joy of being with Kaitlyn was diluted by his sourpuss expressions. He perceived Stan as having failed in Europe. Stan’s team just did not have the talent to win their division. Stan had told his father what the Italians had told him, that he would manage the Rome team, then the national team. The fact he had been lied to did not register with Dan.

“Fucking lied to me,” he muttered for Stan’s consumption.

This was a typical example of why Stan tried to reduce the amount of information he told his parents. It could always come back to haunt him. When the Italians told him he would be there for two years, he should not have repeated that to his old man. He was better off giving them lowered expectations, like a dark horse politician.

Stan sat in the recliner, drinking a beer. He tried to recount his experiences with enthusiasm. At one point, a silence ensued.

“Don’t just look like some kind of an asshole,” Dan said after a while.

This statement encapsulated the experience of Stan’s lifetime.

“So, what the hell are you gonna do with yourself now?” Dan wanted to know.

Unfortunately, Stan did not have the slightest clue. He stayed at his parents for a few weeks, making for constant friction.

Stan was working at his desk when Dan entered.

“I have an offer for you,” Dan said.

Dan was in the middle of something and did not look up fast enough.

“Goddamn you all to lousy hell,” Dad said and walked off in a huff.

They did not speak for a couple of days. Dan actually preferred it that way. It made life a little more efficient. He was reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” when Dan walked in his room.

“Are you going to pay attention to me?” he demanded to know.

“Sure,” said Stan.

“There’s a paralegal position at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine,” Dan said in the kind of clipped way that a D.A. might say, “We won’t ask for the death penalty if you admit to killing the old lady in Riverside County.” “It pays fifty thousand with benefits. You can live here rent free -.”

“I’ll take it,” said Stan.

“I haven’t offered it,” said Dan.

“Will you offer it?” asked Stan.

“Yes, if you - ” said Dan.

“I’ll take it,” repeated Stan. 

For the next year and a half, he commuted, usually with his father, to the Adams, Duque office, located on the tenth floor of a high-rise office tower at 523 West Sixth Street in downtown Los Angeles. As long as Stan was not going to be a lawyer, it was limited, but for a while it appeared to be leading him in the direction he wanted to go. It was the same direction his father had once thought about going. He also made the time to become a steadier churchgoer than he had ever been.

One of the firm’s partners was Peter Goode. Goode was a handsome, industrious, self-made man, a former police officer who had worked his way through Southwestern Law School’s night program, and after establishing himself as a corporate litigator at another firm, was enticed to come over to Adams, Duque. He had a gift for ingratiating himself, and had passed over several other seemingly more qualified attorneys to become a partner.

Goode was established in Los Angeles political circles. He lived in Pacific Palisades, and operated within Westside G.O.P. circles. He recognized excellent qualities in Dan Taylor’s son. He was surprised, because he was not impressed with Dan. Goode gave Stan a few perfunctory tests just to make sure he was not all exterior gloss. First, Stan was tasked with writing a feasibility report on whether the firm could self-insure or continue paying high fees to an insurance company.

“Peter thinks your report was just excellent,” Goode’s attractive Hispanic secretary, Lauren, told Stan.

Goode then asked Stan to prepare a case. Stan spent every day in the firm’s library until 11 at night. He worked the weekend. On morning, the motion was prepared and sitting on Peter’s desk.

“Peter really likes your work,” Lauren told him. Lauren was an extension of Peter. The more he liked Stan, the she more she liked him.

Goode had not spent much time with Stan. He called him in to the office.

“Have you ever thought about a future in politics?” he asked him.

“Yes,” said Stan, “I sure have.”

“I’ve met your uncle,” said Peter. “I think you can follow in his footsteps. You have everything, Stan, to make it in politics: Looks, pedigree, intelligence, education, athletic background, military service, ambition. I’d like to help if you’d like.”

“I sure would,” said Stan.

Goode was the parliamentarian of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee. He invited Stan to meetings. Over time, Stan started doing “special assignments” on behest of Goode. Stan was involved in little actual legal research, court filings, and the kinds of traditional tasks reserved for paralegals and law clerks. Instead, he found himself hobnobbing with elected officials at various functions. His position made him a person of status at the Young Republican meetings that he attended. The YR’s met once a month. The Young Republicans were professional people and included plenty of attractive women looking for husbands. Stan made “friends” with a few of the ladies. He was a most eligible bachelor.

Goode put Stan to work on several different campaigns that were going on in L.A. and Orange County during this time. He did opposition research, helped draft speeches and press releases, and provided strategic advice. Stan was the campaign manager for a Congressional candidate who ran a tough campaign against an incumbent Democrat. He used his office and the firm’s resources for the campaign. Stan was concerned that this did not go over well with some of the firm’s employees, but Peter assured him he had his blessing, which was all he needed.  Stan did a good job and came close to getting his unknown candidate over the hump.

All of Stan’s politicking caused some hullabaloo in the office. He was being paid by the firm to work almost exclusively on politics. He was frequently out of the office, even traveling on the firm’s dime. He hobnobbed with Governor Pete Wilson and was assigned to drive President George Bush’s Chief of Staff, John Sunnunu, around town during his visit to Los Angeles. This required that he go through a background check, which put him on a list for the “plumb jobs” that President’s hands out as patronage to party activists. He traveled to Washington to discuss his future. The party liked him as either a political consultant or candidate.

He was a glamour boy, which did not go over well with everybody at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. Dan was not the most popular lawyer there. Stan had been viewed with a touch of suspicion when he arrived. His sudden high profile caught some by surprise. The firm was not as predominantly Republican as it had been when Richard Nixon was a partner. Some of the office liberals were none too pleased to see young Taylor getting paid to work in such a blatantly partisan manner. As long as Peter Goode was his angel, however, he did not have anything to worry about.

Stan wrote a long, detailed letter to his Uncle Charles. Charles was a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute. He told Charles how he had gone to work for Richard Nixon’s old law firm and was involved in politics with Peter Goode. Stan wrote that he was very interested in politics as a career. He was considering running for office some day. He also felt he had the goods to be a political consultant, speechwriter, or aide to an elected or appointed official. Stan wrote that he would love to work in Washington, D.C. He asked his uncle if he might be able to make any recommendation on his behalf, with any of his contacts from his years in public life.

Charles never responded to the letter.

Stan hooked up with Lauren. She was a hot number with a glint in her eye the way some Spanish women do. She wore short skirts and black nylon stockings with high heels. Stan sensed immediately that she was a very sexual girl. She came from a big, Catholic family in the San Fernando Valley, and despite her flirtatious manner, was the motherly type.

Stan poured his heart out to her about how much he missed Kaitlyn. Lauren had a little boy of her own. She had never been married, and the father had taken the child with him to Texas. She had spent a lot of money fruitlessly trying to get custody, and worried whether she would ever see him again. She commiserated with Stan, who felt great empathy with her frustration over not seeing her little boy.   

In order to take her mind off her absent child, Lauren had taken to risky lifestyle behavior. She had been a heartbreaker at Notre Dame High School. She lapsed in her Catholicism, looking for love, thrills, or something she could hold on to. She began to attend swing parties. Being pretty and sexual, she quickly became very popular. She invited Stan to go out with her, but did not disclose the true nature of the “date.”

“I think you need this,” she told him. “It’ll take your mind off your troubles.”

The party was at a house high in the Hollywood Hills above the Barham exit off the 101, overlooking Lake Hollywood. Stan was amazed at how many attractive women were there. He saw recognizable people from the entertainment industry. This was not one of those “pay at the door” swing parties advertised in the LA Xpress or LA Weekly.

“Jesus,” Stan said to Lauren when he realized what was going on.

Lauren just laughed. She quickly took to the activities. Stan and Lauren engaged in heterosexual sex and “swapped” with several couples. Then Lauren took him by the hand and led him upstairs.

“There’s something I think you oughtta see,” she told him.

They entered a room. It was a much different scene. Downstairs, popular rock songs had played. Upstairs, the music was weird. The atmosphere was dark and foreboding. Groups of men and women were groping at each other. It was not the “tame” straight sex that had gone on downstairs.

“Look in the corner,” Lauren said to Stan.

The lighting was not good. Stan strained to see what Lauren was pointing out to him.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you see who that is?” she asked him.

Stan looked closer.

“Jesus H. Christ,” he remarked.

In the corner of the room, on a bed, was Peter Goode. Peter was receiving a blowjob from a girl. At the same time he was giving one to another guy.

“You’re Republican hero’s a bi-sexual,” Lauren told him.

Stan was ready to leave.

“Hi, Peter,” Lauren said, loudly.

“What are you doing?” said Stan. He tried to leave.

“Wait,” Lauren said, and she held his arm.

Peter pulled his mouth off the erection and looked over. He recognized Lauren, but showed no concern over being recognized. Then he saw Stan. Their eyes met. It was obvious that Peter was very mad that Stan now knew his secret.

 “Peter and I’ve been with each other at these parties a few times,” she told Stan. “He just likes to swing from both sides of the plate.”

“Let’s go,” he said to Lauren.

“I’m just getting started,” she told him.

“I’m done,” he said.

Stan got his clothes and left without Lauren.

Stan was still young, naïve and innocent enough to find it hard to believe that a guy like Peter - who was “happily” married with three kids - could be bi-sexual. It did not fit his profile of a Republican corporate lawyer. It taught him a lesson. The lesson was that things are very often not what they seem.

At work on Monday, Stan approached Lauren.

“You fucked me over taking me to that Goddamn thing,” he told her.

Lauren was not her usual friendly self. 

“Don’t act so pure, Stan,” she said to him. “You’re no virgin.”

“I’ve been around the block,” he told her, “but you knew Peter was there. That’s what I’m talking about.”

Stan avoided Peter. When they finally had occasion to be around each other, Stan’s worst fears were realized. The happy, smiling Peter was a thing of the past. He no longer was willing to mentor his young protégé into politics. Peter wanted Stan out.    

Stan’s responsibilities became more mundane. The handwriting was on the wall. He took a vacation to the Bay Area, staying with friends so he could spend time with Kaitlyn in Walnut Creek. He drove her back to Palos Verdes Estates, trying to be a long distance dad.

“I wish I saw you more, Daddy,” she said to him.

“I know, baby,” Stan said. His heart was breaking inside. “I know you do.”

“Will you and Mommy be married again?” she asked.

“No, baby,” he replied.

“I wish you and Mommy were married,” she told him.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” is all he could say.

Kaitlyn cried.

“Oh, baby,” he said. “Please don’t cry.”

He began to cry, too.

“Daddy,” she said. “Are you crying?”

Stan was bawling.

“I love you, Daddy,” she said through her tears.

“I love you so much,” he managed to mumble.

“I wish you lived with us,” she said.

Stan was too broken-hearted to say any more.

“Please don’t cry, Daddy,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” he said. 

Stan introduced Kaitlyn to the Episcopalian Church in Palos Verdes. It was the first time she had been to church since being baptized there as a baby. Karen was an atheist and Stan knew he had his hands full if he was to win the battle for her soul. When she went back to Walnut Creek, he was distraught with loneliness. Stan broke out in tears in his office, in the car, and at home.

European porn chicks, Republican husband-seekers and Hollywood swing parties were no replacement for his daughter. He wanted a family. He had come to know that real love and lasting happiness was centered on wholesome things.

“Daddy’s love their little girls,” he sobbed. “Daddy’s should be with their families.” Alas, his family was no more and he could do nothing about it.

 Stan sought solid things to occupy his mind. He found comfort in church and made friends with the elderly couples who made up most of the congregation. They asked a lot of personal questions, though.

“Where’s your better half?” one woman asked, assuming he was married.

“Where’s your daughter?” somebody else wanted to know after he had brought her in a few times.

Stan was not so much embarrassed to explain that he was divorced and his daughter lived near San Francisco. Rather, the subject depressed him. Being reminded of it made it worse. He poured his frustrations into a continuing heavy workout regimen at Gold’s Gym in Redondo Beach, which was filled with beautiful women. Somewhere in between his Christian faith and fatherly devotion, there was still a side of him that enjoyed loose women and conquest. That side of him was not going anywhere.

On a Saturday night at P.J. Brett’s on Sepulveda Boulevard, Stan and a buddy were trying to impress three delectable volleyball girls when Stan heard her familiar, sultry voice.

“Some things never change,” she said.

Stan turned. Rebecca appeared like an angel. She looked fantastic. She was sexy and seemed healthy. She was dressed casually, not like a Manila bar girl.

“Sorry girls,” she said to the three women. “I think Bachelor Number One has made his choice.”

Indeed he had. Stan embraced Rebecca and stuck his tongue down her throat. Rebecca grabbed his crotch.

“You are a happy man,” she said.

The girls just looked at the self-confident bitch, taking over this interesting guy. She had suddenly rendered them obsolete in his eyes. The weird thing was that they had not shown much interest in Stan when he was sitting with his pal drinking Coors, and then using the bottle for a spittoon after putting in a gib of Copenhagen. Now that this Linda Carter look-alike grabbed him, he instantly became a hot commodity.  

Stan took Rebecca back to his house. His parents were at Tahoe. He told her his woes, how he had married Karen despite her warnings that she was such a bitch, only to learn that she had been quite serious. He told her he should have married her.

“Ha,” was her reply.

He told her about his beautiful Kaitlyn, and Rebecca was touched at the fatherly love that Stan displayed. He showed her the shrine of Kaitlyn’s photos that were displayed all over the house. Then he made love to her. It was the first time in a long while that he felt something truly special about a woman.

Rebecca had gone to Mexico with a photographer who had taken a bunch of nude, swimsuit and lingerie photos of her, some of which had made their way into magazines like “Swank” and “Gent”.

Rebecca had continued her drug habit. It was amazing that she looked as good as she did.

“I’m young,” she told Stan, “but it’ll catch up to me some day.” She laughed as if she had just told a great joke, but there was just a tinge of edgy sadness to her.

For months after that night, Stan engaged in a frustrating fight over Rebecca. She split her time between a drug dealer in Santa Monica, and some geeky guy in Lakewood. Stan bailed her out of jail. He never had a good phone number for her. She never called back when he tried to get a hold of her anyway. She would be under cover for a week or two at a time, and then emerge from the shadows. She only went to Stan when she was sober, or close to it. She did not want Stan to see her when she was really high.

Stan would look for her in some of her haunts; dive bars in West Los Angeles, the King’s Head Pub in Santa Monica, the 502 Club, D.B. Cooper’s on Motor Avenue, and the Hermosa Saloon on P.C.H. Sometimes he found her. Sometimes he found her in the arms of another guy. It was usually a fruitless, frustrating search.

Stan was infatuated with Rebecca. In her he saw beauty and grace. He saw an intelligent young lady from a great family. Somehow he got it in his head, as he had for a brief time during college, that he could “save” her. He finally called her father and had a long conversation with him. He explained that he had known her at USC. He told him he was an ex-player, a law student and Marine officer. He omitted his brief career as a male stripper and porn stud. He wanted the doctor to know he was not one of her bar room drug pals. He told him he thought he could get her off drugs and make a life with her.

Rebecca’s father was nice. He wished Stan luck. He said he would do what Stan wanted. He agreed to cooperate with the plan. Stan detected inevitability in his voice. He did not have much faith that Rebecca could be saved.

“If she were my daughter I’d do anything, I’d take her place in hell, to save her,” Stan said.

Nothing worked. Rebecca showed up, and Stan would spend a day, maybe a gloriously happy weekend with her. She had a smile like sunshine. Her personality and sense of humor was rare and different. She was off the wall and wonderful. Their sex was off the charts.

Then she would be gone. Stan imagined the worst. A drunk Rebecca getting picked up by strange men next to the jukebox. A drug dealer including her as part of a sex bargain to increase the cost of the blow he was selling.

Stan had chosen the “good girl” Karen over the “bad girl” Rebecca. What a joke. Karen was evil and conniving. Other girls were in contempt of Rebecca’s sexuality. Karen would have cut her to pieces with vicious barbs and slurs had she known her. But Rebecca had a genuine good heart. Life offered interesting choices and equally interesting results. Stan always came back to the realization that his union with Karen had produced the lovely Kaitlyn. For this, he was eternally grateful.

God works in mysterious ways, he told himself.

The respectability he had expected out of marriage to Karen had backfired. He had chosen a path that seemed not only obvious, but also paved with gold. One by one, his life had taken twists and turns. The experiences were enlightening. He had shown a reckless streak. Being a male stripper and porn actor was not exactly a smart choice for the nephew of the former United States Secretary of State. e had shown a reckless streak. Dancing naked and making a porn flick was not the best possible choice for the nephew of the former Unuited StatexdSecretary of State. In the end, perhaps his choices would make him a better man, but right now his emotions were raw. Now, his political path had been halted, at least temporarily. Why had Lauren insisted that he see Peter at that swing party? Why had she taken him there in the first place, and for that matter, why did he stay once he knew what was going on?

He knew the answer to the last question. He tried to tell himself that he was still young, and would outgrow his lusts. But would he? What did it all mean? What did God think of him? As a conservative who considered himself to be a member of the Christian Coalition, Stan knew that he was not living the life that true Christians were supposed to lead. But neither were a lot of high-profile Christians like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Stan told himself that he had to be honest in his assessment not only of himself, but in his judgments of others. He resolved not to be a hypocrite. He was what he was. He had love in his heart, and that was the most important thing.

Stan had love in his heart for Rebecca. His efforts at helping her were noble, but down deep he asked himself the tough questions.

Would I spend so much time trying to help Rebecca if she were ugly? he wondered. The answer was no.

Would I spend so much time helping her if she did not fulfill all my lustful fantasies? Again, the answer was no. Stan was acting in his own selfish interests. He wanted to mold and control her. Was this a good thing? Karen accused him of trying to control her. She was right. He knew he was going to try and control Kaitlyn, too. Was that the right thing to do?  

The passage of time and a series of events helped Stan get over what she laughingly called the “Rebecca Syndrome,” and ended what Stan called his Year of Living Dangerously.

Rebecca disappeared for an extended time with her drug dealer to Mexico. This was a blow to Stan. It made him sad and angry, but it helped cement in his mind what an uphill battle he faced if he was going to bring Rebecca to a safe life.

Things at work were tense. Dan had no idea about Peter Goode’s bi-sexuality or the swing parties. He only knew that Goode no longer mentored his son. In his way of looking at things, it was Stan who must have “blown it,” somehow.

Yeah, well, you shoulda seen Goode “blowing it,” Stan thought to himself.

Either way, Stan was no longer the fair-haired boy of Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. Besides, once the 1992 elections had come and gone, politics would be put on hold insofar as it was the “official business” of the firm. Stan had never gone back to law school, and did not plan to. His future at the firm was nebulous. It was time for a change. For his sins, it found him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

GO AHEAD, TAKE A BITE OUT OF THE BIIIIIG APPLE

 

“Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today
            I want to be a part of it - New York, New York

 
“These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York

“I want to wake up in a city, that doesn't sleep
And find I'm king of the hill - top of the heap

“These little town blues, are melting away
I'm gonna make a brand new start of it - in old New York
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you - New York, New York

“New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps

To find I'm a number one, head of the list,
             Cream of the crop at the top of the heap.

“These little town blues, are melting away
I'm gonna make a brand new start of it - in old New York
If I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere
It's up to you - New York, New York”

 

--“NEW YORK, NEW YORK”

                          By Frank Sinatra

 

 

 

 

 

Dick Maslin, Stan’s “friend” in little league, had led a life with a distinctly Horatio Alger flavor to it, tinged with some Arnold Rothstein elements. He had gone to Palos Verdes High for two years but was kicked out for stealing equipment. Maslin had a cousin who lived on Long Island, so he went back there. The baseball team in West Islip, New York was not very good, and he was able to start at second base for two years. He never would have made the Palos Verdes varsity had he stayed.

After high school, Maslin moved to Miami where he worked as a printer. He took up bookmaking on the side and started running with the Cuban Mob. At first, they looked at this fair skinned kid and laughed, but Maslin was very sharp. He was discreet, smart and good at what he did. He quit his printer’s job and made the bookie operation a success. It was enough of a success to attract the attention of rivals and the police. Eventually it was broken up. Maslin escaped Miami with two things: $50,000, and the stripper girlfriend of one of the Cubans. He moved back to Long Island.

Maslin put together a resume, which was mostly half-truths, bought a sharp suit, and ventured into Manhattan. He figured he would give corporate life a try. He went to brokerage firms on Wall Street, Church Street, and up Fifth Avenue. He checked out ad agencies on Madison and Park Avenues. They were all blue chip companies that were looking for Ivy League types.

But Maslin was a natural salesman. He entered an office building and saw that Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York was located there. He went to a pay phone and called Met Life, asking for the name of their head of human resources.

“That would be Jon McFarlane,” the secretary said.

He strapped on his game face and ventured on up to the receptionist.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Dick Maslin. I have a 3:30 appointment to see Jon McFarlane.”

The receptionist picked up the phone.

“Hi,” she said, “this is Kathy out front. Mr. McFarlane’s 3:30 is here… Yes….No…Dick Maslin…Yes, Maslin…Okay…Hold on.”

She looked at Dick.

“Was the appointment today?” she asked.

Dick opened his briefcase and looked at a copy of Sports Illustrated.

“Yes,” he said earnestly. “3:30 with…uh…yes, Jon, uh, Mr. McFarlane.”

“Would you have a seat, please?” she said to him.

Maslin sat down. 45 minutes later, Jon McFarlane appeared. He was full of apologies for having not properly scheduled their meeting.

“I just changed secretaries,” he told Dick, “and that’s always a work-in-progress.”

Maslin was counting on a little bit of luck. It was a numbers game. If Met Life did not work out, there was always Northwestern Mutual, Prudential, Connecticut Mutual, Mass Mutual, Mutual of Omaha or the pari-mutuels at the dog track.

Maslin rolled sevens with McFarlane. McFarlane was from a big, Irish Catholic family in Connecticut. He had season tickets to Yankee Stadium and loved being a New Yorker, which he considered himself to be. He spoke the language, and carried with him the insouciant “I know something you don’t” attitude of New Yorkers. He was in his early 30s, and immediately liked Maslin. They talked about sports, women and Irish bars. McFarlane had spent a week in Miami, so Dick’s Florida connection was another common interest.

Met Life normally looked for older, more experienced, better-educated people to fill out their sales force. They thought of themselves as a genteel, silk stocking outfit. But their numbers were down, and they needed an infusion of new talent. McFarlane thought Maslin had what it took. He told him he would recommend him for the next series of interviews.

Maslin had to go through two more interviews, but on the strength of McFarlane’s good impression of him, he was hired and placed in their training program. Maslin had little formal education, but he had the mind of a trial lawyer. Had he chosen to go that route, he could have done whatever he put his mind to. He put his mind to making money. Sales were the fastest way to make a lot of money. He could have sold anything; radio ads, television spots, real estate, stocks or ice water to Eskimos. Life insurance was lucrative if one could make a go of it.

At Met Life’s training academy, Maslin out-shined all the college graduates in his class. They came from Penn State, NYU, Cornell and places like that. None of it mattered. He had a handle on all the intricacies of life insurance. He had an impressive mind. When he was told something, he remembered it.

In his first year, Maslin was Met Life’s “rookie of the year,” making over $100,000. He did it out of hard work and cold calling. The college boys dropped out like flies. They hated the horrid cold calls, which were phone calls to “leads” that were little more than names in the yellow pages. Maslin lied, cajoled, joked, ran around questions, ingratiated himself, told people to “fuck off,” made friends, and re-wrote the definition of persistence.

One night he walked out of the building when Julio Macias and two swarthy types confronted him. Macias was the Cuban wise guy whose girlfriend Dick had stolen.

“You look all corporate and shit,” Macias told him. “You doin’ okay for yourself?”

Maslin never batted an eye. He took Macias into a “tittie bar” near the World Trade Center and negotiated a deal. He gave Macias $15,000 and the stripper. That was not all.

“To make this a real bargained-for exchange,” Maslin said, “I think I should get something of value from you.”

Macias eyed Maslin while drinking his beer. Maslin had the balls of a cat burglar.

“What do you want?” he asked him.

“I want you to sign up for an insurance policy with me,” said Maslin.

Macias laughed. He drank his beer. Then he thought about it.

“Okay,” he said.

“One more thing,” said Maslin. “I want one referral.”

“What kind of referral?” asked Macias.

“Another lead,” said Maslin. “A guy you know who needs insurance. A client you can bring to me.”

“I don’t know nobody like that,” Macias said.

“Aw, sure ya do,” said Maslin. “Somebody whose got somethin’ to lose. Somebody makin’ money who has a family that would miss his income if he dies or even gets hurt.”

Macias did know somebody.

“Yeah,” he said. “I know somebody like that.”

The “somebody” he knew was Nelson Santana. Nelson was 19 years old. He was Macias’s cousin.  He had just gotten married and his wife was expecting. Nelson had been the first round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles out of Hialeah Miami Lakes High School, and had signed for over $400,000. He was currently in Class A ball. Maslin read about him in Baseball America. It said he was a “can’t miss” prospect, part of a new breed of bigger, stronger shortstops who hit with power in addition to their defensive skills.

Maslin broke the news to his stripper girlfriend that she would have to go back to Miami and Macias, who liked to make her cry while they had rough sex. Dick was tired of her anyway. She was dumber than a box of rocks.

“Sorry, baby,” Maslin told her, “you’ve been traded for a player to be named later.”

Maslin called Darlene Little in Palos Verdes Estates, Califor