Once They Were Angels
by Robert Goldman
A Complete History of the Angels,
told through memories of the players who lived it

Gene Autry:

[Eli] Grba recalls one hot smoggy Sunday afternoon at Wrigley when owner and player bonded over Budweiser. Grba was ahead of Baltimore 4-1 in the fourth, when he got a surprise visit from his manager.

"There was one out with the bases loaded, and Rigney comes out to take me out of the game. Hell, I was winning 4-1! 'What are you doing?" I ask. He says, 'Well, you look a little tired.' It was all [bleep] and, needless to say, I was pissed.

"We had a little bucket with ammonia water in the dugout, and when I went in I hit it and broke it into a thousand pieces. Water and all kinds of wood chips went up into the stands, and some of it splashed all over Autry and some VIPS in the front row. I didn't give a [bleep], and went back up in the clubhouse and punched the walls and lockers until I cut open my hand. I'm throwing one hell of a tantrum, and all of a sudden Gene Autry walks in.

"Now, I was born and raised in the Gene Autry era. Gene Autry was my favorite. I used to go see Gene Autry flicks on Saturdays. I'd get fifty cents from my mom and go to the show with a couple of buddies. And so here he comes. And he sees I've cut my hand knocking the [bleep] out of the lockers. I think he's gonna be pissed, but he's real calm and all he says is, 'Eli, are you all right?'

"I say, 'Yeah, I'm fine, but I'm mad and I'm not very friendly right now.' "'Well' he says sheepishly, "can I get you anything?'

"I say, 'Yeah, you can get me a beer.' So he goes over to the cooler, grabs a couple cold ones, sits down right next to me and we start drinking and talking. We had about four beers together. I didn't get up to get any of 'em; he got 'em all. We just hung out there drinking together for three innings. Later I thought, 'Jeez, I was just sitting there letting Gene Autry get the beers.' All I could do was shake my head."