• U.S.

Sport: Comedy of Errors

4 minute read

For the last time this season, the New York Yankees squared off against the Chicago White Sox. The tension of the tightest pennant race in years turned the game into a heartstopping, memorable parody of big-league ball. The World Series itself could scarcely generate more excitement. In a few minutes in the second inning, the Yankees looked like a pennant-winning ball club; Manager Casey Stengel was the hunch-playing “perfesser” of old. The score was tied (1-1), there was one out, and the bases were full of Yanks. Pitcher Rip Coleman, who was holding his own on the mound, was due at the plate. But Casey yanked him in favor of Pinch-Hitter Bob Cerv, who stepped up and hit a single. Two runs scored. Then Outfielder Elston Howard bounced a home run off the right-field foul pole, and it was 6-1.

This was the big inning Casey was shooting for. It hardly seemed to matter that it could have been bigger. Gil McDougald could be forgiven for failing to tag third and score on Mantle’s long fly to right. Casey could even overlook Billy Martin’s first-inning bobble that had given the Sox their run. (No sooner had Billy received the Babe Ruth Award for his outstanding performance in the 1953 Series, when he let a routine grounder scoot through his legs.) The Indians might win in Boston, but the Yanks would still be right on their backs.

Incredible Errors. The Sox saw things differently. This was a game they had to win, if they wanted to stay in the race. Slowly they pecked away at the lead. They scored one run in the third, another in the fifth, two in the seventh. Casey began to worry about those lost chances. He juggled his line-up like a man possessed. Now Martin was out with a torn fingernail; Berra was gone with an upset stomach, and Charley Silvera was back of the plate. Starting the ninth, the Yanks were only two thin runs in front.

Then there were two Chicago outs. Lumbering Les Moss stepped up and patted an easy grounder to Carey at third. That should have been the ball game. But Carey accomplished the incredible: he muffed the chance. Moss was safe. Before sanity came back to the stadium, three runs were home, and Chicago was in front at last.

Pinch-Hitter Eddie Robinson came in for Silvera and flied out. Mickey Mantle, hitless all day, slammed a screamer off Dropo’s foot and raced all the way to second. It seemed a wasted effort. Joe Collins flied out, and Hank Bauer walloped a long fly to left. Minnie Minoso had a bead on the ball, got both hands on it—and suddenly it was bouncing behind him for another unbelievable error. Mantle was home, and the Yankees were still alive.

Bush-League Catcher. Coming into the tenth, Casey had his work cut out for him. Now Silvera was gone; so was the only other Yankee catcher, Elston Howard. Who could put on the mask and pads to help hold off the Sox? Once more, Casey’s brain clicked and whirred. He remembered Hank Bauer in Quincy, Ill., in the Three-I League, ten years ago. Hank had handled the tools of ignorance briefly in those days as a busher. Besides, the ex-marine was an old pro, the kind of guy who would stop a hard one with his teeth if he had to. Bauer it was. Joe Collins moved to the outfield; Robinson went to first.

Minnie Minoso drew a walk and was sacrificed to second. Still switching players as fast as he could remember their names, Casey had brought Tom Morgan in to pitch. Understandably, Bauer dropped a wide throw, and Minoso slid into third. Even so, the Yanks seemed safe. Catcher Moss bounced a routine grounder down to Phil Rizzuto. Incredibly, the incredible happened again. Robinson dropped Rizzuto’s peg, Minoso came home, and the Sox were back in front. This time they held on to their lead and walked off the field winners, 9-8.

Still Running. Even the stretch-run jitters could not explain the Yankee errors. Even the voluble Casey was speechless with rage. This was worse than Baltimore, where, five days before, the Yanks had blown another and wound up blaming it on the umpires (see cut). It was hard to believe New York was still in the league. But the Yankees knew better. Next day, they gave Cleveland a rough afternoon, split a double header, stayed ii games back and managed to remind Manager Al Lopez pace-setting Indians that they were still running hard in the pennant race.

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