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Whitey Ford, the Yankee pitcher, looked like a little boy, standing there on the mound in his knickers and his peaked cap, a little boy (now that it was late and the lights in Yankee Stadium had been turned on) who should have been home in his mother's kitchen hours ago.
For seven innings and one out in the eighth he had held the Cleveland Indians. He had given up only one run, a homer by Jim Hegan in the second; and by the time the eighth inning rolled around and his rival pitcher, Herb Score, had gone from the game, the 2-1 lead Ford held seemed much bigger than a one-run lead had any right to look. Five outs more and the Yankees would have won the biggest double-header of the year. They would have taken over first place from Cleveland and the psychological edge as well. Then they would have been fairly on their way to the American League pennant. The Yankee Stadium crowd of 67,000 talked quietly, for the most part, and watched Ford work. It was interested in this fine ball game but not very excited.
SUDDENLY A TIE
And then quite suddenly Bobby Avila of the Indians hit a home run into the left field stands and that great big one-run lead was gone. Hoot Evers followed with a long, bouncing double to deep left center, and Al Rosen was walked intentionally.
The crowd, long dormant, was wild now, turbulent, yelling, shouting, howling. Larry Doby fouled a pitch to the left, took a ball low, another ball away, swung big and missed. On every pitch emotion boiled out of the stands. Doby cracked a double-play ball to Billy Martin, but Al Rosen slid hard into Phil Rizzuto at second and Doby beat the relay to first, stifling the double play and saving the inning. The Indians had yet another out. Evers was leading off third and Ralph Kiner was up. Ralph Kiner, once the most feared home-run hitter in the major leagues, now just another worn veteran playing out the string and, on his own admission, just about through. And yet, he was Ralph Kiner, the Big Hitter, and the noisy reaction of the crowd was proof of its appreciation of the dramatic perfection of his presence at the plate at such a time in such a game.
This was the moment when Eddie Ford looked so little, so young, so far from the warm, safe kitchen. Evers led off third, Doby off first and Ford threw a ball, high. He set himself and threw again. It was low, a wild pitch coming with the blinding suddenness of an electric light flicked on in a dark room, a wild pitch into the dirt 15 feet in front of home plate, scudding through Kiner, Yogi Berra and Umpire Ed Rommel back to the screen.
Evers raced in to score and the Indians led, 3-2. They led by only a run but when they lead by a run, as Casey Stengel bitterly admitted, "They bring in that Mossi and that Narleski and they stick you with that run." Even now the Indians had Relief Pitcher Don Mossi in the game and Relief Pitcher Ray Narleski standing by. Kiner was still at bat and a run still waited out at third, but the crowd had settled down, the harsh edge of excitement smoothed. Only the Cleveland fans made noise: a cheerful bubbling. Yankee fans were hushed, as at a wake.
NOT HOME YET
The Indians, of course, were not quite home in the game (and with two weeks of play left were not quite home in the pennant race, either). The Yankee riposte in the eighth was started by Yogi Berra, the most feared hitter in the American League. On ball one and ball two, the Yankee fans left the funeral parlor. On strike one they booed. With the count two-and-two, they began the rhythmic clapping that calls for a rally. When Berra reached first safely on a bad throw, they yelled in glee, for Mickey Mantle was up. Mickey hit the first pitch hard, high and long, but to dead center. Doby took it for an easy out and the crowd was shaken to reality. Tough Hank Bauer revived hope with a line drive into the left field stands that was just foul of a two-run homer. But then Hank popped up and the crowd (all Yankee now) literally groaned. Bill Skowron was up and he had had a bad day at the plate. There was no hope. The noise dropped and faded. Skowron fouled one back, swung and missed, took a ball, fouled another one off and then swung and missed at a fast curve in close. And then just the shreds and patches of the big noise remained.
The Indians won to hold their 1�-game lead. Hoot Evers made the last out in the ninth on a diving, falling catch of a fly he had misjudged. Pitcher Don Mossi walked over to third, took off his glove and shook hands formally with Al Rosen. Then they turned and waited there for Evers to come in from the outfield. He may have brought the pennant with him.