"KELSO'S SWING" [CHAPTER 20]
At practice after the Warner’s loss, Kelso was unusually quiet, even grim as he ran practice. He remained relatively unanimated compared to his usual loquacious demeanor after they beat Legends handily, now the worst team in the league. He delivered no post game comments. He continued this attitude, sort of sullen, like something was bothering him, stood silently with arms folded while Marstrulavich ran batting practice and infield preceding the Murphy’s game. The girls were again exchanging glances of bafflement at what they’d done now to provoke such behavior.
Before the game against Murphy’s, he suddenly changed into his old corrosive self, sneering, scowling, kicking at things in the dugout as he described his contempt for Murphy’s and their coach, whom Kelso told his girls “thinks he’s a goddam movie star with those dark glasses and Hollywood hairdo, spends hours looking at himself in the mirror and fixing his hair, like a prissy woman.”
When Murphy’s took the field, Kelso, in the third base coaching box, said to Kaycee, “You look like Anne Margaret. You two related?” When she ignored him, he went on: “I liked her in ‘Carnal Knowledge,’ with Jack Nicholson. He’s my favorite actor. You see ‘Carnal Knowledge’?” When she continued to ignore him, he said: “They got it on pretty good. Pretty steamy. But then it all fell apart when the sex got old and they found out they had nothing else in common—kind of like some of my relationships.”
She now curled up her lip to show her displeasure at Kelso’s commentary.
“Anyway,” he went on, “Anne Margaret was pretty damn sexy in ‘Viva Las Vegas.’ I saw that when I was in the army. It wasn’t much of a movie, but when you’re in the army, looking at Anne Margaret’s in a bikini’s more than enough to get your blood boiling. You see ‘Viva Las Vegas’?”
Her neck flushed red. “Yes! Now shut up! I am not interested in talking to you.”
“Sorry, it gets kind of lonely in the coaching box, away from your girls. You go to Dodger stadium, and the third base coach always chats with the thirdbaseman, and the first base coach always talks to the firstbaseman. I don’t see why it should be any different just because you’re a woman who looks like Anne Margaret and I’m a man often mistaken for Jack Nicholson.”
As their pitcher lobbed the opening pitch to Lacey, which she took, Kaycee’s face tightened. “You do NOT look like Jack Nicholson. Now shut up. I do not want to know anything about you.”
“That’s what they all say,” Kelso scoffed knowingly, leering.
By the third inning of a tight game, where the hit-and-run was automatically executed on the second pitch, Kelso was asking Kaycee if the shortstop, Cindy, had a boy friend. No answer. He commented on how, of all the Murphy’s players, Cindy seemed SO perfect. Was she anal? This time, Kaycee revealed a tiny, tiny, grudging smirk.
“I think there’s something terribly wrong with your shortstop,” he exclaimed, a little too loudly. “People who look perfect and act perfect and aspire to perfection are usually hated. You hate Cindy?”
No answer, but an angry glance from the shortstop was flashed toward Kelso. Amidst his monologue with Kaycee, he issued a bevy of signs to be ignored, clapped his hands, encouraged his players while addressing them with outlandish nicknames (Maria was now ‘Super Mex.’), scowled at Beth for deliberately ignoring his order to take a pitch, and complained to Kaycee about bunions, though he’d never had bunions
By the fifth inning, with the scored tied 5-5, Murphy’s shortstop called time and strode across the infield to the home plate umpire to complain of Kelso’s harassing their players. When the ump warned Kelso to cease talking to Murphy’s players, he mentioned free speech amendments and maintained that part of baseball tradition was to visit with players and ask how they were doing and how their relationships were going. The umpire warned Kelso if he continued harassing Murphy’s players he would banish him from the coaching box and if he persisted go to the recreation department and have him banished permanently from the premises.
After that, Kelso seemed to be talking either to himself or his girls in the dugout, claiming that wherever he went he was often misunderstood and persecuted. He voiced to his girls his great fear that in the future the Manhattan Beach “powers that be” might
force him to wear a dog’s muzzle—like a Doberman!
Toward the end of the game, Murphy’s catcher and infielders were yelling at Kelso to shut up, and they became so distracted they nearly lost, barely edged out a win when Claire muffed a grounder with the bases loaded and two outs. Kelso was the first one on the field to put an arm around Claire and console her. He insisted everybody had games like this, even the great ones, and next game she’d be the hero. The girls commiserated with a sobbing Claire, who shrugged away from Kelso.
When Kelso and the girls and Marstrulavich walked around the backstop toward the parking lot and passed behind the first base dugout, Murphy’s players and coach awaited them like angry crows on a clothes line, ready to squall and pounce. The tall firstbaseman, a prominent beach volleyball player, told Kelso, “If I was a man, I’d kick your cowardly ass.” The coach said scornfully, “You’re a really big man, picking on women.” The shortstop claimed, “Your little tricks didn’t bother us a bit. We won!” Kaycee’s dirty look was more of weariness after enduring Kelso for seven innings, and he winked at her. The Tides’ players skittered ahead of Kelso, obviously embarrassed at his outrageous boorishness.
In the Tides, at their usual spot, Kelso told Marstrulavich, “We got those Murphy’s prima-donnas where we want ‘em. We planted a seed of doubt in their psyches. They got rabbit ears. My next aim is to drive that sassy shortstop up the wall.”
“She has perfect form,” Marstrulavich noted, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “Almost like she went to baseball finishing school. Pretty hateful.”
“See her little compact convertible? Spotless. Her apartment’s probably a museum. Eli says she’s a grammar school teacher. Remember Tish, the teacher I went with, ended up shit-canning me because I had no future? They’re fanatically organized disciplinarians, gotta be in complete and constant control of everything.” He sipped his drink, puffed his cigar. “She’s so smug and confident, with that officious walk of hers, she’s the type, when she flips, it’ll be the end of the world—hysteria. When we get through with her she’ll need to be tranquilized and put in a strait-jacket.”
“That’s a pretty tall order, Kelso. The woman’s a model of stability and fortitude. I’d concentrate on that sexy thirdbaseman, and that Amazon firstbaseman. They’re real edgy and look to have tempers, a sign of insecurity. I think if you drive those two batty, the shortstop’ll have her hands full controlling the team, and that coach, he won’t know what the fuck hit his team.”
Kelso nodded. “Good thinking, Stroolo, you’re really making a valuable contribution.” He watched Marstrulavich light up. “We need one more player, maybe two, to beat Murphy’s and Warner’s. Some speed on the bases, so we don’t have to hit-and-run all the time with those goddam tit-monsters.”
Marstrulavich took a sip of his drink, turned to face Kelso. “Ross, at Ryan’s, goddam degenerate gambler, bet on anything, well, he’s taking bets against us in wiffle ball. All those cops who hang out there are betting on those two hero cops beating us. Flanagan’s taking bets. He’s marked the odds against us because Ross says those guys are undefeated and played in tournaments and perfected the art of wiffle ball. That Proctor guy wants you bad, Kelso.”
Kelso leaned back and sighed, peered into the area where the girls and their men drank together. “Count me in for two bills. When we get done with those cops, they’re gonna end up loonier than we’re gonna make those Murphy’s girls.”