At The Cottage on the North Side, at Batt's on the South Side, at the Billy Goat Tavern and even in the boutiques and beer joints of Old Town, the people of Chicago—that toddlin' town—were talking about baseball last week. And at 3:22 p.m. last Sunday in Wrigley Field, they were screaming about it, for last year's last-place Cubs had beaten Cincinnati and moved ahead of St. Louis into first place in the National League. The win was the Cubs' 13th in 14 games, and it proved that this year they were put together with muscle and bone instead of silly putty. Since the White Sox already led the American League by 4½ games, it seemed as though Divine Providence was repaying the nation's Second City for a winter so cruel that people had to put on chains just to walk.
Some exuberant Chicagoans were dreaming out loud of an Elevated Series—some of the games on the South Side, some on the North Side and all reachable by that ugly intracity railroad called the El, which loops around downtown Chicago and then snakes its way that way and this. Should the Cubs and White Sox toddle their way to pennants, it would be the first all-Chicago World Series since 1906, when the Cubs of Peerless Frank Chance were upset by the Hitless Wonders of Fielder Jones, four games to two. Until the West Coast stole two of its teams, New York was relatively blasé about crosstown classics, but for Chicago it would be a greater coup than playing host to the Democratic, Republican and D.A.R. conventions all at once. Mayor Richard Daley could present the participants with special mementos of the city, maybe autographed photos of Al Capone.
The historical rarity of having both home town teams in pennant races (the Cubs have not even finished in the first division since 1946) was the most surprising thing to happen in Chicago since a Brink's truck with $300,000 in cash stood stuck in a snowdrift for two days and nobody bothered to rob it. People were fascinated by the possibility of a confrontation between Leo Durocher of the Cubs and Eddie Stanky of the Sox, those combative managers who are also known as The Lip and The Brat. The Brat, Stanky, had no superstitious qualms about mentioning an Elevated Series.
"It would be wonderful," he said. "It would be great for the city. It's good for a city just to have two clubs in contention. Some people like a monopoly, but I don't. And I guess I think it would be nice, too, because of my fondness for Leo.
"Why, Leo calls me every day," he added, with a mock serious expression. "He says, 'We got ours today, now you get yours tonight.' "
Of course, Eddie's chances of making the Series are being taken a lot more seriously at the moment than are Leo's, and he knows it. Earlier in the season Stanky said, "If we're within a couple games of the lead at the All-Star break, we'll take the pennant"; and, after a big victory, "Plays like those we made tonight are why the Sox are going to win."
But last week the White Sox were on the road, and it was Leo basking in the glory at home, resplendent in light-blue cashmere sweaters and buckled shoes, hurrying from the park to keep a dinner engagement with Frank Sinatra, not once forgetting a statement made by Dodger General Manager Buzzie Bavasi when The Lip was second-guessing on TV: "The game has passed Leo by."
Leo was feeling so good he was even contemplating a book to counter the attack against him in the newly published autobiography of ex-Umpire Jocko Conlan. Only it would not be ghosted by a mere sportswriter. He was going to get a real writer, "a guy Frank knows," name of Truman Capote.
Cub fans were feeling good, too. Little old ladies were coming out to ring bells, toot horns and curse the opposition. Police were speculating that maybe it was because of the Cubs and the Sox, and not the unusually cool weather, that there had been no racial strife thus far. Around Wrigley Field they were selling lapel pins labeled CUB POWER, and the club had to open the second deck for a weekday game for the first time in five years. A kid sitting behind home plate wore a dirty gray sweat shirt that said, "How can we lose when we're so sincere?"
What was particularly amazing about the sincere Cubs was not merely that they had moved into first, but that they had done it despite the loss of their best pitcher, Ken Holtzman, to the Army. He had a 5-0 record when he departed last May. Of course, they did bring up a relief pitcher, and he's something to see—if you can see him. His name is Chuck Hartenstein, but they call him Twiggy. Lack of muscle doesn't bother Twiggy; he claims his sinker gets better as he gets tired. "The slower the ball gets to the plate," he says, "the more time it has to dip."
Through Sunday, Hartenstein had appeared in five of the Cubs' last eight games. However, a young Canadian, Ferguson Jenkins, obtained in a trade last year with Philadelphia, has been the Cubs' most effective pitcher since Uncle Sam snatched Holtzman away from The Lip. Jenkins improved his record to 11-5 in the game Sunday that put the Cubs in the league lead, going the full nine innings against the onetime first-place Reds and allowing them just three hits.
Everything was going right. Adolfo Phillips, the spectacular center fielder, missed four games because of a back injury, so Leo put Al Spangler—who had been a free agent until the Cubs took him on a while ago—into the outfield in Phillips' place. Spangler drove in three runs in his first four games. Adolfo returned, hit a game-winning homer and left the lineup again the next day. Spangler hopped back in and batted across yet another run.
Along with the luck and the surprisingly strong pitching, the Cubs have had sustained hitting. Their team average is third in the league, and they have scored more runs than any other team in the majors. Old Ernie Banks, seemingly washed up a season ago, is batting over .300, had his 15th home run the other day and was named to the All-Star team. Billy Williams, Glenn Beckert and Randy Hundley, the young catcher the Cubs wheedled away from the Giants, are all hitting at or not far below .300, and Ron Santo, the impressive third baseman who was in a deadly slump early in the season, is back up to .280 and hitting in the manner to which he is accustomed. One has to wonder. If the Cubs had all this and Holtzman, too, how far in front would they be?
The Cubs are exciting, and the Cubs are drawing the crowds (deep down, and despite 20 straight years in the second division, Chicago is essentially a Cub town), but the White Sox are still the purveyors of the more valid dream. The Sox don't hit (their team average is .239 compared to .259 for the Cubs), and they've scored 96 fewer runs than their North Side rivals. They have not one regular hitting .300, and they have been able to score as many as 10 runs in only two games. They have depended on the speed of jackrabbits like Walt (No Neck) Williams, Al Weis, Jimmy Stewart (an ex-Cub), blocky Don Buford (once a good college halfback) and roommates Tommie Lee Agee and Tommy Lee McCraw. And they depend on their pitching. "We have no really big stars, except for our pitching staff," says Stanky.
The pitching has been as good as the preseason analysts predicted it would be. Reliever Hoyt Wilhelm, almost 44, has allowed only three earned runs in 36‚Öì innings, and his earned run average (0.75) might soon be visible only through a microscope. Stanky's arsenal of arms includes Tommy John (Chicago is big on Tommys), and All-Stars Joe Horlen (10-1) and Gary Peters (10-4).
Peters also happens to be an excellent hitter, a smart base runner, a good hunter, an archer, a fisherman, a scuba diver and a joker. When rain held up the start of a game recently he came out on the field in full scuba-diving regalia. When he won a suit of clothes from his manager, he turned it down. "But remember this," he said. "When you catch me breaking training rules, don't fine me. Deduct the suit." A few days later, he went through an entire practice session wearing a burlap bag over his uniform and telling everybody, "This is the suit I got from Stanky."
In the 17 days before the midseason hiatus, the White Sox had 18 games to play without a day off against Minnesota, Baltimore and Detroit. They started off losing two of three to the Twins, then got involved in an exchange of football body blocks in Baltimore. To break up a possible double play, Tommy McCraw went five or six feet wide of home plate to collide with Orioles Catcher Andy Etchebarren. The umpire did not call illegal interference because McCraw was within tagging distance of home plate as he barreled in, and the outraged Etchebarren, looking as though he was going to tear down Memorial Stadium with his bare hands, had to be restrained by another well-known Baltimore non-combatant, Manager Hank Bauer.
"I'll remember that play," said Bauer. "We can go out of the baseline to get them, too." The next night Frank Robinson of the Orioles didn't have to go out of the baseline at all. Sliding in to break up a double play, he crashed into Al Weis, the White Sox second baseman. Robinson suffered a brain concussion and was out the rest of the week because of double vision, but Weis was out for the season with a torn cartilage in his left knee. Stanky called it a clean play and had no complaints, but he felt bad that Weis "can't be part of the World Series if we get there." Then he put Wayne Causey in to play second the next night, and Causey won the game with a three-run homer in the eighth.
There was another worrisome health matter during the week. Before one game with the Orioles, Trainer Charley Saad came over to Stanky with an expression matching his name.
"You may have to scratch Ken Berry," he said. Stanky hurried into the clubhouse. The young outfielder's left eye was inflamed and he had difficulty seeing out of it. He admitted he had been bothered by headaches for four or five days; it could have been his asthma or some sort of allergy. Whatever it was, he was given drops, and did not suit up, which meant that the White Sox were facing the defending World Champions without their best outfielder and their leading hitter (at .280) and, speed or no speed, the Sox need every hitter they've got.
Halfway through the game Berry quietly appeared in the dugout, dressed for duty in his powder-blue road uniform. He was not tap-tapping with a cane, so Stanky, thinking he could use the outfielder as a defensive replacement, played the role of an optometrist and used the scoreboard as an eye chart. Berry passed the examination by correctly reciting the score of the Mets' game and was sent in. When it came time for him to bat in the top of the ninth inning, with the Orioles ahead, 4-3, Stanky decided to use a pinch hitter, and he called Berry back from the batting circle.
"I'm all right, Skip," Berry argued.
"You had to see that pleading look in his eye," Stanky said later. "You had to see it to know what Ken Berry is like."
Stanky relented and sent him up to the plate. Berry looked like the nearsighted Mr. Magoo on the first pitch, missing it by nearly a foot. But on the next pitch he hit a two-run single that won the game for Chicago 5-4.
"You're really a new-breed lawyer, aren't you?" Stanky told him afterward. "This is the first time I've ever been out-talked in baseball."
"New breed" is Eddie Stanky's hazily defined favorite expression, and he applies it, usually with affection, to sports-writers, his wife, his six kids and his players. Berry, as he sees it, is the most well-bred of the new breed.
"He'd play anywhere," Stanky says. "He wouldn't care if I put him behind the plate. Next year, if our boys win the pennant and I manage the All-Star team, Ken Berry is on it even if he hits .211."
Berry finished fifth in the voting for All-Star outfielders this year, but American League Manager Bauer passed him by in favor of Tommie Agee, who finished sixth. Stanky will not be drawn into an argument on the relative merits of his two star outfielders, and he is all for Tommie being on the team, but he insists that Berry has been his best all-round player. He cites a typical heads-up play: after Robinson and Weis collided that night, Shortstop Ron Hansen ran over to see what he could do for Weis. But Berry raced in from the outfield, called for the ball and tagged the unconscious Robinson for the putout. "He'll make a putout at home some day," said Stanky.
Clearly, it was the kind of week and season that Stanky thrives on, full of new breeds, tough baseball, arguments with umpires and, what is most dear, victories. If Leo's Cubbies were winning, too, all the better.
The fact that the Cubbies were indeed winning, almost every day, was costing Third Baseman Ron Santo money—not that he minded a great deal. Santo owns a thriving pizza parlor in Chicago and his pizzas are sold at Wrigley Field. Each time the Cubs win a ball game, Santo orders a load of pies brought into the clubhouse.
Santo wants an Elevated Series just as much as anyone else in Chicago, and he's rooting for the Sox, too. He must have known that something like this was going to happen. His pizzas are sold at Comiskey Park, too.
Ed Stanky had a glint in his eye and Leo Durocher looked like a canary-swallowing cat as their teams rode high and fans cheered ecstatically.
Ron Santo of the Cubs, a slow starter this season, had a hot bat during his team's rise to first.