Whitey, Mickey, and The Babe

002This post card arrives in the mail the other day. Oh, not as a postcard, but in an envelope with other stuff. From my father. These things just show up. On the back he notes that as a kid,  he watched Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play an exhibition game there. My father was from Johnstown and he was back there on a visit of some sort or another. The stadium, built in the 1920’s was apparently fairly run down when my father was back there in 1980.

The card reminded me of my first baseball game. I grew up where there was no professional baseball. My first game was on a trip to New York in 1961. Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were playing the Senators. The old Senators. Washington has recently gotten their team back, but aren’t using the name Senators anymore. Too much baggage, I suppose. Anyway, I remember it as a perfect game. The great Whitey Ford, the little lefty magician was pitching and having a great year. It was the end of June, and Whitey already had 13 wins against only 2 loses. A warm night in the Bronx for June, but that’s not what I remember. Whitey gave up a triple  in the first inning io a batter that would later score, but that was the last run he’d give up that night. Whitey pretty much mowed ’em down the rest of the way, in a game that was played in under 2 hours. Not an uncommon length back in those days. Can you believe it? That hardly ever happens anymore.

Anyway, Whitey goes on to win his 14th – and it’s not even July yet for God’s sake. And in the 6th, Maris had just knocked in Bobby Richardson to tie the game when The Mick steps up to the plate with Maris on 2d, and promptly smashes a screamer to deep center field. Being Yankee Stadium, it stays in the park, but Mickey could still really motor in those days. An inside the park homer. All the runs New York would need in a 5-1 win. It was Mickey’s 25th of the year.

Mickey would hit 54 that year, while batting .317. 128 RBI’s. Yet he finished 2d in the MVP race, losing out to Roger Maris. Well, 1961. Roger’s historic 61 homer year. 61 in 61. Not bad for a first game, huh?


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