First order of business was to contact Brewster and put his mind at ease before he called out the military. Second order of business: simplify the road show. Liz reached her brother in Dayton, where he got healthy in a hurry, slipped out of the hospital and hopped a bus to St. Louis. Liz and I got there ahead of him in our two cars, and after I dumped the rental one we met him at the Greyhound station. Billy had his casts and a crutch, and I let them have their teary sibling reunion before we piled into the T-Bird and hit the road back to California.
It was July 4th, and it killed me to be missing our holiday doubleheader back home with the Cubs. Frankly, it killed me to be doing anything that didn’t involve baseball, barbeque and a beer, so after heading down Route 66 a few hundred miles we started looking for the right eatery. Though Billy had other holiday ideas in mind.
“Gotta get us some Black Cats!” he said over and over, and right after we crossed into eastern Oklahoma he got his wish. One fireworks stand after another, and we stopped at one to load up on sparklers, spinners, bottle rockets, roman candles and a few packs of lady fingers.
“Maybe if Peanut Jerk gets on our tail, you can drop a few of those in his pants,” offered Liz.
The restaurants we passed were either closed for the holiday or looked too decrepit in the first place. I would’ve been happy with a pack of baloney or beef jerky, but markets didn’t look open either.
When we hit the outskirts of Claremore around dinner time, our noses perked up. Someone had a whole lot of meat cooking. A small town church came up, with lights hung in tree branches around the side, country fiddles playing and a hundred or so locals having a great old time. The First Presbyterian 4th of July Hootenanny would be our home for the evening.
Can’t say we blended in, starting with Liz’s car in a yard full of pickup trucks, but they all seemed friendly and ready to take our two dollars. The chicken and ribs were both spectacular, and the beer was like drinking heaven. Liz had a few and made a failed attempt at showing me how to two-step.
Then Billy limped over, barbeque sauce on his arm cast and mouth.
“Take a look back here, Pops. You won’t believe it!”
I followed him around to an open back door on the church, where a handful of local cowboys were listening to a baseball radio broadcast. They tipped their hats when they saw me.
“Happy 4th, friend,” said the tallest one, “Got ourselves a right pickle here. 3-3, top of the 11th.”
“Hush a minute!”
Whoever was hitting hit a foul pop to third base for the third out. “DAMN!” said two of the cowboys, and one smacked his leg with his hat. Then I swore I heard the announcer say “Davenport”, and squeezed closer to the radio.
“Is that a Giants game?”
“Huh?? Not on your life, podner. This here’s the Cubbies! And if you ain’t rootin’ with us you better find yourselves another church.”
“Oh no, we um…like the Cubs a lot!” Billy shrugged, hobbled away.
Seems that the tall guy, named Rex, had an uncle who played with Phil Cavaretta once and a grandmother who went on a date with Hippo Vaughn, so that was enough to make him a fan for life. And because Rex ran the ranch that employed his three cowboy friends, that made them Cub fans too.
“You from Chicago?” asked one.
“No…California. But not San Francisco.”
“That’s good. Too many commies, queerbates, and them darn cashew killers out there for my likin’.”
Paul Giel was in his fourth inning of relief for us, and everything fell apart in the 12th. Cepeda, who had whiffed four times, threw a double play ball away before a Banks double kicked off an eight-run rally and had my new cowboy pals yahooing and grunting like it was the Fourth of July or something.
Liz was off at the fudge brownie competition, sampling entries, woozily trying to tell the local ladies about her writing exploits. Few understood, most just asked if she had a fella. Folks began lighting their fireworks just after dark, and Billy shot off every one of his in about five minutes.
And then the Giants exploded in Game 2. The Cubs took a short 3-2 lead before Cepeda put us ahead with a 3-run homer, Wagner and Cepeda homered in the next inning, I kept drinking and Wagner homered in the next inning, and then I was whooping it up like a San Francisco usher cowboy and suddenly there were four angry Oklahoma faces staring at me.
“You sure you ain’t from San Franny town?”
“Well…maybe I am. It’s a free country, and that’s what we’re here to celebrate, and no matter what team you believe in, it’s your God-given right to root for it!”
They seemed to think about that for a moment, and maybe agree. But then Liz appeared, heard the score, yelled “Giants are killing ‘em, yahoo!!!” and I was grabbing her arm and walking her in a T-Bird direction and pulling Billy away from a couple teenage Okie lasses, and like that we were back on Route 66 and sailing into the American dark.
CHI 010 000 200 008 – 11 20 0
S.F. 000 300 000 000 – 3 8 2
W-Elston L-Giel HRS: Neeman, Sauer GWRBI-Banks
CHI 010 020 001 – 4 9 2
S.F. 200 053 20x – 12 13 2
W-Monzant L-Briggs HR: Walls, Cepeda-2, Wagner-2 GWRBI-Cepeda
PHI 000 003 000 – 3 5 0
MIL 020 030 01x – 6 12 0
W-Spahn L-Roberts HRS: Bowman, Logan GWRBI-Logan
PHI 001 000 100 – 2 6 1
MIL 000 102 01x – 4 10 0
W-Pizarro L-Morehead SV-Robinson GWRBI-Roach
Braves now 15-4 in their last nineteen games, as they sweep the Phils behind great stints by Spahn and Pizarro. Hard to believe these guys were in last place not too long ago.
PIT 011 000 302 – 7 13 0
CIN 200 000 200 – 4 9 2
W-Raydon L-Lawrence SV-Gross
Also hard to believe the Reds were once in first. Seven losses in a row now, as two homers by Lynch can’t offset horrible work by Brooks Lawrence. Could the Pirates be finally making their move to respectability? They now head to Milwaukee to prove it.
NYY 000 000 020 – 2 5 0
WAS 001 000 000 – 1 2 0
W-Ford L-Pascual HR: Chrisley GWRBI-Bauer
NYY 010 130 002 – 7 10 0
WAS 020 103 000 – 6 12 1
W-Trucks L-Hyde SV-Duren HR: McDougald GWRBI-Skowron
It’s National Sweep Day in the American League, so let’s start here, where the Yanks come back late twice against a team that just can’t win a game. Pascual whiffs 11 in the opener but Ford bests him by allowing two hits and whiffing 14. (As an added Washington bonus, Jim Lemon whiffs three times, then gets injured for five games. Neil Chrisley, filling in for the injured Pearson, robs Andy Carey of a homer, then gets injured himself. Unbelievable.) In the nightcap. Hyde throws three near-perfect innings to try and save a gritty 6-5 Senator lead, only to walk Carey and Siebern to start the 9th and give up a 2-run single to Skowron to lose it. Earlier, McDougald gets an inside-the-park homer when two outfielders collide.
BAL 000 002 110 – 4 9 0
BOS 000 030 40x – 7 9 0
W-Delock L-Harshman HRS: Boyd, Triandos, Jensen, Buddin, Gernert GWRBI-Buddin
BAL 010 000 010 – 2 12 1
BOS 012 000 03x – 6 11 1
W-Fornieles L-Loes HRS: Williams, Piersall, Buddin GWRBI-Williams
Boston takes second place, the amazingly plummeting Birds drop to fourth. After a string of great starts by Harshman, he can’t even get Don Buddin out, as he collects two walks, a single and a game-deciding homer. In Game 2, the O’s rack up 12 hits, score only twice off Mike Fornieles and Boston power puts things to bed again. Piersall gets the exact same kind of inside-the-park homer McDougald did in the Yankees game when Dick Williams and Woodling collide. Baltimore heads for a 2-day vacation in Washington before the break, while the Sox are in Yankee Stadium.
DET 100 000 120 – 4 9 0
CLE 000 010 112 – 5 11 1
W-Mossi L-Wehmeier HRS: Nixon, Colavito GWRBI-Colavito
DET 101 002 100 – 5 12 0
CLE 005 010 02x – 8 13 1
W-Ferrarese L-Susce HRS: Minoso-2, Avila, Power GWRBi-Vernon
And the Tribe hits the .500 mark again with a dramatic sweep. Two outs, bottom of the 9th in the opener, the Rock slams a 2-run trot-off shot off Wehmeier. Cleveland plates five in the 3rd of the nightcap and the Tigers never recover.
K.C. 001 000 011 – 3 5 2
CHI 140 000 02x – 7 12 0
W-Wynn L-Herbert HRS: Simpson, Maris GWRBI-Callison
K.C. 000 000 000 – 0 3 2
CHI 000 012 00x – 3 6 0
W-Keegan L-Tomanek SV-Moore
And Chicago nabs third place by handling the A’s fairly easily. Early Wynn keeps them at bay and gets 12 hits behind him, before the awful and never-used Bob Keegan is forced to start the second game and K.C. can’t hit him either.
National League through Friday, July 4
American League through Friday, July 4