You Can't Beat the Cards

April 14, 1958

I crossed the East River to play bridge with the Dodgers on the last day of baseball glory for Ebbets Field and Brooklyn.

We played on top of a trunk in the players' dressing room—the baseball man's accustomed card table. In the course of three rubbers Manager Walt Alston kept shuffling his lineup. I played with and against Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Gino Cimoli, Ed Roebuck, the mgr himself and Coach Billy Herman—since departed for Milwaukee. Duke Snider, Charlie Neal, Don Zimmer, Jake Pitler and perhaps half a dozen other knowledgeable kibitzers left no doubt that bridge is this team's favorite card game.

How good is their bridge? Judge for yourself by the way I got caught in this double play.

Gino opened the club 10. Billy won with the ace and led back the jack. The situation did not look hopeful. I was sure to lose a diamond, and East figured to have two trump tricks in order to justify his double. However, there was a chance if I could trap Billy.

I planned to lead a heart to dummy's ace and trump a heart in my hand, cash the ace and king of diamonds and trump another heart, then cash the high club. At this point I hoped to find the cards like this:

N

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Diamonds]
[— of Clubs]

W

[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]

E

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[— of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[— of Clubs]

S

[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[— of Hearts]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[— of Clubs]

Now I would lead a diamond and East would have to win. With nothing left but spades, his lead would let dummy make the ace and queen. Then dummy would lead a heart and East would be caught in a pickle. If he trumped with the king, I would discard and make my jack at the end. If he trumped with the 10, I would overruff. Either way, East could not prevent my jack of trumps from winning the game-going trick.

The cards were exactly as I hoped they'd lie, but Billy got out of the pickle with a beautiful fall-away.

Just before we reached the situation diagramed in my little plot, he dumped the queen of diamonds under my king. Consequently, the third diamond was won by West's jack and Gino cooperated to kick the ball out of my hand by returning a trump.

It did no good for me to rise with dummy's ace and lead a heart. East trumped with the nine to force my jack, overruffed my play of dummy's queen of spades on the fourth diamond, and won the last trick with his high 10 of trumps.

That night, the Dodgers played their last home game in Brooklyn. They beat the Pirates. But they couldn't beat the Cards (baseball) for second place in the National League, and I couldn't beat the cards (bridge) or the Dodgers either.

It is not my job to predict how the Los Angeles Dodgers will finish in this year's pennant race. But if there's a baseball bridge tournament, I pick 'em to finish on top—unless Billy Herman can find a trio of apt pupils waiting for him on the Braves.

PHOTO

NORTH

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

WEST

[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[6 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]

EAST

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

NORTH
(Reese)

1 [Spade]
2 [Spade]
3 [Heart]
PASS
PASS

EAST
(Herman)

PASS
PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

SOUTH
(Goren)

1 [Spade]
2 NO TRUMP
4 [Heart]
PASS

WEST
(Cimoli)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)