May 25, 2017

Notes From the Shadows of Cooperstown: Happy Holidays

December 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

This may be the final NOTES for 2008, unless I squeeze in one more … looks like our Christmas will be white and deep here in the shadows of Cooperstown … some traveling is on deck, family home for the holidays, so #472 just might kick off 2009.

This is the 41st issue of NOTES this year, so that comes out to an issue about every nine days. I think it was a mostly-weekly pace but then there were breaks for a number of road trips. More of those on deck in 2009, too — to Chicago, when and if those “new” Black Sox documents are accessible; the usual jaunts to Pittsburgh and Ohio (the Seymour Conference is back); and then there’s Alaska, this coming June/July, about two weeks ‘way up north, and I wonder if I’ll see any baseball there?

THIS ISSUE is one more trip to Fantasyland, via my handy time machine (APBA Baseball), but before that, just a personal note of thanks to all those who read NOTES and encourage me in many ways to keep at it. Hope you all have a healthy and happy holiday season and the same for the coming year.

IF AT FIRST

To my surprise, the Deadball stars swept the Negro League stars last week in a best-of-seven. Only one blowout and two one-run games, but still … anyway, the results made me curious to see what would happen if the older (in most cases) guys and the lesser-known (thanx to segregation) stars were batting against pitching that was more equal. Here’s what happened.

By the way, it’s becoming increasingly awkward to refer to the Negro Leaguers without a good nickname, so from here on, they will be the Monarchs, in honor of the old KC franchise. And I’ll call the Deadball Stars the Gray Sox.

GAME ONE (All games at Forbes Field again)

All the pitchers on both teams will start this series with the grade of “A” (see NOTES #469 for the system I use to allow pitchers to “upgrade” and “degrade” during the games; pitchers will take any new grades into subsequent appearances.) So Walter Johnson, who tossed a 7-hit shutout against the Monarchs last time, will start as an A, instead of an A & B. He’ll face Satchel Paige, who was an A when he was hit hard in his only outing in the last series.

Both pitchers get thru the first inning, giving up a double (Tris Speaker, Oscar Charleston), but no runs. In the second, the G-Sox get going with a three-spot. Honus Wagner triples and Ed Delahanty walks. (Both Johnson and Paige have super control, but will still give the occasional base on balls.) Satch fans Nap Lajoie and Frank Baker’s fly to left is too shallow to score Hans. But Roger Bresnahan raps a hit to right, and Hugh Duffy follows with a two-run double, for the 3-0 lead.

Cool Papa Bell starts the home 2nd with a single and steals second, and after an out, Judy Johnson singles him in. 3-1. But the Gray Sox are still making good contact off Paige. After Sam Thompson walks to start the 3rd, Wagner and Delahanty smack back-to-back doubles, ending Satchel’s day. Willie Foster comes in to get two quick outs, but Bresnahan gets another two-out RBI single to make it 6-1.

The Monarchs miss a chance in their 3rd, when Josh Gibson triples with one out, but is picked off third by Bresnahan. Buck Leonard and Mule Suttles follow with empty singles, but Bell grounds out, no runs. Foster fanned Duffy to end the third and he starts the 4th by firing strike three past Ty Cobb. He whiffs Sam Thompson, too, but that comes after a solo HR by Tris Speaker, and it’s a 7-1 lead.

The Monarchs claw back, scratching across a run in their 4th on two singles, thanks to Tubby Scales’ stolen base, RBI to Pete Hill. Foster fans two more in a scoreless 5th, and Buck Leonard makes it 7-3 with a solo blast in the bottom of the inning.

Then Foster runs out of gas. Duffy singles with one out. Willie retires Cobb, but Speaker collects his third extra-base hit of the day, another double, 8-3. Thompson singles him home and after Sam swipes second (with new pitcher Ray Brown on the hill), Honus Wagner’s singles makes it 10-3. In the 7th, the Sox find Brown’s number, too. Lajoie triples and Baker plates him with a single to left. Bresnahan grounds out, but Duffy’s third hit, a double, gives him 3 RBI. Cobb follows with his only hit of the game, a single, and it’s 13-3.

After Leonard’s HR, Walter Johnson settles down and gives up just a walk, retiring nine of ten. Top of the 8th, Brown is taking one for the team. Wagner singles, Eddie Collins (in for Lajoie) walks and after a ground-out, that Bresnahan guy gets his third two-out hit of the game, another single, giving him 4 RBI and making the score 15-3.

Frank Chance is on first, Jimmy Collins is at third, and Jack Chesbro will finish up for Walter. This one looks like it’s in the bag. But it’s not. Bell singles to start the home 8th, and with Chance playing way off the bag, he steals second, no throw. Scales flies out, but Judy Johnson draws a walk. Monte Irvin pinch-hits for Lundy, and raps a two-run double, making it 15-5. Chesbro fans Pete Hill, two out. But Charleston singles home Irvin, and Josh Gibson lashes a HR over the scoreboard, 15-8. Leonard walks and Mule Suttles triples him in, sending Chesbro to the showers. Cy Young takes over, Christobal Torriente pinch hits and finds a gap, an RBI triple. 15-10. Tubby Scales, who started the inning with an out, will not end it — he cracks a HR to right, and it’s 15-12. Young finally retires Johnson on a shot to Wagner. The fans are on their feet as the ninth inning begins.

A new ballgame, Leroy Matlock comes on to pitch for the Monarchs. He gives up a single to Speaker — Spoke’s 4th hit — but fans Wagner to end the inning with no runs in. Monte Irvins starts the home ninth with a shot to short but Wagner makes a terrific stop and nips Irvin, one down. Pete Hill follows with a long double, and Ed Walsh takes over for Cy Young. Oscar Charleston, 2-for-4 today, draws his second walk. He’s the tying run, if Josh Gibson can find a gap. Instead, Gibson’s hard hit up the middle is snared by Walsh, he fires to Wagner flying across the bag at second and Gibson is out by a gnat’s eyelash at first, a 1-6-3 game-ending DP.

The game had 27 runs, 36 hits, ten walks, no errors, the ERAs soar. Both teams are exhausted, Buck O’Neil is soaking wet with sweat for his usual post-game interview, and he was just coaching. In the first series, the Gray Sox won a decisive 12-0 victory. This time, they had a genuine scare, and if this game proves to be typical, I may need to raise the default pitcher’s grade to AC or AB!

GAME TWO

The Sox send out Big Six Mathewson against Cyclone Williams. Cobb gets the first hit and SB, the Sox do not score in the first. The Monarchs do — Charlston walks and Josh Gibson doubles him around, 1-0. Nap Lajoie, of all people, knots the score in the top of the 2nd, with a line drive HR to right. Nap will hit .400 but get just one or two homers a season, so he is razzed mightily when he gets back to the Sox dugout. The Monarchs come right back in their second ups, Tubby Scales and Judy Johnson single, Monte Irvin hits a sac fly, then Pete Hill, who has lots of power for a leadoff guy (he reminds me of Ricky Henderson), takes Matty deep, and it’s 4-1.

Duffy triples with one out in the Sox third, but is stranded. Wagner is robbed on a web-gem by Judy Johnson at third in the 4th, Delahanty follows with a single, but Williams gives up no runs. In the fifth, his infield turns in two more spectacular hit-saving infield plays, by Scales and Johnson, and Williams gets his first 1-2-3 inning.

When Hill and Charleston open the home fifth with doubles, making it 5-1, McGinnity takes over for Mathewson. The Iron Man pitches out of that jam, but in the sixth, he gets into one of his own making. With one out, Scales singles, and Lajoie dives to rob Johnson of his third hit. Irvin walks, and Pete Hill comes thru with his third extra-base hit of the game, a two-run triple, and it’s 7-1 Monarchs.

Williams gives up a leadoff double to Cobb in the sixth but no runs, and then turns in a 1-2-3 7th — he’s rolling. In the home 7th, Buck Leonard singles, steals, moves to third on a fly to right by Suttles, and comes in on a sac fly by Torriente, it’s 8-1. But the Gray Sox are a hard team to keep off the scoreboard, they scored in six of nine innings in Game One. Bresnahan singles to start the 8th, and he steals second. Duffy lines one to deep right, but Pete Hill, the batting star today, runs it down to save a sure double. Bresnahan takes third easily, and with Cobb up, the infield plays deep, and Roger scores on the Peach’s bouncer to second, 8-2. Tris Speaker then gets all of a Williams’ fast ball and drills it into the right-center seats, it’s 8-3, and Leroy Matlock comes in, Williams leaves to a standing-O. Thompson greets Matlock with a single, but Wagner flies out to center, ending the threat.

Judy Johnson starts the ninth with a double, his third hit after all. Lundy, in at short for defense, is up to bunt, but Wood walks him. In a close game, Pete Hill might be bunting, too, but he needs just a single for the cycle, so he gets the green light to swing, and pops to left. Wood then smokes it past Charleston and Gibson to end the Monarch’s threat.

For a while, it looks like maybe Hill should have bunted for a little more insurance. Matlock walks Delahanty and Lajoie rips a single to right — Hill’s throw to third is off line and Nap takes second. Frank Baker then doules off the scoreboard to make it 8-5 and the tying run comes to the on deck circle with none out. Shoeless Joe Jackson comes off the bench, and Jimmy Newberry enters the game from the Monarchs’ pen. Jackson connects, but his blue darter is snagged by SS Lundy, who flips to Scales for the killing DP. Newberry gets Duffy to fly out, 8-5 is the final.

Buck O’Neil is animated and talking a blue-darter-streak as the players shake hands and head for the showers. “Did you see that Lundy? Shoeless Joe done knock the cover off that ball, it was a gapper for sure, but NO, Lundy done snared it with that outstretched glove hand, falling down behind second. No way he can double up Baker, the Home Run man, if he rights hisself, or just kneels and takes the time to make that throw. So what’s that man Lundy do? He’s stretched out on da ground, and he passes the ball behind his back, jes’ like a Bob Cousy pass in the paint, and he hits Tubby’s glove smack in the middle, like he threw it with his hand, but he didn’t, you see, he threw it with his glove! Don’t that beat all?”

The Monarchs had to hold on for this one, like the Gray Sox had to hold on in Game One. Now both teams have tasted victory, and after that sweep in the first series, it’s an important taste for the Monarchs. They’ve beaten the Sox, now anything is possible.

[In case you are wondering — Buck O’Neil’s description of the DP turned in by Lundy did not come from the APBA game boards. It came from my memory. The shortstop who actually DID pull off such a play was the shortstop for the Utica Blue Sox, and he did it in a game I saw at Oneonta. In that game, there was a runner on third, so the play also saved a run. The home town fans gave the visiting player a long standing ovation — it was THAT good.]

GAME THREE

Cannonball Redding on the mound for the Monarchs, Old Pete Alexander for the Gray Sox. And for the first four innings, the fans are treated to a wonderful and unexpected, old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. Alex gives up a hit in the first, two more in the second and the third, before finally setting down the visitors in order in the fourth. A 1-2-3 inning eludes Redding, but he matches goose-eggs with Old Pete. The G-Sox load the sacks in the first on singles by Duffy & Cobb and a walk to Speaker. But Sam Thompson flies to Oscar Charleston in center, his strong throw home holding Duffy at third. Then Honus Wagner raps back to Redding who tosses home for one out and Gibson fires to Buck Leonard at first to nip the Dutchman, side out. The Sox get hits in each of the next three innings, but cannot advance a runner past second.

In the top of the 5th, The Monarchs squeak one across. Judy Johnson singles, Biz Mackey (in his debut) bounces out, and after Pete Hill fans, Charleston singles to make it 1-0. Bresnahan singles to start the fifth — the fourth inning the Sox have got the leadoff man on. But again, no advance.

But in the bottom of the 6th, a breakthrough. Thompson singles and Wagner gets his second hit since that first-inning flop, a hit-and-run double to tie the game. Redding whiffs Delahanty and gets Lajoie on a bouncer to second, Honus moving to third. Then Frank Baker hits a low liner toward right, 2B Tubby Scales knocks it down, but has no play, and it’s 2-1. Hit.

In the top of the 7th, the Monarchs come back. Alex has retired six in a row and 15 of 17 before Biz Mackey (playing short) draws a two-out walk. Then Pete Hill, one of the heroes of Game Two, drives one over the 406′ mark in left center, to put the visitors back on top, 3-2.

Jimmy Newberry takes over for Redding. The Gray Sox waste no time tying it up again. Duffy walks to start the 7th, and Cobb beats out an infield hit. Tris Speaker is called on to bunt, but Spoke pops it up — Redding grabs it and fires to first to nail Cobb, two out. But he cannot get Thompson, who singles, to make it 3-3 after seven. Alexander fans Suttles, the middle out in a 1-2-3 8th inning.

Bottom of the 8th, Delahanty opens with a single — the seventh time the Sox have gotten their first batter on. Lajoie is up to bunt and does better than Speaker, moving Del to second. Baker is walked intentionally, the Monarchs are looking for a DP to end the inning and the threat. Bresnahan flies to left, the runners hold. One out to go. But Hugh Duffy is a tough out, and he raps a double to right, scoring both runners. Cobb walks, and Nip Winters comes in. Nip normally has good control, but not today, he walks Speaker and Thompson to force in a third run before striking out Honus Wagner. But it’s 6-3 Sox.

Alex takes the hill, he’s scattered eight hits, and has given up just one long hit so far. Tubby Scales leads off and drives one to deep short, but Wagner, maybe making up some for all those runners he left on base today, guns out Scales. Judy Johnson follows with a triple, but Alex is still in control. Rap Dixon pinch hits, and fouls out to Bresnahan. Pete Hill is the last hope of the Monarchs, and Alexander makes him his sixth strikeout victim. 6-3 is the final. Sox go up 2-1 in games.

Buck O’Neil is all smiles, and has nothing but praise for the players who performed today. “I can’t believe we got nine hits off Old Pete, the way he was firing that ball today. Mmm-MMM!” Asked about the power outage on the Monarchs — Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Mule Suttles collectively produced one single in their twelve at bats — Buck says, “Not their day. But their day will come, you’ll see!”

GAME FOUR

For the record — I write these games up as they happen these days. Worth mentioning, because of the words I put in Buck O’Neil’s mouth in his last (now traditional) post-game interview.

Nip Winters, who walked in the final Sox run yesterday, gets the start today. He goes up against Three Finger Brown. For Game Four, both teams shake up their lineups. The Monarchs will start Turkey Stearnes in LF (where Cool Papa or Torriente usually roam), Rap Dixon at third (resting Judy Johnson), and Monte Irvin will start at SS again (over Lundy or Lloyd). The Gray Sox will rest Sam Thompson (just four singles in the series so far) and let Shoeless Joe swing from the cleanup spot. Sam Crawford will play some first for Delahanty, and the Collins boys, Eddie & Jimmy, will play 2B & 3B, resting Lajoie and Baker. Ray Schalk will give Bresnahan a break.

With one out in the first, Oscar Charleston doubles to right. Josh Gibson follows with a double, and just like that it’s 1-0. Buck Leonard flies to center, but Mule Suttles hits it over the 457′ mark, a mammoth shot, and it’s 3-0. Next inning, Monte Irvin singles with one down and Pete Hill triples to the batting cage in center. Oscar C’s sac fly makes it 5-0. In the third, with Ed walsh now pitching, Turkey Stearnes rips one straight down the line in left, and it clears the bricks, barely fair, 6-0.

Meanwhile, Nip Winters holds the Sox at bay thru three, give up two singles in the second to Jackson and Crawford, but that’s all. Top of the 4th, the Monarchs threaten again. Hill flies out but Oscar singles and Gibson moves him to third with a hit to right. Josh steals second. But Buck Leonard, two singles in his last ten ABs, is victimized when his liner down the line in right is speared by Sam Crawford, who fires to Wagner for the 3-6 DP, ending the inning.

In the home 4th, the G-Sox come alive. Speaker singles, and Jackson grounds one up the middle and into center. Charleston has it on two hops, then he loses it, and Speaker alertly gets to third. An error for Oscar. Wagner’s slow roller to short with the infield back is a 6-3 good for a run. Crawford bounces to first on a hit and run, and Eddie Collins singles in Wagner, it’s 6-2. Walsh waltzes thru the 5th, and the Sox make it closer in their half. Duffy walks with one out and Cobb singles him to third. After Cobb steals (he’s now 3-for-4 vs Gibson’s arm in the series), Speaker drops a flair over short, both runners score and Spoke hustles it into a double. But Winters retires Jackson and Wagner with no further damage and his lead is now 6-4.

In the top of the 6th, the Monarchs give Winters some breathing room. Hill doubles with one out and Charleston’s third hit scores him. Gibson is retired on a comebacker, but Buck Leonard gets all of a Walsh curve and drives it into the trees behind the LF wall. 9-4, and when Suttles follows with a double, Walsh is replaced by Joe Wood, who gets the third out.

The Sox get one back in their 6th, on Sam Crawford’s double, a ground-out and Jimmy Collins’ sac fly. But that would be all the scoring for the Sox today. Winters gives up a double to Duffy leading off the 7th, then retires the last nine Gray Sox batters for the CG win. Wood, in his 3+ inning stint, gives up just two hits, but they both leave the park — back-to-back homers in the 8th by Buck Leonard and Mule Suttles, the second of the game for both players. Buck O’Neil, coaching third, does he Eee-yah Jennings impression as they round his base, heading home.

The 11-5 Monarch win evens the series at two game apiece. The three big bats in their lineup, Gibson, Leonard and Suttles, had nine hits, two doubles and four HRs, accounting for seven runs. The members of this trio are, by the way, the only Monarchs who would qualify for that Sluggers team that the Deadballers defeated in six games a little while ago. (I defined “Slugger” as having the capacity to hit 40+ HRs a season.)

Buck O’Neil is now calling on reporters by name, he knows them all. “I won’t say ‘I told you so,’ I’m not that kind of guy, but sometimes old Buck gets this feelin’, see? That blast by Buck in the sixth was the killer blow. But when him and Mule went deep again in the eighth, I scolded them both. Save it for tomorrow, I tells them. But they both give it their all every at bat, and I think the fans deserve that, don’t you?”

GAME FIVE

Another Game Five with the feel of a Game Seven. Here’s how the pitching matchups will go for the last two or three games of this series. Game Five will be a rematch between the Game One duelers, Satchel Paige and Walter Johnson. The Gray Sox touched up Satch for six runs in that one, while Walter tossed seven strong innings, so Walter will have a big edge in the rematch (in APBA terms, a Grade B vs a Grade A & C). In Game Six, the advantage will shift to the Monarchs, with Cyclone Williams, the winner in a strong outing in Game Two, facing Christy Mathewson, hit hard in his four innings of that game. If the teams split Games Five and Six, the Game Seven hurlers will be Cannonball Redding and Pete Alexander, who both pitched well in Game Three, with Alex getting the CG win. Nip Winters, the Game Four victor, will have a day off then go to the bullpen, which has not had much success in this series. (Again in APBA lingo, they have just one A and the rest are B’s — normally this would make any manager very happy, but not in this kind of competition!)

Pete Hill is the first batter, he’s looking for a pitch and he gets it right away, and he lofts it into the upper deck in right, 1-0 Monarchs. Now the fans notice that the wind is gusting out … it didn’t affect that first hit, and as it turned out, would not really matter the rest of the game, either.

Walter gives up a single to Gibson; the big man shows he can run, too, and swipes second, then races home on Buck Leonard’s hit. But Johnson gets Suttles on a fly to left and fans Turkey Stearnes to end the inning, with the Sox down, 2-0.

But not for long. Duffy clubs a triple over Charleston’s head, and Cobb’s fly to Oscar gets Duffy home. Speaker doubles, and comes in a pitch later on Thompson’s single. Satch could easily come undone here, as Thompson steals second. And maybe he does, a little, as he hits Wagner. Then a freak play — Big Ed Delahanty is up, the infield way back, and Del checks his swing, resulting in a perfect “bunt” single and the sacks are full. Now it’s Nap Lajoie, a tough guy to double up, but the infield will try anyway, they play deep, and Nap accommodates with a sharp hit to Scales, the 4-6-3 ending the threat. 2-2.

Walter gives up only a single in the top of the second and is soon back in the dugout shade. Frank Baker starts it off with a double. Roger Bresnahan is bunting, taps it to the left, Paige has it, looks at third, then throws wild to first, it’s a rare and costly two-base error. Satch bears down, fanning Duffy and getting Cobb to fly out again, but then Speaker draws a walk. Thompson bounces to Irvin at short, the easy flip to Scales to end the — wait, Tubby drops the ball, everybody is safe. And now Satch has to face Honus Wagner, still trying not to rub the bruise from his last at bat. The bases are full, now the count is full, and Satch fires the radio ball — Wagner hears it but can’t see it, and the K ends the inning.

Walter gives up two singles in the third, squirms briefly, then fans Suttles and Stearnes and it’s back to the shade. Paige looks like he’s about 62 years old. But he fans Delahanty, on the hesi- … tation pitch. The Sox protest, but lose. Lajoie knows how to protest, he doubles to right. Baker grounds out, but Roger Bresnahan gets it all and drills a triple to left-center to make it 4-2, and Satchel does not protest as Ray Brown takes over and gets Duffy to pop up for the third out.

Both teams go down in order in the 4th. In the fifth, Walter gives up just one hit, but it’s a long triple to the gate in center by Charleston. Gibson’s fly to left is deep enough to score Oscar and make it a one-run game, 4-3. In the Sox 5th, Wagner is robbed on a web-gem 5-3 by Judy Johnson, and it seems to matter when Brown walks Delahanty and Lajoie beats out a hit. Baker’s grounder to Leonard advances the runners, but that’s all, and Bresnahan ground to Scales to end the threat.

Walter breezes thru the top of the sixth and his teammates give him an insurance run in the bottom. Duffy walks, Cobb flies to Charleston — a fourth straight time — and Duffy is running as Speaker grounds out, averting the DP. Sam Thompson follows with a triple, then Wagner — it’s just not the Dutchman’s day — rams one up the middle but Monte Irvin cuts it off, a nice 6-3.

In the 7th, the Monarchs get two on, Hill and Charlston singling, but Josh Gibson grounds mightily into a swift 6-4-3. Sluggers often ground into more DPs than the average batter, because they hit the ball hard and the infield is usually back, fearing injury if they are too close.

Brown matches the Big Train’s zero on the scoreboard, and Walter spins thru the 8th, fanning Suttles and Stearnes — again. The 5-3 lead is looking huge, Johnson is firing on all cylinders now (in APBA lingo, he’s ascended to Grade ABC). Rats Henderson takes over for Brown, who has pitched superbly in his four and a third innings of relief, giving up just one run. Henderson is greeted by a Hugh Duffy single, and is immediately yanked. The situation calls for Cyclone Williams, due to start Game Six.

Williams faces Ty Cobb, and while he ponders what the Peach will do, Duffy steals second. The Peach knows the value of one more run at this juncture, and he bunts, and it’s a beauty, Williams vacuums it up and throws to third, his only play, but Duffy slides in safely. Give Cobb a sacrifice. Now it’s Tris Speaker’s turn, and he signals Cobb for the hit-and-run. But Spoke grounds to Oscar Charleston, who moved to first base in a switch last inning, and Duffy cannot score, Cobb gaining a base. Williams gives a free pass to Sam Thompson and the infield is looking for another saving DP. It’s really not Honus Wagner’s day, he tops a one-hopper to Irvin and it’s 6-4-3 and out.

Walter Johnson still has his two-run lead, and needs just three outs. He gets the first one easily, Judy Johnson on a grounder to Lajoie. But Monte Irvin draws a walk, the tying run is at bat, Pete Hill. And Hill, who started the game with a homer, poles another one, this time into the lower deck, but it ties the game 5-5. Johnson is stunned, and walks the next batter, Charleston, then shakes it off and fans Josh Gibson, his 7th K of the game. Now it’s up to Christobal Torriente, a Cuban who must have played with a Clemente-like flair, blazing speed. He ran for Buck Leonard in the 8th and stole a base, this is his first look at Walter Johnson. And he lashes a hit to right, past Speaker and the ball kicks left off the wall and heads for center. By the time Duffy runs it down, Torri is standing on third. Johnson is just staring at Mule Suttles, who has fanned twice. But not thrice, the Mule shakes the scoreboard with a rising liner, it goes for a double, and Iron Man McGinnity comes in to get the last out. The Monarchs’ rally has them ahead, 7-5.

The Gray Sox cannot believe that they have let this one get away, but they have three outs to go. But Cyclone Williams will give them nothing: Delahanty lines to Johnson at third, Lajoie flies to Stearnes in left and Shoeless Joe Jackson, in the pinch, ground harmlessly to Irvin at short. Game Three goes to the Monarchs, and they’ll be home team for Game Six.

Buck O’Neil, for the first time, is virtually speechless. He waves the reporters away, he wants to go celebrate with Pete Hill and Oscar and Josh and Buck and Torri and Mule and Turkey and Judy, and no one will be happier about this one than Ol’ Satchel, who had a gutsy couple innings. The Monarchs out-hit the Sox, 12-11, it’s the third time in the series that that happened. Walter Johnson: “I lost a lot of 1-0 games in my day, and they are much easier to take than games like this.” Although the Monarchs will have the edge in pitching in Game Six, the Gray Sox just might come out with fire in their eyes. None blazing more than those of Honus Wagner, who washes this one away with a large beer. Or two.

GAME SIX

Mathewson and Williams start this one, but neither will last long. Cyclone gets off to a rocky start, Duffy singles, steals, and comes around on Speaker’s hit. Wagner walks and Delahanty makes it 2-0 with a single. Del steals, but Lajoie’s easy fly to left strands two in scoring position. The Monarchs get one back in their half of the first. Frank Baker’s error lets Charleston get aboard, and Gibson doubles home the unearned run, 2-1.

With one out in the 2nd, Bresnahan singles and Duffy follows by beating out a grounder. Cobb makes it three singles in a row, Bres scores from second, Duffy going to third, and Cobb promptly steals second. That proved to be unnecessary, when Tris Speaker connects and drills one into the RF seats, making it 6-1.Williams fans Thompson, but Honus Wagner triples to left. Delahanty’s hit plates Honus and sends Williams to the showers, it’s 7-1. Nip Winters gets the last out.

Torriente singles and steals to start the home 2nd, and Tubby Scales knocks him in. Judy Johnson singles, and Matty walks Monte Irvin to load the bases. Pitching in this pinch, Matty gets Hill on a short fly to center, Charleston on a longer one (Scales comes in, 7-3), then Josh Gibson pops up, stranding two more.

For a few innings, the 7-3 lead looks safe. Winters retires the side in order in the 3rd and 4th, Matty pitches a strong third, but when Johnson singles and steals, and Irvin singles a run home to start the 4th, Big Ed Walsh is called in. Walsh gets Hill and Charleston on grounders, but Gibson lines one back up the middle, knocking down Walsh, and Ed has to leave the game. The hit goes for a single, Irvin takes third. Smoky Joe Wood comes in, but perhaps needed more warm-up tosses. He walks Buck Leonard on four pitches, then grooves one to Mule Suttles who blasts it out of the park, a grand slam, putting the Monarchs ahead 8-7.

The Gray Sox have five innings to catch up, the Monarch’s bullpen is weak. Nip Winters is replaced by Rats Henderson, so Nip can pitch again tomorrow, if needed. Rats gives up a hit to Wagner but Lajoie bounces into a 4-6-3 to end the Sox threat in the 5th. Wood is greeted in the home half by Tubby Scales, who rockets Wood’s first offering over the screen in right. Lajoie boots Johnson’s grounder, and Monte Irvin follows with a neat hit-and-run single. Pete Hill’s single makes it 10-7, and Iron Man McGinnity is called in to see if he can stop the bleeding. He gets Charleston to fly out, but Gibson gets his third hit and second RBI, it’s 11-7. Buck Leonard fouls out, McGinnity is almost out of the woods. But Mule Suttles connects again, this drive clearing the scoreboard, his second dinger in two innings and seven RBIs, half of the 14-7 lead.

Seven is not an insurmountable lead, though, and no one is celebrating. Baker singles to start the sixth and Bresnahan walks. But Hugh Duffy hits into a back-breaking 1-4-3 DP, Cobb flies out, and no dent is made in that lead.

The Monarchs add a run in their 6th on Irvin’s third single and Pete Hill’s triple. 15-7. Henerson turns the game over to Willie Foster, and the Gray Sox take their best shot in the 7th. Speaker walks, Thompson singles, Wagner flies out by Delahanty walks to load the bases. Foster is nervous, and wild pitches a run home. But he gets Lajoie to pop to Scales, a pressure catch for Tubby. Frank Baker comes thru in the clutch with a two-run single, and it’s 15-10, but Foster gets Bresnahan to ground out.

McGinnity gives up nothing more, but as it turns out, nothing more is needed. Jimmy Newberry gets the last six outs, giving up just a ninth-inning single to Thompson, and the series is over, the Monarchs taking the last three games.

Buck O’Neil, dripping champagne, has wrapped one arm around Mule Suttles and will not let go. “This here’s our Babe Ruth, you know that? We used to call Ruth the White Mule! My, my, can you imagine what Mr Suttles would get paid today? But none of us starved. But let me tip my cap to the gentlemen we beat in this series, they played a ton of baseball, too. That Mister Cobb and Mister Wagner, why they would have fit right in with our gangs, they all play hardball, y’know?”

Buck will entertain the reporters for another hour. The series ended like it began, with a shootout. Both lineups are nightmarish for pitchers, even Grade A’s. Both are loaded with power and speed, speed that turns many singles or walks into doubles. There is no pitching around anybody, either, and both benches are potent, too. The series has reinforced a conclusion I reached long ago about these black ballplayers who were blackballed out of “Organized Baseball” in the years before Jackie — and that is that Baseball, O.B., was the big loser. There was never a question that many in the Negro Leagues were capable of playing alongside Cobb, Ruth, Hornsby, and the rest. Six decades and more after Jackie, it still seems tragic that it took so damn long.

ONE FOR THE ROAD

As Walt Disney used to say, “As we leave Fantasyland …” But wait, before we set aside these simulations, I want to try one more. And here’s the one I’ll end with, next issue.

IMAGINE. You have created a field of dreams, it’s your cornfield, and you can call out of those big green stalks any ballplayers you want. Who you gonna call?

I start by calling out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I hand the bat to the Bambino and he tosses it to Lou, they go hand-over-hand, and the winner gets to call the next player out. In other words, these two guys are my team captains, and I will have a lot of fun just seeing who they pick to play on their side. In fact, watching these rosters form — the all-time best-of-the-best, distilled into two, 25-man teams — might be more fun than the best-of-seven that will follow.

Remember, scattered amongst those ears of corn are all of the best players. Not just the Deadball Era stars, not just the Sluggers, not just the Negro League all-timers, but the other players who didn’t fit onto those three rosters. Like George Sisler, whose 1922 season was all-time … or Pie Traynor, a hot corner man who can play with anyone … or — well, anyone whose APBA card I have!

I’ll stop there, so anyone interested can make your picks, and next issue, you can see if Babe and Lou agreed with you. And then we’ll see what happens when they put on the spikes — again.

One more thing — I’ll actually be picking the all-time top players based on the APBA cards that I have. I do not have a card for Barry Bonds in his 73-HR year, or any of his other monster seasons. (I think I have his 1992, not shabby.) If you want to make predictions, it will be best to keep in mind the game descriptions that have appeared here, the past dozen issues, especially the last several. You know Hugh Duffy and Ty Cobb will be picked near the top, along with Josh Gibson and Rogers Hornsby. Let me know if your picks matched … uh, those by Babe and Lou.

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