Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Sunday Funnies

Leo Durocher describes in Nice Guys Finish Last a bizarre, and once infamous, game in Cincinnati between the Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals in the days of the Gas House Gang, for which Durocher was the shortstop.

It was one of the first night games in major league history -- the Reds, under Larry MacPhail, had gotten permission to play one night game against each team in the National League -- and the Cardinals were a big draw. Tiny Crosley Field was packed, literally, to over flowing; fans were standing in foul territory.

Leo, via his talented ghostwriter, Ed Linn:

"The field was completely encircled by fans. They were lined up three or four deep all the way down the foul lines, around the catcher and in massed ranks behind the outfielders. ... You couldn't swing without coming within a couple of feet of somebody's head. ...

"As one inning was about to start, I looked around and saw (left fielder Joe) Medwick standing on the line a few feet behind third base arguing with a gorgeous blonde. Paul Dean was already in his motion, and since you coulnd't hear anythign from here to there I had to go running in and scale my glove past his ear.

"The best was yet to come. In the last of the eighth we were leading 2-1. The first man went out the next man walked, and up to the plate strode Babe Herman, Before he got there, the blonde -- who had moved to within a few feet of the plate by this time --stepped out of the crowd and plucked the bat from his hand. She took her stance in the batter;s box, high heels and all, and motioned for Paul to pitch to her. You can look it up, this is true. Best-looking strike zone I ever saw. She had been telling Medwick all night that she could hit better than he could, and now she was going to prove it.

"... Poor Paul didn't know what to do. Two times in a row he went into a big exaggerated windup and then stepped back and looked in toward the homeplate umpire, Bill Stewart. What could Stewart do? Judge Landis was there in his box, and even he had been afraid to do anything. We were playing this game only because:

"(1) MacPhail wasn't going to give all that money back.

"(2) If we didn't play it they'd have torn the park down.

"With nobody making a move, Paul Dean bent forward as if he were throwing the ball to a little kid and flipped it up to the plate underhanded.

"And she hit it. She hit a little twisting ground ball down between first base and the pitcher's mound and set out -- lickety-split, clickety-click -- for first base. Paul Dean, game to the end, fielded the ball and threw her out.

"Turned out she was a nightclub singer. Got herself a lot of publicity and was promptly hired by a Cincinnati nightclub, who billed her as the only woman ever to come to bat in a big-league ball game."

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