Two for One
(Continued from August 24th)
The Giants had the Dominican Dandy, Juan Marichal. He won 243 games in his career, and had a lifetime ERA of 2.89. Most pitchers would have career years if their season ERA were that low. It is a matter of record that Juan Marichal never received a single Cy Young Award vote until 1970. His legendary high-kick propelled him to tremendous dominance in his league. Plus, the Giants had Mays.
The Dodgers had Don Drysdale, perhaps the most formidable pitcher of his time, throwing inside consistently, and brushing the opponents back. If he hit a guy, you could rest assured it was not a mistake. Don Drysdale loved to hit the ball out of the park, and he helped many of his ballgames out with his bat. He had 218 lifetime base hits, with 29 home runs. No one discounted his chances when he stepped to the plate. Plus, they had Koufax.
The Giants had the Baby Bull, Orlando Cepeda. He hit a home run in his first major league game to help defeat Don Drysdale. He had nine seasons batting .300 or better, and he had eight seasons of 25 or more homers. Plus, the Giants had Mays.
Sandy Koufax, a southpaw, retired from baseball at age thirty because of technical difficulties with his left elbow. He simply explained after the 1966 World Series, lost by the Dodgers in four straight to the Orioles, another team with sick pitching, that he did not want to risk spending the rest of his life, without the use of his left arm.
All Koufax did was throw the most devastating curve ball in existence. He is recognized as the best to throw it in his era. He had pin-point control at the height of his career, which is amazing considering in the early years he was as erratic as the best of them. In other words, he was the prototypical southpaw. He dominated the National League, competing against a series of left-handed hurlers who exerted similar control: Bob Gibson, Fergusen Jenkins, and Steve Carlton, among them.
The Giants had “The Say, Hey Kid,” Willie Mays. Having watched him the second two-thirds of his career, I think he was the best center fielder I have ever seen. He had all components of baseball honed to the keenest edge, and he brought all of his tools to every game he played. Willie Mays could beat a team in more ways than I have ever seen any of the great ones demonstrate.
He could reach over the fence and snatch a home run away from his opponent, while the batter came to a halt on the way to second base, and groaned. He could make a circus catch and nail a runner trying to tag from third, on a perfect throw from center field to home plate. And he could do both on the same play. Two for one.
The man was a god on the field. Never mind what he could do with his bat, look at his speed on the base paths. He scored routinely from second on infield ground outs, because he forced his opponents to make mistakes with his daring. It was a home run by Willie Mays in the sixteenth inning that broke up scoreless tie, pitting Warren Spahn against Juan Marichal on July 2, 1963. Sixteen innings each? Excuse me? A scoreless tie?
Warren Spahn was 42, and Juan Marichal was 25. When Spahn was left in the game, Marichal begged Alvin Dark to allow him to also remain in the game. It was an affront to Marichal to have to leave the game before a 42-year-old man did. It must have been a National League game.
No, when I watch the Giants play today, and I check out their record in one run games, and note that there is little offense, I do not think of torture. I think of pleasure, and a sense of kinship with my youth. I can’t return to the playing field physically any longer, but I’m still there in my mind. It’s nice to see that things are still pretty much the same.