1960 World Series – Game #5

ETHAN — At the conclusion of the 2019 World Series — congratulations Washington Nationals! — the idea to listen to old baseball games during the lengthy off-season sparked during a slumber-filled Saturday afternoon. Rance and I intentionally chose the 1960 World Series because of our friendship with and deep admiration of Bill Virdon.

I was born 14 years after this World Series was played. I knew there would be action from some of the all-time greats: Roberto Clementé and Bill Mazeroski. Mantle, Maris, Berra, and Ford. I didn’t know that listening to old baseball games would teach me so much about the history of the world. There are events that took place that calendar year are still creating ripples today.

In January, the first televised anime series debuted, Three Tales in Japan and the Dallas Cowboys were introduced as an expansion team to the NFL. I don’t know much about anime, but the popularity of the big-eyed animated characters has since spread around the world. The Cowboys, however, I love to cheer against almost as much I like to cheer against the Yankees.

On February 1, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil, four black students from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University, sat down at a segregated lunch counter at Woolworth. They were denied service and courageously refused to move from their seats. Their actions inspired sit-ins across the country. Almost six months later, on July 25, Woolworth served its first black customers, four Woolworth’s employees — Geneva Tisdale, Susie Morrison, Anetha Jones, and Charles Best. Those 4 seats are now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History; I saw them when my family toured DC in the summer of 2016.

Three months into 1960 and the US announced the sending of 3,500 soldiers to the Vietnam War. Approximately 2.7 million Americans served in a war that officially ended after I was born. The next month, at the Academy Awards, Ben-Hur won practically everything, taking home 11 golden statue trophies including Best Picture. Confession: I’ve never seen it.

Throughout 1960, Cold War tensions increased. On May 1, Soviet surface-to-air missiles brought down a U-2 spy plane, capturing the CIA pilot. Khrushchev demanded an apology from Eisenhower for the incident. In July, a Soviet Air Force MiG shot down a US Air Force RB-47, killing four officers. The two survivors were imprisoned. The threat of nuclear war was felt around the globe; France tested their A-bombs on three separate occasions in 1960.

On May 6, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Three days later, the FDA approved the world’s first birth control pill. A week after that, Theodore Maiman operated the world’s first laser. May ended in tragedy, however, as a 9.4 – 9.6 earthquake, known as the Valdivia earthquake, struck. It is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, leaving more than 2 million people homeless.

In August of 1959, Hawaii was inducted as the 50th state. On July 4, 1960, the 50-star flag, designed by Robert G. Heft, was flown for the very first time in Philadelphia. Heft originally designed the flag for a school project; his teacher gave him a B- for “lack of creativity.” This should serve as a warning to all teachers.

The next week, on July 11, To Kill a Mockingbird was published. Harper Lee’s only real book won the Pulitzer Prize for best American novel. I refuse to read Go Set a Watchman and wrote a tribute to Lee in a novella I completed earlier this year.

On my birthday, August 16, Joseph Kittinger set his sights on the stratosphere. From a balloon more than 19 miles into the sky, Kittinger jumped. He set the world records for: high altitude jump; free-falling 16 miles before opening his parachute; and the fastest speed for a human being (614 mph). He was the first person to witness the spherical curvature of the Earth. (Sorry, flat earthers.) In 2012, 52 years later, Felix Baumgartner broke his records. Kittinger served as the capsule communicator for Felix.

September brought the Summer Olympics to Rome, Italy where Muhammad Ali (then, Cassius Clay) won the gold medal as a light-heavyweight boxer. He won his first match as a professional the following month. On a completely unrelated note, the day after Clay’s victory, Dr. Michael Woodruff completed the first successful kidney transplant surgery. Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the marathon, running barefoot, and set a new world record. He was the first person from sub-Saharan Africa to win an Olympic gold. The month ended with the premiere of the cartoon The Flintstones on ABC

November witnessed the election of John F. Kennedy to POTUS and in the first week of December, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public transportation was illegal. Finally, over the course of the year, 17 African countries gained their independence from Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom.

I wonder what events of 2019 will still be causing ripples in 2078.

The First Inning

RANCE — The Pirates went 1-2-3 quicker than a hiccup, so Jack Quinlan gives us a clever live read advertisement for Gillette razors. Ethan and I have heard these ads enough to be shaving experts at this point.

E — I went and bought new blades after this game.

R — I did find it interesting that Chuck Thompson segued into the ad by discussing Pittsburgh fans traveling to New York by train to see the Pirates play at Yankee Stadium.

In 2019, with better television cameras and coverage than we have ever had, streaming service options, the MLB Network, and smart devices accessible to the majority of the sports consuming population, I wonder if such dedicated travel would happen today.

Bob Cerv batted for what was scored — perhaps generously — an infield hit, but Pirates third baseman Don Hoak was charged a throwing error, which allowed Cerv to reach second base.

It was not the first time Don Hoak would commit an error in the field while trying to support Harvey Haddix, though I’m not sure which of two E’s charged to Hoak occurred under more significant stakes. It was Hoak who committed an error in the 13th inning of what had been the most perfectly-pitched regular season game in the history of baseball in what ended with a 1 – 0 loss to Milwaukee May 26, 1959.

Second baseman Felix Mantilla hit a grounder that sent Hoak moving to his left. Hoak, according to a 2009 piece by Albert Chen in the Sports Illustrated vault entitled, “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched,” fielded the ball in plenty of time, but rushed his throw to first base, pulling Rocky Nelson off the bag, allowing Mantilla to reach base safely, and ending Haddix’s bid for a complete perfect game in the 13th inning.

Hoak and Haddix were reportedly the last two Pittsburgh players to leave the stadium that night, according to Chen’s piece. They shared a taxicab ride back to their hotel, and in the cab, Hoak reportedly said to Haddix, “I’ve made errors behind you before today, and I’ll make errors after today.” No apology, just a cold statement of sporting fact from one teammate to another.

E — More on that game, of which I knew nothing until this broadcast, later. Throughout the game, both Quinlan and Thompson recounted Virdon’s Game 4 catch in deep right field multiple times, saying that it will be talked about for years. Fifty-nine years later, I’m amazed, hearing it for the very first time.

Harvey Haddix was the starting pitcher for the Pirates. Chuck Thompson said his nickname is “The Kitten,” because of his likeness to Cardinals’ lefty pitcher Harry “The Cat” Brecheen. I cannot think of anyone in the GRBL who would want the nickname “The Kitten.” There is nothing intimidating or awe-inspiring about a kitten.

The Second Inning

E — The Pirates scores first, tallying three off of Art Ditmar, who again gets the early hook. In two World Series starts, he totaled less than two innings pitched combined. Play the game long enough, and baseball will humble you.

Elston Howard marks his return to the line-up with a loud stand-up double, deep into the right field corner. He should never be left out of the line-up again. Richardson follows Howard and grounds out to second, but advances Howard to third.

Kubek hits a slow roller and Howard scores the first run while the second out recorded.

At the end of two, the Pirates are up 3 – 1.

R — Dick Stuart singled. Gino Cimoli grounded into a fielder’s choice to Bobby Richardson at second base. Smoky Burgess then doubled, bringing Cimoli to third. Announcer Chuck Thompson notes that Burgess, up to that point, was not happy with the way he had been hitting in this series.

Don Hoak, the U.S. Navy veteran who was courting singer and actress Jill Corey in the midst of this historic season for the Pirates, stood in again Art Ditmar, hero of the ’58 Series. In my “1960 rules” Game 4 recap, I learned that Hoak had dreams of one day becoming a Major League manager. I couldn’t Google search for the outcome at that time because of the rules, but I’ve since done a good deal of learning about Don Hoak. He became a manager, but much like his throwing error in Milwaukee in the midst of Harvey Haddix’s bid for baseball immortality, the ultimate outcome for was a tragic one.

Somewhat fittingly in the present portion of the story, Yankees third baseman Gil McDougald committed an error on a ground ball from Hoak’s bat. Gino Cimoli scampered in to make it 1 – 0 Pittsburgh, and the unraveling of Art Ditmar continues.

Bill Mazeroski then bounces a two-RBI double over McDougald’s head and down the left field line. It’s 3 – 0 Pirates, and Casey Stengel very quickly puts the quick hook to Art Ditmar.

“Art Ditmar is finding it unusually rough in this 1960 World Series. The fine Yankee right-hander was unable to weather the Pirate first inning in the first inning, and now, in Game No. 5, is unable to get through the second inning,” Thompson said.

In an inning and a third, Ditmar gave up four hits and three earned runs.

This World Series almost ruined Art Ditmar’s ability to show his face in New York. He became defined by his ineffectiveness in Game 1 and Game 5, in which he lasted a combined inning and two-thirds. Without a doubt, Ditmar did some of the worst professional pitching of his career in this World Series.

At least he was throwing strikes.

All kidding aside, I can’t help but empathize with Ditmar. It makes me think of times in my own life where I had chances to do something great and totally blew it.

Listening to Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan call the action, I think back on how I’ve described the scenes on the baseball field when a pitcher in the Grip’N’Rip Baseball League is having a run of bad luck. One bad outing does not define a hurler’s body of work, but the sting of defeat sure can hang around for a while.

Ben Van Gorp. It makes me think of Ben Van Gorp.

BVG was a do-everything sort of guy for the A&L Electric Shockers in 2018, my rookie year as the play-by-play announcer in the league. He was fun, he was fast, he was sometimes flashy and Van Gorp almost always had a smile on his face. I liked him immediately. The league had an all-star game that year at the very end of the season, and Van Gorp was on the roster.

The game went to extra innings (for those of you who know about the GRBL’s special rules, you may know where this story is headed). In the GRBL, the bases are automatically loaded with runners in extra innings. Two outs go up on the board. Teams battle it out shootout style in an overtime format designed to speed the game along toward a decisive outcome rather than allow an extra innings marathon to drag on into the night.

Van Gorp was called upon to pitch. In the 11th inning of the all-star game, he walked a batter with the bases loaded and the winning run in a 2-1 game came across.

Van Gorp came back with the Shockers in 2019 showing all the signs of a man who worked very hard to develop as a pitcher in the offseason. He was outspoken about wanting to make the jump from reliever to starter in the Grip’N’Rip League, and he succeeded. Van Gorp absolutely pitched his tail off for seven games. In 22 innings, he struck out 18 batters, walked eight, and conceded nine runs for a very respectable 3.68 ERA. When he was on, it was on for the Shockers, who reached the league championship game.

Van Gorp ran into trouble in the second inning of that title game, which the Henry’s Towing High Rollers won 4 – 0. He conceded three consecutive singles to Ben Hammitt, Levi Skinner, and Matt Spangler, respectively, before managing to get two outs. With two runners in scoring position, Jared Yarberry hit a decisive two-RBI single to put the High Rollers firmly in command of the game. It would be all they would need to win.

Van Gorp allowed five hits in four innings that night, but those four hits were critical. One game does not a season make, but the memories of that inning will unfairly hang around BVG for a while.

On the other side, the High Rollers pitching staff combined for 13 strikeouts and allowed just three hits over nine shutout innings. Starter Cole Roark had seven strikeouts in four innings with one hit allowed and one walk. Closer Chris Matlock came on in the eighth inning with two men on and the game-tying run in the on deck circle, only to shut down the Shockers with a five-out save.

Yankees fans should remember Art Ditmar for his key contributions to a 1958 World Series win, but some remember him more for getting shelled twice in 1960.

“Maybe I would have done better if I had pitched in those games when we scored a bunch of runs,” Ditmar is quoted as saying in the book “Yankees: Where Have You Gone?” by Maury Allen.

Maybe Ben Van Gorp would have pitched better if the Shockers would have scored some runs off of Cole Roark, Justice Boldin, Mark Blehm, and Chris Matlock on that October night in Ozark.

Though Ditmar’s career also included stops in Philadelphia and Kansas City, he was quoted to say that he still considered himself a “Yankees booster.”  Statistically speaking, he never really recovered from those outings in the 1960 World Series. He faded away quickly after two more seasons.

I certainly hope that’s not the case for Ben Van Gorp in the Grip’N’Rip league. He was one of a handful of Shockers whom I actively sought out to speak with at the conclusion of their 4 – 0 loss to the High Rollers. I congratulated him on a good season, and told him I had really enjoyed watching him turn himself into a formidable starting pitcher.

I’m happy to report that I bumped into BVG in the parking lot of the Best Buy store in Springfield a couple of weeks later, and that he was in good spirits about the whole thing. I also admire Ben for giving back to the game by coaching youngsters and the 11-and-under and 10-and-under levels. He’s got a lot more playing to do before he goes the way of Art Ditmar and retires quietly to a golf course in South Carolina.

The Third Inning

E — Groat led off the inning with a stand-up double and Clemente walks to the plate. Thompson said that Clemente threw the javelin while in college, which is just further proof that kids need to cross-train no matter what sport they play. Clemente singled to left and Groat scored, the Pirates increase their lead to 3.

Roger Maris goes yard again. An upper deck blast that makes me turn down the volume from the crowds’ roar. I’d like to see Statcast on that one.

Mantle walked for the second time of the day, and Moose Skowron is up to the plate. The crowd again roars, this time with audible “Moose” calls. I’m reminded of how many times I cheered for Mike “Moose” Moustakas during the epic 2014 – 2015 seasons. I taught the Moose call to my nephew Henry, and it was the cutest thing in the world. We took videos that are saved somewhere in the cloud, which would have been unimaginable in 1960. I met Mike Moustakas in the spring of 2012, and even got a picture. Moose Skowron flied out to right, ending the inning.

R — Luis Arroyo has been throwing screwballs to left-handers. Does anyone throw a screwball anymore in a professional setting? The last pitcher who comes to mind is Yu Darvish, but I’m almost certain he doesn’t use a screwball anymore among the 87 different pitches he throws.

Yogi Berra is on the bench today for the Yankees, who have Elston Howard behind the plate and Bob Cerv in left field. Berra still gets plugged in a Gillette live read. I’ve learned that Gillette started an all-out marketing blitz called the “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports” in 1939 that was designed to make men’s razors synonymous with sport and leisure. The company purchased exclusive World Series advertising rights to the 1939 World Series for $100,000. I’ve been unable to find exactly what Gillette paid for these rights in 1960.

Rookie right-hander Bill Stafford comes on to pitch for New York after Roberto Clemente drove in Dick Groat from second base to give Pittsburgh a 4 – 1 advantage. Stafford was 22 when he made his World Series debut in this game.

Roger Maris had to have been sitting fastball as Haddix went after his with back-to-back curves. Maris got what he wanted on an upper deck homer, and “there wasn’t any doubt about it.”

Thompson wasn’t able to say much about the location of Haddix’s pitch in relation to the strike zone. I’m speculating a bit, but I’d venture to guess Haddix missed the edge of the zone slightly.

A slight hang, a slight window of opportunity was all that a player the caliber of Roger Maris would need to punish a small mistake into the upper deck. It’s a similar story to how Haddix lost his 13-inning perfect no-hitter in Milwaukee in 1959, when the Braves’ Joe Adcock took a hanging slider deep to right-center field.

The Fourth Inning

E — Chuck Thompson was the one who taught me that Harvey Haddix once pitched 12 perfect innings against Milwaukee and lost the ballgame. How did I not know about Harvey Haddix’s almost 13 innings perfect game? I spent the remainder of the game reading about The Kitten.

Haddix was a teammate of Virdon with the Cardinals during Virdon’s Rookie of the Year season in 1955. He also pitched for the Phillies and Reds before spending five seasons with the Pirates. He retired after the 1965 season where he pitched in relief for the Orioles.

His best season was in 1953 while pitching for St. Louis. He compiled a 20 – 9 record with 163 strikeouts —19 complete games and six shutouts. Haddix was a three-time All-Star as well as a three-time Gold Glove winner. His overall career numbers are impressive:

33.2 WAR / W – 136, L – 113 / ERA – 3.63.

The near-perfect game occurred on May 26, 1959 against the Milwaukee Braves. Haddix retired the first 36 hitters he faced with only 8 strikeouts. Sports Illustrated ran a feature story of the endeavor in June of 2009, and there’s so much to unpack from that tale.

Haddix didn’t pitch in an organized game of baseball until his senior year in high school. Through nine innings against one of the best teams, Haddix only threw 78 pitches. Thirty years after the game, it was revealed that the Braves, except for Aaron, had been stealing signs off of Pirates’ catcher Smoky Burgess using bullpen pitchers and a towel.

In the bottom of the 13th with no score in the game, Felix Mantilla reached on an error by third baseman Don Hoak to break up the perfecto. Eddie Matthews bunted back to Haddix, advancing Mantilla to second, who then intentionally walked Hank Aaron to set up the double play.

With two on and only one out, Joe Adcock stepped up to the plate. Chaos ensued. According to the official scorekeeper, “Double to CF (Deep CF-RF); Mantilla Scores/unER; Aaron to 3B; Adcock out at 2B/SS; Joe Adcock hit the ball into the right center stands for a homerun, but was declared out for passing Henry Aaron between 2B and 3B; Aaron thought the ball had landed inside the fence; 1B Umpire Frank Dascoli ruled the final score was 2 to 0 but was overruled by NL President Warren Giles who said that since it was only a double, then only one run was needed to win the game.

It was the best game ever pitched in the major leagues.

R — Don Hoak leads off the fourth inning for Pittsburgh against the rookie, Bill Stafford.

When researching the life and death of Don Hoak, I also learned a good deal about a starlet named Jill Corey. Don Hoak met the actress and singer at Forbes Field during the 1960 season. Corey was reportedly the subject of some publicity photos taken at home plate one day in August, and Hoak was conducting all but business as usual with the Pirates.

So taken with the actress and singer was Hoak that he reportedly scored seats up front for her performance later that evening at a club called the Vogue Terrace. Hoak reportedly met members of Corey’s family who were there to see her sing, and Don and Jill reportedly shared their first dance.

“He held me very tightly, teased my hair and said, ‘I’m going to marry you,’” Jill Corey later recalled in an interview.

Not to mix sports analogies, but talk about “shooting your shot,” as the kids these days say on Instagram.

It worked.

Don Hoak and Jill Corey would marry in Pittsburgh in December 1961. At this point in the timeline, October of 1960, Don Hoak was still doing his level best to prove himself as a suitable suitor for the nationally-famous star of screen and stage. What better way to prove yourself than by winning a World Series?

The “fiery competitor and outstanding glove man” Don Hoak hit an infield single to shortstop Tony Kubek, which ricocheted off Kubek’s shoulder before he could grab it off of one hop. Hoak was then retired at second base when Gil McDougald made a fielder’s choice throw to Bobby Richardson.

Harvey Haddix, the Ohio farm boy, worked a full count against the rookie Stafford, then Haddix grounded into a 1-6-3 double play to end the top half with the Pirates up 4 – 2.

Pittsburgh shortstop Dick Groat committed an error and catcher Smoky Burgess had a passed ball (his third of the series, a record at the time) in the bottom half of the inning, but Harvey Haddix got through otherwise unscathed.

The Fifth Inning

R — Jack Quinlan took over the call in the bottom of the inning, which saw Harvey Haddix get his fourth strikeout of the game against Bob Cerv to put down the Yankees. I found it interesting that Quinlan complimented Haddix’s command while also saying that many left-handers struggle to consistently hit the strike zone. I didn’t realize such trouble with command was unique to lefties of 1960.

The Sixth Inning

E — The player shares for the World Series have been determined. The winners will earn $8,500 a player; the losers $6,500. In comparison, the 2019 Washington Nationals earned $382,358.18 for their winners share. The Houston Astros, sign-stealing and all, only got $256,000.

R — Strikeout No. 5 for Harvey Haddix came against Mickey Mantle, whom we have written about extensively for absolutely tearing it up in this series. In the overall terms of the game, the strikeout didn’t come at a pivotal moment, but the psychological ramifications were likely crucial for the Pirates. Haddix slammed the door against a Yankee who has been raking all series.

Haddix then struck out Elston Howard, and “the Kitten seems to be getting stronger as the game goes on.”

Don “the Tiger” Hoak, referred to as a “demon on the base paths” worked a full count, then fouled off a 3-2 pitch to extend the plate appearance against Bill Stafford.

Hoak went down on strikes against Stafford’s curveball on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.

I promised to research whether or not Don Hoak ever became a professional baseball manager.

He did, and he was good. Upon retirement, he spent two years as a broadcaster then one year as a coach in the Philadelphia Phillies system. In 1968, Hoak managed the Salem Rebels of the Class A Carolina League to an 85-55 mark.

In 1969, Pittsburgh called up Hoak to the Triple-A Columbus Jets in the International League. They went 74-66 and lost the league championship series 4-1 to the Syracuse Chiefs.

After the 1969 season, Hoak made himself a candidate to become the next Pirates manager, and thought he was in the running. Instead, the Pirates re-hired Danny Murtaugh, the man skipping the club in this very 1960 World Series.

I found an old piece from a publication called the New York Press entitled “Belter Grins Through the Tears: The Tale of Don Hoak and Jill Corey,” from Feb. 16, 2015. The piece recounts the couple’s thoughts on the re-hiring of Murtaugh.

“Hoak couldn’t believe he’d been snubbed. Neither could Jill. She’d already put her hair up in rollers, preparing for the press conferences and waves of adoration from Pirate fans and the rest of the league,” the piece recounts.

Don Hoak found out about Murtaugh’s hiring, and his lack of a promotion, from his wife. He died the same day. Hoak reportedly witnessed his brother-in-law’s Buick Riviera get stolen, and so he jumped in a car and gave chase.

Hoak reportedly suffered a heart attack during the chase, and managed to pull over and stop before he collapsed completely. It’s estimated that Hoak was down for up to half an hour before a doctor who happened to be passing by noticed Hoak and attempted to perform cardiac massage. Hoak was rushed to a hospital, but reportedly died about 10 minutes after his arrival.

Jill Corey, now 84, maintains that her husband died over a broken heart from not being hired to skip the Pirates.

The Seventh Inning

E — The Yankee fans applauded Haddix as he comes to the plate, then beat out an infield hit for a single. Virdon followed with a double up the line sending Haddix to third, but nothing came of the two hits.

With one out in the seventh, Haddix gave up back-to-back singles to Kubek and pinch hitter Hector Lopez to put the tying runs on base. In comes, Roy Face to put out the fire. McDougald grounded out, and Maris struck out to end the inning — foiled by the forkball.

Two runs. Five hits. Six strikeouts. What a great game by Haddix in his first World Series game. In the Sports Illustrated article, he remarked that pitching and winning in the World Series was always his career highlight.

R — Hoak caught a well-hit line drive, a “screaming Mimi” lined right at him at third base to start the inning. The term “screaming Mimi” was originally slang for a type of rocket used by the German military in World War II.

The Yankees put the tying run aboard, finally getting to “the Kitten” Harvey Haddix, and here comes Roy Face from the bullpen. A feisty demand for an eight-out save would be unheard of in 2019, but it’s just another day at the office for Face.

With two men on and one out, Face got Gil McDougald to ground into a fielder’s choice, Dick Groat to Bill Mazeroski at second base. The Pirates almost turned two.

With runners at first and third, Roger Maris then fell victim to Roy Face’s forkball and struck out. The score remains 4 – 2.

The Eighth Inning

R — Jill Corey put her acting and singing career on hold while she was married to Don Hoak. After he died, Corey and the couple’s daughter, Claire, moved to New York, where the stage star returned to work both on and off Broadway.

I’ve been to some interesting places on the internet in the name of research for this series, but Jill Corey’s website is by far the most unexpected place I’ve ventured. Ethan and I have thrown ourselves back to 1960 for this World Series, but you’ll need to set your web browser back (or forward, I guess) to 1996 to really appreciate the design of this page.

Weirder still is the coincidence of the 1960 election. Without that election, there is no President JFK, and without JFK, there would likely be no disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in 1961, a failed effort to reverse Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution.

Why am I writing about Fidel Castro? His odd connection to Don Hoak.

As recounted by Joe Guzzardi of the Society for American Baseball Research, Don Hoak played winter ball in Cuba for a club called “Cienfuegos” in the winter of 1951-1952. Hoak was then subject to a 1964 piece in Sports Magazine called, “The Day I Batted Against Castro,” and was quoted as saying that the left-handed Cuban dictator was a good pitcher who could have been great, “with a little work on his control.”

E — Berra was inserted as a pinch-hitter for Howard. What a dilemma having to choose between those two for Casey Stengel. With Mantle on first, Berra grounded out. Face is in complete control.

The Ninth Inning

E — There is another mention of Ryne Duren’s glasses, comparing him to superhero Captain Midnight. That’s the kind of nickname I want, Rance. Something that references a superhero. Not a kitten.

R — I switched from glasses back to contacts for the first time in years in the week prior to the 2019 Grip’N’Rip Baseball League championship game. It was the first time in a very long time that I opted to work a broadcast wearing contacts instead of glasses.

No one called me “El Guapo” for the effort. You can’t give yourself a nickname, Ethan, nor can you wish one upon yourself. The world is going to call you what it wants to call you. I think “Mr. Catch 365” has some staying power, but maybe you’ll pick up a new handle in 2020.

Smoky Burgess got aboard with a line drive single to left field and then an error on Bob Cerv, then Danny Murtaugh opted to send in pinch runner Joe Christopher, because as I’ve already discussed, Andy Sturgill pointed out in a Society of Baseball Research piece that “Smoky Burgess was fat.”

I still think that’s a heck of a way to lead off a biographical piece of writing, and I’m not sure if I’m amused by Sturgill, disgusted with Sturgill or a combination of the two. Whatever it is, I read that first line and then I keep reading.

Then the man of the hour, and perhaps a candidate for World Series MVP, Don Hoak singled to center field for an RBI and an insurance run.

E — The Pirates win 5 – 2 and now lead the Series 3 – 2 with an off day before returning to Pittsburgh for Game 6.

The Legend of Zelda and Hospitality

I have lived with my pastor and his family on two occasions. The second time was when Jamie and I moved to Kansas City from Waco, Texas with six-month old Kaylea; our house in Texas took forever to sell. One month into our extended visit, Jamie and I woke up beyond grateful for a rare and precious full night of sleep. While eating breakfast, however, we heard the whole story of a screaming-not-sleeping Kaylea, picked up by a now-not-sleeping teenage boy in the bedroom next door, who delivered Kaylea past the guest bedroom where Jamie and I were snoring and downstairs to his dad, who consoled her for a couple of hours. Unbeknownst to us, our baby monitor had unplugged from the wall. Thankfully, our Texas house sold just a few weeks later and we were able to move into our own place and learn how to comfort a colicky Kaylea.

The first time I lived with my pastor was in the winter of 1987, the year the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, The Simpsons first appeared on TV, and Michael Jackson’s Bad album topped the charts. I had yet to hit five feet tall or one hundred pounds and prayed often for anything resembling a growth spurt.

Advent is about the fullness of life in the waiting for the coming of the King, and as a 7th grader, I couldn’t wait for the coming of the king of all days, Christmas morning. That year I unwrapped a baseball, which should come as a surprise to no one. Dad and I had been playing catch in the church parking lot across the street, the same church parking lot where I learned to roller skate and ride a ten-speed bike, and I made a bad throw. The now-asphalt-scarred ball disappeared into the thickest brush at the end of the parking lot. We finally gave up looking for it when Mom rang the cowbell and called us in to dinner. Dad looked a long time for that ball before he found it. That gift was sheer surprise.

Also sheer surprise was the brand new Nintendo I unwrapped for my last present. No letters or adjectives or anything else after Nintendo, just the original square gray box Nintendo whose game controller only had two buttons, A and B. Along with this Nintendo, I unwrapped the golden-cartridge game, “The Legend of Zelda.” While Mom finished preparations on our Christmas lunch of homemade lasagna, I rushed to my room, set up the game system, and began my Zelda adventure.

Halfway through my attempt at beating the boss at the end of the first level, the power went out.

At that time, the only other power outage I had experienced was when I was staying home alone in the fifth grade. Someone was driving at a ridiculous speed through the neighborhood trying to evade officers, when they lost control of their car and hit a telephone pole, which blew up the transformer, which I first mistook for a gunshot until my neighbor filled me in after visiting with the officers. Power was restored shortly before my parents got home.

Unable to enjoy my gift with the power out, I had to wait, but only about thirty minutes until it came back on and I re-started my Zelda adventure. I was again about halfway through beating the first-level boss when the power went out a second time. I was convinced the universe was conspiring against me and my video game enjoyment.

That was when I finally looked outside and personally witnessed the icy winter wonderland that was out the front door. Then the power came back on and I rushed into my bedroom and again re-started my Zelda adventure.

The third time’s the charm.

This time the power stayed off for days. I later learned that all four(!) Springfield TV stations were off the air for through the weekend. Over 25,000 people were without power for more than a week. Ice blanketed every surface and snow was several inches deep across the Ozarks.

In the midst of this, our pastor invited my family to stay with him and his family until our power was restored.

At the occurrence of the event, I was a seventh grade boy. The world of most seventh grade boys is ridiculously small and horrendously self-centered. I was pretty content staying at my pastor’s house because I was best friends with his son. We traded baseball cards and watched movies on VHS and I was relatively oblivious to everything else.

It never once occurred to me to take my Nintendo to my pastor’s house. Surely we would be going home soon, right? Each day, my family returned home to check the power and take showers — thanks be to God for a gas water heater. Each time we made that trip home, I clung to the hope of returning to Zelda and finally defeating that first-level boss.

More baseball cards. More movies. More general obliviousness.

There are so many details from that winter I don’t remember. I don’t remember how many nights we were there. I don’t remember if I ever got that coveted Bo Jackson baseball card in trading. And I have no idea what we did with our pets.  

But I never worried about where our next meal would come from. I never once worried about clothes, I’d just grab what I needed for the next day on our trips home. I didn’t worry about pipes breaking in the cold or incomes or paying bills or all of the horrible stuff that can happen in extreme weather conditions. I pretty much existed in an ignorant bliss, enjoying the adventure at my pastor’s house, even away from Zelda.

What I do remember, more than anything, is the feeling of hospitality. Hospitality is creating a safe, welcoming space for anyone, wherever you are.

I’m convinced that hospitality is exactly what this world needs as we rush distractedly through these consumer-driven days. A starting place is being kind and patient with anyone who is working wherever you may be. From cashiers and baristas to referees and coaches, be quick to express gratitude and thanksgiving for their time and energy as it helps you through your day. On top of that—

Visit with the stranger who is standing behind you in line.

Buy gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated.

Help someone put up their Christmas tree.

Bake cookies for your neighbors.

Sing along with whatever carols are playing at the store. (Spreading Christmas cheer is definitely a form of hospitality, thank you Buddy the Elf.)

I wonder how Mary and Joseph told the story to their children of the person who created safe and sacred space for them in their time of desperate need.

A little hospitality can change the world.

A Wonder-Filled World

Art by Kurt Caddy

I stood in awe before the 40” x 40” print, my eyes drawn to the colorful vastness of the heavenly starscape, reminding me of similar images shared by the Hubble telescope. The reds and golds just underneath the horizon line stood out in stark contrast to the blues and purples; their earthy tones brilliant in their own respect, but lost to the overwhelming magnitude of lights from millennia past still sparking.

“It’s just a photograph of my father-in-law’s driveway,” Kurt said.

I had no reason to doubt that Kurt Caddy, an artist and friend, was telling the truth. He created this piece.

And then I started to see the photograph behind the art. The horizon line was just a crack, separating the old concrete from the new concrete, with the weathering on the older part significantly smoothing out the bumps and holes. 

Kurt takes pictures of the broken and crushed things in this world. Using techniques refined for decades, he looks for the hidden beauty in the mundane and helps others to catch glimpses of a world transformed.

* * * * *

My friends Brennan and Lesa went to a hockey game. They went with their twin sons and three sacks filled with 140 stuffed animals — giraffes, in honor of their daughter Tori who passed away from Krabbe disease — for the Teddy Bear Toss at the Hershey Bears. Barely 8 minutes into the first period, Bears’ defender Christian Djoos scored and more than 45,000 stuffed animals rained down onto the ice.

The video is a sight of pure joy.

The stuffed animals will help brighten Christmases of children across the community, and a donor matched the dolls with donations to the Children’s Miracle Network.

* * * * *

Jeremy is another artist friend of mine. A passionate Royals fan, he lives in Puerto Rico, taking morning swims with the fishes and eating 6-pound lobsters. A couple of years ago, he created a Bo Jackson head shot that would be perfect for an ugly Christmas sweater, except I will never, ever call Bo Jackson ugly.

I laugh every single time I see the drawing.

Bo knows Christmas.

* * * * *

The light was green and I waited, debating whether or not I should honk. At most, this particular light will allow four vehicles through the intersection before changing, making me wait another two to three minutes to cross one of Springfield’s major thoroughfares.

In the side view mirror, I could see the driver’s downward gaze and knew he was distracted by his phone. I exhaled in frustration and honked. He immediately stepped on the gas and sped through the intersection. I followed as the light changed. Thankfully, no one was behind me.

These are the days of our lives.

We live distracted, unaware, and inundated with daily responsibilities too numerous to mention. Always on the go. Always in a hurry. Always on the edge of anger and frustration and one more snarky comment at someone else’s expense.


If a caricature of a baseball player wearing a stocking hat can provide a good laugh, maybe every single breath we breathe is a gift.

If hockey games can provide celebratory remembrances of life, maybe playing can bring hope and healing.  

If driveways can look like reflections of space, maybe every single step we take is on holy ground.

We live in a wonder-filled world.

May you catch a glimpse.

1960 World Series – Game #4

The Pre-Game

ETHAN — Over the past couple of weeks, I have become more than slightly obsessed with an out-of-print book by German theologian Jurgan Moltmann, The Theology of Play. As I listened to the game, I heard echoes of Moltmann’s assertions of the importance of play, how play is the ultimate expression of our freedom.

Written in 1970 and translated to English in 1972, Moltmann said, “The modern achievement-centered society has therefore for its own sake widened the scope given to games and free play by extending vacation time. As the term ‘vacation’ implies, we get away for a while to become better achievers and more willing workers.” Moltmann elaborated on our Puritanical desires to be workaholics, stressing that we have reduced the meaning of our existence to the works of our hands.

“Like the creation, man’s games are an expression of freedom, for playing relates to the joy of the creator with his creation and the pleasure of the player with his game. Like creation, games combine sincerity and mirth, suspense and relaxation. The player is wholly absorbed in his game and takes it seriously, yet at the same time he transcends himself and his game, for it is after all only a game. So he is realizing his freedom without losing it.”

To sum up his 75-page brilliant narrative, “Joy is the meaning of human life, joy in thanksgiving and thanksgiving in joy…When a man sees the meaning of life only in being useful and used, he necessarily gets caught in a crisis of living, when illness or sorrow makes everything including himself seem useless…So the stakes in the game are not realizations, successes, and accomplishments but the endless beauties and liberties of the finite concomitants of the infinite joy of the creator.”

From Moltmann’s perspective, we begin to understand the quote attributed to Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Playing makes it possible to free ourselves from selfishness and self-pity and enable us to see and experience the world as it is — full of wonder. Which sounds exactly like French philosopher René Descartes, “Wonder is the first of all the passions.”

That is exactly how it felt when I was standing in left field in the Grip’N’Rip Baseball League, anticipating every pitch being hit my way. I was wholly absorbed in each moment, taking the game seriously, finally not obsessed with the constant inner-dialogue that usually accompanies every waking moment. Win or lose, after the last out, I was able to relax and interact with the opposing team, grateful for the chance to get back on the field and sweat.

And that is how it has been listening to these games and reading Rance’s observations, a creative exercise in increasing joy and wonder. As Moltmann would say, those moments of joy must be thoroughly celebrated.

RANCE — I’m listening to this game by 1960 rules. Out of curiosity and necessity, I will attempt to place some restrictions on myself in order to experience the broadcast as a listener would have in 1960… Sort of.

Rance’s 1960 Rules:

1. I won’t have a bunch of browser tabs open. I will concentrate on the game.

2. No pause button. Radio listeners in 1960 couldn’t pause the game for any reason.

3. Alright. I can use the pause button a maximum of three times. I’m going to have to need a bathroom break, and at some point I will pause to eat dinner with my wife, Ashley. Other than that, no pause button.

4. I can have the Yankees and Pirates’ numerical rosters open in a web browser to make sure I am spelling all names correctly. I still have trouble with Clem Labine.

5. I can look at the timestamp on the audio file so that I may go back to transcribe Jack Quinlan and Chuck Thompson AFTER I am done listening to all nine innings.

6. I may only drink sparkling water during the game. I have LaCroix blackberry cucumber. It is the closest thing I could find to Saratoga Vichy mineral water.

7. No rewinding or fast forwarding. Those are old timey terms from the ‘90s that we used to use when referencing tapes and VHS cassettes.

8. I’m on the honor system for all of this, so you all will just have to believe me when I write about adhering to the rules.

I am listening to the game on my laptop with headphones, seated in a recliner in our living room, which has been my modus operandi throughout the series. Ashley is working on a master’s degree and studies a lot, so I can’t make a bunch of noise in our house.

“Can the Pirates bounce back from the devastating pummelings of the last couple of games?” Chuck Thompson asked, rhetorically.

“Baseball men” were split in their opinions of whether or not the Pirates would be able to snap out of it and make a run at the Yankees.

Roger Maris has injured ribs from a collision with Pirates catcher Hal Smith at home plate, but Maris hit a home run in batting practice on his second swing that day, so Stengel opted to stick with him in the lineup.

The First Inning

R — Yankees manager Casey Stengel starts Bob Cerv in left field, Roger Maris in right and Yogi Berra behind the plate. Elston Howard, the first black Yankee, is on the bench. In my opinion, Elston Howard got the shaft.

Bill Virdon led off for Pittsburgh from the left-handed batter’s box against 24-year-old right-hander Ralph Terry, “the pride and joy of Big Cabin, Oklahoma.”

Let me tell you about Big Cabin, Oklahoma. The modern pride and joy of Big Cabin is a truck stop to accompany the speed trap bordering on highway robbery that the Big Cabin Police Department operates. The police department consists of a couple of old, dingy police cars and cops who write tickets without mercy. Under no circumstances should anyone ever speed in Big Cabin on Highway 69.

E — Big Cabin. The exit where Jamie and I departed I-44 to begin the southward part of the journey to Waco. The 10-hour trip was difficult, allowing us to come back to Missouri only a couple times each year while I was in school at Baylor working on a Master’s of Divinity degree that will be paid off before the coming of the next millennium. We came home one Christmas, having to stop multiple times as the ice-sleet-snow mixture froze over windshield wipers and started freezing over on the inside of the windshield. That was an exhausting, white-knuckled trip. We didn’t get any tickets in Big Cabin, however. I don’t miss that drive at all. 

R — While writing about Big Cabin, I spaced on how Bill Virdon got out — (He struck out) — and caught Dick Groat flying out to second base. I want to rewind and it’s the top of the first inning. I’m already fouling up these 1960 rules.

Roberto Clemente is batting, and Jack Quinlan tells us that Harvey Haddix is starting tomorrow for the Pirates against “to be determined” for the Yankees. Casey Stengel continues to treat his pitchers like CIA operatives. Terry strikes out Clemente, and I collect my thoughts during a Cadillac commercial. I also happen to know that Art Ditmar is going to pitch for New York.

Bob Cerv hits a single out to center field, which makes Casey Stengel look correct and Rance Burger look incorrect for saying Berra should be in left field with Elston Howard catching, but the game is young.

Tony Kubek continues a great World Series with a double to left field. The Yankees hold Cerv at third base. Vernon Law is looking shaky in this Game 4, and the Yankees look (alright, sound) every bit as hot at the team that shellacked the Pirates in the last two outings.

Roger Maris took a big cut for strike one as Jack Quinlan relayed Vern Law is well known for quotations.

“I have never met a man who is not my superior at something,” Law was quoted as saying. Yes, I did transcribe that successfully without using the pause button. Yogi Berra still is subject to quotation often in and away from baseball, so it’s interesting to hear that the minister qualified to “baptize, marry and administer the sacraments,” in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was known to spin quotes along with curveballs in a pivotal era of baseball.

Roger Maris flew out to Roberto Clemente in shallow right field, and Clemente showed off his throwing arm by zinging home a throw to Bob Mazeroski, the Pittsburgh catcher. The runners hold up, and we remain scoreless.

Law then walks Mickey Mantle. Retrospectively, it’s kind of funny that Pittsburgh pitched to the single season home run record holder, Maris, but wanted no part of the Mick.

Yogi Berra grounded into a double play with the bases loaded, proving that Rance Burger was right and that Elston Howard should be in this lineup. Berra hit the ball down the third base line to Pirates third baseman Don Hoak. Hoak stepped on the third base bag to force out the runner Kubek, then fired the ball across the diamond to Dick Stuart at first to get Berra “by an eyelash.”

I’m going to work “by an eyelash” into a game in the Grip’N’Rip Baseball League sometime in 2020.

E — I strongly relate to Pirates fans in this Series. They felt exactly like I felt during the 2014 World Series. That was the season of Sungwoo Lee, the season I got to catch his first pitch, the season of the best postseason game I’ve ever seen. Every single pitch, every single at bat, every single play was an adventure. I lost so much sleep that postseason and don’t regret any of it. “It’s just a baseball game,” some of my coffee shop friends told me. And so many of my other friends were already obsessing over other sports. When the Royals lost that Series, I was in a little bit of a funk for a few weeks and still hold a significant grudge against that west coast team. 

The Second Inning

E — The Pirates get their first baserunner of the game with a 2-out walk to Smoky Burgess and Hoak steps up to the plate. It’s noted that it’s only 301 feet down the left field line, which makes me feel like I could take one out at Yankee Stadium with a favorable wind. Hoak hits a sharp line drive to left which Cerv tracks down and the Pirates, again, are held scoreless.

R — The estimated attendance for Game 3 was 70,000, which is about 3,000 more fans than Yankee Stadium’s official capacity of 67,000. I’m trying to picture what it would be like if U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark, with its capacity of 5,000 seats plus 2,000 more on the grass and on the concourses, were filled to capacity then multiplied by 10. These crowds must have been truly awe-inspiring sites to behold.

E — Random idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to max-out U.S. Baseball Park and set some kind of catch-playing world record as part of the book launch for A Year of Playing Catch? Coordinate it with the GRBL and the Battle for Bell…that would be quite a sight for the Ozark stadium.

R — We learn that Don Hoak wants to be a manager someday. I can’t stop and Google whether or not he did become a manager, because that would be against the rules. People with superior Don Hoak knowledge can go ahead and laugh at me. Hoak lined out to Bob Cerv in left field, stranding a runner.

Bobby Richardson hit a double down the left field line. Two of the three hits Law has conceded have been for extra bases thus far. New York seems to have a habit of collecting key hits down the left field line, but I am saying that anecdotally. I’m not actually able to pause and go back to review key hits to left field. I remember the rhubarb hit from Game 2, so I’m going to stick with my gut instinct and say that the Yankees get good results when hitting in the direction of left field. No damage done, however, as pitcher Ralph Terry grounds out and the inning is over.

E — Bobby Richardson is absolutely on fire. It’s time to start pitching around him.

The Third Inning

E — Through three innings, the Pirates are hitless. If I were watching this game live, I’d be reaching for Tums. Thankfully, the Yankees bats have cooled off slightly as well.

R — Ralph Terry strikes out Bill Mazeroski for his third strikeout of the game. He then gets No. 4 against Vernon Law. Bill Virdon bats to end the top half of this inning.

“Virdon is in the sporting goods business during the offseason with another Major League player, Jerry Lumpe,” Jack Quinlan said.

Jerry Lumpe, as I recall, is a member of the Springfield, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. I will put his name on my list of stuff to Google when this game is over. I seem to recall Art Hains launching into a soliloquy about Jerry Lumpe once on an afternoon episode of his “Sports Talk” radio show in Springfield, but I can’t recall much about what Art had to say, other than I’m pretty sure it was positive.

E — Shortly after moving back to Springfield from Kansas City, I spent time with Jerry Lumpe, meeting him for lunch. He was absolutely delightful. Lumpe won the 1958 World Series with the Yankees and told me some stories about sharing the field with the Milwaukee Braves and Hank Aaron.

The Fourth Inning

E — The all-curveball inning. Thanks to his curveball, Ralph Terry isn’t having any trouble keeping hitters off balance and getting Pirates out. So, so many swings and misses, accruing five strikeouts through the first 4 innings.

R — “National League batting king” Dick Groat bats to lead off the fourth. Pittsburgh is still looking for its first hit. Not this time, as Groat flies out to Mantle in center field. Roberto Clemente then goes down on strikes, and Ralph Terry now has five strikeouts. Terry seems incredibly sharp. He’s working his way ahead in counts, and when he falls behind, he gets a batter to fly out softly. He’s off to a better start than Whitey Ford had in his shutout masterpiece the day before.

Tony Kubek, the shortstop, made a catch and throw on the run off a ball that deflected off the pitcher’s glove to get the final out of the inning. Jack Quinlan’s description was breathless. Derek Jeter who?

E — In the bottom half of the inning, I couldn’t believe what I heard. Mickey Mantle attempting a bunt with two strikes. That is the most preposterous thing I have heard so far this series. Mantle bunting. With 2 strikes. In the 4th inning of a scoreless game. In the World Series. Twitter would have roasted him. He tried a drag bunt, which went foul and resulted in a strike out. Wow.

R — Mantle, Berra, Skowron, “three sticks of dynamite” for Vern Law to deal with.

I once covered a series of hearings about a proposed limestone quarry in Osage Beach, Missouri. One of the expert witnesses who testified was a high-ranking employee of Dyno Nobel. Yes, that Nobel of Alfred Nobel fame, of Nobel Prize fame. Dyno Nobel is the definitive worldwide company for dynamite. Needless to say, I took pages of notes about dynamite and blasting for rocks during that testimony. I have no idea where that notebook is today, but I did retain some knowledge of how limestone quarry blasting is done. Would you like to learn? No… Well, alright, back to baseball.

E — Actually, I would love to learn more about dynamite.

R — As quickly as I could say, “dynamite,” Mantle and Berra are out, Berra on a grounder back to Vern Law. Moose Skowron hit a homer, “outta here way back,” and the scoreless tie is blown away by a bomb to right field. In 138 World Series games, the Yankees have hit 138 home runs. My word, but they live up to their “Bronx Bombers” moniker.

E — The 1960 Yankees set the single season record for most home runs by a team at 193. This year, the Minnesota Twins set the record which had previously been held by the 2018 Yankees. The 2018 Yankees hit 267 home runs. The 2019 Twins hit 307 homers. My friends Lori and Ryan are huge Twins fans and celebrated the team of the Twin Cities holding the record.

I tried Googling how many World Series games the Yankees have played in, even though they’ve gone a decade without playing in any, and how many home runs they’ve hit in those games, but couldn’t find the answer on a cursory search. Getting help from friends Daniel and Katie on Twitter, I learned they’ve played in 225 games and hit 216 home runs.

R — Law responds with a strikeout, but some damage has been done, and Pittsburgh finds itself training once again.

E — The Yankees are only up 1 – 0. If they score any more, I would have been a ball of anxiety.

The Fifth Inning

R — Gino Cimoli singles to right field with a ball that dipped in front of Roger Maris, and the Pirates have their first hit. Ralph Terry is mortal. Based on the way this series have gone, I would not have bet money on Gino Cimoli to be the first Pirate to hit today.

Cimoli then upended Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek when Smoky Burgess grounded softly to second base. Cimoli was called safe at second in one of those plays where you love to see it when it’s a guy on your team dumping the opposing shortstop, but yell about what a dirty bum the base runner is when it’s your team’s shortstop getting dumped.

E — I have vivid memories of George Brett, Frank White, and Hal McRae colliding into middle infielders. MLB has since changed the rules on sliding into second base, now known as the Utley Rule. During the 2015 playoffs, Chase Utley rolled into NY Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada who fell to the ground and broke his leg. Tejada couldn’t play in the World Series that the Royals would later win, which has distant echoes of Vince Coleman getting injured before the 1985 World Series. Thankfully, Kubek wasn’t hurt in the collision and the result is two men on, no outs. The Pirates have a chance to tie the game.

R — With runners at first and second, I burn my first use of the pause button. Bathroom break, another can of sparkling water, check dog, move laundry from washer to dryer, chap stick, quick conversation with my wife, and I’m back in the chair. Headphones back on, and that’s one pause button use charged to Rance with two remaining.

E — Hoak bunted, trying to advance the runners, for the first out. More Twitter roasting. Mazeroski popped up to the first baseman for the second out of the inning, stranding both runners again. More Tums popping.

Vernon Law, pitcher, now at the plate.

R — With two outs, Vernon Law helps his cause with an RBI double down the left field line that one-hopped to the fence. Cimoli scored the tying run. As a National League fan, it goes without saying that I love it when a pitcher can hit.

E — Pitchers who rake are awesome.

R — Ralph Terry goes at center fielder Bill Virdon with back-to-back curveballs in on the hands. This is righty against lefty, so the ball is breaking inward toward Virdon’s body.

E — Virdon’s been much more aggressive at the plate in this game, swinging at first pitch offerings. He swung at the first two curves Terry threw in this at bat and missed both.

R — Virdon hits the third curveball for a soft single to center field. Runners score from third and second, including Law turning on the wheels and coming home from second base, and the Pirates take a 3 – 1 lead. Virdon must have adjusted and figured out that curveball, unless Terry misplaced it. I don’t want to go Google it, but I want to go talk to Bill Virdon about that hit and how the sequence of pitches unfolded.

E — Virdon the hero again! The Pirates have their first lead since Game 1.

Moving into the bottom of the inning, the second half of the game is sponsored by Gillette, and Jack Quinlan describes the super blue blades. With so many friends participating in No Shave November, I regret that alopecia prevents me from growing any facial hair of substance. Most teenagers can grow better beards than I can.

R — Bobby Richardson is now 2-for-2, and has seven hits three and a half games of this World Series. Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan like to talk about how small of stature Richardson is, but he’s batting like Goliath. He’s now 7-for-15 in the series.

E — Quit pitching to Richardson, period. After Richardson singled to start the inning, Law struck out the side, one of which being another 2-strike foul bunt. More Twitter roasting.

R — Speaking of strikeouts, Vernon Law now has five of them across five innings as he gets Tony Kubek to get out of trouble. Pirates lead 3-1

The Sixth Inning

R — Chuck Thompson points out that Pittsburgh has not had a lead since Game 1, which was four days prior. In between we witnessed an avalanche of hits and runs by the Yankees.

Thompson seems to be hinting that it’s only a matter of time before the Bronx Bombers find their bats against Vern Law and put up some offense.

Someone is up in the Yankees bullpen, but Thompson is unable to see who it is and identify the man warming up. That must have been frustrating for him. I know I’m frustrated.

Thompson refers to Pirates catcher Smoky Burgess as, “the little round fella.” I recall a piece I read about Burgess in doing some of my reconnaissance work for this series with Ethan. I don’t remember everything that was in that piece, but the opening line of the biography was, “Smoky Burgess was fat.”

Geez. No faint praise there. Burgess showed off some warning track power with a 400-plus-foot shot out to center field that Mickey Mantle caught. Writers and broadcasters of the ‘60s could say things that we can’t really talk about in 2019, and I think that’s good. I’d rather write about an athlete’s ability or his personality than the build of his body.

E — Maris, Mantle, and Berra — “Three pretty fair bangers,” — hitting for the Yankees in the bottom of the sixth. I love some of the colloquial expressions Quinlan and Thompson use and find myself chuckling throughout the broadcasts. I would love to be described as a pretty fair banger, Rance, so hold on to that for me next year.

But the pretty fair bangers are retired in order.

The Seventh Inning

R — Don Hoak opens the inning with a “ringing single to center,” and Casey Stengel headed out to talk to Ralph Terry. I’m amazed that Stengel is going to leave Terry in this game after his hair trigger handling of pitchers up to this point. I want to know what Terry said to plead his case. Vern Law then grounded to third, where Gil McDougald backhanded the ball on the edge of foul territory. Hoak and Law both reach bases safely, including Hoak at third base.

E — Law’s second hit of the game, an infield single. Impressive.

R — This is the second mound visit this inning, though Stengel waited to make an indication to the umpire to go out to the bullpen. Bobby Shantz, a southpaw is coming in. Ralph Terry pitched very well up until Bill Virdon got ahold of his curveball in the fifth inning. He got a “good Yankee Stadium hand” from the 67,812 fans at the game, but I’m sure he would have traded the applause for some run support.

Shantz struck out Virdon on three pitches, relying on his curve. I’d imagine Virdon was not accustomed to a curve breaking away from him after seeing three Ralph Terry curves break in toward his body his last time at the plate. It doesn’t seem like the Yankees want to pitch anything straight to Virdon.

E — At the stretch, the Pirates lead by 2. More super blue blade commercials reminding me I should shave the seven or eight whiskery stubbles I currently have sometime in the near future.

R — Based on the advertising campaigns tied to this World Series, it seems to me that the average baseball fan in 1960 was interested in three things: 1. Baseball 2. Driving cars 3. Shaving. My list of things to Google now includes some facts on how much money Gillette dumped into this World Series for advertising, if such facts are out there on the internet.

Trailing 3-2, Casey Stengel sends up a left-handed pinch hitter, Johnny Blanchard. I’m thinking it’s got to be because he’s a lefty. The move paid off as Blanchard, batting for the pitcher, got a base hit.

E — Skowron’s lead-off double is followed by McDougald’s single to right, putting runners on the corners for Bobby Richardson who is the hottest player in the Yankees’ line-up. A groundout for the first out of the inning, but plates a run and brings the Yankees to within 1. After Johnny Blanchard singles as a pinch hitter, representing the go-ahead run, forkballer Roy Face comes in to put out the fire.

R — With runners at first and second, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh made his second mound visit of the inning. Johnny Blanchard’s name sounds familiar to me, but I can’t place it. Yet another something to Google when the game is over. These self-imposed rules are killing me.

Roy Face, the pitcher who is the object of my fascination, is coming into the game. He’s “quite an entertaining young man who likes to sing and play the guitar,” according to Chuck Thompson. The announcer also tells us that Face looks like Buster Keaton.

Thompson said that Yankees were surprised as the speed Face put on his fastball in Game 1 in Pittsburgh. Some of the element of surprise is gone for the man who was a closer before there were closers, and then there’s the forkball.

Center fielder Bill Virdon made a tremendous catch on a play that was very well-described by Chuck Thompson. Virdon robbed Bob Cerv by “hurdling up into the air,” then “falling flat on his back.”

E — Again, Virdon’s defense saves the game. Virdon makes another Gold Glove play in centerfield, surely saving the tying run, even the Yankees’ fans applauded the effort. “What a clutch play,” said Thompson. “A great ovation for Virdon as he comes to the dugout.”

“You’ll read a few hundred words about that catch Virdon made. It’s one of the finest I’ve ever seen.”

R — Danny Murtaugh makes his third mound visit of the inning. I wonder if he’s tired of walking by now. The next time someone complains about the pace of baseball, I have a story about Danny Murtaugh to share.

I’m also impressed by New York fans giving Bill Virdon two good ovations in that inning, one when he made the catch and one when he returned to the dugout at the end of the inning. As often as the modern New York fan is portrayed as ruthless and selfish, but cheering an opposing player in a World Series is certainly a sporting act.

I use my second pause button of the game to get my laundry out the dryer at my wife’s request. Ethan Bryan is my friend, and this project is great fun, but I’m not about to get divorced over it. With my clean clothes secure to be put away later, I’m ready to close this game. I’ve got 39 minutes, and I intend to go the distance without interruption — just Elroy Face and me.

The Eighth Inning

R — “Jim Coates now pitching for the New York Yankees,” Chuck Thompson said of Jim Coates. That’s not much of a flattering introduction, but he goes on to mention that Coates won 13 games, including nine in a row, and “pitched cleverly.”

I take a peek at Jim Coates’ Wikipedia page as he logs an out of Roberto Clemente. Coates died at the age of 87 on Nov. 15, 2019, just 12 days prior to this writing. A sudden sense of sadness passes over me.

Coates’ obituary is a free-verse poem of rhyming couplets originally written in 2005.

I’ll stop breaking my own rules and go back to concentrating on the game in real time.

E — Face facing Mantle, and Mantle Ks. To my surprise, the crowd roared. There must be a pretty sizable Pittsburgh contention in New York.

R — Mantle, “really cuttin’ for the boondocks” struck out on a 3-2 pitch, which was on Face’s “Sunday pitch,” the forkball. Unless Chuck Thompson said “sundae pitch.” Ugh… I want to Google that so badly. Baseball is supposed to be relaxing for fans. I need to remember to make relaxation part of this experience and let some of the game simply be.

The Ninth Inning

R — Another spectacular catch in center field, this time by Mickey Mantle off the bat of Don Hoak. Mantle “hooked up both jets,” and made a one-handed catch on the run. This series has been a great experience for me to learn how truly great and talented at baseball Mickey Mantle was. I can understand what so many boys looked up to the Commerce Comet based on how he played.

Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh made a defensive replacement, bringing in catcher Bob Oldis to replace Smoky Burgess behind the plate. Changing Roy Face’s battery-mate is an interesting move. Oldis, 91, has been a big league scout for a number of years.

The Springfield, Missouri influence on this game continues, as the Yankees send up pinch hitter Dale Long with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 3-2. Long worked the count full. He then flied out to Roberto Clemente in right field, the Pirates have evened the World Series 2 – 2 in “one of the most exciting, thrilling games of the series.”

Rance’s stuff to Google after the game:

Don Hoak, good manager or not?

Jerry Lumpe, Springfield, sporting goods

Gino Cimoli, general

Ralph Terry, pitching arsenal

Gillette advertising/1960 World Series advertising

Buster Keaton/Roy Face side-by-side comparison

Jim Coates, the “Pride of Northern Neck”

Sunday/Sundae pitch

Dale Long, general

E — The Series is tied, 2 – 2, and Virdon has played a key role in both victories.

Through 4 games, the Yankees have scored 32 runs; the Pirates have scored only 12.

Baseball is joyfully weird.

‘Twas the week of Thanksgiving

‘Twas the week of Thanksgiving, I sat at my house

While the feline was silently tracking a mouse;

Long stockings of blue washed and folded with care,

In hopes a Spring invite soon would be there;

My children were school-bound, so far from their beds;

While music and inventions danced in their heads;

My partner teaching children, and I with my cap,

And just wrestling with words before afternoon nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

Away to the front door I flew like a flash,

Just like Cool Papa Bell or Hosmer’s mad dash.

The sun shining bright off the new-fallen leaves,

Perfect scene for a painting, for those who perceive,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a team of ballplayers, one in full catcher’s gear,

And their salty manager with a roast — so quick! — ,

I knew in a moment he must be Coach Stick.

More rapid than sprinters, his players they came,

He shouted positions instead of their name:

“Now, Hot Box! now, Back Stop, now Double Play Trio!

On Center! on, Right Field! on, Pitcher with hair flow!”

They all stood on my porch, and my jaw it did fall!

“And you’re in left field! Now dash away, all!”

“But the season is over,” I questioned in haste.

“This game’s just for fun, but there’s no time to waste!

Best go grab your mitt and your lucky bat, too

Got a jersey on the team bus waiting for you.”

And then, in a twinkling, I ran through the house

And gathered my stuff (while the cat ate the mouse).

Then I ran to the bus, and was turning around

Out the front door came Bella, my dog, with a bound.

“We could use a good bat dog,” Coach said with a grin,

And then gave her a quick rub underneath her chin.

A bundle of bats he then flung on his back,

Creating some floor space for the dog with this pack.

We drove to the ballpark, a turkey feast waited.

“The loser does dishes,” Coach loudly stated.

“Only five innings we’ll play, let’s go have some fun

Hope we come out on top when everything’s done!”

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

He perched on the top step and preached platitudes

“If anyone dares bunt, your contract’s devalued!”

Just one hit came my way, a simple can of corn

I circled underneath it and caught it airborne,

Then threw the ball back, without much thought or care

Instead of the shortstop, my dog Bella was there!

She jumped and stole the ball, to everyone’s surprise,

And then started sprinting between legs and thighs,

She ran ‘cross the bases with simple delight,

She ran over players who had no chance to fight.

Coach spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

He took off his stockings, then turned with a jerk,

And quickly constructing a lasso of sorts

He wrangled my dog, who was a pretty good sport.

He sprang to his feet, to the teams gave a whistle,

And they all circled up for the final dismissal

And we heard him exclaim, with all of his might —

“Happy Thanksgiving to all, now get out of my sight!”

1960 World Series – Game #3

President Herbert Hoover throws out a first pitch.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

RANCE — Chuck Thompson opened the broadcast by reviewing the 16 – 3 Yankees win in Game 2, and brought up how much the series’ move to New York favors the Yankees. Like any good broadcaster will do, he told us not to count out Pittsburgh.

Yankee Stadium, the one built in 1923, held almost 70,000 people and was twice the size of Forbes Field. The triple-decker structure was “synonymous with the Fall Classic.” We learn that Casey Stengel hit the first ever World Series home run at this Yankee Stadium, as a member of the New York Giants in 1923.

Chuck Thompson makes a point in the pregame that still holds up in today’s broadcasts. Analysts spend too much time crunching numbers and examining records in big games, and lose sight of the just-plain people stories.

“I know not what it is, but there is something about the World Series that sends almost everyone — baseball, radio, television, newspaper people scurrying to the record book,” Thompson said.

I think I kind of know what it is. Crunching numbers is easier for most baseball analysts than psychology. It’s hard sometimes to build up trust with people to get them to tell you really good stories, but the human element of baseball is everything that makes it great.

Not once in this 1960 World Series will anyone mention a spin rate or a launch angle, and we won’t hear about players watching footage of opposing pitchers on their tablets in the dugout. I like that.

Thompson went on to statistically prove that the teams that suffered the “worst shellacking” in each of the last four World Series went on to win, which favors the Pirates, and that each of the last six World Series were finalized with a visiting team winning on the road, which favors New York.

It all seemed like a way for Chuck Thompson to politely tell every record book thumper and number cruncher to go screw themselves. I’m really beginning to like listening to this guy.

Speaking of people stories, Pittsburgh captain Dick Groat apparently relayed a funny tale to Thompson before the game.

“We simply have to win the series now and get the big share of the money,” Groat said.

I thought, “Wow, a professional athlete wants to get paid. That’s a narrative that’s still prevalent in 2019,” but then Chuck Thompson delivered the punchline to his setup in continuing to quote Groat

“We brought all of our wives to New York, and while we worked out at Yankee Stadium yesterday, they visited the stores and had the bills ready when we returned to the hotel, and a ballplayer doesn’t need much more of an incentive than that,” Groat said.

I have a similar narrative I use when my wife complains about how much time I spend at U.S. Baseball Park on Sundays in the fall, when I’m calling Grip’N’Rip tripleheaders. I tell her I’m out there hustling for Christmas money, and a starving journalist doesn’t need much more of an incentive than that.

ETHAN — It is raining, my body is still recovering from a ridiculous calf injury sustained on a ground-ball-dodging sprint to second base, and my wife is finally re-learning how to walk after spending the last 13 weeks on a knee scooter with a broken foot. She makes a cane look good.

The news is obsessed with all things pertaining to the Impeachment Hearings. The baseball world is obsessed with the sign-stealing trickeries of the Houston Astros. Finger pointing abounds.

Our consumer culture is ramping up for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and if you have anything left over, Giving Tuesday. The movie about Mr. Rogers cannot come out soon enough.  

I’m seated (publicly trying to hide) at the last table in a coffee shop, listening to Game 3 while jotting down thoughts for a speech, “The Power of Playing Catch.” At the table next to me are two elderly ladies. One of their phones rings, playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and my interest is piqued.

“Nice ringtone,” I commented.

“I’m so ready for Spring Training,” she replied.

“I write stories about baseball.”

“Those are some of my very favorite stories.”

The First Inning

R — Bill Virdon is 1-for-8 with an RBI, coming off a season where he hit .265. Make that 1-for-9 with a short groundout to Whitey Ford. Virdon’s numbers sound pedestrian, but you have to keep in mind that this was a time in baseball where pitchers were a little more favored that we are used to today. The 1960 Pirates collectively hit around .275, and the National League batting average was .255. Hits were fewer and more precious in 1960 than they are in 2019.

“For many of the Pirates, this is the first game they have played at Yankee Stadium,” Jack Quinlan told the radio audience.

Yankee Stadium had a capacity of around 70,000, which is about twice the size of the crowds that took in Game 1 and Game 2 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Playing in a stadium with so many seats — and to have them all full — must have been a surreal feeling for many of the Pirates.

Pirates pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell experienced a career revitalization when he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Pirates in the middle of the season. Wilmer Mizell was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama. He spent his formidable years in Mississippi.

“As soon as he put on the Pirate uniform this year, he became a standout,” Quinlan said of the future Congressman. Mizell was once billed as “the left-handed Dizzy Dean.”

E — Shane texted me lessons on how to hold and throw a forkball. Maybe adding a quirky off-speed pitch is exactly what I need to try and get on the mound for the 5th season of the Grip’N’Rip league. As I listened to Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan, I tried to stretch out my index and middle fingers around a baseball.

Cerv started off the bottom of the first with a single. Maris blasted a line drive to right requiring Clemente to make an incredible play just to record an out. Mantle singled Cerv to third and Skowron singled in the first run of the game. McDougald walked to load the bases with Howard coming to the plate.

And there’s a pitching change. Because it wouldn’t be the World Series without a first inning pitching change.

R — Today is not a standout day for Vinegar Bend. Roberto Clemente made a spectacular catch in right field to rob Roger Maris of a hit, and you can hear the New York crowd voice its displeasure with Clemente’s catch. It seems like the crowd noise is louder, or at least more on top of the microphones in this game.

You can hear the energy of the crowd when Mizell gave up his third hit of the first inning, an RBI single by first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron. Gil McDougald then walked on four consecutive pitches to load the bases with one out for Elston Howard. That brought up the game’s first mound visit. Danny Murtaugh headed out to pull Mizell. His start officially lasted one third of an inning, and it’s 1 – 0 with the bases juiced.

I felt sorry for Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar in Game 1. My heart is broken for Vinegar Bend Mizell. I can’t imagine how he felt to have the chance to pitch against the Yankees in the World Series only to get a single out before his unceremonious dismissal.

Chuck Thompson gave a great explanation of how the layout of Yankee Stadium made it impossible for the radio announcers to identify who is warming in the bullpens. That’s got to be incredibly frustrating. Evidently, the recessed bullpens in this park were built with maximized use of real estate in mind, but without much thought to the work that occurs in the press box. The park’s configuration must have been difficult on the official scorers, the broadcasters and the beat reporters. This was back in a day where all teams had beat reporters — lots of them. In the previous two games, Thompson was on top of all bullpen activity during the innings he called, always keeping us updated on movement of any kind as it related to relief pitching.

E — Howard gets an RBI with an infield hit up the third base line and the bases are still loaded, Yankees up 2 – 0. Two days after scoring 16 runs, the Yankees bats have not cooled at all.

Bobby Richardson, “one of the smallest men in baseball,” who sounds exactly like José Altuve, connected on a full count against Labine. A grand slam put the Yankees up 6 – 0.

R — Clem Labine helped me not feel so bad for Vinegar Bend Mizell anymore. Bobby Richardson hit a “man alive did he bust that one,” home run to left field. We are still in the first inning and the Pirates sound punchless.

Danny Murtaugh is back out of the dugout after Clem Labine gives up his fourth hit of the inning, and Fred Green takes the “long, long stroll” from the bullpen. This is Pittsburgh’s second reliever of the first inning of the game — and I think that says all any baseball fan needs to know about how well this is going for the Pirates. Fred Green allowed four runs in Game 2 in a single inning of work, so this may be a little bit like throwing Coleman fuel on an already raging campfire.

E — Only 25 outs to go for the Pirates.

R — Mercifully, Green is able to get an out and end the inning with New York up 6 – 0.

That’s two instances in three games where a starting pitcher logs one out before he gets the gate and heads to the showers.

E — The eleventh Yankees man to bat in the inning, Roger Maris, faced the third Pirates pitcher of the inning and earned the “That Guy” title from Bob Turley in the second game, making two outs in the same inning.

Last season, Adam Ottavino boldly stated he could “strike out Babe Ruth every time.” And then he signed with the Yankees in the off-season, which became the inspiration for this brilliant commercial.

I am not certain even he would want to pitch against this line-up.

Thirty minutes of Yankees’ hitters later, I gave up on the forkball. I do not think God originally intended for my fingers to go sideways.

The Second Inning

E — My favorite definition of “story” comes from Donald Miller’s A Thousand Miles in a Million Years. Story is “a character who wants something and has to overcome obstacles to get it.”

Obstacles increase almost exponentially the nearer the character gets to whatever it is they desire. Frodo and Sam are surrounded by tens of thousands of orcs and the ever-watchful eye as they approach the foot of Mt. Doom in Mordor. The Goonies are held hostage by the Fratellis with the treasure all around them on One-Eyed Willie’s boat before Sloth saves the day. Ray Kinsella faces foreclosure from the bank and his brother-in-law, before Doc Graham saves Karen from choking and opening Mark’s eyes to the possibilities of all the coming people.

The story of the 1960 World Series is the Pirates, who haven’t won the last game of the season for three decades, having to overcome the team that seemingly has won the last game each year for the last decade in order to obtain the championship. The future hall-of-famer laced lineup out of New York is relentless.

Mantle singled for the second time in the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch. There’s a reference made to Mantle trying to steal the catcher’s signs and I’m not going to say anything about the Astros, because relaying signs from second is part of the game. Pitching is all about throwing off the hitter’s timing. It makes a significant difference knowing what’s coming.

I remember the one time my assistant coach successfully stole signs. He was at first base and the pitcher only had two pitches, a fastball and a curve. Depending on which sign was put down, he’d say either your first or last name. “C’mon Bryan, you got this!” Curve. I waited for it and hit a screaming line drive, but foul. I ended up flying out on a fastball.

R — The Pirates are using journeyman catcher Hal Smith behind the plate instead of Smoky Burgess in this game. Hal Smith gunned down Mickey Mantle trying to steal third base.

Smith was signed by the Yankees in 1949, but bounced around the minors. He was in the St. Louis Cardinals system briefly before he finally managed to make the bigs with Baltimore in 1955.

Hal Smith worked as a house painter in the offseason.

Pittsburgh was the third of Smith’s five Major League stops.

It’s interesting how Yankees manager Casey Stengel is grappling between Yogi Berra, a hall-of-famer, and Elston Howard, a guy who should be a hall-of-famer, at the catcher spot, while Danny Murtaugh is choosing between two journeymen who each played for five different clubs: Smoky Burgess and Hal Smith.

The Third Inning

R — Whitey Ford threw another 1-2-3 inning, including a slow grounder back to the pitcher’s mound that caused Ford to make a difficult grab and throw to Moose Skowron at first base. Shortstop Tony Kubek made a backhanded grab on a sinking liner off the bat of Fred Green to end the inning. The Pirates have yet to have a baserunner. Announcer Jack Quinlan referred to Ford facing the minimum of nine batters three different times on the broadcast, which undoubtedly unnerved superstitious Yankees fans, or uptight persons in general.

E — It is noted that the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, threw out the first pitch for this game effectively announcing his retirement from the game after 19 seasons. Fierce rivals during the season, yet the Yankees provided a fitting tribute to the Red Sox slugger who, at the age of 41, hit .316 in his final season. His career on-base percentage (.482) is still an MLB record.

I still dream of throwing out a first pitch for the Royals. I just learned that the official title of the Catch 365 book is “A Year of Playing Catch: What a Simple Experiment Taught Me about Life.” I think throwing out a first pitch for the Royals would be a great way to launch the book. Surely no one else is lined up for the Tuesday night game in early September.  

R — Quinlan mentioned that the two managers have not named starting pitchers for Game 4, which is happening Oct. 9, the very next day. Quinlan speculated that we are going to see Ralph Terry for the Yankees against Harvey Haddix for the Pirates. This refusal to name a starter by both managers amazes me, and it must have driven gamblers of the day absolutely bonkers.

The crowd noise comes back to steal the show in the bottom of the inning when Bobby Richardson bats, as the Yankees fans applaud “Little Bobby” for his grand slam homer earlier in the game. The crowd microphone is really on point, and you can clearly hear the cheers. I realize that the audio Ethan and I are listening to has been digitally restored, but it must have been a wonderful listening experience for listeners at home to hear the ovation for Richardson.

The Fourth Inning

E — The first hit of the game for the Pirates goes to Bill Virdon, a lead-off double, just missing a home run over the head of Roger Maris. But the Pirates couldn’t do anything else and stranded Virdon at second.

R — Whitey Ford has thrown his first pitches to the last three consecutive batters for balls. This is one of my favorite tangents to go on during a broadcast where I’m not sure what else to talk about. I really, truly do feel that the first-pitch strike is one of the most underrated statistics in all of baseball, and when a pitcher throws the majority of his first pitches for strikes, he’s in for a quality start and a really good outing.

Whitey Ford threw a strike alright, a strike that Bill Virdon pummeled off the outfield wall for a double. My friend from King’s Way United Methodist Church broke up Ford’s perfect game in the fourth, so Jack Quinlan loses that storyline.

Ford makes another great defensive play, this time to the third base side, followed by a tough turn and throw to get the ball to Moose Skowron in time to retire Dick Groat. Based on Quinlan’s descriptions of the action, I’m visualizing the Ford is pitching well, but not overpowering. New York is making great defense plays, Ford himself included. It’s somewhat odd to talk about defensive baseball in a 6 – 0 game, but the flavor has shifted since the offensive explosion of the first inning. Ford and Fred Green, both left-handers are dueling now, though Green entered the game with a hefty deficit.

E — In the bottom half of the inning, former President Herbert Hoover entered the stadium to a standing ovation while Roger Maris was at the plate.

By age 9, Hoover was an orphan. He was raised by relatives in Iowa and Oregon where he completely surrounded himself with all things baseball. In 1884, at the age of 10, he started playing sandlot games and went on to play collegiately as the shortstop for Stanford University until a dislocated finger ended his playing career.

While President, Hoover threw out the traditional first pitch all four years on the opening days of the Washington Senators.

“The greatest moral training, except for religious faith, comes from sportsmanship,” Hoover wrote. “And baseball has had a greater impact on our American life than any other American sports institution.”

“I want more runs in baseball games,” he said in a speech at the 1940 Baseball Writers’ Annual Banquet. “When you were raised on a sandlot where the scores ran 23 to 61, you yearn for something more than a 5 to 2 score. You know as well as I do that the excitement, temperature and decibels of any big game today rise instantly when there is someone on base. It reaches ecstasy when somebody makes a run.”

Four months before his death, Hoover composed this message after receiving a pass for all major-league games: “That pass tells me it’s spring again! And I shall tell my doctors a ball game has more curative powers than their medicines.” I completely agree.

Hoover would not have been a fan of the strikeout-dominant games of recent years. “I protest that we fans are being emotionally starved and frustrated by long periods of perfect performance of these batteries. Moreover, when there are nothing but strikes and balls going on, you relapse into your worries over the Bank of England, or something else.”

The day after this game, Joe Garagiola interviewed Yogi Berra, who was inserted into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement.

“You amaze me Yogi, you’ve now become such a world figure that you drew more applause yesterday than either Prime Minister Nehru or Herbert Hoover.”

To which Berra replied, “I’m a better hitter.”

Hoover’s long-time friend Neil MacNeil said, “If there were any game being televised either in the afternoon or evening, you could bet he’d be watching.”

And Mantle responds to the President’s presence with another home run, tying the major league record, increasing the Yankees lead to 8 – 0.

Surely Hoover was delighted by the blast from the Yankees slugger.

I have no political aspirations whatsoever. That said, if I was ever elected President, I would make MLB’s Opening Day a national holiday, creating opportunities across the country for playing catch, sandlot games, and affordable ticket prices at all stadiums.

R — The duel unravels for Green shortly after I wrote about defense. This game is an unfortunate chapter in the up-and-down career of Fred Green.

Mickey Mantle crushed a homer into left field to score two more runs, and the Yankees lead 8 – 0. Mantle now has three bombs in this World Series, and is 3-for-3 in this game.

“When he hits them, they are really kissed,” Quinlan said of Mantle’s “two-run wallop.”

Green, a New Jersey native, allowed 11 hits and 10 runs in four innings of work in the 1960 World Series. Since we know Pittsburgh ended up winning, I wonder about the duality of thought that Green must have experienced. On one hand, he played in a World Series and his team won.

On the other hand, he personally did not have his best days.

Green’s widow, Mona Green, spoke of this conflict of thinking after her husband died. “Fred’s biggest thrill was playing in a World Series, although he didn’t pitch well. But the fact that the club won the Series delighted him very much,” Mona Green said in an interview for the book “Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates,” an excerpt from which was published on the Society for American Baseball Research website.

“Although he appeared to be throwing batting practice for Yankees hitters during the World Series, Green was named to The Sporting News’ 1960 All-Star rookie team,” the SABR piece reads.

In Green’s defense, he was pitching against Mickey Mantle. He pointed out that fact himself in a 1961 piece in the Pittsburgh Gazette.

“Sure, I did some thinking during the offseason about the way the Yankees hit me, ‘specially the two home runs by Mantle, but after all, we did win,” Green said. “I was trying to pitch Mantle in close with fastballs, but I got them just a bit too good where he could get his leverage on the swing. Gosh, if any pitcher would throw the ball to me where I threw them to Mantle, I could hit homers, too. I’m not proud of those pitches.”

I want very badly for a pitcher in 2020 to say he threw a pitch that was “too good” to a batter who took him for a home run. Baseball Twitter would lose its mind.

Nellie King, a former teammate of Green’s who had a broadcasting career, summed up Green’s life in the wake of his death in 1996.

“He was a journeyman … a good, friendly guy who had to work like hell to get where he was, but there are great players who never played on a championship team. He did.”

E — Red Witt, the fourth Pirates’ pitcher of the day, enters the game.

Howard singled to load the bases, and Richardson’s stepped to the plate with another chance to hit a grand slam. A single drives in two more. 10 – 0. And Richardson now holds the single-game RBI record that Mantle tied in Game 2.

The Fifth Inning

E — Whitey Ford continues to deal. The few good swings the Pirates get, his defense back him up. Only 1 baserunner allowed through 5 innings. Incredible.

Mantle collected his 4th hit of the game, this one left-handed, a ground-rule double. He just missed clearing the house again.

The Sixth Inning

R — For many years, all I knew of Whitey Ford was from an episode of The Simpsons. The Simpsons, as Ethan said, do baseball pretty well. One of the highlights of meeting Ozzie Smith, one of my childhood heroes, and interviewing him was asking him about his role on an episode called “Homer at the Bat,” which featured nine Major League all-stars.

The Simpsons do baseball in plenty of other episodes. For instance, the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, are named from an episode of The Simpsons when the Springfield club relocates to New Mexico. The Isotopes are the real-life continuation of a joke from a cartoon show.

On an older episode of the show, Marge Simpson starts her own business as the owner/operator of a Pretzel Wagon franchise — the American dream if ever there was one. To bolster business, Marge sponsors “Free Pretzel Day” at Springfield Memorial Stadium, an effort to convince baseball fans of her slogan, “One bite and you’ll be hooked.”

Before any bites are taken, the Springfield Isotopes announce the winner of a drawing for a 1997 Pontiac Astrowagon, and the winner is the occupant of Seat No. 0001, C. Montgomery Burns.

Mr. Burns is the billionaire owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and regularly plays the role of the old money, big business villain throughout the series. Needless to say, Isotopes fans were not pleased with what appeared to be the result of a crooked contest complete with Mr. Burns driving the Astrowagon off the field.

“And the fans do not like this one bit,” an overly cheesy-voiced play-by-play announcer says.

“And here come the pretzels.”

Here’s the brief cameo for the left-handed Yankees hurler.

“Hall-of-famer Whitey Ford now on the field, pleading with the crowd for… for some kind of sanity,” the equally cheesy-voiced color commentator says.

“Uh-oh, and a barrage of pretzels now knocking Whitey unconscious,” the play-by-play man calls.

“Wow this is a… this is a black day for baseball,” the color man says.

Later that day, Bart and Homer Simpson attempt to offer some encouraging words to Marge, because no one tasted the pretzels.

Bart: Oh, cheer up, Mom. You can’t buy publicity like that. Thousands and thousands of people saw your pretzels injuring Whitey Ford.

Homer: You can call them Whitey-Whackers.

I’m not sure a barrage of pretzels could have hindered Whitey Ford in Game 3 of the 1960 World Series. He is throwing an absolute gem.

E — Compared to the first half of the game, the last four innings positively flew by. No longer attempting to break my fingers on the forkball, I spent the majority of the time custom designing gloves on the 44 Pro Gloves site.

The Seventh Inning

E — The Pirates finally started to get to Whitey, with a single followed by a walk. Two base runners on, a brew is stirring, as one of my baseball Twitter friend’s likes to say. But a 1-4-3 double play ends the rally.

In the bottom half of the 7th, Mantle strikes out looking. It’s the first time he’s made an out at the plate in this game.

The Eighth Inning

R — Herbert Hoover’s appearance at the game happened at a pivotal time in the history of the White House. On Saturday, Oct. 8, 1960, the day this Game 3 is taking place, we are exactly one more month away from the 1960 presidential election.

The night before the game, on Oct. 7, a debate between candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy aired on television and radio stations across the country. This was not the famous debate in which Nixon had been sick and looked physically terrible on camera. This was the debate after that historical debate, which had happened back on Sept. 26. An estimated 70 million people watched the first debate on television.

Nixon and Kennedy actually debated each other four times (How can you have a best-of series with an even number of contests?). Two of those debates, the middle two, occurred during the 1960 World Series. The one referenced above occurred on an off day, when the two clubs were traveling from Pittsburgh to New York. It had about 50 million viewers. However, debate No. 3 will happen the same day of what will turn out to be a very exciting World Series baseball game.

I’ll get to that when the time comes.

The Ninth Inning

E — Hoover departed in the top of the 9th inning. I can’t say I blame him. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also left right after Hoover; significant applause was heard on the radio.

Virdon grounded out on the first pitch of the ninth. It took him three games to swing at a first pitch.

With two outs in the 9th, Clemente gets the Pirates fourth hit of the game.

Stuart followed Clemente’s single and Yankees shortstop Kubek erred, putting two on. Cimolli struck out to end the game, preserving the shutout.

The Yankees won 10 – 0 and now lead the series 2 – 1 with the next two games in New York.

The Pirates are facing quite the enormous obstacle.

R — Pittsburgh has been outscored 30 – 9 in three games, and 26 – 3 over the last two games.

Never have I ever claimed to be an expert on baseball, but I know that you are in serious trouble if you concede an average of 10 runs per game. New York, as most teams do in a shutout, sounded as though it played outstanding defense behind Whitey Ford all day.

As Ethan, Casey Stengel, and I debated what to do with Elston Howard and Yogi Berra catching, playing left field or sitting on the bench, Bob Cerv played a nice game in left field and had two hits and a run scored.

Ford finished a complete game four-hitter with three strikeouts against one walk.Chuck Thompson notes that Pittsburgh only had two major losing streaks during the 1960 season, losing four consecutive games on two occasions. Both times, pitcher Vernon Law acted as a skid stopper and pitched the Pirates out of the losing streak. It appears Danny Murtaugh may turn to the skid stopper for Game 4, a day earlier than originally forecast.

1960 World Series – Game #2

A tale of two All-Stars that’s almost as long as something Charles Dickens would write.

The First Inning

ETHAN — The broadcast started with the first pitch, no pre-show, no Gillette commercials, so I looked up the line-ups on Baseball Reference and was immediately surprised. Yogi Berra was the starting left fielder. The three-time AL MVP and perennial All-Star was in left field.

Side note: Congratulations to Alex Gordon, the Royals left fielder, who was recently awarded his 7th Gold Glove. I’m still dreaming of playing catch with him and getting some pointers for my play in left field in the Grip‘N’Rip Baseball League.

I honestly had no idea Yogi played anything other than catcher. During his career, Yogi played 265 games in the outfield, as well as two at first base and one at third. This was Yogi’s first start in left field in a World Series game. He was in the outfield in Game 2 to give Elston Howard, who hit the 9th inning home run in game 1, more at bats. I spent almost the entire game reading stories about Howard.

It was noted that Pirates’ pitcher Bob Friend is the oldest player on the team. I know that feeling. I was the oldest player on the CY Sports Cyclones and probably the least experienced, too. Fantastic combination. But Bob Friend was only 29 years old. He didn’t turn 30 until after the Series concluded. Bob wasn’t yet born the last time the Pirates were in the World Series.

RANCE — Pittsburgh pitcher Bob Friend broke into the league in 1951. He faced four batters but foreshadowed some struggles coming up later in the day by going to a full count against three of the four men he faced.

E — The “senior” hurler struck out Mantle to end the first inning, which was among the top of the highlights for the Pirates in this game. In the bottom half of the inning, Virdon showed great plate discipline, working a 3 – 1 count before flying out to left fielder, Yogi Berra. He hasn’t offered at a first pitch yet which is something else I’m going to try and track.

R — Whitey Ford is still not pitching.

We learn that Casey Stengel’s “to be determined” starting pitcher is Bob Turley, who went 9 – 3 for the Yankees in the regular season and seldom pitched a complete game. “Bullet Bob” was a three-time all-star, the 1958 Cy Young Award winner and the 1958 World Series MVP. However, we are two years past Turley’s time as the most dominant fireballer in the American League.

Turley might have been a throw-forward, or whatever the opposite of throwback is. Turley is described as a former “a flamethrower, a fastballing right-hander,” who now relies on curveballs, “slow ones and quick ones, big ones and small ones.”

Maybe Chuck Thompson could have impersonated Dr. Seuss when narrating Turley’s pitching.

Oh, the curveballs he’ll throw.

Slow ones and quick ones,

Big ones and small ones,

Red ones and blue ones,

Snarkles and snoo-ones.

Also in the bottom of the inning, we meet Pirates first baseman Rocky Nelson. He sat out Game 1 and replaced Dick Stuart at first base the next day, and batted in the cleanup spot. Rocky Nelson had eight different stints with five different Major League teams. He played for three different teams twice. This was actually his second time with the Pirates, and it would be his longest and final big league stop in a journeyman’s career.

Nelson is, “the possessor of perhaps the most peculiar batting stance in all of baseball,” according to radio announcer Chuck Thompson, who went on try to talk us through it.

“If you’ve not seen it, I would ask to you assume the pose of a bare knuckles fist fighter from many years ago, and then you would have your feet about in the position in which Nelson faces the pitcher. His front foot, in his case the right, the toe of it is pointed right straight out to the mound,” Thompson said. “He looks like he is about ready to sit down as each pitch is thrown.”

The Second Inning

E — From 1948 to 1950, Elston Howard played for the Kansas City Monarchs. His manager was the inimitable and amazing Buck O’Neil. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, thinks the museum contains a couple of pieces of Howard’s memorabilia, which means I’ll need to visit the museum again next time I head to KC. Also, it’s yet another reason I want a Monarchs jersey like Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes wore before the Sunday Night Football game against the Colts. Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Elston Howard, and Ernie Banks were all KC Monarchs. What a franchise.

In the top of the second, in his first at bat against old man Bob Friend, Howard struck out.

No score through two innings.

The Third Inning

E — In 1955, Elston Howard became the first African American to play for the Yankees. His first at bat came at Fenway Park, where he singled in a run.

With Ralph Wimbish, Arlene Howard wrote the book, Elston: The Story of the First African-American Yankee. In it, Arlene recalls a conversation she had with Jackie Robinson, “You know, in a sense, Elston had it tougher than me. At least I knew Mr. Rickey wanted me, but Elston didn’t know if the Yankees wanted him.”

R — The Yankees string together a 2 – 0 lead with an RBI single to center field from leadoff hitter Tony Kubek, who is now 2-for-2, and then a double into the left field corner by Gil McDougald that allows Kubek to come all the way around from first base to the plate to score. The ball apparently traveled just inside fair territory down the third base line, which sent Pirates catcher Smoky Burgess down to third base to talk to the umpire for the “first rhubarb of the series.”

I had to make sure “rhubarb” was the word that Thompson used, and it was. Rhubarb was apparently popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber, who may have drawn inspiration from a few different places. According to WordOrigins.org, radio actors from the “golden age of radio” used to repeatedly mutter the phrase “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb,” to simulate the sound of a crowd causing a ruckus.

“This has been a rather calm ballgame compared to the explosion of 24 hours ago,” Thompson said. “It’s burning rather brightly now for the Yankees.”

Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh, “a battler all his life,” got into the rhubarb with the third base umpire for a moment, but returned to his own dugout with his Buccos trailing.

E — Berra ended the Yankees half of the third inning flying out to Virdon. The Yankees then scored for the next five innings, which gave me plenty of time to read about Howard.

The Fourth Inning

E — After playing for the Monarchs, Howard was drafted to the Army during the Korean War and spent two years in the service. Howard went overseas, but he never fought. He served in the Special Services and played baseball in Japan as a representative of the US.

R — As rough as it’s going for Bob Friend in this era before pitch counts, he’s throwing strikes. He got Bill Skowron looking for his fifth strikeout of the game, then rung up catcher Elston Howard swinging for K No. 6. That whole “pound the strike zone” thing didn’t go so well for Friend when he gave up an RBI single to his pitching counterpart Bob Turley, and the Yankees extended their lead to 3 – 0. In 13 years, the American League would adopt the designated hitter rule.

E — Pitchers who rake are awesome. This game, however, is in a National League park, so the DH is a moot point. “You know, a cow’s opinion,” as Joey Tribbiani said.

R — Don Hoak’s RBI double to score Gino Cimoli means that, of course, we get to see Casey Stengel go out to the mound to talk to Yankees pitcher Bob Turley. Stengel gets two relievers up in the bullpen after Turley gave up three consecutive hits. Unlike in Game 1 with Art Ditmar, Stengel elected to leave his pitcher in the game, apparently softening on his hair-trigger handling of starters. I can’t pretend I haven’t already seen the final score of this game, and I know Turley keeps battling, because, “Well, you can understand his determination.”

It’s actually Pittsburgh which pulls its starting pitcher first. Gene Baker, whose journey to the Major Leagues is as interesting as it was long, bats for Bob Friend.

Baker served in the Navy during World War II, then caught on the Kansas City Monarchs in 1947. He played in the Pacific Coast League with the Los Angeles Angels, then an unaffiliated minor league club. He was called up to the Chicago Cubs in 1953, six seasons after Jackie Robinson had already broken in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Baker was 28 when he first appeared in a big-league game, and did so alongside another black player, Ernie Banks.

The Gene Baker we hear about in this series is on the downslope of a fine career, but is largely used in a reserve role with the 1960 Pirates. He would jump from playing into coaching in 1961.

Baker holds an interesting distinction in the footnotes of baseball history. Baker became the first black manager in affiliated baseball in 1961, when he served as a player-coach for the Batavia Pirates of the New York-Penn League.

He worked his way up to the Pittsburgh coaching staff. On Sept. 21, 1963, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh was thrown out of a game for arguing with an umpire. Baker, a bench coach, took over, technically becoming the first African American to manage a Major League Baseball team, albeit for only two innings of one game.

The first full-time black manager was Frank Robinson, also a player-coach, with Cleveland in 1975.

E — Yankees lead 3 – 1.

The Fifth Inning

E — In 1955, Howard’s rookie season, the Yankees faced the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. In his first World Series at bat, off Dodgers’ pitcher Don Newcombe, Howard homered.

Mickey Mantle once said, “We played together about 14 or 15 years, and I know that, if it hadn’t been for Elston, there’s about three or four pennants that we wouldn’t have been in. He helped win ‘em.”

R — Mickey Mantle’s first hit of the 1960 World Series was a home run to right field that scored Roger Maris. It was the Mick’s 12th World Series homer. Mantle hit an opposite field homer right-handed off of Pirates left-handed reliever Fred Green.

At the time, Mantle was three bombs behind Babe Ruth’s record of 15 career World Series home runs, but Mantle would go on to set the record of 18, and he still holds the record in 2019.

Just about everyone from northeast Oklahoma has some sort of Mickey Mantle story, even if they never actually met the Mick. I’m no different, I guess.

Once on a whim and with some time on our hands, my best friend Aaron Bates and I visited Mickey Mantle’s boyhood home in Commerce, Oklahoma. On Nov. 17, 2012, we drove from Ozark to Baxter Springs. According to an old song called “Choctaw Bingo” by James McMurtry, Baxter Springs is “one hell raisin’ town way down in southeastern Kansas.” It’s right next to where the state lines of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri all intersect.

We were in Baxter Springs so that Aaron could be interviewed as part of a documentary on the Joplin Spooklight, also known as the Hornet Spooklight, that would air on Investigation Discovery. As a matter of fact, it still airs sometimes on Investigation Discovery. He and I had produced a short film on the glowing ghost light while we were in college, and successfully entered the film in a festival at the Moxie Cinema in Springfield.

But I digress, we were in the neighborhood with time to kill. Aaron suggested we look up the boyhood home of Mickey Mantle in Commerce to see what we could see. We drove past it once accidentally, which gives you an idea of how humble it is. There are about three main streets in the small town of Commerce, where lead miners settled and lived, and the house stands on one of them, Quincy Street.

Photo courtesy Rance Burger
Photo courtesy Rance Burger
Photo courtesy Rance Burger

No one lives there now. Everything is locked up, so you can’t go inside. However, we could read a big plaque on the wall, stand on the front porch, and walk in the side yard next to an old shed. That old shed is the real tourist attraction. That shed reportedly stood as the backstop for a young Mickey Mantle to learn to become the greatest switch-hitter of all time. A young Mantle was first handed a baseball bat at the age of 5 or 6, according to an inscription on the house.

“Mutt, his father would pitch righty and Mickey’s grandfather would pitch lefty while teaching (Mantle) the fine art of switch-hitting. Every day when his father returned home from the mines, he and Mickey would start batting practice that lasted until dark.”

Mickey Mantle hit the baseball toward the house, which would have gotten most kids into serious trouble.

“They made up games to add some fun to Mickey’s batting lessons. A ball hit below the windows was a single, above the windows a double, the roof a triple and over the house was a home run,” the inscription reads.

“The Commerce Comet,” which no one outside of Commerce probably calls Mantle anymore, once said, “I was the only kid in town that didn’t get in trouble for breaking a window.”

Aaron and I walked around, stood along the wall of the shed, observed some dings on the side of the house, got back into the car and headed for Missouri. There was something childlike, simple and a little bit magical about the short visit to the Mick’s boyhood home.

E — Through 5, Yankees now lead 5 – 1.

The Sixth Inning

E — On the last day of the 1960 season, three days before Game 1 of the Series, Elston Howard sprained a ligament in his right ring finger. Doctors said he was supposed to sit out until at least Game 3. Stengel pinch hit him in Game 1 and he caught in Game 2.

There is mention of the grounds crew dragging the infield in the top of the 6th. Before I had reconstructive ankle surgery, I thoroughly enjoyed my few weeks as part of the Grounds Crew at Hammons Field, which recently won its 6th MiLB Field of the Year Award. Brock Phipps and Derek Edwards know their stuff.

Howard was the lead-off hitter in the top of the sixth and Chuck Thompson described his hit. “Here’s the curve, well hit to centerfield! Bill Virdon on the run. He’s going back, he’s near the wall, at the light tower…he can’t get it. It’s off the wall and the right fielder Clemente is up with the ball. Howard’s around second on his way to third and he’s in standing up. Bill Virdon crashed into the wall at the 436 sign right next to the big light standard in right centerfield. He failed to come up with that ball and it was a long triple.”

R — Elston Howard hit the ball 436 feet into right center field. The ball crashed off the wall, and Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon crashed into the ivy vines and the outfield wall. Howard went to third base safely with no slide, then scored on the ensuing double to left field by Bobby Richardson.

The man who made a catch immortalized with baseball cards and a statue the day before could not rob Yankees’ catcher Elston Howard.

E — And then the Yankees offense exploded.

Triple, double, passed ball, ground out, error, single, walk, bases loaded for Mantle.

R — We enjoy another rhubarb as Pirates’ pitcher Clem Lebine struck out Mickey Mantle looking with the bases loaded. Mantle got involved in a verbal exchange with the home plate umpire before retiring to the dugout. It was Mantle’s second strikeout of the game.

Lebine promptly gave up a 3-RBI base hit to Yogi Berra and the Yankees’ lead extended to 9-1.

Yogi Berra is seeing the ball well, which makes the managing situation with him and Elston Howard interesting. I am of the opinion that Berra’s bat needs to stay in the lineup, so I’m actually seeing eye-to-eye with Casey Stengel on Berra. However, I think the smart lineup move is the move Stengel made for this game. He started Howard at catcher, Berra in left field, and Hector Lopez on the bench. It’s not an easy move, as Hector Lopez hit .284 in 1960 with 42 RBI. I think Stengel needed to go with the hot hand, and he needed to get Howard in the lineup.

Speaking of Howard, he stayed hot with his second hit of the inning, an RBI single that scored Yogi Berra from third base. What’s more impressive and maybe frightening is that Howard broke his bat during that plate appearance. He didn’t do it on the hit, but by slamming the end of the bat on the ground as a gesture of frustration after he swung and missed at a pitch from George Witt.

E — Hello, Bo Jackson.

R — Howard had to retrieve a new bat to replace the broken one, and got his RBI base hit on the very next pitch. New York scored seven runs on seven hits in a monstrous inning.

E — And then Turley becomes “that guy,” making two outs in the same inning, flying out to Virdon.  

The Seventh Inning

E — After the 1955 World Series, Howard went with the Yankees on a 25-game goodwill tour of Japan. He led the team with a .468 average during the tour. That is my dream job. To go to other countries and make new friends and play baseball. I probably need to get a passport. Howard was the hero of the 1958 World Series, winning the Babe Ruth award for the most outstanding player. In this World Series, Howard hit .462, leading both teams in batting average and OPS.

R — Mickey Mantle’s life story is one of many great examples of a person being emotionally unable to handle fame and hero worship without dire consequences.

In Mayes County, Oklahoma, where I grew up, Mickey Mantle is still revered as a hero. Though he grew up formidably in Commerce, nearly an hour’s drive to the northeast, he was born in Spavinaw. There really isn’t much for the 400-something people of Spavinaw to be proud of apart from the spillway at Spavinaw Lake, where you can catch fish with your bare hands, and Mickey Mantle.

Actor Thomas Jane’s portrayal of Mantle in the 2001 film 61* came as a shock to many northeast Oklahomans, except for those who actually knew the man. Mantle was a flawed hero. Most real-life heroes are. Billy Crystal idolized Mantle, as many baseball fans of a certain age in that era did. Mantle spent all 18 years of his career in Yankee pinstripes. It was a rare feat then and an almost unheard-of accomplishment today for one professional athlete in any sport to stay with one team for his/her entire career.

E — Hello, Alex Gordon.

R — Billy Crystal directed 61,* which depicted Mantle’s struggles with alcoholism in a way that Mantle’s sons would shrug off as mostly accurate.

“I felt so bad sometimes when we were shooting,” Crystal said in a piece in the Oklahoman by Barry Horn which originally ran in 2001. “This is what the story had to be.”

Even Mantle’s own sons acknowledged their father’s struggles with substance abuse and infidelity in the wake of 61*’s release.

“It could have been worse,” Danny Mantle was quoted as saying. “You know, that was the way dad lived his life.”

Mickey Mantle batted right-handed for the second time in the 1960 World Series, this time with two runners aboard against left-handed Joe Gibbon. Mantle hit his second homer of the game, a 450-foot blast over the wall in center field and over the head of Bill Virdon. Mantle now has five RBI in the game.

“I don’t have too much opportunity to see Mantle. I’ve heard about his tremendous tape measure shots, but there is one that’s gotta go down. They must drive a golden spike into Schenley Park out there. That one won’t be forgotten for a long time,” Jack Quinlan said on the broadcast.

“Tape-measure shots” would be an often-repeated phrase when it comes to the Commerce Comet.

Mickey Mantle robbed Roberto Clemente of a base hit (and helped out Yankees pitcher Bob Turley) with a catch on the run in center field to start the bottom part of the inning.

In this game, Mantle is every bit of the boyhood hero he was for so many for so many years.

Mantle’s struggles with alcoholism were not born in a vacuum. In “The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood,” author Jane Leavy revealed that Mantle suffered sexual abuse as a child. Mantle himself estimated that he abused alcohol for 42 years, according to Leavy’s book.

Alcoholism likely contributed heavily to memory blackouts, anxiety attacks, and scores of other issues Mantle likely never discussed with anyone, at least not openly. By the time the Mick got help in 1994, it was too late for his body to recover. Mantle died of complications from cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in 1995.

The Eighth Inning

E — Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Howard was the AL MVP in 1963. A 12-time All-Star, he won 2 Gold Gloves, four World Series as a player, and two as a coach. Like his former manager and friend Buck O’Neil, who was the first black coach in the National League for the Cubs, Howard was the first black coach in the American League, coaching first base for the Yankees. He was there in 1974, the year Virdon managed the team. Odd fact, the year Virdon managed, the team never played a game in Yankee Stadium. Great trivia question. Future Royals World Series champion manager Dick Howser was also a coach on Virdon’s Yankees team.

R — Mickey Mantle robbed another Pirate of a hit with a grab on the move, this time a one-handed grab against Don Hoak.

As a society, we’ve made great strides when it comes to openly speaking about addiction and the importance of help and treatment for those who suffer from it. In Mickey Mantle’s time, a tremendous stigma surrounded substance misuse. Remnants of that stigma still linger today. Many people still can’t comprehend that Mantle drank, partied, and womanized like he did.

Today, we’d probably call it “toxic masculinity” or “jock culture,” or even hero worship, but it simply wouldn’t be becoming for a man of Mantle’s stature to struggle so openly with a serious mental issue beyond his control. People loved Mantle for what he could do on a baseball field and for the way he could talk to reporters about his life while sounding like an everyman.

Ballplayers were thought to be hard playing, hard living, hard drinking, hearty men. Mickey Mantle was a standout among that crowd, and Americans loved him for it. Mantle’s identity was so wrapped in being an affable, personable baseball star that it destroyed him. He struggled on mangled knees to continue playing the game, and he struggled with personal demons of who Mickey Mantle was away from a baseball stadium.

It’s become increasingly common for me to read or hear someone defend an athlete who makes poor decisions (or gets arrested, or really hurts somebody) by saying, “(Fill-in-the-blank)ball is all he’s got. If you take (Fill-in-the-blank)ball away from him, he’s got nothing.”

I don’t care if you’re Mickey Mantle batting .317 for the Yankees in 1960, Collin Fraley hitting .348 for the Drury Panthers in Division-II or Ethan Bryan going 2-for-5 as a “rookie” in the Grip’N’Rip Baseball League… There must be more to the man than just baseball. If you don’t know what the “more” is, than you need to find it.

Mantle, as many who struggle with addiction do, tried to find his “more.” I think he found it in storytelling. No one told better stories of Mickey Mantle’s nightlife antics with friends Whitey Ford and Billy Martin than Mantle himself.

There were funny stories shared of sneaking into hotels past curfew and the watchful eye of Casey Stengel, of a brawl at the Copacabana night club that resulted in a lawsuit and a hilarious story of Mantle taking the witness stand in a courtroom, and about staying out all night in Kansas City on the night Billy Martin was traded to the Athletics, then playing a game the next day.

Those effects caught up to Mantle later in his life. What’s more, Mantle’s behavior damaged the lives of his wife and four children. Mantle recounted his sons taking after their father and having their own battles with addictions.

In a 1994 interview in Sports Illustrated, Mantle discussed partnering with his sons to run a baseball fantasy camp.

“They all drank too much because of me,” Mantle said. “We never played catch in the backyard. But when they were old enough to drink, we became drinking buddies.”

In 1994, Mickey Mantle went to the Betty Ford Center in California for treatment. David and Danny Mantle recounted in Men’s Journal a conversation with their father in the booth of a New York City restaurant.

“We were sitting in that booth there after Dad got sober and apologized for not being a father,” says Danny. “He said, ‘I should’ve been home more, should’ve been more attentive, given you boys direction. It wasn’t right that Mom had to raise you herself. I was selfish, and I regret it.’”

“I think it was also the first time he told us he loved us after writing the letter to Mutt,” says David. “One of the hardest things you do at the Betty Ford clinic is write a letter to your father, and when Dad did it, he cried for two days. He apologized for not being a better player, for not taking care of his body. I guess that confession kinda opened him up, ’cause he was never big on expressing himself.”

In 1960, the best way Mickey Mantle could express himself was by hitting baseballs. He was great at it.

“For a long, long time now, they’ll be talking about the batting of Mickey Mantle in this ballgame today,” Quinlan said.

We did. Mantle is baseball’s ultimate anti-hero, and we all loved him for it.

The Ninth Inning

E — At the end of his playing career, Howard was traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox. Some sources say he considered retiring instead of finishing out the season out of a respect for the Yankees, but his wife talked him out of it. Fans of Howard had to be happy he was still playing, but torn he was wearing the red stirrups of Bean Town.

I used to collect the baseball cards of Dan Quisenberry, side-arming relief pitcher for the Royals, and, at one point, had all of them. Then, he was traded to the Cardinals near the end of his career. That was quite the dilemma as a fan. I never collected his cards with the Cards or the Giants.

Joe Posnanski wrote an incredible column about the end of Elston Howard’s playing career and why he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. “In 1967, Elston Howard hit .178/.233/.244. That was a 42 OPS+. It made him worth roughly 1.3 wins LESS than a replacement player. Somehow, he got an MVP vote.”

I’d love to see both Howard and Quisenberry in the Hall of Fame.

The game is over. The Yankees won 16 – 3 and evened up the series.


E — Elston Howard impacted future baseball players, too. He invented the baseball doughnut. I have one on a practice bat that I swing on a regular basis.

The Yankees struck out 11 times. The Pirates didn’t strike out once.

A new record was set. The most hits in a World Series game between two teams — 32, breaking the one set by Cardinals and Red Sox.