There was nothing we could do. Nothing.
I sat with my tail-gating pals from Game Three in the same grandstand seats. It was even colder out than on Friday, but we were prepared with our Braves garb, Indian blankets, and nuclear flasks. I even let them put warpaint on my face.
The irony was that even after he surrendered a home run to Norm Siebern on the first pitch of the game, it wasn’t Warren Spahn who needed our good luck smoke signals. It was the Milwaukee offense.
Against Bob Turley, walker of 134 men in 257 innings and sporting a perfectly average 15-13 record and 3.56 ERA, the Braves’ bats were spooked from first inning to last. Witness:
1st inning—Leadoff double, Mathews, Aaron and Covington do nothing.
2nd inning—Two leadoff walks, Roach, Logan and Spahn do nothing.
4th inning—Crandall single with one out, Roach and Logan do nothing.
5th inning—Torre single and Mathews walk with one out, Aaron and Covington do nothing.
6th inning—Bruton walk and Crandall double with nobody out, Roach, Logan, and Spahn do nothing.
7th inning—Torre and Mathews walk with nobody out, Aaron and Covington ground out, Wes’s into a double play.
8th inning—Bruton leads with single, Crandall hits into a double play.
9th inning—Mathews and Aaron single with two outs, Covington flies out to end the Series.
Without a doubt, considering what was at stake, it was the worst display of clutch hitting I’d ever witnessed. The Braves left 13 aboard, eight of them by Covington. Except for the leadoff Siebern dinger and a stupid leadoff triple to Turley in the 9th that led to New York’s other bookend run on a two-out Carey double, virtually none of this was Warren’s fault.
When Siebern caught the last out and it was finally over, I trudged through the exit tunnel with the massive funeral procession. Waited around in the slowly-emptying parking lot drinking Schlitz until Liz found me, Yankee champagne spray still twinkling in her blonde hair.
“Well, that was sure awful,” I said. “Bet the Giants could’ve done better.”
“Not with their bullpen. That Siebern played like he was in a higher league. 13-for-24 with four homers.”
“He won Series MVP?”
“Him and Ford. Clean split by the writers.”
“Nice. Who’d you vote for?”
She smiled mischeviously. “Harry Hanebrink, of course.”
“That’s my Liz…”
I kissed her and we started walking, into the end of summer.
Game Five Final:
NYY 100 000 001 – 2 9 0
MIL 000 000 000 – 0 9 0
W-Turley L-Spahn HR: Siebern GWRBI-Siebern
PRAISE AND THANKS
Well, as Snappy said, that Series ending really did suck. After a six-month struggle to emerge atop the wild National League, the Braves had nothing left in the tank. Not that the Yanks were slouches; they scored 84 more runs than the Braves, had a team OPS that was 22 points higher, and enjoyed a +174 run differential, by far the best in baseball.
So World Champion congratulations are in order to the cool, patient Kevin Graham for his absentee-managing acumen, but also to runner-up Larry Granillo, who narrowly missed taking the 1977 Dodgers to Play That Funky Baseball’s NL pennant and finally half-triumphed here. Good work, gentlemen!
Thanks also go out to the other 14 absentee skippers for helping me conduct this 13-month project. You know who you were. Special thanks go to Daniel Shoptaw for enduring the Cards’ pinball ride in the standings and having me on his podcast in the season’s opening week, to Bill Miller for his daily retweets and constant classy commenting in the face of his Dodgers’ historic second half swan dive, and to Washingtonian writer Ted Leavengood for agreeing to take on the ghastly Senators.
Of course, the biggest thanks go out to all you dear readers for following along with this seat-of-my-brain tale. For those diehards that need still more, I’ll be playing a special Windy City series between the second place White Sox and Cubs, and reporting the results on Cubs manager Scott Simkus’ excellent subscription-only Outsider Baseball Bulletin in the near future. It remains to be decided what my next Web creation will be. I have a few “offline” fictional projects I’d like to work on for a spell, one a collaboration I’m very excited about.
Meanwhile, if you don’t already, follow me on Twitter at @mysteryball58 for all the latest muse news and jocularity. I’ll be keeping that handle and avatar for the forseeable future, because how does one give up a Jimmy Stewart baseball card, anyway?
See you on the flip side, pals.
—J.P., Culver City, CA
*P.S. In a day or two I’ll be adding the final league leaders and awards to the bottom of this post.