Well, it could have happened to anyone, especially after the strain of winning seven in a row. But no one would blame Van Fletcher, the rookie who pitched the ninth, if he were to ask, "But why did it happen to me?"
It was a crazy Sunday anyway, one of those lush spring days when baseball runs slightly amok. In Cleveland the 36-year-old Bobby Feller pitched a brilliant one-hit shutout in the first game of a double-header against the Boston Red Sox. Twenty-one-year-old Herb Score, called the "new Feller" by Cleveland press-agentry, followed Bob in the second game and struck out 16 men, only two off Feller's 17-year-old record. Who can remember another double-header with two such remarkable pitching performances?
In New York, John Antonelli, who needs only adversity to demonstrate how fine a pitcher he has become, threw a six-hit 16-inning game against the Redlegs, who had been stunned once already that day in a mild train wreck near Thorndale, Pa., as they were making their way from Pittsburgh to New York.
NO BALL FOUR
The Giants won for Antonelli in the last of the 16th when a long fly off the outfield wall scored the winning run from third. How the winning run got to third fits the pattern of the day: Whitey Lockman was on second base with one out when the Redlegs, the snug new catcher's box notwithstanding, decided to walk Don Mueller intentionally. But on the fourth pitch Mueller reached out and smacked the ball into left field for a base hit that surprised Lockman almost as much as it did the Redlegs. Nevertheless, Whitey got to third and that was far enough for the winning run to score on almost anything.
In Kansas City 23,000 fans, still glowing over Bobby Shantz' wonderful shutout of the Yankees earlier in the week, sat patiently through a frightful three-hour, 26-run game between the Athletics and the Washington Senators but went home happy because the Athletics came from 5-0, 9-5 and 10-7 deficits to win out 16-10 and move up into fifth place in the American League.
In Los Angeles, in the Pacific Coast League, fiery Bobby Bragan, manager of the Hollywood Stars, got mad at the umpiring, protested the game and, in a fit of spite, sent eight men to bat, one after the other, for the same man in the ninth inning. They replaced each other after one pitch. The last man grounded out. The Stars lost both ends of a double-header. Bragan stayed mad.
Crazy Sunday, all right.