SI Vault
Tom C. Brody
September 17, 1962
The Giants went to Los Angeles to face up to duck calls, musical ridicule and their own long history of choking. Result: a knotted pennant race
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September 17, 1962

A Miller-hiller-haller-holler-lujah Twist

The Giants went to Los Angeles to face up to duck calls, musical ridicule and their own long history of choking. Result: a knotted pennant race

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Experiment T-Pass 532 sounded like something out of a football huddle. But what it really amounted to was merely Telstar bouncing the image of Los Angeles Dodger Manager Walter Alston off the satellite several thousand miles up and back to earth—hopefully in West Germany. The object, aside from some scientific strutting, was to give American servicemen a glimpse of the National League-leading manager and his counterpart in the American League.

All of which was perfectly fine with Alvin Dark, the quiet bayou magician who runs the San Francisco Giants when he is not trolling for salmon along Candlestick Park's third-base line. "But if they're going to talk about the World Series," silent Alvin observed, "they may have picked the wrong man." Dark could be dead right. American servicemen may have had a Telstar look at also-rans. San Francisco's Giants, whose medical chart shows a long history of inflammation of the Adam's apple at critical times, have a genuine crack at the pennant, and all because they went into the year's most important baseball series last week and, for a change, didn't choke up.

There was nothing in the Giants' 1962 record to indicate any difference between this team and its butterfly-stomached predecessors. The early surge that carried the team into first place was taken with indifference in San Francisco, where such early foot is an annual and meaningless matter. Equally expected were the happenings of July, when the Giants dropped into second place. And their inability to capitalize on the losing ways of the front-running Los Angeles Dodgers last month was just about par. Everything was on schedule: the Giants now would go to Los Angeles for a four-game series and get clobbered.

The Giants had to face not only the Dodgers but the Dodger fans, who came armed with duck calls, duck feathers and ducks, the object being to lampoon the Giants for having watered their own base paths a month before in order to slow down the nonamphibious speed demons from Los Angeles. When last week's series opened there was a watering pail, shocking pink in color, on the steps of the Giant dugout. It bore the legend:


As if this were not ridicule enow, the Dodger fans had a new fight song, written by Sylvia Fine and Herbert Baker and recorded by Danny Kaye, and its gentle strains ran through the stands from time to time. Based on the fortuitous assonances in the names of various Giants, the song ends with the musical Giants handling a bunt:

Cepeda runs to field the ball
So does Hiller—so does Miller
Miller hollers "Hiller!" Hiller hollers "Miller!"
Holler hollers "Hiller," points to Miller with his fist
And that's the Miller-Hiller-Haller-Holler-lujah twist!

Supported by this song and by several thousand duck calls, one live duck and one live chicken thrown out on the field at opportune moments, the Dodgers lost the ball game, and the lights began to go out all over Los Angeles.

It was pitching that did the Dodgers in. The Dodger staff is like a precision-built instrument; properly tuned, it works to perfection. But where the Dodger pitching is long on quality, it is desperately short on reserves. The Dodgers lost Sandy Koufax in the middle of July when the left-hander was having what amounted to the most brilliant season any pitcher has had in a decade—and the loss meant Manager Walter Alston could call on only eight men to face the opposition. Granted, the Dodgers held other aces. Don Drysdale was winning more than any other pitcher in baseball. Stan Williams and Johnny Podres were tried and proved and finally were living up to their capabilities. The relief corps, captained this year by Ron Perranoski and backed by Larry Sherry and Ed Roebuck, was the best in the league. And the Dodgers still had the league's best hitter ( Tommy Davis), fastest runner ( Willie Davis) and tallest outfielder ( Frank Howard).

But as Los Angeles Radio Announcer Vin Scully pointed out then, "The loss of Koufax throws a terrible burden on the others. It may take time, but the strain just has to tell." As Scully figured, Koufax' damaged finger turned the race into a three-team affair. Not only were the Giants closing in, but the defending champion Cincinnati Reds, dead and buried since spring, were coming on as if they hadn't read their obituary.

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