Monday, December 19, 2011


You no doubt have heard how one thing leads to another. It’s a trite but common saying. (Maybe that’s a definition of trite.)
But sometimes the path from the first thing to the last can be a fascinating one.
For instance, thanks to a friend who emailed me a couple of weeks ago I now know how I spent the day on July 1, 1956.
No, there was nothing of real consequence news-wise that day, at least that I know of. It’s not a date like Dec. 7, 1941, or Nov. 22, 1963, or Sept. 11, 2011, that would be permanent in your memory.
July 1, 1956. Just an ordinary Sunday really.
That’s what makes the leap from one thing to another so interesting. 
Here’s how things got started.
My friend Ed emailed me to make an observation about how there is nothing else in sports to match the buildup of tension as a pitcher who is working a no-hitter. I messaged him back and said the atmosphere around a heavyweight title fight -- back in the day, not now -- was something special, but we agreed that wasn’t quite the same.
I told him I’d never seen a no-hitter, but I had seen a journeyman pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds named Johnny Klippstein carry one into the ninth inning against the Brooklyn Dodgers before PeeWee Reese broke it up with a one-out single to right field.
The mention of the Dodgers led the next thing.
That led to Ed mentioning how he used to enjoy going to Dodgers games in Ebbets Field as a kid, and I wrote him back saying I wish I could have see the place.
(You may deduce now that somehow the date July 1, 1956, has something to do with baseball, but that’s getting ahead of the story.)
Something along the line, I brought up the name of an obscure Dodger pitcher from the 1950s, Karl Spooner, a lefthander who was supposed to be Sandy Koufax before there was a Sandy Koufax.
This really struck a note with Ed because Spooner had had such a brief career in the majors it isn’t likely many people, even baseball fans, have ever heard of him. Ed, though, had actually seen him pitch.
It was near the end of the 1954 season, Ed said, a meaningless game for the Dodgers because the New York Giants had won the pennant that season and swept the Cleveland Indians in four games in the World Series.
It’s too late now to make a long story short, so I’ll skip some more mundane details of our email exchanges.
Essentially, what happened was our dive into 1950s baseball trivia continued. With Ed bringing up old Dodger games, I got to thinking about baseball games I had seen as a kid.
In particular, I told Ed, I remember a high-scoring game between the Cardinals and Reds that had opened a doubleheader. The Reds won 14-10, I wrote him, scoring six times in the top of the 10th and then giving up two runs to the Cardinals in the bottom half.
Along the way, Ed, who was looking up the 1954 standings to confirm how the Yankees had won 103 games but still lost the American League pennant by eight games to the Indians, had referenced a website, I decided to check into it.
Glad I did. I found it listed all kinds of sports data and records, including all-time standings for baseball. Not only that, but scores of all the major league games were listed by year.
I could look up that Reds-Cardinals game!
I searched through the game-by-game scores by season for the 1950s and found that on July 1, 1956, the Reds had beaten the Cardinals in 10 innings, but by a 19-15 score, not 14-10. I was pretty sure that was it.
A quick Google search got me to the box score of that game to confirm it. The Reds won not only that game but the nightcap as well by a routine 7-1 score.
So, cut to the quick here, now I know that on July 1, 1956, I got up early in the morning to ride with my parents (and probably a friend) from Vincennes, Indiana, to St. Louis and Busch Stadium (the old, old one once know as Sportsman’s Park).
And we would have returned home that night on the long, nearly four-hour drive across Illinois on U.S. Highway 50, two lanes and small towns for all of 154 miles.
So, you see how one thing can lead to another?
Maybe “fascinating” is too strong a word. Let’s call it at least interesting, though. If the details are boring, why did you read this far?

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