Be still! Do not interrupt the man sitting on the green bench. He is Frank Lane, general manager of the Cleveland Indians, and he is busy reading the nation's newspapers. He is reading what they say about his team, what they say about the other teams and what they say about Frank Lane.
This is what they said last spring: that Cleveland would be lucky to finish fourth, that the Yankees would win again and that Frank Lane was foolish if he thought otherwise. But one afternoon last week, as Cleveland prepared to play New York in Yankee Stadium, it was they who were in first place and the Yankees who were in fourth. And Frank Lane, who in the spring had told the world he had a good team, was looking not so foolish.
When Cleveland plays in Yankee Stadium, seat 1 in box 70-A of section 16 is reserved for Lane. It is located beside the Indians' dugout, within easy shouting distance of the players. On this muggy, overcast afternoon, however, as the starting pitchers warmed up, the seat was empty. The lineups were announced to the large weekday crowd. The National Anthem was played. The game began. Seat 1 remained empty.
The first three Indians had gone out and the Yankees were preparing to bat when Frank Lane appeared. He was dressed in a black suit, with black shoes and socks. He wore sunglasses. Over one arm he carried a tan raincoat. Under the other arm was a pile of newspapers. He placed his raincoat and newspapers on the roof of the dugout and sat down. He greeted a plump Stadium guard who sat on a wooden chair beside him.
July 26, 1959
"I don't know why we bother to bat in the first inning," he said. "We've only scored 10 times in the first inning all season."
Two Yankees went out. Mickey Mantle got up. "This guy's hurt," the guard told Lane.
"I know," Lane replied. "But even on one leg he scares you." Mantle singled to center. Lane stroked his chin. "We're in trouble," he said.
Yogi Berra walked on four pitches. "Now we're in real trouble," Lane said. But Hector Lopez grounded out and the first inning was over.
As the teams changed sides, the guard mentioned the game played two nights before. The Yankees had beaten the Indians 1-0. "We gave it away," Lane told him. "If Held doesn't hesitate before coming home, we score. If Score doesn't walk Ford, they don't score."
Tito Francona led off the second inning with a single. Up came Rocky Colavito, Cleveland's home run hitter. There were many cheers from the crowd.
"Rocky's relatives," explained Lane cheerfully. "He's got 35 of them. Come on, Rocky. Hit one." But Rocky flied out.
Catcher Ed Fitzgerald batted next. "When this guy was with Washington he used to slice the ball to right field all the time. With us he tries to be a pull hitter." Fitzgerald grounded to shortstop for a fast double play.
"Nice going, Fitz," Lane yelled across the infield. "If Fitz were a rookie, they'd straighten him out quick. But because he's been around 12 years nobody dares say anything to him."
A slight man in the adjoining box introduced himself to Lane. "I'm Lou Holtz," he said. Lane recognized the old vaudeville star and nodded.
"I'm with you," said Holtz, puffing on a cigar holder. "I'm sick of seeing the Yankees win."
In the Yankee second, Norm Siebern led off with a walk. "That's a good way to get beat," Lane told Holtz. "A helluva way."
Tony Kubek hit a ground ball near second. Mike Baxes, a big Greek with powerful forearms, picked up the ball, stepped on the bag and lobbed a throw to first. Kubek beat it easily.
Lane turned to the guard, then to Holtz. "Did you see it, did you see it?" he shouted. "A sure double play and he screwed it up. That was a Spokane play. We're in trouble."
Gil McDougald singled to center and Kubek raced to third base. "See," said Lane, rubbing his chin, "we're in real trouble. A Class-Z play."
Lane readied himself for the explosion. But Ditmar, the Yankee pitcher, hit the ball to third base. It was thrown to second and on to first. The double play got the Indians out of the inning.
Lane beamed. "McLish has the heart of a lion," he said.
The Indians went out in order in the third. On the scoreboard the White Sox led the Red Sox 3-0. "That's a good team," Lane told Holtz. "Good speed, good defense and the best manager in baseball."
"Better than the man in Baltimore?" Holtz asked.
"Richards is good, but he isn't as well rounded as Lopez," Lane explained. "I ought to know. I worked with Richards."
The Yankees came to bat. Bobby Richardson hit a long foul ball and the crowd roared.
Holtz leaned toward Lane. "Whenever anybody does that they always strike out," he told Lane. Richardson looped a single to center in front of Francona. Lane glared at Holtz. "Always?" he asked. Then he added, "If Piersall's playing center, he catches that one."
McLish, after throwing two strikes past Marv Throneberry, made three bad pitches. Lane leaned back in his seat and looked at the sky. "This game's over right now," he said.
Throneberry struck out, but Richardson stole second on the play. Mantle was up. Lane leaned forward. To his delight, Mantle grounded out. But Berra was at bat. "Here's trouble," muttered Lane.
The Indians walked Berra intentionally. "That's 100% correct," Lane yelled. "That's the right thing to do. I don't care if Lopez hits a home run. Walking him was the right thing."
Lopez hit the first pitch on a line past the second baseman. Richardson scored and the Yankees led 1-0. "First damn pitch," Lane shouted. "It was right in there. That just shows how dumb McLish is." Siebern bounced back to the mound to end the inning.
Woodie Held was the first Cleveland batter in the fourth. Ditmar threw him two slow curves, waist high, and Held missed them. "He's so close to being a good hitter," Lane said. "He just can't hit the curve. He's out."
But Held hit a third curve to center for a single. Vic Power was at bat. "He'll go to right," predicted Lane. Power stroked the ball down the right-field line. Held went to third. Power tried for second but the throw from the outfield beat him. Lane stiffened in his seat. Then he relaxed as the ball bounded a few feet away. Held made a bluff for the plate. "Get the hell back," Lane shouted. Held did. "Good Lord," sighed Lane.
Minoso then drove the ball into right field for a hit. Held scored, but Power was stopped at third. "Why did he hold up?" Lane asked Holtz. "I guess he thought the ball might be caught," Holtz said.
Francona, swinging hard, topped a ball to second and was out, but Power scored, giving Cleveland the lead 2-1. Minoso went to second. Then, with Colavito up, Minoso broke for third and made it, sliding head first. The throw was high and rolled into left field, but not far enough to let Minoso score. Lane cursed the luck that kept the ball from rolling farther.
Colavito was walked on purpose, bringing up Fitzgerald. "Come on, Fitz," yelled Lane. "Surprise everyone and get a hit." Fitzgerald topped the ball in front of the plate. Minoso broke for home. Ditmar bent to field the ball, but as he did he fumbled it. Minoso scored and it was 3-1.
George Strickland drove a ball deep which Siebern caught near the wall. Again Lane damned the luck. "A home run in Cleveland," said Holtz. Baxes also hit the ball hard, but Mantle caught it, ending the rally.
"Power's hit was the key," said Lane. "Minoso's steal of third was important, too."
As McLish went out to the mound, Holtz asked Lane if it was true that the pitcher was part Indian.
"I think he's part Irish, part Scotch and part Canadian Club," said Lane, laughing at his own joke.
The Yankees went out in the fourth. Only one incident annoyed Lane. Kubek hit a hopper which Baxes fielded behind the pitcher. His soft throw was not in time.
"It's not his fault," Lane said. "He tries. He just isn't a second baseman. He's too big. Now Martin makes that play. He's agile."
The score was still 3-1 in the last of the fifth. Throneberry dragged a bunt single to the right of the mound. "The only guy who could have fielded that was McLish," said Lane, "and he can't field. McLish just doesn't bounce off that mound."
Mantle struck out, bringing up Berra. "Here's the tough man," Lane" said. "One swing—tie game." The count went to 3-1. "Throw him a change-up," shouted Lane. McLish threw a fast ball and Berra lined it into center for a hit.
"Now we're in trouble," said Lane. Lopez hit a hard ground ball which Strickland knocked down at deep third base. "He saved a run," Holtz said to Lane. Lane was silent. "We'll' see," he said finally.
Siebern was up. "He's likely to hit one out," said Lane. "He's capable," said the guard. "Looks bad," said Holtz. Siebern singled sharply to left. One run scored and the bases remained filled. It was now 3-2.
"That damn bunt single," Lane mumbled.
Tony Kubek hit a ground ball out to second. Baxes grabbed it, whirled and fired the ball into left field. Lane froze. Berra and Lopez scored and the Yankees were ahead 4-3. McLish got out of the inning without further scoring.
"That's a crime," shouted Lane. "We gave them seven outs that inning. Baxes has messed up three double-play balls in five innings."
Two ladies sat down in the Cleveland box. They greeted Lane and asked how it was going. "You should have seen the exhibition Mr. Baxes just gave," he told them. "Good?" one of them asked sweetly. "Good!" shrieked Lane. "Awful!"
In the sixth and seventh the Indians failed to score. Lane conceded the game. "It's over," he said. "We lose."
The Indians changed pitchers in the seventh. "Who's that coming in, Frank?" one of the ladies asked.
"Looks like Smith," Lane said. Just then the public-address man announced Don Ferrarese as the Cleveland pitcher.
"Ferrarese?" said Lane. "Why he hasn't pitched for us in so long I forgot we had him." Ferrarese got the Yankees out in the seventh.
Vic Power led off the eighth with a double and suddenly Lane was excited again. On the field Casey Stengel was talking to Ditmar.
"Duren," said Holtz.
"Not Duren," Lane told him. "Duren just pitched last night."
"Last night?" Holtz yelled at him. "It rained last night. That was the night before."
"Oh, that's right," said Lane. "It'll be Duren then."
Just the sight of Duren, hopping the bullpen fence and coming across the outfield grass, seemed to irritate Lane.
"Look at that strutting cowboy," Lane growled. He yelled out to the mound. "Hey, Popeyes. Let's see you throw a wild pitch, Popeyes."
"He throws at batters because he never has to bat himself," Lane said to Holtz.
"I don't think he throws at batters on purpose," Holtz said.
Lane snorted. "Of course he does."
Duren was wild. He walked Minoso on four pitches. Runners on first and second with no one out. Francona was up. Duren threw two more balls, then struck Francona out.
"It's over," said Lane. "Colavito will hit into a double play. Watch."
But Colavito hit a high pop fly into short left field, close to the line. Kubek came in. McDougald went back. Both were running hard when they collided with a sickening thud. Power scored, Minoso went to third and Colavito to second. Kubek lay still. The Stadium crowd was on its feet.
"I hope he's knocked out," shouted Lane deliriously. "I hope that Yankee bum is knocked out."
A stretcher was brought out and Kubek was carried off. "He's a nice boy," Lane said quietly. "I hope he isn't hurt badly."
Cleveland went ahead when Fitzgerald hit a slow hopper to McDougald, Minoso skidding across the plate ahead of the throw. The inning ended with Cleveland leading 5-4.
Gary Bell came in to pitch for Cleveland. "Why leave Baxes and Francona in?" asked Holtz. "Why don't you play Martin and Piersall?"
"Ask Mr. Gordon," said Lane. "I'm not the manager."
Bell went to a 3-2 count on McDougald. Then McDougald singled. "This is it," said Lane. But Bell got the side out, striking out Mantle with two runners on.
In the ninth Bell singled and so did Held. Power tried twice to bunt the runners ahead, then flied deep to right center. Bell jogged halfway to third, watched the catch and jogged back to second. Lane exploded.
"Why didn't he tag up!" he screamed at Jo Jo White, the third-base coach. "Stick a pin in him, Jo Jo. Oh well, that's what you can expect from someone who's young and from Texas."
Minoso then hit a fly ball which might have scored Bell had he been on third. Lane raged on about Bell. "Wasn't it awful, wasn't it?" he asked Holtz. "Worst play I ever saw," Holtz said. "That cost us a run," Lane went on. "Could cost us the ball game." The Indians didn't score. They went into the last of the ninth leading 5-4.
Bell got ready for the last three Yankees—Berra, Lopez and Hank Bauer, playing for the injured Kubek. Lane prepared himself.
"Here comes Berra," he said to Holtz. "Here it comes now. One swing. Watch."
Gary Bell, young and from Texas, threw his first pitch. Yogi Berra swung very easily and stroked the ball deep into the right-field stands. There was a great roar from the crowd and it continued as Berra crossed home plate. Yankees shook Berra's hand and pounded him on the back. The fans near the Yankee dugout rose to applaud him.
There was silence from seat 1 of box 70-A in section 16. Bell was pitching to Lopez when Lane finally said, "See? I told you. Now it's over. Stupid, just stupid. Bell cost us the game. We're through. We're just getting exercise until they win it."
An inning later, with a man on base, Mickey Mantle ended the game with a home run to right field. Again there was the great roar and again people got to their feet. In his box, Frank Lane sat motionless. Then, without a word, he rose, gathered up his raincoat, tucked his newspapers under one arm and was gone.
"That first pitch was right over the plate. That goes to show you how dumb McLish is."
"Power's double to right was the key. Minoso's steal of third was important, too."
"See? I told you. Now it's over. Just stupid. Bell cost us the game. Now it's over."
"I knew it. I knew Mantle would hit one. We were just getting exercise until they won it."