On wednesday night, August 28, Joseph Gorman, a White Sox fan, stood up in his box seat at Comiskey Park and threw his container of beer straight into the face of Casey Stengel as he was returning to the dugout after protesting a decision at first base. Mr. Gorman's action was, of course, absolutely inexcusable. But it was understandable. The Sox were in the process of muddling through the second game of a three-game series with the Yankees.
The Yankees came into town Tuesday night, having lost five out of seven on a road trip which was rapidly turning into a nightmare, their worst in years. For a team which had apparently wrapped up another pennant as long ago as mid-July, the World Champions seemed to be giving an amazing demonstration of how to make a once-dead pennant race come alive once more. The Sox, on the other hand, had won six straight and were now only 3½ games back. A month ago, no one expected the American League to have another "crucial series" this year. Now, suddenly, it was here. The impending series even made the front page—along with a torso murder.
A rather steady drizzle fell Tuesday evening, but 46,830 persons paid their way into the park. As a White Sox official had said beforehand, "Nothing less than a hurricane will stop this game." Inasmuch as Sox fans are a notoriously unruly lot—they are sort of Brooklyn fans without moral stature—precautions were taken to see that disorder was kept to a minimum. On hand were 329 Andy Frain ushers, 12 patrolmen and four plainclothesmen from the William J. Burns International Detective Agency, Inc., and 40 cops under the command of a lieutenant with the appropriate name of John L. Sullivan. Lieutenant Sullivan was kept busy during the early part of the evening trying to find a Northbrook, Ill. husband whose wife had called the park to report that their son was missing. She feared that hubby had driven off to the game with sonny locked in the trunk, and when hubby failed to respond to an appeal over the PA system, Sullivan detailed 15 cops to search the parking lot for the car. "The lady finally called back," Sullivan reported, "and told us her husband found the boy asleep on the back floor of the car "and returned home with him."
Hank Bauer, the first Yankee batter, stepped to the plate to face Pitcher Jim Wilson. The boos had barely subsided when Bauer hit the first pitch to left field for a single. Enos Slaughter struck out, but Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra walked. Bill Skowron singled to left field to drive in two runs. Al Lopez went out to the mound to talk to Wilson, prompting a gentleman in the upper deck to advise loudly, "Get that guy out of there!" Lopez ignored the advice, however well intentioned, until there were two out in the top of the second. In came Gerry Staley to relieve, and by the time he got the third out, the Yankees led 5-0.
But the Sox, who never let their fans down all at once (they prefer to bleed them to death), came back to tie the score at 6-6. Visions of the first pennant since 1919 began to take place. Unfortunately, after Slaughter and Mantle singled in the eighth, Paul La-Palme came in to relieve, and Berra hit the first pitch, a knuckler, into the upper deck in right center field. In the bottom of the eighth, the Sox loaded the bases with two out. In came Bob Turley to pitch. Minnie Minoso took strike one called, ball one inside, ball two inside, a swing for strike two (dramatically going to his knees) and then a swing for strike three. The Yankees scored three more in the ninth to make the score 12-6, but a good many fans had already left the park in disgust.
In the clubhouse, Stengel was concerned about his pitching staff. "So we beat them?" he asked. "So what? You gotta stay alive to keep ahead of them." Lopez was quiet. "We'll come back and play tomorrow," he said, though many fans are now undoubtedly asking why. In his daily bylined column, Nellie Fox, "Star White Sox Infielder," explained in the Sun-Times: "Again we failed to muster that decisive wallop."
Fox's analysis held true for Wednesday night's game which got off to a literally dismal start. A light rain was falling as Billy Pierce warmed up, and when he took the mound it really came down. With the count one and one on Bauer, the umpires held up the game. It rained steadily for 15 minutes. The lethargic ground crew, surely the laziest in the majors, took its time unrolling the tarpaulin. By the time the crew had covered the third-base side of the infield, it had rained so much that the tarp was too heavy to move. While the umpires grew red with apoplexy and the fans—36,917 of them—jeered, the rain continued to fall, making the base lines and the first-base side of the infield a mixture of goo and puddle. When the rain stopped at 8:15, the head groundskeeper ordered buckets of sand brought in, and while the crowd hooted, the crew began loading up wheelbarrows and scattering the sand.
The wheeling and shoveling ended at 8:57. Then the crew set about peeling off the tarp from the third-base side. More hoots. At 9:12, one of the crew overturned his empty wheelbarrow in center field while heading back toward the bullpen. The crowd laughed, spreading a note of good cheer. Finally, after one hour and 16 (the PA said 15) minutes, the farce came to an end. Bauer popped out to Luis Aparicio on the left-field grass. The Sox scored a run in the second, but the Yankees came back with two in the fourth and two in the sixth, thanks to a couple of key blooper hits. The Sox scored one in the sixth to make the score 4-2, but Bauer homered to left in the seventh to make the score 5-2. Again the Sox came back, this time with two in the seventh when Earl Torgeson homered off Reliever Turley. The score was now 5-4. So it was going into the bottom of the ninth, but, alas, so it remained when Sammy Esposito, with two men on, the count three and two, took a called strike. The Yankees had now pushed their lead to five and a half games ahead of the Sox.
In his office, Lopez propped his feet on his desk and tried to smile. "We weren't getting the bloops, and they were," he said. "Three of them they got tonight, all in the right places. It wasn't all bloopers, though, I guess. We had our chances. The bases loaded with none out. And the bases loaded with one out. And no runs."
By contrast, Stengel was expansive. He made it clear that he held no grudge against Mr. Gorman for popping him with the beer in the third inning. "Right in the face," Stengel said, admiringly. "Nice jab in the face. I'll say this. He wasn't cheap. He hit me with a full cup." Stengel smiled and scratched his head. "All in all," he went on, "I would have to say that that was a bad field to play on, and you saw an exceptional game for a bad field." A reporter asked if this clinched the pennant for the Yankees. Stengel peered over the rims of his glasses, then "No! Nothing clinches it until the season is over. Only a sucker says that." Asked if he had been concerned about the condition of the field, he rasped, "I never worried about this field because when Lane was here we played in water! Christ almighty!" Pause. "Give me a cigaret." He lit one, pursed his lips and stared at the tip like an aborigine getting his first taste of tobacco. "It shows you how many people come out here on a bad day," he remarked apropos of nothing. "If you hadn't had rain yesterday, 7,000 more. Today, 15,000 more. They don't want to sit in the rain. You coulda sold the place out. Tomorrow I can shoot the whole works if I want to."
Thursday was a many-faceted day. For one thing, Mr. Gorman was fined the surprisingly low sum of $15 which, coupled with the cost of $2.50 for a box-seat ticket and 35¢ for the beer, would seem to establish, at the rather reasonable price of $17.85 a throw, the cost of dousing Old Casey (a fact sure not to pass unnoticed by other anti-Yankee fans around the league, and one which might lead Stengel to become the first umbrella-carrying manager in all baseball). Then the rain stopped, and the largest weekday afternoon crowd in the history of Comiskey Park (39,357) turned out to watch the game. And, finally, it took the Sox longer than usual to lose to the Yankees.
There were cheers—and boos—as the Sox took the field. In the top of the third, Bauer homered to left off Dick Donovan, but in the bottom of the inning, the Sox tied it at 1-1 when Torgeson's sacrifice fly scored Aparicio from third. And so the score remained. That is, until the top of the 11th when Slaughter hit the first pitch into the upper deck 360 feet away.
What Lopez had to say no one bothered to ask. The Yankees, who had come into town Tuesday leading by only 3½ now led by 6½. They were rushing to catch a train, and everybody wanted to see Stengel.
Wearing only glasses, he stood by his locker, smiling. "Nice lovely day," he chirped. "The man [Donovan] pitched beautifully against us. Gave us a lot of thrills. But we had to put Old Enos in there. Ford threw that ball behind, inside, outside. We did a little better hitting at the right time. We're glad to get it, yes sir. I'm better off than when I come here. I coulda left a half game ahead." Then he turned to stomp to the shower in all his naked majesty.