Fenway Park in Boston is an island of green grass almost entirely surrounded by Yankee-haters. The hatred is a splendid thing to behold, fine and rich and vigorous, nurtured by years of baseball warfare between Red Sox and Yankees in which the Red Sox almost always come out second best.
Last week, Boston antipathy to the Yankees was, if anything, greater. The Red Sox, perennial contenders for the pennant, were going no place, and the Yankees had won 12 of the 17 games played between the two clubs. By the weekend, when the Yankees came into Boston for a three-game series—edgy and nervous from trying to follow the pace of the league-leading Cleveland Indians—the Red Sox were waiting.
It was a massacre. On Friday night Willard Nixon, a pitcher who has made beating the Yankees his life's work, stopped New York with four hits and won 4-3. What is more, Pitcher Nixon made two hits himself, the second a long eighth-inning double that drove in the winning run. (Trying to stretch his hit to a triple, Nixon showed that the Red Sox will stand on their heads to beat the Yankees—see cut.)
On Saturday, in one of the great games of the season, the Red Sox threw away a 5-1 lead—a traditional Red Sox gesture in games with the Yankees—then 1) picked up a run to tie it in the last of the ninth, 2) beat out two runs more to tie it again in the tenth and 3) came from one run behind to win 10-9 in the twelfth.
August 29, 1954
On the third day, Boston's Ted Williams took personal charge of the executions. He hit a home run, a double and a single, drove in four runs as the Sox won again, 8-2. Moreover, he made a racing backhand catch in the seventh inning that ended the Yankees' only real chance. The massacre was over. The Yankees were done. In Boston the smile replaced the cod.
The Yankees had been fidgety and irritable in Boston. Manager Casey Stengel chased a motion picture cameraman from batting practice, shouting "I don't want anyone studying the weaknesses of my hitters on films!" In Baltimore, the Cleveland Indians, winning three straight from the awful Orioles, were calm, relaxed, genial.
"We ain't looking at the Yankee scoreboard," said Manager Al Lopez. "We're ahead. Let them worry."
Friday night as the Indians won 7-2, Lopez' confident words seemed more than just talk. As the Baltimore game ended, the scoreboard showed the Yankees leading the Red Sox 3-1. In the clubhouse after the game a reporter announced that the Red Sox had tied it up 3-3. The players, listening to the Bobo Olson fight, hardly seemed to care. By the time word came that the Yankees had lost 4-3, most of the players had gone to bed. They won Saturday night 4-1, and on Sunday they shot down what was left of the Orioles 12-1. The Yankees had lost again and Cleveland was 5½ games in front.
For the Yankees, the galling fact was that they were playing .675 ball—good enough to win in many a year. But the incredible Indians, winning 88 out of 122, were playing .721 ball. Cleveland players seemed pleased by the situation but not particularly surprised. They are essentially the same team that has lost to the Yankees three years running, but this year there is something new, a confidence that is almost matter-of-fact. It is something for Casey Stengel, who can read writing on the wall as well as the next man, to think about. The Yankees will be playing host to the marauding Indians in New York this week. Bloody from the massacre in Boston, the Yankees could only pray that it would not turn out to be Casey's Last Stand.