Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Two Heroes and Two Legends

The greatest website ever created is Baseball Reference. I can spend hours on that site just looking around. One of my favorite features is their collection of historic box scores. When I was growing up we didn't have cable. I had to find out scores of Red Sox games on the local news or the following morning from my father. We would get an afternoon newspaper and I would always get to it first and dive into the sports section and the box scores from the night before. Those were great days.
I started thinking about all the games I have been to in my life. So many great memories and even greater is the ability to access their box scores years later. This is the first installment of the Box Score Stories series. I figured it was only fitting that I chose Father's Day weekend to launch this new series since so many of my great childhood memories involve my father and baseball.
Weekend in New York
The very first installment will break the very first rule. This series is supposed to be stories and box scores from games I attended. I am making an exception this one time. Two of my heroes have always been and always will be my father and my late grandfather. My father grew up a die hard Willie Mays fan and I wrote about Willie and my father a few weeks ago here.My grandfather was a fan of Ted Williams. This is perfectly logical since my grandfather and Ted were the same age, both WWII veterans and both had similar personalities. They were members of the "greatest generation" and told you what was on their mind and didn't care if you liked it or not.
I never saw Ted Williams play. I have read countless books about him, watched documentaries and have stared at his page on baseballreference.com in amazement. If I had access to a time machine I would use it to go back and watch him hit from the box seats at Fenway Park.
My father saw Ted Williams play once. It was in Yankee Stadium and my grandfather took him. Ted hit a grand slam. My father would always tell me the story and explain how it was a pop fly homer. One of those cheap Yankee Stadium homers to right field. It is scary to think what Ted would have done if he played his whole career there.
The next day my grandfather and father went to Ebbets Field to watch a Dodger/Phillies game. I decided to look up this weekend and make it the first installment of Box Score Stories. It was 1957, late September. I wish I was there.
Saturday, September 21, 1957 Yankee Stadium
Attendance: 22,617, Time of Game: 3:13
W:Willard Nixon (12-12)
L:Bob Turley (12-6)
S:Ike Delock (11)
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Red Sox         1  6  0   0  0  1   0  0  0    8  9  2
Yankees         0  0  1   0  1  0   0  0  1    3 10  1
A big day for Ted Williams. He only had one official at bat and in that at bat he hit a grand slam. The Yankees intentionally walked him once and unintentionally walked him two other times. With the bases loaded there was no place to put him and he took Turley deep.
Mickey Mantle was near the end of another MVP season but he left this game early. I wonder if he was injured or if he had a rough night out with the boys.
Yankees with 94 wins are cruising to another pennant while the Red Sox are looking very mediocre. This was the norm for much of Ted's career. The Red Sox of the 40's were great. Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr were long gone by 1957 and the Red Sox would never be a threat again during Ted's career.
Bobby Richardson was also part of this game. Richardson is the father of Gamecock baseball. He was the first ever manager for the University of South Carolina and set the foundation for a college baseball power. I had a chance to meet Bobby a few years ago. I shook his hand and explained to him that I was a die hard Red Sox fan but was also an alum of the University of South Carolina. He smiled and said "we are both Gamecocks and that's all that matters". It sure does Bobby.
I also noticed the game lasted over three hours. This was considered very long back in 1957. I guess some things never change, the Red Sox and Yankees involved in a long game.
Sunday, September 22, 1957 Ebbets Field 
Attendance: 6,662, Time of Game: 2:16
 WP: Don Drysdale (17-9)
  LP: Robin Roberts (10-22)

                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Phillies        0  2  0   0  0  0   0  0  1    3  8  2
Dodgers         0  1  1   1  2  0   2  0  X    7  9  1
The big story here is Duke Snider. Snider homered twice and the seventh inning blast would be his last home run ever at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers would move to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. This was a fact that my father had not realized. He was just 11 years old at the time. I am guessing my grandfather made this trip to see a Dodger game before they left Brooklyn. I figured out this was the game where Duke hit his last homer because of a painting that was done by Bill Purdom as part of the Bill Goff collection. Below is a picture of that painting which is titled Duke of Flatbush.
Witnessing that in person makes for a special day but there are so many other story lines for this game. Look at the pitching matchup, Robin Roberts against Don Drysdale.
Roberts was 30 years old and at the end of a season in which he would have a record of 10-22. The 22 losses would lead the league and while Roberts would eventually be a Hall of Famer, he had already seen his last 20 win season.
Drysdale was just 20 years old in 1957. It was his first full season in the majors. He threw 99 innings in 1956. Drysdale's 1957 season was his break out season going 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA. Drysdale would go on to win 209 games for his career and end up in Cooperstown.
Don Zimmer was also involved in this game. He was in the starting lineup which was rare for Zim. He played in just 84 games that season and batted .219. He was 21 years away from managing the 1978 Red Sox and 46 years away from being thrown to the ground by Pedro Martinez.
It was a great weekend in New York City. Legends Duke Snider and Ted Williams were on display. My two heroes were there to see it all in person. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there but especially to mine. It is rare for me to have a baseball memory where my father is not in some way involved. I would not have it any other way. My grandfather has been gone now for almost two decades. I miss him more than ever. What I wouldn't give for a time machine programmed for September of 1957. Happy Father's Day.

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