A Biography of Jackie Jensen
by George I. Martin
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The salary squabble over, Jack focused on the future. It was only the money, he explained, that was keeping him on the team: He felt guilty that he had been away from home when both children were born, when Zoe broke an ankle and was ill with pneumonia twice, and when Jon was bitten in the head by a dog. Another reason he was concerned so much with being with the family, he said, was because of his poor situation in early childhood-he didn't want to see the same scenario repeated. Finally, Jack stated that he had left the decision of when to retire up to Zoe Ann, who replied, "I'll never ask you to quit." When fear of flying was mentioned, Jack admitted that when forced to fly, he could, but only with the help of sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
Several weeks later Jack was again featured in a major magazine. The Look article (5-26-59) took a different slant from that of the Post. In fact, it optimistically suggested Jack would not retire soon: "He should contend for the [MVP] award from now on, because, at 32, the muscled slugger appears to have reached his true level as a player." Whereas some fans might have had the impression that Jack missed many games because of his problems, it was pointed out that he had played 755 of 770 games. Trainer Fadden reminded readers, "He plays with bruises, pulled muscles and tendons that would keep out other players for days or weeks. One night he played with a 103-degree temperature."
Photographs of Jack with friends Bing Crosby and Tony Martin were next to an explanation that Jack had invested "wisely," which was partially true. The Bow and Bell was reported to be grossing $250,000 a year, and Jack had invested $20,000 in land at Lake Tahoe, where he planned to build homes, but purported investments in a racehorse and an oil well lost money. Back home Zoe would often host the Bonanza television crew who filmed in the area, and apparently Jack was jealous of her associating with certain members of the cast. Jack, as teammate Frank Malzone related later, was never one to seek female companionship on the road, and it often seemed as though something was troubling him. Jack started wondering openly if he could hold the family together; Al Rosen's quitting unexpectedly a year before remained in the back of his mind. He would later be quoted as saying, "What's left in the game for me to prove anyway?" He considered getting involved with radio or TV announcing in addition to his restaurant and real estate interests.
As the '59 season began, Jack increasingly refused to fly with the team. At times it seemed as if he had conquered his fear, and Jack would assure the traveling secretary, Tom Dowd, that he'd be at an airport, but he would not show. Instead, Jack drove, his luggage making the trip ahead of him by plane. This wouldn't present a problem except that Jack did not tell anyone of his change of plans. In one instance, when public relations director Bill Crowley, in Boston, called Zoe Ann, she simply explained, "We planned to go to the airport, but then Jackie said he'd rather drive. He's accustomed to long drives. He knows all the fast highways from Boston to Detroit."
Jack appeared to be frustrated with baseball entirely, despite his recent glory, for he said, "I'll get out of baseball-and I mean totally out. I don't want to be a manager, scout, coach, farm director, general manager, traveling secretary, league president, commissioner, or batboy." However, in the years ahead Jack would indeed take on more than one of those jobs. Referring to Rosen's early retirement, Jack said that until Al's announcement to quit, he thought nobody else had felt the way he himself did; and when asked about his wife's advice on the matter, he replied, "Zoe won't say so in so many words, but I know she wants me to give up baseball. I used to dream of the day when I'd have a family of my own and a place I could really call home. Now that the dream has come true, I think it's understandable that I want more time to enjoy it."
Of course Jack had stated publicly a couple of months before that Zoe Ann wouldn't ask him to quit-evidently she didn't want to make the decision for him, but later he said: "We were both tired of living out of the suitcase."
From The Golden Boy: A Biography of Jackie Jensen by George I. Martin.
Copyright © 2000 by George I. Martin. Reprinted with permission.