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IN THE LAND OF THE GIANTS
Leo Durocher
April 21, 1975
Durocher bears witness to miracles at Coogan's Bluff: Bobby Thomson, Willie Mays, Dusty Rhodes
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April 21, 1975

In The Land Of The Giants

Durocher bears witness to miracles at Coogan's Bluff: Bobby Thomson, Willie Mays, Dusty Rhodes

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He thought he was the greatest hitter in the whole world and for that one year I never saw a better one. The best pinch hitter, no contest, I ever looked at. In only 164 times at bat, he hit 15 home runs and had 50 RBIs. And batted .341. But he wasn't the best fielder who ever played. Any time you see a fielder get under a ball and pound his glove—even in the Little League—you know he's going to catch it. I have seen Rhodes pound his glove and have the ball fall 20 feet behind him. I have seen balls drop into his glove and fall right out again. Didn't bother Dusty one bit. He'd come running in at the end of the inning with a big grin on his face. "Better get me out of theah, Skip. Ah'm going to get kilt. You know I can't ketch the ball."

Training rules? They were forgotten where Rhodes was concerned. If I asked him what time he got in, and he had got in at four o'clock, he'd tell me four o'clock. And he was always the first one dressed and ready to play.

Rhodes was the kind of man who kept a club confident and happy. Between Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes there was nothing but laughter in our clubhouse all through the season. Pressure? They spat at it.

One day, Brooklyn had me beaten by a run, the bases were loaded and there were two out. It was the 13th inning and Billy Loes was the Dodger pitcher. I looked down the dugout and there was Rhodes, pumping a bat. As always, his hat was cocked at a rakish angle. "Ah'm your man," he said. He was. Won it with a hit up the middle.

Naturally, I felt that Dusty deserved some kind of token reward. The Giants kept a plentiful supply of liquor in my office for the newspapermen. Also on hand was the world's biggest Dixie cup, which had been kicking around the office for weeks. I filled it almost to the top with straight bourbon, the only drink Dusty had any use for, dropped in a piece of ice and added just enough Coke to color it.

Dusty turned away in disgust. "Soft drink," he said, appalled. "It'll poison ye...poison ye.... Ruin a man's stomach."

I signaled my coaches to keep after him, though, and just as he was turning into the shower room, he apparently took a sip, because suddenly he came leaping back into the clubhouse, holding the Dixie cup aloft and screaming, "The greatest Coke ever m-a-a-a-a-de!"

After he had spread-eagled the regular season, he took the World Series, beat it over the head and carried it home to hang in his trophy room. In the opening game against Cleveland I sent him up for Monte Irvin in the 10th inning with the score tied 2-2 and runners on first and second. Bob Lemon's first pitch was a slow curve. Dusty didn't exactly strike a mighty blow. He hit a lazy fly ball down the right-field line, which at the Polo Grounds was 258 feet, the shortest fence in baseball. The ball kept drifting back, the Cleveland rightfielder leaped and the ball barely dropped into the stands. Dusty Rhodes had a home run and three RBIs to show for his five seconds at the plate, and we had our first victory.

A Chinese home run? What are you talking about? A Chinese home run is a pop fly hit by the other team.

After the game I got so sick of hearing the Cleveland writers moan about what a tough game it had been for Lemon to lose on a cheapie like that that I finally hollered, "What are you taking it out on Dusty for? They didn't move the fence in when he came up to hit. Why didn't one of your guys hit it over?"

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