SI Vault
Richard Hoffer
July 14, 2003
Dusty Rhodes was not a deep thinker when it came to baseball. When he finally advanced to the major leagues, called up from Rock Hill, S.C., he had yet to absorb the game's strategic subtleties. Lefthander, righthander—what could that possibly matter to him? Pitchers were all alike by their intentions. Why distinguish among them by their preference of arm? His indifference to the science of hitting, you could say, was more or less complete.
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July 14, 2003

"he Doesn't Like Any Loose Horsehide Shrapnel Falling Around Him"

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Great move. Wertz drove a high fastball deep into centerfield, where the bleachers were, it was plain to see, an insufficient 483 feet away—gone for sure.

Mays wheeled and, with his back to the ball, sprinted away, headlong. Bob Hunter, a West Coast writer, was awed but not surprised by what next unfolded, considering, as he wrote, that centerfield was Mays's "private pasture, and he doesn't like any loose horsehide shrapnel falling around him."

Mays put his glove up over his left shoulder—still, his back to the ball—and gathered the horsehide shrapnel in an amazing catch that, he later explained, he "had all the way."

No less amazing, he turned and fired the ball to second in time to hold the runner at first, while Doby advanced to third. "The throw of a giant," wrote one correspondent.

And yet the game would not be decided by an out, even a very long one, but by a home run. A very short one.

It was the bottom of the 10th inning, same 2-2 score. Starter Bob Lemon walked two Giants, and Durocher sent Dusty Rhodes in to hit. He lifted the first pitch into rightfield, not much of a drive, and it was Rhodes's impression that Lemon, in frustration, tossed his glove even farther than the ball could possibly travel. "Wind kinda caught it," said Rhodes, meaning the ball, not the glove. And it scraped over the fence, a home run, not much more than half the drive that Wertz had clobbered three innings before.

The next day, Rhodes came through in the pinch again, but earlier this time (the fifth inning), scoring Mays on a single for the Giants' first run of the game. And then, two innings later, Rhodes homered again, more honestly this time, the ball hitting the roof 150 feet up from the 294-foot sign down the rightfield line.

And finally (for Rhodes) in Game 3, in Cleveland, he came off the bench for a third-inning single that got the Giants started toward a 6-2 win and, eventually, a four-game sweep of the puzzled Indians.

Rhodes was a modest hero, and he did not prove to be a good interview, unable to really explain his feats or even appreciate their magnitude. "I can't understand why everybody's so excited about my hitting," he said. "I'm not. Sure I got a kick out of those homers, but I got a bigger thrill three years ago out of watching my first World Series game on television than playing in it. The first television I ever saw was when Bobby Thomson hit that homer to beat Brooklyn for the 1951 pennant."

Later, in tiny Rock Hill, Rhodes was honored with a parade. As far as being celebrated in New York, he did get coupons for free dinners from two Chinese restaurants—an entire city's gratitude. Did he somehow feel overlooked, underappreciated? "It was a pretty short home run," he said.

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