It was exactly the situation in which rival managers for half a dozen years have been ordering Brooklyn's Roy Campanella purposely put on base: the winning runs were on second and third, with first base empty. Moreover, after Campanella in the batting order came the pitcher. But at 32, and with an injured left hand, Campanella was hitting only .199, was no longer the Most Valuable Player in the National League. From Leo Durocher, Giants manager, came the signal: don't walk him—pitch to him.
A proud man, Dodger Campanella ground his spikes into the batter's box, sent a private signal of his own and faced the pitcher. Then he hit a rippler into center field, a hit that scored two runs and beat Leo Durocher.
As Roy Campanella crossed first, the Dodger coach heard him finish his private signal. "Thank you, Heavenly Father," said Roy Campanella.
August 22, 1954
The New York Yankees held another of those "old-timer" affairs at the Yankee Stadium last Saturday, this one a Hall of Fame party and something rather special. The 50,000 spectators included a good many young boys who must have come at the insistence of fathers and uncles who did not want them to miss this chance to see some "real ballplayers."
They saw them. They saw Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell, two decades past their prime but still poised and graceful on the mound. They saw Charlie Gehringer, 51 and out of baseball for 12 years, slither to his left for a ground ball and field it with an ease and simplicity that was almost unbelievable. They saw dour Bill Terry, now 55 and genial, lift a home run into the right field stands and grin as he ran slowly around the bases. They saw Joe DiMaggio clout one high and far into the crowd for a home run. They saw some "real ballplayers."
But in the Yankee dugout, where the old-time players gathered before the game, there was another star. In the dugout he was the only star. His name was Mack.
Connie Mack is very old now—91—and as fragile and delicate as a cloisonné vase. He sees and he hears, but sometimes not so quickly as he did years ago when the Philadelphia Athletics were a baseball team and he managed them to nine pennants and five world championships.
He came into the dugout long after the rest of the old-timers and sat down alone on the dugout bench, his hard straw hat in his lap. The old-timers were posing for pictures along the front of the dugout, their big meaty backs to the old man. He sat all alone, very old and all alone.
Then the old ballplayers began to notice him and one by one they came over to greet him. He would put out his shrunken arm to shake hands, and peer inquiringly into each face. And the old stars, accustomed to being recognized and hailed by name, shook hands and gently introduced themselves.
"Rogers Hornsby, Mr. Mack. It's good to see you again."
"Joe DiMaggio, Mr. Mack. It's good to see you."
"Paul Waner, Mr. Mack."
"Bill Dickey, Mr. Mack."
"Frank Frisch, Mr. Mack. How are you, sir?"
Al Simmons, big and heavy and gray, and not well enough to play in the game, shook hands.
"It's Al Simmons, Mr. Mack," he said. "Gee, it's good to see you again, Mr. Mack."
When Mack was introduced on the public address system, Al Simmons took his arm and helped him as he walked out into the bright sunlight. Halfway to home plate Mack stopped, turned to the crowd and waved his hard straw hat, holding it high.
He sat in the dugout during the game, talking to old Cy Young and to Casey Stengel. When white-haired Lefty Grove came into the dugout after the first inning he crooked his left arm at Mack and said, "Give me a rub-down, Connie." And the two old men, Mack and Young, delightedly kneaded Grove's arm for a moment or two.
Before the old-timers' game was over Mack's chauffeur came for him. Al Simmons helped the old man to his feet and said goodbye. "It certainly was good to see you again, Mr. Mack," he said.
Mack nodded and said goodbye. The chauffeur began to lead him along the dugout floor toward the steps, but Mack paused to shake hands with two or three players sitting on the bench. Joe DiMaggio saw Mack approaching and sat up straight. He took off his cap before he shook hands with the old man.
"Goodbye, Mr. Mack," he said.
He did not put his cap back on until the old man had gone.
John Landy's left foot
If Australia's world record miler, John Michael Landy, did not have a habit of wandering around in his bare feet (a great deal of his training is done on grass without shoes) he would very probably never have gotten his highly publicized gash in the left instep before losing the "mile of the century" to England's Roger Bannister. And if he were not an extremely polite as well as an extremely sportsmanlike young man, the world would never have known about it.
Landy, unable to sleep two nights before the race, got out of bed, wandered out into the dark of Vancouver's athletes' village in his pajamas and stepped on a discarded photographer's flash bulb. He went twice to Dr. J. M. Middleston of the University of British Columbia—once to have the cut bandaged and again a few hours before the race to have four stitches taken in it. Both times he swore the doctor to secrecy.
But the injury forced him to break a prerace date to pose for an official Empire games motion-picture cameraman. "I'll tell you why," he said apologetically to Andy O'Brien, a film commentator who is also a Montreal sports reporter, "if you'll promise never to tell a soul." Whereupon he pulled back the covers of a cot on which he was resting and showed O'Brien his bandaged foot.
Just before the race Landy also told two others—Roger Bannister and Canada's Miler Rich Ferguson—but only to assure them that, no matter what might be said, the cut would make no difference in his running. After the race he flatly denied rumors (begun by other runners who had seen the bandage) that he had been hurt, and took to scuttling around the athletes' village with a coat over his head to avoid photographers. It was only after Reporter O'Brien broke the story that Landy reluctantly admitted its truth. "I kept quiet because I didn't want people to think I was crying about the result," he said. "It didn't interfere with my running at all. I could not have run any faster without it and I didn't feel any pain from it."
Landy, quite obviously, was speaking the simple truth. A cut on the ball or heel of the foot might well have bothered him immensely, but no matter how stoic, men do not finish as strongly as he nor run 3:59.4 miles when suffering a disabling injury.
Mitts across the sea
When he invaded the United States last summer for his first fight with Harry Matthews of Seattle, England's overstuffed Heavyweight Don Cockell (pronounced as in cockles and muscles) bore himself with the surly and suspicious air of a bull being eased into a packing house. He seemed to be on the point of clapping a protective hand to his watch pocket whenever he got near Matthews' wily, professorial old manager, Jack Hurley (who also promoted the fight) and agreed wholly with his own manager, waspish John Simpson, that the International Boxing Club was "a bunch of bloody gangsters." He was equally wary of the U.S. citizenry in general. "I was told that Americans would job me."
But before he returned to England from Seattle last week after his third fight and third victory over Matthews, the round-faced English pugilist confessed to a complete change of heart. A good deal of Cockell's new attitude could be attributed to a year of persistent wooing by Promoter-Manager Hurley—who has introduced him to the Yankee dollar (Cockell took $22,000 home) and has praised him to the skies both in England and the U.S., thus building big gates for his own aging tiger and in the same agile motion, if rumor is to be believed, attempting to take over the management of Cockell's U.S. affairs.
The Englishman, an unabashed product of London's slums, who spent seven years as an apprentice to a Batter-sea blacksmith, was the soul of amiability as he headed for home. Sitting with a cold bottle of beer in a fashionable Seattle cocktail lounge, he regarded those around him with a sort of elephantine fondness. "If I ever thought of moving," he said, "I'd like to live 'ere." He leaned forward intently when a U.S. admirer stopped by to tell him a story about a referee who raised a fighter's hand, was greeted with a blast of boos—and with lightning inspiration announced, "This guy loses." Cockell's pneumatic torso shook with uncontrolled laughter for a full minute. "Best boxing story I ever 'eard," he said.
He confessed, with the air of a man baring a shocking flaw, to an interest in psychology. He added stoutly: " 'ad a friend once, it 'elped 'im solve a problem." He talked almost wistfully about his 65-acre farm near Basingstoke, where pigs and Jerseys yield a peaceful profit on an investment of $45,000. "I could have invested for a bigger return, y'know," he said. "But it's not the return. You buy the life. It's a good way to live, the farm."
Then suddenly, face impassive, he moved on to a new bit of business he hopes to transact in the U.S.
"Does 'e butt?" he asked.
"Sometimes," somebody said.
Cockell grunted. "I'll butt 'im right out of the ring."
" 'e's a clumsy one, Marciano," he went on. "And that's the danger of 'im. Chaps get overconfident, as I see it. They get in there and see how clumsy and easy to 'it 'e is. They forget and start slugging 'im and they play right into 'is 'ands. When I box 'im it'll be a test of my strength and my boxing. [He almost, but not quite, pronounced it bawxing.] I must 'it 'im 'ard enough to keep 'im off me. But I've got to take 'is punch myself. Which one of us stands up, 'e wins."
Said his manager, John Simpson: "Cockell can lick any man in the world. It's Marciano we want."
Last week, despite the clamorous candidacies of Light-Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore and Cuban Heavyweight Nino Valdes, there seemed to be a very good chance that Don Cockell will be the man next pitted against the Brockton Blockbuster (provided, of course, that Ezzard Charles is not champion after Sept. 15). "I'll move heaven and earth," cried the I.B.C.'s foreign representative, Lew Burston, "to get them the opportunity. It would be great in New York. But think how it would be for London. They'd come from every corner of the Empire." He paused and then added, flatly. "It would make one world."
Owner-trainer Keith Piggott ground his teeth into a veritable paste last week as he watched the seven-furlong Bruton Handicap at Salisbury, England. His 4-year-old mare Minstrel Girl used the race to display a maddening female obstinacy, and despite Piggott's high hopes airily ambled home last in a field of nine. But Piggott refused to be put off. He walked to the stable, fixed her with a terrible eye, and an hour and a half later sent her to the post in another race to try again. Minstrel Girl was impressed; she came on with a late rush, finished second by three-quarters of a length and earned $168 toward the feed bill. Not, however, without tossing her head indignantly as she was being unsaddled.
$50,000 for 72 holes
George Storr May, the business engineer who has made golf his business, had ballyhooed it for months: this year the contestants in the annual tournament which May calls the World's Championship—the climax event of the two-week golf circus at May's Tam O'Shanter club—would be shooting for the largest prize money in the history of golf. The winner, for example, would be just about set for life: a flat $50,000 for first place, plus $50,000 for 50 exhibitions at $1,000 a throw, plus possibly another $50,000 for additional exhibitions. It was enough to attract all of the top golfers except Ben Hogan and Bobby Locke, who are business engineers in their own right and had held out for "appearance money."
Last Sunday upwards of 40,000 spectators, the largest crowd ever to attend a golf tournament, swarmed over the Tam O'Shanter course to watch the beleaguered leaders sweat out the final 18 holes. One by one, the three front-runners—Earl Stewart Jr., Bob Toski and Jackie Burke—succumbed to the pressure. Burke drove out-of-bounds on the 69th. Stewart double-bogeyed the short 70th. Toski had sagged much earlier on his round. On the 6th hole, the 60th of the tournament, he had gone three over par with a 7. He had fought back only to collapse again with four consecutive bogeys. Just when his crack-up seemed complete, Toski rallied with great nerve. He eagled the 515-yard 69th, parred the 70th and 71st, and on the home green rolled in a birdie for a four-round total of 274, a stroke less than Stewart's and Burke's.
Usually the star of the Tam O'Shanter is "Gorgeous George S." May himself, changing sport shirts every hour, betting with the players, whooping it up generally. This year, slowed down by diabetes, May spent his nights in the Evanston Hospital, was caddied to the club each noon in his air-conditioned Cadillac. May, in fact, was so subdued that he changed sport shirts only once on the final day.
93-POUND INFIELDER AT HOME
To All Joe Nolan Cubs: August 5th
We can win the city championship. Only two teams still stand in our way. But—are we good enough? Is our pitching good enough? Will they walk eight or 10 boys? Will they get ahead of the batter and stay ahead? Are the tunnels in the infield stopped up? Has it finally learned to get those gloves on the ground? Has Meaney learned to get to 2nd ahead of the peg? Will Blake still try to tag on a force-out? Has he learned on a steal-home to break on the wind-up and not the delivery? Will Schmelzinger stride before he swings?
Hard-hitting communiques like the one above have been arriving regularly at millions of American homes all summer. They are addressed to jillions of boys, ranging in age from 9 to 20, who are playing league baseball up and down the country. They are also addressed, by inference, to their proud and astounded parents, and have caused a revolution in U.S. home life; small boys who normally rate low on the family pecking order during the summer doldrums have blossomed by the tens of thousands into junior-grade Mickey Mantles, and millions of families have been drastically reorganized (or disorganized) to keep them fit and ready for the rigors of the ball field.
The message above was delivered to James G ("Buddy") Blake, the 11-year-old, 93-pound third baseman of Kansas City's Joe Nolan Cubs (named for a city councilman) and one of 85 teams playing the "3 and 2" league in that previously peaceful Missouri metropolis. Reading it over his breakfast, Third Baseman Blake passed it to his parents with the terse comment: "We've got that coming."
Buddy, with all his teammates, has long since learned to take a dressing down from Coach Frank Pexton, a former backfield man from the University of Colorado; to pound his glove and tighten his lips at the flatteringly professional accusation: "Blake, you're one of the worst!" His parents, finding themselves the co-owners, as it were, of a small-gauge stoic, have long since found themselves gulping, nodding and hoping their baseball lingo betrayed no nonprofessional flaws.
After contemplating the latest mimeographed message, Blake felt called upon to make several swift decisions—since this was the day, last week, when the Cubs were scheduled to meet the Benson Yankees for the division Midget B title. First of all Blake ruled against his sister Martha, 9, attending the game because of her deplorable habit of applauding foul balls. He thought that perhaps his sister Betsy, 15, should stay home too, because he has discovered himself tightening up in an effort to impress her in earlier games. Betsy agreed. Blake decided that his parents could attend because they had shown admirable restraint all season.
One big question remained for Third Baseman Blake: What to do about his lawn-mowing business in the neighborhood? The rains had been heavy and the grass was getting high. Blake Sr. offered to call the customers and explain that the grass-cutting would have to wait until after the big game with the Yankees.
The game was to be played at night, and before leaving for the park in the late afternoon Third Baseman Blake took his customary pregame snack: a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk. He felt relaxed and confident and was a steadying influence on his jittery parents.
There was no stopping the Cubs. With Schmelzinger, Meaney, Blake and the others making none of the mistakes Coach Pexton had warned against, they took the Benson Yankees 4 to 1 and swaggered off the field as league champions of the Midget B's. Blake went hitless, but he let nothing get by him at third base.
Next day, as Blake mowed his lawns, he reflected that it had been a good season. As mementos of it, he had his All-Star team shoulder patch and soon (along with all of the Joe Nolan Cubs) will get an individual trophy and a leather jacket. And in Blake's case, something more: $4.75 for mowing lawns.
The Blake family is looking forward to a breather, but not for long. Buddy Blake also plays football.
How do we learn
On Penobscot Bay
The New York Yacht Club's
Cruising our way?
Whiskies and gins,
The gourmet's pride,
Come hobbling in
On the rising tide—Seldom the brands
We find on shore,
Offered at Bangor's
By white-coated stewards,
As they bobble to leeward,
Spreading the news
Around the bay,
The New York Yacht Club's
Passed our way;
Written in glass
Where sandpeeps skitter,
High up the beach
In the tide-rack's litter.
—Francis W. Hatch in the Atlantic Monthly