Bill Rigney, outfitted in a gay red sport shirt, sat on the edge of his seat and looked contentedly up and down the aisle. He asked in a voice full of wonderment: "How are you going to beat a team like this? How many games have we won in the last inning—17? I've never seen anything like it. Everybody thinks we are going to fold, but we keep right on swinging. The team will never quit."
"Who are you going to pitch tonight?" someone asked. Rigney pointed up the plane where Stu Miller was playing bridge. "Stu volunteered; he worked six innings on Friday and four on Sunday, but he wants to go. We don't have anyone else."
Miller taunted the Reds with his slow and slower curves and managed to get by with the loss of but three hits and two runs through the sixth inning. In the seventh, Stu tired and Old Man Grissom came in to relieve. Gris gave up another run and the Giants went into the ninth behind 3-2. Alou and Kirkland flied out. Unaccustomed to the Giants' ninth-inning victories, the fans began to leave. Back in San Francisco, about a quarter of a million Giant fans, listening to Russ Hodges, knew better. Or, at least, they hoped. Willard Schmidt got two strikes past Mays. Protecting the plate on an outside pitch, Willie steered the next one into center for a single. In the 1958 Giant tradition the script now called for Jablonski to hit a home run. Jabbo did just that. Grissom held in the bottom of the ninth and the Giants were leading the league by one game.
It was also in the new Giant tradition that there should be some private drama in Jablonski's feat: Jabbo's 5-year-old son was sick in bed back in California. Jabbo had promised, in a phone conversation, to hit a home run for his boy. "I hope he heard it on the radio."
Cincinnati, July 30: The Giants haven't beaten Bob Purkey since 1956 and haven't scored on him this season. Today they scored a moral victory of sorts over Mr. Purkey: they made a run. But Cincinnati scored two and the Giants are again one percentage point behind the Braves.
If there was any good on San Francisco's side of the ledger it was, again, Señor Orlando (The Bull) Cepeda. While the other Giants, and particularly Willie Mays, were pounding Purkey's sidearm knuckler into the ground, young Orlando unexcitedly stroked two doubles to left, on the first of which he scored the Giants' lone run of the game, and of the year, off Cincinnati's 13-game winner. Though he could have made it easy from second to home on the Spencer single, Orlando slid. Simply running across the plate is not enough drama, not enough fun. The proud, pixieish Puerto Rican comes to the park to play ball, and he plays it at all times with an awesome and refreshing gusto.
Cepeda has now hit in 16 straight games, is currently batting .324. His hitting is only half of the truth about the young man whom baseball observers almost unanimously feel will be one of the finest players of this era. For he has two other, more subtle, qualities: he learns fast (and doesn't stop learning), and he has a deep-down, driving kind of desire—one too seldom seen today among professional athletes. Not just to make money but to be the best.
Cincinnati, July 31: Looking ahead, they say, is prudent. But on occasion it can be overdone. Take, for example, the San Francisco Giants on the last day of July, in Cincinnati. On the bulletin board of the visitors' dressing room at Crosley Field was a short clipping from the New York Times. It was an interview with Mr. Casey Stengel. And though it was somewhat obscured by brevity and, no doubt, by Casey's syntax, it said, in essence, that the Giants had no business being near first place. Stengel used the word freaks in describing Rigney's eccentric warriors.
The players and their manager gathered around the bulletin board grousing. Bill Rigney snorted and said: "Freaks, huh? I'd like to take this bunch of freaks right into the Yankee Stadium." But instead of thinking ahead to a World Series, the Giants would have done better to concentrate on Birdie Tebbetts' Cincinnati Redlegs. Ahead 6-0 in the fifth and 9-4 in the eighth, the unpredictable Giants managed to blow this one real good. Only two errors were called: both by Shortstop Spencer and both damaging. But there were numerous other unpardonable skulls which, mercifully, did not get into the official records, there being no recordable penalty, only Rigney's wrath, for inept base running and miscalculated pop flies.
The Giants need no longer look ahead to Milwaukee: the four-game series starts tomorrow night at County Stadium. And by sundown on Sunday it should be clear to all whether Rigney's kids are another Cinderella team or, as Stengel and others have pointed out, a second-division club playing in luck.