THURSDAY, JUNE 11. Seven days ago a tiny, brown and expensive voodoo doll arrived in the general manager's office at Chicago's White Sox Park. There were nine sterling silver pins with the doll, and atop each pin was a triangular flag bearing the name of an American League team—all but the Chicago White Sox. General Manager Ed Short stuck the pin labeled "Detroit" into the doll and the Tigers promptly lost three of four games to Chicago. Some 50 hours later the Baltimore pin went into the doll and the White Sox won two of three from the Orioles.
Early this evening the doll, the pins, the pennants and the 30 men who wear White Sox uniforms boarded a chartered DC-6 for New York and five games with the Yankees in three days. After New York the White Sox will go to Baltimore for five games in four days, then back to Chicago for four games in three days with the Yankees. For more than a week now the 30 White Sox have been pestered by friends for tickets for those four games with the Yankees. Every baseball fan in Chicago knows how important the next 10 days are for the Sox: Chicago does not play New York or Baltimore in the months of July, September and October.
For the road trip each member of the Sox was equipped with a gray Samsonite three-suiter, $70 for meal money and a firm conviction that this team was going to become the third in 16 years to take a pennant away from the Yankees. In the hold of the plane were 1,500 pounds of equipment, including six dozen balls, two baby-blue road uniforms for each man and 70 bats. On the plane Manager Al Lopez, the only non-Yankee manager since 1948 to win an American League pennant, reiterated what he had said in Tampa in March. "The Yankees can be beaten this year," said Lopez. "Their pitching is not terribly strong, and last year they got great performances out of fellows who normally are not capable of that. This confused a lot of people and probably caused many to overrate them. They have good power and they field well, but they can be beaten. These next 10 days are big for us, but they are not what I would call crucial. It's too early in the season to use the word crucial." When the White Sox arrived in New York they heard the result of the game between the Yankees and Red Sox in Boston. New York, troubled all season by erratic pitching and hitting, had parlayed eight extra-base hits and the first complete game of the year from Pitcher Jim Bouton into an 8-4 victory. In his hotel room Ed Short took the voodoo doll from his suitcase and thrust in the New York pin.
FRIDAY, JUNE 12. Going into the first game of tonight's doubleheader the Yankees seemed to be at a definite disadvantage. Yankee pitching had become so depleted that Steve Hamilton, who is normally used as a short-relief man, was called, on to start the five-game series. The White Sox had John Buzhardt ready, and the Yankees had not beaten Buzhardt in three years. Buzhardt said he felt fine before the game, but Hamilton admitted that he hadn't slept well the night before. "We have a new baby," he said. "Our first son after two girls. His name is Robert Christopher, and he was born the day we started on our last road trip. I just saw him once until yesterday." On Thursday, Hamilton had been sent back from Boston early so he could rest before his first start in two years, but Robert Christopher woke him five times during the night. "When I finally did get back to sleep," Hamilton said. "I had a hideous dream. I got traded to the Mets and they were just about to start a 60-game road trip. I couldn't get back to sleep after that."
Hamilton strained through the first five innings, throwing 83 pitches, but the Yankees gave him five runs in the sixth and went on to an easy 6-1 win. In the last four innings Hamilton needed only 43 pitches. Whitey Ford beat the White Sox easily in the second game 3-0. After the double loss Al Lopez said softly, "You can't win games unless you score runs. Ford, you figure, is going to pitch a great game, because he usually does. I thought we would beat Hamilton. We are still in good shape. The only way this series could be considered critical is if we lose all five games, and I certainly don't think that's about to happen. We just had a bad night."
SATURDAY, JUNE 13. It was a bleak day in New York, and the threat of rain cancelled batting practice. Still, Don Gutteridge, the White Sox first-base coach, accepted the two dozen new baseballs that every home team gives the visiting team for practice. "Every team keeps a count," said Gutteridge, "and at the end of the year you figure how many balls you owe them or they owe you and whoever owes pays back. We aren't worried about the balls. We need hitting work."
It did not rain, the game was played and the White Sox lost 6-3. The starting lineup for the Yankees (Kubek, Richardson, Maris, Mantle, Tresh, Howard, Pepitone, Linz) had three times as much experience as the Sox (Hershberger, Weis, Ward, Hansen, Robinson, Nicholson, Cunningham, Carreon). In the Yankee dressing room after the game Manager Yogi Berra was happy but cautious. "We may be in trouble tomorrow," he said. Lopez was stunned. "If we can't do something tomorrow," he said, "we will be hurting real bad. We are ready with our best."
SUNDAY, JUNE 14. Although the White Sox lost the first three games of this series, they knew that today they had a big advantage: Juan Pizarro and Gary Peters were their pitchers for the doubleheader—their very best. The Yankkees had to use Bud Daley and Roland Sheldon—the bottom of the barrel. The Yankees, however, easily won the first game 8-3, and the second was a nightmare that the White Sox will have to work hard to forget. Peters coasted along with a 3-1 lead until the ninth inning, and then Shortstop Ron Hansen made two bad plays that enabled the Yankees to score two runs and tie the game. Lopez walked out, took the ball from Peters, bowed his head and kicked at the dirt on the mound. He was enduring one of the worst indignities in all his years as America's No. 1 Yankee-hater. New York scored a run in the 10th to win 4-3, and as John Blanchard, the Yankees' occasional outfielder, occasional catcher, ran in from the bullpen he saw something he had never seen before: "I looked over and there was Lopez standing on the top step of the dugout. His players were filing past him to the dressing room but he kept staring out into space. This whole series must have been like a kick in the guts. Now he has to go on and play Baltimore and then us again."
For 20 minutes no one said a word on the team bus taking the White Sox from Yankee Stadium to their chartered plane in Newark. On the 45-minute flight to Baltimore few could eat. On the South Side of Chicago a man sat down with a ballpoint pen and a sheet of clean white paper and wrote a letter to Ron Hansen. It said:
"You bunch of chokes. You're worse than the Mets. You're scared of a Yankee uniform. I'm glad you guys don't have to fight a war. You cowards."
MONDAY, JUNE 15. Throughout the day the White Sox players avoided the lobby of the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Just before 5:30 p.m. they came down in the elevators and shuffled toward the bus taking them to Memorial Stadium. Since May 8 the Orioles had won 24 of 37 games; not since 1960 had an Oriole team been in first place this late in the season. Tonight's game was to be televised back to Chicago, and the way the Sox had been going lately it did not seem like a particularly good idea. In the first inning, however, they bounced back with three singles, three doubles and two walks to score seven runs. Al Weis, the fast young second baseman who looks like a rock-'n'-roll singer, jumped up and down in the dugout, and the Sox applauded one another all night. They won 9-1 and regained first place. It was the sixth time this year the White Sox had taken the league lead.
TUESDAY, JUNE 16. Donald Duck got up around 11 a.m. today and went for a walk. Donald Duck is Eddie Fisher, the 27-year-old right-hander who was given credit for last night's victory; the starting pitcher, Fred Talbot, left after three innings when a line drive hit him on the ankle. "I could imitate Donald Duck for almost as long as I can remember," said Fisher. "Sometimes I will be talking to somebody, and then all of a sudden I'll talk like Donald just to see the expression on the guy's face. When I go to banquets during the off season I talk a little and then go right into Donald. Shakes people up a little.
"Last night really picked us up. We know we weren't as bad as we played in New York. If you ask any player about playing in Yankee Stadium he will tell you that it is no different than playing anyplace else, but it is. You know the records through the years when you go in there. You know their team is usually excellent and you live with that in the back of your mind before a game starts. But we aren't as bad as we looked in there this time." Two young boys walked past, and Fisher went into the Donald Duck routine. The boys stopped, looked all around and walked away bewildered. Fisher laughed. Tonight the Sox split with Baltimore, and the Yankees had to scramble to split with the Red Sox in New York.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17. Today the poison-pen letter from the South Side of Chicago arrived for Ron Hansen. He opened it and threw it onto the clubhouse floor in disgust, but First Baseman Joe Cunningham picked it up and taped it to the door near the trainer's room. As each player walked past he read it. But Cunningham's psychology failed. The Sox lost to Baltimore's fine rookie right-hander, Wally Bunker, 6-1. Before the game the Sox had heard that the Yankees had lost in 12 innings to Boston—their seventh loss in 11 extra-inning games this year. The Sox had blown a good chance to gain ground.
THURSDAY, JUNE 18. The gray suitcases were lined up in the hotel lobby tonight at 5 p.m. Outfielder Mike Hershberger was standing alongside, chatting with Starting Pitcher Frank Kreutzer. This was a big game for 24-year-old Kreutzer and a big game for the White Sox. "They want to save the big guys for the Yankee series," said Kreutzer. "My job is to go as far as I can go as hard as I can go." Hershberger carried a box under his arm that held a new pair of baseball shoes with plastic soles. "We need this one tonight," he said. "You hate to lose the last game of any series, because the flight back is brutal. The way we've been going, it would be even worse. We're two and seven on this trip, but we still have a chance to return to Chicago in first place if we win tonight." At the ball park Hershberger put on his new shoes for batting practice, and as he stepped into the batting cage Dave Nicholson, the muscular Chicago home run hitter and American League strikeout king, kidded him. "Hey, Hersey," he said. "Why don't you get a pair with white laces and a buckle in the back?" Hershberger said nothing but hit the ball hard in batting practice.
Kreutzer started superbly, and in the fourth inning Hershberger hit a Dave McNally pitch 370 feet for a home run. It was Hershberger's first of the year, in 197 at bats, and as he trotted back to the dugout some of the players leaned their heads back and closed their eyes as if they had fainted. In the bottom of the fourth inning Al Weis made a brilliant play at second base to stop a Baltimore rally. With Sam Bowens on first for the Orioles, Jerry Adair lashed a ball to Weis's right. As Weis got to the ball he saw that Adair's great speed had carried him almost to first and that Bowens was slowing down in the middle of the baseline to spook Weis out of the double play. Instead of flipping the ball to second for the forceout, thus losing Adair, Weis threw hard to first to nip Adair, and Joe Cunningham's throw back to second got a sliding Bowens. In the sixth inning Weis slammed a ball 380 feet to left center for a home run. ("I just can't hit a ball that hard," he said later.) Kreutzer went six good innings, but Lopez felt he was beginning to tire and took him out. Hoyt Wilhelm faced only 10 hitters to finish up, and the White Sox won 2-0, pushing themselves back into first place for the seventh time. On the bus to the chartered plane taking them back to Chicago, Donald Duck quacked up a storm, and Gary Peters, next day's pitcher against the Yankees, did a fine imitation of Crazy Guggenheim. Minnie Minoso, who left the Sox two years ago at age 41 and came back to them this year at age 39, was the first player up the stairs and into the plane. The stewardess gave Minnie a beer, and he smiled his great big smile. The plane took off late, and when it finally got to Chicago at 2:25 a.m. C.D.T., it landed badly. The DC-6 bounced, rolled and then bounced some more. The players held onto the arms of their seats and looked at each other with frozen stares. When the plane finally stopped they scampered down the steps and into the darkness.
The Yankees beat Boston today 6-3
FRIDAY, JUNE 19. Wherever the White Sox went today the question was the same: What happened on the road? But home, of course, is where the Sox play best, and no team in either major league, has been able to build a home night-game record this year comparable to Chicago's 10-1. Tonight the Sox again appeared to have a decided edge over the Yankees. Gary Peters, the only Sox pitcher who had been able to beat New York in the last 14 games between the two teams, was the starter. Berra chose Steve Hamilton to pitch for the Yankees. A sellout crowd was in White Sox Park when a tremendous electrical storm struck. After an hour and a half the game was called. It had cost the White Sox management $12,000 to open the gates.
Nothing was going right for Chicago. After the postponement Al Lopez was told that Berra was going to start Whitey Ford the next day. The Sox had not scored a run off Ford in 32 consecutive innings. Baltimore won a doubleheader from Boston 2-1 and 6-5. The Orioles had now won 18 of 20 one-run games.
SATURDAY, JUNE 20. Ed Short had the doll out again, and the New York pin went right in its ear. Voodoo had been in a slump but, with Ford pitching. Short was trying everything. In the top of the fifth Jimmy Gleason, the Yankee first-base coach, did something that hadn't been tried in the major leagues in years. He used his spikes to spell out a message in the coaching box: "Sox lose." Nearly everyone saw it. In the bottom of the fifth Don Gutteridge, the White Sox first-base coach, erased it.
Peters was magnificent but Ford was even better, and he got a scratch hit from Elston Howard in the 11th inning to win 1-0. Lopez moved quickly to the clubhouse after the last out. His players followed slowly, with their heads down. After everyone had left the park Lopez came back up the tunnel that leads from the dressing room to the dugout. His players dragged behind him, then took an hour's batting practice.
Baltimore won tonight, the White Sox dropped to third and the Yankees moved up to second. What more, what worse could possibly happen tomorrow? There are great plans. The sons of the Sox are coming to the park in miniature Chicago uniforms. Between games of the Sunday doubleheader there will be a father-son game. A wise guy at Don the Beachcomber's late tonight said he would lay 6 to 5 on the kids.
SUNDAY, JUNE 21. Today the White Sox frustration became absolute. Once again the pitching was superb, but yesterday's extra batting practice did not help. At the end of today's doubleheader the Sox had scored five runs in 64 innings.
Juan Pizarro, the chunky Puerto Rican who loves to sun himself on the dugout steps and pop large gobs of chewing tobacco into his mouth, made only two mistakes in the first game. Both were turned into home runs, and the Yankees won 2-0. Pizarro, who enjoys needling his teammates during batting practice, was silent today.
In the second game 26-year-old Joe Horlen pitched beautifully, but again there was no hitting behind him. The Sox got a good break after a bad one in the first inning when First Baseman Joe Cunningham was injured diving for a fly ball and Lopez put 23-year-old Tom McCraw into the lineup. McCraw lined a single in the fifth inning to drive in the first Chicago run in 27 innings. McCraw is an eager ballplayer; when Lopez asked him if he would mind trying center field for the first time in his professional career he said, "Yes, sir! Say hey!"
But the Chicago bats were silent after McCraw's RBI, and the Sox lost in an almost unbearable 17 innings 2-1. Since last Friday the team had batted .187. It's a shame that doll cannot pinch-hit.
Ed Short stuck in all the right pins, but his team struck out and popped up too often.
A dugout full of White Sox woe faces the sunlit scene of horror in Yankee Stadium, where Chicago lost five straight games and the league lead.
WHEN VOODOO FAILED, so did the goad of this poison-pen letter on locker room wall.
IN THE GLOOM of third place after their sudden fall. Short and Lopez reflect on Chicago's inability to take one game from the Yankees.