"He makes the club," everybody on the Mets was saying.
Marvin Throneberry, the fast-running first baseman, has had his share of travail this year, too. In fact, anytime you meet some oldtimer 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.
Take the doubleheader against the Cubs at the Polo Grounds early in the season. In the first inning of the first game Don Landrum of Chicago was caught in a rundown between first and second. Rundowns are not Throneberry's strong point. In the middle of the posse of Mets chasing the Cub, Throneberry found himself face to face with Landrum. The only trouble was Marvin did not have the ball. During a rundown the cardinal rule is to get out of the way if you do not have the ball. If you stand around, the runner will deliberately bang into you, claim interference and the umpire will give it to him.
Which is exactly what happened to Marv. Landrum jumped into his arms and the umpire waved him safely to first. Instead of an out, the Mets now had to contend with a runner on base—and that opened the gates for a four-run Chicago rally.
Marv had a big chance to make good when the Mets came to bat. With two runners on, Marv drove a long shot to the bullpen in right center field. It looked to be a sure triple. Marv flew past first. Well past it. He didn't come within two steps of touching the bag. Then he raced toward second and careened toward third. While all this violent motion was taking place, Ernie Banks, the Cubs' first baseman, casually strolled over to Umpire Dusty Boggess.
"Didn't touch the bag, you know, Dusty," Banks said. Boggess nodded. Banks then called for the ball. The relay came and he stepped on first base. Across the infield Throneberry was standing on third. He was taking a deep breath and was proudly hitching up his belt when he saw the umpire calling him out at first.
It was suggested to Throneberry on a recent evening that his troubles, and those of the entire Mets team, come from unfamiliarity. A year of playing together might help the team considerably, Throneberry was told. Marv took this under consideration.
"I don't know about that," he allowed. "They's teams been established for 30, 40 years and they's still in last place."
Marv has been rankled only once all year. It involved Ed Bouchee, whom Stengel put on first for a couple of games. In San Francisco, Roger Craig, who has a fine pickoff motion for a right-hander, fired to first and had Orlando Cepeda of the Giants clearly nailed. But Bouchee dropped the throw. Two wind-ups later, Craig again fired to first. He had Cepeda off the bag, with all his weight leaning toward second. It was an easy pickoff. The ball again bounced out of Bouchee's glove.