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This one must have been invented for people who had never been to the Twilight Zone. All morning menacing clouds hung over Tiger Stadium, and more than an hour before gametime heavy rains started, keeping some people pent up in their automobiles in the $8 parking lots nearby while others hung papers over their heads, lifted umbrellas and marched into the 57-year-old ball park to gather in restless clumps under the stands. Tiger fans realized that, with their team down two games to one, Denny McLain would have to be at his very best because the man he was facing, Bob Gibson, is the finest pressure pitcher in baseball today. But the second Gibson-McLain duel turned out to be another mismatch.
McLain had a sore arm, something suspected for several weeks, and as soon as the game began the Cardinals jumped all over him. Lou Brock may not be The Man for All Seasons, nor even for one full season, but he is certainly the man for autumn. Brock drove McLain's second pitch into the upper deck in right-center field, some 465 feet away, and the St. Louis bench decided that Denny was Silly Putty.
Then McLain himself failed to hold a throw at first base on a tough-hop bouncer by Roger Maris, who went on to score on successive singles by Tim McCarver and Mike Shannon. Two runs for Bob Gibson seem like six for almost anybody else. Through most of this year the Cardinals had not scored for him, a fact that bothered them almost as much as it did him. Although he won 22 games and lost only nine, during those nine losses his team scored a mere 12 runs. Once, needling the Cardinals, he said, "I might just as well go out there alone, because you guys make me feel that way anyway."
But now St. Louis got Gibson two more runs in the top of the third when Curt Flood singled, McCarver hit a ball into the gap in left center and Willie Horton, the Tiger leftfielder, played it off the wall like a bear handling a ginger snap. Shannon doubled, and everything was over except for the business of the rain. It was still driving straight down, and Tiger fans in the centerfield bleachers, hoping for a postponement, began to chant, "Rain, rain, rain." The umpires, confirmed by baseball Commissioner William Eckert, halted the game with the Cardinals still threatening. The tarp went down over the infield, and everybody settled down to wait. The Tigers, equipped with a weather forecast predicting that a heavy rainstorm was on its way, hoped the wait would be till Monday. The Cardinals, with Gibson in front 4-0, were looking for a legal (five-inning) conclusion. After a holdup of one hour and 14 minutes, the teams came back on the field and prepared to resume play.
During the delay McLain asked not to pitch again—he could not raise his arm above his head. Gibson, who had not looked at all like himself during the first two innings, walked down to the bullpen to warm up for a second time. He threw only a few pitches, most of them of the sort a 40-year-old man would throw to his son. Then, knowing that within three minutes he had to be in the on-deck circle as a hitter, he said to John Edwards, the catcher warming him up: "John, here they come." Edwards said later: "He threw five pitches and all of them were fastballs. They burned the hell out of my hand."
In the fourth inning St. Louis got two more runs, including a homer by Gibson. Now the St. Louis dugout wanted outs in a hurry before the game was washed away. But Orlando Cepeda was walked. The angry Cardinals signaled him to try—but not very hard—to steal second. He was caught, and St. Louis was out of the inning.
Detroit struggled in its half of the fourth to stay the execution. Horton spent five minutes at the plate, backing out, backing in, finding mud in his spikes, visiting the dugout, losing the tar rag. Gibson struck him out.
If Detroit Manager Mayo Smith was using every legal device to slow down the game (and correctly so), Manager Red Schoendienst (with as much justice) was using every imaginable stratagem to speed it up. But once the Tigers were out in the fifth inning the intent switched—for 150 Cardinal fans seated behind the first-base dugout it was their turn to holler, "Rain, rain, rain." The rain came and went, but the game went on. The final score was 10-1, and Brock, Gibson and a tremendous Cardinal hitting attack, plus four counted Tiger errors, had put Detroit in a desperate position.
After four basically lopsided games the Tigers and Cardinals finally played one that had the kind of hitting, fielding and excitement everyone had expected before this Series began. The city of Detroit had seemed embarrassed by the play of the Tigers in their home park; it had a right to be. In this game, though, Detroit flashed the come-from-behind magic that had landed the team in the Series originally. By winning 5-3 it forced the action back to St. Louis.