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It was a few minutes before one o'clock in the afternoon, and Willie Mays and Valmy Thomas were socializing in center field of the Polo Grounds with Pittsburgh Pirate Outfielder Jim Pendleton, against all the rules of the game. It was obviously going to be that sort of day.
Wafted across the field, through the gravel-throated public-address system, sweet music entertained the early crowd. A fan sang softly, "Sweetheart, if you should stray/A million miles away/I'll always be in love with you." It was that sort of day.
The sky was gray, and there was a ring around a hazy yellow sun. It was also that sort of day.
A fan walked through the bleachers. "Wanna buy a crying towel?" he said. "Buy a set of crying towels."
There were no other vendors. You couldn't buy a scorecard in the bleachers. You couldn't buy a hot dog or coffee. The vendors hadn't showed up. The concession stand was open, though. You could get a beer. There are two big signs in the Polo Grounds that read: "Have a Knick." The concession man was selling Ballantine's.
At 1:32 the public-address announcer said, "Will the guests of the Giants assemble at home plate?" A fan near the third-base boxes snarled, "We're the guests, you jerks."
Giant oldtimers formed on the field, and I walked through the park, on this, the last day the Giants were to play baseball in the Polo Grounds. The flags atop the stadium lay dead against their poles. There was no bunting.
But it was a good day for a ball game. There was, at times, a picnic atmosphere to the proceedings. Bobby Thomson, playing at third base, scurried in for a topped roller, failed to come up with the ball, and laughed out loud. In center field, for no apparent reason, Willie Mays took off his glove an inning later and drop-kicked it six feet. Don Mueller twice fumbled base hits near the right-field fence, permitting Pirate runners to advance. Neither time did the official scorer give Mueller an error. A fan in the bleachers said to me, "Maybe the official scorer didn't show up either." There was a wild pitch and a hit batsman and bloop hits of every type. Daryl Spencer and Dusty Rhodes moved under a fly ball and then each let it fall, unmolested. The base running was so bad there were three outfield assists in the first inning and a half.
The fans showered thunderous applause on .200-hitting Wes Westrum when he came up to bat for the first time. They roared their pleasure when Willie Mays made a tremendous throw to nail a Pirate who was trying to stretch a triple at the plate. They were kind enough not to point out that Dusty Rhodes had relayed the ball to Mays in so sloppy a fashion it had seemed impossible even for Mays to make the throw in time. A gang of kids in the bleachers began to parade around with a large sign: STAY TEAM STAY. A fan started his own cheer: "Go, Horace, go."
There was huge and happy applause when the scoreboard showed that the Dodgers had lost to the Phils 2-1. When Jablonski walked to open the sixth inning, Giant fans began to whoop it up, even though they trailed by six runs. The rally fizzled but the fans stood valiantly in the home half of the seventh. A comic in section 12 said, "If the Giants don't win this one, there'll be nobody here tomorrow."