Play Ball!
April 9, 2017


First came March first, which is my official spring starting point. Didn't arrive as it should have. Then came March 21st, the first official day of spring! Didn't happen again. Boys and Girls State Basketball tournaments are over with and March Madness, aka, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is also over with. Only one more thing is necessary for the warm weather to get here-the umpire announcing, "PLAY BALL."

IT'S BASEBALL TIME! Officially commenced last week. Both the Yankees and Cubs lost their first game. Can the Cubs win back-to-back World Series? Just how many games do you predict they will win? I'm going out on a limb and predicting 104 games this year. Haruumph! The Yankees might win ninety games if their lucky-very lucky. But right now, it's time to stroll down memory lane...

It's June 3, 1961 and the New York Yankees are playing the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Ball Park on the south side of Chicago. This is my very first Major League baseball game. I'm nine years old and Dad took me. I got my autographed "Mickey Mantle" Rawlings baseball glove and Dad and me are ready for that first pitch.

"Play Ball," the umpire yells. I couldn't hear him of course as we're way out in right field. But what an experience! The White Sox have Nellie Fox, Louie Apparicio and Minnie Mineso, and the Yanks have Mantle, Berra and Maris. I've got a bag of peanuts and we're ready to go.

The line-up that beautiful summer day in Chicago for the Yankees went like this: batting first and playing 3rd base was Clete Boyer. Tony Kubik, the Shortstop, batted second and then it was Roger Maris, batting third and playing right field. The clean-up hitter that gorgeous afternoon was none other than "The Mick" who also covered all of center field. Yogi Berra, playing left field that day, was fifth in the lineup and the big first basemen, Bill, (Moose) Skrowron, batted 6th. Elston Howard, giving Yogi a break at catching, batted seventh while all-star 2nd basemen, Bobby Richardson was eighth in the line-up. Finally the starting pitcher for the Yankees, Ralph Terry, was the final batter in the Yankee line-up. There was no Designated Hitter yet.

I have no idea what the line-up for the White Sox was that day. They were just simply the other team the Yanks would slaughter that day.

And what a game it was! 13 innings. Roger Maris hit his 14th home run of the season, the season in which he hit the record 61. Ya, I saw #14! Mickey Mantle, alias, The Mick, went 0-5, striking out twice. But mighty swings they were! The Yankees and Sox were tied in the eighth inning 2-2, when Maris got his pitch, hitting his home run, a three-run four-bagger. However, in the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox once again tied it up.

And so, extra innings it went. 10th, 11th and 12th innings produced nothing from either side. Yankees went scoreless again in the 13th inning and then the White Sox came to bat. Roy Sievers for the White Sox was the first batter of the inning. First pitch was a ball. He swung mightily at the second pitch but got only air. Third pitch was also out of the strike zone and then it came. Art Ditmer, who relieved Terry on the Yankee pitching mound, through a mean and hard fast ball, right down the middle of the plate. Sievers saw it "real good." He swung, the ball connected with the bat....and in a matter of seconds, that ball flew over the left field wall for a game winning home run for the Sox.

The Yankees lost 6-5!!! But I had a great time with Dad.1961 when baseball in the big leagues was really baseball. Have a great week and "PLAY BALL," it's now officially spring.

So warm up, dad-gumit! Let me know what you think about things at or call me at 319-327.4640.

Love those baseball stories.


Regular Size Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald