The fifth game of the 1954 World Series was played here last Friday, despite the determined efforts of everyone concerned to pass it off as another spring training game. Technically, factually, literally, it was just another spring training game, the first of 18 such exhibitions that the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians will play against each other before the major league pennant races get under way officially in April.
Yet, unlike the second spring training game (which the Indians won 4-3) or the third (also the Indians, 13-6) or any of the succeeding 15, this first game of the year between the Indians and the Giants was in everyone's mind an extension of the remarkable World Series of 1954 when the heavily favored but bumbling Indians were crushed four straight times by the alert, aggressive Giants. It is not easy to forget the sweetest of victories or the bitterest of defeats, and no one—Giant, Indian, baseball writer or fan—forgot the Series for an instant. The parallels were ever before you. This was the fifth game of the World Series.
For instance, there was ceremony. Before the game, the city of Phoenix formally welcomed the Giants, with whom the city of Phoenix is in love. A parade of 21 glistening convertibles, separated at intervals by gaily costumed high school bands, carried the Giants, two by two, down Central Avenue, the main street of Phoenix, through the heart of town and out south to the ball park, which is a mile or two from the center of this sprawling, ever-growing city. Phoenicians—winter visitors and local citizens alike—lined Central Avenue as the cavalcade passed slowly by. Applause greeted each car. Particular heroes were, to no one's great surprise, Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes. Manager Leo Durocher rode at the head of the parade with Mayor Frank Murphy of Phoenix. Chris Durocher, Leo's blond, freckle-faced, 8-year-old son, turned down a ride with his father and the mayor to sit between Willie Mays and Monte Irvin. ("What's this?" Leo barked in mock anger. "What's this!")
It was an intimate, friendly, almost casual parade. As it passed the Hotel Adams in the very center of the city, Mays threw a rubber ball up to a friend watching from a balcony; rookie Infielder Foster Castleman asked his wife with words and pantomime if she had his western tie. (She did and held it up for him to see.)
At the ball park, the Giants (not the Indians—who train at rival Tucson and thus are not loved by Phoenix) lined up along the foul lines and listened to adulation from the mayor and others, and received individual gifts, (a monogrammed leather toilet kit) from the local merchants' association. The Star-Spangled Banner was played, and the Giants raced out on the field to the applause of the 6,263 fans who overflowed the grandstand and bleachers of small, well-kept Municipal Stadium. The sunny day was warm (75�), the grass was green, the fans were ready. Jim Hearn took the mound for the Giants. Eddie Joost stepped into the batter's box for the Indians. Everyone waited for the first pitch.
It was not a game to be long remembered. Before it was over, immortal feet had turned to clay, and the action on the field occasionally resembled the comic pantomimes of Nick Altrock and Al Schacht (see page SO). The Indians' Vic Wertz took a throw in the pit of his stomach instead of his glove. A sharply hit ground ball went through both Alvin Dark at shortstop and Willie Mays in center field. And finally, Dusty Rhodes himself, stepping up to pinch-hit with the bases loaded, grounded into a double play.
Yet, if it is considerately remembered that this was only March, the very beginning of the exhibition season, the resemblance of this game to the 1954 World Series was remarkable. The Giants won, and won handily 8-3, to run their string of victories over the Indians to five (or six, if you care to include the last game of the 1954 training season). The Giant pitching was a little better, the Giant hitting more timely, the Giant base running more daring. The Giants were alive and alert and seemed eager to play. The Indians were quiet and methodical and were losing, and they seemed used to it.
A SURPRISE IN THE STOMACH
The first inning was the ball game. Hearn was behind to the first four batters, and almost at once there were two men on base and only one out with Rosen, Kiner and Wertz, the Indians' sluggers, coming up. But, as in the World Series, the Indians' sluggers did not deliver. Rosen took a called third strike and Kiner lofted a high fly to left center which Mays took belly-high for the third out.