It was during the World Series of 1946 that Major League Baseball and more specifically the Stl. Cardinals caught my attention. Before then there were only a few players that I could name, like Ted Williams, Joe Di Maggio, Stan Musial and of course Marty Marion. I had his name on my glove and here he was playing in the World Series. I did not know I had such an important glove. I showed it around proudly to anybody I could interest.. but of the few players I had previously known plus, a whole new cast of characters that had been leashed upon me through the broadcasts of the World Series, It was the name Stan Musial that fascinated me the most. It had a clever, musical ring to it. Kind of like a soft chime. Why couldn't I have been lucky enough to have a Stan Musial glove to show around.
It is always warm and pleasant in the Carolina's in the Fall.. and '46 was no different. As I rode up and down the streets of my village delivering my papers, the radio broadcast of the World series blasted from the porches and houses of the little town. I did not pay it that much attention for the first couple of games until I noticed how much of a topic it had become among the older kids and adults around me and then I began to listen more as I delivered my afternoon papers. You were never out of hearing distance from the radios in the houses at any point on the route. I had never heard a broadcast of a baseball game of any kind before and at first my concentrations had been only of trying to catch Stan Musial and Marty Marion at bats. Musial for obvious reasons but for Marion, I just wanted to know more about this guy whose glove I had. (I was still just a dumb kid you know) but I was more versed and into the games by the 6th and 7th game and I do remember some of the details of those games; Particular the famous mad dash from first to home on a single, by Enos Slaughter, as it was talked about in the days that followed so much and shown in news reels at the movies so much till I can still see it vividly in my mind today. By the way, his rounding third and heading for home is the most beautiful part of that play.
At this time I was still living in the small Mill town I wrote so much about in Part 1. I was a newspaper delivery boy. I delivered the Greenville,(SC) Piedmont, an afternoon paper that was more popular in the village than the Greenville News morning paper. This was because the later edition had all the box scores and rundowns of ML games, including those that were missing in the morning edition because of it's earlier press time. If you wanted a Cardinal box score when they were playing in St. Louis, you had to wait for the afternoon Piedmont.. And this was important to a lot of people, because some of the first things I learned when I entered this new found world of Fandom was that: A lot of people could not get through the day without knowing exactly what had happened the previous day by their favorite teams in the Majors and I was often enough greeted by someone sitting on the front porch waiting for my delivery with a gruff, 'where you been boy, bring me that paper.' Also I learned rather quickly that the Yankees were hated (though Babe Ruth was loved), and other than Williams, the Red Sox were scowled upon in general, mainly because they seemed to fall on their ass and roll over against the odious Yankees so much.
Many or most were Cardinal fans, with a scattering of Cub fans and then there were those that 'kinda' keep up' as it was often described, with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves because there were some "good ole Southern boys on them teams." As you can see, I was not brought up in the most cultured of social circles.
Odd how people knew so much about something they had never seen or would probably never get a chance to see. There were no National broadcasts of ML baseball and there were no radios capable of picking up any team's local broadcasts. Only once a year were you able to tap into the live action of this fantasy world afar, but you knew how it was played and how enjoyable was the atmosphere of just sitting in a ballpark on a cool summer night and relaxing to the sights and sounds around you, so I guess people just were able to capture some of this magic by just reading brief accounts and studying the box scores of these games. I know that's what I did. I have always heard it said that baseball is a game of statistics and that's half the pleasure of the game and I guess this is so.
Not long after the series, I spotted a copy of The Sporting News on the magazine rack in the village ice cream parlor/magazine stand. A large full color photo of Enos Slaughter sliding across home plate graced the front page of the paper. This caught my eye and I scratched my usual purchase of a couple of comic books and bought it instead. That was really when I became a Cardinal fan, those Cardinal uniforms with the Redbirds on yellow bats, just dazzled me.
For those not familiar with The Sporting news of that day. It was the baseball Bible of the world. It said so right on the front page, right under the title and before the publisher's name: J. G. Taylor Spink, St. Louis, Mo. I always thought that was the silliest name. Anyway, in that day, no other sports were covered except baseball, zip, zero none, just baseball. It was sized and formatted kind of like for example. The National Inquirer would look today, only thicker.
The next section had all the box scores for Major league games for the week. Big box scores, more complete than normal with separate columns for a number of other things like put outs and assists, strike outs. Also it contained several pages of large printout of players batting averages and pitching records of both leagues for the season. This first section I always read several times but this section I studied.
The next section covered the minors and it featured a few write ups on minor leaguers that might be doing exceptionally well in addition to box scores of all AAA games and AA games. A printout of the top 20 batting and pitching averages was also included, plus the standings for the leagues. The A leagues and lesser leagues just had the standings, line scores and top ten batting averages and pitching averages. There was just too many leagues to cover.
The Sporting news was a great publication in it's heyday. I was saddened when it had had to abandon it's baseball only covererage and even more dissapointed when in it's latter days I began to see it in a magazine format on news stands. It and Smith and Street's baseball annual were my mainstays in keeping up with baseball. There was a time between 1948 and 1952, when I graduated from HS, that I could quote you the age, BA, RBI, ERA, WL or any vital stat. of any player in either league. I didn't know anything about sabre stats back then, if I did, I guess I'd a gone crazy.
The years 1947 thru 1949 were heatbreakers for me, especially 1949. The roster of the '46 team remained pretty much intact thru '49 as for as the mainstays with only a minimal additions and loses, but finished 2nd in close races all three years: to Brooklyn in '47 due Mainly to staff ace Howie Pollet having a down year and pitching with a sore arm most of the year and aging and ailing Terry Moore missing a lot of games near the end of the year.In '48 the Cardinals finish 2nd again in a tight race, this time to the Braves. It was the same old stuff. Pollet made a partial comback, winning 13 games but Murray Dickson, a mainstay of the staff, slumped to a 13-16 WL record. This was due mainly to a terrible bull pen that let a lot of Dickson's leads get away.
Then came '49: By this time I was really into the Cards because sometime in 1948, Gordon Mc Lendon, a radio pioneer and innovator had come up with the brilliant idea that somehow involved the process of 'recreating' live broadcasts of ML games. Of course I could care less about the recreation of the games, to me, they were live enough and for the first time in my life, I could kick back in a front porch rocker and with a radio in a window and enjoy My Cardinal's in live action. That was when I could get out of helping my dad around the farm, he always told my Mom I was nothing but a lazy ass and he would just as soon do it by himself, which suited me fine if it conflicted with my Game of the Day broadcasts.
Mc Lendon, or The Old Scotsman, as he liked to call himself on air, was a great baseball announcer and he must have been a Cards fan because it seemed there were more Cards' broadcasts than others. Mc Clendon's newly formed, Liberty Broadcasting Network was a huge and immiediate success, with stations all across the country signing up almost daily to carry his Game of the Day broadcasts. I always liked the way he opened his broadcasts with something like: "Good afternoon baseball fans across America. This is the old Scotsman, Gordon Mc Lendon with today's game from Sportsman Park in St. Louis, Mo. where by 'wire report' we bring you today's game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers..and after this important message, we'll be right back with today's starting line ups." Of course the important message was a lengthy string of commercials but the 'wire report.' Go figure.
However, What process Mc Lendon was using to present these games did not have the blessings of Major League Baseball obiviously, and must have been illegal, or at least MLB thought so, because reports began to surface that MLB was sueing or threaten suit
To be more specific about what the Old Scotsman had done, it was this: He had started broadcasting through some kind of recreation proceedure, ML games from three locations. New York, Stl louis and Chicago, covering the home games of the Giants and Dodgers, Cardinals and Browns and Cubs and Sox. Mc clendon himself, usually announced the Cards, Browns, Sox and Cub games and Lindsey Nelson handled the Giants and Dodgers games in New York. Mc Clendon took the St.Louis and Chicago games himself probably because of the convient and relatively short travel between the two cities.
I was becoming anxious and worried about losing my new everyday afternoons of pleasure but whatever MLB Threatened didn't seem to bother the Old Scotsman none, as every day he was right there on air with his bright and cheerful, 'good afternoon baseball fans across America' opening.
Seems nobody knew exactly how Mc Lendon accomplished his 'recreates' but of the different versions that was spread around, there was one, that made the most sense to me, and that was: Mc Lendon would be off in some motel room in the city where the game was being played..and with a head set equipped radio to his ear, he simply re-reported in his own words what he heard over the team's local radio network. He also had an engineer at his side, monitoring his feed to own lease wire network and the engineer raised lowered pre-recorded crowd noise as needed by the action on the field. It worked, at least for me and a few million more.
Some hypotheses of how Mc Lendon was able to continue his broadcasts were: At that time major league baseball was exempt from all Anti-trusts laws that governed business and commerce in this country and studying the laws, Mc Clendon concluded that by this exemption, their broadcasts were free and public property. The Old Scotsman could have possibly been right because he pushed on until Mutual (one of the four major radio networks) seeing the success of Mc Clendon's network, reached an agreement with MLB and started their broadcasts. Whereas sometimes after, Old Scotsman dismantled his Liberty Broadcasting Network and headed back to Texas to manage his radio stations there..and some say, with a boatload of money from the other two parties just get out of the game
This is all just conjecture though, on mine or anybody else's part. It was all settled quitely and nobody really knows for sure what happened. But the Old Scotsman knows.
Although I was able to follow baseball by radio as early as the late forties, I had never seen a televised game until the 1950 world series. I had seen a few exhibitions games, but that was the extent of it. Back then, teams broke camp in Florida earlier than now and usually spent at least the last week playing games throughout the South on way back North for their season openers. Usually the teams would make certain to play games in the home towns of their minor league affiliates. Columbia, SC at the time, was a Class A farm club of the Cincinnati Reds and I always made sure to attend those games. In 1952, The Reds played the Cardinals there and it was my first chance to see My Cardinals in live action.
It was a sceduled one o:clock game and I knew the gates would be open early and the Cardinals (as they were the visiting team) would be on the field by ten so I wanted to beat that time. When I got into the park a few minutes before ten there were probably over a couple hundred people already there.. but no Cards. A few Cincinnati players were on the field mingling around the stands and signing autographs for kids. It wasn't too long though before I saw the wagon gate down by the left field bullpen open and you could see the Cardinals players filing off the bus with their tote bags strung over their shoulders. Some of the crowd, that had been steadily growing, rushed down to the end of the grandstand for a closer look, but I was just past the 3rd base dugout only about 4 rows up and I held my ground, not wanting to lose my seat right at the end of the Cardinal dugout.
I began trying to identify them one by one as they got closer and I was looking especially for Musial, Schoendienst and Slaughter. I spotted Musial first. He was strolling alongside Del Rice, the Cards catcher and they were laughing and chatting together but occasionally, Musial would turn and acknowledge some fan than that yelled a remark to him with big grin and a wave. He was wearing his now famous red blazer with black tie and slacks and Del Rice, along side him, was wearing a black double breasted suit, which I thought was kind of odd.
I had been so ingrossed in watching Musial so much as he made his way into the clubhouse that when I turned back around there was the Ole Redhead right down in front of me, walking along side some older guy I didn't recognize. Must be a coach, I surmised. Then somebody behind me yelled 'hey Country' and then I realized it was Slaughter. He looked older than I'd thought and a little 'stoop sholdered.. but back to Del Rice and his double breasted black suit.
Players back then didn't dress as casual as players now when they traveled. They almost always wore suits, conservative but non the less, fine suits. They knew they were the best of the best and dressed to show it. Besides merchants and clothiers often presented watches and clothes to players as prizes for their accomplishments, like player of the game etc. and players often shared or gave away these prizes to each other. Musial alone, had probably won enough suits to clothe the whole ballclub. Bet that's how Del Rice got that black double breasted suit.
In about a half hour, when the Cardinal players started straying back out on the field for batting practice, Musial came back out and was standing behind the cage and mingling with some of the other players while waiting his turn. About a dozen kids accompanyed by their fathers gathered down by the fence at the end of dugout below me and started yelling to Musial for autographs. Musial, hearing them, trotted over with his bat in hand and started signing their programs and other stuff they were poking at him.
This lead to another eight or so kids rushing down also. They were not far from me, just to my right and a short distance down the isle. I got up and wandered down; not to get an autograph, I was a senior in high school and autographs were for kids I thought and besides I didn't have anything for him to sign. I just wanted to get closer to Musial and to hear more clearly what he was saying to the kids as he signed.
Everybody was so polite and orderly and as each kid got his autograph they were led back away by their fathers. With the group growing smaller, I unconsciously kept inching closer until when the last kid got his autograph signed and moved away, There he was, just me and The Man. I had become so engrossed I did not realize I was standing only a few feet away from Musial
I will never forget this next moment, As when the last little boy excitedly trotted away with his treasure, suddenly there was Stan The Man, almost right in front of me. That moment to me was like slow motion and I'll try to describe it that way: Musial looked up at me and smiled, then glanced down at my hands and quickly back to my face. He saw no pen or paper and for a fleeting instant I saw a quizzical look on his face. I could read his mind; It said, 'You didn't come for an autographn son.' For moment I was frozen but quickly recovered and returned Musial's smile. He returned it with a big grin and with a little half wave and half tip of the cap and trotted back to the batting cage.
A few more interesting things about this eventful day were; as game time was approaching the people just kept poring in until the stands were full to capacity and with no seats or standing room left.. but the flow of people never ceased and the bullpen gates were opened and the crowds spilled out onto the field along the sidelines and even onto the playing field. When the game started there were people lined at least four deep along the outfield wall from foul line to foul line. I was confused by all of this, how could this happen. I came to see a ballgame and how could you play a game under these conditions. But you know it worked out pretty well and really became a pleasure to see a ball hit deep out to Musial or Slaughter and to see the crowd give way for the catch to be made.
Without having seen him, one of the things that a person might not realize about Musial is, the ease, style and grace by which he played the game. Though not possessing the speed of a Flood or Brock, it was not uncommon for him go streaking across the outfield to make a nice running catch or to turn his back on a hard hit ball to left and pull down a ball off the wall. Musial made several catches, in this game that you would rate as good or nice, but none the less, brought the house down with applause because it was Musial.
Early in the game, somebody hit a big towering fly ball to left that looked like it might go out but Musial turned his back and started waving his arms to the fans along the left field wall to scatter and give him room for the catch. He then drifted back into the crowd and made the catch with his back just off the wall.
The crowd went crazy and the fans in left were all over Musial with pats on the back and several women trying to hug him and you could see that Stan enjoyed it because he made no effort to shy away or return to his position for a minute or two. You could see him with a big grin on his face intermixing with the crowd. The plate umpire just stepped aside, pulled off his mask, signaled time and gave Stan and his fans the time needed and the other player just relaxed and watched the celebration going on.
In my opinion, nobody that I ever saw, possesed the magnetism or played the game with more confdence than Stan Musial: Not Williams, not DImaggio, not Aaron, nor Mays and this must have been the day that the GOB's blessed Musial with the opportunities to do what he enjoyed the most, play his best and please a crowd because several innings later a soft sinking liner was hit out to left and musial raced in, dove for the ball, caught just off the ground, rolled over into forward somersault and back on his feet to show the ball. Same thing again: crowd goes wild, time called, big celebration..
Though it dazzled the crowd, Musial's daring dive did not shock me that much because I had read that he would do that on occasion during the season in a game that wasn't close and he was pretty sure he get to the ball. The rollover was something he had down pat, just like Ozzie's back flip. You could actually tell Musial was pumped by the reception of the large turnout as you could see him laughing and chatting between pitches all during the game with the crowd. and between innings he would always manage a couple autographs both when leaving and coming back on the field for the next.
He also had a good day offensively with a sharp single to right in his first at bat and a line drive double that shot past the outfielders and into the crowd at the wall in right center.. One more time: Crowd goes wild, ump calls time, big celebration.
I cannot tell you the score of that game or won it. I can't even remember what Slaughter or Schoendienst did, Stan Musial stole the show..nor can I recall who all pitched for the Cards that day; I was so overwhelmed by Musial. The only other thing I can remember for sure from that day is that Solly Hemus hit two home runs, both right down the right field foul line and little Harvy Haddix pitched an inning in that game.
All and all, it was the greatest day of my young life and the only time I ever got to see The Man play in person. I'm glad that it was only an exibition game that I got to see him in because he was so loose and vibrant that he took the time to show that huge crowd in Columbia,SC what he could do.. and a good time that day was had by all.
In closing this composition of recollections from a number of years as a baseball fan. Let me state that this is first what I am: A fan of the game itself and my object here was to write a short narrative about what I've learned and seen (and offer something that the reader might not know) involving the evolution of the game in the years I have followed it.. but when taking up a task like this you invariably encounter a lot of indecisions like; Is this really important enough to include, am I boring the reader with too much detail about an already dull subject? Or you look at the list of things you made out to write about and you realize you can't cover them all without getting too lengthy so you just pick and choose what is the most important to tell but may not be the most interesting and entertaining to present.
Like the segment on the Sporting News, pretty dry stuff but important because of the popularity and growth it created for Baseball. Same with the semi-pro and country leagues, the Mc Lendon story..But you just try to tell it the best that you can..and how you viewed it at the time, as a kid and a teen. I tried to pick the ones that had the most effect on the evolution of the sport. There are others, I would have liked to have covered but the best thing to know when taking on any monumental task is when to stop and that time is now.
However, in the comments section after this is posted, I will leave some things from my notes on this project in the form of tidbits that I just didn't have time to expand on here. These might be of interest to some and you can browse through them if you like. These were mostly just off the top of my head as and I did little research in writing. them. If you find any little inconsistency with fact , like the year you mentioned was wrong etc., It wasn't intentional and feel free to correct. Thanks for reading.