And then there’s days of wild magic. Days that drop out of the sky, tap you on the shoulder, spin you around and kiss you with good luck just when you’re ready to quit on life.
The day didn’t start that way. A fresh batch of seagull juice was waiting for me on the fence, and I hosed it off pretty quick. The Cards were in for another matinee, meaning I had the place to myself at 8 a.m. and could smoke my Camels and hum Frankie as loud as I wanted. A couple times it felt like someone was watching me, but every time I turned the grandstand looked cold and empty.
The stadium filled up earlier this time, the Giants being in first and all. Cards skipper Fred Hutchinson was trying something new, starting lefty Irv Noren in place of Del Ennis in the lineup. The grounds crew guys didn’t think it would do them much good and predicted a sweep, so I bet a fiver on the road boys.
Fortune hugged me right off the bat, as St. Louis plated five in the 1st on a bunch of walks and singles and a horrible dropped fly by the Say Why Kid. Our clubhouse boy Johnny Heep tracked me down around then, said some guy was on the phone. I ducked under the stands to take the call. It was a cigar-choked voice I didn’t know.
“Snappy Drake? Phil Todd here. You free for dinner?”
“I don’t know. Depends on who Phil Todd is.”
“Sorry. I do that all the time. Assume things. Bobby Bragan sent me down to talk to you about pitching for the Spokane Indians.”
I froze. Waiting for the clown horn to blow. Or Tinker Bell to fly by. “You mean in the Pacific Coast League?”
“Yeah, we’re having a bad start with lots of injuries. Could use a little fresh arm meat. Bobby says you got a real nasty curve.”
“Had one, anyway…”
“Tell ya what, think about it, call me at the 7th inning stretch at the Hotel Stewart, room 42, okay?”
I hardly remember walking back up the grandstand tunnel. Meanwhile, this young St. Louis pitcher wearing specs named Jim Brosnan was throwing like Walter Johnson, and the first 12 Giants went out. We were losing 6-0 but that kind of thing hadn’t been a problem for us yet. The Cards were still putting guys on against Stu Miller but had stopped scoring them. Almost like they couldn’t wait to get Brosnan back on the mound.
We went 1-2-3 in the 5th and 6th. The fans had been quiet but now they were buzzing and blabbing. Every grounds crew man was perched on the rail. Even my seagull pals had stopped circling and were perched in a row atop the scoreboard. Numbers unharmed for the moment.
But I had to call Phil Todd back at the stretch, and Wagner, Rodgers, and Mays were due up! It’s not like I had real thinking to do. If a team was willing to pay me to pitch again you’re damn right I was going to do it. even for the crummy Spokane Indians.
Superstition is a flaw of mine, though. Can’t wear the same color socks two days in a row. Won’t order anything with sauce on a Sunday. And if I left my spot again Brosnan would lose his perfect game.
So I waited until Willie Mays flied out for the third time, then bolted back to the telephone. Set up dinner at an Italian joint I liked in North Beach and ran right back.
Just in time to see Brosnan walk Jackie Brandt with two gone in the 8th. But a Cards no-hitter was still in the cards. Valmy Thomas lined to Ruben Amaro at short to start our 9th. Kirkland pinch-hit and grounded out easy to second. It was up to Leon Wagner. No one could breathe, especially me. I had never seen a no-hitter in I can’t tell you how many PCL games.
Wagner took two balls, then a strike. It was a cool late afternoon but Brosnan was sweating; I could see it on his neck. He paused to wipe off his glasses and looked back in to Katt for the sign. Threw a heater and Wags pulled it to the right. Blasingame snatched the ball before it hit the outfield grass. Whirled, threw to Musial and Brosnan had done it! Seals Stadium exploded. Sure we lost, but how often do you get to see one of those?
After getting home from some great chicken parmigiana with Phil Todd I sat outside on my top step. Watched the last wink of sunset and smoked the fat Por Larrañga Perfecto cigar Phil gave me. It was sweet.
So to hell with my job, and to the murder of John Blaziecsky and all the grief attached to it. I can disappear faster than a Jim Brosnan fastball, and if his game today and Phil’s phone call weren’t signs for me, then I don’t know what are. Tomorrow before our night game with the Cubs I’m telling my boss I’m going out to get a cup of coffee. And jumping on a plane for Spokane.
STL 510 000 001 – 7 12 0
S.F. 000 000 000 – 0 0 2
W-Brosnan L-Miller GWRBI-Noren
CHI 000 000 010 – 1 2 0
L.A. 201 100 00x – 4 7 0
W-Williams L-Drabowsky HRS: Moryn, Snider, Furillo, Williams
Not a woodshed game this time, but another three homer-attack by the Dodgers, who now lead baseball with 13 in their first nine games. The Cubs and Cards now swap California cities for the weekend.
PIT 000 100 012 – 4 11 1
PHI 000 100 200 – 3 7 1
W-Gross L-Cardwell SV-Face HR: Kluszewski GWRBI-Stevens
About time the Bucs take one of these close ones. A Virdon triple, Schofield single and pinch single from R.C. Stevens produce the winners in the 9th off Cardwell, before Jack Meyer whiffs two guys too late to end the inning.
MIL 000 000 203 – 5 11 1
CIN 002 000 06x – 8 13 0
W-Haddix L-Rush HR: Adcock GWRBI-F. Robinson
Pretty simple to explain this one. With Crandall injured, two straight passed balls off the glove of Del Rice bring in two unearned Cincy runs in the 3rd. Adcock’s homer in the 7th ties it, but Rush, Trowbridge and Pizarro give the Reds seven straight hits to begin the last of the 8th, and after a two-out Haddix triple it’s good for six runs and the game.
BAL 020 211 110 – 8 14 0
BOS 010 031 100 – 6 12 0
W-Brown L-Bowsfield SV-Wilhelm HRS: Triandos-3, Stephens GWRBI-Triandos
And the Red Sox can’t seem to win at Not-so Friendly Fenway, where Gus Triandos puts balls into the monster net in his first three at bats to propel the O’s back into first place. To complete the weird, Ted Williams whiffs three times and grounds into a DP.
NYY 200 030 230 – 10 13 1
WAS 010 011 100 – 4 8 1
W-Shantz L-Kemmerer HRS: Carey, Mantle, Skowron GWRBI-Carey
While the poor Nats can’t win anywhere, and now head into Fenway. Yankee bats get healthy again as Enos Slaughter fills in for an injured Elston Howard and collects a double, two walks and two runs scored. Mantle and Skowron go back-to-back later off Kemmerer, wowing no one with a 9.47 ERA after two starts. The Yanks will now go to Baltimore to battle the Birds for first.
CHX 202 000 000 – 4 10 1
CLE 101 320 10x – 8 10 1
W-Narleski L-Moore SV-Score HRS: Lollar, Landis, Colavito, Minoso, Maris GWRBI-Minoso
Narleski gets rocked for Sherm Lollar’s 7th homer and another by Landis, but Minnie’s 3-run shot in the 5th is the game-decider. The Rock finally goes yard too and adds three doubles for his day.
DET 111 000 010 – 4 9 1
K.C. 100 031 02x – 7 12 0
W-Urban L-Moford HRS: Harris-2, Chiti, Cerv, Power
Urban turns out to be a better fifth starter than Moford, shrugs off two Gail Harris homers and survives for the win. Harris would’ve had a third but Bob Martyn went over the fence to snatch it away. Kaline returns to the Detroit lineup and doubles in a run in four trips.
National League through Thursday, April 24
American League through Thursday, April 24