Happy Birthday, Dad

first_football_televised

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, shown below right, 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 Pearson_Monteas 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.

maris60And in September of 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees, pictured left, 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, equaling 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, a game he attended 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 nearly 60 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 cash, 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 Birthday. Love you, Dad.

(Note: My father turns 92 today. World War II veteran, engineer, lifelong Yankee fan, married for 67 years, father of our, grandfather of 13, great-grandfather of 10. He’s the smartest man I’ve ever known.)

Related Links

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Instant replay: The 20 greatest Yankee HRs

of Take a look, give a listen to the 20 greatest home runs in Yankee history. Many are on this list of 100 greatest home runs in baseball history.

Any list of greatest home runs would be incomplete without the immortal Babe Ruth.

1. 1927,  Babe Ruth belts #60

Ancient footage played to the music of Queen’s “We are the Champions,” the Bambino makes his mark and challenges all comers to match it. “60. Count em 60,” roared the Babe. “Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that.”

2. 1932, Ruth’s called shot, Game 3, World Series

The legendary called shot at Wrigley Field, with motion picture footage that shows Ruth pointing. But where?

3. 1932, Lou Gehrig,  4 HRs, single game

Close as we could come to video with Larrupin’ Lou is this photo. But you get the point, it was a long time ago. And four in one game — not even the great Ruth ever did that.

4. 1938, Joe DiMaggio, Game 2, World Series

Great radio call, Joe D goes “high and far over the fence in deep left field” at Wrigley Field to bury the Cubs in another Yankee sweep.

5. 1952, Mickey Mantle HR, Game 7, World Series

Mantle, just 20 years old, goes deep on a 3-1 pitch off Joe Black in the sixth inning at Ebbets Field to give the Yankees the lead for good on their way to their fourth straight World Series. Mel Allen with the play-by-play in the sixth – “that ball is going, going…it is gone.” Watch how fast Mantle gets around the bases.

6. 1956, Yogi Berra, 2 HRs, Game 7, World Series 

A signature moment for the Yankee catcher, who belted two early two- run homers against Don Newcombe to help the Yankees avenge their loss to Brooklyn the previous year in a 9-0 whitewash. Elston Howard also homered, and Bill Skowron hit a grand slam.

Yogi1956

7. 1961, Roger Maris 61st HR

One of the great Phil Rizzuto calls (“Holy cow, he did it, 61 for Maris.”).  At one point the camera catches Sal Durante, the fan who got $5,000 for coming up with the ball. Lots going on in this brief cut: fans booing Boston’s Tracy Stallard  for going to a 2-0 count against Maris, a young fan running on the field to shake the Rajah’s hand, and Maris being pushed out for a curtain call by his teammates.

8. 1963,  Mickey Mantle, tape measure shot

The Mick talks about the hardest ball he ever hit, which missed by less than a foot of clearing the right field facade of Yankee Stadium. No player has ever hit a fair ball out of the Stadium old or new — Mantle came the closest.

9. 1967, Mickey Mantle, 500th HR

Watch the gimpy-legged Mantle struggle around the bases after lining his milestone round tripper into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium. Jerry Coleman with the call. Again, kids on the field.

 

10. 1976, Chris Chambliss HR, Game 5, ALCS

Chambliss helps the Yankees win their first AL pennant in 12 years. Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell with the call. Talk about security in the Bronx — fans storm the field as Chambliss barely makes it around the bases.

11. 1977, Reggie Jackson, 3 HRs, Game 6, World Series

Mr. October earns his stripes with an unforgettable performance that matches the heroics of one George Herman Ruth.

12. 1978, Bucky Dent HR, AL East playoff

” Deep to left. Yastrzemski will not get it. It’s a home run. A three-run homer for Bucky Dent.”  Bill White with the call on the blast that brought Yaz to his knees and silenced Fenway Park.

13. 1987, Don Mattingly HRs in 8 straight games

Donnie Baseball ties Dale Long’s record by homering in his eighth consecutive game.

14. 1996, Derek Jeter controversial home run, Game 1, ALCS

Jeter, a rookie, shares the spotlight with 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier, who gives the Yankees a boost on this controversial eighth inning call that tied the score and made Bob Costas ask “And what happens here?”

15. 1996, Bernie Williams walk-off ,Game 1, ALCS

Same game as Jeter’s home run, the winning blow by Williams came in the bottom of the 11th. You may have to turn up the volume to hear it — but John Sterling gives a landmark Yankees win call as Bernie goes boom.

16. 1996, Jim Leyritz, Game 4, World Series

With Atlanta on the verge of taking a 3-1 lead in the World Series, Leyritz launches a game-tying, three-run homer to left to tie the game in the eighth. Watch the reaction on the Yankee bench, especially Don Zimmer.

17A. 2001, Tino Martinez, Game 4, World Series

Less than two months after 9/11, two outs in the ninth, game on the line, Martinez homers to tie the score. Derek Jeter’s walk-off wins it in the 10th. And the next night…..

17B. 2001, Scott Brosius  Game 5, World Series

….it happened again. One night after Tino’s shocker, Brosius goes yard with two down in the ninth to tie the score. This time the Yankees win in 12. Joe Buck with the dual calls.

18. 2003, Aaron Boone, Game 7, ALCS

With the score tied in the last of the 11th, Boone hits the first pitch from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield into the left field seats to send the Yankees to the World Series. Look closely in the background. As Boone is rounding the bases, Mariano Rivera is hugging the mound.

19. 2004, Jason Giambi, walk-off grand slam

This dramatic 14th inning walk-off in the rain gave birth to John Sterling’s Giambino.

20. 2009, A-Rod walk-off, 15th inning

YouTubeism baby. A millenial generation shot of A-Rod’s two-run blast that broke a scoreless tie with the Red Sox.


7/25/61 — The Great Home Run Chase Is On

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.

Related Blogs

Celebrating Roger Maris, The Honest Home Run King

Every Day Was Christmas Day for Yankees in 1961


The Ballad of Bob Dylan and Baseball

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

Catfish, million-dollar-man,
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.

Radio Dylan
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 first time in my life I 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.


10 Things That Make Me an Old Guy

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


Working at The Hall — A Baseball Fan’s Dream

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

Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall

Nine for Cooperstown: These Active Players Headed for Hall

The Ins and Outs of Baseball’s Hall of Fame

The Rock Should Be A Lock for Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Guidry Vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare


50: Maris, Mantle and Teddy Ballgame

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.