The Giants went to Los Angeles to face up to duck calls, musical ridicule and their own long history of choking. Result: a knotted pennant race
September 16, 1962

Experiment T-Pass 532 sounded like something out of a football huddle. But what it really amounted to was merely Telstar bouncing the image of Los Angeles Dodger Manager Walter Alston off the satellite several thousand miles up and back to earth—hopefully in West Germany. The object, aside from some scientific strutting, was to give American servicemen a glimpse of the National League-leading manager and his counterpart in the American League.

All of which was perfectly fine with Alvin Dark, the quiet bayou magician who runs the San Francisco Giants when he is not trolling for salmon along Candlestick Park's third-base line. "But if they're going to talk about the World Series," silent Alvin observed, "they may have picked the wrong man." Dark could be dead right. American servicemen may have had a Telstar look at also-rans. San Francisco's Giants, whose medical chart shows a long history of inflammation of the Adam's apple at critical times, have a genuine crack at the pennant, and all because they went into the year's most important baseball series last week and, for a change, didn't choke up.

There was nothing in the Giants' 1962 record to indicate any difference between this team and its butterfly-stomached predecessors. The early surge that carried the team into first place was taken with indifference in San Francisco, where such early foot is an annual and meaningless matter. Equally expected were the happenings of July, when the Giants dropped into second place. And their inability to capitalize on the losing ways of the front-running Los Angeles Dodgers last month was just about par. Everything was on schedule: the Giants now would go to Los Angeles for a four-game series and get clobbered.

The Giants had to face not only the Dodgers but the Dodger fans, who came armed with duck calls, duck feathers and ducks, the object being to lampoon the Giants for having watered their own base paths a month before in order to slow down the nonamphibious speed demons from Los Angeles. When last week's series opened there was a watering pail, shocking pink in color, on the steps of the Giant dugout. It bore the legend:


As if this were not ridicule enow, the Dodger fans had a new fight song, written by Sylvia Fine and Herbert Baker and recorded by Danny Kaye, and its gentle strains ran through the stands from time to time. Based on the fortuitous assonances in the names of various Giants, the song ends with the musical Giants handling a bunt:

Cepeda runs to field the ball
So does Hiller—so does Miller
Miller hollers "Hiller!" Hiller hollers "Miller!"
Holler hollers "Hiller," points to Miller with his fist
And that's the Miller-Hiller-Haller-Holler-lujah twist!

Supported by this song and by several thousand duck calls, one live duck and one live chicken thrown out on the field at opportune moments, the Dodgers lost the ball game, and the lights began to go out all over Los Angeles.

It was pitching that did the Dodgers in. The Dodger staff is like a precision-built instrument; properly tuned, it works to perfection. But where the Dodger pitching is long on quality, it is desperately short on reserves. The Dodgers lost Sandy Koufax in the middle of July when the left-hander was having what amounted to the most brilliant season any pitcher has had in a decade—and the loss meant Manager Walter Alston could call on only eight men to face the opposition. Granted, the Dodgers held other aces. Don Drysdale was winning more than any other pitcher in baseball. Stan Williams and Johnny Podres were tried and proved and finally were living up to their capabilities. The relief corps, captained this year by Ron Perranoski and backed by Larry Sherry and Ed Roebuck, was the best in the league. And the Dodgers still had the league's best hitter (Tommy Davis), fastest runner (Willie Davis) and tallest outfielder (Frank Howard).

But as Los Angeles Radio Announcer Vin Scully pointed out then, "The loss of Koufax throws a terrible burden on the others. It may take time, but the strain just has to tell." As Scully figured, Koufax' damaged finger turned the race into a three-team affair. Not only were the Giants closing in, but the defending champion Cincinnati Reds, dead and buried since spring, were coming on as if they hadn't read their obituary.

It was Willie Mays and Pitcher Jack Sanford who wrecked the Dodgers in the first game. Mays, demoted to the fifth spot in the batting order, was undisturbed. "You don't have to worry about OF Willie," Dark said before the game. "You can play him anywhere and he's all for it." Willie was certainly all for Dodger Pitcher Stan Williams' curve ball in the third inning. He hit it into the bleacher seats in left field to score two runners ahead of him, and that was that. The Giants kept on making runs, and Sanford was superb in winning his 20th game of the year. Not only did the Giants hit the ball harder, and score more often than the Dodgers, they had the best duck callers. Quacking expertly in the Giant dressing room after the game were Pitcher Billy O'Dell and Catcher Ed Bailey—both serious off-season hunters.

One game does not win a series, but the Dodgers suddenly were in serious trouble. Manager Walt Alston had no choice but to call on Rookie Pete Richert, back from the minors after his recovery from a damaged arm. His job, according to Alston, was to go as far as he could in the second game in hopes that it would be late in the game when he faltered. Then one of the Dodger relief pitchers could take over.

"The thing to do," said Giant Pitcher Billy Pierce, "is win the first three games, then take our chances on the last one." It was Pierce whom Manager Dark called on to win the second game. With his pitching opponent the young Richert, and Ron Perranoski alone in the injury-riddled Dodger bullpen, the Giants' prospects were excellent. But Pierce, who usually pitches with four days of rest, started this time with only three. He shouldn't have. This was one game when the Dodger sprinters came alive.

In the first inning Willie Davis, deeply embarrassed by his failure to score a runner from third with a squeeze, was on first base when Tommy Davis singled. It was quite obvious that Willie had no intention of taking the customary two bases on the hit and run. He wanted it all. What Willie Davis didn't realize was that this is not ordinarily done in the big leagues, especially with a player like Willie Mays fielding the ball in center field. What other people didn't realize was that Willie Davis is the fastest runner ever to wear a major league uniform. Mays, realizing what Davis was up to, came on smartly. Third Base Coach Leo Durocher stood tall and straight, with arms raised above his head—in the stop-here signal. Before Durocher's grin faded from his face, Davis had passed the coach and crossed home plate well ahead of the ball. So unsettled was Pierce by the sight of a runner simply outrunning a well-thrown ball that he gave up two more runs in the inning.

Certain things are expected of catchers. They must be strong and fearless and patient. It helps if they can hit an occasional long ball. But stealing bases is not one of their prerequisites. Billy Pierce, who has been in both major leagues and well knows what catchers don't do, took a leisurely wind-up, with Dodger Catcher John Roseboro on third base. As Roseboro explained it later, "When I was young I had a pretty good motor. If them pitchers make a mistake, well, shame on them." Roseboro stole home, his second such felony within a week.

Richert, meanwhile, had done his job and held the Giant power hitters in check until the fifth inning. Alston would have liked the young pitcher to go an inning or so more, Perranoski being the only one around to help out. But when Richert lost all rapport with the strike zone Alston had no choice. In came Perranoski.

The Giants came within a run of catching the Dodgers in the last inning, but Perranoski struck out Mays on a full count. Cepeda took two quick strikes, and the Dodger relief pitcher threw a slider. Only it didn't slide. It sailed over the inside corner, surprised Perranoski, surprised Cepeda and delighted 51,500 Dodger fans.

Now the series was even, but in the third game the Dodgers had to face Juan Marichal, who throws a slider, fast ball, curve, screwball, changeup and one pitch he has no name for. The Dodger batters were completely impartial in the matter. They didn't hit any of them very well.

Dodger starter Johnny Podres pitched well, too, but a nerve-racking second inning (he loaded the bases with no outs and retired the side without a score) "took too much out of me," he said afterward. Willie Mays, who does not have a reputation for pampering tired Dodgers, doubled twice and singled once to drive in two runs. "I threw him good pitches, too," said Podres with a shrug. "But you pay a guy $90,000 and he's supposed to hit good pitches."

Now the Giants had only to beat Don Drysdale in the last game to win the series. Beating Drysdale, however, is a thing few pitchers have been able to do this year. The big right-hander is paid $35,000 annually to make sure vital games go into the books as Dodger wins. Twenty-three times this season he has imposed this condition on opponents.

But it was Giant Pitcher Billy O'Dell who looked like $35,000 for the first three innings. He allowed no Dodger to reach first base. Drysdale, meanwhile, was throwing a most uncharacteristic pitch—a ball wide of the strike zone. Reacting promptly to the situation was Willie Mc-Covey, inserted into the lineup simply because he loves to hit against Drysdale. McCovey, a good hitter against any kind of pitching, is unbelievable against this Dodger. Fast balls, curves—the big outfielder handles them with fine impartiality. He singled in one run, doubled and scored another, and after three innings the Giants were four runs up on their hated rivals.

But Willie Davis, a troublemaker if ever there was one, singled in the fourth and, naturally, made second on the hit. When Right Fielder Felipe Alou's throw bounced off Davis' head and into short center field, Willie was off and running again. Durocher was most relieved to see Davis finally stop at third.

Just as Pierce had become undone by the running of Davis, so did O'Dell. Tommy Davis, who doesn't run like the other Davis but who hits better than anyone else in the league, singled, and Frank Howard made the game all even with a long home run hit into the leftfield bleachers.

Playful Don Drysdale, feeling very much better with the game tied, had great sport with the Willies—Mays and McCovey. His lighthearted fast ball sent first one, then the other sprawling to the ground. When O'Dell, a playful fellow himself when the occasion demands, brushed Drysdale back in the next inning, the umpires, led by Al Barlick, marched in a group to the mound. Then they did a right flank and marched over to the Giant dugout. "Come out," Barlick ordered Dark. "I won't," said Dark. "Come out or you're outa the game," said Barlick.

So Dark came out, and after words were exchanged the Giants went back to work, took the lead, and then the Dodgers tied it.

The ninth inning, probably not a classic one in the art of baseball, certainly must go down as one of the most dramatic. The Giants loaded the bases, with no outs. Two outs later, the Giants still were without a run, thanks to Perranoski. Then the fine relief pitcher walked Cepeda on a 3-2 pitch. A run for the Giants. Harvey Kuenn, a big man who specializes in singles, lined a two-strike pitch through the drawn-in outfield and the Giants were home with a four-run lead.

Incredibly, the Dodgers loaded the bases in their half of the last inning. Tommy Davis nearly tied it up again with a long drive to left that looked like a home run. Kuenn, however, calmly took the drive against the boards. Then Frank Howard hit one out of the park, foul, before popping up.

"We've got it. We've got it," Manager Al Dark said in the Giant dressing room. "You've got it?" asked a reporter. "The pennant?"

"No, no, no. Here," said Dark, pointing to his stomach. While most of the Giant players were having a gay old time in the dressing room, Ed Bailey sat quietly in front of his locker, quacking on his duck call.

PHOTODODGER BAT BOY rescues an innocent duck released on the field to embarrass the Giants. PHOTOGIANTS' SANFORD WON THE KEY GAME