In the first game Coleman was out trying to score from second on a single to left. In the second game Stengel jauntily ordered a double steal in the second inning. He had Chris Cannizzaro on first and Hot Rod Kanehl at third. Cannizzaro took off and drew a throw. Kanehl broke for the plate. The Cincinnati shortstop, Leo Cardenas, cut it off, threw home, and that took care of Kanehl. In the fourth inning Elio Chacon tried to score from first when the Reds messed up a fly in the outfield. But Vada Pinson finally got to the ball, and his throw home beat Chacon by a couple of steps. In the fifth inning Jim Hickman was on third. He broke for the plate as Kanehl hit the ball. Kanehl hit the ball square at third. The throw had Hickman by a yard.
The day before that, Roger Craig, the team's version of a big pitcher, had gone over to Stengel and volunteered for relief pitching in the doubleheader if he were needed. Stengel nodded. It was nice of Craig to say he would work between starts. And the next day the Mets certainly did need Craig. Going into the ninth inning with a 3-3 tie against the Reds, Stengel called on Roger to save the day. Roger took his eight warmup pitches. Then he threw two regular pitches to Marty Keough of the Reds. Keough hit the second one eight miles, and the Reds won 4-3.
Two days later in the first inning of a game in Milwaukee, the Braves had runners on first and second. Henry Aaron hit the ball hard, but Chacon at shortstop made a fine backhanded stop. As Chacon regained his balance, he saw Roy McMillan of the Braves running for third. Chacon yelled to Felix Mantilla, the Mets' third baseman. He was going to get McMillan at third on a sensational play. Mantilla backed up for the throw. Then he backed up some more. By the time Chacon threw, Mantilla had backed up three yards past the base, and when he caught the throw all he could do was listen to the crowd laugh. McMillan had his foot on third.
The Mets fought back, however, and had the game tied 4-4 in the 12th. Casey called on a new pitcher to face the Braves in this inning. He was R.G. Miller, making his first appearance as a Met. At the start of the season, R.G. was managing a car dealership and had no intention of playing baseball. Then Wid Matthews, the Mets' scout, came around to talk to him. Miller, Matthews had found, needed only 18 days in the majors to qualify as a five-year man under the baseball players' pension. R.G. had spent a couple of years with Detroit before deciding to quit.
"Go to Syracuse for us," Matthews said, "and if you show anything at all we'll bring you up. Then you can put in your 18 days. When you reach 50, you'll get about $125 every month until they put you in a box."
Miller went out front and spoke to the boss at his regular job. The job would be waiting for him after the season, Miller was told. So Miller went to Syracuse. He pitched well enough to be brought up. Now he came out of the Mets' bullpen to take on the Milwaukee Braves.
Miller loosened up easily, scuffed the dirt, looked down, got the sign and glared at Del Crandall, the Milwaukee batter. Then Miller threw a slider, and Crandall hit a home run. Miller, with his first pitch of the year, had lost a game.
"He makes the club," everybody on the Mets was saying.
Throneberry, the fast-running first baseman, has had his share of travail this year, too. In fact, anytime you meet some old-timer who tries to bore you with colorful stories, you can shut him up quickly with two Marv Throneberry stories for every one he has about players like Babe Herman or Dizzy Dean.
Throneberry is a balding 28-year-old who comes out of Memphis. He was up with the Yankees and once even opened the season as a first baseman for them. After that, he was with the Kansas City A's and the Orioles. Throneberry is a serious baseball player. He tries, and he has some ability. It's just that things happen when he plays.