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  • Ednold

The Case of the Cold-Hitting Catcher 5/22/22

Updated: May 25, 2022

As I sat in my office on the stiff wooden chair behind my desk, the information leapt out at me like a hideous clown from a rusty, old jack-in-the box. I snuffed out my Lucky Strike on the lone remaining ice cube in my otherwise-empty glass of Johnny Walker. I don’t like smoking and drinking, but it’s part of the gig, so I do it. There it was. The first big break in my very first case: 1998. Gadzooks. That’s got to be the key.

My name’s Ednold. I used to be a doctor, but that didn’t pan out. Then I did a little life-coaching. Let’s just say I did not have a winning record. That’s when I decided to get into the P.I. game. I got myself an office in the big city and a sign on the door with my name on it. I guess it’s not really a big city, but you might consider it a big city if you’re from someplace really small.

“And if what I’m seeing right now is true, I am in the right business”, I was saying to myself, when the door opened and she walked into the room. This dame was hot. Not in that overdone kind of way where if they wear the right make-up and jewelry and put on some fancy shoes and try real hard they could possibly be mistaken for hot from a distance if you squinch up your eyes just right. No. She was that rare, I-don’t-even-have-to-try kind of hot, even up close, without squinching at all. She had gams up to her neck and more curves than a race track. And I’m not talking about a drag strip or one of those oval tracks where they just drive around and around. I'm talking Formula 1.

“What’s the 4-1-1, Mrs. Ednold?”

I’m not sure what that means, but I’ve heard other people say it and it sounds pretty cool, so that’s what I always ask her. She’s my wife, by the way, Mrs. Ednold.

“I was just wondering how business was going. You’ve been doing this for a week now and you’ve had no money coming in. The cash flow is all one-way, and it’s in the wrong direction. Your chiseled facial features, bulging muscles and perfectly sculpted body are nice, but they aren’t paying the bills.”

It was true, and something I’d struggled with for a long time: How to get my chiseled facial features, bulging muscles and perfectly sculpted body to pay the bills. I didn’t have the answer to that, but now I did have other answers. I was sure of it.

“Don’t you worry, doll”, I said, hopefully with much less excitement in my voice than I was feeling in my gut, or maybe it was just that breakfast burrito I'd picked up from that place down the street this morning. “I’m onto something big, babe. Load up The Bucket. We need to hit the road first thing in the morning.”

It was true, I hadn’t had a paying client yet. But when you’re a private dick you don’t just sit around waiting for business to walk in the door. You go looking for it, like I did. For almost 24 years now I’ve carried this hunch around with me, and I’m not talking about that big lump on my back. According to the Medical Examiner, Jerry Zimmerman’s death was due to natural causes. I didn’t buy that line at the time, and now I was even more convinced there was more to it.

Even if you’re a big baseball fan you probably don’t remember Jerry. You have to be a big, OLD, baseball fan to remember him. The Boston Red Sox gave him a fat signing bonus when they drafted him straight out of Milwaukie High School in 1952. A catcher, Jerry played almost an entire decade in the minor leagues before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he finally made it to the Major Leagues. He even played a couple of games in the World Series as a Red in 1961 against the Yankees. Those were the Yankees of Mantle and Maris, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Tony Kubek and Elston Howard. It was never going to end well for the Reds, and it didn’t. They lost in five games. Jerry appeared in two games but never got a chance to bat.

He was traded again to the Minnesota Twins and was on their team that went to the 1965 World Series. Mudcat Grant beat Don Drysdale in game 1 and the Twins won the first two games, but the Dodgers came back and Sandy Koufax pitched a shutout in game 7 to win it for the Dodgers. At least Jerry got up to bat once in that series, but in his one and only World Series at-bat he hit into a double play. He was a good defensive catcher with a strong arm, but I guess hitting the ball was never really his thing, and in 1969 he retired with a .204 batting average and 3 home runs, which is pretty pathetic even for a catcher. Watching Jerry at the plate must have been like watching a disabled chimp with vertigo trying to break a pinata with a pool noodle. You might say Jerry had a lackluster career as a player. Or, if you don’t like big words, you might just say he wasn’t very good. But Jerry wasn’t done.

Jerry went on to find his true calling as a bullpen coach for the Montreal Expos under manager Gene Mauch, and in 1978 Jerry went 1-1 as an interim manager when Mauch was ill for a few days. Later that same season he served as a third base umpire for an inning when, during an umpire’s strike, only two amateur umps were available when the game started. Jerry and Blue Jays coach Don Leppert worked the first inning as umpires until another replacement ump was located and brought into the game in the second inning. Thus, Jerry Zimmerman became the only man in the modern era to coach, manage, and umpire all in the same season. How that doesn’t get a man into the Hall of Fame I’ll never know.

Jerry left coaching in 1980 and became a scout for the Yankees and Orioles, retiring only a few short months before his death from a heart attack in 1998 at his home in Neskowin, Oregon. Or at least that’s the way the story has always been told.

It was a cool spring morning when we took our seats in The Bucket and headed toward the coast. It was the kind of clear, brisk morning that lots of people will tell you feels really good, when you know damn well they’d rather be waking up in Hawaii, 72 degrees with some billowy clouds and just the right little bit of humidity as they pour their first cup of coffee. I’d prefer that too, but Jerry Zimmerman hadn’t died in Hawaii, and the lead suspects in the case were in Neskowin.

Neskowin is in southern Tillamook County and has just over a hundred residents who have never even bothered to incorporate their little community. Which means the population of the town is smaller than the population of the other local community we were in search of.

We found a spot for The Bucket in the car park in the middle of town and I threw on my corduroy pork pie. I ordered the requisite gumshoe fedora on Ebay when I started this job a week ago, but it hasn’t arrived yet. “Fake it til the UPS truck shows up” - that’s what I always say. OK, I’ve probably never actually said that before, but from now on I’m going to say it a lot. I hadn’t gotten around to picking out my gat yet either, which is another requirement for us detectives, so I grabbed my Craftsman 1.5 combination wrench out of the trunk before I locked up. Neskowin looked like a pretty nice place to me, but Jerry Zimmerman had probably thought so too, and look how he ended up. I wasn’t taking any chances. We walked across the street to the beach access path and down to the dry, light colored sand to see the tide receding out past Proposal Rock. Legend has it that some old sailor popped the question on top of that big tree-topped stone over a hundred years ago. Maybe he did, but this was a business trip and I made a proposal of my own.

“Let’s keep walking south, doll, across Neskowin Creek toward the end of the beach.”

Proposal Rock

It took us a little while to make our way through the throng that had gathered, attracted by Mrs. Ednold’s gams and my chiseled facial features, bulging muscles and perfectly sculpted body. With Mrs. Ednold in my arms, I waded across the frigid knee-deep creek to the other side, set her down gently, and we kept walking. Then finally, a quarter-mile later, they were everywhere. There were a few hundred of them who had done their best to stay out of sight, but we were among them now. We were in The Ghost Forest.

At one time the Ghost Forest was just a regular forest of Sitka Spruce trees. Carbon dating has determined the trees are about 2,000 years old, and scientists say they were probably 200 feet tall and 200 years old at the time they were buried. According to just about any other source you go to, the forest was buried due to a massive earthquake in about 1700, and only recently revealed. Us hawkshaws know that’s wrong. This Ghost Forest wasn’t the result of any sudden seismic event. They were buried in the sand, it’s true. But it happened over a decade or two, or more, not in one abrupt incident. For unknown reasons the trees were gradually buried by the sand and died, which also cut them off from the decaying effects of oxygen and microbes, which has preserved them until recently. Now, when the tide is out, they stand as an eerie reminder that this coastline hasn’t always looked the way we see it today. As they’ve become exposed they have begun to decay, and scientists from OSU are hastening to take samples from the stumps to study their rings before they disintegrate.

So why can we see all of these stumps now, when they were buried for around 20 centuries? Well, a while ago there were some pretty severe storms that scoured 10 feet of sand from the beach, revealing the hidden tree stumps underneath. And when exactly did these storms happen?


Go ahead. Tell me that’s a coincidence. In 1998 these trees show themselves for the first time in 2000 years, and 8 months later Jerry Zimmerman purchases several acres of pasture, with a horse and a barn? Yeah, he bought the farm. But natural causes? I don’t think so.

Sure, these stumps looked innocent enough, just standing there pretending to mind their own beeswax. But in the private eye business you start to get a smell for these things, and the smell of guilt coming from these stumps was making my eyes water. Or maybe that was the stench from the rotting corpse of a beached lingcod that I was standing next to as it was being pecked apart by a couple of seagulls. Gadzooks. Something was really stinky.

Us dicks have three things we look at in these situations: Motive, means, and opportunity, and here’s the thing - Jerry died when his wife had left him alone for a few days to visit their daughter. Opportunity? Check. I’m not sure what motive the stumps had for getting rid of an old baseball player, or what means they may have used to make it happen, but the game is afoot and I will be following every lead to get to the bottom of this most mysterious of cases.

I placed the wrench under the driver seat and tossed the pork pie in the back and at that same moment I caught a couple of mince pies Mrs. Ednold was throwing my way.

“What’s the 4-1-1, doll?”, I asked.

“I never know what you mean when you ask that, but I was just admiring your chiseled facial features, bulging muscles and perfectly sculpted body.”

“Yeah. Here’s looking at you, too. Let’s get back to the big city.”

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