SI Vault
Leo Durocher
April 07, 1975
In 1934 the Gas House Gang came clawing out of St. Louis to seize a pennant and the World Series. Lending a fast glove and faster lip was a cocky shortstop
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 07, 1975

That Old Gang Of Mine

In 1934 the Gas House Gang came clawing out of St. Louis to seize a pennant and the World Series. Lending a fast glove and faster lip was a cocky shortstop

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Diz, who had been pitching down the stretch with only two days' rest, won the opener against Pittsburgh, and after Paul had got beaten in the next one, Frisch called a meeting to discuss the pitching rotation in the last four games. I can hear Diz as if he were in the clubhouse right now: "I'll pitch tomorrow, and if I get in trouble Paul will relieve me. And he'll pitch the next day, and if he gets in trouble, I'll relieve him. And I'll pitch the next day and Paul will pitch the day after that. Don't worry, we'll win four straight."

For once Diz was wrong. They only pitched in three of them.

With three games to go, Diz shut the Reds out to put us in a flat-footed tie with the Giants. The next day Paul Dean beat them 6-1, and Van Mungo of the Dodgers beat the Giants. We were a game ahead with one game to play. If we lost and the Giants won, baseball would have its first playoff. Because of the different time zones, we knew the Giants had lost again before our game started. Not that it mattered. With his opportunity to tie down the pennant and become a 30-game winner, there was no chance whatsoever that Dizzy Dean was going to lose. He pitched another shutout.

The World Series opened in Detroit and Diz was down to pitch the opening game with his usual two days' rest. On the day we arrived in town we walked into the ball park. The Tigers were taking batting practice. "Get the bats," Diz said. And he walked down to the field in his street clothes, picked out a bat and jumped into the cage in front of Hank Greenberg, the big gun for the Tigers. "I'll show you how to hit the ball, Moe," he said.

The "Moe" was just what you think it is, the casual anti-Semitism of the locker room. That was part of the era of the farm boy, too. What did it mean? Well, it meant what it meant. Depending on who said it and how you chose to take it. I was at a banquet with Joe DiMaggio the year he came back from a bad ankle injury and limped up to the plate at Fenway Park to bury the Red Sox. I was telling Joe that I didn't think the Yankees could possibly have won the pennant without him. "No," DiMaggio said, "the Little Dago is the only player the Yankees can't afford to lose. He's the one who holds the team together."

The Little Dago was Phil Rizzuto. The Big Dago was DiMaggio himself. That's what they were called in their own locker room, and you can see that they took it as a compliment.

There was never anything vicious about Diz, though. Greenberg just laughed at him. Diz hit a couple of pretty good drives, and then Greenberg stepped in and hit one a ton and a half. "That's the way to hit the ball, Moe," Dean said.

Outrageous but never vicious.

The final game is where the action was. Before we get there I have to tell you that after we had taken a 2-1 lead in games (Diz had won Game One and Paul had won Game Three) Frisch decided that he could afford to give Diz another day of rest. The result was that we got slaughtered 10-4, and Diz almost got killed when he put himself into the game as a pinch runner. It happened in the fourth inning while we were still in the ball game. As a matter of fact, I was on first base (I had reached on an error) when Spud Davis, a big slew-footed catcher, pinch-hit for the pitcher and lined a single to right. One run scored. I went to third with the tying run, and when I looked up, Diz, who fancied himself a great base runner, was pulling off his jacket and dashing onto the field to run for Davis. I assume that he put himself in because he had been doing it all year.

Let me ask you something. How many times have you seen a base runner hit by the relay from second base? I played shortstop for years, and whenever a man was coming in high on me I always aimed the ball right between the eyes. Never hit a man in my life because the reflex action is to duck.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14