By Don Sharp
What do you do when you can’t play baseball? You listen to baseball — on the radio.
That’s what we used to do years ago before there were television screens everywhere. You listened to the game. You could keep on doing whatever you were doing, like tinkering around, reading minor house chores or petting the dog.
But you kept your head in the game.
That was easy enough, what with WLW Cincinnati carrying the Reds games. The games were sponsored by Burger Beer with Waite Hoyt, the old Yankee pitcher, describing the action.
This was back in the early 1950s — the Reds had changed the team name to Redlegs in recognition of America’s place in the Cold War. The scars left by the Korean War were still visible and painful, and even Ted Williams was recalled to active duty in 1952 and 1953. Communism was ever present and dangerful. So the Reds became the Redlegs.
Listening to a certain Redlegs-Cardinals game in the early 1950s was particularly memorable. It was an afternoon game played in old Crosley Field, the Reds/Redlegs’ home field before Riverfront Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. Listening to Waite Hoyt narrate the games in his understated style was always a joy to me.
Hoyt had been a star New York Yankee pitcher in the glory days of Ruth and Gehrig. Hoyt had a treasure trove of baseball knowledge and personal pennant-winning experience. He would spin tales of the days of Ruth during rain delays of Reds games and sometimes give unintended tips of baseball techniques being used on the field of play. And he could be humorous — he had done vaudeville in the offseason during his Yankee days.
In this particular Redlegs vs. Cardinals game, Cincinnati was in the field and St. Louis was batting. The Redleg pitcher was Harry Perkowski, Ted Kluszewski was playing first base and Bob “Bush” Borkowski was playing center field. On the St. Louis side, at bat was either Rip Repulski or Ray Jablonski. Camped on first base was baserunner Rip Repulski or Ray Jablonski. I can’t be sure now whether Rip or Ray was batting or was a baserunner on first.
For the sake of argument (and the excuse of faulty memory) let us assume it was Jablonski batting and Repulski on first.
Pitcher Perkowski, from his left-handed balk stance, pitches to Jablonski, who hits a hard line drive to center field. Borkowski makes a running catch of the liner and sees Repulski in a hazardous position between first and second. So Borkowski quickly throws to Kluszewski covering first base. And Kluszewski tags Repulski, who is trying desperately to get back to the bag — out.
A double play. And a most unique ethnic double play at that.
Perkowski-Jablonski-Borkowski-Kluszewski-Repulski !! Double play and out !
Waite Hoyt described the action as it happened and then — lost in the wonder of it all — repeated it again.
I don’t remember if the Redlegs won or lost the game. But I will continue to remember that bit of baseball from the days of yore.
Don Sharp is a 1950 graduate of Anna High School and now resides in Lakewood, Colorado.