Looking back in time through the eyes of a 10-year-old kid growing up a Yankee fan in New York, I have fond memories of the summer of 1961 and the great home run chase.
And this kid remembers July 25, 1961, 50 years later. That was the night the home run chase became real.
On 7/25/61, Roger Maris hit four home runs in a twi-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, two in each game, to become the fastest player to reach 40 home runs.
The fireworks began in the second inning when Maris hit a two-run shot off the right field foul pole off Chicago’s Frank Baumann to tie teammate Mickey Mantle for the home run lead with 37. Mantle immediately broke the tie with a home run off the left field foul pole for his 38th.
Mantle was done for the night, but Maris was just warming up. He hit another home run in the eighth inning of the opener against former Yankee Don Larsen, “the imperfect man who pitched the perfect game” and part of the trade that brought Maris to the Yankees prior to the 1960 season. The Bombers won 5-1 as Whitey Ford ran his record to 18-2 and Luis Arroyo recorded his 20th save.
In the nightcap, Maris, pictured below, hit a solo shot in the fourth and a three-run blast in the sixth, for his 39th and 40th home runs of the season. Elston Howard also homered in the second game and Clete Boyer homered twice as the Yanks won 12-0 behind the shutout pitching of Bill Stafford. The sweep edged the Yankees a half-game ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
25 Games Ahead of Babe’s Pace
“Roger is running away from Babe Ruth like a scared kid in a graveyard,” wrote Dick Young of the New York Daily News. “With 40 homers, Rogers is 25 games ahead of Ruth’s pace….Oh, Clete Boyer had two homers and now is only 80 games behind Ruth.”
Maris finished the day with four home runs and eight RBIs. Mantle would retake the home run lead in early August before Maris got hot again. Roger passed the Mick for good when he blasted his 46th home run of the year – against the White Sox — on August 15.
Mantle wound up with a career high 54 home runs that season, his body breaking down over the final weeks of the season. Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record of 60, set in 1927, with his 61st home run against the Boston Red Sox on the final day of the season.
Nearly 50 years later, Maris (162 games) and Ruth (154 games) continue to hold the American League single season record.
And if you discount the steroid-juiced and hyper-inflated home run marks of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris is still baseball’s all-time single season home run king.
Bob Dylan…singer, poet, painter, fixture in music for five decades, symbol of social unrest.
Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
thinking about the government
(from Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965)
Yeah that Bob Dylan. Robert Allen Zimmerman. Born May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, this iconic figure of American art, is turning 70. Next Tuesday.
Baseball is one of the last things that comes to mind when describing Bob Dylan.Yet there are some strong connections between Bob Dylan and the National Pastime.
The day Dylan was born, a Saturday, the Yankees hosted the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. That day, Joe DiMaggio singled to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, on the way to 56. Ted Williams singled twice, walked twice and raised his average to .383, on the way to .406. In nearly 70 years since, neither DiMaggio’s 56-game streak nor Williams .400 season have been seriously threatened.
The Yankees won the game, 7-6, on the day Bob Dylan was born. Strangely, there is no record of the time of game and attendance that day.
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
(from Ballad of a Thin Man, 1965)
Dylan and Maris
In 1961, around the time Dylan’s career was taking off, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record with 61 home runs.In the book “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, the first chapter has a short byte on how Dylan became a fan of Maris during his 1961 home run chase. To quote:
“Among those rooting for Roger Maris as he closed in on Babe Ruth’s record in September of 1961 was a folksinger whose nascent career took off that month in New York City thanks to a rave in the Times and his first studio work. Although he wasn’t much of a sports fan, Bob Dylan felt pride when he learned that the ballplayer making national headlines also hailed from Hibbing, Minnesota.”
Maris was born in Hibbing, and later moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where he is buried, Dylan moved to Hibbing when he was seven-years-old
Dylan has always been an incredibly prolific songwriter, only releasing a fraction of what he records. One of those songs, a rare classic, was written and performed by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy.It was a ballad of Catfish Hunter, who had just signed a five-year, $3.7M contract with the Yankees. Here’s a little taste:
Used to work on Mr. Finley’s farm
But the old man wouldn’t pay
So he packed his glove and took his arm
An’ one day he just ran away
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.
There’s more Dylan-baseball affinity. In 2004 and later in 2009, Dylan did a par of concert tours at minor league baseball stadiums. The 2009 tour, which also featured Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, included stops at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI; Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland, and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC.
In 2006, Dylan hosted a program on XM Radio dedicated to baseball. He spun a wide selection of baseball tunes, including Buddy Johnson and Hit Hits Orchestra playing “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball” and Les Brown’s “Joltin Joe DiMaggio,” an old-time band jewel.
In typical Dylan fashion, he told a tale during the virtual seventh-inning stretch of his radio show. He recalled how a Mexican community was destroyed to make the room needed to build Dodger Stadium and then introduced Ry Cooder’s “3rd Base Dodger Stadium” which spoke to the situation.
Jonathan Lethem wrote a piece called “The Genius of Bob Dylan” in Rolling Stone on the September 7, 2006, issue around the release of Dylan’s album Modern Times. In a footnote to the piece, Lehtem asked Dylan what baseball team was his favorite.
Dylan responded: “The problem with baseball teams is all the players get traded, and what your favorite team used to be – a couple of guys you really liked on the team, they’re not on the team now – and you can’t possibly make that team your favorite team. It’s like your favorite uniform. I mean, yeah, I like Detroit. Though I like Ozzie [Guillen] as a manager. And I don’t know how anybody can’t like Derek [Jeter]. I’d rather have him on my team than anybody.”
FOOTNOTE: Twice had the opportunity to see Bob Dylan perform in concert. On September 16, 1978, I saw him at the Portland Civic Center, the only time in my life I’ve set foot in the state of Maine (been to all 50 states). Earlier that day, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 3-2, a ninth inning sacrifice fly by Thurman Munson, giving Catfish Hunter the victory. That win ultimately led to the game that made Bucky Dent famous. Also saw a Dylan performance at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York, about a dozen years ago.
The Polo Grounds: Been there, done that.
1. I went to a baseball game at the Polo Grounds
2. I saw Ted Williams, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle homer…in the same game
3. I saw an NBA doubleheader…at the old Madison Square Garden
4. I remember when New York Football Giants games — even championship games – were blacked out at home
5. I saw Lew Alcindor play…in high school
6. I watched the Giants play at Yankee Stadium….and the Yale Bowl too
7. I saw the Rangers face off against the Bruins at the old Garden in the days of the Original Six
8. My Dad saw Babe Ruth play
9. I remember goalies without masks and canvas Cons.
10. I saw Honus Wagner play shortstop. NOT. I may be old….but not that old. Wanted to see if you were paying attention lol
Show me a baseball fan who wouldn’t want to work at the Hall of Fame?
When I was seven, my father took me to my first game at Yankee Stadium and promised a trip to the Hall of Fame. We made it upstate to Cooperstown a few years later, and that visit hooked me on baseball…for life.
I saw six eventual Hall of Famers play in that first game in 1958 — Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees, and Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio for the White Sox.
Throughout the years, I’ve watched Williams and Musial, Mantle and Mays, Aaron and Bonds, Marichal and Ryan. Was there to see Williams, Mantle and Maris homer in the same game. Cheered as Willie Mays hit a grand slam at Candlestick Park.
And I’ve been lucky enough to see many monumental baseball moments, some of them historic moments, Hall of Fame moments.
I’ve witnessed home runs by Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone that doomed the Red Sox. I’ve seen two World Series wins by the Yankees, a perfect game by David Wells, Roger Clemens 300th win and Barry Bonds 500th stolen base and record-breaking 756th home run. I’ve been to Yankee Stadium old and new, Fenway, Wrigley, even the old Polo Grounds, where I saw Jim Hickman hit for the natural cycle.
With more than 30 years experience in writing and editing — as a sportswriter and later in high-tech corporate PR — my qualifications are impeccable. More importantly, if the Hall of Fame is looking for someone with a passion for the national pastime, well I’m on the Cooperstown shuttle right now.
That’s why they call me the SportsLifer. And here are some of blogs I’ve posted on baseball and the Hall.
Hall of Fame Blogs: A Sampler
Boston slugger Ted Williams homers during his final season, 1960.
Yeah, it happened 50 years ago this week, yet somehow I remember June 5, 1960, like it was yesterday. A beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, glove in hand, ticket in my pocket. Nine years old. Going to Yankee Stadium for a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox.
This wasn’t my first major league game, but this kid was hungry for a win after seeing the Yankees lose to the White Sox in 1958 and Tigers in 1959.
The Yankees were a .500 club entering play on June 5, 20-20 and fourth in the American League, coming off a subpar 1959 season where they finished a distant third. The Red Sox were mired in the cellar. Young Ralph Terry got the start for the Yanks in the first game that day, while the Red Sox countered with lefty Tom Brewer.
The Yankees jumped off to a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a long home run by Mickey Mantle, The Yanks added three more runs in the fifth when Hector Lopez and Yogi Berra singled and Roger Maris, right, lined a home run into the right field seats. And when Tony Kubek’s single up the middle in the sixth plated Bobby Richardson, the Yankees had a 5-0 lead.
Williams Homers into The Bullpen
With two outs in the seventh and Terry seemingly cruising, the Red Sox suddenly rallied on hits by Bobby Thomson (yes, that Bobby Thomson who hit the shot heard round the world nearly nine years earlier just across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds), Marty Keough and Pete Runnels to cut the lead to 5-2.
Up to the plate stepped Ted Williams. Now all through the game my father and relatives kept telling me to watch No. 9 in the Boston uniform. And in the seventh Williams hit a long drive into the Yankee bullpen in right to make it a 5-4 ballgame. It was the 495th home run of Williams’ historic career (he would finish with 521).
Yankee manager Casey Stengel then ambled to the mound and replaced Terry with diminutive left-hander Bobby Shantz. After an uneventful eighth, Boston loaded the bases with one-out in the ninth before Shantz got Vic Wertz to bounce into a double play to end the game.
The Yankees scored four runs in the first inning of the nightcap and cruised to an 8-3 victory, but we were long gone back home by then.
Yankees Win The Pennant
In 1960, the Yankees won the final 15 games of the season to edge out the Orioles and White Sox and win the first of five straight American League pennants, the final leg of a remarkable dynasty.
However, the Pittsburgh Pirates would upset the Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series that October, on a ninth-inning home run by Bill Mazeroski. The pitcher who surrendered that home run — Ralph Terry.
Mickey Mantle, left, would hit 40 home runs that year to win his fourth and final AL home run title. Maris, with 39 homers and a league-leading 112 RBIs. would win the American League MVP in his first year in pinstripes.
The Red Sox would wind up seventh in the American, ahead of the last-place Kansas City Athletics. Ted Williams, in his final year, would hit 29 homers — including one in his last at bat — and hit .316.
But the home run Teddy Ballgame hit on a sunny Sunday in June at Yankee Stadium was the one I will always remember. I saw Maris, Mantle and Williams homer in the same game. And I saw the Yankees win for the first time in my life.
The greatest home run race of all time featured the M&M boys, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961 and Mantle belted 54.
Growing up a Yankee fan in New York, every day was Christmas day in 1961. Home runs were stocking stuffers, wins were gift-wrapped presents under the tree.
Ten years old, a kid in White Plains, collector of baseball cards, I marveled at the exploits of this great team.
I watched the games on WPIX-TV Channel 11 on a small, black and white Philco, or listened on the radio. Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto and Red Barber provided the play-by-play.
On the nights when the games ran past my bedtime, my father kept score and would leave out the score sheet for me in the morning. IThey did lose now and then, but it seemed as if the Yanks won every night.
Now, nearly 50 years later, the 1961 Yankees remain the best baseball team I have ever seen.
Maris and Mantle
It was the year of Maris and Mantle and the greatest home run race of all time.
Every day, or so it seemed, the Yankees were hitting balls out of the park. And if it wasn’t Rajah or The Mick, it was Moose Skowron or Elston Howard or Yogi Berra or Johnny Blanchard, the reserve catcher and pinch-hitter deluxe.
Maris hit 61 HRs that year, Mantle a career-high 54, Skowron 28, Berra 22, and Howard and Blanchard 21 apiece. The Yankees set the major league record with 240 home runs; Maris and Mantle hit 115 between them, still the highest number ever for two teammates.
The Yanks had Kubek to Richardson to Skowron, one of the great double play combinations. And Clete Boyer, the vacuum cleaner at third.
The Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford, shown below, was 25-4 that season, a career year in a lifetime of career years. Ralph Terry was 16-3, Bill Stafford won 14 games and rookie Rollie Sheldon 11. Left-handed screwballer Luis Arroyo went 15-5 with 29 saves.
On September 1, 1961, the Detroit Tigers came into Yankee Stadium trailing the Bombers by just 1 1/2 games. The Yankees swept the three-game series, won 13 straight overall to bury the Tigers, and eased to 109 wins and the American League pennant..
Despite an injury to Mantle, they wiped out the Cincinnati Reds in five games to win the World Series.
I never did get to a Yankee game during that magical season. My Dad was going to take me to a game against Cleveland in early September, but I got sick the night before. I tried to hide a 102-degree fever, but was discovered and banished to the sick bed.
Had to watch the game on TV that Saturday afternoon when Maris hit homer #56 on the way to the American League record of 61 home runs in a single season. (Many would argue that Maris is still the single-season home run leader, and that the asterisk now belongs to people like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.)
That year, Maris won his second consecutive American League MVP, and Ford was the Cy Young Award winner.
The 1961 Yankees — still the greatest team I’ve ever seen.
The first college football game ever televised, Waynesburg vs. Fordham in 1939.
On a steamy August Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1938, New York right-hander Monte Pearson pitched the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history. The Yanks beat the Cleveland Indians, 13-0, that afternoon to complete a doubleheader sweep.
Pearson, who was 16-7 that year and won exactly 100 games lifetime, faced the minimum 27 batters, striking out seven. Tommy Henrich and Joe Gordon each homered twice.
In the opener that day, Joe DiMaggio’s third straight triple of the game plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth to cap a three-run rally and give the Yankees an 8-7 victory. A crowd of 40.959 was on hand as the Yankees increased their American League lead to 12 games en route to their third straight championship.
One year later come September, Fordham University defeated Waynesburg College of Pennsylvania, 34-7, at Randalls Island in New York. But that wasn’t the story. One NBC filmed the first college football game ever televised, as Bill Stern brought the play by play to viewers.
Waynesburg’s Bobby Brooks made history with a 63-yard touchdown run, the first televised TD. Reportedly, there was no victory dance in the end zone.
The W2XBS broadcast signal had about a 50-mile radius, and there were about a thousand TV sets in the New York metropolitan area at the time. The signal didn’t even reach Waynesburg, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. So who saw the game? Who knows?
Columbia Shocks Army
In October of 1947, Army was a huge favorite as the Cadets brought a 32-game winning streak into New York to face Columbia’s Lions. Army had not lost since 1943; Columbia was coming off losses to Yale and Penn.
Army led, 20-7, at the half, but the Columbia combination of quarterback Gene Rossides and received Bill Swiacki brought the Lions back for a stunning 21-20 victory.
And in September of 1961, Roger Maris, below right, of the Yankees hit a long home run into the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium against Baltimore’s Jack Fisher. The round-tripper was Roger’s 60th of the season, equalling the mark Babe Ruth set in 1927. Maris hit number 61 on the final day of the season, setting a record that many feel still stands.
These events, interesting in of themselves, have something else in common. My father was right there for each and every one. He was just 13-years-old at the Pearson no-hitter, with other family members. The decision was made to leave once the Indians got their first hit. That never happened.
My Dad went to the Waynesburg-Fordham game with his cousin, who was at that time the manager of a powerful Fordham team. By the time Maris tied the Babe in 1961, my Dad was a father of four, two boys and two girls, including me, the oldest. Of course, my Mom had something to do that.
My Dad took me to my first Yankee game more than 50 years ago. He also brought me to my first Giants game, also at Yankee Stadium, and to my first Knicks and Rangers games at the old Madison Square Garden.
He’s always been there for me, whether it be coin, advice or a good meal. There’s still nothing I’d rather do than talk sports with my old man. I treasure the times I spend with him always.
Happy Father’s Day. Love you, Dad.
The cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated is a black and white shot, with Mickey Mantle swinging and Roger Maris kneeling in the on-deck circle. Shot over Maris’ left shoulder, the picture looks down the third-base line to nearly empty stands in left.
The picture, which was shot in 1960, got me to thinking: “Who’s on Third?” It’s a Kansas City Athletic, that’s for sure
Judging Yankee box scores of day games with small crowds against Kansas City that year, there are two possibilities.
Dick Williams, who later managed the Oakland A’s to a pair of World Championships in the 1970s and was inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, is one. He was on third base on May 6, 1960, when 5,891 were on hand to see the Yankees win, 8-7
The other is Andy Carey, former Yankee infielder, who was traded to the Athletics in May of 1960 for outfielder Bob Cerv. Carey played third on June 29 and 30, a pair of midweek day games in the Bronx, each witnessed by less than 10,000. BTW, Maris hit two home runs to trigger a 10-0 Yankees win on June 29, and Maris and Mantle each homered the next day as the Yankees won, 8-3.
Carey was the third baseman in Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956, and scored one of two Yankee runs that day.
The Yankees third base coach, a Kansas City catcher, and the home plate and third base umpires are also shown in the Sports Illustrated cover shot.
Frank Crosetti was the coach. Harry Chiti was the A’s catcher in the May game, and Danny Kravitz caught both the June contests.
This is the second of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.
Overall, there will be three categories — anything but baseball, baseball regular season, and baseball post-season.
This is the regular season baseball category….we’ll follow up soon with a top 10 devoted to World Series and post-season play at the Stadium.
Remember you read it first in the SportsLifer.
Top 10 regular season baseball moments at Yankee Stadium (chronological order)
Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923
1. The Stadium opens with pomp and circumstance and Babe Ruth’s home run beats Boston, 4-1. 1923
2. Babe Ruth hits one over the right-field fence and becomes the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season, 1927
3. Dying Yankee captain Lou Gehrig, at left, being hugged by Babe Ruth, tells a crowd of more than 60,000 “Today I consider myself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” 1939
4. Joe DiMaggio begins his immortal 56-game hitting streak by going 1-for-4 against the White Sox, 1941
5. The Yankees edge the Red Sox in the final two games of the season to win the pennant by a game, 1949
6. Roger Maris breaks Babe Ruth’s record with his 61st home run on the final day of the season, 1961
7. Mickey Mantle just misses hitting a ball out of the Stadium when he homers off the right field facade, 1963
8. Ron Guidry strikes out 18 batters to silence the Angels in a team record-setting performance, 1978
9. On the day they buried their captain, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer’s 5 RBIs give the Yankees a dramatic win, 1979
10. Double Perfect: David Wells, right, and David Cone pitch perfect games a year apart, 1998 and 1999
Other Yankee No-Hitters: Monte Pearson (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Dave Righetti (1983), Jim Abbott (1993) and Doc Gooden (1996).
Opposing No-Hitters: Bob Feller (1946), Virgil Trucks (1952) and an army Houston Astros pitchers (2003).
Babe Ruth’s final appearance in The House That Ruth Built, 1948
Umps over-rule George Brett’s homer in the “Pine Tar” game, 1983
Tom Seaver gets 300th win as White Sox beat Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day, 1985
Roger Clemens wins 300th game; reaches 4,000 K’s, 2003
Derek Jeter dives into the stands against the Red Sox, 2004
Yankees Roger Maris, left, and Mickey Mantle flank President Harry S. Truman.
Just finished “Truman”, David McCullough’s excellent biograph about the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman. What a wonderful read. Provided great insight into this relatively common man — at least by presidential standards — who led the nation in times of war and peace.
From all appearances, young Harry wasn’t much of a ballplayer. “He was afraid of the rough and tumble of the schoolyard,” said McCullough, “and because of his glasses, felt incapable of any sport that involved a moving ball.”
Although it’s not portrayed in “Truman”, Harry was quite a baseball fan. Growing up in Independence, Missouri, it’s easy to think of Truman rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals.
And he enjoyed going to the old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., and watching the Senators play. In fact, Truman, left, threw out the first pitch in seven successive opening games in Washington between 1946 and 1952. President Truman was ambidextrous and used both arms during his numerous ceremonial pitches.
Senators owner Clark Griffith and Truman were actually good friends, and Griffith personally campaigned for Truman during his run for the presidency.
Years later, after he left the White House, President Truman sent a telegram to Griffith with the following message:
“BEST OF LUCK TO YOU ON OPENING DAY AND EVERY DAY. WATCH OUT FOR THAT NIXON. DON’T LET HIM THROW YOU A CURVE. YOUR FRIEND, HARRY TRUMAN.”
Truman knew that his attendance at baseball games would symbolize world peace .
“May the sun never set on American baseball,” Harry Truman once said.