Monthly Archives: May 2016

Pacific Coast League Reunion

Oldest living New York Yankee recalls early Southland pro baseball

by Dell Franklin


Irv Noren threw and hit gracefully left-handed, led the league in just about every offensive category, and went up to the big leagues in 1950 and had an accomplished career until 1960, including three World Series victories with the Yankees.

While attending the Pacific Coast League reunion down at the Huntington Beach Library, and browsing through old photos and scrapbooks guarded by fanatics who followed and felt the PCL of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s was indeed the golden age of baseball, somebody told me Irv Noren was in the house.

I had been talking to aged diehard PCL fans and pointing out pictures of my dad engaged in the biggest, bloodiest brawl in the history of baseball between the Hollywood Stars and LA Angels in 1953, and when I spotted Irv across the room I instantly became a dog frantically wagging his tail and made a beeline toward him.

Irv was on a cane and as he conversed with several old geezers (that’s all there was at this gathering) I waited patiently beside him until he turned to me and I said, “My father, Murray Franklin, played with you on that 1949 championship team.” Then I showed him the ring awarded those champions that I had inherited from my father, and he shook my hand.

“Remember Murray very well,” he said. “Great guy.” And it was apparent right off that Irv, though in his nineties, was spry, mentally acute, and still inspired. I told him that in all the years my dad played pro ball (from 1937 until 1953) the Hollywood Star team of that era was his favorite. Of course, on that 1949 team, Irv could have been the inspiration for Robert Redford in “The Natural.” He threw and hit gracefully left-handed, led the league in just about every offensive category, and went up to the big leagues in 1950 and had an accomplished career until 1960, including three World Series victories with the Yankees, who got him in a trade with the Washington Senators after he had two solid years.

As soon as we were alone, I said, “You must be 92.”

“I’m 91. Going on 92.”

“You hit .319 in 1954. I had your card.”

“That was a pretty good year,” he conceded.

He said he roomed with the great hall of fame pitcher Whitey Ford from 1952 until 1956. They were still tight. He said Yogi Berra never got credit for being a great athlete, because of his squatty build. “I don’t think Yogi had three passed balls a year. He was as good as they come behind the plate.” A few enthusiasts began hanging around, for, with most of the old PCL players now deceased, Irv, along with Paul Petit and Dick Adams, were the only celebrities left. Before I moved on so others could pose for pictures with Irv, an admirer asked, “What about today’s players, Irv?”

“Bigger, faster and dumber,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “I think Jerry Coleman told me that.” Coleman was his team mate with the Yankees and later a San Diego Padre broadcaster.

Another man who was part of the crew running the reunion came up with baseball card-sized black-and-white photos of Irv standing beside a famous singer as part of the local lore of the entertainment and film culture that surrounded the Hollywood Stars. Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Kim Novak and Anne Bancroft, among others, regularly attended their games. I instantly recognized the photo as one I kept among my dad’s archives.

CULTURE.Franklin, Murray - Detroit 1941

The author’s father, Murray Franklin, played with Irv Noren on the Pacific Coast League’s 1949 championship team.

“My dad’s in the picture,” I said. “And so is Sandlock, Frank Kelleher and Maltzburger.”

“We cut your dad out,” the man confessed.

“You know what my dad was like,” I said. “He’ll rise from his grave and kick your ass.”

“We know that. We’re sorry.”


One had to be around to appreciate what the old Pacific Coast league meant to kids my age, which most of these people running and attending the reunion were when the league was all we had out here, the games were televised, the rivalries were rabid and tribal. I was at the game during The Brawl between the Angels and Stars, and since my father was in the thick of it, I told these geezers how I was out beyond the ropes in the outfield for the crowd over-flow, fought with Star knot-hole kids, and ran across the field and through the stadium and into the clubhouse, where, after the half hour brawl that took 50 LAPD to stop, the clubhouse looked like a field hospital in a combat zone.

One man in a wheel chair told me, “Those were the days. I loved the San Francisco Seals. That’s where I’m from. I’m still pissed off the Giants and Dodgers came out here. What they call the PCL now is a crock of shit.”

The big leagues were what we got on Saturday’s televised “Game of The Week.” The PCL was a quality league full of veterans who’d played in the big leagues and those moving up (Joe DiMaggio, Bill Mazeroski, Ir Noren, Gus Zernial, etc). Games were televised at night Tuesday through Friday with a day game on Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday. The ball players on all the teams along the coast—from Seattle down to San Diego—were heroes to us kids, and since I was the son of one of these men, to come to this reunion was a nostalgic journey and a thrill unparalleled.

Wherever I went, with my three friends who came with me, I told stories. Dick Adams, 96, former Hollywood Star, player-manager, high school teacher-coach, professional musician, sat at a table with his baseball cards, a few teeth missing, bright and jovial, telling stories. I told him of the time a pitcher named Bear Tracks Greer with Houston of the Texas league dusted my dad, who played for Beaumont, four times. Dad was ready to charge this scary backwoods monster, when the catcher warned, “Bear’s crazy. He’s not like other people, he’ll drill you with that ball from five feet, right between the eyes, dehorn you. He can’t get you out, so he figures if he’s gonna walk you he might as well knock you down four times—nothing personal.”

“Knowing your dad,” Dick said, “I’m surprised he didn’t charge him.”

“He was backwoods, Dick. Crazier than Bobo Newsome. Only reason Bear Tracks Greer wasn’t in the big leagues was because he was too crazy, tearing up bars at night—uncivilized. He met dad in the clubhouse at the Texas League All Star game, drunk as a skunk, put his arm around him and said he loved him and offered him a slug of the jug he was holding. He was supposed to start the game but passed out on the training table.”

“Yeh, if he’s crazier than Bobo, I can see it.”

Dick then told me and my friends about a woman in an elevator who informed Joe DiMaggio, who was with two pals, she could make him happier than his wife of the time—Marilyn Monroe. When Joe refused, his buddies asked if she’d mind taking them on instead. She told them to get lost.

Dick left us with this one: “I never drank much and I’m still kicking at 96, but I only got one year in the big leagues. My brother Bobby drank like hell and got in 14 years!”


Later, a good Samaritan found the glossy of the original photo that had left my dad out. My pals and I wandered over and met with Noren. He was still standing, cane discarded, asked one of my pals, Dave, if he could get him a glass of water. Dave took off. When he returned, Irv thanked him, drank, and we got him to talk. The man was a star athlete at Pasadena High and Pasadena City College, actually played professional basketball for Chicago in the NBA during the 1946-47 season.

He talked of his baseball teammates, guys like Hank Bauer and manager Ralph Houk, who served in WWII. “Seems like all of us served, and a lot of those guys saw heavy action, but they never talked about it. Mickey Grasso, a catcher, my teammate with the Senators, was a tank commander, in charge of a bunch of those cracker-box tanks we had, and they were no match for those damn Panzer tanks, and they were out-numbered. It was toward the end of the war, so Mickey had his guys jump out of their tanks and give the heil Hitler salute. You were better off captured by the Germans, because they weren’t like the Japanese.”

I held the black-and-white glossy of Irv and dad and his teammates and the celebrity singer. They all looked so young, and especially Irv, who was 24 at the time and about to go up the following year to start his big league career. Now Irv was the last one standing, Mike Sandlock having died recently at 100. Mike used to pick me up off the ground when I was a 7-year-old in the clubhouse, rub my face against his rough beard, and say, “You a lover or a fighter, Little Meat?”

“A fighter!”

“Thatta boy.”

My friend snapped a photo of Irv and me, the photo held out front in my hand. Afterwards Irv sipped his water and asked, “Who brought me this glass of water?”

Dave said, “I did.”

“Thank you very much,” Irv said, all grace and appreciation, just like he played the game. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. More of his sports essays can be found at his website:

Raped in her own backyard

Don’t let this incident rob you of your self-worth. You fought for your life, and you’re here, and you won. It took a lot of guts to fight that guy off.

Don’t let this incident rob you of your self-worth. You fought for your life, and you’re here, and you won. It took a lot of guts to fight that guy off.

by Dell Franklin

I just get to work at 4 in the afternoon and I’m sent downtown to wait for a lawyer to lead somebody to my cab from the courthouse across the street from the old art deco Fremont Theater. I park in front of the Fremont. There’s activity here: lawyers in double-breasted suits carrying brief cases and talking on cell phones; secretaries in fetching outfits talking on cell phones; a flow going in and out of the coffee house beside the Fremont and the Italian eatery and rib joint on the corner—San Luis Obispo’s beehive.

I keep my eyes on the city hall building. I wait 5 minutes. I do not like to wait. I do not like lawyers. I get out and pace, malevolently eyeing the bee hive. Finally, a short fire-plug of a man, around 35, who fills out a beautiful suit like a weightlifter, scampers across Monterey Street from the courthouse and signals me. We meet on the sidewalk beside my cab.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he says right off, taking in my sneakers, thrift store shorts and faded Harvard Business School T-shirt. He offers a hand, introducing himself as Larry. “It’s just that I have a hysterical client. Somebody tried to rape her in Los Osos. She was at the police station. I’m her family lawyer. She’s still in the courthouse. Be patient, please. I’ll take good care of you.”

Please be kind to this lady, ey? She’s been through hell. Right now the police are trying to find the bastard who attacked her. She’s in a lot of distress. She’s very fragile.

I say okay and he hustles back across the street, obviously a one-time high school football fullback. I’ll usually run the meter when I have to wait for somebody, demanding the fare pay for my time, but I’m not going to press a rape victim. Five minutes later he leads her across the street, an attractive but ragged-looking thirty-something woman with long mussed honey-colored hair, dressed in work shorts, and a man’s baggy T-shirt.

The lawyer introduces her to me as Gail. She is still in an extreme state of agitation and perhaps shock and does not look at me as the lawyer helps her into the shotgun seat and continues counseling her. I wait for him on the sidewalk. When he is finished comforting the woman, he hands me his card.

“I don’t have any cash on me right now. Can you come to my office up the street when you get back to town?” Los Osos is 12 miles away.

“Well, we’re not supposed to go out of town without collecting first. And I don’t like coming across town when I can be at the airport. But I also don’t like conducting myself like an asshole, so I guess I have to trust you. If I can’t, maybe I can hire you to sue yourself.”

He chuckles, but he’s not quite sure of me. Still, he says, “I can go down the street to the ATM if you want.”

“Nah, I’ve decided you’re a good lawyer, a very extinct breed.”

“Thanks, pal. Please be kind to this lady, ey? She’s been through hell. Right now the police are trying to find the bastard who attacked her. She’s in a lot of distress. She’s very fragile.”

“I’ll take good care of her. That’s a promise.”

“Thanks.” We shake hands. I get back in the cab. I plow through the beginning of rush-hour traffic, headed for the highway leading to Los Osos. I decide not to initiate conversation with the sniffling figure beside me, who is curled into the side of the door, as if trying to make herself smaller. I fiddle with the radio, find NPR. Once on the highway, we ooze into a 50 mph flow of traffic. I glance at her, offer a reassuring smile, as if saying: “I know it’s tough, but you’ll live through it.”

“Thanks for taking me home,” she says in a wee voice. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without my lawyer. He’s such a great guy.”

“I liked him right off.” She sits up a trifle. “So, you live in Los Osos…you like it?”

“Well, I do…I mean, I’ve lived there a while. I guess I like it, but after today, I don’t know.”

“You look familiar. I used to tend bar at Happy Jack’s in Morro Bay. You ever in there?”

“Uh-huh. I used to go there to dance before I met my husband. I don’t go to bars anymore. My husband doesn’t like them.”

“That’s probably where I saw you.”

She sits up a little and replaces her handkerchief in her purse. “Somebody tried to rape me,” she says. “I was out in the back yard tending to my gardens. I have a really nice yard and garden. I grow tomatoes and peppers and we have an avocado tree and a lemon tree. I love working in the yard. My husband really likes the way I keep things so beautiful and tidy. I was watering my plants, and out of nowhere this guy jumped the fence and threw me down and put his hand over my mouth and tried to rape me! He slapped me and punched me and said he’d kill me if I screamed. Oh God…”

“What did you do?”

Her voice cracks with a slight sob. “I fought him. I fought for my life. I kicked him. I bit him. I scratched his face. I fought and fought. He ripped my clothes off. I punched and scratched at him and I screamed…I didn’t care if he killed me. There was nobody around, everybody at work. I was crying so hard, and fighting so hard, and screaming so loud, he just took off.”

I glance at the scratches and bruises on her face and the discoloring from bruises on her arms and legs. She starts to cry again, quietly, holding her face.

“Go ahead and cry,” I tell her. “It’s good for you. You need to cry it out.”

We are cutting through the bucolic serenity of green farm and ranch land with shadowed foothills on either side, homes and barns nestled into crevices under trees.

“I’m so worried about my husband.” She sobs louder, looking out the window away from me.


“What if he doesn’t believe me?” She’s looking at me, near hysterical.

“What do you mean—doesn’t believe you? There’s a police report, right? You went to the hospital. Look at your bruises and scratches.”

“I know, but maybe he’ll think, well, that I…invited it.”

“Why would he think that?”

“I don’t know. He might, though, think I ASKED for it.”

“No way. What kind of man is he?”

“He’s real macho. He’s a contractor. I’m just so ashamed, so worried he won’t believe me.”

“Look, what you do is you don’t try and convince him of anything. You direct him straight to your lawyer and the police.”

“He’s already talked to my lawyer by phone.”

“Have you talked to your husband?”

She nods, sniffles. “On the phone. I don’t think he believes me. I don’t know what to do.”

I was watering my plants, and out of nowhere this guy jumped the fence and threw me down and put his hand over my mouth.

We approach Los Osos, a swale adjoining Morro Bay Estuary. Big generic shopping center on our right. No main drag. A notoriously scrumptious bakery emitting hellacious aromas every morning to counter the miasma of a thousand septic tanks and sumps. At one time Los Osos was a low-rent encampment of biker types and plenty of meth, but since real estate went crazy in the ‘90s it’s become somewhat gentrified, with a scattering of holdouts intimidating Cal Poly professors and suburban retirees tooling its rutted curb-less side-streets and driving to San Luis Obispo for trendy shops, Trader Joe’s and Costco.

“What you need is a drink,” I say.

“Yes, I think so. I’m not much of a drinker these days.”

“Just get a half pint, enough to take off the edge, and relax you a little. What do you usually drink when you do drink?”

“Bourbon, I guess.”

“What do you like to mix with it?”

“Seven-Up, or Coke.”

“Okay, we’ll find a liquor store. You get a half pint of bourbon and a Seven-Up. Go into your living room, lock up the house, turn on the TV, and have a quiet drink or two, and wait for your husband.”

“If he doesn’t believe me I don’t know what I’ll do,” she wails.

“If he doesn’t believe you, leave him,” I say. “I know it’s none of my business, but how the hell can you have a relationship if your husband doesn’t trust you and he’s not even here after what you’ve been through?”

“I’m so screwed up,” she admits, as we pull into a liquor store parking lot. She sniffles. “I just wanna die.”

“Listen,” I say. “You’ve just been through a traumatic ordeal and you’re not thinking clearly. You’ve been violated and humiliated and made to feel dirty…by some animal, a criminal. It is NOT your fault. Don’t let this incident rob you of your self-worth. You fought for your life, and you’re here, and you won. It took a lot of guts to fight that guy off. You’re a victim. Your husband will understand. Now go in there and get yourself a bottle to calm your nerves and don’t worry about your husband. Everything’ll be okay. I’m positive.”

Still shaky, she enters the liquor store. A few minutes later she returns with a package. I drive through neighborhoods to her modest house. The front yard is tidy with rows of flowers in full bloom and hedges edged sharp as razors.

“I wish I had money to tip you,” she says.

”You owe me nothing. Go on in there and relax. You didn’t invite this. You’re a nice gal. Have faith in yourself. It’s been a bad, nasty day, and things’ll be rough for a week or two, but then you’ll be thankful to be alive and have good days. Hang in there. Good luck. Now go in there, and make your first drink the biggest one.”

She starts to leave. “Look at my yard…isn’t it beautiful?”

“Very much so.”

She looks at me, her red-rimmed eyes well up and register utter despair, almost terror. “I won’t be able to go out there anymore! My back yard, it’s my favorite place in all the world…and I’m afraid to go out there now!”

“Listen, that was a one-shot deal. He’ll never come back. All this will pass.”

She faces me, trembling, leans toward me, ever so slightly, and I take both her hands in mine, give them a little squeeze. Her shapely knees are grass-stained and scratched raw. “Hang tough, kid—sometimes that’s all we can do. It’s not the end of the world. That’s what my mother always tells me, and it’s true.”

I let go of her hands. She gets out of the cab and opens the gate of the short, white picket fence and walks past a cat and up to the porch and front door, opens it, shivers, turns and waves at me, then disappears into the house, the cat right behind her. The door slams shut.

When I get back into town I pull up to her lawyer’s office and get out of my cab. I hear somebody shout, turn to look out onto Marsh Street and see the lawyer, who is encased in a white baggy outfit of the kind of plastic material a vermin exterminator or astronaut might wear. He is heading toward me on a skateboard, sneakers having replaced his Oxfords, his knotted tie the only trace of his former attire. He pulls up to me in a sideway skid and grins. He hands me three twenties for a $36 fare and tells me to keep the change.

“This is therapy, man,” he explains. “How’d it go?”

“I got her to do some talking. She’s still in a panicky state.”

He nods. “Thanks for your trouble. I appreciate it.”

“Well, I hope she’ll be okay.”

He shrugs, rolling his eyes in a helpless manner. “We do the best we can, man.” Then he smiles and we shake hands and he zooms off on his skateboard, expertly gauging traffic on the street, like a teenager. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur, a very needy chocolate lab. He writes of his years as a cabbie, bartender and athelte on his website,

The Great Mother

She nurtures and devours

CULTURE.devouring mother

A pantheon of mythological devouring mothers from Durga to Kali to Isis reaches across cultures and down through history. There’s even a tiger goddess who both nurtures and devours.

by Stacey Warde

A soft gentle voice, much like my mother’s, calls to me, a young boy of 4, while I sleep, “Stacey, Stacey, Stacey….”

I awaken in the dream and look about the room from my top bunk; in the bunk below, my younger brother sleeps soundly.

I notice the squarish light fixture on the ceiling in the darkness, and turn my gaze to the bedroom door.

At the side of my upper bunk, towering menacingly above me, nearly touching the ceiling with her enormous head, a saber-toothed tiger, blood dripping from her fangs, walking on her hind legs, slowly approaches me. My heart begins to pound wildly with fear.

As she nears, I can see my mother’s sweatshirt on the saber-toothed monster. I start screaming until my real mother appears.

I had the worst recurring nightmares as a child; ghouls, monsters and wild animals filled my early childhood dreams.

These dreadful nightmares occurred with alarming regularity. I sensed concern from my young parents, and from relatives at whose homes I often slept, where I could awaken an entire household with blood-curdling screams in the middle of the night.

“What’s wrong with him?” I remember an older cousin, whose room I once shared, asking my aunt. I was staying with them, and attending school in Laguna Beach, where mom grew up, while she recovered from a life-threatening illness.

“Nothing’s wrong with him,” my aunt said, “he’s just having a bad dream.”

“Yeah, but does he have to do it in here?”

Finally, Jiminy Cricket appeared in a dream, probably stirred by a Disney episode I might have seen in which he asks Pinocchio, the wooden puppet, if he’d like to become a real boy, and in the first of a series of lessons sings “Always let your conscience be your guide.”

“When you get into trouble and you don’t know right from wrong, all you gotta do is give a little whistle.”

I could give a little whistle and feel safe again. I’m not sure I even had a conscience then but I wanted to be a real boy and needed the security offered by this peculiar animated bug friend.

I have no idea what triggered my rescue from these night time horrors of a devouring mother by this bumbling Disney character, but the nightmares ceased.

I worked on becoming a real boy.

I wavered between two questions that sprung from this recurring nightmare, adding to the horror and confusion it brought: What did this monster do with my mother? When did my mother become a monster?

I’ve since learned through psychology that a devouring mother image suggests an overbearing and anxious woman attempting to compensate for her deficiencies and insecurities. She’s controlling and critical. She can be harsh and judgmental.

The sons of these mothers often grow up to be puers, little boys who need their mommies, who never venture out beyond the safety of mom’s apron strings and become independent men, or the authors and heroes of their own lives. They remain dependent and seek dependencies in relationships that mimic their mother complex.

They are commitment phobes, never quite able to break the primitive bond with mother. The challenge is to break away, to pursue a life free from maternal dependencies or attachments, to become a person of independent means and bearing and character.

This is no easy feat for boys whose mothers were themselves still children when they gave birth.

In a way, mother and I grew up together.

She was 17 when she gave birth to me. I suspect she felt a lot of insecurities, as any teenage mother would, and she mustn’t have felt any more secure when, at the age of 20, she was left alone with two young boys, after my father walked out on us and never returned.

I suspect she did her best to protect me and my brother, to give us a safe haven from the rigors and perils of life. I never felt unsafe, except when monsters pursued me in the night.


Western tradition’s finest example of a puer who bolts from under his mother’s wings and grows into a man of formidable power and influence is Perceval.

Through trial and error, he moves beyond the clutches of his overbearing and protective mother, who does not want him to become a warrior like his deceased (read “absent”) father, killed in battle when Perceval was too young to remember.

Eventually, by following his bliss, and through numerous mishaps and the counsel of more worldly, perhaps wiser, souls, he grows to become one of the great knights of the Roundtable.


Once, I remember flying over the front seat from where I stood on the back seat in one of those clunky ‘50s chevys, long before seat belts were mandatory, when mom had to suddenly apply the brakes. I wound up on the floor boards under the glove box.

“Are you OK?” she asked in a panic. I was fine.

She was pugnacious and caring, if not overwhelmed and frightened in those early years. She found her way, remarried, built a home and family; and I never had another nightmare of a devouring, blood-dripping, saber-toothed tiger wearing my mother’s sweatshirt.

A pantheon of mythological devouring mothers from Durga to Kali to Isis reaches across cultures and down through history. There’s even a tiger goddess who both nurtures and devours. Ultimately, as these powerful figures remind us, we shall all be devoured by the Great Mother Earth.

But that’s not all.

The First Mother also nurtures and sustains.

On the more personal level, of course, the same holds true for our mothers who birthed us. They can also nurture and sustain and devour.

It seems the only way out, the only way to free one’s self from the harm of this devourer is to create a life of one’s own, grounded in but not held captive by mother’s nurturing and protective instincts.

Eventually, a man must break away from his mother and become his own person. Cultures recognize this in which boys are taken at a certain age from their mothers and joined to the men, from whom they learn the skills necessary to survive.

In the U.S., this does not always happen. Many men grow up without a father, their upbringing charged mostly to their mother, who attempts to be all things to her children. Sometimes, boys will grow up, as I did, with dependencies which can be extremely difficult to overcome.

I’ve lived the greater part of my life under the shadow of this primal monster of my early childhood nightmares, afraid to disappoint or to stray too far. But I’ve also learned to venture out, believing that behind my biggest dragons are my deepest treasures.

Mom, meanwhile, would like nothing more than for me to uncover these treasures, my birthright, to live in good conscience and when troubled with fears of being devoured to give a little whistle.§

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at