SI Vault
William Leggett
August 31, 1964
Three weeks ago the Yankees were leading the American League and, as Yogi Berra put it, the Orioles and White Sox would 'have to come and get us.' They did, but good, and pushed New York into third place. Now Baltimore and Chicago are going at it ferociously in their last clashes of the season
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August 31, 1964

They Went And Got 'em

Three weeks ago the Yankees were leading the American League and, as Yogi Berra put it, the Orioles and White Sox would 'have to come and get us.' They did, but good, and pushed New York into third place. Now Baltimore and Chicago are going at it ferociously in their last clashes of the season

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When the Yankees started to rally in the eighth Al Lopez called Hoyt Wilhelm from the bullpen. As Wilhelm approaches the mound in Chicago, the stadium organist plays the theme from Medic. This year Wilhelm has saved 17 games for the Sox and won six others. He promptly set down five Yankees in a row to end the game. Wilhelm and Eddie Fisher (the organist plays The Most Beautiful Girl in the World when Fisher comes in) give the White Sox two excellent knuckle-ball relievers. Wilhelm tucks his head into his left shoulder when he works, because he has a lazy muscle in his right eye and when he holds his head straight he sees double. "I could wear glasses and see all right." he says, "but I don't want to use glasses when I'm pitching."

After the Yankees lost the final game in Chicago, the now-famous harmonica incident occurred on the bus taking them to the airport for a chartered flight to Boston. Phil Linz, the reserve infielder who has established himself as the Yankee clubhouse wit, took out a harmonica and played a few notes of Mary Had a Little Lamb. Berra shouted at Linz, "Stuff that harmonica," but Linz played a few more notes, and Berra came down the aisle of the bus, enraged. Linz flipped the harmonica into the air, and Berra slapped it down. "What are you getting on me for?" asked Linz. "I give 100% all the time." Unmollified, Berra shouted. "You'd think you had just won the series instead of losing it." Frank Crosetti, the third-base coach, started to yell at Linz. and Linz told Crosetti to mind his own business. Phil Linz does not know how to play the harmonica. He went out one day in Chicago and bought it, and Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer bought harmonicas, too. This was one of the more eventful bus rides in Yankee history, but it cost Phil Linz a $200 fine, and Berra kept him out of the Yankee starting lineup for four straight games.

(Another bus ride may have had a marked effect on the pennant race. On the night of May 14 a busload of Orioles pulled out of Washington after a 4-1 loss to the Senators. The defeat put the Orioles into fourth place at the time, a game out of the league lead. Hank Bauer heard some singing and laughter in the back of the bus, and he let his team have it. "Losers don't sing as long as I'm around," said Bauer, and then he said a few other—stronger—things. The Orioles won 17 of their next 23 games.)

Baltimore has been winning games all season that it probably should have lost: 14 of the team's first 77 victories were achieved in its last time at bat, and it has won an amazing 29 of 39 one-run decisions. Once considered the playboys of the western world, the Orioles are now the idols of the Eastern Shore, and Bauer deserves a great deal of the credit. He has handled his pitchers especially well, somehow keeping their confidence while taking them out quickly when they get into trouble. "A couple of times early this year," he says, "I let myself get talked into going along with a guy, but before I got my foot back on the top step of the dugout I heard the awful sound of a hit. That stopped that." Bauer dashes to the runway between innings for a smoke to settle his nerves, but he has gambled effectively time and time again to win tight games. "I know," he says, "I have a face like a clenched fist, but that's not all there is to managing. These guys believe they can win, and I think they can."

The Oriole management wanted Yogi Berra to be its manager this year, but Berra refused. Eddie Stanky was then asked, but he said no also, and Bauer, who had been a coach last year under Billy Hitchcock, was next in line. Bauer knew if he could get a good, full year from Third Baseman Brooks Robinson and a good year from Second Baseman Jerry Adair to go with good pitching. Baltimore could be a contender. Adair's batting average is up 30 points over 1963, but Robinson and the recently injured Boog Powell have been the key hitters. This year Robinson has special incentive for a better second half of the season than last year's, when he hit only .219 after the All-Star break. In July he read a story that quoted Berra as saying the Orioles would slip if Robinson tailed off the way he had so often in the past. Robinson says, "I read that story three or four times, and it didn't make me violent or anything, but I just keep remembering it." He was the hitting star of the first part of the round robin, driving in 19 of the 58 runs that the Orioles scored.

If the race comes down to Baltimore and Chicago after this week's series, every game will still be important to both teams as they meet the rest of the league. Baltimore must get Powell back into the lineup as quickly as possible or suffer against right-handed pitching. Without Powell, Robinson and rookie Sam Bowens will have a hefty offensive load to carry. The Orioles have a fine bullpen, but the starters are not overpowering; the White Sox have a fine bullpen, and the starters are overpowering. Chicago may not hit in the clutch very often, but it has the best pitching staff in the league.

The man who probably will play a decisive role in the final weeks of the season is Gary Peters, the 27-year-old White Sox left-hander. Peters is an excellent hitter on a pitching staff of good hitters. Lopez uses him and Juan Pizarro as pinch hitters regularly. Peters does everything to help the White Sox. He warms up the batting-practice pitchers, he catches the balls for the coaches hitting grounders to the infielders, and one night he stunned an attendant by scrubbing up the sinks in the clubhouse after a game. Peters got to the major leagues late, some say because he was more interested in making boomerangs than pitching, but he was Rookie of the Year last season and he was 14-3 from the middle of July to the end of the year.

Failure to hit with men on base still plagues Chicago, though Pete Ward and Floyd Robinson, at least, have begun to connect when it counts. If Moose Skowron also begins to demonstrate why he was acquired from Washington—namely, to worry left-handed pitching—then the White Sox will be in contention all the way.

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