Lefty Perkins

My Dad was a warehouse foreman at the Owl Drug Company which had its offices and warehouse at 675 Mission Street in San Francisco. During the 1930's the Owl Drug Company fielded a baseball team in the Northern California Warehouse Association league. And it was a very good ball club and in fact won the championship one year. My Dad was one of the coaches and I was bat boy. Our pitcher was a long, lanky southpaw, naturally enough, called Lefty Perkins.

Lefty was a very good pitcher and was also pretty good with his bat at the plate as well. But just not quite good enough for professional baseball. He was just one of the warehouse crew at Owl Drug.

Sometimes the game meant a bus trip to someplace out of San Francisco like Modesto or Stockton. This was exciting for me and others too since this was still in the grim days of the Depression and there were little funds for leisure events.

The draft and World War 11 took almost all the warehousemen into the armed services and their jobs were filled by women.

I personally lost track of all these people for after my own stint as a soldier I went to college in Utah and then stayed there writing sports for the Salt Lake Telegram.

When I finally returned to San Francisco I went to work for Industry Publications as a reporter and photographer. Our offices were at 703 Market Street just a half block from Breens.

Breens was a bar and restaurant located on Third Street between Mission and Market Streets in San Francisco. While still a teenager, in a summer job, I would go there for lunch. It was a watering hole for longshoremen, warehouse workers and frequented by many white collar workers as well. It was as much a democratic institution as one could find anywhere.

One day after work I wandered over to Breens for a drink. Later that evening I was meeting a school friend for dinner.

Standing at the bar I turned and found Lefty Perkins alongside. When he had last seen me I was a 'kid', but now an adult in suit and tie. We recognized each other instantly and then had a long conversation about old times and what had happened to so and so and how were my folks, etc. He was still a sports fan and seemed thrilled to think that I had been writing sports on a daily newspaper.

Lefty was a bit older and it took a longer time for the draft to catch up with him. So he was still on the job when the women were hired. One was named Nadine and Lefty and Nadine soon became a couple. Then Lefty was called into the Army and left for some hard years in the South Pacific.

Lefty was in jeans and yes a baseball cap on his head. He was still a warehouseman. By now he would have been in his forties. I asked him if he had a family and he said no. Then after a long pause he said, "I don't know if you knew about Nadine and I just before I went into the Army.

I said no but that I had heard my Dad refer to her as well as some of the other women who worked at Owl Drug during the war.

It was hard going for him but he did continue. He said that when he returned from the South Pacific there was a lot of talk about Nadine and how she had been very free with her favors to other men while he was away. He had let his pride get the best of him and dropped Nadine and let what they had together just slide away.

Then he said how much he regretted it and that she had really been the love of his life. And that thinking of her had carried him through some tough times in the Army. He added, "I should have just forgot about the past and taken her as she was."

I asked if he knew where she was now and he said he did not.

I could tell now that Lefty Perkins was a very lonely man, living alone in a big city in a deadend job and of course, his playing days in baseball over as well.

Our conversation came to an end. I told him I had to be on my way and he said to say Hello to my Dad for him. I left him staring into his glass of shattered dreams.

As I left Beens I thought that life had not been particularly kind to Lefty. He loved baseball but was not quite good enough for the pros and the only other really bright spot in his life had also slipped away. I never saw him again.

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