THE GREAT ALEXANDER
thoroughly disgusted with myself that it has taken me all these months to
remark upon the passing of my first baseball hero: Grover Cleveland
meant to, but too many topical subjects crop up for this space. Now I'm
impelled to the task by the revelation that they're filming the colorful
life of the big, convivial, party-lovin' Nebraskan.
was all of eight when I first saw Alex fling those side-arm slants in the
bandbox at Broad & Lehigh known as Baker Bowl. A pitcher had to be
super to keep popflies from clearing that short right field wall, and old
Pete was. It was an exception when he didn't turn in a shutout; today goose
eggs in baseball are as rare as virgins in the Virgin Islands since Joe
Twomby went to St. Thomas.
Alex was one of the half dozen best hurlers in diamond history. How I
worshiped him for the calm ease with which he mowed down John McGraw's
snarling, ferocious New York Giants and the rest of those tough, hateful
National League clubs. That sharp-breaking curve of his was a thing of
beauty; his control was uncanny.
it was through the retrospective eyes of an impressionable eight-year-old
that I sat in the press box one hot Sunday afternoon many years later and
saw an aging Pete shuffle to the mound to fan Tony Lazzeri with the bases
full, and go on to win the world's championship for Rogers Hornsby and his
St. Louis Cardinals over Babe Ruth and the other murderous Yanks. That was
the most dramatic moment in all baseball history for me.
was the supreme, sublime thrill as my thoughts turned to Philadelphia and a
more youhtful, slimmer Alex who earned a permanent niche in a tender young
heart with his feats of diamond legerdemain. Almost single-handedly he
pitched Pat Moran's nondescript gang to a pennant and won a World Series
game from the greatest club in baseball annals, the 1915 Boston Red Sox.
Alex been as abstinent as those other two pitching greats, Walter Johnson
and Christy Mathewson, his wonderful career probably would have attained
the miraculous. As it was, he can't be kept off any all-time all-star team.
and Barney and Pete
that stir up above? Do you sense it:
That concert of voices so tense?
More audible now: Why, they're calling
For Matty and Barney and Pete.
that murmur of pent-up excitement?
The atmosphere's charged with suspense;
And the sounds that reverberate 'round us
Say Matty and Barney and Pete.
there's action in heaven today, folks:
The big baseball game's due to start.
The Chief's got his aces unlimbering,
There's Matty, and Barney, and Pete.
buzzing becomes a great roar now,
A thunderous wave of applause;
What a thrill to see stars of such brilliance
As Matty and Barney and Pete!
a staff to delight any skipper,
With slider, the hard one, and hook;
They had everything: savvy, stuff, moxie
Had Matty and Barney and Pete.
they mowed doivn the hitters on earth here,
What class they could show on that mound;
The kingpin of all in their heyday
Were Matty and Barney and Pete.
Six . . . the Big Train (how he fogged 'em) . . .
And canny old Alex the Great;
Ah, what memories they bring to us oldsters,
Do Matty and Barney and Pete.
the day comes that ends life's long journey,
I'll eagerly leap at the chance
To see them once more toe that rubber-
Old Matty and Barney and Pete.
had no idea of the furore I had caused until Governor Driscoll got me on the
'phone in Newark Thursday. A long while ago— it's been well over a year, I
think— I reported on a clandestine meeting in General Eisenhower's office
at Columbia U. Conferees were reported to be the governors of New York,
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Obviously they weren't talking about the
relative scholastic merits of Columbia, Penn, and Princeton.
had occasion to refer again to this alleged session six or eight weeks ago.
It appears that Carl Ring, who is opposing Alex Smith for the Senate
nomination, picked it up and hung it around Mr. Driscoll's neck. It was
supposed to prove Alfred has selfish motives— the vice-presidency—
behind the rug-pulling that discomfitted and discombooberated Robert Taft.
column is the 'secret document' Mr. Ring claims he has to prove the
plot," the Governor told me. "The Argus isn't secret, is it?"
more secret than I wish it was," I admitted ruefully, with circulation
statistics in mind.
really had upset the Governor was not Mr. Ring but the subsequent national
prominence given the whole thing by Fulton Lewis, Jr. The famed radio
commentator is an ardent Taft man, and probably no booster of Driscoll anyway,
because Al is too far over to the left by his standards, a
and advocate of public this-and-that. Everything is relative, anyway, as
I've remarked so many times, and nothing more so than ideologies.
Lewis used my story to give Driscoll a resounding whack in the
aspirations, and Al turned to me. The story, he assured me, wasn't accurate.
He was over at Columbia that day, sure enough, but for the purpose of
lecturing at the School of Journalism. The honorable governors of New York
and Pennsylvania weren't there, not to his knowledge, anyway. At least, he
didn't see them or talk politics with them.
if Al says it isn't so, it isn't so. He should know.
course, my intelligence came from one who should know also. Someone very
close to His Excellency. But that someone could have been "pulling my
leg," as the Governor suggested. Or could have had two fingers too
many. Or maybe just likes to talk in big and mysterious ways.
I should employ a device like the Joan News Letter which carries the legend:
"This letter is based on information compiled from sources generally
considered to be reliable. While we believe the facts to be authentic, we
can make no guarantee as to accuracy."
the thing has repercussions which haven't died down yet. But it did get The
Argus publicity in newspapers and on radio broadcasts around the country.
a day or two it was hot and hectic. I left Newark for Dover after my
conversation with Driscoll, and upon arrival found a call waiting from
Washington. It was Ab Herrmann, of Republican national headquarters. He was
upset, too. Another caller from Washington to Dover was Senator
Smith. He was calm; merely wanted to confirm a dinner date for the next
Camden next day, I found Chicago had been trying
to reach me for two days. The call came through: it was Bruce McFarlane of
WGN. While I was rehashing the whole situation with him, Mrs. MacDonald told
me Washington was on the wire.
this time, having a more-than-full day ahead of me, I was beginning to sour
on the whole thing. But when I took the Washington call and heard the
pleasant voice of Mary Thompson, it sweetened me immediately. Mary is
Senator Bob Hendrickson's secretary.
in trouble," she began. "I suppose it's my fault, but it was an
act of God, too
Mary!" I interrupted her in my best vocal leer.
quickly set me straight. It appears that a small fire in the office had
damaged her desk and destroyed a few papers, among them some correspondence
I had had with the Senator. I was so glad 1 didn't have to go through the
Eisenhower-Driscoll-Dewey routine again that I could have kissed her— and
will when I see her next. Meanwhile, I assured her no harm had. been done at
all; I would have Miss Drill send her a copy of the communication from
the fuse I lighted still sputters and crackles. Do you suppose it will be
Eisenhower and Driscoll in Chicago next June?
guess I'm not as young as I used to be. Time was when I could work far into
the night and arise at dawn full of pep and vigor. Every election found me
working the clock around at the Courier-Post, all night and right through
the next day.
afraid those days are gone. I am forced to that reluctant conclusion because
it is 9 a.m. of a Saturday and truthfully I'd rather have stood in bed.
suppose it really started Wednesday. The meeting of the state pharmacy
leaders at Elizabeth didn't break up until nearly 1 a.m. Ira Schwarz got me
to the Penn Station in Newark in time to catch the 1:33, which didn't get to
Trenton 'til 2:30, so it was after three before I got home. I'd have stayed
upstate but I had to be in Camden the next morning, so nothing to do but
come on down, as Nellie Lutcher puts it.
was even worse. By the time I could get away from
South Plainfield it was pushing 2 a.m. The 2:02 at New Brunswick was nearly
three quarters of an hour late. I finally hit the downy 'long about four.
I'm not exactly full of vim and vitality today.
suppose one reason for my sluggishness is my well-known propensity for
over-indulgence, gastronomically speaking. Somehow victuals have an
irresistible fascination for me. A recent high spot was dinner at Townley's
in Union, one of my favorite eating places. What food. And what portions!
By the time I polished off half a dozen butter and poppyseed rolls, a plate
of green tomatoes, pickles, ripe olives and such, I couldn't handle more
than two hip steaks.
very next night found me at Oak Hill Manor in Metuchen, another paradise for
of the pieces of business on my agenda that busy Friday when the calls were
coming from Chicago and Washington was a dash over to Temple in Philly for
my third successive Freedoms Foundation awards presentation at the Chapel
of the Four Chaplains.
was full of surprises. I was delightfully surprised to find Judge
Donges and his charming lady there. Unknown to me, the veteran
jurist-scholar had served on the twenty-eight member distinguished panel
that judged the tons of material in the Americanism competition.
to cap the climax, who should come marching in but Hazel, her mother, and my
mother. They had been over to the Commercial Museum for the flower show, and
since they were in town anyway they thought they might as well drop in and
see me sweat out the ceremonies.
don't know what they thought of it, but I know that all the way home they
talked only of the flower show! It must have been a gorgeous sight indeed.
Wish I had been able to make it.