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The Papal Bull

By Eric Pope

Back then the Yankee tradition meant something, and we won the pennant by seventeen games that year. We had good pitching and good hitting like always, but there's more to winning than just statistics. Some of the best players in the league would have sold their souls to beat us out for the pennant, but in a clutch situation, they would always back down. When DiMaggio or Dickey came to the plate with the winning run on base, the opposing pitcher just knew he was going to lose, and he'd give up. It happened all the time.

Of course playing in the World Series was always something different, even for a Yankee. If something went wrong, everyone in the world knew about it, and there was always somebody who couldn't stand the heat. It even happened to the Babe once, back in 1922 against the Giants, and the Babe used to laugh at things that made normal people's hair stand on end. Still, things shouldn't have turned out the way they did.

But let me tell you a few things about this guy Milhouse. They used to call him Smokey, but it was all a joke, because he threw every junk pitch you'd ever heard of. Drop ball, knuckle ball, Mexican fork ball, and all that other stuff you pick up when you've been in the bush leagues for a long time. When you were least expecting it, Smokey would come in with this straight ball you were sure your grandmother could put out of the park, and he'd get the league's best hitters to bounce back to the box.

Milhouse got away with it that year, but after that World Series game he was never worth a damn again, and I must say it didn't surprise me. Like I said, he spent a lot of time in the bush leagues, and it made him resentful. He was always trying to be one of the guys, but he had this sick smile like a snake in the grass. The guys were willing to give him a break because he was winning ball games for us that year, but he was never a real Yankee.

I guess you know how the whole World Series thing got set up. The Redlegs had a good team that year, and in the first two games Walters and Derringer handled us pretty good. The Series moved to Cincinnati and we won a game back, but the Reds got lucky in the next one, and we were down three-to-one. Crosley Field was packed for the fifth game, and there were so many rubes there that you could hardly hear yourself think.

Our guys just weren't hitting the ball, and I knew we couldn't afford to give up a run. When the Reds got a rally going in the fifth, I had a hunch that Milhouse could do the job, and sure enough he came in and got us off scot free. Smokey was white as a sheet when he came back to the dugout, but I left him in there anyway, and he kept us out of trouble until the bottom of the ninth.

Milhouse must have thought he was God or something out there because he was coming in with that bush-league fastball of his on every other pitch. If I had been thinking straight I would have yanked him, but like I said, you couldn't hear yourself think in that park. Besides, baseball is a funny game with lots of that psychological stuff involved, and I figured that Milhouse was just using some of that old Yankee magic.

He had two outs in the bottom of the ninth when two guys hit the ball pretty good, and suddenly the winning run was on third with Bud McCormick, the Reds' clean-up hitter, coming up. It was a do-or-die situation, and I decided to bring in Lefty Gomez.

But Smokey refused to give me the ball. He kept on saying, "You can't quit on me now. Just leave it to me and I'll get us out of this jam like I did before. I'll reach back for something extra."

So I left him in there, and on the first pitch McCormick hit the longest foul I've ever seen. When it left the park it was still going up, but damn if Smokey doesn't turn to the dugout and flash that snake-in-the-grass smile of his. He was the only one in the whole park who knew what was going to happen next, and I guess he thought that was pretty funny.

The next pitch was the only fastball I ever saw Milhouse throw that actually hopped. Yes sir, it came in at about ninety miles an hour and hopped right into McCormick's ear. Knocked him right off his feet, and blood started gushing and everything.

The place went wild. Smokey started running around with that insane smile, both benches cleared, fans poured out onto the field, and soon everybody was fighting everybody else. Finally they had to call in the cops, and to this day I've never been able to figure out how Milhouse got out of there alive.

Smokey was right about one thing, though, he got us out of that jam. The Commissioner called off the Series and nobody won. Of course the world was pretty messed up back then, so it didn't really matter. Hitler had just gone into Poland, and everyone knew that we would have to go over there to straighten things out.

Still, I never thought I'd ever see a Yankee pull off a fool stunt like that.

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