When he came on, the bowlers started up with the vulgarities and racial slurs. Bauer and Martin told them to stop, and the war of words began. “A big, fat guy walked by and said, ‘Don’t trust your luck too far tonight, Yankee,’” Bauer later said, according to a bowdlerized account in The Washington Times. “I told him to” — and here the newspaper paraphrased, in brackets — “[perform an anatomically impossible act].”
Martin backed up Bauer, and when the bowler invited Martin to take it outside, well, as Mantle later said, “you don’t have to tell Billy but once.” The two headed toward the service entrance, their partisans in their wake. Having seen what was unfolding, the lounge manager, Murray Moskowitz, who was in on Joey’s secret that night but knew where he was hiding, went over and told him Pauly needed his help — urgently. For all his fears of being seen and maybe fired, he knew what he had to do. “How could I look at myself in the mirror the next morning if I hadn’t gone to Pauly’s aid, and he got hurt?” he asked.
He followed the drunken parties, installed Bauer (who lost sight of Martin and Mantle) in a chair, then caught up with the combatants. Shoving everyone else, Martin included, to the floor, he spotted one of the bowlers, Edwin Jones, about to sucker-punch Pauly — and unloaded. “I learned early in life, if you’re going to end up in a fight, you got to throw the first punch,” he said. “Those were two of the best punches I ever threw in my life,” he added, while noting that one of his was usually enough.
His job done, Joey took off: he couldn’t let Mr. Podell see him there, or risk arrest. He fled to Sammy Davis Jr.’s hotel room, waiting for Pauly to give him the all-clear. When the phone finally rang, though, it was Mantle — “drunk as a skunk” — on the line. “Oh, Joey, we just had a fight, you shoulda been here!” he gushed. In fact, says Mr. Silvestri, Mantle hadn’t been there himself. The mythologizing had begun.
The Yankees slipped out the rear door. Joey took the subway back to Astoria. Mr. Jones, meantime, went by ambulance to the hospital. And his brother headed to the East 51st police station, where he fingered Bauer — because, Mr. Silvestri speculates, he, too, was wearing a brown suit that night. The next day, pictures of Jones and his battered mug were in all the papers. “I really laughed, it’s sad to say,” Mr. Silvestri recalled. “I said, ‘Holy Christ, what happened to this guy?’”