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Bombers Eke Out Victory over Indians at Yankee Stadium

July 20, 1963 - For eight innings at Yankee Stadium today, Whitey Ford and the Yankees were proceeding to another victory as smoothly as the celestial mechanism of the eclipse that was to begin within the hour. But with two out in the ninth, a sudden and startling Indians’ uprising turned a 5-1 laugher into a 5-4 sweater. Manager Ralph Houk was still sweating in his air-conditioned office after the game and saying: “Cripes, didn’t that happen in a hurry!” There was Ford, New York’s Commissioner on Indian Affairs, shooting for his 11th straight win and doing his typically meticulous job on the Tribe — 3 hits through 8 frames and 15 straight outs since Max Alvis had homered in the fourth for the only Indian run off Ford in 25 innings this season. Then, two outs from the end, it happened — “real quick,” as Houk put it. Willie Tasby drew Ford’s only pass. Willie Kirkland singled to center. Alvis drove a one-hopper off the scoreboard that fronts the left-center bleachers for a two-run triple. At that point, Houk raced to the mound to ask Ford what had happened. Whitey told him it was hot out there, especially when you’re 35 years old, so Houk signalled for 25-year-old right-hander Hal Reniff. Cleveland skipper Birdie Tebbets then sent left-handed Fred Whitfield up to hit for Joe Adcock. Whitfield can hit long, so Joe Pepitone, subbing for the injured Mickey Mantle, played deep in center. This time, Whitfield hit short — a pop fly into center where Pep charged and charged and charged and fell down in a mess of flying turf as the ball plunked in front of him for an RBI single. “That’s one I would have had,” Mickey Mantle needled the rookie first baseman. “I ran pretty good on that one considering the ground,” protested Pep. Houk happened along and heard the remark. “You’re right,” Houk told the kid. “You played it real good after you broke your back.” Everybody laughed. They could laugh now, but not at the time it happened. Because John Romano followed up with a hit up the middle, and now the Indians had the tying run on second and the leader on first. And there Houk was again at the mound, trying to stall for time so his bullpen could heat up. Right-handed Jerry Kindall was due to hit. Houk looked into the Cleveland dugout where Al Luplow, a lefty, was grabbing a bat. “I felt sure they’d go for a left-handed hitter,” said Houk, “so I stayed with Reniff. He gets them out pretty good, as good as he does righties. He keeps it in on them.” Reniff kept it in on Luplow, who banged it back to the box. Reniff collared it, whirled, and fired to second where Kubek pivoted the DP — and 21,931 frazzled Bomber partisans went home happy. It is 33 years since the Bronx was last darkened by a solar eclipse, and since then, the Yankees have eclipsed the American League 21 times and are in the process of making it 22. The Yankee stranglehold on first place seems all the more unbreakable because it has been achieved in the face of numerous injuries and an unfavorable schedule. Up to yesterday, the Yankees had played 52 games on the road and 37 at home. Their record so far at home is 29-9, and some injured stars are healing. The American League’s escape from another Yankee eclipse will not be easy.

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