"Man, that's what we're playing the season to find out."
- Willie Mays, when asked who would win the 1962 pennant
When Spring Training broke up, the Dodgers boarded their team plane for the flight west. They stopped for exhibitions in Las Vegas and San Diego. On April Fool's Day in Los Angeles, the annual Baseball Writers' Banquet was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Danny Thomas hosted it. Comedian Bob Newhart and singer Gogi Grant performed. Maury Wills played banjo. He had already performed on Dinah Shore's show in Vegas. Then Koufax, Drysdale and Tommy Davis did some crooning. Walt Alston stayed in his seat.
The cover of the Dodgers' 1962 media guide was the team plane. The minimum big league salary was $7,000; the average was $16,000 per year. A gallon of gas cost $.21.
52,562 attended the opener at Dodger Stadium, won by the Reds, 6-3. San Francisco won their opener, 6-0, when Mays hit a homer on the first pitch of the season off Warren Spahn of Milwaukee.
On April 11 Los Angeles won its first-ever game at Dodger Stadium, 6-2 over the Reds behind Koufax. On April 12 Pete Richert struck out six straight to tie the big league record in an 11-7 win over Cincinnati. On April 16 the Giants won 19-8 over the Dodgers in their first meeting of the season. Mays, Alou, and Davenport homered. The next day Sherry pitched well in an 8-7 Dodger win, their first at Candlestick since March of 1961. On April 24, Koufax struck out a Major League record18 (broken with 19 in 1969 by Steve Carlton, and 19 again by Tom Seaver in 1970) vs. the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley, winning 10-2. On April 25 Bailey hit his homer run after the knockdown from Bob Friend, spurring the 8-3 win over Pittsburgh. Four days later, San Francisco defeated Chicago, sweeping two games of a double-header with shutouts by Pierce and Sanford, 7-0 and 6-0.
On May 4 an emergency forced the Giants to land in Salt Lake City, Utah, delaying their arrival into the Windy City until 6 A.M. Groggy from a lack of rest, they still beat the Cubs in an afternoon game at Wrigley Field for their 10th victory in a row. On May 21 Los Angeles hammered San Francisco, 8-1 at Chavez Ravine behind three RBIs from Tommy Davis and a dominating 10-strikeout performance by Koufax. Back in San Francisco, the Giants swept the fledgling New York Mets, 7-1 and 6-5 at the 'Stick. On May 30 the Dodgers swept the Mets at the "scene of the crime," in New York, by scores of 13-6 and 6-5. Wills homered from both sides of plate. At the end of May the Giants were 35-15, the best record in baseball.
"Will the Giants, carving out a whirlwind, pell mell early pace, as usual in the first month of the season, go kerplunk in June, as has been their pattern the last five seasons, or are they going to prove the bone fide Yankees of the National League?" wrote Jack McDonald of The Sporting News.
They called it the June swoon. A cartoon in the San Francisco newspaper depicted a smiling bride and said, "June Bride Happy - What About Giants?" On June 1 the Giants beat the Mets, 9-7 at the Polo Grounds behind two Willie McCovey home runs and a solo shot by Mays, but the Dodgers swept Philadelphia, 11-4 and 8-5, igniting an eventual 13-game winning streak. San Francisco's "swoon" started on June 6 when, after leading by two games over Los Angeles they lost six straight, then went 6-6 over a dozen games to fall out of first. Their sixth straight defeat was a crushing loss at the hands of the Cardinals, by a score of 13-3 in St. Louis. Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote a scathing piece about the seemingly-annual June demise of the San Franciscans, stating that "a business executive is standing in his office looking down over the city and is chatting to his secretary. Suddenly, a falling figure shoots past the window. 'Uh oh,' says the man, glancing at his chronometer. 'It must be June. There go the Giants.' "
On June 8 the Dodgers beat the expansion Houston Colt .45s, 4-3 on the road, ascending to the top of the National League standings for the first time all year. On June 12 San Francisco began a comeback, sweeping Cincinnati in a double-header, 2-1 and 7-5. On that day, F L. Morris and two brothers, John and Clarence Anglkin, used spoons to dig out of Alcatraz Federal Prison, located in the middle of San Francisco Bay. They were never found, probably drowned in the swirling, cold waters, their bodies likely swept out to sea. Sanford begin his 16-game winning streak with a 6-3 win over the Cardinals on June 17. The next day, Koufax and young Bob Gibson of St. Louis dueled for nine classic, scoreless innings in a game won by a Tommy Davis home run, 1-0 in the 10th inning. On June 29 O'Dell went 12 innings and struck out 12 in 4-3 win over Philadelphia. On June 30, Sandy Koufax threw a no-hitter, striking out 12 in a 5-0 win over the Mets.
July marked mid-season, and on the second Los Angeles swept Gene Mauch's Phillies, 5-1 and 4-0. Podres retired the first 20 batters he faced, setting a record (broken with 10 in 1970 by Tom Seaver) with eight consecutive strikeouts. On the fourth of July both Los Angeles teams, the Dodgers and the surprising Angels, were in first place, but San Francisco, recovered from the "June swoon," continued to hang tough. Two days later Juan Marichal's 12 strikeouts keyed San Francisco to a 12-3 over Los Angeles. On July 8, the two rivals played a classic October-style game. Koufax, with Don Drysdale coming on in relief, shut out San Francisco, 2-0. L.A. held a slim one-half-game lead at the first All-Star break. They would hold that lead until the last day of the regular season. On July 10, Maury Wills singled, stole bases, and scored twice in leading the Nationals to a 3-1 triumph over the Americans. Marichal was the winning pitcher. On July 17 Koufax was forced to sit down when his mysterious finger ailment became too much for him to bear, but the Dodgers were hot without him.
In late July before the second All-Star break, the Dodgers led by one game.162,000 fans packed Dodger Stadium for a monumental three-game series that had the whole sports world buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Certainly, it appeared that Walter O'Malley and Horace Stoneham were geniuses, the move to California a 20th Century successful beyond all previous conception. Milton Berle joked that he was going to fly to San Francisco so he could watch the games on TV, avoiding the congestion but also getting in a backhanded swipe at O'Malley's no-home-games-on TV policy. Frank "Hondo" Howard hit three home runs and drove in 12 runs as L.A. swept their rivals; 2-1, 8-6, and 11-1. Howard was the hottest hitter in baseball, having driven in 47 runs since June 28. The Dodgers were a perfect 5-0 at home vs. the Giants and had split the first six games in San Francisco, which accounted for their essential edge so far. On July 29 the Dodgers were threatening to pull away, now up by four games at the break.
The Giants were hoping that the "dog days" of August would favor them; that the cool summer weather in Frisco would refresh them while the desert heat would tire out their rivals. After all, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," Mark Twain had once said.
"San Francisco isn’t a city - it's a no-host cocktail party," wrote Murray. "It has a nice, even climate: it's always winter."
The onset of August had the effect of heightening pennant race sensibilities. First, it was impossible not to compare this with the 1951 drama, but the 1959 race was also fresh in the minds of all concerned. The players, the fans and the media began to view the season in larger than life terms. With the Dodgers now playing in their new stadium, there was a distinct sense that 1962 was truly a "big league" season, a debutante ball of sorts for the West Coast. John Wooden's UCLA Bruins had not yet won an NCAA basketball championship, but in 1962 they had come close and were obviously on the verge of great things. The Lakers and Trojans were all the rage.
Los Angeles seemed to have everything that San Francisco lacked. The former Los Angeles area Congressman, Richard M. Nixon, looked to be an obvious favorite over the old style San Francisco pol, incumbent Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown. Nixon was the former Vice President and standard bearer of the Republican Party. Democrat-heavy San Francisco hated the idea of losing to Nixon and voter-rich, still-Republican L.A.
The Giants were their last, best hope, and if they failed a sense of inferiority would infect the "superior" San Franciscans with a sickness that would be hard to heal. The college teams, Cal and Stanford, were dominated by their Southern California rivals and it had, for the most part, been that way for at least a decade. The north-south rivalry took on political and cultural overtones that surpassed the New York years. The papers, particularly the provincial San Francisco dailies, began to give the pennant race front page space alongside a huge stock market crash, the Israeli execution of Adolf Eichman, the Kennedy Administration's obsession with Fidel Castro, and the Mercury astronauts.
"You can talk all you want about Brooklyn and New York, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Dallas and Fort Worth, but there are no two cities in America where the people want to beat each other's brains out more than in San Francisco and Los Angeles," said American League President Joe Cronin, a native of The City.
The writers started to get personal, with particular jealousy and vitriol aimed at the Southland by San Francisco's scribes. The Chronicle's Art Rosenbaum called the Dodgers "Smodgers," sniping that L.A. was a "city whose women would attend the opera in leopard shirts and toreador pants if indeed they attended the opera at all."
"Isn't it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there?" wrote
Herb Caen, as bitter and spiteful a man as has ever abused the privilege of a free press.
The players could "feel . . .definite tension in the air," said Wills. "It reminds me of a homecoming college football game. Each time we face San Francisco, it’s different than any other National League series."
Veterans taught youngsters like Ron Fairly, who already was imbued by a sense of north-south rivalry against California and Stanford from his USC days, to "hate the Giants more than any other team," he said. "I'm sure the Giants weren't too fond of us, either - and that 's exactly the way we wanted it."
Junior Gilliam called Willie Mays "one of the best friends I ever had in my life, but there was no way we would talk to each other on the field. Not even hello."
"Against the Giants, you just tried that much harder," recalled Joe Moeller. "Even if the Giants had been in last place, we would've wanted to beat them worse than the frontrunners."
"I don't care how you play these games - the Dodger-Giants rivalry is always intense," said Al Dark, insisting it had not lost a thing on the West Coast.
"Usually, in the batting cage, guys on the other teams would come over and exchange ideas, say hi," Orlando Cepeda said. "When we played the Dodgers, we wouldn't talk to them."
"It was a special event that required a much greater level of preparation," said Felipe Alou.
"When you stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, you could hear the electricity," Willie McCovey recalled. "Even the skycaps at the airport were all wrapped up in the rivalry. It carried over to the hotel and finally the ballpark."
"It may not have matched the spirit of the New York days, but it was still a great rivalry," said Podres. "You always got fired up playing the Giants."
If the Giants thought they had a weather advantage in August that would manifest itself into their overtaking Los Angeles, they found that it was not to be. On the third of the month Drysdale beat the Cubs, 8-3, to become the earliest 20-game winner since Jim "Hippo" Vaughn in 1918. The "no man's land" nature of the race, in which both teams had a distinct advantage in their home stadiums, continued to keep San Francisco from catching up.
"I seems to be an incontrovertible fact that neither team can play well in the other chaps' ballpark," wrote San Francisco beat writer Joe King. "The Giants are sad sacks in L.A.; nobody may ever see a team drop dead like the Dodgers in Candlestick."
"We would go to San Francisco with our great pitching staff, and there were games where we'd get blown out, 12-3 or whatever," Perranoski said. "Then they'd come down to Dodger Stadium and we'd win low-scoring games by a run. The two ballparks dictated the action."
With Los Angeles maintaining an overall lead, the tit-for-tat nature of the home-and-home rivalry was not helping the Giants. Both teams built their advantages using dirty tricks that intensified feelings on both sides.
The Giants kept tall grass and a slow infield. The Dodgers used a roller to pack their dirt for their speedsters. The Dodgers sloped the third base line so that bunts by Wills, Gilliam, and Willie Davis would stay fair. Their grass was short. Much of it was meant to gain a psychological advantage over San Francisco more than an actual one. Al Dark instructed the Candlestick groundscrew to water down the paths in order to slow Wills.
On August 4 a "Miracle at Coogan's Bluff" celebration was held at Candlestick Park, with Bobby Thomson, Eddie Stanky and Monte Irvin attending. San Francisco's own Joe DiMaggio was invited to attended all three games, but had to cancel when his ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe, died on August 5. On August 9 L.A. beat Philadelphia, 8-3. On August 10 the Dodgers came to San Francisco (who had lost three straight at Chavez Ravine) with a five and a half-game lead, their biggest of the year. At 5:30 A.M. Matty Schwab, Candlestick's head groundskeeper, dug a pit where Wills normally took his lead, filled it with water, sand and peat moss, then covered it with topsoil. During infield practice the Los Angeles players noticed and brought it to the attention of head umpire Tom Gorman. Gorman ordered the pit dug up, but Schwab's crew replaced it with more mud than before. Schwab's wheelbarrow of sand, supposed to dry up the pit, contained all the old, hidden ingredients that had previously been dug up. It was worse than before. Wills said the whole episode "demoralized" him. Mays hit a homer with four RBIs and the Dodgers came unglued in an 11-2 loss.
The next day the Dodgers came out doing mock breastrokes, and further hi-jinx followed. A Dodger stole San Francisco's leaded bat. A Giant stole L.A.'s practice bat. Dark kept a straight face, saying that unless the infield is watered down, the three o'clock winds kick up the dust. Drysdale started with an 11-game winning streak. Tommy Davis, hitting .452 against Giants pitching, hit a three-run homer off of Pierce.
In the third Wills kept stepping out against Pierce to unnerve him, but when the umpire ordered him in Wills exploded about the field, calling the umpire "gutless." Wills shouted it again and the man in blue thumbed Wills. San Francisco scored two runs in the fourth, and the Giants sensed that L.A. was psyched. Their comeback was on. Then the winds did start to blow. There were delays and the tension was thick enough to cut with a knife.
Clinging to a 3-2 lead, Drysdale allowed a Felipe Alou bloop double. Haller struck out and Drysdale, then hit Jim Davenport, causing him a hairline fracture. Despite Big D's reputation as a headhunter, it was not intentional. He was the go-ahead run. Drysdale apologized on the spot (and called him later; Davenport was out two weeks). Drysdale struck out Pagan but McCovey pinch-hit for Pierce. Alston came out to talk it over with his ace. Willie Mac always wore him out, and was "the only batter who could consistently destroy Drysdale," said Roseboro.
McCovey had homered off of him a month earlier, and a year earlier had hit a 475-foot shot off of him; the longest to date in Candlestick history. Alston had Perranoski up and ready but stuck with Drysdale. The count went full, then McCovey slammed a home run and the place went crazy. Stu Miller preserved Pierce's 5-4 win, the 200th of his career. Wills was fined $50 and the Giants were back in it.
On Sunday afternoon, Juan Marichal shoved Dodger bats "where the sun don't shine" in a dominating 5-1 win. Los Angeles was now thoroughly discombobulated, finding excuses for their failings. Buzzie Bavasi called the Giants "bush" and vowed protests, but they were off their game and it would affect the race. Alston said the field was dangerous, that Mays could have broken his leg. Vin Scully called Al Dark "the Swamp Fox."
"One more squirt and the Red Cross would have declared a disaster area and begun to evacuate the Dodgers by rowboat . . . an aircraft carrier would've run aground," Murray wrote.
The Giants exhibited "The most disgraceful case of poor sportsmanship since Major League baseball came to the coast," wrote writer Sid Ziff.
Wills paid his fine in pennies, dragging an 80-pound bag to National League president Warren Giles's desk in Cincinnati, turned it over and letting them spill everywhere. He then asked them to count it and give him a receipt. Alston tinkered with his heretofore successful line-up, putting Tommy Davis at third and veteran Wally Moon in left field. Frank Howard started to slump. The Dodgers were not a good defensive team anyway. Moon's presence made them worse. Also in August, the Alston-Durocher feud reached a head. Third base coach Durocher had been disregarding Alston's signs for a month.
"Forget the signs," Durocher wrote in Nice Guys Finish Last. "We had a manager who sat back and played everything conservatively. To hell with it. Alston would give me the take sign, I'd flash the hit sign. Alston would signal bunt, I'd call for the hit-and-run."
Duke Snider, relegated to the bench, led a cabal of "Leo's guys," all of whom were bench-warmers. Daryl Spencer called Alston "wishy-washy" and called Durocher a decision-maker. Some veterans questioned Alston's decisions. The starters were Alston's loyalists. Against the Cubs, Durocher badgered young third baseman Ron Santo relentlessly, saying he was going to be traded to L.A. Tampering charges were made and Bavasi said it would stop.
Alston called a team meeting and laid down the law, saying "Leo, that means you." If Durocher missed a sign, Alston said he would be fined $200; the player an additional $200. A few days later Fairly missed a sign and Tommy Davis ran into his own bunt.
"Somebody oughta take some money from these kids," shouted Durocher.
Alston confronted him then and there. "You do the coaching, Durocher, and I'll do the chewing out and fining," Alston declared.
It did not stop there. Alston had to whistle three times in order to get Leo's attention, and signs were still missed. Mel Durslag castigated Alston for embarrassing Durocher in front of the team. Walt screamed at the writer for his concern over Leo's feelings, but what about his?
"What about the times he has shown me up in front of the players?" Alston yelled. "How much of this do I have to take?" Alston and Durocher moved their cubicles away from each other and stopped sitting next to each other on buses and planes.
Internal dissension was not relegated to the Dodgers, however. After a frustrating loss on August 19, Dark and Cepeda engaged in a shouting match. San Francisco slumped but ended a six-losses-in-seven-games stretch with a 2-1 win over New York on August 23.
On August 24, the Durocher-Alston feud took a strange turn. Durocher had a reaction to penicillin, and thinking he was having a heart attack, was placed on a clubhouse table. Alston rushed in.
"I think this is it, Walt," said Durocher, as if it was the "George Gipp scene" from Knute Rockne: All-American. "Go got them." Durocher was given dosages of vitamin B, however, and restored to full health. He was still absent from the team for two weeks.
Los Angeles won seven of eight and led by three and a half by Labor Day. On September 3 at Dodger Stadium the infield dirt was "as dry as Pharaoh's tomb" wrote Charles McCabe. 54,418, the biggest crowd of the season, came out wearing feathers and doing duck calls. 3.000 duck call sounders were sold by the concessions. Two brought in a real duck and a chicken, throwing them on the field. Dodger batboy Rene Lachemann had to remove them. The Giants came out for batting practice and saw a "gift" on their dugout steps: a watering can.
Over the loudspeakers Danny Kaye's popular "Hiller-Haller-Miller" song played:
Cepeda runs to field the ball
And Hiller covers first
Haller run to back up Hiller
Hiller crashes into Miller
Haller hollers 'Hiller!'
Hiller hollers 'Miller!'
Haller hollers 'Hiller,' points to Miller with his fist
And that's the Miller-Hiller-Haller-Holler-lujah-twist!
The Giants had a10-game losing streak at Dodger Stadium dating back to 1961. Dark shuffled his batting order and Mays, hitting fifth, clubbed a three-run homer off of Stan Williams. Sanford walked none in a complete game 7-3 win, his 20th of the season.
After the game the Giants were guests at blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield's house. It included cocktails and a buffet by the swimming pool, but some Giants were disappointed. Half expected Jayne would be wearing a bikini and the party would be a full-scale sex orgy, with the actress satiating all their "needs." Instead, she was not "anything like her image on the screen," said Pierce, which of course promoted that very fantasy. "She was pleasant, but very businesslike and proper. We knew she was a big baseball fan, but I think there was also some kind of promotion or commercial involved. To the ballplayers, this was a big deal. We went because we wanted to see Jayne Mansfield, her house, and that heart-shaped swimming pool." Wives and girlfriends had a hard time believing the truth, which was that nothing amorous happened.
The next night, perhaps still fantasizing about her, the Giants lost 5-4 when Willie Davis scored from first on a single, Roseboro stole home, and Perranoski struck out Mays and Cepeda to end the game. On September 5, Mays doubled and singled in a 3-0 win but Marichal, dominating Los Angeles, injured his foot on a play at first base, just as he had a year earlier at the Coliseum. X-rays revealed no fracture but he would miss several starts.
Dark accused Marichal of "jaking" it. It was his 18th last win of the season.
On September 6, the Armed Forces Radio Network conducted a live satellite call-in interview with the presumed World Series managers, the Yankees' Ralph Houk and the Dodgers' Walt Alston. It did not escape Dark's attention, and he took exception to it.
That day McCovey killed Drysdale again with a single and double, staking San Francisco to 4-0 lead. Los Angeles rallied behind Tommy Davis's single and a Howard home run. Drysdale then knocked down both Willie's with furious inside buzz. Billy O'Dell returned the favor, buzzing Drysdale when he came to the plate.
A volatile exchange ensued between umpire Ed Barlick and both managers. Tommy Davis's homer tied it and 54,263 Dodgers fans went wild. Perranoski came on in the ninth. Hiller beat out an infield single. Davenport, back from the disabled list, laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Perranoski tried to get the lead run at second. His throw went into center field for an error, and Giants runners were now at second and third. Felipe Alou walked to load the bases. Mays tapped a forceout at home. Cepeda worked Perranoski to a full count, but the southpaw reliever just missed, walking in the go-ahead run. Perranoski sagged perceptibly. Harvey Kuenn doubled and it was "Katy bar the door." 9-5, Giants.
"Certainly, it was the biggest hit of my career," said Kuenn, which was saying something. Larsen came in to protect the lead. Typical Dodgers fans rushed to the parking lot and their appointments with the Pasadena, Harbor, Golden State, Hollywood and Santa Monica freeways. In front of growing numbers of vacant seats, L.A. loaded the bases for the "Giant killer," Tommy Davis, who already had two hits and two RBIs in the game. Stu "the Killer Moth" Miller came in. Davis's drive to left field looked to be a homer, but Kuenn speared it. Dark dripped to knees in the dugout. A run scored but there were two outs. Howard, who hated facing Miller and previously struck out four straight times against him, came to the plate. Miller got him to swing clumsily, but then laid one in there. Hondo hit a towering shot, barely foul down the left field line. Then Howard popped to Davenport and it was over. Dark called it, "The most important game I've ever managed."
The Giants returned to San Francisco. It was now September, the best time of the year in the Bay Area. They trailed by a mere game and a half with three weeks left. San Francisco and Los Angeles had no more regular season games left with each other. As if giving thanks for "deliverance" after the Dodger Stadium dramatics, Felipe Alou invited his manager to the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, where 2,000 people heard the outfielder's testimony on "what the Lord meant to me."
Among Alou's blessings at that time were hits in seven straight plate appearances and the fact that his club was as hot as a pistol. They stayed hot, sweeping Chicago and Pittsburgh to increase their winning streak to seven games. However, L.A., who refused to buckle amid the late-season pressure, demolished both of those clubs. Both teams left for their final road trips - 10 for the Dodgers, 11 for the Giants. On September 12 it was hot and muggy in Cincinnati. Starter Gaylord Perry said the change from the moderate San Francisco weather to the Midwest humidity was "a jolt for everyone." Perry changed his shirt twice that night.
Mays was affected, but not just by the weather. The pressures of the pennant race, in which he was carrying his team on his shoulders, combined with his troubles - a contentious divorce, tax problems, debts, an unhappy personal life - came to a head after the long plane flight from the cool West Coast to the sweltering Queen City. To top it off, he ate junk food that day and it did not sit well with him.
Mays shortened his batting practice turns and struck out his first time at the plate. In the third inning he staggered and fainted in the dugout. Mays was carried by stretcher to the clubhouse and then transferred to Christ Hospital. Mays rested and felt okay the next day, asking to re-join the team. He was released after 24 hours of observation.
The San Francisco papers treated Mays's health in tabloid manner with rumors of venereal disease, a dugout fight, epilepsy, a heart attack, and even the influence of Kentucky gamblers supposedly slipping him a "Mickey Finn" to affect the betting line. He was, simply, emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. Later Mays was given a clean bill of health by a San Francisco doctor.
But their star's collapse was a blow to the club. The Giants lost two to the Reds and their momentum was gone. Dark sat him some more to be sure and they lost two straight at Pittsburgh. In the last 19 games Mays had missed, his team was 0-19! The Giants blew a 2-1 ninth inning lead to the Pirates when pitcher Earl Francis hit a homer to win his game. The next night the Pirates broke an eighth inning tie on Bob Bailey's triple.
Mays returned the next night and homered to send the game into extra innings but Smoky Burgess homered for Pittsburgh to hand the Giants their fifth straight loss. The next night the Pirates beat Mike McCormick to sweep the series. Dark was furious, throwing food around the clubhouse. They trailed by four games.
The Dodgers had won seven straight but struggled. Stan Williams beat the Cubs at home but gave up a grand slam at Wrigley Field in a loss. He was pulled from the rotation and, with no explanation, never returned in regular season play. "It really hurt my pride that they felt I wasn't good enough to do the job," said Williams.
Los Angeles lost two of three in Milwaukee. In St. Louis, a meeting was held on Thursday, September 20 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. Traveling secretary Lee Scott assembled Alston, Snider, and the coaching staff. Walter O'Malley flew in. It was an off-day.
"Get tough, Walter," advised O'Malley. "You've got to ride herd on 'em. They're going to blow this thing, sure as hell, unless you can light a fire under them. Warn them that if they blow the pennant, they’ll lose more than just the World Series money. It will be reflected in their salaries next year."
Alston disagreed, preferring a vote of confidence. O'Malley responded that "These are not high school kids - they're professionals," insisting that Alston get tough and "make me the heavy."
Alston held his ground, but O'Malley told him that if the team lost, "some heads will roll." Snider told O'Malley not to worry. That night, oddly, the Dodgers attended the Giants-Cardinals game at the old Busch Stadium. The Giants had snapped their six-game losing streak when Tom Haller homered twice, but that night the Giants blew a 4-3 lead in the ninth on a balk and Ken Boyer's game-winning single, 5-4.
The Giants and Dodgers were both staying at the Chase Park Plaza at the same time. Perranoski told Felipe Alou after the game he would "see you guys next year," and "we win and you won't." On September 7 Wills broke the National League record, previously set by Cincinnati's Bob Bescher in 1911, with his 81st stolen base. "My sincere congratulations," wired league president Warren Giles, apparently willing to let Wills's "nickels, dimes and pennies" fine-paying incident go. "Now go all the way and break the record held by the great Ty Cobb."
Cobb had stolen 96 bases in 1915 and had died one year earlier. Considered one of the very best players ever to play baseball, Cobb was a portrait of human contrast: a virulent racist who was also a believing Baptist and major contributor to black colleges in the South. One year earlier, Al Stump's article about Cobb had been published in Look magazine. It told the story of a bitter old drunk, estranged from friends and family, utterly unable to make sense of the new world he lived in.
Most incomprehensible to Cobb was the existence of blacks in the Major Leagues; not just participants, but veritable matinee idols of sports. One of those very men, the symbol of the "new breed," Maury Wills was about to break his most cherished record. Cobb, wrote many a writer, was "turning in his grave."
But the day of the 154th game of the season, Commissioner Ford Frick did the same thing he had done to Roger Maris in 1961, stating that Wills had to break the record in 154 games for the mark to stand. Because of two ties, Cobb had played 156 games in 1915, two more than the regular 154-game schedule. Frick still insisted that the 154-game standard would apply.
"I wouldn't have minded so much had Frick made his ruling earlier," Wills said. "But why did he wait until the last day?" Wills could have broken the mark earlier had he sensed urgency. "Cobb got 156 games to set his record and I thought I would, too."
On September 16 Bob Buhl of the Cubs shut out L.A., 5-0. Koufax returned in mid-September. The team won 17 of 21 after his injury in July, opening their five and a half-game lead of August 8, but there was little doubt that his absence had helped San Francisco stay in the race.
"If we'd had Koufax the whole season we would have waltzed to the pennant," said Norm Sherry. "His injury was the opportunity that gave us a chance to get back in the race," said Al Dark.
On September 23, O'Dell won his 19th game,10-3 over the Colt .45s. On that same day, a classic Koufax vs. Bob Gibson re-match of their earlier scoreless duel was in the offing, but Gibby fractured a bone during batting practice.
"There was this tremendous sigh of relief from the Dodgers because they hadn't been hitting, and now they wouldn't have to face this future Hall of Famer," said Scully. "Curt Simmons, who was very much nearing the end of his career, was rushed into the breach to pitch for Gibson."
"I could get out of bed in the middle of December and steal two off Simmons," said Wills.
But Koufax had nothing, giving up a first-inning grand slam. Now the score altered Wills's stolen base strategy. He could not afford to run the team out of a rally just for personal gain. In the sixth, with the Dodgers trailing 4-1, Wills walked and stole number 95. He then took off for third to tie the mark in the 154th game. He had it easily. At the last moment, Jim Gilliam laid down a totally useless bunt. He was thrown out, credited with a sacrifice that was a joke. Wills lost the stolen base. He had no further chances and St. Louis won, 11-2.
After the game, George Lederer of the Long Beach Press-Telegram asked Wills if Alston had called for a bunt. "Why don't you ask him?" Wills replied, pointing to Gilliam. Lederer went to Gilliam and repeated the question. Gilliam had had enough. He disliked Wills, was tired of playing "second fiddle" to him all year, and had obviously bunted to deprive him of glory.
"If looks could kill, Gilliam's expression would have struck the man dead," wrote David Plaut in Chasing October. "Mind your or Godd--n business," said Gilliam.
"You must have seen that Wills had the base stolen," Lederer continued. "What was going through your mind."
Gilliam had been caught red-handed, backed into a corner, and reacted angrily by threatening to punch the writer in the nose, but Wills wisely avoided stirring further trouble by repeating the company lie that Gilliam was trying for a base hit with a legitimate bunt try, an effort to spark a rally; not trying to screw up his record-breaking effort.
"I haven't asked anybody to sacrifice for me all season, and I'm not about to now," said Wills. The next night Podres and Larry Sherry combined for a 4-3 win, number 100. Wills did not steal a base. Game number 156 was against the tough Larry Jackson, the most difficult guy in the league for Wills to steal on.
In the third Wills singled and stole second for number 96, as the crowd cheered. But St. Louis went out to an 11-2 lead. Wills batted in the seventh. Alston told him to try for the record regardless of the score. Wills poked a two-strike single and the Cardinal crowd cheered him on. Jackson threw over to first half a dozen times. First baseman Bill White applied hard slap tags to Wills's skull.
Wills shortened his lead to indicate "that Jackson had me buffaloed." Jackson delivered home and the Cardinals relaxed. Then Wills took off for second - a delayed steal, which he never did before, but Al Campanis had suggested he try - sliding in safely. Catcher Carl Sawatski, who was in the process of throwing back to Jackson, had to make a hurried throw to second that bounced. Wills slid head first and had the record.
In the ninth Wills was presented with the bag. Later, Frick backed off his 154-game edict, saying the mark would stand without an asterisk in the official records after all.
Hall of Famer Max Carey, a one-time practitioner of the base stealing arts, had watched Wills closely all year; stealing home, rattling pitchers, and changing the dynamics of the game. "It does me good to see a fellow operate like that," he said.
"I didn't see how I could ever improve on that," Wills said of the club record 50 bases he stole in 1960. "I was even sure more sure of it the next year, when I only stole 35. Even that was good enough to lead the league.
Wills set a goal of 50 in 1962, but got there by July 27. "I didn't think of the record until I had upped my figure to 72 by stealing three against the Mets on August 26," he continued. "Then, for the first time, Ty Cobb's record of 96 looked possible."
Whenever Wills reached first, fans chanted "Go! Go! " giving him renewed strength and confidence despite the raspberries, fatigue bordering on physical exhaustion, pulled hamstrings, and internal bleeding.
On September 29, San Francisco visited Houston's brutally-hot Colt Stadium, home of the Colt .45s before the Astrodome was built and the team became the Astros. Flies said to be as large as a man's fist buzzed about. The Giants won on Friday night, 11-5. On Saturday Miller was wild and Sanford was brought in for a rare relief appearance. Roman Mejias stroked a hit past a drawn-in infield to beat the Giants. They trailed by four with seven games left. It seemed to be over. On Sunday they kept hope alive with a victory, but had gone 3-8 in their disastrous last road trip.
Los Angeles was 100-56. The Giants, at 97-59, trailed by three. On Monday both teams rested. Both were at home to finish the season. Giants booster Bud Levitas threw a backyard barbecue, and it felt like a farewell party, but Dark made a speech about never giving up. His Christian faith - not to mention the experience of 1951 which he shared with three coaches, Willie Mays, announcer Russ Hodges, owner Horace Stoneham, among others - was the rock he used to maintain strength.
"We're gonna catch these damn Dodgers and we'll beat 'em in the play-offs," Dark exclaimed.
"Everybody thought he was nuts," said Carl Boles.
The Dodgers - Snider, O'Malley, Bavasi, Scully, Leo Durocher - also remembered 1951. But Orlando Cepeda claimed that Dark told him if the club failed to finish second (Cincinnati was pushing and would win 98 games) he would not support their contract demands. Dark denied having done that, certainly not if "we had any mathematical chance to win."
Dark apparently did tell Billy Pierce he had "pitched enough this year," and was free to go home early "as soon as we're out of this thing." Pierce made some flight reservations, but events that week forced him to keep changing them, finally canceling them altogether. By the third or fourth call the airline reservation clerk knew him by name.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism