It was 5:30 p.m. in the Busch Stadium locker room. I sat there pulling on Nick Testa’s uniform, watched the Giants players gradually fill the room and slowly lost my mind.
Sure, I’d been on the road with these guys for weeks, but I still barely knew any of them. Until last night, I hadn’t spoken two simple syllables to Bob Speake.
Suspecting any of our regular players of monkey business was certifiably cracked, but what about frustrated benchwarmers like Speake, Jim King, Ray Jablonski or Don Taussig, who “found” his locker full of Salty Dog peanuts in Milwaukee. Maybe one of them had an axe to grind or use.
Then I warmed up Antonelli, who couldn’t possibly be involved but had an atomic scowl on his puss that left me wondering after every bullpen session. Tonight he was going against Sad Sam Jones, the league’s premiere hard-luck case, so Johnny should have been relaxed.
He was after we gave him a 3-0 lead after four, but then he got sloppy. Plunked Ken Boyer on the arm to knock him out of action a few games, got his mind all scattered and served up a Stan Musial bomb into the pavilion to cut it to 3-2.
Mays was on fire, though. Singled to start a rally in the 5th and homered to begin the 7th. 5-3 Giants to the last of the 8th, with the Braves struggling 1-1 with the Pirates again up north. The first two Cards singled to begin their 8th, Gordon Jones entered, and I had to run out to the pen again to warm up Paul Giel. Paul had to use the toilet when he was set to go and left his glove sitting beside me.
I stared at the glove. I was chewing a big wad of Bazooka, and whether I did it subconsciously or not, I put some sticky-sweet gum saliva on my fingers and rubbed it in Giel’s webbing. It was a goof some of us did to each other up in the Pacific Coast League in idle moments. This moment was hardly idle, but I really thought Jones would put out the Cards’ fire.
Jones was terrible. Surrendered singles to Irv Noren and Gene Green, and Giel jogged in to face pinch-hitter Wally Moon. Who he walked. So did light-hitting Eddie Kasko on four pitches. So did pinch-hitter Don Blasingame. Four St. Louis runs were across, we were behind 7-5 and it was likely my fault. Giel stood out there staring at his glove a minute. Discovered the sticky substance, smelled it, and shot a glare in my direction. He asked for a towel from the dugout, wiped the glove clean, and proceeded to get Smith, Cunningham and Ruben Amaro on harmless grounders.
When he got back to the dugout, I apologized for “dribbling some gum juice” on his mitt. He wasn’t pleased, walked away without a word and started talking me up to his mates. Phil Paine, off two painful relief outings in a row for the Cards, suddenly became a Giants punching bag. Bressoud singled, Wagner and Mays (4-5for-5 on the night) doubled, Blasingame threw one into the Mississippi, and we had an 8-7 lead just like that. Giel got three more ground outs without batting an eye, and Rigney had me in his office ten minutes later.
“I didn’t like this Nick Testa ruse from the first day,” he said, wiping off his glasses with a tissue, “Sabotaging my pitchers’ equipment like that has no place on our ball club. The team wants you gone and so do I. Sorry, Drake.”
I packed up and left the clubhouse without even raising my eyes. Called Liz where she was wrapping things up in Chicago, said I’d meet her at the L.A. Coliseum tomorrow. Brewster would be taking me on a separate, government plane.
“Why would you do something like that to his glove?” she asked.
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe it.”
I would have to be careful here. “Peanut Man said if the Giants win the pennant many people are going to die.”
“Are you kidding?…Hmm…What the devil does he have against the Giants?”
Come to think of it, it was a damn good question.
(only games scheduled)
S.F. 100 210 103 – 8 13 1
STL 000 210 040 – 7 10 1
W-Giel L-Paine HRS: Mays, Musial
PIT 000 100 000 – 1 4 1
MIL 001 000 01x – 2 3 0
W-Willey L-Porterfield HR: Logan GWRBI-Torre
Forced to play left with Skinner hurt, Frank Thomas butchers a ball to begin the Braves 8th, then throws home late on a Torre sac fly as Milwaukee eeks out the finale for Carl Willey.
L.A. 201 000 020 00 – 5 10 3
CHI 000 022 001 01 – 6 14 1
The Dodgers have made 108 errors in 108 games, more than anyone, and their butterfingers are on display here as a Pee Wee Reese error brings home the first Cub run and a two-base error by Craig in the last of the 11th loses it. By contrast, southpaw relief master Bill Henry goes to 9-0 with a microscopic 1.34 ERA.
PHI 010 020 001 – 4 15 0
CIN 000 020 04x – 6 9 0
W-Jeffcoat L-Roberts SV-Kellner HRS: Herrera, Lynch GWRBI-Lynch
Not even Robin Roberts can keep the Phillies from slipping under .500 for the first time in a while. The fact that Cincy is beating everyone may also have something to do with it. Down 3-2 in the 8th, Temple walks, Pinson singles and Lynch gets yet another big hit for the Redlegs, a 3-run bleacher shot. Philly leaves 12 men on base to Cincy’s four, and it shows.
WAS 000 100 020 003 – 6 16 0
BOS 101 000 100 001 – 4 15 0
W-Hyde L-Wall HRS: Siever, Lemon, Williams GWRBI-Sievers
Only one AL game, but it’s a burn-barner. Can a player on a 100-loss team be the MVP? Roy Sievers is making a case. He goes 4-for-6 with his 44th homer, a game-winner in the 12th off Murray Wall, as the Nats come back and win for just the 12th time all year. Jim Lemon, who’s been nothing short of hideous, narrowly misses a grand slam in the 8th but parks one later after Wreck-It Roy. Boston misses their 60th win and a great chance to gain a half game on the idle Yanks.
TEAM RUN DIFFERENTIALS!
Red Sox +89
White Sox –32
ADDENDUM: As if rolling 1,232 games for this blog isn’t enough, I’m also kicking off my second annual “Best of” tournament this weekend, featuring the top 16 teams of 2011 facing off in a four-round, NBA/NHL playoff format. Except for returning champ Jason Stapley of Kearns, UT (who took last year’s crown with the 2010 Giants), a fresh crop of absentee managers will trust me with their exhaustively researched rotations and lineups. Follow the frequent tournament action right here.
National League through Thursday, August 7
American League through Thursday, August 7