Eugenia Reardon, international artist and devoted fan of the California Angels, has gone on for more than three years without her husband, umpiring legend Beans Reardon. She paints, awaits the new baseball season and misses him terribly.
“I worshiped Beans,” she said on a recent Sunday afternoon at her Ocean Boulevard home in Long Beach.
Beans was 86 when he died in 1984. Eugenia spent 30 years with him, and now no day passes that she doesn’t think of him.
His earthiness--he was called the “cussin’est umpire"--and her elegance made their alliance seem unlikely, but Eugenia believed that no husband and wife could be closer.
“He didn’t use the ugly words around the house like he did when he was out,” Eugenia said of Beans, who from 1926 to 1950 called them as he saw them on dusty, profane Major League baseball diamonds. “And he knew all the words that had ever been invented.”
Eugenia is described by friends as a gracious woman who looks remarkably young for her years.
“I’ll tell you anything but my age,” she said in her living room. Eventually, though, she acknowledged that she was in her 60s. She wore a gold-buttoned black suit with high heels that elevated her a few inches above five feet. Her blond hair looked recently done and her eyes were the color of the sea on a good day.
And she smiled at every mention of Beans and his sport.
“I just love baseball,” she said, displaying a Christmas card from St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial, a Hall of Famer.
“I pull for those Angels. It breaks my heart when they lose. I go to most of the games and would go to all of them if I had somebody to go with. Beans liked to take me to the games, and when I go now I wish he had a seat next to mine.”
For years, she has been in the front row at Anaheim Stadium. Last Opening Day she presented the 1986 American League West pennant to Manager Gene Mauch.
“The players took their caps off and saluted me,” she said, traces of Texas in her voice.
Eugenia Reardon was born in Paris, but her parents died before she was a year old. An aunt and an oil-magnate uncle raised her in Dallas.
“My uncle took me to St. Louis a lot to see baseball games,” said Reardon, who was educated in Lausanne, Switzerland, and then at the University of Alabama. “I grew up with baseball. Beans was surprised I knew so much about it when I met him.”
She had heard of Beans when she met him in 1953, but that nickname--which stems from his Boston roots--seemed so distasteful to her that it was three years before she could stop calling him John.
She quit a job as a Dallas court clerk in the late 1940s, and with some family financial help started a national company that made aluminum windows for, among other places, the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Her oil paintings hang in gilded frames in her home--seascapes, landscapes, children, fishermen, a winter scene in Boston near where Beans was born. In her bedroom is a large portrait of her late husband that she did from a passport picture. There are no paintings of baseball scenes, although Reardon, who studied art under Dutch painter William Halewijn, likes to sketch while watching the Angels take pregame practice.
Last year, she did a portrait of Nancy Reagan that hangs in the White House. “President Reagan wrote to thank me and said he knew Beans when he (Reagan) was announcing Chicago Cubs games,” she said.
When she is not doing volunteer work for Boys Town or flying on the Concorde to Paris, she often goes out to her studio behind her house and stays all day. “I never get tired of painting,” she said. It sustains her, but not as the Angels do when they come from behind to win.
And she never gets tired of going into her den, a museum of memories that eases some of her loneliness.
“He enjoyed this room,” she said, standing under a light that is a replica of a baseball.
Beans’ whisk broom, which he used to clean the home plates of so many famous and now extinct stadiums, hangs bronzed amid plaques and awards on a wall.
On a table, near Beans’ polka-dot bow ties and balls-and-strikes indicator, is the navy blue “NY” cap of Joe DiMaggio. They exchanged hats after the last World Series game of 1950, Beans’ last year.
Yellowing autographed baseballs fill three large glass bowls. Above them are black-and-white photos of Beans making decisions in the era of baggy flannel uniforms. There are pictures of Beans with other men in double-breasted suits lined up for the camera at banquets. Among them: Lou Gehrig, Frank Frisch and Roger Maris.
Another shot is of Beans and his longtime nemesis, Leo Durocher. “They’re fussin’ about something, I don’t know what,” she said.
And Beans, who also was an actor, can be seen with Gary Cooper and other movie stars on a wall dominated by a large nude picture of Mae West. “She always sent him a copy of that picture every Christmas,” Eugenia said. “No, I was never jealous.”
Also in the room is Norman Rockwell’s painting that was on a 1949 Saturday Evening Post cover. It shows a hefty Beans (Eugenia claims he was never fat) at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field during a rain delay in a game. He is wearing an enormous chest protector and holding out his palm, onto which rain drops are spattering.
Beans was a fiery, respected umpire. In later years he enhanced his popularity by telling stories at banquets and in taverns he would call on when he owned a beer distributorship from 1946 to 1967.
“We went out (to call on Beans’ customers) seven nights a week,” Eugenia recalled. “I never did drink much. Those bartenders gave me a glass of water with a cherry in it. The people loved to see Beans. He never tired of going out. He loved to talk. He was very witty about this funny business called baseball.”
For a long time while on the banquet circuit, she never heard Beans tell his stories; she usually would stay at the hotel because his audience would be men only. Once, though, at an Air Force base, she sneaked into the kitchen and through a door opened an inch finally heard a Beans story.
Her husband’s education had been limited, but his horizons never were. And her cultural orientation rubbed off on him.
In Paris, which they often visited, they would go to the top of the Arch of Triumph. “He loved to look out and have me tell him what the different buildings were on the Champs-Elysees,” Eugenia said.
“And he loved art. He’d come out and sit three or four hours in the studio and watch me paint. He never talked at all, just watched me.”
Eugenia Reardon knows that she won’t live long enough to get over Beans. She said she could picture him in the den, in his recliner, watching TV. She smiled at that pleasant vision, which again helped soften the sadness of his absence.