Enos "Country" Slaughter flashed one of his down-home grins after hearing the question he knew was coming the question he's been answering for nearly four decades.
What happened on that play in the 1946 World Series?
That play came in the seventh and final game of the '46 Series between the St. Louis Cardinals, featuring Slaughter, and the Boston Red Sox. With two out and the score tied, 3-3, Slaughter singled. Up came Harry Walker, who lofted a hit to medium left-center field.
Somehow, Slaughter rambled all the way home from first base to score what would become the winning run.
Sitting at a table in Brooklyn's restaurant Friday morning, Slaughter sipped on some lemon juice and nodded his head at the question. The Hall of Famer was here to promote the Variety Club's Dale Robertson Celebrity Golf Tournament Sept. 28-29 at Cedar Valley Country Club, but he knew no one was going to ask him about birdies and bogeys.
Certainly not the sportswriter sitting across from him the guy who hadn't been born on Oct. 15, 1946.
"When I made my turn at second," Slaughter said, "that's when I knew I could score because the play was right in front of me."
Still, incongruities surround one of the most famous plays in Series history. According to some history books, Walker's hit was a double.
Others claim he singled. According to Slaughter, it was a double but should have been a single.
"The official scorer was from Detroit," he said, "and I don't know what he had against me but it was really a long single was what it was. The ball was hit into left-center. It was not what you'd call a line drive, just a medium-hit ball, and when I hit second base the ball had just hit the ground it was in front of me and I said to myself, "I can score.' And there wasn't even a play on me. I could have crossed home plate easily.
"They scored it as a double, but when Johnny Pesky throwed home, Walker goes on into second after the throw. So it couldn't have been anything but a long single is what it was."
History books, as well as Cardinal teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Stan Musial, have claimed that Slaughter ignored a "stop" sign from third base coach Mike Gonzalez. On that one, Slaughter isn't sure.
"I don't know to this day whether Mike Gonzalez gave me the stop or go sign," Slaughter said. "A lot of people said he gave me the stop sign, but I kept running and scored easily.
"In an earlier ballgame, Mike Gonzalez stopped me on a bad relay throw and (St. Louis manager) Eddie Dyer told me from then on if there were two men out and I thought I had a legitimate chance to score to go ahead and gamble and he'd be responsible for it. That's one of the reasons I went all out for home plate."
Yet another mystery surrounding the play is whether Boston shortstop Pesky, after getting the relay throw, made an error in judgment. He hesitated before throwing home.
"They made Pesky out a goat, but I've always upheld Pesky because I really feel like the word of mouth is one of the greatest assets in sports," Slaughter said. "If (second baseman) Bobby Doerr or (third baseman) Pinky Higgins either one woulda hollered "Go home with the ball' and Pesky had turned and thrown home right away, I think he would have had me by 10 feet.
"He looked towards second and then he looked and saw me out of the corner of his eye and that's when he had to turn and throw home, and when he turned he couldn't get anything on the ball. Really, to me it was a head's-up play on my part and I think a little lackadaisical play on the Red Sox infield for not letting Pesky know where the runner was at."
While Pesky momentarily ignored Slaughter, "Country" was forgetting the throbbing in his right elbow. In the fifth game of the Series, Slaughter's "crazy bone" had been hit by a pitch. For the only time in his career, he was forced to leave the game. Couldn't hit, couldn't throw.
"On our way back to St. Louis," Slaughter said, "the trainer put me in a separate compartment on the train. I had Epsom salts and hot towels wrapped around that elbow. When I got to St. Louis, the team physician rushed me right to St. Mary's hospital. He X-rayed my arm and said if I had such a bad hemmorhage that if I got hit on it again that he would probably have to amputate it.
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