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Fast and Loose

Even with Ken Griffey Jr. as the prize, the Reds wouldn't part with Pokey Reese, who's talented and unburdened by family dysfunction

There he is, Calvin Reese Jr., sitting on a metal folding chair
in front of his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Veterans
Stadium in Philadelphia, shirtless, watching Ken Griffey Jr.
play cards. He is 26, at once skinny and muscular, with tattoos
on his chest and arms, two diamond studs in his navel and one in
each earlobe, his hair in cornrows. Hanging off his neck is an
enormous silver cross. He is in his fourth season in the majors
but already a legend of sorts. In the off-season his team, the
Cincinnati Reds, had declared Reese—known as Pokey, a sweet
infielder with a career .264 batting average—an untouchable.
The Reds had a chance to get Griffey, in baseball, and Junior
desperately wanted to play for them, but they wouldn't give up
Pokey to get him.

For Cincinnati the point was to have Reese and Griffey on the
same team, and in the end the Reds pulled it off. They must have
had a direct connection to the Psychic Friends Network. Five
weeks into the season, on May 2, Reese is batting .366, is
second in the National League in stolen bases (eight), fielding
nearly everything hit at him at second base and a great many
balls that are not.

Pokey's right hand is wrapped around a Styrofoam cup, which he is
using as a spittoon. You introduce yourself, and he grabs your
outstretched right hand with his left and says, in a voice that
is friendly and nonchalant, "Hey, how you doin'?" Good write-up,
bad, whatever, it's not going to change his life. He has dark
skin, good teeth, high cheekbones and a silver ball sticking out
of his pierced tongue. He spits into his cup, a thick brown

He talks about baseball casually, happily. He reminds you that
the Reds have always been high on him, even if the rest of the
world found out only during the Griffey trade talks last winter.
Reese, who turns 27 on June 10, was the Reds' first-round pick
in the June 1991 draft, just a couple of weeks after he'd
graduated from Lower Richland High, on the outskirts of
Columbia, S.C. All through high school Pokey was a deft
shortstop, blazingly fast, with a solid bat. Teams were
interested in him, the Pittsburgh Pirates in particular. It so
happens that his father, Calvin Reese Sr., had played a year of
Class A ball on a Pirates farm team in Gastonia, N.C., in 1969.
For years after that Calvin Sr. was also a legend of sorts in
Columbia's amateur baseball leagues. He got to every ball and
made it look easy. That's why they called him Slick.

One day in his senior year of high school, Pokey's life changed,
and Slick's life with it. In May 1991, 15 or so scouts
congregated at Lower Richland to watch a couple of pitchers from
visiting Lancaster High. Early in the game one of the Lancaster
kids hit a wicked shot in the hole between short and third.
Pokey sprinted after the ball, snagged it and, with all his
momentum taking him toward the third base line, spun around and
unleashed a missile that sailed five feet over the first
baseman's head and 50 feet past him. It was not a play schoolboy
ballplayers make. The scouts saw quickness, instincts, tenacity.
They saw a great arm. Pokey's only response to the play was to
apologize for his throwing error. The scouts loved him even more
for that. On that day Pokey became, within baseball's innermost
circles, a hot prospect.

When Reds scout Paul Faulk came to the Reeses' cramped house in
Columbia after the draft to negotiate a signing bonus, Slick ran
the show. A baseball acquaintance had advised him to hold out
for $400,000. (Slick's own signing bonus had been $1,500.) After
all, the Reds were the reigning world champions, and Pokey was
the 20th pick in the nation. But when Faulk finally inched his
way to $200,000, Slick could contain his excitement no more.
Invoking the name of his son and his wife, Slick said, "I say
before Pokey and I say before Clara, that's a fair deal." Pokey,
nicknamed in his roly-poly youth, remembers the day as if it
were yesterday.

For most of the '90s the Reds figured Reese would succeed Barry
Larkin at short. But Larkin, 36, a Cincinnati icon and a
potential Hall of Famer, has defied the aging process—and he
has told the club he will play only short. Meanwhile, over the
past four years Cincinnati has been developing another
spectacular shortstop talent, Gookie Dawkins, 21, who is also
from South Carolina. Three frontline shortstops are two too
many. Pokey has made things easy for Cincinnati, telling his
bosses he doesn't care where he plays, as long as he plays.

The Reds knew he could make the move because Reese is a
remarkable and nimble athlete. He was the quarterback on his
high school football team as a senior and was recruited by
several schools, especially Arizona State, to be a wide
receiver. Learning the double play pivot from a new side of the
bag? Took him part of a day. He came into this year with a .978
career fielding percentage, playing a mishmash of third, short
and second, but as a second baseman his fielding percentage
through Sunday was .971, an amazing number when you consider
that in high school and during his seven seasons in the minors
he played virtually nothing but shortstop. "I've got to go with
Pokey as the best defensive second baseman in the National
League," says Jose Vidro, who plays the same position for the
Montreal Expos.

As for his bat, nobody is expecting Reese to hit .366 this year.
Pokey himself does not expect to bat .300. But the Reds know he
can hit .285. That's what he hit last year, in 585 at bats. He
is a righthanded leadoff hitter who has the green light to
steal. He's working on being more selective at the plate and
walking more than he did last year, when he had only 35 bases on
balls. Opposing pitchers now have to worry about walking Reese
from their first pitch of the game. A formidable bat—Larkin or
Dmitri Young—follows him. Junior bats third. Reese is seeing a
lot of pitches around the plate in every at bat. At week's end
he was still hitting .294 and was fifth in the league with 15
steals. "Pokey Reese is one of the best young players in the
game," says eight-time batting champ Tony Gwynn of the San Diego
Padres. "You watch him play, and you can see why they didn't
want to give him up. You build franchises around young guys like

A long road trip is coming to an end, and the bar at the
Sheraton Society Hill in Philadelphia is crowded with Reds,
along with a few groupies and some businessmen. Pokey's drink is
Hennessy. You ask him about his family, his parents, his
siblings, his boyhood. He's a natural storyteller.

"I grew up in this itty-bitty place, Arthurtown," Pokey says.
"It's near Columbia, but it's old-timey. Dirt roads and little
houses and mobile homes. One guy in Arthurtown had cows. Still
does. We lived on Sugar Hill Lane. Didn't have indoor bathrooms.
If you wanted to take a bath, you went to the well, filled a
bucket of water, heated it up on the wood-burning stove. We had
an outhouse. We'd move it every so often so the stink never got
too bad. My mom worked in a hospital. She was a nurse. She
wasn't registered, but she was a nurse. My father did different
jobs. He was a truck driver. He was the housekeeping
superintendent in a mental hospital. Sometimes he was around and
sometimes he wasn't. When he was doing his drinking and his
drugs, staying out all night with his homeboys, I didn't see
him. All my life my family has been saying to me, 'Don't grow up
to be like your dad.' He was a smart guy, but lazy. A great
ballplayer. Batted lefty, played short. I'd go to his games."

In time, Pokey moves on to his second Hennessy. "We were poor
but didn't know it," he says. "My mother's brothers, they all
lived in Arthurtown. They didn't need much. They could raise a
pig, slaughter it, butcher it. They could all hunt—deer,
rabbit—and they could fish. We'd catch bass, catfish, brim,
cook 'em up. We ate government cheese, and it tasted great. My
grandma made biscuits. We had a radio, and I listened to the
Braves games. My great-granddad down the hill, he had a
black-and-white TV, with a hanger for an antenna, and we'd watch
the Game of the Week. I liked the National League, the Braves
and the Pirates. I liked Dale Murphy, Kent Tekulve, Bill
Madlock, Grant Jackson."

Pokey carries on with his life history. He tells it with candor
and ease but no sense of amazement. In high school he was an
indifferent student. "For study hall I'd go to my coach's office
and sleep on the couch or watch football film," he says. "I
loved football, except getting hit. I loved basketball, but I
didn't play it because I was so busy with football and baseball.
I've got a younger sister, Peaches—her real name's Alissia—and
she's good. She played basketball in high school, got a
scholarship and played at [Voorhees College]. She could be
playing now in the WNBA, except that she's pregnant. Again. This
time with twins."

You ask if she's married. He gives you a look that suggests your
question is a stupid one.

"I wasn't that good with girls," Pokey says. "Too busy, mostly.
My brother Fly was in my class—Angelo Wilson is his name; we
got the same mom, different dads—and he was good with girls. I
had one serious girlfriend, Tieronay Duckett. She was a class
behind me at Lower Richland. She played basketball with Peaches.
We had a little girl, LaBresha Reese, but that was after
Tieronay graduated. LaBresha was born November 20, 1992. I got a
boy, too. Naquwan Richardson. He was born September 22, 1992. I
was serious with Tieronay and all, but then we got into this
fight. I went out one night and messed around with this girl,
Rhonda Richardson, and she got pregnant, and that's the story
with that. I've got another little girl, McKayla Reese. She'll
be three in October. Her mom is Christy Jones. They live in
Indianapolis. I wish I could see my kids more. I send money to
them and I call them when I can, but I wish I could see them

You know from reading Pokey's clips that two of the mothers of
his children are dead. You're hesitant to bring up the deaths,
but Pokey talks about them readily. "Tieronay got killed in a
car crash, just before spring training in 1993," he says. "So
now LaBresha lives with her great-grandmother, Miss Barber, in
this little country town, Eastover, not too far from Columbia.

"Rhonda, she died in the hospital when she was [eight months]
pregnant with a baby—not mine. She had some disease and she
died, and the baby did too. After his mom passed, Naquwan moved
in with his grandmother and great-grandmother. Then a couple
years ago they were murdered, both of them, in their house. I'll
tell you, that family, the Richardsons, they have nothing but
bad luck. So now Naquwan stays with Rhonda's sister, Yolanda."

Near closing time Pokey prepares a long list of telephone
numbers for you. His sister, Peaches. His mother, Clara Reese.
His mother's mother, Isabell Barnes. His cell phone. His condo
in Cincinnati, which he shares with Fly. Christy Jones. Miss
Barber. His agent's number. He doesn't have a telephone number
for Yolanda. He doesn't have one for his father, either. Pokey
hasn't spoken to Slick since February 1999. Whether Slick is
straight or drunk or stoned, working or not, in South Carolina
or somewhere else, Pokey does not know. "If you find Slick, tell
him to call me," Pokey says. "I miss that motherf-----."

Miss Barber's full name is Ada Ruth Barber, and she looks after
her great-granddaughter LaBresha. Miss Barber's one-story house
is small, tidy and on a dirt road. Miss Barber raised LaBresha's
mom, Tieronay, in that house. Suburban America's notion of the
nuclear family, the notion perpetuated by the campaigns of
presidential aspirants, doesn't hold much meaning to the
families in this story. Miss Barber is 61 now; when she was 10,
she found out that the woman she thought was her sister was
actually her mother.

In the early months of 1993, Pokey and Tieronay were making
plans to get married. He had said nothing about Rhonda carrying
his baby, but after Naquwan was born, he took a DNA test to
determine the paternity of the child. It proved the boy was his.
He told his family. He told Tieronay. She was angry and hurt,
but she didn't love Pokey any less for what he had done. "Just
make sure you take care of that child," Tieronay told Pokey.

On March 1, 1993, Pokey, Tieronay and LaBresha were in Miss
Barber's house. In a few days Pokey would be leaving for spring
training, his third, still looking to play his first game of
Double A ball. Tieronay volunteered to take Pokey's suits and
shirts to the dry cleaner, which was in Columbia, a half hour's
drive away. Tieronay took Pokey's 1988 black Nissan automobile,
and Pokey stayed at the house with LaBresha. At around noon
Tieronay was two miles out of Eastover, on a rural, two-lane
road on a dry day, when she plowed into a big pine tree just off
the right shoulder. She was crushed by the steering wheel. Her
death was instantaneous. Nobody thinks the crash was willful.
Tieronay LaShonda Duckett, 19, mother, acolyte of the St.
Phillip A.M.E. Church, 1992 graduate of Lower Richland High,
member of its heralded girls' basketball team, fiancee to Calvin
Reese Jr., was buried five days later. At the end of the day,
other mourners, his father among them, had to pull Pokey away
from the burial site. Pokey was wailing, "I can't leave her
here." People who had known Pokey all his life said they had
never seen him cry before.

Pokey calls LaBresha, now seven, about once a week. He also
sends checks to Miss Barber from time to time. (Pokey has a
one-year contract worth $1.9 million.) His little girl is a
cutie-pie, exceedingly polite, a whiz on her computer. She sees
his at bats every so often. She likes seeing her father, even if
it's only on TV. The fact that he's a major leaguer means little
to her.

You and Miss Barber and LaBresha head over to Tieronay's grave.
LaBresha recites the words on her mother's tombstone in the
sweet, high-pitched, halting voice of a child new to reading:
"In God's care. A loving mother. Tieronay L. Duckett. December
10, 1973. March 1, 1993."

On the way back to the house you ask Miss Barber about Pokey,
about what kind of father he is. "He's a good father, when he's
around," Miss Barber says. You ask Miss Barber if she knows
Slick. She smiles at the mention of the name. "Everybody knows
Calvin Sr.," Miss Barber says. "Just nobody knows where he is."

Christy Jones lives in Indianapolis with her grandmother, with
her daughter from a relationship before the one with Pokey and
with McKayla, her daughter with Pokey. She and Pokey met in the
summer of '96, when Pokey was playing on the Reds' Triple A team
in Indianapolis. Christy's stepfather, Skeeter Barnes, played
for the Reds in the '80s and for Indianapolis before that. In
'97 Christy became pregnant with McKayla. "I wasn't going to
have McKayla, but Pokey said, 'If you have the baby, I'll be
there for you,'" she says. McKayla was born on Oct. 24, 1997.
Pokey didn't make it to Indianapolis until a week after McKayla
was born.

For a while, during the 1998 season, when Pokey was with the
Reds in Cincinnati and making $220,000, Christy and Pokey were
engaged, but Pokey broke it off. He told her he didn't have
enough money to get married. He told her he didn't love her.
Christy says Pokey had relationships with other women while they
were together. Now, by court order, Pokey pays Christy $1,469 a
month for child support.

"When we started going out, he was just a fun person to be
around," Christy says. "He can do sweet things. Even now. I
heard he said 'Happy Mother's Day' to me on TV. But basically I
see him as very selfish. To McKayla he's not a dad at all. He
calls maybe once a month. He's come here to see her twice in the
past year. My dad, Skeeter, works as a coach in the Detroit
Tigers' organization. He told Pokey at spring training, 'You
better do the right thing by my daughter.' But my dad told me,
'He's an athlete. You can't expect much from these guys. Their
mind is somewhere else. It's on the game.'"

The Richardson family is well known to the Reese family. Years
ago Slick dated a Richardson. Pokey had a baby with Rhonda
Richardson. Peaches, Pokey's kid sister, knows Melanie
Richardson, Rhonda's kid sister. But none of the Reeses—not
Pokey, not Peaches, not their mother—can tell you Naquwan
Richardson's address or any information about Yolanda
Richardson, Naquwan's aunt and guardian.

You visit Melanie at her house in the community of Starlite, a
working-class development outside Columbia, three miles up Bluff
Road from Arthurtown. She tells you about Rhonda's death—the
family says sickle-cell anemia was the cause—on March 23, 1996,
and how Naquwan moved in with his grandmother and
great-grandmother after Rhonda's passing. She tells you about
the violent deaths of those two women, in that same house, on
Dec. 23, 1997. Naquwan's grandmother, Patricia Richardson, was
41. His great-grandmother, Nellie Green, was 70. On that day,
two days before Christmas, Patricia's live-in boyfriend, Evon
Frederick, stabbed Patricia 11 times with a butcher knife,
killing her. He beat Nellie to death with a bedpost; Naquwan was
found in the kitchen with her body. Frederick, who'd had
previous brushes with the law, is now serving two consecutive
life sentences. Melanie gives you a telephone number and an
address for Yolanda.

Yolanda is 28. She works with mentally ill and disabled people
who live in private group homes. She prepares their meals,
bathes them, talks to them. She earns $8.24 an hour. She lives
on the outskirts of Columbia with her three children, plus
Naquwan. The extent of the scarring from the trauma Naquwan has
endured is not yet known, but he needs extra attention and
thrives on it. So Yolanda has enrolled him in a special class in
a public elementary school, where there are just a handful of

The courts require Pokey to pay $432 a month in child support.
Yolanda says it's not enough, but that's not what upsets her.
Pokey has not seen seven-year-old Naquwan in about 18 months.
That upsets her. "I've always liked Pokey, everybody likes
Pokey," Yolanda says. "His intentions are good. But when he
comes home, so many people want to see him, he loses track of
time. I don't tell Naquwan when his father's here because I
don't want him to be disappointed when he doesn't see him.
Pokey's turning out just like his dad. Pokey couldn't depend on
him. Naquwan can't depend on Pokey."

Arthurtown is a hodgepodge of houses, maybe a hundred in all,
set back from dirt roads. It is not four miles from the heart of
downtown Columbia, which is dominated by South Carolina's
magnificent state capitol building, where the Confederate flag,
for now, flies above its gilded, domed roof. There are a few
churches in Arthurtown but no businesses, although there used to
be a nightclub, Boogie's Grill, on Zion Avenue. Pokey's mother,
Clara, is a Barnes, and the Barnes family, you are told, has
been in Arthurtown forever, which means since sometime after the
abolition of slavery.

Clara Reese remembers good times with Slick, in the early years
of their marriage. On Saturday nights he'd play ball for the
all-black Arthurtown Buccaneers or for the integrated Columbia
Bulls. Clara and Peaches would sit in the stands at Capital City
Stadium watching him play. Pokey would sit in the dugout,
working as a batboy, taking grounders between innings. Even when
he was five, the grown men playing couldn't believe how skillful
Pokey was with a glove. But to keep the boy in his place, the
men always told Pokey he would never be as good as his father.

After the games, everybody—everybody who was black, that
is—would go to Boogie's. The men would huddle on one side,
rehashing the game, the women on the other, fussing about the
lack of attention paid to them. Then a slow song would come on,
and everybody would dance. They were good times. Slick was the
center of attention, well dressed, a good talker, the star of
his team. He batted .433 for the Bulls in 1980. Slick taught
Pokey baseball the best way he knew. He let him watch.

When Slick stopped playing ball, he started drinking more. He
couldn't keep a job, the marriage fell apart, and for a period
Slick and Clara were divorced. They remarried when Pokey was in
high school (though they would divorce again). Clara attended
all Pokey's games, made sure that he did all his homework and
looked good and showed up on time, that he got to the awards
banquets. Slick came to some of the games. People knew he was
drinking, but he was never out of control. He never embarrassed
Pokey. All he did was let him down.

Pokey signed with the Reds, had his three kids, climbed through
the minor leagues, made it to Cincinnati. He built a $150,000
house in suburban Charlotte for his mother. As Pokey flourished,
Slick hastened his descent into the hell of addiction, first
drinking, later doing crack. In December 1997 he sought help,
moving into an apartment at the Oliver Gospel Mission in
Columbia, a facility for addicts and people in need. He was
tested for drugs regularly and stayed straight during almost two
years there. Pokey visited his father at the shelter a couple of
times. Slick took a job at the mission, answering the
middle-of-the-night phone calls of the desperate. He could
relate. In the spring of 1999 the mission's annual bulletin, The
Way of Faith, ran a nice story about Calvin and his recovery.
Soon after, a woman came into the mission looking for help. The
next thing anybody knew, last September, Slick and the woman had
bolted. Slick left no address, no telephone number. Whenever
Pokey would call home, he'd ask, "Peaches, have you heard from
Slick?" The answer was always the same.

Pokey's mother, who had the first of her five children while in
high school, knows what is happening. That Pokey, as a father,
is following the model of fatherhood he knew best. That Peaches,
as a mother, is following the model of motherhood she knew best.
Clara would like things to be different. She'd like her former
husband to have a relationship with his children, as long as
he's not high. You ask Pokey's mother if she knows anything
about the whereabouts of Calvin Sr. She does not know. The only
thing she has heard is that Slick married again and that the
woman he married was from North Charleston, S.C. That's it.

You try street corners, the police, barmaids. Then a local
reporter types the name Calvin Reese Sr. into a computer. His
birth date—he was born on Independence Day, 1951—is entered,
too. A few programs are run, databases searched. An address
comes up.

It is Friday, May 12, a perfect spring day. You drive to the
address in a run-down section of North Charleston called
Cherokee. You're driving around in your white Volvo sedan with a
sunroof and CD player, and everybody in the neighborhood is
staring at you as if you're a lost tourist in a third-world
country. The address is a two-story apartment building. Video
cameras are mounted to the outside walls, and a sign says the
building is under police surveillance. You go to the apartment
that is supposed to be Slick's. You knock. The voice of a sleepy
woman bellows, "Who?"

The woman comes to the door. She is middle-aged, wrapped in a
sheet, holding an infant. Her grandson, she tells you. She is
Slick's new wife, Donna Anderson, the woman he met at the Oliver
Gospel Mission in Columbia. She's friendly. She steps outside
the door. She knows all about Pokey, all about his salary. She
tells you that Calvin Sr. is at the meat market on Rivers
Avenue, just a short walk away, working as a butcher.

You enter Mr. J's Old-Timey Meat Market through the double doors
in the back and ask for Mr. Reese. A half minute later he
appears. He is a thin man, slightly bowlegged, wiry and strong,
with veins protruding from his forearms. He has dark skin and
high cheekbones, just like Pokey. You say, "Slick?" And when you
do, he throws his hands down as if he were about to field a
grounder, and a wide smile crosses his face.

Slick's boss, Mr. Johnson (the aforementioned Mr. J), gives him
an early lunch break. Calvin has a nice relationship with
Johnson. He's been teaching Johnson's 16-year-old son how to
hit. You and Slick enter a huge walk-in freezer, no longer in
use, and sit on metal chairs facing each other. You don't know
where to start, but you want him to know you've come in peace,
so the first thing you say is that you have Pokey's number and
that Pokey wants him to call.

"Really?" Calvin asks.

"Yes," you say.

"You are a godsend!" Calvin says.

You remind him that he could have called Pokey, through the
Reds' front office, anytime he wished. You remind him that
Peaches is living in Arthurtown at a listed phone number. "Maybe
so," Calvin says, "but I didn't know my kids wanted to hear from

You don't want to scare him off, so you ask Calvin about his
year of pro baseball. He jumps right in. "Pro ball is easy," he
says. "All you got to do is play baseball. At my first spring
training I met Willie Stargell. He said, 'Relax, don't overdo
it. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have talent.'"

Calvin's eyes are clear. He's well groomed. He's not fidgeting.
His enunciation is distinct, although his words tumble out

"I had a good year that first year, and they wanted me to come
back," Calvin says. "I went back to Columbia and I was playing
sandlot ball, and one day I went to make a throw and I pulled
something. I couldn't throw right after that. I went back to
spring training the next year, and they could see I lost my arm.
They told me to rest it and sent me home. I never went back to
pro ball. Eventually the arm got better, and when I started
playing so good in the Columbia leagues, a friend made calls for
me. A scout from the Braves almost came to see me, but he had
other obligations and it didn't work out. I feel I could have
been good, real good. I feel I could have been an Ozzie Smith,
to be honest."

Calvin talks about his family and his upbringing. He hardly knew
his father. His mother died years ago. "Alcohol killed her," he
says. He remembered Pokey coming to his sandlot games from the
time he could walk. "Clara once said to me, 'Pokey watches
everything you do and does it the same.' I never paid that no
never mind until one day we was sitting in the dugout and I
cross my legs, and I see him cross his legs at just the same
time, and I say, 'Damn, she's right!'

"Pokey's gonna be on a team that wins the World Series. I know
that because Pokey has a winning personality, and winning
personalities always wind up on winners. I feel I have a winning
personality, but I lost hope," Calvin says. "Just knowing that
Pokey and Peaches want me to call them, that fills me with hope.
That fills me with more hope than I've had in a long, long time."

You ask Slick about his demons, about his problems with alcohol
and crack. He says, "The biggest demon I had was Pokey's
mother's family. They was always in my way. We'd have a picnic,
they'd have to come. We'd move somewhere, they'd have to move in
with us. I says to Clara, 'Why can't it just be me and you and
the kids?' But, no. That's what they call the Arthurtown pull.
So I'd come and go, leave when I couldn't take it no more, come
back when I thought I could.

"I don't consider myself an alcoholic. But I shouldn't drink.
When I was drinking a lot, it was like it had no effect on me.
The boys I be drinking with would say, 'Damn, what's the matter
with you? You be drinking and drinking and you ain't getting
high.' The drugs started right around the time Pokey signed. I
went from a real big high to a real big low. I was looking to
fill that void. I never could."

You ask Slick when was the last time he did crack. "I've had
four or five relapses since I left Columbia," he says. "Nine
months ago I bought a twenty and smoked it. The next morning I
regretted it. That's the last one I did."

You ask Slick why he left Columbia and why he fell out of touch
with his children. "I was marrying again, and I didn't think
Pokey and Peaches would accept it," he says. "I was trying to be
straight when we left Columbia, but things didn't go good when
we came to Charleston—living like we was, messing with drugs
again, no car, no telephone, this six-dollar-an-hour job. My
pride took a beating. I wanted Pokey and Peaches to see me when
I had turned things around. But Charleston has been like a trap
for me."

You ask Slick if he knows about Peaches' pregnancy or Pokey's
pierced tongue. He doesn't. The news doesn't please him. But a
moment later he perks up. "You see?" he says. "They need their

The next day Slick called Pokey, collect. The father and the son
spoke for the first time in 15 months. Pokey invited Slick to
move to Cincinnati and live with him. Fly wired money to Slick
for bus fare.

Two days later, on May 15, Slick boarded a Greyhound bus at 2
p.m. in North Charleston. He arrived in Cincinnati 10 1/2 hours
later. Fly picked him up at the bus station and took him to
Pokey's condo. At 2:30 p.m. Pokey woke up, got dressed, saw his
father, gave him a hug, took him out for a meal. That night
Slick was in a field-level seat at Cinergy Field, behind home
plate. Pokey had a hit and drove in two runs. The Reds won. His
father would attend every game of the home stand.

Slick, by the way, left North Charleston without telling his
wife or his boss that he was leaving or where he was going. On
the other hand, Slick told Pokey that he would never desert him
again. He has not missed a home game in Cincinnati since. Slick
calls you on the phone and says, "I'm going to be a father to
Pokey now. Teach him how to be a father, too."


COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY AL TIELEMANS Diamond sparkler Studded ears, navel and tongue are all part of Reese's style.

COLOR PHOTO: AL BEHRMAN/AP PIVOT PLAY Reese was able to make the move from shortstop to second with ease.

COLOR PHOTO: KENNETH L. HOLLIS SLICE OF LIFE Slick had to beat his drug habit before finding work.

COLOR PHOTO: KENNETH L. HOLLIS LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Reese, an absentee dad, sends monthly child-support payments to Christy (left), but he rarely sees McKayla.

COLOR PHOTO: KENNETH L. HOLLIS IN MEMORIUM LaBresha visits the grave of her mother, Tieronay, whom Reese had planned to marry before the fatal auto accident.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID KOHL/AP HANGIN' IN THERE Larkin (11) was supposed to be replaced by Reese, but he's still going strong.

COLOR PHOTO: KENNETH L. HOLLIS BACK TOGETHER The reunion of Pokey and Slick was a joyous one.

COLOR PHOTO: KENNETH L. HOLLIS DON'T LOOK BACK Baseball has brought Pokey through hard times.

"All my life my family said, 'Don't grow up to be like your
dad,'" says Pokey.

"I see Pokey as very selfish," says Christy. "To McKayla
he's not a dad at all."

"Pokey's a good father to LaBresha," says Miss Barber, "when
he's around."

The Reds had three shortstops, but Reese said he didn't care
where he played.

"I'm going to be a father to Pokey," says Slick. "Teach him to
be a father, too."

"Pokey's going to win a World Series," says Slick. "He has a
winning personality."