Ruben Amaro, the
fancy-fielding 28-year-old infielder, began writing weekly letters to his
mother and father, who live in a pale-blue two-story house in Veracruz, Mexico.
The letters excited Amaro's father, Santos, a longtime baseball fan, as well as
his mother, Do�a Pepa. "Dear Papa and Mama," one began, "We have a
fine team. It is a moving team, very well adjusted. At the rate we are going,
with the favor of God we will win the pennant, and we all are sure that if we
win the National League pennant we also defeat any of the American League
contenders. There is nobody in both leagues capable of defeating our team, not
even the hated Yankees."
Santos Amaro would be up at 7 waiting for the local paper, Dictamen, to arrive.
Do�a Pepa's voice would sound anxiously from the bedroom, "What happened,
Amaro? They won or lost?" More often than not her husband would holler back
happily, "They won, old woman! They won!"
play?" she would ask. "Did he bat any hits?" When Santos said
"Yes," Do�a Pepa would dress herself and go down to the market and tell
everyone about Ruben, occasionally waving a bunch of celery in the air for
emphasis as she described Ruben's play. The Phillies became Veracruz' team. At
night Do�a Pepa would ask her husband, who had once managed the Aguilas of
Veracruz in the Mexican League, endless questions.
think the Phillies will win the pennant?" she often would ask.
"Be calm, old
girl," he'd answer. "In baseball anything can happen."
John Quinn was not being calm. He and Mauch had noticed that the other teams
were sending left-handers at the Phillies in bunches and that the Phils had
trouble hitting them. Early in August, Quinn completed a deal with the New York
Mets and acquired Frank Thomas, an excellent hitter against left-handers. Quinn
had hoped to make the trade as early as spring training, but injuries to Thomas
had twice aborted it. Thomas arrived at a time when the Phillies had lost 15 of
their last 22 games against left-handed pitchers, and he promptly went to work.
In his first 32 games with the Phils, Thomas batted in 26 runs and the club won
20 of them. The lead lengthened and Ruben Amaro began to dream dreams of the
World Series. He wrote to Veracruz: "Dear Papa and Mama, We are playing the
best baseball of both leagues and nothing will stop us now. I want you and Mama
and Teresa [Ruben's 8-year-old sister] to get ready to come to Philadelphia. I
will wire you the money for the tickets, but you better start
By September 7
the Phillies had drawn 1,224,172 people to surpass every existing Philadelphia
attendance record, but the next day they got a bad break, a very bad break.
Thomas, sliding into second base, jammed his right thumb and fractured it,
forcing himself out of the lineup. The good people of Philadelphia were
saddened, because Thomas, in only a month, had joined the long parade of
Phillie heroes. He was given a job as a disc jockey on station WFIL with
"Uncle Phil Sheridan," and each morning Thomas would get up at 5:45
a.m., go to the studio and play records and talk baseball—sort of. "Why
does it take longer to run from second to third than from first to second?"
he asked his listeners one morning. "Because there's a shortstop in
The day after
Thomas' injury Quinn began the search for another first baseman. The desired
one had to field well and hit right-handed. It seemed impossible to find such a
man, but Quinn did. He got Vic Power, the flashy Puerto Rican, from the Los
Angeles Angels. Power was at his home in Minneapolis taking a three-day rest
provided by a break in the Angels' schedule. When Quinn called him on the phone
and asked him when he could report to the club, Power said, "I can't join
you now. All my equipment is back in Los Angeles." Quinn told Power to come
on anyway, that equipment for him would be found, and Power stayed up most of
the night making connections to get to the ball club. He arrived at 10 o'clock
in the morning for an afternoon game, borrowed a pair of Dennis Bennett's shoes
and a glove and played. He got a hit and knocked in a run as the Phils beat the
Cardinals. "At first I didn't like moving over to the National League,"
says Power. "I'd been an American Leaguer all my life and wanted to stay
there. But I got to thinking that almost every other Puerto Rican player had
played in a World Series, and I said to myself, 'This is my chance,' and I was
glad." One of the first things that Power did in Philadelphia was to pick
up his player's option to buy World Series tickets; he bought $90 worth for his
family back in Minneapolis.
That defeat of
the Cardinals, the Phils' closest pursuers, seemed to be the one that made it
certain the World Series would open in Philadelphia. The Phils' lead had opened
to six games. Granted, there was still a 10-day, 10-game, 8,000-mile road trip
ahead: San Francisco to Houston and then back to Los Angeles. But things went
well in San Francisco, and the Phils won two out of three games. In Houston
they won the first two games of a three-game series. Before the third game
Mauch decided to go all out for a sweep of the series.
He went to
Bunning, who had pitched 10 complete innings just two days before, and asked
him if he felt he could pitch out of turn. Bunning said, "Yes."
Previously Bunning had beaten Houston four times without a loss, but this night
the Colt .45s hit him hard in the fifth inning, and the Phils lost 6-5. At his
home in Wilmington, Del., Publicity Director Larry Shenk of the Phils had heard
that Bunning was starting and, knowing how well Jim had done against Houston,
he clicked off the radio and went happily to bed. Shenk was stunned when he
heard the losing score the next morning. But the Phils still had a six-game