"The hell with Cincinnati," Franks said. "I don't worry about them. Why not worry about the Phillies? Where are they? Well, what's five and a half games, with 40 to go?"
Somebody asked what plans Franks had for Warren Spahn, who had been warming up when Linzy threw the home run ball to Parker. "I'm not worried about Spahn," Franks snarled. "What do you want to ask questions like that? If I'd wanted him to pitch to Parker, I'd have brought him in, wouldn't I?"
Among other things Franks wasn't worrying about was the soft earth the groundkeepers deposited near home plate before the Friday night game. But Maury Wills was very much concerned about it and during batting practice found a board and began scraping away the soft dirt. Later he called it to the attention of the umpires. "I'm out to win," said Wills, whose base-running potential is reduced if base paths are not firm and hard, "and I can't blame anyone for doing what they can to win. But I don't believe this should be allowed. This stuff looks like it contains peat moss."
If Candlestick's infield is too soft, it is a common complaint around the league that Dodger Stadium's is too hard. "Sure, our infield is hard," Wills said, "but I don't want it that way. It's too hard. If I could run on an infield like this [ Candlestick Park], I could probably play a year or two longer. Anyway, I wouldn't have this."
"This" was an extra thickness around his right shin, a padding to protect the "strawberry" bruises he had incurred sliding and which had ultimately hemorrhaged internally. The condition gave Wills pause (he went nine days without stealing a base), but it didn't stop him. Theft No. 80 came in the Dodgers' 124th game. In 1962, when he stole his record 104, he didn't reach 80 until game No. 142.
This year's No. 80 set off a sequence that was—unlike the Marichal hassle—a model of the tight, clean baseball you like to see in a pennant race. After Wills zipped into second with one out, Alston took out John Kennedy, a .185 hitter who had a one-strike count, and sent up Don LeJohn, a come-lately .309 hitter. Manager Franks conferred with Pitcher Bill Henry, who held Wills close to second as he struck out LeJohn. On the second pitch to the next batter, Wills had third base stolen but the pitch was fouled off. Then the batter. Willie Davis, lined out to Mays.
Johnny Podres then went in to pitch for the Dodgers. It appeared that Alston, by using a starter in relief, was going all-out, but Podres is almost 33, his arm has been reconditioned surgically, and he isn't a regular starter any more. "I'd like to think he can help us," Alston said, "but he hasn't been able to lately."
The first man Podres pitched to was Mays, and the out was a screamer to Wills. Podres went on to retire all six men he faced in his two innings, finishing by striking out Len Gabrielson and Jesus Alou with big league fast balls. Parker hit his homer, and Podres was the winner. Then came Sunday and Marichal and the bat.
If Mays was the most valuable (as well as the most sensible) player of the big series, the public speaking prize for the weekend went to a cop, one of those who ringed the field and clustered at both dugouts after peace broke out. He was sitting on a camp chair outside the dressing room as the grim Dodgers filed in. Some people have to say something, simply because it's quiet, and now it was very quiet. "Don't forget, fellows," the cop said, "'it's only a game."
Nobody hit him with a bat.