1968 will forever be remembered as the “Year of the Pitcher”. Denny McClain of the Tigers won 31 games, the last pitcher to win 30 in a single season. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals pitched to a record low 1.12 ERA; Cleveland’s Luis Tiant led the AL with a 1.60 ERA. San Francisco’s Juan Marichal was 26-9. On and on. Only one batter in the American League, Carl Yastrzemski, batted over ,300….just barely at .301.
And 50 years ago this month, slugger Rocky Colavito, called on in relief, recorded a victory in his final season with the Yankees. Yep, the Rock got the win.
Colavito, a superb outfielder with a strong right arm, hit .374 home runs in a 14-year career, including 42 to lead the AL in 1959.
On August 25, 1968, Colavito pitched 2.2 scoreless innings against Detroit, and wound up with a victory when the Yankees rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5. Colavito came on in relief in the fourth inning, and retired two batters to strand a couple of runners.
The Yankees got a run back in the fourth, and then struck with two outs in the sixth. Bill Robinson hit a three-run homer followed by a Bobby Cox solo blast that tied the score at 5-5. Colavito then walked and scored what proved to be the winning run on a Jake Gibbs single. Lindy McDaniel finished off the Tigers in the ninth to earn the save.
In the second game, Colavito homered against Mickey Lolich to spark another Yankee comeback and a 5-4 win for a doubleheader sweep.
The Tigers were good enough to win the World Series in 1968, but had a tough August weekend in the Bronx. In a Friday twi-night doubleheader (I was there), the Yankees won the opener 2-1, and then the two teams battled to a 3-3, 19 inning tie ended with curfew, with McDaniel pitching seven perfect innings in relief. On Saturday, the Yankees beat McClain 2-1 behind Mel Stottlemyre.
According to the rules of the time, the Friday game counted as a tie but had to be played again as part of the Sunday doubleheader where Colavito made history.
The Yankees played yet another doubleheader on Monday and shortstop Gene Michael pitched three innings in a 10-2 loss to California. The Stick gave up five runs to the Angels, but none of them were earned. On Tuesday the Yankees again split with the Angels. It was the Yanks fourth doubleheader in five days, including the 19-inning tie.
Rocky Colavito had an outstanding career. He hit four home runs in a game in Baltimore in 1959. Before the 1960 season, Colavito was traded to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn. For the only time in baseball history, a HR champ was traded for a batting champion. There was outcry in Cleveland following the deal.
Rocky Colavito also pitched three scoreless innings in a 1959 mound appearance with Cleveland. His lifetime ERA is 0.00. You can’t do better than that.
That is the question. It’s never been done, either at the new Yankee Stadium or the old ballpark — The House that Ruth Built — right across the street.
Seems like a super human feat. Mission impossible. Perhaps, but after Yankees’ phenom Aaron Judge cleared the left-center field bleachers with a 495-foot home run, it seems like a legitimate question.
Judge’s latest moonshot blast certainly opened some eyes. Consider that his home run would have landed in the corridor in front the Yankees retired numbers, under the Bank of America sign, if not deflected by a fan. Now look to the left of that spot, perhaps 25-30 feet, near the flagpoles. Notice the alley. Under ideal circumstances, with the wind blowing out, who’s to say Judge couldn’t clear that back wall. Not impossible.
There have been some monster shots in the new Stadium, but none as monstrous as the one Judge hit. Alex Rodriguez hit several bombs deep into the bleachers, and Philly’s Raul Ibanez and Cleveland’s Russell Branyan hit titanic shots.
But judging by the results, Aaron Judge has the best chance to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium
Original Yankee Stadium Blasts
Nearly 16 years ago, July 22, 2001, Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams hit a ball that left the old Stadium, over the old Yankee bullpen in right field and onto the elevated tracks of the 4 line.But that was in batting practice.
I was at the ballpark with my family that day, a hot summer Sunday afternoon. We were sitting on the third base side, box seats. My son Dan, a teen-ager at the time, swears he saw the ball go out
“I saw it,” he said. “It went out in that little gap, over the wall and right onto the railroad tracks. “People noticed it, they were clapping. You didn’t believe me.”
Well, it was hard to believe.
“I didn’t see it,” Williams told the New York Post. “But I noticed that it never came back, so that should have been some indication it was out. Batting practice is a great relief and release of tension for me. I’ve had a lot of tension this year, so it’s kind of like hitting a punching bag. I always try to hit the ball hard, but that’s as hard as I’ve ever hit one. That’s a long way.”
It’s a feat that no Yankee slugger had ever accomplished before — not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Reggie Jackson.
Twice, Mantle came within several feet of hitting one out of Yankee Stadium, off Pete Ramos of the Washington Senators on Memorial Day, 1956, right, and against Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A’s on May 22, 1963. Both times the ball was still rising when it struck the façade in right field. Mantle later said the 1963 HR was the hardest ball he ever hit.
Josh Gibson and Frank Howard, among others, were reputed to have gone out of the Stadium, though neither has ever been proven.
Gibson, the great Negro League catcher, is said to have hit several moonshots in the his day, including a ball that traveled 580 feet in the 1930s.
Babe Ruth may have hit some balls out of the original Yankee Stadium before the upper deck in right field was built, but none have ever been documented. The upper deck in right was extended in 1937.
But Bernie Williams did it for real….even if it was BP. He even hit a home run in the game, a solo shot in the first inning, to help lift the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bernie finished his career with 287 home runs, 22 more in the playoffs. And one that didn’t count but went out of Yankee Stadium
Bernie goes Boom!
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. 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 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.
As Yankee Stadium closes its doors, this is the final of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.
Top 10 post-season baseball moments at Yankee Stadium (chronological order)
1. Babe Ruth homers and the Yankees score the winning run on a wild pitch in the ninth inning to sweep the Pirates to clinch their first World Series at Yankee Stadium, 1927
Other Yankee home clinchers at the Stadium: 1938, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1977, 1996 and 1999.
2. Tommy Henrich hits a ninth inning, walk-off home run against Don Newcombe as the Yankees beat the Dodgers, 1-0, in Game 1 of the World Series, 1949
Other Yankee World Series walk-offs: Mickey Mantle in 1964, Chad Curtis in 1999, Derek Jeter in 2001.
3. Billy Martin singles home Hank Bauer with the winning run in the ninth inning as the Yankees beat Brooklyn in six games and win their fifth straight World Series, 1953
4. Don Larsen, left, throws the only no-hitter in post-season baseball history, a perfect game, as the Yankees defeat the Dodgers, 2-0, in Game 5 of the World Series, 1956
5. Chris Chambliss hits a walk-off home run in the ninth inning as the Yankees beat Kansas City, 7-6, to win the American League pennant and head to the World Series, 1976
Other Yankee playoff walk-offs: Bernie Williams in 1996 and 1999, Alfonso Soriano in 2001, Aaron Boone in 2003.
6. Reggie Jackson hits three home runs as the Yankees beat the Dodgers in six games to win the World Series for the first time in 15 years, 1977
7. Jim Leyrtiz hits a two-run homer in the 15th inning as the Yankees beat Seattle, 9-7, in Game 2 of the American League divisional series, 1995
8. Jeffrey Maier, right, a 12-year-old fan, interferes with Derek Jeter’s fly ball home run as the Yankees beat the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALCS, 1996.
9. Deja vu all over again: Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hit game-tying, two-out, two-run homers on successive nights against Arizona in the World Series, 2001.
10. Aaron Boone completes a comeback with an 11th-inning home run as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 6-5, in Game 7 of the ALCS, 2003
Don Mattingly hits his only post-season home run against Seattle, 1995
Roger Clemens throws splintered bat at Mets’ Mike Piazza, 2000
St. Louis pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander emerges from bullpen and shuts down the Yankees to give the Cardinals their first World Series, 1926.
Other opposing championships won at the Stadium: 1942 Cardinals, 1955 Dodgers, 1957 Braves, 1976 Reds, 1981 Dodgers, and 2003 Marlins
Brooklyn outfielder Al Glonfriddo robs Joe DiMaggio of a possible home run in Game 6 of the World Series. 1947
Southpaw Johnny Podres shuts out the Yankees, 2-0, to give Brooklyn its first and only championship, Game 7, 1955
Los Angeles left-hander Sandy Koufax, left, sets a World Series record by striking out 15 Yankees in Game 1, 1963
George Brett homers against Goose Gossage to give the Royals the 1980 American League pennant, 1980
The Red Sox become the first baseball team to overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit and beat Yankees to win the ALCS, 2004
The SportLlifer Yankee Stadium retrospective series:
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.
Yankee Stadium, at left, with the new Stadium across 161st Street in the Bronx.
It’s been compared to the Colosseum, been called The House That Ruth Built.
Mel Allen, the late Yankee broadcaster, once said, “St. Patrick’s is the Yankee Stadium of cathedrals.”
It has hosted Popes and Cardinals, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, John Philip Sousa and U2.
I have so many memories of Yankee Stadium, all of them precious.
When I think of The House that Ruth Built, I really remember two Yankee Stadiums, each unique in its own right and each evoking a different set of memories.
My earliest recollections go back to the original Stadium, green facade, monuments on the field, Death Valley in left-center. My Dad took me to my first game there 50 years ago, and the color of the field and the Stadium contrasted with the black and white televised images I had seen. And for years afterward I thought Ruth, Gehrig and Miller Huggins were actually buried underneath the monuments in center field.
I recall Hall of Famers Mantle and Berra and Ford, and seeing Ted Williams, Mantle and Roger Maris hit home runs in the same game. As a fifth grader, I remember getting sick and missing a September game where Maris hit home run #56 on his way to 61 in 1961.
I recall going to many Sunday doubleheaders with my father and brother and friends and cousins, sitting in the upper deck and seeing some terrible Yankee teams in the late 60s and early 70s. I saw a Friday twi-night doubleheader against the Tigers in 1968, when the second game wound up in a 19-inning tie. We stayed ’till the end.
And of course there were some New York football Giants games in the 60s, featuring Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and others.
The original Yankee Stadium closed its doors in 1973, and the Yankees moved to Flushing where they called Shea Stadium home for two years. Those were not good memories.
In 1976, a remodeled Stadium opened, sans facade and center-field monuments and with a smaller Death Valley, but with a great big scoreboard above the bleachers and a new Yankee team under Billy Martin. My first game there in 1976, my father, my younger sister, my cousin and I saw Chris Chambliss hit a home run to right-center, a precursor to his dramatic shot that beat the Kansas City Royals and gave the Yankees the American League pennant that October.
Derek Jeter and the 1996 Yankees
After back-to-back World Championships in 1977 and 1978, the Yankees slipped into another dry period in the 1980s and early 1990s, with Don Mattingly one of the few bright spots. That is until 1996, when a kid named Derek Jeter arrived on the scene and helped the Bombers won their first World Series in 18 years.
And that paternal baseball bond spread into the next generation, as my son and I saw some classic Yankee games during those dynasty years, perhaps none more memorable than David Wells’ perfect game in 1998, when I came oh-so-close to catching a Bernie Williams home run.
My nephew and brother-in-law were there with us that day, my nephew’s second major league game. I told him afterwards he could go to a thousand games, 10,000 games, but he’d never see another perfect game.
Overjoyed, I saw the Yankees win a World Series game against the Padres in 1998, and with my brother saw the Yanks eliminate the Braves in four straight in 1999 (“Ball game over, World Series over, Millennium over!.”).
I recall how the Yankees gave the people of New York a lift when the needed it most, with a dramatic post-season run in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
I sat with my son and two duaghters in the upper deck on a drizzly Friday night in 2003 when Roger Clemens won his 300th game, and was there four months later when Aaron Boone drilled the home run that beat the Red Sox for the American League pennant.
So many loved ones, so many great players, so many memories, but time moves on. And next year, Yankee Stadium moves across the street to a new home.
I’m looking forward to my first game in the new Yankee Stadium, yet with the sad realization that things will never be quite the same. Somehow, they never are.
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