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Things have never been hotter in the American League than they were last week, and the heat was playing tricks on everybody. What had started out to be a taut and exacting drama, replete with superb baseball played by superb baseball teams, collapsed like a vaudeville switch act into a modern version of a wonderful old-fashioned comic opera, complete with complicated plot, broad pratfalls and outrageous surprises. Whenever a hero arose from the dust of conflict (like the White Sox or the Indians, who each took the Yankees two games of three), admiring eyes followed him as he crossed the stage to his next joust—usually with a mouse-sized object like the Baltimore Orioles or Washington Senators. Head held high and eyes fixed on the bright future, the hero then promptly fell flat on his face as Orioles and Senators snapped at his ankles.
It was really an incredible week. The White Sox held a precarious grip on first place on Tuesday, lost four straight games but still retained the lead on Sunday. When they rallied to hold the eighth-place Orioles to a 2-2, 12-inning tie, they actually increased their lead (by two percentage points). The Indians at midweek were in their best shape of the season. All their ailing stars were back in action, their pitching staff had been bolstered by the addition of Sal Maglie and they were set to go. So they proceeded to lose three straight games to the seventh-place Senators. The Yankees, though playing at home, seemed lost.
In Old Boston, however, things were fever-bright. Mike Higgins' young Red Sox profited nicely by the mistakes of their elders further up the line. The Sox had been slaying dragons steadily for a couple of months and had dragged themselves from the mire of the second division to a point just abaft the leaders. Sunday night they were the closest they'd been all season, a bare one and one-half games behind the White Sox. They looked forward eagerly to three games with the Yankees.
Staid Boston was beside itself. Everyone was talking about the Red Sox. Everyone? Yes, everyone, even (0 shades of John Hancock!) at the British Consulate. At the week's end the British Consul himself could stand the situation no longer. History was swept aside; 181 years, seven months, three weeks and nine innings after the Boston Tea Party he took pen in hand and wrote to the Boston press as follows:
The staff of this office is 93% British. But coffee-break conversation, instead of centering on proper themes like cricket or Channel swimming, nowadays tends to be dominated by esoteric references to home runs by Mr. Williams, double plays by Messrs. Klaus, Goodman and Zauchin and the wicked curve balls of Mr. Nixon and his confreres.
In brief, an insidious virus has penetrated what should be a sacrosanct British stronghold. One is entitled to ask: is this or is it not brain-washing, American style?
Secondly, those who, like the writer, use radioless motor cars are now being deprived of a legitimate amenity. Scarcely more than two months ago we could leave our offices at the height of the evening rush hour, confidently expectant of a peaceful drive out of the city with frequent restful traffic holdups when our strained nerves would be solaced by gentle music from the cars behind, before and alongside.
And now? From every dashboard Mr. Curt Gowdy is declaiming, not quite loudly enough, that Goodman is on second, Klaus on first and Williams at bat. "Here's the three-two pitch," he says—and there goes the green light and away surge the cars, radios, Curt Gowdy and all. Does nobody care for the nerves of the radioless minority?
Thirdly, one recently had the mortification of witnessing a ruse known as the "hidden-ball play" successfully employed against the Red Sox during a promising ninth-inning rally. The effect on the tempers, digestions and home life of thousands (certainly of one) must have been disastrous. The hidden-ball stratagem may be baseball, but it is hardly cricket. Could it not be proscribed? Or at least its use against Boston banned?