MaysSeptember 24, 1958

It was a gorgeous afternoon in the Mission District. A perfect contrast to the dark, raging clouds in my mind. Bleacher seats at Seals were gone by 8:30 a.m., and every local politician needing favors called in had flooded the switchboards. Like a modern Coogan’s Bluff, there were fans sitting in trees across the street in Franklin Square Park. I even had to bribe Pence Murphy with an after-game beer to get me in the usher gate.

After 150 games we were dead even with the Cubs at 82-68, three behind Milwaukee in the loss column with just four to play. If Chicago beat us again today we’d be history, and all 25,000 hearts in and around the ballpark rested on the Say Hey Kid for salvation.

His double and two homers yesterday raised his imminent batting title average to .354, his homers to 34, RBIs to 115 and whatever the hell OPS is to 1.005. His heroics also brought us back from an early 10-2 deficit to tie the game and lose it in extras. Did he have another miracle left in his bat?

I didn’t need a miracle to find where Tresip had stashed Liz, just my good old noggin. The rat bastard liked to play games, and the Christmas stocking of hidden clues in his last demented Bronx Bugle had topped them all. Let’s start with the “battery,” which was Thomas and Antonelli for us, Neeman and Hillman for them. Didn’t see anything revealing there, but I was afraid to run any of this by Antonelli. He would’ve forced me to warm him up again, and I was trying to stay incognito.

That plan worked for as long as the scoreless first inning, which was when usher pals Tall Tom, Butch and Dominic, and usherette Dot arrived in my high corner of the left field grandstand. Thanks a lot, Pence.

“Don’t you guys have people to seat?”
“They already are, Snappy,” said Tall Tom. “No seats left!” said Dominic.
“And your poor, poor fiancee!” piped in Dot.

So that had made the local paper. One question led to another answer and soon they were playing Sherlock Holmes with me whether I liked it or not.

Banks led off the 2nd with a bloop double and one pitch later, Walt Moryn bashed a two-run homer into the right field bleachers. Gopher balls were Antonelli’s bugaboo, up to 41 of them now, and Seals fell as silent as an abandoned Polo Grounds.

“Spencer has to be our Daryl at shortstop, right?” asked Butch, “What’s he done so far?”
“Nothing for two.”
“But he did turn the first two outs of the game,” said Dominic.
“So what?”
“Maybe he’s wearing something,” offered Dot. “Like tell-tale undershorts.”
“What the hell are tell-tale undershorts?” asked Tom.
“Can you people shut up??”

Then Willie shut their yaps for me. He had led off the 2nd with a walk and got stranded, and now singled with one gone in the 4th. Cepeda singled him to second, and Kirkland walked. Davenport, wobbly after being out a few days with a bruise, whiffed to elicit more groans.

Up stepped Valmy Thomas, my best buddy on the team. I glanced around nervously, he being part of the battery and all. Was Tressip perched somewhere with a sniper rifle?

CRACK! The sound came from Valmy’s bat. The ball whistled into the left field gap, scoring all three runners to give us the lead! Once again, the thrill of a big Giants hit collided with my fear for Liz.

“Valmy and Johnny? Vajlohn? Thomanelli?”
“Shut up, Butch.”

The game stayed 3-2 us until the 7th, when Wagner misplayed aDale Long single into a two-base error and a scrub named Jim Bolger tied it back up with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly.

Andy Anderson took the hill for the Cubs because three of the next four Giant hitters were righties. Antonelli was the lone lefty, and he tripled down the right field line. Here was Spencer, and he doubled down the LEFT field line!

“Wait! What’s Spencer backwards? RECNEPS?”
“Shut up, Butch.”

Bressoud made out and Bill Henry, Chicago’s perfect relief man (10-0, 1.60 ERA) came in to face lefty Wagner. Felipe Alou batted instead, doubled again, and we were up 5-3!

But I hadn’t warmed up Antonelli today, and after a Banks single to start the 8th, Johnny hung another meatball, Dale Long splattered it into 16th Street., and we were tied 5-5!

“‘A lefty who served,'” mulled Tom. “Gotta be Antonelli, right? Serving them up!”

The game had gotten too intense to focus on anything else. Kirkland doubled to start our 8th and was left there. So was Spencer after a leadoff walk in the 9th. Gordon Jones was in for his second relief inning in the top of the 10th. Walt Moryn stepped up and launched a virtual Sputnik, his 31st of the year, high and way out to right, and we were down again, 6-5.

Henry retired Cepeda and Schmidt easily in the last of the 10th. Davenport sort of redeemed himself with a single to keep our meager flames lit, but with everyone standing and praying, Valmy popped out to Banks to drive the stake into our 1958 season.

None of us could speak to each other. I trudged toward the exit. Like everyone else in the place I was happy to see the Giants stay in the race that long, but my quest to decipher Tressip’s weird clues had gotten me nowhere.

“Meet you at the Double Play?” asked one dour fan to his counterpart walking in front of me.
“Naw. Already promised Harry I’d get plowed with him at O’Doul’s if they lost.”

And I stopped in my tracks in the exit tunnel, a half dozen fans slamming into me from behind.

Of course. The “lefty who served.” The legndary manager of the San Francisco Seals. The part-time hitting coach for the Giants who owned the most famous tavern/eatery in town. The guy I hadn’t had a conversation with all season: Lefty O’Doul.

I got down to his joint as quickly as I could. The place was stuffed with Giants fans drowning their sorrows. Lefty wasn’t even there, “home sick” according to the barkeep. I said it was an emergency, and after a call to his house, I was told he’d meet me for breakfast tomorrow.

I spent a sleepless, torturous night waiting for morning. An occasional siren or howling cat, but no phone calls, knocks on my door or messages under it. The Giants were eliminated, no doubt making Tressip happy, but if his last “newspaper” indicated anything, I wasn’t sure it was enough to keep Liz alive. And what did Lefty know?

THE SKINNIES

CHI 020 000 120 1 – 6 13 0
S.F. 000 300 200 0 – 5 10 3
W-Henry L-Jones HRS: Moryn-2, Long GWRBI-Moryn
Okay, so the Cubs now head to L.A. needing to sweep all three, including a twi-night doubleheader at the Coliseum tomorrow, while the Reds are sweeping the Braves in Milwaukee. And that’s just to force a tie. Good luck, men!

STL 100 030 100 – 5 12 1
L.A. 100 001 004 – 6 8 0
W-Kipp L-Mizell HRS: Furillo, Hodges GWRBI-Hodges
The Dodgers leave the Cards with a Gil Hodges jack-in-the-box that will be spooking them all winter. Up 5-2 in the last of the 9th, St. Louis having somehow missed a half dozen easy chances to pile on runs, Mizell gets the first two outs and then walks Gino Cimoli. Then Don Demeter scratches out a hit. Then Elmer Valo (!) pinch-hits a clutch single. Then Gil Hodges hits one over the screen. See you next year!

NYY 000 000 010 01 – 2 12 1
BOS 000 010 000 00 – 1 4 0
W-Turley L-Kiely SV-Maas HRS: Skowron, Keough GWRBI-Skowron
A second straight extra inning classic at Fenway, as the Red Sox drop their last five meetings with New York and finish 7-15 against them. Still, grounding into three double plays, Yanks can get nothing across the plate against Sullivan for seven innings. Dick Gernert fill-in Marty Keough strokes a solo homer in the 5th to give Boston the lead, but Mantle’s two-out double ties the game in the 8th. With Duren unavailable, Turley keeps pitching, only allowing five walks, which for him is superb. Boston blows two great scoring chances in the 8th and 9th before Moose Skowron pops one over the Monster off Leo Kiely in the 10th. Duke Maas retires the Bosox in order and the magic number drops to two!

DET 000 001 050 – 6 9 0
CHI 200 000 000 – 2 7 0
W-Lary L-Wilson SV-Wehmeier GWRBI-Bolling
Make that one, señor. Jim Wilson pitches his face off for Chicago, but after loading the bases with one out in the 8th, usually efficient relief ace Gerry Staley takes over and has nothing, walking Zernial and Bolling and giving up singles to Martin and Lau and that be that. Sherm Lollar has been hitting like the dickens since coming back from his injury, but losing Landis, Goodman and Torgeson has been key this week. Torgeson’s 127 walks are the instigator of their rambunctious offense. They’ll try one more time against the Tigers tomorrow, throwing their 21-win man Billy Pierce against Paul Foytack, while the Yanks stay home awaiting the Birds, and following the score from Comiskey…

WAS 000 001 210 – 4 7 2
BAL 510 120 00x – 9 10 0
W-O’Dell L-Romonosky HRS: Bridges, O’Dell GWRBI-Nieman
Billy O. takes a no-hitter to two outs in the 6th, then falls apart for a few innings, but the Orioles have already crushed the life out of this one with a 5-spot dagger into the side of Count Romonosky in the 1st. Now they head to the Bronx to see if their final three games will mean anything.

CLE 030 000 030 – 6 13 2
K.C. 400 000 30x – 7 7 2
W-Terry L-Bell SV-Gorman HRS: Harrell, Power, Maris-2, Cerv GWRBI-Maris
Nice of Roger Maris to finally start hitting, now that his team has been eliminated for over two weeks. A grand slam off Bell plates four unearned runs afyter a two-out boot by Wertz, and his 2-run poke in the 7th adds some needed insurance against the rampaging Tribe, who nearly pull out another one.

National League through Wednesday, September 24

Milwaukee 86 65 .570
Chicago 83 68 .550 3
San Francisco 82 69 .543 4
Cincinnati 76 75 .503 10
Philadelphia 72 79 .477 14
St. Louis 71 80 .470 15
Pittsburgh 70 81 .464 16
Los Angeles 64 87 .424 22

American League through Wednesday, September 24

New York 92 59 .609
Chicago 88 62 .587 3.5
Cleveland 81 70 .536 11
Boston 81 70 .536 11
Baltimore 78 73 .517 14
Detroit 76 74 .507 16.5
Kansas City 57 94 .377 35
Washington 50 101 .331 42
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