It is only right to give the devil his due, and while that may be too strong a term even for Dodger fans, it is wrong to wait any longer to allow them their proper and deserved gloat. The Giants are through.
The truth is, they've been through for well over a month now, but you know how Giant fans are. You remember 1951 and 1954. They were glorious years for the Giants, years that filled their followers forever with wild and unreasonable optimism, even in times of suffering.
To the Giant fan there has never been a better ball team than the Giants who won the World Series last fall, and not just because of Dusty Rhodes and Willie Mays. What comes to mind is the driving, relentless game played by Henry Thompson at third base, the brilliance with which Alvin Dark ran bases, the calm, almost arrogant way Johnny Antonelli pitched.
The Giants were a wonderful team last fall, sharp and decisive and knowing. And they were the same way early this spring. There was a day in March in Phoenix, before the exhibition season began, when Leo Durocher got his infield—Thompson, Dark, Williams, Lockman—out for a fielding drill. It was a routine drill with the players betting cokes on the errors but, as so often happens with Leo Durocher, things suddenly caught fire.
Six or seven hundred people were watching from the grandstand. It might be that Leo felt the desire to show off before a crowd. Perhaps it was simple pride. At any rate when the time came to bring the ball in—the windup of the drill when each infielder in turn takes five grounders in succession, moving in closer to the plate for each one, throwing the ball each time in to the catcher and running off the field as he finishes—Durocher lit the spark.
"All right," he barked in a voice that carried into the stands. "Let's bring it in. And any miss this time means a coke for me."
Lockman picked up the challenge.
"Okay," he said, "but if we go all the way around without a miss the cokes are on you."
"All right," Durocher said, as only Durocher can say "all right"—in a tone that means, "You want to play rough? All right, we'll play rough."
He began with Thompson at third base, and Thompson handled five in a row perfectly. Durocher was hitting the ball hard, to be fair to himself, but cleanly, to be fair to his infield. He hit five to Dark, and Dark handled five in a row, moving in defiantly on each ball until he was almost to the pitcher's mound. Durocher turned to hit to Williams and found the second baseman waiting on the grass next to the pitcher's mound, half crouched, hands flat down on his thighs, a little boy's grin on his face because of the joke of being too close to the plate. Durocher looked at him. Williams smacked his hands down twice on his thighs impatiently, as if to say, "Let's go!" "Move back!" Durocher ordered. Williams, still grinning, not moving, smacked his hands down again.