• U.S.

National Affairs: Fall Fever

2 minute read

In Washington last week, that eminent scientist, Dr. Vannevar Bush, was called to the telephone by a reporter who wanted guidance on what the new Russian atomic-bomb explosion meant. “I’m listening to the World Series, as you should be,” retorted the doctor hurriedly. He added, politely: “Giants ahead, six to nothing,” and hung up. Once more the U.S. celebrated the seven days of the long lunch hour, the surreptitious telephone call, the quick office bet, and—to feverish New Yorkers—of the hunt for the ducat, the pasteboard, the seat at the game. BASEBALL FEVER, the sports pages dutifully reported, GRIPPED THE COUNTRY.

The U.S. had seldom got the fever so acutely or fallen so wildly in love with one team. The Giants’ astounding last-second playoff victory over Brooklyn threatened to make the World Series itself an anticlimax. But it also captured the nation’s imagination, and when the Giants’ Monte Irvin stole home in the first inning of the first game (see SPORT), the Series was suddenly exciting too.

Television brought the games to the biggest baseball audience ever. In Denver, which not only saw its first Series but its first TV, the Series was a sensation. Eighty sets, installed in the lobbies, private suites and show windows of the Brown Palace and Cosmopolitan hotels, drew such crowds that police were forced to throw up barricades to keep them in control. In Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York and dozens of other big cities, TV watchers were almost as excited—they clotted up around dealers’ show windows, jockeyed cunningly for position at bars, ate with their eyes upraised in restaurants which had video screens. In Boston, even a bank—the Statler Branch of the Second National—installed a set. It got crowds too, and the tellers had a hard time keeping their eyes on the money. Wall Street traders followed the games, although stocks were at their highest levels in 20 years.

Los Angeles never used to get excited about the World Series. This year sales of TV sets boomed, and traffic was tied up. Church advertising for Sunday morning was up 20% in an effort to meet the competition. When Sunday’s game was called off on account of rain, one preacher said: “I would call it an act of God.”

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