This weekend in baseball history, part 2

A long-time reader completes his account of the late August 1961 showdown between the first-place Cincinnati Reds and the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers:

The Dodgers’ ten game losing streak (August 14 through August 24) obscured the fact that Cincinnati wasn’t playing very well either. During the same stretch, the Reds had lost four of the seven games that weren’t against Los Angeles. And now, Los Angeles had won the first two games of their series in Cincy.

According to Reds reliever Jim Brosnan, manager Fred Hutchinson was so nervous before the Sunday, August 27 doubleheader that initially forgot to bring his lineup card to the pre-game conference at home plate.

Joey Jay (18-8) was Hutchinson’s Game One starter, with Stan Williams (11-10) on the mound for L.A. In the fifth inning, consecutive doubles by Jim Gilliam, Wally Moon, and Duke Snider helped stake the Dodgers to a 3-0 lead. Cincinnati got one back in the bottom of the inning, but Williams remained in command. “Best slider he’s ever had,” Frank Robinson muttered after he struck out for the second time.

In the top of the seventh, the Dodgers added two more runs, on RBI singles by Snider and Frank Howard. They now led 5-1.

In the bottom of the inning, however, Williams began to hang his slider, and Cincinnati reduced their deficit to just one run. Gene Freese struck the key blow, a two-out, three-run homer that chased Williams. Ron Perranoski came on to get the third out.

Brosnan retired the Dodgers in order in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, Dodger second baseman Charlie Neal, who had entered the game as a pinch runner, opened the door for the Reds by booting Jerry Lynch’s lead-off grounder. With one out Leo Cardenas tripled off the scoreboard to tie the game.

Eddie Kasko then batted for Johnny Edwards, which created a favorable matchup against Perranoski, who had struggled against right-handed hitters all year. Walter Alston was having none of it – he replaced his left-hander with Larry Sherry. Then, to set up the double play, he ordered that Kasko be walked.

With Brosnan due up, Hutchinson countered with Wally Post. The veteran outfielder delivered a double to drive in Cardenas with the go-ahead run. Kasko stopped at third. Sherry halted the bleeding by retiring Freese and Chacon, but the Reds were now ahead 6-5.

The Dodgers had one more chance, and Hutchinson was taking none. Having already used his two top relievers – Bill Henry and Brosnan – he turned to ace starter Jim O’Toole to close the game. O’Toole accomplished this with only four pitches.

Game Two pitted Don Drysdale (10-7) against Ken Johnson (4-2). Drysdale was a future Hall of Famer and was Johnson just a journeyman. But Johnson actually had the better ERA for the season and the Reds had hammered Drysdale in his two prior starts against them in 1961.

They pounded him on this day, as well. Vada Pinson started the fun with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Reds added another in the fourth, and three more in the sixth. The last two scored on a double by Johnson, the Reds pitcher, which gave Cincy a 6-1 lead.

The Dodgers finally chased Johnson in the eighth, but Brosnan came on in relief to limit the damage to just one run. The Reds lead was 8-3.

In the ninth, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two out and Wally Moon, a dangerous left-handed hitter, at the plate. Hutchinson came to mound and said, “Why don’t we let [left-hander] Henry strike out Moon and get this over with?” “Why not?” Brosnan replied, and Henry did the deed.

Cincinnati had restored their three and half game lead over Los Angeles.


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