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Communism, Whores, And Streetcars: An Oral History of the Suicide Squeeze

The year was 1919. The 18th Amendment had been ratified, starting one of the darkest periods in American history. The Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending The War to End All Wars. The Miracle Man was tops at the box office, taking in three million dollars. And in Saint Louis, Missouri, an inventive young man and a manger open to new ideas would forever change the game of based balls.

Scoops McGee (reporter, Saint Louis Newsly Times): Dateline: Saint Louis, August Third,1919! Branch Rickey's Redbirds were buried at the bottom of the National League and in need of some pep! Oh this was nothing a little flagpole sitting could cure, no sir! What they needed was a dash of jolt, a side of hep, some scat, and don't forget the worp! Branch "Thinking, Tinkering" Rickey was about to re-write the rules! The St. Louis Cardinals were about to be the most talked-about group in red ever seen, only to be topped by the Palmer Raids!

Branch Rickey (Manager): By August we were 20-something games under .500 and 20 someodd games out of first. We weren't giving up, not by any means -- they didn't call us Branch's Bastards for naught -- but it was time to shake things up. First Sunday of that month, we had a double-header against Wilbert Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers. Remember, this is before your pansy night games, so we got this double-header, see, the first weekend of August out at old Robison Field, both day games, wearing those full wool uniforms and everything. And it got real hot that summer, okay? Like that type of hot where it sweats down the crack of your ass and... hey, it was hot, I'll leave it at that. There were a few brownouts thanks to this sissy "air conditioning" that the talking picture shows were using, and I remember that morning Dillhoefer and Tuero were running late cause the streetcar up Vandeventer was out of service.

Pickles Dillhoefer (Catcher): We got drunker than [BEEP] the night before and woke up in a whorehouse on Broadway twenty minutes before the game started! Old "Two Bits" Tuero bribed a newspaper truck to speed us out west and we showed up the stadium in our uniforms, lipstick on the collar!

Dots Miller (First Baseman): My God, we loved whores.

So we're really struggling, right, and we got to score some runs. This kid the night before walked up to me and said "Hey, Skip, what about next time there's a runner on third with less than two outs, you have the hitter drag bunt and start the runner at third?" I looked at this little rugrat like he had four heads. "Get out of here with this crazy talk and get your little Italian ass back to the Hill!" Then I started thinking, this is a pretty renegade idea, okay, and it's a little crazy, but it's not like it's "letting women vote"-type crazy. This may actually work.

Rogers Hornsby (Third Baseman): I was the only guy on the team that could hit the [BEEP]ing ball, so we had some issues scoring some runs, see. Let me tell ya, we scored a hell of a lot more in the whorehouses after the game -- and sometimes before! -- than we did on the field!

Fritz Mollwitz (First Baseman): We loved whores!

Hornsby: So the Skipper comes to me before this game in early August and says, "Hey, what if we tried to bunt a run in? Like sneak him in there?!?" I looked at him stupefied, so he starts explaining himself. "Guy on third, less than two outs, okay? The runner goes to steal home, but at the last second the batter drag bunts! What says you?" Now, I could have [BEEP]ing shot him right there for cowardice. I say to him, I say "Skip, I got a 103 degree fever, I'm drunker than [BEEP], and my [BEEP] is about to [BEEP]ing fall off if I sleep with one more damned whore! And you want us to start bunting in runs! I won't do it, no sir, no how!"

Rickey: Hornsby and I discussed the bunt/run play over some lemonade. He was pretty keen on my idea.

Bill Doak (Pitcher): Yeah, I remember that game. I was throwing a gem, but the whole dugout was buzzing with this "Steal home and bunt at the same time" nonsense. I told Doc Lavan I hadn't heard about such cowardice since being assigned to a ship of Dutch sailors early in the Great War.

Doc Lavan (Short Stop): I smacked Rickey right in the face when he told me this idea.

Milt Stock (Second Baseman): BOLSHEVISM! SHEER BOLSHEVISM!

Rickey: The game is going well, Doak is tossing a beauty and Rajah tied it up 1-1 in the 6th with an RBI double. Doak gets through the top of the seventh, but we've still only scored one run and our chances of piling on weren't looking too good. Then the bottom of the seventh, Dots Miller gets an infield single and advances to second on a throwing error by Ivy Olson of the Dodgers.

Lavan: So we got Miller on second with nobody out, and I just know Rickey is going to call that commie play of his, but I'm just glad I wasn't batting with him at third and me having to disobey my manager. And I wasn't about to let Miller steal third and put me in that spot, so I bunted him over to third on the first pitch just to get it over with.

Horsnby: So Doc chickened out and helped Skip with this plan to bring down democracy, so I tell Doc, as soon as he got back to the dugout "You're an embarrassment to your father." And, sure enough, he looks up in the stands and his dad is crying.

Steve Lavan (Doc's father): I had an eye infection. From the whores!

Rickey: So we've got a runner on third, one out, tie game in the bottom of the seventh. The wheels had turned. Jack Smith was coming up and he was a world-class bunter. So the stage was set, okay, and I gave them the signals.

Jack Smith (Outfielder): I put a little drag bunt down the third base line, Dots came into score, and I actually beat out the bunt for a hit! We won the game 2-1!

Mollwitz: Yeah, we won the game. But at what cost? Our souls?

Vern Clemons (Catcher): That was probably baseball's darkest hour. If Judge Landis were in office, Smith would have been banned from baseball on the spot.

Hornsby: I nearly killed Smith for his traitorous actions in the locker room. But an angry mob lynched him on the field during the second inning of the second game that day. Beat him unconscious. Jack Smith never played baseball again.

Smith: I had a very successful career in Major League Baseball which continued on for another decade.

Dillhoefer: Jack Smith is an asshole. Typical Dutchman.

Smith: Wait, is this because I had sex with Hornsby's wife? Is this how they're getting back at me? You know what? Screw them! And by the way, what kind of grow men go by "Pickles"? Or "Dots"?

Stock: Last I heard, Smith was killed in World War II. Fighting for Hitler.


Rickey: So after the game, one of the scribes said "you sure squeezed 'em with that bunt and steal play, Skip!" And I say "I did squeeze 'em! We squeezed 'em to death! The Suicide Squeeze!" It was on the front page of all the papers the next day! BRANCH'S BASTARDS SUICIDE SQUEEZE DAMN DODGERS!

Arthur Lexington (Editor, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch): I am one-hundred percent confident that the Soviet Union's collapse in Hungary was on the front page that day, not an obscure baseball play. And certainly not that much swearing, I can assure you.

Lavan: I won't vouch for the honor of the play, but any manliness lost in that win was more than made up for in the whorehouses that evening, believe you me. More than made up for.

Rickey: Later that night, I'm riding home on the streetcar and I see that young man who gave me the squeeze idea. He says "See, Skip, I told you it would work!" I told him he was undoubtedly correct and I owed him one. I told him I'd leave some tickets for him at will call for our next game so I asked him his name. "La Russa," he says. "Giuseppe La Russa."

Giuseppe La Russa (Newsboy, Instigator): No relation.

Source: Boxscore