Friday, October 21, 2011
Reason No. 4,694 why we love baseball
By David Schoenfield
ST. LOUIS -- I hopped in the cab this morning and immediately the driver started talking about Thursday night's game.
He didn't even bother asking if I was a baseball fan. In St. Louis, they just assume you are.
"That's the kind of game I like to see. A close game. Of course I want to see my team win, but that was a good one," offered Lundy the cabbie. "I'm not a big fan of those 10-1 games."
Lundy was in a good mood, even though his Cardinals had lost in heartbreaking fashion. He said he'd be watching as the World Series shifts to Texas for the next three contests. I didn't ask how old Lundy was; he could have been 60, could have been 75. He started talking about a game from long ago.
"I remember Bob Gibson one time. I think the score was 1-0, but I'm not sure exactly," he began. "He struck out Jim Ray Hart, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. That was something."
I complemented him on his Jim Ray Hart reference.
"You know," Lundy said, "all three of those guys could really mash the ball. But Gibson got all three of 'em."
When I landed in Dallas, I checked out Lundy's story. Turns out Gibson never did strike out all three of those guys in the same inning, let alone in the ninth inning of a tight game. Maybe he was remembering a game from July of 1965, tied 1-1 in the ninth; Mays had singled and Jim Davenport had walked, but Gibson got Hart to ground out and struck out McCovey to escape the jam. Maybe he was remembering a game from April of 1967; in the fourth inning, Gibson got Mays to fly out and struck out McCovey and Hart. Gibson pitched a shutout that day and got Mays and McCovey to end it. Close enough.
The point here: It doesn't really matter if Lundy got the facts right. In his mind, clear as day, he remembers the time Bob Gibson struck out Jim Ray Hart, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, can picture Gibby falling wildly off the mound, Mays swinging helplessly at a nasty slider (Mays never could hit Gibson: .196 career batting average).
I don't know if St. Louis is the best baseball city in America, although it would certainly be hard to beat. I'm not sure how we would go about making that definition anyway, but I know this: How many other cities have cabbies who can remember Jim Ray Hart?
And by the way, Hart could mash: He twice hit more than 30 home runs and from 1964 to 1968 averaged .285 with 28 home runs per season.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.