But all, dear friends, is not lost. The baseball parks of the nation still shelter and nurture vulgarity against the return of better days. It may be a sort of hothouse variety, limited, licensed and proof against social disapproval. ( Mrs. Post herself could boo at Ebbets Field if she chose the correct moment, and Amy Vanderbilt could get away with the owl's love cry, or Bronx cheer.) Nevertheless it lives on?as was hearteningly demonstrated at the Polo Grounds in New York in the fifth inning of the second game of the 1954 World Series last week.
A great deal of credit for the dramatic qualities of the fateful fifth must be given, at the outset, to Cleveland's Pitcher Early (Gus) Wynn, a man constructed by nature in the mold of the villain and one whom the 49,099 Giant fans in the big stadium loved to hate from the moment he stepped to the mound. Wynn is a black-haired, black-browed man with a back as broad as a beer wagon. He stares at batters with the same churlishness and contempt as Simon Legree exhibited when facing poor old Uncle Tom in 19th Century productions of The Cabin of You Know Who. By the fifth he could have stalked out of the dugout in black boots, flowing mustachios and bull whip, and no soul in the great assemblage would have noticed the change? Cleveland led, 1 to 0, and not a Giant had gotten to first base.
But in the fifth awful things began to happen to him. He walked Willie Mays. Thompson lined a single to right, sending Mays to third. Then, while the crowd rumbled with undisguised glee and defiance, Leo Durocher sent his peerless pinch hitter, James (Dusty) Rhodes to the plate to bat for Outfielder Monty Irvin. It was a genuinely lovely moment. Wynn, goaded to new ferocity by the ruination of his no-hitter, glared as horribly at his foe as if he proposed to cook and eat him for dinner. Rhodes responded, with consummate effrontery, by carefully crowding the plate.
Something had to give. Rhodes did, for Wynn quickly proved himself a man dedicated to the true spirit of American baseball. To put it delicately, he brushed the batter back with a close one. To put it specifically, he threw his fast ball at a point precisely between the batter's eyes and failed in cleanly decapitating him only by virtue of the victim's almost inhuman agility.
Was the crowd disturbed? Indeed not. It simply expelled one, enormous "o-o-o-o-h" of admiration at the logic and beauty of the thing, and betrayed no hint of dismay at all until it discovered that its hero was obviously a shaken man as he rose numbly from the dirt. It sat silent as Rhodes waved limply at the next pitch and missed. But then it emitted such a howl of joy and gloating as must have echoed through the Colosseum when the lions were in good fettle and the captive virgins slow of foot. For Dusty had done it again?hit a blooper to the outfield, sent Mays home for the tying run, set up the Giants' victory and perhaps, as things turned out, even their Series sweep.
It was a sound rich with spontaneous, unsportsmanlike jeering and the howl of partisan delight?simple, direct, sweetly vulgar, and aimed without repression at the burly, discomfited tyrant on the mound. In the Cleveland dressing room, when the day was done, it was impossible not to feel genuinely sorry for Early Wynn as he sat slumped on a bench, a paper cup of beer in one hand, staring in awful silence at the wall. But no such delicacy of feeling filtered out into the park where knots of the more rabid Giant fans waited in the hope of booing the enemy once again.
Among those who leaned over the wall above the entrance to the Cleveland dressing room was a patient young lady from Spanish Harlem, done up in Sunday finery, be-carmined with lipstick and fashionably ajangle with beads and earrings. "Why," called a tired guard, craning upwards, "don't you just go home, lady? Game's over. Nothing's gonna happen now."
"I want," she cried, with a flash of pearly teeth, "to see that Early Wynn."
" Wynn ain't coming out for a long time," said the guard. "Go on home."
"I'll wait," she answered with a peal of chilling female laughter. "Wanna see if that Early Wynn's still sweatin' from what Dusty done to 'im."