Baseball seasons may come, and baseball seasons may go, but it's extremely doubtful that the faithful will ever be privileged to see another summer quite as wacky as the present one.
Way back in May, Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix pitched the greatest game of his career. There are those that will tell you it was the best pitched game of all time. All Haddix did was to handcuff the power-laden Milwaukee Braves without a single man reaching first base for 12 innings. But Haddix didn't win. Oh, no. Lew Burdette, hurling for the Braves, gave up 12 hits but didn't allow a run either. In the 13th, Pirate third baseman Don Hoak fumbled an easy grounder, ruining Haddix' perfect game, and Milwaukee's Joe Adcock took care of the rest with a blast over the leftfield fence.
The American League had its share of weird happenings, make no mistake. Take the pennant winners, the Chicago White Sox. The Sox last won a flag 40 years ago. And they did it this season with the weakest bunch of hitters in the major leagues. Catcher Sherman Lollar, with 20 home runs, was their one and only slugger. Once the Chisox treated themselves to an 11-run inning with the benefit of just one hit.
Frantic Frank Lane, Cleveland's general manager, contributed to the general hilarity by firing and rehiring his long-suffering manager, Joe Gordon. Rankled by the Frantic One's abusive comments and second-guessing, the Flash quit the team as soon as the Indians were officially eliminated from the pennant race. A day later, Lane assembled reporters to introduce his new field boss--a fellow named Gordon, replete with raise and two-year contract.
And a lot of the big names failed to produce. Mighty Mickey Mantle hit well below .300, even though he was free from injuries for the first time in his career.
But the zaniest part of the 1959 season--the National League pennant race--is still going on. It invites your inspection this afternoon and quite possibly tomorrow as well. The Dodgers and Braves played to a dead heat during the regular schedule, and they were still even after five innings yesterday, until L.A. catcher John Roseboro smashed a home run to give the Bums a 3-2 victory.
There have been other dead heats, of course. The Cardinals whipped the (then) Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, and Cleveland dispatched Boston in a one-game A.L. playoff in 1948. But the only climax that seems likely to match this year's in sheer excitement was the 1951 thriller, when the (then) New York Giants beat the (then) Brooks, two games out of three. As you can see, the Dodgers can't seem to stay out of these post-season affairs. They've been in all three N.L. showdowns.
In 1951, the Little Shepherd of Coogan's Bluff, Leo Durocher, led the Giants from a position 13 1/2 games behind in August to a tie on the last day of the season. The clubs split the first two playoff encounters. In the finale, with the Giants trailing 4 to 1 going into the last of the ninth, Alvin Dark led off with a single. Another single by Don Mueller sent Dark to third, and Dark scored on a double by Whitey Lockman. Then Bobby Thomson bashed his immortal home run and the New Yorkers were home free.
And now, at the end of an incredible season, they're at it again.