A Giant Flop
A season that opened with such promise is fast slipping away from the Giants. Manager Leo Durocher's team won 50 of its last 72 games in 1950, making it the favorite to win the National League pennant this year. But the New Yorkers have never fully recovered from losing 11 consecutive games in April (though they did finally get above .500 on May 27). Their title hopes all but died over the Fourth of July when the league-leading Dodgers swept them in a three-game series at Ebbets Field, dropping the Giants 7½ games back. "We knocked them out," said Brooklyn manager Chuck Dressen. "They'll never bother us again."
Durocher, who refers to his players as "my boys," says he hasn't given up. But the chances for a comeback don't look good. Outfielder Bobby Thomson is hitting .240 and has lost his centerfield job to 20-year-old rookie Willie Mays, who batted .477 in 35 games in the American Association and then was called up by New York on May 24. On May 21 Durocher moved first baseman Monte Irvin to left-field and leftfielder Whitey Lockman to first. The move hasn't worked. Little has.
Meanwhile the Dodgers show no signs of weakness. Brooklyn has been sparked by catcher Roy Campanella, who is enjoying his best year, with a .326 average at the break. Outfielder Andy Pafko, acquired in a trade with the Cubs in May, has given the Dodgers another hitter for their potent lineup, which includes first baseman Gil Hodges (28 home runs) and centerfielder Duke Snider (18 homers and 59 RBIs). The pitching has been brilliant, led by Preacher Roe, who won his first 10 decisions this year, lost on June 26 and then beat the Braves on July 2 for an 11-1 record. There might be no stopping the Dodgers.
On July 15 the Yankees sent their 19-year-old right-fielder, Mickey Mantle, to the minor leagues (Triple A Kansas City Blues) and added pitcher Art Schallock, 27, to the active roster. Mantle had stirred high hopes in spring training when he batted .387 with eight homers and 28 RBIs, but in the regular season he was hitting .260. It was a difficult decision for manager Casey Stengel, who still considers Mantle a top prospect and hopes he can be the Bombers' centerfielder next year after the great Joe DiMaggio retires.
"The kid just couldn't hit a slider," Stengel said of Mantle. "When he sees enough of those damned sliders down in Kansas City, he'll come back up here and belt a few of them down the pitcher's throat, and they'll have to try something else on him."
Mantle, a shortstop last year at Class C Joplin (Mo.), has also had some trouble adjusting to rightfield. He recently told one New York sportswriter about working last winter in the lead and zinc mines in and around his hometown of Commerce, Okla. "I was down there 400 feet below the ground as an electrical assistant," said Mantle. "Got $1.40 an hour. I liked it lots better in rightfield at the Stadium."
Bill Veeck has pulled some crazy stunts in his colorful career, but his purchase of the floundering St. Louis Browns on July 5 may be the most preposterous thing he has ever done. The 37-year-old Veeck says it cost around $2 million to buy the team from Bill and Charley DeWitt, and he says he now plans to go head-to-head with the mighty Cardinals for the city's baseball interest. Bill, Bill, yon don't have a chance. The Cards have outdrawn the Browns 4 to 1 in St. Louis over the last five seasons. And you have said yourself that the Browns were so bad that they were "unable to beat their way out of a paper bag with a crowbar."
Nevertheless, Veeck insists he won't move the team from St. Louis, even though representatives from Baltimore, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and the New York City borough of Queens have expressed interest in the Browns. "Everyone wants to move the Browns from St. Louis but me," says Veeck. "I'm sure they can be built up if exploited properly."
If anyone can do that, it's Veeck, who says—naturally—that he's going to make it fun to go to games at Sportsman's Park. Already there is talk that he will hire baseball clown Max Patkin for entertainment. As always with Veeck, the big question is, What'll he think of next?
The search has begun for a new commissioner following the official resignation of Albert (Happy) Chandler on July 15. Chandler quit after having been denied an extension of his contract last winter because of opposition from a minority group of major league owners. (He needed 12 of the 16 votes for his contract to be extended and received only nine.) "I think there are some owners baseball would be just as well off without," Chandler said.
Chandler was named commissioner in 1945, following Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who served for 24 years and ruled over the game with an iron list. The owners elected Chandler in hopes he would work more for their interests, but, in fact, Chandler became more of a "players' commissioner." He established the first pension plan for players. He defended the rights of minor leaguers. He urged major league teams to sign Negro players. None of this was what the owners had expected, so they voted him out. Chandler was furious about the outcome.
Candidates for the job reportedly include Ford Friek, the National League president; Warren Giles, general manager of the Reds; Governor Frank Lausche of Ohio; Gen. Douglas MacArthur; and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.
Breaking the Code
On the first day after the All-Star break, Yankee righthander Allie Reynolds threw the third no-hitter of the season, beating the Indians 1-0 on Gene Woodling's home run off Bob Feller in the seventh. Eleven days earlier Feller had no-hit the Tigers, winning 2-1 (the first non-shutout no-hitter since the Browns' Bobo Newsom lost to the Red Sox 2-1, in 1934). On May 17 Pirate southpaw Cliff Chambers threw this season's first no-hitter, beating the Braves 3-0 despite walking eight. Chambers was traded to the Cardinals six weeks later.
Reynolds, 32, went against conventional wisdom and talked openly about his no-hitter during the game. "I really knocked these guys off the bench," Reynolds said of his teammates. "I walked in at the end of the seventh, sat next to Ed Lopat and said, 'Hey, pal, do you think I can pitch a no-hitter?' "
In the ninth Reynolds struck out pitcher Bob Lemon, who was pinch-hitting for Feller. Dale Mitchell grounded out to second for the second out. Reynolds got ahead of Bob Avila 0 and 2, and then just missed with a fastball. Said Reynolds later, "I looked at Avila and said, 'Bob, how can you have the nerve to take that kind of pitch at a time like this?' " With a 1-and-2 count, Reynolds tried to throw too hard and fell flat on the mound as the pitch went for ball two. Avila fouled the next two off but then struck out swinging to end the game.
When asked later about breaking the code of silence during the game, Reynolds said, "it was no secret. I could see the scoreboard lights every inning, and those three big zeroes on the Cleveland side never changed."
The Philadelphia Phillies' Whiz Kids, the defending National League champions, just can't get it going. They haven't been above third place since the second week of the season. Losing lefthander Curt Simmons to the Korean War draft last September has devastated the Phillie pitching staff....
The Indians are already regretting their part in the three-team, six-player deal on April 30. Cleveland got lefthander Lou Brissie in the trade but parted with rookie outfielder Orestes Minoso, who looks as if he's going to be a terrific player for the White Sox....
The best rookie in the American League right now may be Yankee infielder Gil McDougald. He hasn't stopped hitting since his memorable game on May 3, when he drove in six runs in the ninth inning (tying the league record for most RBIs in one inning) of a 17-3 win over the Indians....
The baseball world is mourning the loss of former star reliever Hugh Casey, 37, who committed suicide July 3 in Atlanta. Casey pitched for the Cubs in 1935, for the Dodgers from '39 to '48 and for the Pirates and Yankees in '49.
Minor League Note of the Week: Rex Barney, the former Dodger fireballer who threw a no-hitter for Brooklyn in 1948, is still having a terrible time with his control for the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League. Barney walked 16 batters, a league record, in his first start there, on May 13 (he threw 182 pitches, 95 of them balls, in 7⅖ innings), and hasn't done much better since. Says Bobby Bragan, Fort Worth's manager and catcher, "He's just forgotten how to throw."
Campanella (39) is one of the All-Star Dodger cast that has left everyone in the dust. Rookie Mays (left) is starting; rookie Mantle is gone.
[See caption above.]
UPI/BETTMANN NEWSPHOTO (MANTLE)
After no-hitters 11 days apart, Feller (left) and Reynolds will sit side by side in the record book.
BETWEEN THE LINES
Has Yankee lefthander Eddie Lopat's hex over the Indians finally been broken? Lopat (below) took a career 30-6 record against the Indians into a June 4 game at Municipal Stadium. On the suggestion of a fan named Wendell Janovyak, the Cleveland club handed out 15,000 rabbits' feet to fans in hopes of ending the Lopat jinx. Four rabbits were let loose at home plate before the game. In the bottom of the first inning, a fan ran to the mound, placed a black cat at Lopat's feet and then ran off. The Indians scored five runs in the first inning and one in the second to knock Lopat out early. (Fittingly, Indian first baseman Luke Easter had two key hits in the rabbit game.) Last week Cleveland pounded Lopat again, 8-0, and the Indians were thanking their lucky charms.
Fain in Pain
On July 16 A's outfielder Ferris Fain, the American League's leading hitter at .347, was so angry about popping out in the first game of a doubleheader against the White Sox that he kicked first base and fractured his left foot. He's expected to miss at least a month, which could cost him the batting title.
Wilmer Mizell (right), a 20-year-old lefthander in the Cardinals' organization, has been nicknamed Vinegar Bend by writers. Why? "Because," says Mizell, "Vinegar Bend [Miss., pop. about 75] is where ah gets man mail."
By the Numbers
The findings are in from a 1950 study of player salaries. On July 1 last year the Yankees had the highest payroll in the majors: $488,500. The mean salary on the Yankees was $18,786; the median salary, $15,500. The Browns had the lowest payroll: $192,000. The Browns' mean salary was $8,031; the median, $7,000. Total player payroll in the American League was $2,756,200; in the National, it was $2,535,650.