Baltimore--The eminent Mr. Hank Bauer, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, stoops under the sheer weight of his laurels since his baseball team won the World Series in four straight games, yet no one has thought to award him a wreath as a practicing psychologist who had two strikes on Sigmund Freud. The Los Angeles Dodgers were ambushed, not on the playing field but before the regular season ended.
Mr. Bauer's strategy throughout the season was to accept all criticism. He had no pitchers. He admitted it. Such as he had were afflicted with strained tendons, arthritic elbows, and fractured fingers. He admitted it. Would he then appeal to the Commissioner to stretch the rule to allow him to use a brilliant youngster whom he had picked up after September 1, closing date of the roster? No, "I'll go with what I have," said Hank. "Eight to five on the Dodgers," said the bookies.
It was true that the upper end of Bauer's batting order, Aparicio, Snyder and Robinson, had gained the name of a Baltimore revival of Murder Incorporated, but that was in the American League. "Any of the first three teams in the National can take the Orioles," said the Atlanta manager. It seemed reasonable. The Dodgers had Koufax, greatest pitcher in the world, and behind him Drysdale and Osteen, only less great. When it was announced that Drysdale would lead off in the first game, "Seven to five on the Dodgers," said the betting fraternity.
But in the very first inning of the first game Murder Incorporated fell on the hapless Drysdale with the utmost ferocity. With a man on base Robinson, F., belted one that is still out somewhere in the wilds of southern California, and Robinson, B., hit the next one into limbo. Three runs. Three were enough.
Hank had in his bullpen an array of cripples, two moderate-to-good pitchers, an ancient retread cast off by the majors a year earlier and picked up by the Orioles as an eighth-inning relief, and (by baseball chronology) two boys and an infant, respectively 22, 21 and 20 years old. He sent one of the boys, McNally, against the terrible Drysdale. But in the second inning the Dodgers scored, and in the third loaded the bases with one out. Here the grand strategy opened up. Instead of one of his regulars. Hank sent in the old retread, Drabowski, who walked one man, forcing a run, but then started mowing down Dodgers with the rhythmic monotony of a sickle in a weed-patch. He fanned 11, six in a row, and presented the Dodgers with six goose-eggs. It was startling. Still, the incomparable Koufax was to come up the second day. "Thirteen to 11 on the Dodgers," said the bettors.
Apparently disdainfully, but actually cannily, Bauer sent in the infant. Palmer, not yet old enough to vote, tall, graceful, and with a fast one that was terrific. Koufax lasted six innings, but it was six errors by his support that let him down. Some say that the infant's fast one was fastest in the ninth. Be that as it may, he was still there and he had shut them out. "Even money and pick your team," said the fraternity.
But the real drama came with the return to Baltimore on Saturday after a day's rest. It was cold fury against fierce exultation. Blandly, Hank sent out his other boy. Bunker, to contend against Osteen, third of the great Dodger pitching triumvirate. Osteen lived up to his reputation. In the first inning he wrecked Murder Incorporated; nor was anybody making any errors that day. So it went for four innings, nothing to nothing. Then out from nowhere--seventh in the batting order--stepped an inconspicuous person named Blair to whom nobody had given a thought, and Osteen made his one mistake. He gave him a fast high one on the outside, and Blair swung. A fan near the top of the Baltimore stadium, approximately five stories above the ground, caught it and swore it was still on the rise. That was all; there wasn't any more. It ended one to nothing and the Orioles had three straight. "No money at any odds on the Dodgers," said the bettors.
But Hank Bauer wasn't quite through operating. Sunday he sent in his first boy, McNally, once more-to face Drysdale and retrieve his reputation. It was a shrewd bit of psychology, and it worked, although it was a near thing. They could hit McNally, but not when and where it counted, although one tremendous wallop brought Blair into prominence again. He and the ball raced for the fence. At the last moment Blair flew into the air and crashed into the fence. But the ball didn't. It was in his glove. Hurt? "Naw," said Blair. "That fence was only wood; I've hit worse than that." The final word too was with Blair. It was the ninth, two down and two on base, when the Dodger batter sent a skyscraper curving toward the center fielder. Blair hardly moved out of his tracks. "I just stood there and wished it would hurry," he said. "Seems like I waited all season for that ball to come down."
So Hank Bauer, master psychologist, opened the way for Frank Robinson and Paul Blair, both of African descent, to become civic heroes in Baltimore. And as the crowd poured out of the stadium Saturday, George Mahoney, who won the Democratic nomination for Governor of Maryland on a racist platform, stood, busily shaking hands and autographing programs.
By Gerald W. Johnson