Ever try to catch a major league pitcher? Ever try when you’ve never used a catcher’s mitt, you’re more hungover than a midshipman in Bangkok, and the pitcher is a crabby Johnny Antonelli? Didn’t think so…
I was elected because Thomas got injured our last inning in Milwaukee and Schmidt was taking a whirlpool when Antonelli was all dressed and oiled up. The reason I was hungover? Good old Billy Frack, who secured us a supply of locally-brewed Schoenling Lagers to drink ourselves to sleep with out at the El Rancho Rankin. Before that, of course, there was some half-baked sleuthing in his Chevy Nomad on the way.
“You’re telling me this ape is following the team? That he’s on to you? This is gonna be a cinch! You be the honey, draw him to the flower, and I’ll swat his yellowjacket ass when he isn’t looking.”
“May have to clear that with Agent Brewster. Assuming he’s here now. You’ll also have to be a lot quicker than I was. And smarter. This guy has barely made one mistake.”
“They all make mistakes, Pops. Otherwise prisons would be out of business.”
Anyway, Antonelli wanted to work on his curve in the bullpen before the game. At least curves—the baseball kind—were something I knew something about. Even though Johnny still tried to make me feel like an idiot.
“On a 3-2 count? are you nuts?”
“Surprise can work.”
“You see the fences in this place, bud? My nine-year-old nephew could hit one out. Schmitty, Val and Westrum all say go with the heater in a pinch and that’s what I do.”
Fine, I thought. Get shellacked again.
It was much warmer in Cincy than Milwaukee, but not too humid. The pitchers told me the balls carried out like special delivery letters in Crosley, ever since they pushed home plate out for the second time. The park was only half full, but a lot of folks sat out in the Moon Deck, the steep right field bleachers also called the Sun Deck for day games. Our pen was on the field down the first base line, giving us a nice view of the Moon Deck and leafy green hills and factories beyond the fences.
There were also Reds fans sitting right behind us, and a guy named Billy who began pestering me in the top of the 1st.
“Psst! Hey Pops! How tall is he?”
“I don’t know…Six feet at least.”
“Psst! Hey Pops! Should I use my hands or a weapon?”
“Whatever seems right, Billy. Leave me alone and watch the game, why don’t ya?”
I was still getting cold shoulders from my bullpen mates, and now Billy’s endless questions were irritating them more. So it was a good thing Daryl Spencer started the game by belting Nuxhall’s first pitch over the new five-story scoreboard in left field. Joe had 20 gopher balls on the season already (Antonelli had 18) when the game started, so we knew this could be a long night.
Antonelli made sure of that in no time. Served up a 2-run shot in the 1st to Walt Dropo. We tied it in the 2nd, went back ahead on back-to-back clouts by Schmidt and Andre Rodgers in the 4th. Don Hoak made it 4-3 with a single, and then Lousy Johnny fired a 3-2 fastball to Haddix, who parked it in the Moon Deck to tie the game in the 5th.
“Psst! Hey Pops! Guess what?”
“Lila, Sue and Pinky are staying five doors away from us!”
“They just graduated Ohio State. You can meet ’em later. They have a record player!”
Antonelli fell apart an inning later, gave up three singles and walked Haddix with the bases loaded. Meanwhile our offense flat-out died. Felipe Alou, who Rigney stuck in the second spot to avoid double plays before Mays batted, rapped into two of them anyway. Grissom tried his luck on the mound and had nothing, giving up 8th inning triples to Temple and Ed Bailey, who went 4-for-4.
We were badly Reds-faced, and it was “my fault” again. I actually couldn’t wait to hop back in Billy’s Nomad and zoom back to the El Rancho Rankin, where he lured me down to a room of Ohio State co-eds for a night of cold beer, hot flirting and Bill Haley disks.
What I didn’t know was that someone was sitting in the El Rancho parking lot the whole night, watching the windows.
S.F. 110 200 000 – 4 11 1
CIN 200 111 04x – 9 13 0
W-Haddix L-Antonelli HRS: Spencer, Schmidt, Rodgers, Dropo, Haddix GWRBI-Haddix
L.A. 000 120 000 – 3 8 2
MIL 200 001 01x – 4 7 2
W-McMahon L-Podres SV-Pizarro HR: Crandall GWRBI-Crandall
Uh-oh. They might be back. The Braves survive another shaky Spahn outing, get a late winning blast from Del Crandall, go three games over .500 for the first time in ages and slip into third place.
STL 000 000 030 – 3 8 1
PIT 300 021 00x – 6 6 0
W-Kline L-Jackson SV-Gross HRS: Musial, Thomas, Stuart GWRBI-Thomas
With the Cubs idle, the Cards miss a chance to pick up a half game. Frank Thomas hasn’t done much all year but socks a 3-run shot in the 1st to put the Bucs ahead to stay. St. Louis now heads to Connie Mack for four big ones with the Phillies.
NYY 020 300 001 0 – 6 9 0
CHX 000 001 302 1 – 7 14 2
W-Staley L-Duren HRS: Carey, Jackson, Landis GWRBI-Landis
En route to a 4-game sweep at Comiskey, wheels come off the Yankee bullpen. A rare 3-run pinch blast by Ron Jackson cuts their 5-0 lead to 5-4. Duren gets them out of a jam in the 8th, but gives up a double, single and three walks as Chicago ties it in the 9th. Bottom of the 10th, Torgeson walks but is caught stealing, and Landis puts Duren’s next pitch in the bleachers.
BAL 010 000 001 – 2 7 0
DET 000 200 12x – 5 10 0
W-Lary L-Brown HR: Woodling GWRBI-Francona
What starts as another bad Frank Lary outing irons itself out, as the Tigers knock Brown and Pappas around despite four of their regulars out of the lineup, take the series and keep the Birds from tying the Yanks again.
BOS 000 000 200 – 2 7 1
CLE 201 051 00x – 9 13 0
W-McLish L-Delock HRS: Doby, Wertz GWRBI-Doby
Also blowing a chance to gain ground are the Red Sox, who now have catchers Daley and White out with injuries, forcing the immortal Lou Berberet into action. All action here is from Tribe bats, who make Ike Delock cry for mercy by the 5th.
WAS 022 000 100 – 5 8 1
K.C. 027 001 01x – 11 16 1
W-Garver L-Ramos HRS: Zauchin, Sievers (again), Simpson, Cerv-2 GWRBI-Martyn
Nats go for three in a row, but unfortunately give the ball to Pedro Ramos. He blows a 2-0 lead and then a 4-2 lead by dishing out seven 3rd inning runs. In the battle of the cement-shoe left field lugs, check out these current numbers:
Roy Sievers .341/.406/.700, 29 HRS, 71 RBIs, 1.106 OPS
Bob Cerv .356/.406.669, 21 HRS, 56 RBIs, 1.075 OPS
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m off to New England for a much-needed week of family vacation starting today. Lord of Seamheads and our ’58 Red Sox skipper Mike Lynch will be here on Friday with an illuminating guest post, and Snappy will file his next report on Monday the 6th. Archie Stripes will be in the Mystery Ball house Wednesday the 8th to spotlight the upcoming All-Star Game, before Snappy returns to regular posting Friday the 10th. Phew!
National League through Thursday, June 26
American League through Thursday, June 26