“So your name’s Johnny Jinx?” Sergeant Duffy asked. “Jinx with an x. Right?”
“That’s what people call me. People in baseball, that is.” Johnny Jinx’s chest puffed up.
He was sitting at Detroit Police Headquarter, wearing an official Detroit Tigers baseball uniform and holding the regulation cap in his hands. He was short, barely 5’5 and probably didn’t weigh more than 135. He looked like the kind of guy who’d heard some pretty bad names in the schoolyard. Worse names than Johnny Jinx.
“We brought in the guy you I.D.” The sergeant nodded toward a beefy, balding guy in the holding cell. “He claims it got his goat that you had that name sewn onto the back of your shirt. Says that black eye you’re sporting was provoked.”
Sergeant Duffy got up slowly and walked around to the back of Johnny Jinx’s chair. The shirt read Johnny Jinx. He jabbed his finger over the “I” as if to dot it.
Jinx winced. “I only took the shirt to a seamstress after fans began to call me that.”
“A witness says it started on the radio,” the Sergeant said. “I have a copy of the show in question from Tiger Talk. August 12, 2006.”
He picked the document up and began thumbing through it. “Here we go.” He adjusted his glasses. “A caller from Taylor told the host you announced you’d been to twelve games and hadn’t seen the Tigers win once. Everyone in the bleachers heard you say it.”
“So? It’s the truth.”
Sergeant Duffy looked up. “Not one win during the best season since ’84?” he asked.
Jinx shook his head.
“The caller claims you bragged about being a jinx. Were you trying to start trouble, Mr. Jinx?”
“It didn’t seem fair—with the Tigers winning so many games.”
“Getting famous for being a jinx made life better, huh? So when did the name first come into play?”
“The same night. This joker—that guy from Taylor said— ‘So what does that make you then— Johnny Jinx?’ Everyone in the stands laughed.”
“The guy from Taylor says you laughed too and said, “That’s me, alright. Johnny Jinx.”
“I may have said that. It was nice having people know my name.”
“So how many more losses did you sit through, Mr. Jinx? Didn’t it ever occur to you to stay home? We’re into September, 2006 by now, right?”
“Another five,” Johnny said. “In the regular season, that is. People were starting to boo me instead of the team. I tried sitting in the boxes but people knew me there too. Even the men’s room was out. Seventeen losses by then,” he repeated, “and I’m not counting the playoffs.”
“Well, let’s count them now. Let’s talk about New York.”
“I was visiting my sister in Astoria. She happened to have an extra ticket to the division series.”
The sergeant narrowed his eyes. Jinx reached into a back pocket for his regulation handkerchief and wiped his upper lip. “Alright, alright, I made her buy it. Cost me five hundred bucks.”
“And the Tigers lost, right?” Duffy’s voice was a mere whisper in the noisy station.
“Sure, sure, but I stayed away after that. Got threatening calls so I holed up. Detroit lost on their own in the Series. Nothing to do with me.”
“Did you watch the Series on the tube?”
The sergeant shook his head. “Okay, so now it’s 2007 and they won’t let you into the ballpark. Wah! Wah!” He said the words like a crybaby.
Johnny nodded. “They have my picture at every entrance. I can’t even get out of my car. That guy over there— ” he motioned toward the beefy guy, “sits outside my house in his ’78 Torino. Last night I got home and the set was gone. The radio, too.” He looked around and whispered, “I’m talking slashed tires.”
The Sergeant looked at the guy in the holding cell and nodded. “I’ll put a cop outside your house tonight, Mr. Jinx.”
“The team’s in Cleveland.”
Sergeant Duffy shrugged. “Might as well start the detail.”
“No more games for me, huh?”
“It’s called ‘taking one for the team?’”