You'll find plenty of awful news all over the place, including elsewhere on this web site. But this Baldy's Bombast isn't about the police state / surveillance state or the inevitable financial catastrophe.
This is about baseball.
Why baseball? Because I need to take a time out from tyranny, and baseball is one of the better ways to clear one's head. If you don't care for baseball, try the Baldy's Bombast page for previous posts.
So, anyway . . .
I was four years old in the summer of 1965, six weeks from starting kindergarten. My parents loaded our old station wagon with themselves and their six kids, and we hit the highway, from Portland to L.A., almost a thousand miles away.
Anaheim, actually. Disneyland.
The only thing I remember about Disneyland was riding the Matterhorn. Who puts a four-year-old on the Matterhorn? To this day, riding the Matterhorn was the scariest event of my life. Seriously. Hey, I was four.
Some time during that trip, we went to Dodger Stadium to catch a game between the Astros and the Dodgers. I remember a few snippets, like where we sat. I don't remember anything about the game, but my dad told me years ago that Sandy Koufax pitched for the Dodgers that day. That was cool, but I never really gave it another thought.
Until . . .
Until, through the miracle of the Internet, I found that game's box score and play-by-play. And I discovered that what happened that day, July 20, 1965, was rarer than what happened on that same date four years later. After all, there were several subsequent Apollo missions, but what happened at Dodger Stadium that day might well have never happened since, and certainly will never happen from here on.
The score was 2-2 with two out in the bottom of the ninth, bases empty. The Astros pitcher was Ron Taylor, who was on in relief of Mike Cuellar. Cuellar, of course, would go on to win the Cy Young Award with Baltimore four years later.
Other players of note that game for the Astros were Rusty Staub, Jim "The Toy Cannon" Wynn, and Joe Morgan, who finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting that season and went on to a Hall of Fame career. By the way, Wynn stole 43 bases in 47 attempts that season. Rickey Henderson never had that high of a success rate. Neither did Lou Brock, Willie Wilson, Vince Coleman, Maury Wills or Tim Raines (except one year when he was 13-for-13).
Notable Dodgers were Maury Wills, Wes Parker ("The Rifleman"), and Jim Lefebvre (that season's Rookie of the Year and future big-league manager).
So, back to the game.
Taylor walked Jim Gilliam. Then he walked Lefebvre. Koufax was due up. Remember, the score was 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth.
Now, Koufax was a lousy hitter, even for a pitcher. One of the worst things you can say about a player is that he could not hit his weight. In his career, Koufax didn't hit even half his weight. He tipped the scales at 210 pounds and hit .097 lifetime. Oh-ninety-seven.
In his first three at-bats this game, Koufax had struck out once and grounded into two double plays. Certainly, manager Walter Alston would send in a pinch-hitter. Alston knew a thing or two about baseball. He won four World Series and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager in 1983. Alston would definitely send in a pinch-hitter.
But he didn't.
He let Koufax hit. Koufax was, after all, in the midst of perhaps the most dominant four-year run a pitcher has ever had in this galaxy, if not the universe. But still. The Dodgers were playing for keeps. They had won six in a row and were in first place by two and a half games over the Reds, with whom they had been tied just three days earlier. Plus, Koufax threw left and batted right, which meant his pitching arm was exposed during every at-bat.
Earth to Alston: You just don't have Koufax hit here.
But he did.
And that's the thing we'll never see again. No way, no how, no chance will we ever see an anemic-hitting starting pitcher bat for himself with two out in the bottom of the ninth, score tied, winning run on second. Never ever ever.
But I saw it through my four-year-old eyes.
Koufax singled to left, scoring Lefebvre. Dodgers win, 3-2.