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THE FABULOUS SEVEN DAYS
MONDAY, SEPT. 9
Ten days ago nothing seemed to matter. The St. Louis Cardinals were seven games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League standings. Today everything matters. The Dodger lead is only three and experts everywhere maintain that the Dodgers are getting vertigo again, just as they did last September. Yesterday's 3-2 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh was a big one for the Cardinals, and on their chartered flight back to St. Louis they were a happy team. Johnny Keane, the manager, puffed on a big cigar and thought of the possible joys that an 11-game home stand might bring. Tim McCarver, the 21-year-old catcher, wondered how many people were awaiting the team's arrival at Municipal Airport. McCarver had never been on a team that was met at an airport. Curt Flood, the center fielder, sketched to pass the time. Dick Groat, the baldheaded shortstop, kept being dealt bad hands in a bridge game. Shortly before the plane got to St. Louis the pilot picked up the major league baseball scores on the radio and announced that the Dodgers had lost to San Francisco 5-4. There were no cheers, "just loud smiles," as Flood put it. Three thousand people came out to the airport to welcome the Cards. The team was stunned. The good people of St. Louis want a pennant. They have not had one since 1946. That is a long time ago, a lot of waiting.
When Curt Flood woke up this morning at 10:20 the sight and sound of the people at the airport were still on his mind. "In all the time that I have been in baseball," he says, "this is the first time that I have been in the thick of anything." Curt Flood has been in baseball for eight years and in center field for the Cardinals during the past four. At 3:30 p.m. he begins to think about tonight's ball game. Cal Koonce, a right-hander, will be pitching for the Chicago Cubs, and Flood usually hits Koonce well. Curt Simmons, a left-hander, will be pitching for the Cardinals, and Simmons has been pitching superbly of late. Flood is sure that the Cardinals are going to win this game.
"You get a feeling about certain guys," he says. "You know who is not going to let you down. Simmons will hold them close. We know that. If we can just get him a couple of runs we are going to be all right."
At 4:15 Curt Flood arrives at Busch Stadium in his baby-blue 1962 Thunder-bird. As he begins to sort his fan mail, Bob Bauman, the team trainer, is fooling around with a tape recorder, putting into place a ribbon with the song Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy on it. Twenty-one years ago, in the heat of a pennant fight with the Dodgers, the Cards played Mirandy after every win. Four years later, when the Cardinals slumped in a pennant drive, they asked that Mirandy be brought back again as a good-luck omen. Mirandy took the Cardinals to the World Series both times, but it has not been played in a Cardinal clubhouse in 17 years. A desperate search was conducted this month for a recording of Mirandy, but no one could find a copy of the record, which Spike Jones had made famous. Finally Jones himself was asked. He had one at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., and a copy of it was made and put onto Bauman's tape. "If we win tonight," says Bauman, "I'm going to play Mirandy for these guys." Some trainers do not live by liniment alone.
As the Cardinals dress and Bauman hides his tape recorder, Groat, the league's leading hitter, watches in his street clothes. On Sept. 4, in a rundown play against the New York Mets, Groat fractured a rib. Two days later Don Cardwell of the Pirates hit that injured rib with a fast ball. The Cards miss Groat, and Groat misses the Cardinals. He will probably rejoin them in five days. He hurts.
In the first inning Flood lashes a single to center to start a two-run rally. Simmons is magnificent, and in the seventh he works his way out of his only tight spot of the night. During the seventh, however, the Cardinals hear the sound of spikes coming down the steps from the clubhouse toward the dugout. They lean over and look at the door to see who is coming. Groat! Keane opens his mouth and stares. The players look at each other and say nothing, because nothing really needs to be said.
The Cards win the game easily, 6-0, and as they clatter up the steps to the clubhouse they hear Mirandy. Howie Pollet, the pitching coach, remembers Mirandy from both 1942 and 1946, when he was pitching for the Cards himself. "Sounds just like old times. Yes sir, like old times," he says. The standings say:
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