Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Learn The Lesson Of Henri Cochet

Illustration for article titled Learn The Lesson Of Henri Cochet

Slate's Robert Weintraub, like many of us, loves the old purple prose of early 1900s sportswriting, the Grantland Rices, the men who painted epic tales of warriors, grizzled combatants and lardywarks too manly to wear gloves. In an occasional series, Weintraub writes about the week's best baseball game in the style of the vaunted sportswriters of yesteryear. This week: The Twins' comeback win over the Tigers.

One would think the legions of scribblers who emptied out of the press section after a mere half dozen tallies in the top of the initial innings would know better. Surely, they had learned the lesson of Henri Cochet, and would never assume a result, regardless of score. Granted, it was the Sabbath, and Lord knows home and hearth are more important on the Day of Rest than mere sport. But those that departed should consider themselves accursed — they missed a famous rally by the Minnesotans, who pulled themselves from a six-run hole to stun gun the Motor City Tigers, 7-6.

The Lads from the 3-1-3 were like a sailor just returned from a months-long whaling voyage — eager to get started and quick to finish. The Wordy Whirlwind, Curtis Granderson, emerged from his mother's basement to rock a Leadoff Long Sock to the deepest reaches of Humphrey's Hothouse. 1-0, Stripes, while the concessionaires were still stuffing X-Ray Specs into boxes of Cracker Jack. Legally Boof Bonser was the starting moundsman for the Fraternals, and he absorbed a beating like those the Pinkertons regularly dole out to those who dare brandish the Union Label.


Knocks by Mucho Macho Magglio, Squeeze Guillen and Edgar Rent-A-Wreck ballooned the lead to four. And a day that was starting sour for the Boofy One started positively acerbic for battery mate Just-So Joe Mauer. Not since he stopped squiring beauty queens around the Twin Cities has Joe been so un-Mauer like in his flailings. First, he failed to stop a Boofball before it reached the backstop, despite the fact that The Pudgy Pinko had swung and missed. Cagily, Ivan had found a way to reach first, despite showing Napoleon-invades Russia-like judgment in the batting box. Squeeze scored the game's fifth tally on the play as well. Then Mr. Perfect compounded his error by trying to nail the Commie Catcher as he tried to pilfer the Middle Sack. The throw sailed high, wide, and Gable-handsome, and another tally ticked on the big board.

Just when it seemed this Land of Ten Thousand Lakes didn't have enough water to extinguish the flaming Cats, Legally Boof managed to jujitsu the overconfident Granderson, who swung like Atlas but missed like the weakling with sand kicked in his face. Still, the Rivetheads were on a pace to score 54 runs in the game. And with Kenny "Fold 'Em, Already" Rogers assuming twirling duties for the Olde English, the half-dozen should have been safe as houses.

But the Sons of the North Star don't believe in phrases like "should have" when it comes to base ball. They prefer phrases like "it's not over until we're naked." Indeed, appearances to the contrary, only the cartoons had unspun from the projector — the feature presentation was still to come (also, the newsreels, but we all know those can't be trusted).

Justin "Loonie" Morneau's shrieker plated a tally in the fourth innings, a seemingly innocuous development at the time, but one that would have a spiraling effect similar to the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. Nick "Runto" Punto smeared a slopball for two sacks in the following innings, bringing a pair of Siamese all the way around. Pope Bonser apparently had brainwashed his way to forgetting the debacle out of the starting gate, and was firmly in command. Somehow, that Half-Dozen from Hades hadn't etched the result in adamantine — halfway through the voyage, neither squad's landfall was guaranteed.


Things were calm until the Stretch Innings, when a display of infield fallibility poached the Stripes. The Coward of Camera County acquired a pair of speedy outs, but grooved a "fastball" to Matt "Rebel Yell" Tolbert, who whistled one for two bags. Then came the contest's hinge action. Runto dribbled one down to the Left Base, where "Squeeze" Guillen has relocated. 'Los is still finding his way around the neighborhood, and on this play, he wandered down a dead end street. His throw would have been competent enough had he been wielding a pipe bomb, but for horsehide, it was woefully inaccurate. Whereas E6 was seldom applied to his name during Squeeze's shortstopping days, this wild one was already E#6 on this nascent campaign.

These opportunistic Twinks rushed into the opening like Sooners. Zombie Zach Miner replaced The Roaster, who retired to a chicken dinner in the clubhouse. A brace of safeties later, the scoreboard read 6-5, and Miner left his team with Major difficulty. Bobby "Sydney" Seay replaced the Z, to be greeted by the Gibraltor-like physique of the All-American Swing himself, Just-So Joe Mauer. As usual, the grandstands were packed with local idolators of the St. Paul Saint. They had sat sullen as their Hero suffered in the game's early stages, but now they cheered with a full-throated roar that reached Krakatoan decibels. And, as any good protagonist does, JSJ delivered when spotlit. A stroke of genius right up the box was good for the tying and go-ahead tallies, and, with Tunney-like improbability, the Twin City Paladins had erased the elephantine deficit and emerged on top.


There was still work to do, and the firm of Guerrier and Nathan was up to it. "A Touch Of Sleep" Nathan ran into a spot of ill in the ultimate innings, once again thanks to the derring-do of Mr. Blogspot. He legged out a 75-footer, and applied some larceny to the Middle Bag. A safety from the Acquisition would have tied the contest, but unlike Mauer, El Grande Posterior failed to deliver decisively. Joe winged a trio of Whamm-O's past the helplessly befuddled Cabrera, and the Twins had managed an unlikely Brooming of Panthera Tigris.

Afterward, wearing nothing but his soup-strainer, Hard Pack Leyland bristled, in language unsuitable for the softer sex. "There will be changes tomorrow," he promised with Kaiser-like intensity. If those words don't send a shiver down the collective backbone of the Motown Nine, they are as devoid of humanity and emotion as they have seemed on the pitch of late.

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