Artistically, this may not be one of the sublime seasons in baseball history, but from an entertainment standpoint, it's boffo, particularly the comedy turns. The high—or low—point so far, which should be nominated for an Emmy, came last week in Yankee Stadium.
As the show opens we see Jim Mason of the Yankees leading off second, Mickey Rivers off first, Roy White batting. There is one out. White hits a medium-velocity line drive to center field that should be a routine out for Detroit Tiger Centerfielder Ron LeFlore. At this point the comics take over. Mason doesn't wait to see whether or not the ball will be caught but runs blithely toward third. Coach Dick Howser waves frantically at him to stop and go back—but then LeFlore drops the fly. Howser, changing signals, waves Mason on. The thoroughly confused Mason, already around third, falls, gets up and labors on toward home plate. In the outfield Le-Flore picks up the bobbled ball and throws home to Catcher John Wockenfuss, who tags Mason for the second out of the inning.
Now Wockenfuss (comedians love funny names), apparently thinking the tag on Mason was the third out, slowly rolls the ball out toward the mound, as catchers do at the end of an inning. Detroit Pitcher Bill Laxton gasps and leaps toward the rolling ball as Rivers, a straight man in the act who has reached third base by this time, keeps on running and comes in to score. The frustrated Laxton, unable to get Rivers, realizes that White is on his way to third and throws in that direction. Naturally, the ball sails past the third baseman and White scores, too, with what turns out to be the winning run. There are no more Yankee base runners, and several Tigers are able to surround the ball and subdue it. Fade-out. Break for a commercial.
The score-book account of White's progress around the bases on what should have been a fly out is a classic of its type: reached first on the centerfielder's error, went to second on the throw-in, went to third on the catcher's error, scored on the pitcher's error. All on the same play. White wasn't quite sure what had happened until the inning was over and he saw a taped replay of the incident on the huge new Yankee Stadium scoreboard. The crowd of 14,575 dissolved in laughter during the replay. I tell you, Roone, it's a cinch for an Emmy.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
Report from The Department of What Are They Doing Now That We Don't Hear So Much About Them Anymore:
Bill Riordan, who used to be in the headlines all the time when he ran professional tennis because he managed Jimmy Connors, now manages a 17-year-old star named Ty Page. A tennis player? No, no, no. Ty Page is a rising star of skateboarding, and that means Bill Riordan must be running skateboarding now. Just in case you're interested.
In 1970 Ewing Kauffman, the imaginative owner of the Kansas City Royals, founded a baseball "academy" for talented young athletes who were not primarily baseball players (SI, Jan. 4, 1971), the idea being that with expert tutelage, constant attention and a great deal of effort, some of these gifted youngsters could be developed into major-leaguers. All told, the Royals staged nearly 500 tryouts at different sites around the country, looked at more than 30,000 kids and sent about 130 of them to the academy in Sarasota, Fla. There the players were clothed, housed and fed, lived a monastic existence (lights out at 10:30), did some classroom work and underwent intensive daily coaching in baseball.