Things havenever been hotter in the American League than they were last week, and the heatwas playing tricks on everybody. What had started out to be a taut and exactingdrama, replete with superb baseball played by superb baseball teams, collapsedlike a vaudeville switch act into a modern version of a wonderful old-fashionedcomic opera, complete with complicated plot, broad pratfalls and outrageoussurprises. Whenever a hero arose from the dust of conflict (like the White Soxor the Indians, who each took the Yankees two games of three), admiring eyesfollowed him as he crossed the stage to his next joust—usually with amouse-sized object like the Baltimore Orioles or Washington Senators. Head heldhigh and eyes fixed on the bright future, the hero then promptly fell flat onhis face as Orioles and Senators snapped at his ankles.
It was really anincredible week. The White Sox held a precarious grip on first place onTuesday, lost four straight games but still retained the lead on Sunday. Whenthey rallied to hold the eighth-place Orioles to a 2-2, 12-inning tie, theyactually increased their lead (by two percentage points). The Indians atmidweek were in their best shape of the season. All their ailing stars wereback in action, their pitching staff had been bolstered by the addition of SalMaglie and they were set to go. So they proceeded to lose three straight gamesto the seventh-place Senators. The Yankees, though playing at home, seemedlost.
In Old Boston,however, things were fever-bright. Mike Higgins' young Red Sox profited nicelyby the mistakes of their elders further up the line. The Sox had been slayingdragons steadily for a couple of months and had dragged themselves from themire of the second division to a point just abaft the leaders. Sunday nightthey were the closest they'd been all season, a bare one and one-half gamesbehind the White Sox. They looked forward eagerly to three games with theYankees.
Staid Boston wasbeside itself. Everyone was talking about the Red Sox. Everyone? Yes, everyone,even (0 shades of John Hancock!) at the British Consulate. At the week's endthe British Consul himself could stand the situation no longer. History wasswept aside; 181 years, seven months, three weeks and nine innings after theBoston Tea Party he took pen in hand and wrote to the Boston press asfollows:
The recent activities of the Boston Red Sox have had a number of sinisterconsequences which go largely unrecognized by the general public of NewEngland. The foreign observer in your midst has perhaps a certainresponsibility for drawing attention to these phenomena.
The staff ofthis office is 93% British. But coffee-break conversation, instead of centeringon proper themes like cricket or Channel swimming, nowadays tends to bedominated by esoteric references to home runs by Mr. Williams, double plays byMessrs. Klaus, Goodman and Zauchin and the wicked curve balls of Mr. Nixon andhis confreres.
In brief, aninsidious virus has penetrated what should be a sacrosanct British stronghold.One is entitled to ask: is this or is it not brain-washing, American style?
Secondly, thosewho, like the writer, use radioless motor cars are now being deprived of alegitimate amenity. Scarcely more than two months ago we could leave ouroffices at the height of the evening rush hour, confidently expectant of apeaceful drive out of the city with frequent restful traffic holdups when ourstrained nerves would be solaced by gentle music from the cars behind, beforeand alongside.
And now? Fromevery dashboard Mr. Curt Gowdy is declaiming, not quite loudly enough, thatGoodman is on second, Klaus on first and Williams at bat. "Here's thethree-two pitch," he says—and there goes the green light and away surge thecars, radios, Curt Gowdy and all. Does nobody care for the nerves of theradioless minority?
Thirdly, onerecently had the mortification of witnessing a ruse known as the"hidden-ball play" successfully employed against the Red Sox during apromising ninth-inning rally. The effect on the tempers, digestions and homelife of thousands (certainly of one) must have been disastrous. The hidden-ballstratagem may be baseball, but it is hardly cricket. Could it not beproscribed? Or at least its use against Boston banned?
Fourthly andfinally, in the tranquil days when pennants for the Red Sox were onlypie-in-the-sky-by-and-by, it was possible for ordinary mortals like the writerto take advantage of a free afternoon or evening to go to the ball game. Now,obtaining a ticket for Fenway Park demands as much foresight and ingenuity asthe Normandy landings of 1944; and the weaker and less experienced, such asBoston's British minority, tend to go to the wall—or, at best, to thebleachers. Would Mr. Higgins consider the merits of a return to the seconddivision? On reflection, perish the thought!
Yourcorrespondent must request that his identity be not revealed outside NewEngland. His addiction to local vices, if known in certain quarters, might leadto his premature recall from Boston. This would be a calamity inasmuch as a) helikes Boston, and b) he could not bear to miss the World Series games at FenwayPark at the end of this summer.
British Consulate General