Until this year, our Washington Square Bar & Grill slow-pitch softball team had played only home games, home being the North Beach Playground, a sunken asphalt pile at the foot of San Francisco's Telegraph Hill, about three blocks from the saloon. Although so many sports schedules are inflated these days, ours had been a masterwork of brevity—one game, the "traditional" with Cookie Picetti's Star Buffet, a rival bar frequented by not always off-duty policemen. In the flush of victory, or even in the agony of defeat, we had occasionally discussed challenging other opponents, but such proposals were invariably rejected with the conclusive argument, "The season's already too long."
In truth, one game a year seemed more than enough for a team with an average age and waistline of around 40. A longer schedule might have left us as weary and dispirited as, say, the Oakland A's in September. But we never had any trouble getting up for that one big one. We'd trot onto the asphalt past curious crowds of Chinese youngsters and, pounding our Marty Marion gloves, shout, "Hubba-hubba," or some other antediluvian battle cry. Our enthusiasm never waned, no matter how many hours the seven innings required. Granted, the quality of play was not always major league. A double, for example, was not guaranteed to score a runner from second base, and injuries in our games were as common as in the National Football League. Jimmy Igoe, a 45-year-old lawyer who is our second baseman and sometime shortfielder, has yet to play more than three innings without succumbing to some infirmity—a skinned knee, twitching back muscle or turned ankle. Igoe is a good lefthanded hitter and an agile enough fielder, but he cannot throw a ball 30 feet with mustard on it, even when he is healthy, which is never. He is probably the quintessential "Square" ballplayer, in that he has no durability, a few minor skills and at least one conspicuous weakness.
We are all in some way as flawed as Shakespearean monarchs. If I do say so myself, I can field pretty well—at least on asphalt, where you get a true bounce—and throw accurately, but I have hit nothing but pop-ups from the time of the second Roosevelt Administration. That is the kind of ball club we are.
Our season is now over, but it ran twice as long as usual, and, for the first time, half of it was played on the road. We finished 1-1. Our manager, Ed Moose, co-owner with Sam Deitsch of Washington Square, first proposed the extended schedule well before our traditional opener—and, of course, closer—with Cookie's. Moose, as befits his surname, is a large and disorderly looking man of 50. He wears tweed golf caps, plays boccie and talks as if he knows where the bodies are buried, which he usually does. He is a former newspaperman—the St. Louis Post-Dispatch—and a political wheeler-dealer who numbers among his friends the Vice President of the United States. Moose calls his intimates "Papa," with the accent on the latter syllable, and his intimates include most of what might be called San Francisco's bar elite, a troupe of merry imbibers, many of them journalists and litterateurs, who on any given day might describe an erratic course from Gino and Carlo's to Cookie's to the Square to Perry's to Morty's. Our team is made up of this bibulous company.
Like any manager, Moose knows exactly what kind of player he wants, and he frequently spells out the requirements: "You gotta be over 40 or have a bad liver." Moose himself is not one for dragging out the season, so it came as a surprise when he informed us, more or less one by one, that he had booked our first road game. "I have issued a challenge," he told us, "and it has been accepted. On Mother's Day we are scheduled to play Le Moulin du Village, a restaurant near Maxim's. The game will be played in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France." Mon Dieu!
The planning for this game was actually set in motion last October when Moose was dining at Le Moulin with his friend and one of the Paris restaurant's partners, Steven Spurrier, a young Englishman who has achieved an international reputation as a wine connoisseur. Spurrier especially endeared himself to Californians a few years ago when he entered a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon in a "blind" tasting competition in France. The tasters awarded top honors in its category to Stag's Leap, the California wine, over such competitors as a Mouton-Rothschild Bordeaux. In the eyes of French viticulturists, this was a national catastrophe comparable to the bypassing of the Maginot Line. Spurrier merely smiled complacently. "There are good wines elsewhere," he counseled them. Spurrier generally dines at the Washington Square after his forays into the California wine country, so naturally he has become fast friends with Moose and Deitsch. To cement their relationship, the restaurateurs proposed a mutual trade agreement—the Square would send its traveling clientele to Le Moulin, and Le Moulin would reciprocate.
But in time even this forks-across-the-sea arrangement seemed insufficient to the needs of their friendship. "What else can we do to unite our two restaurants?" Spurrier inquired of Moose at the now historic October meeting in Paris. Moose instantly recalled how competitive athletics had brought Cookie's and the Square together. "Why don't we play softball?" he suggested. "Splendid," replied the Englishman. "What's softball?" The game was afoot.
Both managers were now confronted with perplexing logistical difficulties. To begin with, Le Moulin had no team, so Spurrier, himself unsure of how many men there were to a side, had to recruit from his own staff—one of his partners. Chuck Scupham, is an American—and from his few American customers, most of whom are Marines assigned guard duty at the nearby American Embassy. The Marines would make up, as it were, the core of the team. The rest of the lineup would be fleshed out with assorted Frenchmen, whose èlan would presumably compensate for an abysmal ignorance of the game.
Moose's problems were of an entirely different nature. He had a set lineup of canny veterans who had served him with honor in the Cookie campaigns. What he had to do was find a way of transporting them to and housing them in a city some 6,000 miles away. The restaurant's softball budget had provisions only for our uniforms: white T shirts on which is emblazoned the Washington Square logo. It did not have funds for flying players halfway around the world. Neither, for that matter, does George Steinbrenner's budget. It was obvious the players themselves would have to foot the bill for this foreign adventure.
In an effort to lighten the load somewhat, Moose sought out our shortstop, Claude Jarman Jr. Film buffs will recall that Jarman achieved instant stardom as a youngster in the 1947 movie The Yearling, playing little Jody to Gregory Peck's Pa and Jane Wyman's Ma in the heart-wrenching story of a boy and his pet fawn. When this picture is shown on late-night television, Jarman, now well into his 40s, still receives phone calls from friends who sob, "Claude, you were wonderful." His career as a child actor was cut short when he grew too tall, and though he was handsome and talented enough to play adult roles, Jarman soon abandoned acting altogether for the world of commerce. Today he is the director of the San Francisco International Film Festival, a job that requires him to travel the globe in search of cinematic gems. Unsurprisingly, he is also part owner of a travel agency. Exercising some of his international clout, Jarman, with his partner, Jane Seligman, wangled a discount for us at the prestigious Hotel Royal Monceau on Avenue Hoche near the Arc de Triomphe, thereby significantly slashing expenses. Jarman himself would be on the traveling squad, and so, intrigued by it all, would Seligman.
Moose began assembling his team. He first approached George Yee, a wily in-fielder who is a bartender at the Square. Yee wordlessly peeled off $200 as a down payment, a gesture his employer viewed with a mixture of gratitude and bemusement. Could the Square be overpaying its help? Others were not so quick to come forward with cash, but they willingly agreed to join the fold. "No one said no," said Moose. "Everyone thought the idea was just silly enough to try." Silly? It would be a dream game: San Francisco, as represented by the Washington Square Bar & Grill, vs. Paris, championed by Le Moulin du Village, for the Softball Championship of Western Europe. Two great cities. Two great saloons. Two lousy teams.
My own involvement was assured, for I had been trying to get back to Paris for 26 years. To return, even as a third baseman, would gratify an old wish to settle a score. I first visited the city when I was an Army private fighting the Korean War in Stuttgart, Germany. I entertained youthful visions of bringing Gay Paree to her knees, conceding, to be sure, that my uniform and my college sophomore French might prove encumbering. Still, I saw myself promenading on the Champs-Elysèes with a Danielle Darrieux look-alike at my elbow and a flagon of Mumm's in my fist. Soon enough I wangled a three-day pass, crossed the border into France and made my way to Paris. Within minutes of my arrival, however, I swallowed my pivot tooth while chewing a slice of French bread outside some street stand on Place Pigalle. Hideously disfigured in my own view—the tooth was a front upper—I returned to a life of unsmiling seclusion, regarding myself as a latter-day Phantom of the Opera, doomed to skulk in the shadows of the City of Light. Visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I felt instant compassion for the repulsive bell ringer, Quasimodo. In my wounded vanity, I, too, knew what it was like to be shunned by women as something less than human. I spoke little, walked the streets endlessly, and in the evenings, when I had expected to shine, I retreated to my room in a small hotel on the Rue de Navarin in Montmartre. Altogether, a tragic figure.
The errant chopper was eventually restored, but I was never again able to return to Paris during my overseas hitch. And yet, in the generation's gap between visits, I never lost my affection for this most fascinating of cities. To hear me years later speaking of its wonders, a listener might think that I did, in fact, have Mile. Darrieux or her twin in tow, so diligent was I in suppressing the humiliating actuality. Beautiful cities, like beautiful women, will linger in the memory. Paris, in mine, remained alluring for 26 years. How good it would be to return as a presumably more mature man who, though somewhat longer in the tooth, at least had a full mouthful.
I am an unabashed city lover, and I love none so much as my own. I have been away from San Francisco twice in my adult life for periods of up to 3½ years, but I have never truly been away. My city has been much misunderstood in recent months, I fear, and, as happens so often to New York, it has been taking its lumps for only one aspect of its personality. Its legendary tolerance of the unusual is now seen as a fault, obviously the result of the Jonestown tragedy and the totally unrelated political assassinations that followed with such dreadful suddenness.
These were body blows felt by every San Franciscan, but the city has recovered from them, just as it recovered from the holocaust of 1906 that supposedly transformed it into an American Pompeii. Resilience is among the city's enduring qualities.
How nonsensical, anyway, to make sweeping generalizations about a place so complex and vital. What may prompt outsiders to hasty judgment is the sheer visibility of the city. San Francisco can be seen, almost in its entirety, from so many vantage points—42 hills, alone—that the onlooker may be forgiven if he thinks he has it in the palm of his hand. In fact, much of its charm is in its elusiveness, it ineffability. It is even possible to watch San Francisco's weather come to town—the white fog crawling through the Golden Gate like some phantasmal sea serpent whose cold breath can alter temperatures by 20° or 30°. In a mere 47 square land miles, San Francisco contains a bewildering assortment of groups and individuals with differing ethnic, racial, economic and sexual orientations. With such diversity, tolerance is not so much a virtue as an obligation. San Francisco is far from "laid back," as the least perceptive of its delineators would have it. It defies the easy categorization Easterners, particularly, seem so fond of making—"Take away the hills and the bridges and you get Cleveland." There are too many conflicting forces at work for such facile classification. Like any city worth its name, it is stubbornly itself. And damned exciting.
The Washington Square Bar & Grill is certainly a representative San Francisco saloon. Its wide windows look out upon Washington Square, a park where old Italian men lose their days in conversation. During the day, the bar is as bright as a solarium, but at night, even with the merciless overhead lighting, the dark wood bar and "smoky grape" walls give a somewhat more subdued tone. Jazz piano is played there every night. The pianists—five alternate through the week—sit facing an enormous mirror on the back wall, so that the customers see the musicians' faces and the musicians see the customers only in reflection. This arrangement seems somehow to protect the pianists from the usual harassment. Norma Teagarden, Jack's sister, is rarely asked to play Melancholy Baby, for example. The Square attracts a disparate clientele—writers, journalists, musicians, cops, actors, lawyers, longshoremen, politicians, society types and the usual young men and women in quest of romance. It is an extraordinarily noisy place. Writer Susan McCabe once characterized the Square's noise as "happy. It sounds as if everyone has something to say. There is no mumbling."
The best time to be there is between the end of lunch hour and the beginning of cocktail hour. It is quieter then, and a person can contemplate the true meaning of existence. At such times, we ballplayers plotted our road trip. Sixteen of us—including travel agent Seligman and Trans World Airlines representative Diane Murphy—would leave from San Francisco. Nine others—including Jarman and his wife, Maryann, who were en route to the Cannes Film Festival—would join us in Paris from other parts of Europe. Of the 16 on the plane from San Francisco, half were unmarried women; there were, curiously, no wives at all in this advance party. Our total squad included four journalists, three real-estate women, three local businessmen, two lawyers, two publicists, an art gallery manager, a Wall Street financier, the former child movie star, the bar owner, the bartender and a cop—Chris Sullivan, a large, bright and jolly man who is an inspector on the sex crimes detail of the San Francisco Police Department and the first winner of the Washington Square Bar & Grill's International Penny Pitching Contest.
It was only after the advance party had departed that Moose realized the team had no nickname. What was needed, we all agreed, was something with Continental flavor, and so, after some lighthearted debate, we decided, somewhere over Michigan, on "Les Lapins Sauvages," in the mistaken impression—advanced by me—that it translated to "The Wild Hares." It was not until we were actually situated in the Royal Monceau that we learned from French-speaking friends that we were, in fact, "The Wild Rabbits." Subsequent events would prove this the more apt sobriquet.
I should pause here to define my own attitude toward softball. I do not play it for amusement. It remains for me what it has always been: a way of proving myself. When I was a boy, my father worked as a manager for a large department store chain, and each time he was promoted—too often, in my selfish view—he was required to transfer to a different store, which was always in a different Northern California town. Because of this peripatetic existence, I had to change my schools, from kindergarten through high school, on the average of about once a year. I was the perennial "new kid" in the classroom, an object, therefore, of derision. My already unpromising prospects for acceptance were additionally damaged by the fact that in elementary school, where conditions were the worst, I was forced to wear glasses to correct far-sightedness. Spectacles in those days—the '30s and '40s—were equated with sissiness, and sissiness, if confirmed, was a crime punishable by eternal damnation. The life of a four-eyed new kid was hardly a bed of roses.
The best way—really, the only way—to escape being a pariah was to prove oneself on the athletic field. Softball was the ultimate test, for in that game incompetence could not be concealed in the line or the backcourt. The softball player stood alone, taking his cuts at the plate, catching balls hit to him, or, horror of horrors, flubbing them. New kids were always assigned to rightfield, where the fewest balls were hit, but when one played there, one had best be prepared to make the most of it. A single dropped fly ball could mean Coventry. My first game in each of these new schools might as well have been the final game of the World Series, so excruciating was the pressure heaped on me in the lonely wasteland of rightfield. I shudder yet at the memory of long-ago misjudged line drives and swinging third strikes. There was the game against Garfield Junior High School when I.... Aaargh!
In time, of course, I became the brilliant fielder you see today, and sometimes my pop-ups would drop untouched for cheap base hits. It was never my intention in those days to become a star, only to win acceptance. I did not want to show anyone up; I just wanted, glasses and all, to be one of the guys. My entire athletic career, if such it may be called, was characterized by a fervent striving to make the team—and therefore be accepted—quickly followed by a degree of complacency and a perceptible slackening of effort. My high school football coach could never understand why I played so ferociously in the early practices and so lackadaisically thereafter. He could not have known that I had already gotten what I wanted when he issued me the varsity uniform. I can see now that these early experiences have obviously scarred me for life. Oh, well.
Anyway, to this day every Softball game I play in, be it the Square vs. Cookie's or at a Father's Day picnic, is pretty much a matter of life or death. If I don't play well, they won't like me. Simple as that. So I am still out there dreading the first ball hit to me and hoping against hope the pop-ups will fall safely. Paris '79 would be no different from Fairfax Grammar School '39.
It seems clear now that in their concern with recruitment and transportation, Moose and Spurrier neglected one significant detail in the game plan—the playing field. Paris, for all of its infinite variety, is not fabled for her Softball facilities. There are some vestigial diamonds in the Bois de Boulogne (Paris' Central Park), relics perhaps of the Liberation, but the infields are lumpy and overgrown, and on the day of our game, even these were occupied by soccer players and, to our amazement, Japanese baseball players. We did not give the matter a thought, though, as we warmed up on the street outside the grand entrance to the Royal Monceau before astonished passersby and a uniformed doorman who registered his disapproval by staring resolutely over our heads. We must have been a rare sight for Parisians taking their constitutionals—middle-aged men in stenciled T shirts and outsized gloves, tossing a strange white ball back and forth, rending the Sunday morning air with exhortations.
We never did find a proper field, and this oversight, in the judgment of the infielders involved—particularly this one—determined the rather bizarre nature of the game. We finally settled on a corner of a soccer field, principally because its chalked white boundaries could serve as our foul lines. There was no backstop, only a distant clump of trees and some parked Renaults to arrest the progress of misdirected throws. A deep trench ran parallel to the third-base line, an accident of topography that imperiled the limbs of those in pursuit of foul flies in that vicinity. Portions of the so-called outfield had been worn bare by soccer players, and the footing was tricky. The infield was plainly a disaster area. High grass concealed corrugated terrain the consistency of the battlefield at Verdun after the last bombardment. Ground balls approached infielders like pinballs bouncing off bumpers. But, as the pros say, it was equally bad for both sides. And the setting was serene—the modern towers of the new Paris on one side of the green woods, the magnificent boulevards and stirring monuments of the old on the other.
Les Lapins and our supporters assembled along the first-base line, Le Moulin and its supporters on the third. Moose had proposed in the preliminary negotiations that women be permitted to play, but Spurrier had experienced enough difficulty recruiting able-bodied men, and the Frenchwomen in his employ did not know a softball from a pomegranate, so the game unavoidably took a male chauvinist turn. In actual fact, none of our women wanted to play, anyway, declaring themselves perfectly content to sit on the sidelines and enjoy the fine Kronenbourg beer provided by Le Moulin and the Piper Heidsieck champagne donated by Andy MacElhone, the generous owner of that Paris institution, Harry's New York Bar. Our players were still mildly afflicted with jet lag and suffering from the aftereffects of an extended evening listening to Aaron Bridgers, an old Ellington hand, play piano at Le Club House, near Le Moulin. I was also hobbled by a knee injury incurred the week before while playing racquetball and dangerously restricted by new Levi's so snug I could not lean forward without grunting in discomfort. I told Moose I could play with pain. George Yee was our only major casualty. Stricken with a galactic hangover, he lay on the grass alongside first base, guiltily mumbling, "I've let my teammates down." When Linda Sesnon, a political publicist, asked what position George played, Ruth Nomura, the gallery manager, replied, "Prone." Yee, in fact, rallied and finished out the game at second base, playing as expertly as any of the rest of us. Glenn Dorenbush, our public-relations director, announced that he would prefer heckling on the sidelines to being heckled while playing.
We were disturbed at first by the apparent youth and muscularity of our adversaries. When they took the field, our women cheered them on looks alone. Of our own appearance, Marty Brennan, one of our real-estate ladies, remarked, "The only thing that could keep anybody off this team would be a cane." Still, we could see during the Moulin batting practice that these comparatively sinewy youths lacked our professional know-how. We were especially encouraged immediately before the game when their rightfielder, a lefthanded Englishman, borrowed a glove from our lefthanded catcher, Dan Brunner, and blithely slipped it on his left hand.
The game started promisingly for us when our leadoff hitter, Herb Allen, the Wall Streeter who patronizes the Square on his trips West, stroked a long fly ball that fell between their left and centerfielders and rolled halfway to Versailles for a home run. We scored six times in the inning. In my time at bat, I hit a pop foul which their catcher, Spurrier, caught. It was, I was later informed, the first softball Spurrier had ever caught.
When it came our turn to take the field, I, at third base, felt more than the usual chill of apprehension, because of the unevenness of the field, the abyss at my immediate right and the disconcerting crowd of champagne-crazed Americans and puzzled Europeans. I sought solace in the knowledge that the game was, after all, something of a lark, but for all the comfort it gave me I could as well have been on the infield at Yankee Stadium last October. And Moose, on the mound, was scowling with concentration. The old fears of childhood were upon me again. "Please," I whispered, "don't hit it to me." On Moose's first pitch, their leadoff man hit a lazy bouncer directly at me, or as directly as the field would allow. The ball ran up my arm and over my left shoulder and trickled into the outfield. The runner stopped at second.
The gleeful hoots this miscue provoked were trebled when the next ground ball, instead of bouncing abruptly upward as its predecessor had, clung to the irregular surface as if on tracks and skidded untouched beneath my trembling glove. The terrifying thought passed through me then that every ball in the game would be hit to me and, therefore, the side would never be retired and everyone in all of France would know that I was the worst third baseman on two continents. The nightmares of my childhood would be realized here in the Bois de Boulogne, far, far from the schoolyards where they were conceived.
This insane notion gained credence when the next ball was hit slightly to my left. I was prepared at this juncture to let it pass untouched into left field, but Jarman, behind me at shortstop, yelled, "Your ball." Miraculously, it found its way into my glove. I was prepared to throw the runner out with one of my lightning pegs when our starting second baseman, Jerry McGrath, called out to me. I thought at first he was urging me to go for a double play, although even in my rattled state I knew there was no runner on first. McGrath, it seems, was merely congratulating me for my successful catch. But this charitable gesture served no purpose other than to delay my throw long enough for the runner to arrive safely. "Base hit," I cried out miserably to our official scorer, Stephanie Salter, the San Francisco Examiner baseball writer. "E-5," she wrote on her scorecard.
There can be no describing my elation when on successive plays, our leftfielder, Tom Shess, the editor of San Francisco Magazine, misjudged a fly ball into a home run and Jarman first bobbled a ground ball, then threw five feet over the head of Steve Strauss, our first baseman. Not all of the errors would be mine. We were, in fact, clearly in disarray, and Le Moulin base runners, some confused in their direction, were dashing by unchecked. Moose was apoplectic. "Can't anyone catch a ball out there?" he shouted from the mound, slapping tweed cap against khakied thigh. Apparently, no one could, for Le Moulin scored 14 times in its half of the inning to take a comfortable lead.
We returned to our supporters on the sidelines feigning amused disinterest. I, personally, was totally devastated, and I thought I detected telltale signs of embarrassment in the faces of my teammates, despite the jocular front we were putting up. All of us had spent our youths showing off in front of girls—or trying to—and now we were making fools of ourselves before them, playing against foreigners who didn't even know what they were doing. Dorenbush, a round-faced boulevardier whose wit is celebrated almost daily in San Francisco newspaper columns, commented dryly, "I think we need a new third baseman." He was joshing, I'm sure, but his words cut through me like a scalpel.
The rest of the game remains a little vague for spectators and participants alike. Salter stopped calling errors after we reached 16 in the first two innings. We did not ask for that kind of charity, it should be understood, but we gratefully accepted it. Our first baseman, Strauss, had only one putout all day, and that was at home plate on what I might humbly describe as a perfect relay throw from me. Well, it was not really a relay throw, because our outfielder missed the cutoff man by 20 feet, and the ball was rolling toward the ditch when I finally retrieved it and threw home to Strauss, who was covering the plate for some reason, to nail the runner, a Frenchman, who seemed uncertain whether home plate was his proper destination.
We had a terrible collision at second base when the burly Sullivan ran over the valetudinary Igoe in quest of a popup. Igoe was, naturally, kayoed and bloodied, but we have grown so accustomed to seeing him prostrate that we were prepared to continue the game over his possibly dead body. True to form, he revived and, for good measure, singled in the next inning, protesting that he could not see the pitch, only hear it. Moose removed himself after the second inning and brought in Dave Bush from la cage du taureau. Bush, a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle, held Le Moulin to either six or eight runs the rest of the way, which was not far, because the game was called by mutual agreement after four innings and 2½ hours. The end may have been hastened when Moose imposed a rule unfamiliar to either side in an effort to prevent Spurrier from substituting some late-arriving Marines. "No one under 40 can be substituted," our manager shouted, perceiving that the oldest of the Leathernecks was no more than 22.
We rallied from the early deficit and won the game by a score of 40-20 or 40-22. Allen, who went 5 for 5 and actually caught a fly ball or two, was named our Most Valuable Player, amid much grumping from Bush, the ace fireman. It was the start of a big week for Allen. Two days later, back home in Manhattan, he apprehended an armed robber fleeing a holdup of a Madison Avenue boutique. We read of his exploit in the New York newspapers while awaiting a change of planes in Kennedy airport on the way home. WALL STREET EXECUTIVE AIDS IN GUNMAN'S CAPTURE, The Times blandly headlined his feat. The story made no mention of his even more heroic performance with Les Lapins Sauvages in the Bois de Boulogne.
I redeemed myself somewhat from that disastrous first inning by catching a popup on the lip of the ditch, which, with the assist at the plate, raised my fielding average to .400 for the game, .200 below my batting average. One of my pop-ups fell unattended at shortstop, another dropped behind second base, and a third fell at the feet of the Englishman with the glove on his throwing hand. Another ground ball did go through me at some point in the action, but scorer Salter sagely called it "too hot to handle," even though it was hit on the handle of the bat. Moose was declared the winning pitcher, because we went ahead while he was still on the mound, and Bush was awarded a save.
The postgame party was held at Le Moulin, although the restaurant's chef, Gerard Coustal, a former Maxim's cook, stood on his dignity and refused to participate in the preparation of the barbecued chicken we were served. There has been a restaurant on the site of Le Moulin at 25 rue Royale for 150 years, and it is easy to see why. Twenty-five rue Royale is actually removed from the main drag in a small alley that calls to mind the Paris of, well, 150 years ago. Children and dogs play there, and women call to each other from the windows of tiny apartments in the upper stories. We sang and danced and drank champagne and good Bordeaux wine there for nearly six hours after the game. Sullivan traded T shirts with a Frenchman and, toward the end of the long day, Les Lapins cheered the vanquished foes: "Le Moulin! Le Moulin! Vive Le Moulin!" Franco-American relations were, all in all, well served, even though we slaughtered them.
As we passed through customs on the weary way home, an agent at Kennedy looked curiously at Brennan, who, though dressed to the nines in a snappy beige suit and high heels, was carrying an aluminum bat. "And what, Madam," he inquired, "was the purpose of your trip to France?" "Softball, of course," she replied with just a suggestion of hauteur.
About two weeks later, a number of Les Lapins alumni were sitting at the bar in the Square after lunch when Moose, agitated as ever, approached. "I've talked to the boys at the Asian Wall Street Journal," he said. "It's all set. Next year we play in Hong Kong for the championship of the Far East." And tomorrow the world.
We decided that a softball game in Paris was an excellent way to unite two restaurants.
The ball ran up my arm and over my left shoulder.
Moose devised a rule to prevent the French from substituting some late-arriving Marines.
Back in Manhattan, Allen nabbed a robber.