They also evened matters on the subject of third-string catchers. Johnny Edwards had left the game the night before when the season-long pounding of fast balls finally took its toll. He could barely get his mitt off. Thursday he asked for novocain or codeine to ease the pain so that he could catch, but after checking with the team physician Sisler said no. Edwards' replacement Wednesday had been Don Pavletich, who struck out four times; on Thursday Sisler, admittedly in desperation, settled on Jim Coker instead. Coker, who had come up from the minors on August 23, drove in, scored or contributed to four Cincinnati runs as they won 5-4.
In the clubhouse the Reds started a "Let's go Mets" chant that would do justice to any of the New Breed, and somehow the exhortation must have carried across two states. The next night, in St. Louis, the Mets came through, 1-0.
While this was going on the Reds were playing the team that had suddenly become the easiest touch in the National League. The Phils had not won since Cincy's Chico Ruiz stole home to beat them 1-0, on September 21, and now Cincinnati went into a quick 3-0 lead. But in the seventh inning one of Chris Short's pitches hit Cincy's Leo Cardenas, and the game—and the season—turned upside down again.
Cardenas, thinking that Short had thrown at him intentionally, moved menacingly, bat in hand, toward the Philadelphia pitcher. Phillie Catcher Clay Dalrymple moved in front of Cardenas and players from both teams came running. Cardenas finally was calmed down, but Phillie Coach Bob Oldis growled: "He'll let you know if he's going to throw at you." and that upset Cardenas anew. When order finally was restored, Ed Roebuck came in in relief of Short and threw one pitch for a double play.
Cardenas went out to shortstop. He should have forgotten all about the flare-up, but the Reds don't think he did. The first thing Sisler said after the game was: "It all started when Cardenas was hit. I think he took it out to his position with him."
With one out in the Phillies' eighth, Frank Thomas blooped a miserable little pinch-hit pop fly over second base, not even onto the outfield grass. Cardenas and Second Baseman Rose went for the ball, and though Cardenas seemed to have the better chance for it he slowed down. Rose, looking up for an instant to check on Cardenas, could not hold onto the ball. Then Jim O'Toole, who had been pitching well, caved in. Bill Mc-Cool, in relief, was no help. The Phils scored four quick runs to make it 4-3, the final score.
Dick Sisler sat down at his office desk and began the awful review of what had happened. Suddenly loud, angry voices were heard from the locker room. Sisler hurried out, returned in a few minutes and tried to dismiss the incident. "It was just something minor," he said, "something that happens to all baseball teams. We're all hot. We're all sore at losing this thing." The players later parroted this story, but it was not so easy for Leo Cardenas. His eyes were red when he denied that he had been involved in the locker room fight.
The next day, Saturday, in the bright morning sun, the Reds had an off-day workout. Leo Cardenas moved among his teammates, but not with them. He sat in the shade of the dugout, staring and mute, until his turn came to hit. Pete Rose tried to pick him up. "O.K.," Rose said, "hit and run. Man on first. Go to right." Cardenas went through the motions and then he went back and sat by himself in the dugout again. It was not a very happy day for the Reds—until the score from St. Louis came in.
The game Sunday started after Miss Cindy Grogg sang the National Anthem, and that was the last brave note sung by a Cincinnatian all day. There was no sign of dissension traceable to Friday night's clubhouse brawl, but the Reds hardly looked like pennant winners from the first pitch. At 2:14 Central Daylight Time, Wes Covington cracked a one-for-17 slump with a single to right that brought home two runs, and the game was decided. Six innings and six more Cincinnati pitchers later, it was all over. Philadelphia won 10-0.
By the time the Cincinnati game finished, St. Louis had an 8-4 lead and the Reds were barely interested in the clubhouse radio. When word came in that St. Louis led 11-4, Sisler made himself a ham on rye and talked about the winter ahead.