About a month after I arrived in Saltillo, Mexico, after having played just 25 or 30 games for the Seraperos (and doing fairly well in the offing) I got a telegram at the stadium that my old man needed to speak with me.
One of the many reasons I had sought to play ball south of the border was to get away from parental demands like these. My parents, when they wanted something from me, could be as oppressive as a sauna in Houston in August. Now, obviously, my father needed something from me—was demanding something.
“Son,” it read in telegraphic terseness, “call me at work, person to person. Dad.”
“That’s funny,” I said to myself. “I never thought of him as a person.”
But I called. I had to. I was raised to be obedient, to be the Good Son, so I followed his imperative.
“Your mother has left me,” he said when I finally reached him.
I was in the middle of a short hitting streak to start my professional career. Like I said I was tearing up the league. After my first month, my line looked like this:
G AB H R 2 3 HR RBI BB SB AVG
27 114 40 19 8 0 4 21 11 3 .342
“Where is she,” I asked.
“I need you to come home. I need you now.”
“Dad, I can’t come home, I just got here.”
“Baseball isn't your future. What are you making down there?” He said caustically. “$200 a month.”
I corrected, “$200 a month and two chicken dinners.”
He begged, the old man did and I hung up the horn.
I scanned the 8’x10’ room I was flopping in. It wasn’t much to look at. I slept on a tiny cot and had my few belongings stuffed willy-nilly in a cardboard bureau. There was one small window girded with some ratty brown plaid curtains.
“Nothing to stay for,” I said aloud.
I threw my shit back into my duffle bag, put a dog-eared copy of Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” in the back pocket of my Levi’s and I walked to the Estadio de Beisbol Francisco—about two miles from my small rented room. I figured I would pick up my glove, my spikes and say goodbye to my manager, Hector Quesadilla. Then I would take the bus—whenever the bus came—to Corpus Christi, and then make it home from there.
I arrived at the clubhouse—it was three hours before game time—and Hector was there. He came over and put his arm around my shoulder. I’ve never been much of a hugger, not then, not now, but I took Hector’s arm in stride.
He must have seen me with my duffle and put two and two together. We had just started a homestand and weren’t due to travel for at least a week.
“You no go,” he said.
In my rudimentary Spanish—I’d yet to pick up the language—I tried my best to explain what was going on. Not only was I needed elsewhere, well, this was the end of the line for me baseball-wise.
Hector knew all this. Somehow.
He took my duffle from me and brought it to his office.
“You will stay. You will stay en mi casa con mi esposa.”
“Si,” I answered.
Hector led me into his tiny office and pointed to his phone.
Hector stood beside me as I sat in his chair and called my old man.
I told him to go to hell and hung up.