Little League reaction to the embarrassment of being shut out by any facsimile
(if that's possible) of Whitey Ford is the rationalization "He was
lucky." Then you forget all about it as if it were an accident. To the
mature ballplayer and to the mature female baseball fan, good fortune is to be
courted, just as ill fortune is disparaged. (Talent alone may not win.)
fans had, as early as July, invoked natural and supernatural fantasies,
Oriental and Occidental gods, effectually spurring our pennant progress. Ofuda
blessed in a Shinto shrine at Kyoto, a real rabbit's foot from Kansas, a double
buckeye especially worthwhile to an Ohio cultist and a sackful of lucky
pennies...all had contributed favorably to our sense of destiny. On the eve of
the second game, at the very witching hour of midnight, a special-delivery
package arrived from Cincinnati containing an incense candle, partly consumed.
"In prayerful plea for one happy moment," said an accompanying note.
Sweet prescience. We lit the candle and slept peacefully.
that we'd ever score a run in the Series were dismissed in the fourth inning of
the second game when Gordy Coleman hooked a low fast ball into a crowd of
souvenir seekers beyond the right-field scoreboard. His home run came one pitch
after a necessary change in the rallying cry of the Red bench. At first, the
appeal had been: "Everybody go get the Corvette," (a prize offered to
the most valuable player in the Series). Such a materialistic, personal wish
proved ineffective and led to the new inspiration: "Forget the———Corvette,
everybody do his little bit."
themselves contributed, playing badly enough to give us four more runs. Joey
Jay, pitching like a 21-game winner from the National League (a superior major
league), was bothered only by Yogi Berra, a catcher who misplayed left field
for New York. Berra's home run tied the score in the fourth, causing a
desperate female fan to rise behind the Red dugout, crying, "I'll change
the name of my bird for that." (My wife's parakeet, for some forgotten
reason, is named Yogi.)
The crowd of 500
or so fans that greeted us that night in Cincinnati was less noisy, more
colorful (a festive Red) than the throng which celebrated the National League
pennant-clinching victory (a more rewarding achievement). Being native
Cincinnatians they could not get tickets for any Series game at Crosley Field
(about 500 seats were reserved for the out-of-town press). The fans threw a
little confetti, waved banners and pennants and reflected the poorly conceived
if nobly intentioned local headline: PEPPY REDS FULL OF CONFIDENCE. Awash in
platitudes, we rested one day, awaiting the Yankees.
home of the Reds, is somewhat larger than the banquet room in the Netherland
Hilton Hotel, but a bit smaller than Union Terminal, where the Yankees
detrained on October 6. The park was drawn by an architect using a sumi brush
attached to a fungo bat, and is dedicated to the principle that a pop fly is as
deserving of a tape measurement as a well-hit line drive. Pitching at Crosley
Field requires excellent talent or a masochist's philosophy, depending upon
one's relative success. A pitcher may just as well try to make perfect pitches
all the time. Why waste anything? The slightest mistake is often fatally
Bob Purkey wasted
nothing for six innings of the third game, making just 46 pitches to get the
first 18 outs (average effectiveness: 75 pitches). Amazed and grateful,
Cincinnati Red batters applauded Purkey after each inning and promised to get
him some runs, because "That guy ain't got a thing out there, and besides,
we know what's coming."
you hit him, then?" asked Purkey, sweating. "He's already hung 13 curve
"We will, we
will," they said—and they amassed two runs in seven innings.
With two out in
the eighth, Purkey made his first mistake, and Blanchard hit it into the
bleachers to tie the score. In the ninth he made another one, and Maris hit it
farther. That was the ball game and, as it turned out, the turning point of the
Series. Never again did the Yankees trail.