by the Village Elliott
For Leo “the Lip” Durocher*
This old Cards fan is glad he’s survived
To see rivalry with Cubs revived.
Alex, Brock, Leon D,**
Played their parts, as did he
Who, as “Skip,”, is part Captain derived.
The last Dean of Cubs College jumped ship:
“Worked when Branch ordered his Captain’s trip,
But when I did, team sunk.
Ain’t my fault these Cubs stunk,
Unlike Gas House Gang,” claimed “Skip ‘The Lip’.”***
While musing old memories revived
Season ends and League Playoffs arrived.
Glad the Cubs won Play-In,
Play the Cards with the win
For old “Skipper” part “Captain” derived.
* Hall of Famer (HoF) Leo Durocher was shortstop for the 1934 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, immortalized as the “Gas House Gang.” The last week of the season, Cards GM Branch Rickey (HoF) counter-intuitively “arranged” for his distracted team captain to marry Grace Dozier so Leo could refocus on winning the pennant. It worked. Thirty-five years and two divorces later, while manager of the first-place Cubs. Leo wed Lynn Walker Goldblatt in early July. At the end of the month they slipped away to visit his stepson. When it was revealed his unexpected absence wasn’t due to illness, it was the latest (some say decisive) chapter of Leo’s mishandling of the team that ended in Cubs’ epic collapse to the “Miracle Mets.” Leo lamely tried to excuse his self-indulgence by claiming he was trying to recreate the magic of the Gas House Gang.
**In June 1926, the Cubs’ new manager Joe McCarthy (HoF) waived 39-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander (HoF), claiming he was a “washed-up alcoholic”. The Cardinals’ new skipper Rogers Hornsby (HoF), knowing greatness remained, immediately signed “Alex,” and the Cardinal dynasty and Cubs rivalry was born. Thirty-eight years later, the Cards traded 20-game winner Ernie Broglio for “underachieving” Cubs outfielder Lou Brock (HoF), who revived the Cards dynasty of the 60’s. Cubs fans are still crying about Broglio, who was long out of the game by the time Leo sunk the ship five years later. In 1981, Cardinals GM Whitey Herzog (HoF) traded promising Leon Durham for Cubs closer Bruce Sutter (HoF), cornerstone of Cards ’82 World Champions. Durham played at an All-Star level for a few years, but is best remembered as the proto-Bill Buckner for his play in ’84 playoffs. The teams’ rivalry revived as both teams won multiple division titles, with the Cards twice losing the Series, and the Cubs never making it that far.
***Durocher was hired to manage the Cubs for 1966, replacing Wrigley’s ill-fated five-year experimental College of Coaches. “If no announcement has been made about what my title is,” Durocher said, “I’m making it here and now. I’m the manager, not the head coach. so call me ‘Skipper’ or ‘Skip,’ not ‘Coach.'”
by Robert Hilliard
Pete, Pee-wee and Jackie
by crashing into walls,
hustling infield rollers,
and stealing home with a bang.
Dolph and Cookie and Leo.
No Lip to the umps
No soda or peanuts or crackerjacks.
No cries from the
twenty-five cent bleachers seats
“Wait till next year!”
No more we’ll be chumps.
And Hoyt ain‘t hoit anymore.
Van Lingle the Mungo and Sandy the K
and Campy, Newk, Preacher
and Mickey, who dropped the third out,
kicking the game away.
Even after Ralph hurled
the Shot Heard ‘Round the World
we were soothed by the guy in the catbird seat.
Red’s voice helped take away the heat.
There was sweet-swinging Duke
and Gil’s four in a game.
Why aren’t they
in baseball’s Hall of Fame?
We can still boo the Giants,
but it just ain’t the same.
Waiting year after year
for a moment delirious,
to root for the trolley boys,
at last, in 1955,
in the Woild Serious.
Finally, some fame,
more games to be won,
big houses to tally.
And the money ain’t lame.
But poof, they were gone,
a pox on O’Malley.
A pseudo-team now in LA
copping a cherished name.
For shame! For shame!
Rest In Peace Ebbets Field.
Rest In Peace Brooklyn Dodgers.
by James Finn Garner
Let’s all give a hearty three cheers
For Toronto’s first berth in 23 years.
What was it like in that bygone age?
Steroids in baseball were not yet the rage.
Our phones were attached to our desks.
Melting ice caps did not pose a risk.
Bill Clinton had not been impeached,
And Saturn had yet to be reached.
Newt Gingrich somehow held power.
New York still had its Twin Towers.
But some things were the same long ago:
Bryce Harper still had a toddler’s ego.
by the Village Elliott
For Hank Gowdy
Gee Golly, Boy Howdy,
I just met Hank Gowdy,
Great War hero and World Series star,
Was a Miracle Brave,
Till he joined in first wave,
First pro swap unis, march off to war.
In left field today sit,
With my dad and my mitt,
Can’t imagine a day could be finer,
Till I heard the bat crack,
Heard crowd roar, “Back . . . back . . . back . . .”
I caught home run hit by Ralph Kiner.
I was barely a teen,
Caught betwixt and between,
But grew up to accumulate stuff.
Still my Great Legacy:
Photo: Hank, Bro and me,
One fine day below old Coogan’s Bluff.
The VE explains: “In July, Dick Volk showed me a photo of himself as a young teenager. It was taken at the Polo Grounds in 1948, and included his older brother, posing with 53-year-old New York Giants coach Hank Gowdy. It was another era. In fact, it is exactly 100 years since Hank led the Boston Braves upset sweep of Connie Mack’s ‘White Elephants’, three years before he became the first Major Leaguer to enlist for WWI. My friend met Hank three years after Hank mustered out a second time, having re-upped as an Army physical education instructor for the duration.”
by Celeste Johnson
Never give up. When you are down, when you are injured,
When you have been humiliated, never give up.
That is mantra of the Orange and Black. Never give up.
Whether through injury or misfortune,
Patches so rough it feels as if you will never win again,
Never give up. Injuries of all description
Shut out three straight. Can’t buy a hit or an out.
Never give up. Never give in. Never truer
Than a late September game named to honor
Two Giants in more than just name.
Exemplar to resilience and heart and honoring the game.
In careers revisited of course but also to honor the men that
They are. Huddy and Z as they are affectionately
Known. Men amongst men. But life rarely conforms
To the scripts that we write. And baseball has a way of
Writing itself. Refusing to be confined to our smaller vision.
Baseball finds a way to grow beyond the boundaries
That we set for it. On a day meant to honor the past
The future steps forward to write its own ending.
Future unknown but for this moment
A kid steps into the light to have the game of his life.
And, allowing redemption is Baseball’s beauty.
Blunder in field leads to promises made;
Promises kept. Parker steps to the plate in eighth
And in answer to wild and woolly game sends
First pitch over the right field wall and
Into History. Three home runs in single game.
Seven runs driven in. First Giant since 1961
When Mays completed the task.
Rookie speechless when informed of scope of his feat.
Baseball renews itself. In a game meant
To honor the past, the Future steps forward.
With beauty and strength and youthful verve,
The kid rounds the bases and, as a stadium exults,
Huddy stands with a smile as big as life,
Just honored to have witnessed its renewal.
And proud to have been a part of this Orange and Black
Family that never gives up. They would not know how.
It is not in their nature. A fact and feeling that Z can
Attest to, having been the heart of such resilience in postseason past.
Baseball renews and remembers, honoring both in one day.