He was the Golden Boy, and never had he glittered so brightly as on his wedding day, Oct. 16, 1949. Jackie Jensen was 22 years old. He was blond and broad-shouldered; his body looked as if it had been sculpted instead of grown. He had been an All-America in football and baseball at the University of California, acclaimed as both the greatest running back in the school's history and its finest all-round athlete. Even the legend of Brick Muller and the Wonder Teams paled before his brilliance. The previous spring the Golden Boy had signed an extraordinary $75,000 contract to play baseball with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. Four days before the wedding he and teammate Billy Martin had been sold to the Yankees for a reported $100,000. It was a dream realized, for in a few months Jensen would be playing alongside his idol, Joe DiMaggio, in the Yankee outfield.
Jensen's bride, Zoe Ann Olsen, shone almost as brightly as he. She was only 18, but she had won 14 national diving championships and a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics. She was blonde and intelligent, and as pretty as he was handsome. The San Francisco Chronicle called them "the sports world's most famous sweethearts." Together they looked like a Nordic god and goddess.
Oakland motorcycle police escorted the city's favorite son and daughter from the ceremony at the First Presbyterian Church to a reception at the plush Athens Athletic Club, where they had first met. She had trained there; he had been the lifeguard. More than 1,000 persons attended the reception, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, songwriter Jimmy (I'm in the Mood for Love) McHugh, Olympic diving champion Vicki Draves, Cal Football Coach Lynn (Pappy) Waldorf, most of Jensen's Rose Bowl teammates, many of the Oaks and dozens of other nationally known sports figures.
"It was the wedding of the century," says Frank Brunk, Jensen's football teammate and fraternity brother. "They were on top and they had the whole world in front of them." "I thought the bubble would never burst," says Jensen. The young bride and groom drove off under a hailstorm of rice in a yellow Cadillac convertible toward a golden future.
April 12, 1976
Late in April 1961 Zoe Ann went to the Reno railroad station to meet the City of San Francisco arriving from Chicago. She was there in response to a cryptic wire received at the Jensen home in nearby Lake Tahoe: CANCEL L.A. PLANS. ARRIVING ON TRAIN IN RENO. She burst into tears when her husband stepped off the train. Seen through the steam, he looked ghostly, a tired and troubled man who was old for his years. He had quit baseball the previous year at the height of his success. During six seasons as a star outfielder with the Boston Red Sox, he had driven in more runs than anyone in the American League, including Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. But the marriage that had begun so auspiciously was deteriorating, and as a side effect, Jensen's merely irritating fear of flying had escalated into a demoralizing phobia.
The year away from baseball had neither salvaged Jensen's marriage nor cured his neurosis. In 1961 he was trying a comeback. But a season's absence from the game had diminished his skills, and by the end of the first month he was hitting .130 with only one run batted in. He had avoided flying whenever possible—by driving the 700 miles from Boston to Detroit on one occasion—but it was an exhausting regimen, and the phobia remained unconquered. The physical and mental ordeal finally had proved too arduous.
On April 29, with the Red Sox playing in Cleveland and scheduled to fly to Kansas City, Jensen bolted the team and headed west. He came to seek the ministrations of a nightclub hypnotist named Arthur Ellen, who had a reputation for succeeding where psychiatrists had failed in relieving aerophobia. Jackie and Zoe Ann drove from Reno to Las Vegas, where Ellen was closing out an engagement. After several days of hypnotic sessions, Jensen was able to rejoin the Red Sox in Los Angeles.
He finished the 1961 season, but played well below his usual standards, and hit only .263. This time he quit for good, voluntarily terminating a career that had approached brilliance. Retiring from the game did not accomplish what Jensen hoped it might. His marriage would soon fail, and the fear of flying would continue to torment him. He would experience a bewildering series of business mishaps, lose his closest friend and suffer a near-fatal illness. The golden future had turned to dust.
All of us are several persons in a lifetime. The 40-year-old looks back on himself at 20 and sees a distant relation, a person whose ambitions, affections, triumphs and fears seem slightly absurd. We are never wholly what we were, nor will we remain what we are. From the vantage point of his present serenity, both the Golden Boy of 1949 and the neurotic of 1961 appear to be strangers to Jensen. He has come full cycle, back home to his university, not as a returning hero but as the baseball coach. It is a modest job, but one ideally suited to him now. Those who had been there before, who had been warmed by the glow of his achievements, are occasionally startled to see him pass by. It is as if they are seeing a ghost. Jensen is real enough, but certainly not the man he once was.
At 49 years old, he is an ardent jock grown pensive, a man of action transformed into a collector of Indian arrowheads and a student of Western history, a provincial metamorphosed into a world traveler (if only by ship), a tempestuous spouse turned doting husband to a new wife whose pursuits are intellectual, not athletic.
Dick Erickson, Jensen's teammate on California's 1948 Rose Bowl team and now an assistant chancellor of development at Berkeley, admits that until Jensen's return in 1974, he had thought of his old teammate simply as "the most versatile athlete, the best-coordinated human being I'd ever known." The self-assured, thoughtful Jensen he sees now is a newcomer. "Why, he's a step above most people," says Erickson. "New vistas seem to have opened up for him. He has talents we never suspected he had—a great facility with language, for example. He is comfortable with people now. He was a loner then. He's no longer dependent on his athletic prowess. We are all seeing sides of Jack that we didn't know existed."
Cal Athletic Director Dave Maggard says that when he first considered hiring Jensen as baseball coach, he was surprised at the almost negative reaction he received from those who were supposedly Jensen admirers. "Nobody could tell me what he was like," Maggard says. "They'd all say he was a great athlete, and stop there. It occurred to me that for all of his fame, nobody really knew this man. Some even described him as a loser who seemed to have the knack for making a mess out of everything he got into. The negative publicity he'd had over the years had definitely tarnished that Golden Boy image."
But the more Maggard talked with Jensen, the more he was convinced that the detractors were talking about somebody else. "I had the advantage of not knowing Jack before," Maggard says. "I was pleased with what I saw. He was so open about himself, so honest. There was humility there. And pride. Loyalty is a difficult word to define, but he has it. He's loyal to the university and he's been loyal to me. He is becoming a fine teacher, and he'll be even better because he wants to be better. Jack's been through a lot, and he's been able to put himself in perspective. He has really found himself."
How odd these words must sound to those who were at Berkeley at the time of Jensen's glorious ascent. Jackie Jensen finding himself? How could he have lost what was there? In an age of heroes he was a hero supreme; he seemed to be exactly what an All-America football player was supposed to be—a clean-cut, modest Adonis with a storybook girl friend. He had an aura about him. On closer examination, all of this proved to be a facade. Jensen's lessers mistook his shyness for conceit; his idolaters accepted his public humility as just another saintly virtue, not as genuine insecurity. Jensen was truly confident of what his body could do for him; after all, it had been performing athletic miracles since he was a child. He was much less sure of who he was. He had done less than find himself—he had not even started to look.
Jensen's parents were divorced when he was five. His father was the second of his mother's four husbands, and when he departed, she and her three young sons moved from San Francisco, where Jensen had been born on March 9, 1927, to Oakland. She continued working in San Francisco, commuting by ferry across the Bay six days a week to her job in a warehouse where she performed, Jensen says, "tough, man's work." She was absent from home for more than 12 hours each day, and would return in the evening too exhausted for family amenities. For Jensen it was virtually an orphan's existence, only it was much less stable. By the time he entered Oakland High School the Jensens had moved 16 times or, as Jackie puts it, "every time the rent came due." He would spend most of the next 30 years searching for the homelife he never had, hoping to realize for his own children his childhood vision of what it must be like to have a father, a mother and a house. For such a man the breakup of a marriage can be much more than an unpleasant experience; it can represent a betrayal of principle, the defeat of a life's ambition.
By the time he reached junior high school, Jensen had acquired a surrogate father in Ralph Kerchum, his physical education teacher. Kerchum, a robust, genial outdoorsman, instantly recognized in young Jensen a wondrous athlete and a human being of unusual potential. He became Jackie's coach, counselor and lifelong friend, and Jensen has never forgotten his kindnesses.
"The fact that I had no father embarrassed me deeply," Jensen says. "I think there was more emphasis on family life then. Ralph was instrumental at a time when I needed someone. He gave me direction and self-confidence. It's funny, but when I see him today, we do the same things we did back then. We'll have a steak, go to a movie and pick up some ice cream. I'll say to him, 'Ralph, it never changes. Can't we go to a bar like other people?' "
At Oakland High School Jensen created a legend. He was twice All-City in both baseball and football and honorable mention All-City in basketball, although he played only a half season of that sport. He was the student body president, the most popular kid in town. For years, Oakland High athletes would emulate his style, his dress, his manner of speech, his distinctive floating gait.
He came to Cal after a year in the Navy, and though the football turnout of more than 230 players in 1946 was the largest in the university's history, he became an instant star. The first time he touched the ball in the season's opener against Wisconsin he returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown. The run was a masterwork of improvisation, since Jensen's blockers barely knew who he was, let alone where he was going. "He was all over the field, dodging and leaping over guys," says Charles (Boots) Erb, a quarterback who had been Jensen's friend since both were in the fourth grade. "The rest of us just stood there on the sidelines with our mouths open. Finally somebody said, 'Who in the hell is that guy?' "
Jensen was selected to play in the East-West Shrine All-Star game as a freshman, a rare honor. In fact, he is the only athlete to have performed in an East-West game, a Rose Bowl, a World Series and a baseball All-Star Game. In 1947 and 1948 he became the "Golden Boy of the Golden Bears," playing both offense and defense, returning kicks, punting, passing and, most of all, dazzling everyone with his twisting, darting, shoulder-faking runs from scrimmage. At 195 pounds he was powerful and swift, but more than that, he was deceptive, a runner who, as Pappy Waldorf said, "Can elude the hand he cannot see."
He won two Big Games with Stanford—in 1947 with a pass to Halfback Paul Keckley that covered 80 yards and in 1948 with a game-saving play that Waldorf recalls as the most remarkable he has ever seen. Late in the game, with Cal leading 7-6 and Jensen back to punt on fourth and 31, the Stanford line broke through and seemed certain to block the kick. Jensen somehow evaded the charge and dodged up the middle for 32 yards and a first down. In a game against Santa Clara that year he had three runs of more than 60 yards. He ran 67 yards for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl game against Northwestern, then left in the third quarter with a leg injury. Without him Cal lost 20-14.
In 1948 Jensen averaged 7.3 yards a carry and rushed for 1,080 yards, a school ground-gaining record that survived until the 1975 season, when Chuck Muncie, carrying the ball nearly twice as often, finally broke it.
In baseball he led Cal to the first NCAA championship in 1947, compiling an earned-run average of 0.95 in league play. He was elected All-America in that sport, too. In 1949 he set a school record for home runs that lasted 25 years.
Jensen passed up his senior year to sign with the Oaks and, after less than a full season, he was sold to the Yankees. His inexperience hurt him in the big leagues, and the Yankees farmed him out to Kansas City, then traded him to Washington in 1952. Playing regularly as a Senator, Jensen honed his talents as a clutch hitter and strong-armed outfielder, but he did not achieve stardom until he was sent to the Red Sox in 1954. He hit 25 homers that season, drove in 117 runs and led the league with 22 stolen bases, a power and speed performance that compared very favorably with those of his better-known contemporaries, Mantle and Willie Mays. In 1955 Jensen tied for the league lead with 116 RBIs, and the following year he hit .315. In 1958, when he hit 35 homers and drove in a league-leading 122 runs, he was selected the American League's Most Valuable Player. Ten years after Jensen had reached the top in one sport, he reached it in another. He had played the outfield alongside both DiMaggio and Williams and still had managed to become a star in his own right. In 1959 he had another fine season, with 28 homers and 112 RBIs. Then he quit for the first time.
Although he had complained in numerous interviews that baseball was depriving him of a normal life with his wife and three children, the Red Sox and their fans were stunned by his decision. A ballplayer simply does not pack it in when he is at the top of his game. But Jensen had his reasons and, despite the public moralizing about hearth and home, those reasons involved things far more complicated than a simple longing for domesticity.
In January of 1959 Jensen was to fly east to accept an award from the Touchdown Club of Washington. He spent the hours before the flight with Erb at the Bow & Bell, a restaurant the two old friends had purchased on Oakland's Jack London Square. Erb was to accompany Jensen to Washington, join him in a round of parties in the East and nurse him through the ordeal of flying back and forth cross-country. Jensen was a troubled man that day. He had been agonizing over his marital difficulties, and he dreaded the impending flight.
Jensen had never been a heavy drinker, and despite his nervousness, had only a few beers, but his aunt had provided him with a sleeping tablet to take aboard the plane. Instead Jensen swallowed it with a beer during the drive to the San Francisco airport. He immediately suffered an attack of dizziness. At the airport he collapsed getting out of the car and had to be helped aboard the plane by Erb. Once in his seat, Jensen began shivering and sweating. A stewardess covered him with a blanket and called the captain, who ordered him off the plane. Jensen was so embarrassed by the incident that he secreted himself that evening and for much of the next day in Erb's office at the restaurant.
It was but one of many humiliating experiences he would suffer aboard airplanes. Frank Malzone and Pete Runnels, two of his closest friends on the Red Sox, routinely hauled a semicomatose Jensen aboard team flights. "I would be out when they got me to my seat, usually with some sleeping pill," says Jensen. "Then, when the engines started, I'd be wide awake and everybody else on the plane would be sound asleep."
As a college football player Jensen had flown cross-country on several occasions. Waldorf recalls that it was he, not his star fullback, who feared air travel in those days. Major league baseball was primarily an Eastern enterprise when Jensen first signed, but some flights were made, and Jensen took them, protesting no more than any rational person with the wit to perceive that ifman were meant to fly, God would have given him wings. Some of his friends date his phobia to a near-midair collision in 1954 while Jensen was traveling with an All-Star team in Japan. He was frightened at the time, but it remains only a convenient excuse, one that Jensen does not use.
Although the phobia never has been successfully treated, it has been analyzed, even to Jensen's satisfaction. Almost from the beginning the marriage of the athletic Jensens had been stormy, their mutual competitiveness exacerbating the endless rounds of accusations, jealousy and petty bickering so drearily common to mismatched couples. "It was a simple case of not being able to live with or live without each other," says the couple's longtime friend Helen Ehlers.
There is nothing terribly unusual about that condition, either. But it was complicated by the exigencies of Jensen's occupation. When their first child, a daughter named Jan, was old enough for school, Zoe Ann, who abhorred living in a strange city as the wife of a traveling ballplayer, stopped making trips to the East and remained behind in the family home at Crystal Bay on Lake Tahoe. It is a resort area, a mountain paradise for summer and winter sports, all of which Zoe Ann loved. It is also a nightclub and gambling community, and Zoe Ann loved that aspect as well.
It is one thing to fight with and worry about a wife who is with you, quite another to fight with and worry about one who is not, and the Jensens were apart for most of the year. Jensen was torn in two by his professional obligations and his anxiety over a wife who was living 3,000 miles from Boston. And because of his childhood trauma, nothing seemed more catastrophic to him than another broken home.
"Jackie's problem has never been fear of flying," hypnotist Ellen said recently. Ellen's nightclub stints are behind him, and he tends to the neuroses of several marqueesful of Hollywood stars and professional athletes. "The fear of flying is merely a subterfuge. Jackie needed the fear as an excuse to get home and patch up his marriage. Subconsciously, it developed as a good reason to leave the Red Sox and go home. He's divorced from Zoe Ann now, but he's still stuck with the fear of flying. He's protecting it, trying to prove that it's legitimate."
Ellen is not a psychiatrist, but Jensen placed more faith in his diagnostic skills than those of a number of expensive shrinks the Red Sox retained for him. He first encountered the hypnotist in 1953 at a night spot in St. Louis.
Jensen was there with Bob Oldis, a catcher with the Senators who had been having trouble with his batting. After catching the act, the ballplayers, almost as a joke, invited Ellen to use hypnosis to try to improve Oldis' hitting. Ellen hypnotized the catcher and told him that the next time he played, he would perform to the best of his ability. In his next game Oldis, a .237 career hitter, went 3 for 3. Jensen never forgot this impressive demonstration.
Ellen acknowledges that hypnosis cannot effect a permanent cure. He calls it "an important adjunct to psychiatry." Nonetheless, his "healing" powers have been publicly endorsed by the likes of Maury Wills. Jensen appears to be one of his few failures.
Jensen says he knows what is wrong with him. He feels that in time, with "Christian faith," he will be able to fly like any other person. "There is no question I was looking for an excuse to leave the ball club," he says, "and I know the fear was related to the insecurity of my first marriage. I wanted to go home, but I loved baseball. I got terribly down on myself. I could think about it rationally, ask myself why I couldn't beat this thing. 'You don't have to like flying,' I'd say to myself. 'A lot of people don't but they still fly.' But when the time came, I just couldn't make myself do it. I was using Arthur as a crutch. He's no miracle worker, but he could help me relax. Still, he couldn't make me more than I was. I came to resent myself for behaving in such an infantile way. I know I had another four years that I could've played. The way I was driving in runs, I could have set some records. My only regret is that now I can't hope to be considered for the Hall of Fame."
Jensen sits in his small office in Cal's Harmon Gym. His All-America certificates are on the wall and, wearing a Pendleton shirt and khaki trousers, the undergraduate uniform of the late '40s and early '50s, he looks much the way he must have when he was earning those honors. There are wrinkles about his eyes and mouth, but his face is still youthful, although the hair is more silver now than gold. Talking about his marriage to Zoe Ann and his phobia is painful to him, but he cannot set them aside.
"When we got married it was the beginning of a 10-year period when everything seemed to go right," he says. "I wanted a daughter and a son, and I got them. I wanted a home, and I got it. I had money. I was on top."
Zoe Ann has remarried, but she still lives in the Crystal Bay home with the youngest of the three children, Jay. Her figure is petite and athletic, but like her ex-husband's, her face is lined. She is a blackjack dealer in the Crystal Bay Club, where her garrulity, her wit and Lizabeth Scott voice clearly distinguish her from the normal run of women who work in such emporiums.
"When you're young, you always think it will never end," she says during a break from the tables. "But it always does, doesn't it? Sure, Jack and I started at the top, but we also started at the bottom, like everyone else, with just ourselves." She shrugs, smiles and returns to the tables.
Jensen and Zoe Ann were married twice. She divorced him in 1963, two years after his final retirement from baseball. He moved back to San Francisco and went to work for an auto dealer who quickly went broke. Then Jensen was hospitalized with appendicitis. She visited him, and they decided to try it again. The second marriage barely survived three years. This time it was Jackie who got the divorce.
Badly shaken by this second failure at marriage, Jensen plunged with no better luck into a succession of business ventures. A promised auto dealership in Carson City, Nev. failed before it ever began. He invested in a golf course, then sold out. He worked part-time as the baseball coach at the University of Nevada and dabbled in local broadcasting. Finally, in 1966, Jensen found himself short of cash, and sold out his interest in the Bow & Bell to Erb. The transaction in all of its various and, it seems, unnecessary complexities was nearly fatal to their long friendship, which was repaired only this year.
Separated from Zoe Ann, Jensen went to work in 1967 as a TV sportscaster on KTVN in Reno. The producer of the show was a quick-witted, lively divorcee named Katharine Cortesi. A Virginian eight years younger than Jensen, she was educated in Europe, spoke several languages and was as well-traveled as he was not. For 10 years she had been an illustrator and assistant editor at Harper's Bazaar in New York. She had come to Reno for a divorce, had become enraptured with the mountain scenery and easygoing pace, and had decided to stay on. She and Jensen began dating. They were an unlikely pair, the down-at-the-heels has-been athlete and the cosmopolite, but they were well matched. They still are.
Katharine coaxed out Jensen's intellectual potential, exposing him to art, literature and desert exploration. More significant, she restored his courage, bolstered his flagging self-confidence and gave him a sense of proportion. In February 1968, in a ceremony performed in a ranch house by a one-armed justice of the peace, they were married. It was hardly the wedding of the century. After the ceremony the newly weds quaffed a nuptial beer and went back to work at the television station.
Their home was the gamekeeper's cottage on a dude ranch operated by friends, in the foothills of the Sierras. Deer grazed in their backyard, coyotes howled at night, the scent of pine was pervasive. In this sylvan setting life seemed to be taking another turn in Jensen's favor.
Then, on March 26, 1969, Jensen was conducting baseball practice on the University of Nevada diamond, shouting encouragement to his mostly inept charges, when he felt a pressure in his chest. It was mild at first, then suddenly it became crushing. As the pain worsened, his arm went numb. He had one of his players drive him to the hospital in Reno. He collapsed there with a heart attack. The perfect body had broken down. Jensen was 42 years old.
He remained in the hospital for 10 days, then sailed for the Italian Riviera, where he recuperated in style at a villa belonging to Katharine's baroness aunt. After six weeks Jensen returned to the U.S. and accepted temporary work as a coach of Red Sox rookies in Jamestown, N.Y. Though he had hopes of staying in the team's minor-league system, the Sox did not offer him a permanent job. He returned to Reno, unemployed again, apprehensive anew, his health precarious, his prospects bleak. The TV deals were finished, the university could not pay him more than a pittance for coaching and he felt unwanted. "At 43 I had to start all over again," he says. "I was qualified only as a baseball man. I couldn't find a job. Katharine had to go back to work. People wouldn't believe me when I told them I was broke. Once I tried to get a job as a janitor. They laughed at me. 'Oh, c'mon Jack,' they said. 'You, Jackie Jensen, a janitor? You gotta be kidding.' I wasn't."
In 1971 he was hired by Nevada Governor Mike O'Callaghan as a deputy director in the State Office of Economic Opportunity. The job paid $12,000 a year, and Jensen was happy to take it. His troubles had left him introspective, self-analytical, aware of the strange turns fortune can take. In a relatively brief lifetime, he had been famous and forgotten, wealthy and poor, healthy and near death. He began to put the pieces together, and he discovered his problems were not unique.
"I could see that jillions of other people had gone through what I had—divorce, illness, financial struggles, starting all over. I began to think of the good times I'd had, of how lucky I had been, of the people I had gotten to know. I began to think that people should be envious of me. At the time, we were making do with little income, but we were happy. We had the solitude, the quietness and the freshness of the desert."
He and Katharine amassed a collection of Indian artifacts. He read "everything I could get my hands on." He was enjoying life, strengthened, not weakened, by the knowledge of its ephemerality. "When you have a heart attack, you realize you won't live to be 90. You learn to be thankful for each new day," Jensen says. He began attending classes at the University of Nevada and, at 44, completed the remaining 17 units for the degree in rhetoric he had passed up at Berkeley 22 years earlier.
Then his job was phased out because of budget cutbacks, and from January to June of 1973 Jensen again found himself with little to do except indulge his new passion for reading. On June 15 his telephone rang. He set aside his book and answered. It was Maggard, inquiring if he would be interested in returning to Berkeley as baseball coach. This was the strangest twist of all, he told himself. He was being asked to go back to where it all started. He said yes.
On a brisk February day last year, the beginning of his second season as coach, the ex-Golden Boy, Cal's greatest athlete, wandered the steep slopes of the Berkeley campus wearing a sandwich board advertising BALL GAME TODAY! He bellowed the news through a blue and gold megaphone, the sound of his baritone voice halting curious students on their way to classes. There were not many that day who knew who he was, that he was not only a coach but also a legend. Jensen joined his audience in laughter. He was making a spectacle of himself, but in a good cause: promoting attendance for his baseball team. There were a few there who did remember another Jensen. This, surely, was not the same man. They were right—he was not.
"Wearing that sandwich board took more moral courage than I thought any man had," said Truck Cullom, Jensen's old teammate and friend. "I couldn't imagine someone like Jack doing it. People used to think he was aloof, conceited. Hell, how can a guy be that good, and not be conceited? The thing is, Jack never was, and he isn't now. He's just one helluva human being."
In the batting cage down the right-field line at Cal's Evans Field, a thin boy wearing glasses, shoulder-length hair, a sweat shirt, fatigue pants and, improbably, kneepads, is swinging ineffectually at baseballs propelled at him by a pitching machine. It is late afternoon, warm and clear, and the setting sun has turned nearby Harmon Gym a deep orange. Church steeples appear above the left-held fence, and the Campanile, its bells tolling for homecoming students, rises in the distance.
Jensen, wearing a blue warmup jacket and a gray road uniform, watches the young batsman. The boy is a "walk-on" candidate for his baseball team, a player of limited experience and with almost no chance of even winning a position on the junior varsity squad. And yet Jensen watches him as if he were a potential batting champion. The coach looks sturdy, ruddy. His health is good, and he is only a few pounds over his old playing weight.
"I'm not a sentimentalist," he says, "but I have such a warm feeling about being back here. It's not that people remember me. Oh, sure, some of the parents do, because I guess I was as famous then as some of the superstars are now. But the kids really don't know me. And that's the way it should be. I don't live in the past. Right now I couldn't be happier. It's a beautiful day, and we're playing a little baseball."
The boy misses a pitch, so Jensen steps into the cage. "You've got to open up your hips and be quick with those hands, son," he says, then flicks his thick wrists. The boy, whose exposure to this professional advice will become apparent only in intramural softball games, watches gratefully as Jensen, with effortless, powerful swings, makes perfect contact. "See, no extra motion. Keep it short and sweet."
Jensen steps out of the cage, first patting the youngster on his thin shoulders. He is smiling about something. "There's an assistant coach, a young man, who maybe summed me up best," Jensen says. "He'd see me coming in from practice every day with a big smile on my face, and he'd look kind of puzzled. Then one day he spoke up. 'Coach,' he said to me, 'don't you ever have bad moods?' Now, I don't know whether or not he was implying that I was an idiot for being so cheerful, but I took him seriously. Bad moods? I thought about myself and all that had happened. Bad moods? No, not now. The truth is, I just happen to think that life is pretty damn good."