God isn’t dead, as some theologists have suggested. It’s just that He’s moved on to St. Louis.
At 3:23 p.m. Thursday, Our Old Town Team succumbed. Bob Gibson had shut off the oxygen, and we all faced a re-entry crisis common to those who must go back to the real world. The whole thing, the battle for The Planetary Baseball Championship, had been as kicky as playing the market in 1929. Again there was a Depression. It began in the third inning when a runt named Dallan Maxvill hit a triple for the team called Cardinals and sponsored by Gussie’s Brewery in St. Louis. Maxvill shouldn’t be able to spell triple against Jim Lonborg, let alone hit one.
However, as Carl Yastrzemski phrased it, “Jim’s heart was there, but his arm wasn’t.”
To my knowledge the community and new English have taken this Depression as gallantly as Our Old Town Team itself. Nobody has jumped from a window, welshed on a bet, struck his wife, or been too overcome to imbibe.
There is comfort to be found in history, from words of General Lee at Appomattox: “Don’t forget, we was crowd pleasers, baby.” Or Napoleon at Waterloo: “We win all the big ones till now, bebe.” Or even Lady Godiva at Coventry: “Nobody thought I’d go this far and make such a good showing.”
Like the Red Sox, Franz Schubert made beautiful music, and yet lost the seventh. In fact he lost his seventh symphony so completely that nobody has found it yet.
But Our Team will be found, Yastrzemski promises, in Winter Haven, Fla., in mid-February. “This will be the first time I’ll have had something to look forward to over the Winter,” Carl said. His were the feelings of the aficionados: “I can’t wait to start Spring training. We know we have the team that can do it again.”
That would be nice, but can this province stand the nervous strain again? Our Old Town Team’s exploits made millions of hearts labor excessively.
Maxvill’s triple started a two-run third inning for the Cardinals and thereafter Fenway Park was a jam of 35,188 silent bodies. Occasionally you could hear the tinkle of feminine voices against the silence, the chorus of “Go-go-go-go!” from the Cardinals’ wives behind third base. George Scott’s triple - the first hit pried from Gibson - brought forth a great, momentary roar in the fifth inning.
Joolie Javier’s home run scored three runs in the sixth and put a lock on the 7-2 game. It was a terribly laborious inning for Lonborg, who now seemed like Tony DeMarco taking his last splattering from Virgil Akins in the Garden ring. Finally he struck out Curt Flood to end the inning. Him dragged from the mound - the mound from which he had been carried in triumph on Pennant Day - and his head was as low as the crowd’s morale.
This was the saddest way to go for a young man who had done so much. It hurt him, the loyalists, and the manager. “I didn’t want to see Lonnie pounded,” Dick Williams said, “but he was our best, even with two days’ rest. Even then I thought he was our best shot. With two men on, we thought Javier would bunt and Lonnie would get out of the inning. But Javier didn’t bunt…”
It’s obvious that Williams stayed with Lonborg too long. Still, the manager’s feelings for situations and players were so unerring during a long and improbable season that lasted one pennant and seven games beyond reasonable expectations. If it was a sin to grab for one more miracle by hanging in with Lonnie, Williams was entitled to it.
Williams and his team had been accompanied by the Fate Sisters - Moirai, Clotho and Lachesis, - all season, right through the sixth game. Thursday the girls walked out and maybe they took up with Gibson and his group. Maybe Bob Gibson didn’t seem to need anybody’s help during the last nine days.
Gibson meant $8,900 per man for the St. Louisans against losing shares of $5,600. He meant Mumm’s champagne, which the Cardinals drank, against Narragansett, which consoled Our Old Town Team. He meant silent at Fenway.
But the sting of Thursday will vanish fast amid memories of a team that came out from under its wrong. They began 1967 ranked 37th among 20 big league teams, and they finished No. 2. Thank you, Old Town Team, for the pleasure of your company.
The crisis of re-entry into the real world affects everybody, but particularly journalists. Now that the Red Sox have passed on, how in the world will we fill the newspapers?