Bottle-Legged Heinie Groh’s Bottle-Shaped Bat Feature of Clash

Damon Runyon

Washington Times/October 5, 1922

New York, Oct. 5.—A bottle-legged little man, with a bottle-shaped bat, and a bottled-up style of batting, along with a bottled-up sort of name—such is our hero for today.

Not a prepossessing figure as we present him, you may say, certainly no matinee idol, yet an object of an adoring interest to 38,000 Manhattan Islanders who saw him play a large, fat part in the Giants’ winning of the first game of the world series from the Yankees. The score was 3 to 2.

The bottle-legged little man is Heinie Groh, and his bottle-shaped bat interposed a foolish looking little hit into the proceedings of the eighth inning at the Polo Grounds that seemed to smother the barrage of “Bullet Joe” Bush’s pitching, which had been gradually dying down from the inning before.

It was one of those half-accidental looking hits, a sort of jab in behind an opening blow by “Beauty” Bancroft of the Giants, but on top of it came a rushing attack from McGraw’s men that carried away a two-run lead for “Bullet Joe” and with it “Bullet Joe” himself.

It was Heinie Groh’s third hit of the day with that bottle-shaped bat, and good interest on the $150,000 that McGraw paid for Groh to get him back from Cincinnati.

For six innings “Bullet Joe,” waving a pair of red flannel sleeves at the Giants and shooting from under that scarlet cover volleys of bewildering speed, held the National Leaguers in check.

Cleat to cleat with him swung Arthur Nehf, the lefthander of the Giants. It was a pitcher’s battle, tedious, monotonous, with all the interest hung on that one brief moment when the inevitable break must come one way or the other.

“Bullet Joe” for six innings had all the better of the battle. In the sixth, Babe Ruth swept in a run for the Yanks, and the most optimistic Giant rooters in the crowd felt that it was all over. They did not believe the Giants could get past “Bullet Joe’s” barrier of speed.

Long and long ago some philosophical ball player laid down an axiom: “You can’t hit ’em when you can’t see ’em.”

And for six innings the Giants couldn’t “see ’em” as the ball left the hand of “Bullet Joe,” moving fast and faster as it approached the plate until finally it went swishing past their chests like the veritable bullets.

Another run in the seventh made it seem an absolute “cinch” for the American League champions, and the hopes of the Giants’ fans were at low water when the eighth came on. Before the end of that inning, “Bullet Joe” had gone, Waite Hoyt was pitching for the Yankees, and all the so-called “dope” on the series had been washed away.

It is a brief tale—the tale of the Yankee disaster. Singles by Bancroft, the bottle-legged Groh, Frisch, and “Irish” Meusel, and a sacrifice fly by Ross Young accounted for three runs and the victory for the Giants.

It may strike the casual reader as strange that we have selected the bottle-legged Groh’s hit, the second of the inning, as the heavy blow against the pitching of “Bullet Joe,” but that is the way it appeared to a great many other than this writer.

It was a lucky sort of a lick. Perhaps the very luck of the thing coming after all the great pitching disheartened “Bullet Joe” a trifle. It was “Irish” Meusel, brother of the Yankees’ Bob, who really crushed “Bullet Joe.”

If we were selecting an understudy in the hero role to Heinie Groh we would select William Ryan, called “Rosy” by his associates for some reason not entirely clear. Baseball nicknames are rarely clear. Ryan is a collegian who has been with the Giants a couple of years, and when he relieved Arthur Nehf, after Nehf had been taken out for a pinch hitter, “Rosy” Ryan pitched wonderful ball.

He had to face the heaviest sluggers of the Yanks, including the great Babe Ruth. He fanned Ruth. He held the others in hand, assisted to no small degree by a ninth-inning play by Frankie Frisch, a lucky sort of a play for the Giants.

The National Leaguers proved they are a game lot. They kept trying when it seemed useless for them to try any longer. Sitting back on the bench of the Giants, no longer the stormy petrel of the coaching lines as in bygone years of world series, but a secluded and dignified director of the play, John J. McGraw had a big part in the final drive.

He had his men switch their attack to hitting at the first ball pitched by Bush. Up to that time they had been attempting to wait “Bullet Joe” out. The advantage was constantly with the pitcher. McGraw sensed the slowing up of “Bullet Joe” in the seventh when the Giants had the bases full and could not score.

Up in the press stand sat a man watching the twists and turns of baseball fortune on the field below who must have had a thousand memories as he looked on. This man was Christy Mathewson—“Big Six”—just back from a long, hard journey out of the Valley of the Shadow.

Back in 1913 Mathewson was with a Giant club that fought against “Bullet Joe” and lost. Nine years is a long time in baseball and many things have happened since that day.

Not far from Mathewson sat Jack Dempsey, his white teeth gleaming as he nodded at acquaintances.

It was a day of notables with General Pershing, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Al Smith and scores of others whose names mean more or less in the stands.

It was a word series opening with all the old-time pomp and much of the circumstance of these openings, and with baseball fortune playing the usual strange pranks on the field once the game got under way.

The bottle-legged little man with the bottle-shaped bat, for instance, was not expected to transact any great deed. His bottle-legs have been ailing during the past season. Some folks have been whispering behind their hands that McGraw got the worst of that deal when he gave George Burns and $150,000 for Groh.

McGraw originally developed Groh from a green hand and traded him to Cincinnati years ago. In Cincinnati, the promise that McGraw saw in Groh blossomed into ripe fulfillment. When McGraw came to buy him back again Groh was a bright and shining star.

Yesterday, however, those bottle-legs stood up bravely and the bottle-shaped bat performed wonders. Wherefore, for our hero, which we assuredly must have in every world series game, we nominated without reservation Heinie Groh.

(Source: Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1922-10-05/ed-1/seq-29/#date1=1789&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=DAMON+RUNYON&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=1&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=Damon+Runyon&y=18&x=11&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=3)

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