Before there was the Hearst Sandlot Classic

I have been researching the Hearst Sandlot Classic and interviewing several participants.

Hobie Landrith played in the game in 1948. He is best known, perhaps, as being the first round draft pick of the New York Mets in the expansion draft after the 1961 season. But his career started much earlier.

As Hobie told me, as a young man, he was highly touted, and his first national exposure had been in the Esquire Game in Chicago in 1946. I had never heard of the Esquire Game.

So I looked it up and found that it had started at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1944, a full two years before the Journal-American had its first Hearst Sandlot Classic.

Esquire’s All-American Boys Baseball Game: 1944-1946

For three years starting in 1944, Esquire Magazine sponsored All-Star games for 16-17 year old players, using an East-West format with players representing each of the 48 states. The first two Esquire All-American Boys Baseball Games were held at the Polo Grounds, before that game was moved to Chicago in 1946. Esquire dropped its sponsorship in 1947.

The 1944 Esquire All-American Boys Baseball Game in New York was won 6-0 by the East squad. The game featured a young man from Tilden, Nebraska at the catching position for the West Squad. He would return to the Polo Grounds often during his major league career, covering the expansive center field at the old ballpark. The managers in the game were none other than Connie Mack (East) and Mel Ott (West). Mack’s coaches were Al Simmons and Roy Mack. Ott’s coaches were Carl Hubbell and Bubber Jonard.

The young catcher from Nebraska wore number 1, and was somewhat frustrated that Ott did not include him in the starting lineup, especially as The New York Times had announced that he would be starting. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and never caught a game in the majors. His father Neal encouraged his becoming a catcher so as to facilitate his move to the big leagues. He also encouraged him to hit from the left side so as to take advantage of his speed. At the Esquire Game, East manager Connie Mack suggested that the young man become an outfielder. Not long thereafter, the youngster was moved to the outfield, and Richie Ashburn finished his Hall-of-Fame playing career back at the Polo Grounds with the 1962 New York Mets. However, his performance in the Esquire game was not particularly good. He went hitless in two at-bats and grounded out with two on in the ninth to end the game.

During his time in the majors Ashburn was notorious for hitting foul balls. On one occasion, as legend has it, he was playing with the Chicago Cubs. This was in 1960. Cubs’ pitcher Jim Brewer saw his wife walking in the stands towards to concession stands for a hot dog. Brewer pointed his wife out in the stands and asked Ashburn to slap a foul fall in her direction. Sure enough, the foul ball landed directly on Mrs. Brewer’s derriere.

Prior to the first Esquire game, there were festivities that kept the large crowd entertained. Featured were Abbott and Costello, actors Dana Andrews and Jay C. Flippen, baseball clown-prince Al Schacht, and the Gene Krupa Band. The umpires for the game were George Barr of the National League and Bill Grieve of the American League. Red Barber and Harry Wismer broadcast the game over a national radio network.

World War II was still very much going on and 500 persons were allowed to see the game free of charge for their efforts in a city-wide drive to collect waste paper. Also participation in the game was limited to 16 and 17-year old boys who had yet to reach the draft age.

Both Ott and Mack shared comments that were included in the scorecards sold for the game.

Ott stated, “The All-American Boys Baseball game is a great contribution in the nation in wartime. This game takes me right back to the days when I was a youngster playing baseball on the corner sandlot. I am very proud that Esquire has invited me to be a manager of one of the All American Boys Baseball teams.”

Mack added, “Please accept my sincere thanks for the appointment to manage the Eastern team in the All American Boys Baseball game sponsored by Esquire. I deem it a privilege to aid such a worthy cause as the “living memorial” fund and will contribute what I can to help the boys and baseball as a whole.”

In the pregame festivities, Babe Ruth said that it mattered little which team won the All-American contest so long as it was played cleanly and hard.

Proceeds went to the Community War Memorials Commission that built community recreation facilities with the funds.

Before the game, a photographer snapped a picture of the starting pitchers with the managers. A glance at the picture shows the East team’s pitcher wearing number 19. A crowd of 17,803 watched as the East team shut out the West team 6-0. The pitching star of the East team, that number 19, known as “Mr. Zero”, due to his numerous shutouts, pitched six scoreless innings for the win, and was named the game’s MVP. He signed with the Tigers and pitched for them in parts of the 1945 (he pitched ten innings over five games during the season and got a World Series ring) and 1948 seasons before being traded to the White Sox, where he blossomed. In 13 years with Chicago, he went 186-152 with a 3.19 ERA. He was named to seven All-Star teams, and led his league in wins (20 in 1957), strikeouts (186 in 1953) and ERA (1.97 in 1955). At age 35, when it looked like he was slowing down, Billy Pierce was traded to the Giants and his 16-6 record was vital as the Giants won the 1962 National League pennant. As for his number 19, it is one of ten numbers retired by the Chicago White Sox.

Pierce was a Detroit native and played on the sandlots with a team known as the Owls. His father, a druggist, was one of the team’s sponsors. Billy overcame wildness to become a successful high school pitcher. The school team received a great deal of coverage in the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, and before long, the scouts took notice. “In 1944, I went to New York for the Esquire amateur all-star game. I had never thought about being a major leaguer – I was taking Latin and physics in anticipation of becoming a doctor – but after going to the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, I got more of a feeling of what it would be like. The Tigers were my favorite team and I signed with their head scout, Wish Egan, when I was still 17. I finished classes on March 15, joined the Tigers (for spring training), and then came back in June and got my diploma.”

In addition to Ashburn and Pierce, Ervin Palica and Virgil Jester made it to the majors, and 19 of the 29 participants in the game went on to play professionally.

Palica hailed from Los Angeles and was the son of Austrian immigrants. Indeed, the family name was Pavliecivich. He had completed his sophomore year of high school in 1944 when he was selected to play in the game at the Polo Grounds. He was signed by Tom Downey of the Dodgers in 1945 and played professional ball through 1963. His best season was 1950, when he went 13-8 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After baseball, he became a longshoreman and died in 1982.

Jester never strayed far from his Colorado home, and signed with the Braves organization in 1947. Most of his career was spent in the minor leagues, where his record was 70-60 in nine seasons, including a career best of 13-6 in 1951 with the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. He reached the majors in 1952 and went 3-5 in 19 games for the Braves. His final win, a complete game 11-3 triumph over Brooklyn was the last game ever played by the Boston Braves. He was with the Braves briefly in 1953, appearing in only two games without a decision before being sent back to the minors.

One of the West team players, shortstop Jack Lindsey, made his way from Dallas, Texas to New York by rail, accompanied by Lewis Cox of the Dallas Times-Herald. Lindsey, according to The New York Times game day edition was the first player selected. During their week in New York, the players met with former New York Governor Al Smith, saw “Oklahoma”, and appeared on Babe Ruth’s radio program that was sponsored by A. G. Spaulding. Each of the players received a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. Lindsey, after the game, was taken on a road trip by the New York Giants. The Giants made him an offer, but he decided to go to the University of Texas. He was scouted by Wid Matthews of the Dodgers while playing at the University of Texas. After a year of college, he signed with the Dodgers’ Montreal farm club, but before joining the Dodgers went into the Navy. He was released from the Navy late in 1946 and went to his first training camp was in 1947. The team was training in Havana that year and he played on a squad with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Chuck Connors, Gene Mauch, and George Shuba. His path to the majors was blocked by Pee Wee Reese, and he played in the minors through 1954, getting as far as Class AAA. His best AAA season was at Montreal in 1950 when he batted .263. Jack remembers there being 26 farm clubs in the Dodger organization at the time. He was a part of a Fort Worth team in 1951 that set an outfield assist record with Gino Cimoli, Frank Brown, and Bill Sharman gunning down runners. After his playing days, Lindsey went into the insurance business. At age 87 in 2014, he is “still golfing, still dancing, and having a good time.”

The 1945 Esquire game at the Polo Grounds produced Curt Simmons who would go on to star with the Phillies and Cardinals. Managers were Babe Ruth (East) and Ty Cobb (West). Simmons emulated Ruth in the game. At the time, Simmons had just completed his sophomore year of high school and was 16-years-old. That summer, he pitched the Coplay American Legion team to the first of two consecutive Pennsylvania state junior crowns. His mound prowess earned him selection to an American Legion all-star game in Shibe Park in Philadelphia, where he struck out seven of the nine hitters he faced in three innings. From there it was on to the game in New York. He pitched the first four innings, allowing one earned run. He switched to the outfield for the final five innings, tripling and driving in a run during a three-run ninth inning rally as his East team came from behind to win 5-4.

Six players in addition to Simmons made it to the major leagues. They included Davey Williams, Bob DiPietro, Jack Dittmer, Vern Morgan, Herbert Plews, and John Thomas.

DiPietro was days shy of his 18th birthday when the game was played in New York. After graduating high school, with the draft approaching, he had met with a Navy recruiter. However, he elected to go to the game in New York. The military would wait until he returned from New York. And then, he enlisted in the Army.

In New York, DiPietro was selected as captain of the West team, and got a hit off Simmons in the game. He remembered a scene during practice when Babe Ruth was frustrated with one of his players in the batting cage.

“He (Ruth) grabbed the bat from one of the players and told the kid, ‘Get the hell out of the batting cage. You aren’t worth shit as a hitter.’ He said, ‘Carl (Hubbell), groove a few of ‘em here. Let me show them how to hit.’ Carl Hubbell was pitching! I look back. Cobb, Ruth, Hubbell, and what did I get? Zip (autographs)! Ruth hit six balls into the stands. It was the damnedest exhibition I’d seen. And he was in a sweat suit. But he had that great swing. Of course, the Polo Grounds, it was very short down both lines, but he hit a good drive to center field. He put on a show; it was great.”

DiPietro played 13 seasons in the minor leagues, batting .282 but only had a cup of coffee in the majors, playing in four games with the Boston Red Sox in 1951.

Davey Williams, after the Esquire’s game, signed with the Atlanta Crackers and went on to play six seasons at second base for the New York Giants and was in two World Series. In 1953, his best season, he batted .297 as was named to the national League All-Star team.

Jack Dittmer signed with the Boston Braves in 1950 and made it to the majors in 1952. He played in the majors for six seasons, batting .232. His best season was 1953 when he had a career high 134 hits, clubbed 23 doubles, and batted .266 for Milwaukee.

Vern Morgan signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1948 and finally made it to the majors in 1954. In parts of two seasons with the Cubs, he played in 31 games and batted .225. After his playing days, he managed in the minor leagues for eight seasons.

The last Esquire game was held at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1946 and six of the 16 players on the East team eventually made it to the majors. The group included Hobie Landrith, Chuck Stobbs, Harry Agganis, Pete Whisenant, John Powers, and Harold “Tookie” Gilbert. Gilbert’s father, Larry, was a former major leaguer, having played for the Miracle Braves of 1914. At the time of the game, Larry was managing at Nashville and took the day off to travel to Chicago and watch his son play. That final game was a slugfest with the West prevailing 10-4.

Harry Agganis was the top ranking player in the Eastern Massachusetts School league, and was sent to the game by Ernie Dalton of the Boston Globe. He was only a sophomore at the time. The following year, he would be in the Hearst Classic in New York.

Tookie Gilbert, representing New Orleans, was sent to the game by Fred Digby of the New Orleans Item. He was seen as the outstanding prospect of those playing in the game, having never hit below .600 in his school and sandlot play. He signed with the New York Giants and made his way to Nashville in 1949, batting .334 with 33 homers in 154 games. Manager Leo Durocher of the Giants thought he was ready for the big leagues and, after an exceptional spring training, Gilbert made his debut on May 8, 1950 with the Giants, the heir to the first place job open since Johnny Mize had been traded to the Yankees late in the 1949 season. Gilbert played 111 games in 1950, but his .220 batting average showed that he had been called up too soon. He was sent back to the minors, returning to the Giants for an unproductive 70 games, batting only .189, in 1953. That was the end of his major league career.

Pete Whisenant hailed from Charlotte, North Carolina and was selected for the game by Wilton Garrison of the Charlotte Observer. He made it to the major leagues with the Boston Braves in 1952 and played parts of eight seasons for six different teams.

Chuck Stobbs was a hard hitting, hard throwing first baseman and pitcher from Norfolk, Virginia, starring at Granby High School. He had starred in the Eastern Virginia-Western Virginia All Star game, pitching his squad to a 7-1 win and earning a trip to the game in Chicago. In Chicago, he was selected the game’s MVP. He signed with George “Specs” Toporcer of the Boston Red Sox and was with the Red Sox organization through 1951, posting a 33-23 record in Boston. Later on, he pitched with the Washington Senators for nine years. He is perhaps best known for one pitch. On April 17, 1953 at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC, Mickey Mantle sent one of Stobbs’ offerings far and long. The tape-measure shot was said to have gone 565 feet before coming to a rest. Stobbs went on to win 107 games in the majors (with 130 losses), but that one pitch will never be forgotten.

Hobie Landrith of Detroit was selected for the game by Lyall Smith of the Detroit Free Press. In 1948, he played in the Hearst game.

John Powers hailed from Birmingham, Alabama. He was selected for the game after starring in the Alabama All-Star game sponsored by the Birmingham News. In that game, his three doubles impressed the judges, one of whom was Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler. He had 304 homers as a professional, all but six in the minor leagues. He slammed 298 homers in 13 seasons. Twice, with Class B Waco in 1950 and with Class AA New Orleans, he banged out 39 dingers. He played in parts of six seasons in the major leagues but only batted .195 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 215 at-bats.

Esquire had hoped to take the game to a different city each year, but these hopes were dashed and there would be no further games after 1946.

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Baseball’s Longest Day – May 31, 1964

“Well, You Don’t Beat our Guys in a Hurry”[i]

It’s hard to believe it was more than 50 years ago.  I was a senior at West Babylon High School and the Giants were coming to Shea Stadium for the first time to play the Mets.  In those days, I was a big Giants fan and each time they would come to town I would go to the local Howards Clothes Store and reserve my ticket.  Sometimes I would drag a family member or friend along.  Sometimes I flew solo.  On May 31, 1964, it would just be me.  That morning, I decided to make a stop at the World’s Fair and check out a few exhibits before heading off to the ball park.

At the end of what was to be baseball’s longest day, I put my thoughts together in an article.  After I retired, I was cleaning out the basement and discovered my paper which was written for my creative writing class.  I dusted it off, did some updates, and now, here is the story of that wonderfully exciting first visit to Shea Stadium.

Across from the magnificent 1964 New York World’s Fair stood a spacious new arena known as Shea Stadium.  During the spring and summer months, baseball was played there.  In the fall, football attracted fans to the arena.  In fact, the first sporting event in the history of Shea Stadium was a Jets football game. This story concerns baseball and, more specifically, two teams that on a part cloudy, part rainy, part clear, and much too long day, played a doubleheader during which records were set, broken, and made altogether unrecognizable – and after which the result was absolutely clear.  The San Francisco Giants had swept two games from the New York Mets.

The “Official Program and Scorecard,” available at the Stadium, included a number of features, one of which was a higher price than existed during the days when the Mets played their home games at the Polo Grounds.  Late on that day, looking around the stadium, you could notice that it was very difficult for those keeping score (most had given up), to find room on the scorecard to keep an account of the second game as it went into its latter stages.

Clouds hung overhead as I joined with the first remnants of the crowd entered the Stadium.  The time was half past ten.  It was unbelievable, unless you had seen the lines of fans outside the stadium purchasing tickets (and knowing that the lines were longer than any that existed on the other side of the tracks at the World’s Fair) that the crowd would eventually number 57,037, paid.  It would be the largest major league crowd of the season, breaking the record of 55,062 that the Mets and Giants had set two days previously. The attendance figures for the Mets-Giants series – 150,571 – were the best since the 1963 World Series when the Los Angeles Dodgers, formerly of Brooklyn, had defeated the New York Yankees.

By noon, most of the seats not sold in advance had been gobbled up.  However, a mist like rain began to fall.  Umbrellas sprung up all over the park, and some spectators elected to purchase hats in order to shield their heads from the steadily falling rain.  The rain stopped just as the game was to begin.  The time was 1:05 PM.  The Mets took the field and were wildly applauded by their fans.  The Mets, for those who do not know, were an expression of human futility.

The Mets gave their fans something to cheer about in the second inning.  Joe Christopher, who, as the day passed into night, gained a great following in right field, singled.  Ed Kranepool singled. Ed was tired. Regular first baseman Tim Harkness had suffered an injury and Kranepool had just been called up to the Mets from their Buffalo farm team after playing a doubleheader for the Triple A affiliate. The doubleheader in Syracuse and been a day-night affair, and Kranepool, who had received word of his call-up between games on Saturday.  Prior to getting the word, he had clubbed two homers a double and a single as the Buffalo Bisons defeated the Syracuse Chiefs 9-0 in the matinee.  In the nightcap, Kranepool added three singles, but his Buffalo squad lost 5-3.  To sum it up, during the course of those two games, he had gone 7-for-10 with two homers and five RBIs.[ii]  The nightcap was played in two hours and thirty seven minutes, but by the time the team had returned to Buffalo, it was 1:00 AM, and he had to wait until early Sunday morning for the next flight out of town.  Kranepool caught a 6:00 AM flight from Buffalo to Newark.  He did not get to Shea Stadium until 10:30 AM on Sunday.[iii]

With two men on base, Giant Pitcher Juan Marichal faced Jim Hickman, an original Met commonly known as “Whiff,” due to his propensity to take far too many called third strikes.[iv]      Hickman put the Mets ahead with a three-run home run over the left field wall.  This scoring represented the first runs scored by the Mets for starter Alvin Jackson after 37 fruitless innings.  It was also Hickman’s second homer of the four game weekend series.  His two run homer in the seventh inning on Friday night had provided the margin in a 4-2 Mets win over Jack Sanford.

The score remained 3-0 until Jesus Alou, batting against Jackson, knocked in Orlando Cepeda with San Francisco’s first run in the fourth inning.  The Giants took the lead with three runs in the fifth inning, all charged to Jackson.  After allowing the first three batters to reach safely, Jackson was relieved by the former Yankee, Tom Sturdivant.  The lead run was scored by the Baby Bull, Orlando Cepeda.  Cepeda’s double had scored Willie Mays and moved Jim Ray Hart to third base.  A sacrifice fly by Jim Davenport scored Hart and moved Cepeda to third. Then, the remarkable happened. Cepeda stole home.  His steal was remarkable in that Sturdivant’s knuckleball appeared to have the runner beaten by at least ten feet.  Some observers speculated that catcher Jesse Gonder’s better-than-average stomach got in the way of the tag.

The Giants completed the scoring in the ninth when Harvey Kueen drove in Jesus Alou with the Giants’ fifth run.  Juan Marichal completed the game by striking out two batters in the ninth inning, bringing his total to seven. In wrapping up his eighth win of the season, the San Francisco ace allowed nine hits.  The time of game was 2:29.

Between games, the Sunrisers Band from Mineola, Long Island, presented entertainment for those fans wishing to remain in their seats. As the musicians completed a fine performance, the two teams returned to their respective dugouts.

The Giants continued their scoring binge as they took the second game lead with two runs in the first inning of the Mets’ starter Bill Wakefield. The runs were driven in by Jesus Alou and Willie Mays. The Mets closed the gap by scoring an unearned run off the Giants’ Bobby Bolin in the second.  A four run outburst by San Francisco in the third inning widened the gap to 6-1.  Met Pitchers Craig Anderson and Tom Sturdivant were victimized by the Giant rally which featured six singles and no extra-base hits.  Singles by Jesus Alou, Cepeda, Tom Haller, Chuck Hiller, Jim Ray Hart, and Bolin caused some fans to head home.  The exodus was slowed but not stopped when the Mets scored two runs in the sixth inning.  The rally featured singles by Christopher and Charley Smith sandwiched around a triple by Kranepool past Mays in center.

In the Mets’ half of the seventh inning, Roy McMillan and Frank Thomas singled.  Joe Christopher then stepped in.  The count went to 3-and-0.  Encouraged by his supporters in right field, he hit the next Bobby Bolin pitch to deepest centerfield, 410 feet from home plate.  The biggest roar of the afternoon came as Mays, the great San Francisco centerfielder, leaped against the wall and, with his glove extended over the wall, grabbed the ball as it was leaving the field.  He came to the ground with his glove high in the air, signifying for all to see that he had caught the ball. There was one thing wrong, however.  There was no ball in the glove.  After Christopher had circled the bases and touched home plate, the score was knotted at 6-6.

From that point on, the score remained tied.  It was not an absolute pitchers’ battle however, as Cepeda, Haller, and Jesus Alou maintained hot bats for the Giants against the superb Met relief pitching of Larry Bearnarth and Galen Cisco. In the top of the tenth, Haller tripled but was stranded at third as Bearnarth got pinch hitter Matty Alou to ground out.  Shuffling of players between positions became commonplace. In the bottom of the eighth, after Willie McCovey had pinch hit for shortstop Gil Garrido, Jim Davenport was inserted into the game at shortstop.  In the bottom of the tenth, after Matty Alou had pinch hit for Jim Ray Hart in a lefty-righty switch, Davenport was moved to third base (his natural position) and Willie Mays took over at shortstop.  Mays, temporarily, was replaced in centerfield by Matty Alou.

The Mets, especially Charlie Smith and Christopher, would get some hits, but were unable to convert anything into a run.  The hits were singles, and the Mets were not able to bunch three singles together to score a run.  The pitchers were in control.  Giant relief ace Ron Herbel pitched the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. Bearnarth of the Mets pitched from the 8th through the 14th inning.  In his seven innings of work, he gave up three hits and struck out four.

But Herbel and Bearnarth’s accomplishments were to be overshadowed by the exploits of Gaylord Perry of the Giants and Galen Cisco of the Mets.  Two weeks prior to this game, Perry and Cisco entered the game in the late innings of a 15 inning affair at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.  In that game, Willie Mays had sent the game into extra innings with a home run and the Giants went on to win 6-4, as Jim Davenport’s homer off Cisco sent everyone home.

On this day, Perry, still young and unproven, entered the game in the bottom of the thirteenth, and there were wholesale changes in the fielding alignment.  Mays went back to centerfield.  He did not have anything hit at him during his three innings at shortstop. Davenport went back to shortstop and Cap Petersen took over at third base.  Matty Alou moved from centerfield to leftfield, replacing Harvey Kueen.

In “Me and the Spitter”, Perry devotes his entire first chapter to the events of that day.  He lists the records set that day and concludes by saying that “they saw Gaylord Perry throw a spitter under pressure for the first, and hardly the last, time in his career.”  Before May 31, 1964, Perry was the eleventh man on an eleven man pitching staff.  The twelfth man was in Tacoma (the Giants Triple A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League).”

In the thirteenth inning, Amado “Sammy” Samuel reached Perry for a single.  This was followed with a single to right field by Roy McMillan.  A great throw by Jesus Alou cut down Samuel trying to advance to third base.

In the fourteenth, the Giants had Jesus Alou on second and Mays on first with none out, with the great Cepeda coming to the plate, prompting more fans to head for the exits.  Dark, with fast runners on base, put on the signal for a hit-and-run play.  It was the obvious thing to do, and why shouldn’t Dark have made that call with Cepeda, the hottest bat in the Giant lineup, coming up. Well, as one Met fan may have reasoned – if Cepeda should hit a line drive at an infielder, there could be a triple play.  He hit a line drive that shortstop Roy McMillan grabbed. He stepped on second and fired to Kranepool at first.  The Mets had the triple play, the fans returned to their seats, and the game went on. 

In the Mets’ fifteenth inning, Perry was struggling.  Hickman had singled and advanced to second on Smith’s sacrifice bunt.  Haller went to the mound and instructed Perry him to try out that “new pitch” that he had been working on.  If there was ever a time to use it, this was it. Haller said, “It’s time to break the maiden, kid.  I think you can do it.”  Before resuming his position behind the plate, Haller told Perry, “Throw it when you can get it on the ball.  Don’t worry about me.  You throw it.  I’ll catch it. Let’s go.”

Chris Canizzaro stepped in and Perry loaded it up.  Five spitters later, the count went to three-and-two.  Perry unleashed a fast ball and Cannizarro checked his swing.  Umpire Ed Sudol awarded Cannizzarro first base.  What followed was the best argument of the long day. Dark argued that umpire Ed Sudol should have conferred with the other umpires before making the decision.  Sudol, whose temper had become very hot, quickly ejected Dark.

Sudol’s temper was short, as Cannizarro, earlier in the at-bat, had fouled the 0-2 pitch off Sudol’s foot. His temper made even shorter by hunger.  Someone had forgotten to bring food to the umpires’ quarters between games. Before he left the playing area, the Giant manager put the game under protest. The base on balls was not fatal.  While the commotion was going on, Gaylord loaded up another spitter and Cisco hit a ball back to Perry.  Perry fired to Davenport who threw the still wet ball to Cepeda to complete the inning-ending double play. Cepeda rolled the ball back to the mound ever so slowly, so as to allow the ball to dry.[v]

From then on, Sudol became the target of taunts from the Giant fans in attendance.

At this stage of the game, the impatient fans could hear constant police whistles as fights sprang up around the stadium.  Hunger was a problem throughout the park.  The vendors had left the park at 8 o’clock.  Even before that, most fans were not about to leave their seats for food, fearing that they might miss an important piece of action. Up until that advanced stage of the game, the spectators had felt that the game would not last more than fifteen innings. Over the course of the day, twenty-four innings had been played before their eyes, and those eyes were beginning to close. It looked as though the game would go on forever.

The Mets were not going to remove Cisco, as they had run out of pinch hitters.  The Giants had back-up catcher Del Crandall on the bench available for pinch-hitting duties, but opted to leave Perry in the game. Perry, in relief, went on to strike out nine batters, allowing seven hits.  In the top of the 20th inning, Haller singled with one out, was slow getting back to first on a fly ball to right by Hiller, and was thrown out by Christopher.

It seemed as if every longevity record would fall.  The first record to fall was time for a doubleheader, followed by innings in a doubleheader.  The record for time for a doubleheader had been 8:07, set by Houston and Cincinnati on July 8, 1962.   The record for innings in a doubleheader had been set at 29 by the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1905.  Interestingly enough, those two teams also played a 24 inning game on September 1, 1906. The Mets and Giants went into the twenty-third inning, and it became clear that the single game record for time would quite obviously be broken. The teams set a new record as they went into the eighth hour of the second game.  The record had been 7 hours, set by the Yankees and Tigers on June 24, 1962.  After that game, as I recall, Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford noted, “If anyone had a beer between innings as prompted by the commercials, they’re pretty drunk by now.”

In the Giants’ half of the 23rd inning, Hiller and Matty Alou were out before some fans in the front row had time to sit down from their between inning stretch.  Jim Davenport, who had been excelling in the field, then stepped in.  The crowd roared as he hit a ball that travelled into the right field corner.  By the time a very tired Joe Christopher could retrieve the ball, Davenport was standing at third base with a triple.  Met Manager Casey Stengel ordered Cisco to intentionally walk Cap Peterson, bringing up Perry.  Perry was not your typical hitting pitcher.  He was worse, and had gone 0-for-3 with a strikeout and two ground balls. The brain trust of the Giants sent in Crandall to pinch hit for Perry.  Of course, Giant fans were a bit apprehensive as Perry was not showing any signs of tiring on the mound. Crandall proceeded to break up the game, plating Davenport with a ground rule double to right field. Peterson advanced to third and scored on an infield hit by Jesus Alou.  The Giants took an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the 23rd inning, Bob Hendley then came in to settle the issue retiring the three Mets he faced, striking out two. Very few fans were around for the finish.  Estimates run from 8,000 to 15,000, but they may be on the high side.

In the twenty-third and final inning, two records were set.  One was about dexterity, and the other was about time.  The strikeouts by Hendley brought the total by Giants’ pitching for the game to twenty-two, eclipsing the mark for strikeouts in an extra-inning game (21), set initially by the Phillies against the Pirates in a fourteen inning win on September 22, 1958 and tied by Tom Cheney of Washington in a sixteen inning complete game against Baltimore in 1962.  When Jesus Alou caught the final out, the game became the longest ever, in terms of time, to be completed in the history of the major leagues – 7 hours and 23 minutes.

Fans filed out of the ball park, and the looks on some faces implied that some fans were hoping for the game to last even longer so as to break more records.  None of the Met fans seemed to mind the loss because in that loss there had been several wins – the thrills of such a game, including a triple play, the fact that the Met pitchers had kept the Giants scoreless for twenty straight innings, and the realization that it would not be hard to fall asleep.  How could you stay awake after a game like that?

Postscript and Update:

The core of this presentation was originally written in June, 1964.

The game took place a few days before the twentieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion.  Darryl F. Zanuck’s feature film, “The Longest Day” had been released in 1962 and was still showing in theaters at the time the games of May 31, 1964 were played.  Writers in at least three New York Newspapers used “The Longest Day” to headline their articles.

In those days, fans would come early for batting and fielding practice.  Fielding practice for the Giants was always a highlight as Willie Mays played at shortstop during the infield drills.  Thus it was no big surprise when Giant manager Alvin Dark played Mays at shortstop during the nightcap.

Both teams played shorthanded.  Mets second baseman Ron Hunt (spike wound) and Giants shortstop Jose Pagan (rib muscle tear) were on the shelf due to injury.  Kranepool was one of two recent acquisitions to see action that day.  The Mets had bought pitcher Frank Lary from Detroit.  He arrived after the first game had begun and was pressed into service in the sixth inning of the second game.  As he walked onto the field, Met organist Jane Jarvis played “Hold That Tiger” and the fans welcomed the old “Yankee Killer” with a standing ovation.  He stopped the bleeding, pitching two shutout innings.[vi]

A game of thise length lends itself to second guessing and there was significant second guessing of Stengel, who by 1964 and a third year of losing baseball, had become a favorite target of the local media, particularly Howard Cosell.  In bottom of the second inning, with the Mets behind 2-0, Stengel pushed the button.  He elected to send up George Altman to pinch hit for pitcher Bill Wakefield.  He received an intentional walk.  Then Stengel used his other left-handed power threat, Jesse Gonder, to pinch hit for Rod Kanehl. Gonder flew out to end the inning, and when the 23rd inning came around, the only pinch hitter available was John Stephenson, who struck out.

Stengel also took some heat for his moves in the top of the 23rd inning.  After Davenport’s triple, he elected to walk the light hitting Cap Peterson.  Peterson had gone 0-for-4ince entering the game in the 13th inning and was batting all of .158. Peterson’s walk set the stage for Del Crandall’s game winning double.

Of course, Dark took some heat for sending the runners in the 14th.  McMillan had no trouble initiating the triple play.  Had he not been covering second, Cepeda’s liner would have gone through for a run scoring hit.  

Shea Stadium did not see much baseball activity in the fall months during its first years of existence.  There was post season play starting with the Miracle Mets of 1969.  Shea Stadium was torn down prior to the 2009 season and replaced (to use a song lyric) with a parking lot.  There was a certain irony that, in that morning’s New York Times, there was a story about the demolition of the Polo Grounds, a Stadium that both the Mets and Giants called home.[vii]

The New York Jets played at Shea Stadium until they moved to Giants Stadium in New Jersey in September, 1984.  One of Shea’s drawbacks, abundantly clear on that day, was that there was little protection from the elements.

The New York World’s Fair lasted from 1964 through 1965.  Not much is left.  The Unisphere was US Steel’s contribution.  The large globe is still there, as are the towers of the New York Pavillion that served as a back drop in the movie Men in Black. The Singer Bowl was renamed the Louis Armstrong Arena and is part of the US Tennis Center.  It has played host to numerous US Opens and now stands aside Arthur Ashe Stadium.  The Disney produced program “Carousel of Progress” at the GE Pavillion was moved to Walt Disney World in Florida and my eyes still well up with tears each time I visit – There is a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.

Christopher was to go on to play 154 games in 1964 and bat .300. It was a great series for Joe.  In the Friday night opener, he singled to drive in Frank Thomas with the tying run, and scored on Hickman’s home run.  On Memorial Day, Joe had driven in three runs as the Mets beat the Giants 6-2.  During the Doubleheader, he went 5-for-14 and raised his average from .325 to .330. During the course of the doubleheader, he, along with Roy McMillan, Eddie Kranepool, Frank Thomas, Jim Hickman, and Jesus Alou had 14 at-bats, eclipsing the old mark of 13.

And yes, Orlando Cepeda did steal home.  In the early stages of his career, Cepeda was most definitely a stolen base threat.  Over the course of his career, he had 146 thefts, including 23 in 1959.  And yes, Kranepool tripled past Mays. Willie got over it and went on to with his eighth consecutive Gold Glove Award.  However, during the course of the doubleheader, Mays saw his batting average decrease 19 points to .364, and he went from second to fourth place in the batting race.

Roy McMillan of the Mets had the game of his life.  During the course of the second game, he had 10 assists and five putouts.  Not only did he start the triple play in the 14th inning, but he also made a dazzling play in the 12th inning.  With Cepeda at second, he grabbed a grounder off the bat of Haller and was able to tag Cepeda before the Giant first baseman could get back to the bag. He almost gunned Haller out at first.  He also was able to convert a bad-hop grounder off the bat of Jesus Alou into a force play during the 11th inning, preventing Jim Davenport, who was on second base at the time, from scoring.[viii]      

Gaylord Perry, prior to this outing, had minimal success.  In this game, he used a new pitch, his “hard slider”, to dominate the Mets.   Over the course of his more than twenty year career, many accused him of doctoring the ball.  Perry also went on to pitch 10 or more innings in a game on 37 separate occasions – more than anyone since 1950.[ix] 

The second game ended at 11:25 PM, prompting Met announcer Lindsey Nelson to say that it had been the longest game ever broadcast in color.  In New York, TV ratings were higher than those for such stalwarts as “What’s My Line?” on CBS. Only Ed Sullivan and Bonanza topped the Mets in the Ratings on that day. For New York’s Channel 9, WOR, the ratings bonanza was somewhat of a financial disaster.  They had to cancel the scheduled programming which would have generated advertising revenue, and the Mets’ sponsors had paid a fixed rate, virtually getting four hours of free advertising.[x]

I took the subway to Woodside, Queens and transferred to the LIRR for the long trip to Babylon.  Mom came to pick me up at the station.  The next day was a school day.  In homeroom, I mentioned that I was at the game, and the girl to my left had also been there.

Five future Hall-of Famers were in the second game for the Giants: Mays, Cepeda, Perry, McCovey, and Duke Snider.  Another Hall of Famer, Marichal, had pitched in the first game of the doubleheader.

The extra- inning game team strikeout record has been eclipsed on four occasions.  The record, set by the Oakland A’s (in 20 innings) in 1971, and tied by the Angels (also in 20 innings) in 2004 stands at 26.  The Giants came to within two of setting the all-time double header strikeout record.  The Phillies stuck out 31 Pirates in a double header on September 22, 1958. Combined team strikeouts were equally impressive.  Mets and Giants pitchers combined for 36 strikeouts in the second game and 47 strikeouts for the doubleheader.  Prior to May 31, 1964, the single game strikeout record had been 33 (Phillies and Giants in 1958), and the doubleheader record had been 44 (Indians and Red Sox – 1963).  Over the years, both records have been eclipsed. The single game record, set in 1971 by the Angels and A’s, is 43. The doubleheader strikeout record of 47 was broken by the Mets and Phillies on September 26, 1975, when they combined for 51.

The record for the longest game in terms of elapsed time is eight hours and six minutes, set by the Brewers and the White Sox in 1984.  The game began on May 8, was suspended at 12:59 AM on May 9, and was resumed later in the day on May 9. The Mets-Giants game is still the longest without an interruption.  The Mets have been involved in six games of twenty innings or more, including three of the eight longest.  The records for most innings in a double header (32) and time of a double header (9 hours 52 minutes) still stand.

Chris Cannizzaro (Mets) and Tom Haller (Giants) caught all twenty-three innings of the second game.  264 baseballs were used during the marathon. The umpires were even hungrier than the fans.  No food had been sent to the umpires’ quarters between games of the doubleheader.  After the festivities, they shared a steak dinner, courtesy of the Mets.

Harvey Kueen went on to become a Pennant Winning Manager.  Tom Haller became a General Manager with the Giants, and Jim Davenport served as his field manager for part of his tenure.  Al Jackson, Larry Bearnarth and Galen Cisco became pitching coaches. Roy McMillan continued on in the Mets organization as a coach and minor league manager, managing in New York for 53 games in 1975, and was instrumental in the development of a young Bud Harrelson.

In 2012, I was at the Honda Classic in Florida.  On Pro-Am day, I caught up with Rusty Staub and he shared a story with me.  He was playing with the Houston Colt 45’s at the time and they had just completed a series in Philadelphia.  They had changed, had dinner, took the train to New York and checked into their hotel rooms in time to catch the end of the game on television. 

I was fortunate enough to speak with Joe Christopher on several occasions.  He remembers the game well, especially the homer off Bolin.  Prior to the game that day, he had had his picture taken alongside Mays.

At the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets Conference at Hofstra University, I had the opportunity to talk with Kranepool about the game, and he commented that “Perry was putting anything he could find on the ball.”

Tom Haller died all too young in 2004 at the age of 67, after contracting the West Nile Virus. His wife Joan remembers being in church with their two sons in California when the doubleheader began, and putting the kids to bed before the doubleheader reached its conclusion.  She scolded husband Tom when he told her he had called for an illegal pitch. 

Jim Davenport is still coaching in the Giants system working with minor league infielders.  He remembers that after finally getting to bed well past midnight, the Giants had an early wake-up call the next day.  It was San Francisco Day at the World’s Fair and the Giants were scheduled to be part of the festivities before boarding a plane to Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates.

It was a week for marathons.  On May 28, the Reds and the Dodgers locked horns in a 2-2 affair that was called due to curfew after 17 innings and four hours and 58 minutes.  Under the rules in place, the game was replayed in its entirety.  The Dodgers were no strangers to long games that ended in ties.  In their Brooklyn days that hooked up with the then Boston Braves in two such encounters.  In 1920, the two teams went 26 innings tying at 1-1, and in 1939 it was 2-2 when the game was stopped after 23 innings.  In the latter encounter, the Dodgers Manager was Casey Stengel.

You can look it up.  

Articles referred to for additional information and documentation include:

Jesse Abramson, “Met’s Giant-Sized Effort Included a Triple Play in 14th”, New York Herald Tribune, June 1, 1964, 1.

Jimmy Cannon. “The Longest Day”, New York Journal-American, June 1, 1964

Murray Chass (AP). “Off-Broadway Show of Gaylord and Galen Has Its Run Extended”, Greensboro (NC) Record. June 1, 1964, B5.

Richard K. Doan, “Mets’ Marathon Brings WOR-TV Highest Ratings. . . and $20,000 Loss”, New York Herald Tribune, June 2, 1964, 17

Joe Donnelly. “At Shea Stadium: The Longest Day”, Newsday, June 1, 1964, 44

Joe Donnelly, “Mets Better? By the Clock, Not the Record, Newsday, June 2, 1964, 31

Joseph Durso. Giants Top Mets Twice, as 7 hour 23 Minute 23-Inning Sets marks, The New York Times June 1, 1964

George Frazier. “Stay as Awful as You Are”. The Boston Herald, June 1, 1964, page 8-C.

Sam Goldaper. “The Moaning After a 23 Inning Baseball Game”, New York Herald Tribune, June 2, 1964, 23

Stan Isaacs. “It was No Waltz as Casey’s Band Played On”, Newsday, June 1, 1964, 5

Barney Kremenko. Mets, Giants Go Round and Round to L. P. Record, The Sporting News, June 13, 1964, page 5.

Barney Kremenko. Christopher Heating up Mets with Sizzling Bat, The Sporting News, June 13, 1961, page 6.

Robert Lipsyte. Ball Park Well Built and “Could have lasted forever”, The New York Times, May 31, 1964.

Jim McCulley. “The Longest Day: Mets Swept in 23”. New York Daily News, June 1, 1964, 46

Harold Rosenthal. “Longest Game Ever”, The New York Herald Tribune, June 1, 1964, 21

Gary Schnorbus. Marathon went on. And On. And On. Trenton Evening Times, June 1, 1964, 17.

Red Smith. “The Desperate Hours”, The New York Herald Tribune, June 2, 1964, 23

Associated

 

[i] Kremenko, in his Sporting News story, makes mention of this headline in one of the New York Papers.

[ii] Syracuse Post-Standard, May 31, 1964, 25-27.

[iii] Goldaper, June 2, 1964

[iv] Kremenko notes this in his story about Christopher.

[v] Gaylord Perry (with Bob Sudyk).  Me and the Spitter:  An Autobiographical Confession.  New York.  E. P. Dutton and Company. 1974, pages 12-20.

[vi] Donnelly, June 2, 1964

[vii] Lipsyte, May 31, 1964

[viii] Smith, June 2, 1964

[ix] Tom Zocco.  Stats by Zoc.

[x] Doan, June 2, 1964

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The Majors Minors Obsession

Minors – Majors: An Obsession

Or

Same Place, Some Other Year:  The Heretofore Untold Saga (with Good Reason) of Ballplayers who hit Home Runs in the Same Ballparks as Minor Leaguers and as Major Leaguers

By Alan Cohen

Chapter 1 – Introduction and Overview of the Migration/Expansion Era

I have been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember and after I retired from my day job I became involved in research.  My first research involved short biographical essays for SABR’s bio-project.  SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research, and the folks at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown told me to join SABR if I was serious about research.

This story began, if you will, with a trivia question and evolved into something far more significant.  It is a story not only of home runs and players, but of research and the changing face of baseball and baseball stadiums not only during my lifetime which spans the second half of the twentieth century and takes us into the 21st century, but also as far back as organized baseball’s beginnings in the 19th century.

I was doing a biography of R C Stevens for the SABR Bio-Project on the 1960 Pirates.  Stevens made several stops in the minors and majors during a career that stretched from 1952 through 1965.  His best year in the majors was 1958 with Pittsburgh.  In an article that I found in The Quad City Times, he had spoken about one memorable Home Run against the Giants at Seals Stadium on May 5, 1958.  In researching his minor league career, I discovered that he had also hit home runs at Seals Stadium as a member of the Hollywood Stars, for whom he played during the 1955-57 timeframe.  The first of his homers at Seals Stadium came on April 24, 1955. Stevens also homered on July 15, 1956 during a season when he hit 27 home runs, good for third in the Pacific Coast League.

I got to thinking, “How common is this?” and did some research.  I quickly realized that the feat was probably quite common.  Indeed, I was to discover that another player had hit a minor league homer at Seals Stadium in 1955 (just like R C) and a major league homer on May 5, 1958 (again, just like R C).  More on that later.

One of Stevens’ minor league teammates was Bill Mazeroski, who had a very good start in 1956 before being called up by the Pirates. During his time in Hollywood, he hit 10 home runs and I surmised that he may have hit one at Seals Stadium.  Since the Giants, during the first two years in San Francisco, played at Seals Stadium, I thought it quite possible that Maz had hit a major league homer there.  Courtesy of Baseball Reference.com, I determined that he had done so on June 11, 1958.

I even figured that Mazeroski might have been the only Hall of Famer to hit homers in the same park in the minors and majors.  So, I posed a question to the trivia group on Facebook. “Name the Hall of Famer who hit home runs in the same ballpark as a minor leaguer and as a major leaguer.”  The trivia group includes some very bright and astute people and, within minutes, there was an answer.  It was not the answer I expected.

On April 18, 1946, the Montreal Royals played the Jersey City Giants before a crowd of more than 25,500 on Opening Day at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.[i]  The crowd was there to witness history, and history was indeed made by the Montreal second baseman.  For it was on that day that Jackie Robinson played his first game in Organized Baseball.

The importance of the day was not lost on Robinson.  In his first at-bat, he was struck by a case of nerves and he could feel his knees weakening.  The result was a groundout to shortstop.  He observed “that watching this minor league game would be more sports writers than would be watching any opening day major league game – sports writers present because they knew that unfolding here on this diamond was a story much bigger than baseball, a story as far-reaching in essence as the very idea of democracy and the equality of men.” [ii]  He came to bat for the second time in the third inning with two runners on base.  It was a bunting situation, but manager Clay Hopper ordered Robinson to swing away, and swing away he did, slamming a three run homer over the left field fence. He showed off his trademark speed and aggressiveness in the fifth inning.  A bunt single enabled him to reach first.  He stole second and advanced to third on a ground ball.  Once he got to third base, he darted down the line causing the pitcher to balk.  Jackie was awarded home plate. For the day, he went 4-for-5 as Montreal won 14-1.  His third inning homer was Jackie’s only minor league homer at Roosevelt Stadium.  The next year, Robinson made his debut with Brooklyn.

In 1956, Robinson was in his tenth year with the Dodgers, and the owner, Walter O’Malley, was looking for an alternate site to Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.  Seven games were played at Roosevelt Stadium that year, and Robinson homered on July 31 against Milwaukee.

Not many games were played in Jersey City, so I researched the 15 games played there by the Dodgers in 1956-57.  Lo and behold, there were 13 homers hit there by a veritable who’s who of National League stars.  Of the eleven players who homered at Roosevelt Stadium in 1956-57, ten were All-Stars, and six of these were named to the Hall of Fame.  The eleventh player twice finished in the top-25 in the MVP voting.  So I checked out Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Eddie Mathews, and Willie Mays and found out that none of them had played minor league ball in the International League.  Other than Jackie Robinson, there was one Hall of Famer Left.  This guy had played for St. Paul in the American Association in 1947 and was brought up to the Dodgers in 1948. He got off to a bad start and was sent down to Montreal on May 22.  His first opportunity to play in Jersey City was on June 10, 1948.  He went 3-for-5, scored 3, drove in 6 and homered in the process.  He returned to Jersey City as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and hit two homers at Roosevelt Stadium in 1956.  How could I have ever overlooked the Duke of Flatbush, Edwin Donald Snider?

Roosevelt Stadium was used for minor league baseball before and after major league games were played there.  In 1960, the Havana Sugar Kings moved to Jersey City after the change in regime that swept Fidel Castro to power.  Castro had come to power in 1959, and it was said that there were more automatic rifles than bats in the ballpark during the 1959 Little World Series games between Havana’s Cuban Sugar Kings of the International League and the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.

In 1959, Carl Yastrzemski was called up to Minneapolis just in time for the post season playoffs.  After defeating Omaha and Fort Worth to secure the American Association championship, they faced Havana. After two games in a very cold Minneapolis, the teams concluded the series in Havana.  As Carl noted in his biography, “You had to be there to understand what it was like.  Sheer chaos and anarchy.  People marched in the streets, parading with guns and signs.  Worse for us, they did the thing same at the ballpark.” Fully armed soldiers stood along the foul lines, and games were delayed until Fidel Castro arrived to throw out the first pitch.  Prior to Game Seven, he went up to the Minneapolis pitcher and said, “Tonight, we win.” After Havana won the series, Yaz and his teammates just wanted to leave the country.[iii]

In 1960, things came to a head.  Things were popping in Havana in 1960.  On June 26, there was an explosion at a nearby ammunition dump that delayed play for 90 minutes.[iv] Shortly thereafter, they relocated.  The Sugar Kings were renamed the Jersey City Jerseys and played at Roosevelt Stadium through the end of the 1961 season.  The Stadium played host to Eastern League (AA) ball in 1977 and 1978, and was eventually demolished in 1985.

Alas, on further research, I determined that Mazeroski had not hit one out at Seals Stadium when he was in the minors. He only played in four games at Seals Stadium before being called up to Pittsburgh on July 6, 1956.  He went 5-for-16 with no homers in those games.

Seals Stadium and Roosevelt Stadium were only two of many minor league ballparks to be used by major league teams over a five decade period extending from 1954 through 2010.  The face of baseball changed dramatically for any number of reasons.  Major league baseball, prior to 1953, was confined to ten cities, the westernmost being St. Louis.  Several cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston had two teams, and New York had three. There also had not been a new ballpark opened since Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium welcomed the Indians in 1932.  Aging ballparks, dwindling crowds, and the moving of the country’s population resulted in owners looking to make changes.

The Boston Braves were struggling to stay alive, and Milwaukee wanted a major league team. Boston’s National League pedigree was second to none.  The Braves were one of two National League teams that had been in the league continuously since the league’s founding in 1876. Milwaukee was the Braves affiliate in the American Association in 1952, and played at Borchert Field.  They finished first that year with a 100-54 record and had a lineup with several players amongst them being Bill Bruton, Johnny Logan, and Gene Conley who would become staples in the lineup of the Milwaukee Braves. To attract the Braves, they built a brand new Stadium that was ready for the Braves when they arrived in 1953.[v] In their last year in Boston, the Braves finished in seventh place at 62-92, and saw 281,278 fans go through the turnstiles.  In their first year in Milwaukee, they had the highest attendance in the league, 1,826,397.

The St. Louis Browns were the doormats of the American League, and by 1953 it was clear that the franchise could not survive in St. Louis.  They shared the ballpark in St. Louis, Sportsman’s Park, with the Cardinals, a perennial contender in the National League. In 1953, the Browns finished dead last with a 54-100 record and drew a bewildering 297,238 spectators.  The organization was in such disarray that they did not even have a Triple A farm team. In hopes of attracting major league baseball, and to accommodate the Baltimore Colts football team, which had been playing in the All-American Football Conference from 1946 through 1949, the city of Baltimore had completely renovated a facility then known as Babe Ruth Field.  Memorial Stadium saw its first action in 1950, and for four seasons, the Baltimore Orioles, the Phillies’ affiliate in the International League, called the new Memorial Stadium their home. In the fall of 1950, Baltimore joined the NFL, playing at the new stadium, but it was for only one season as the team went 1-11 and folded.  Professional football would not return to Baltimore until 1953 when the Dallas Texans moved into Memorial Stadium, became the “new” Baltimore Colts, and enjoyed a 30-year stay.

The 1950 season at Memorial Stadium started in a very inglorious fashion as rain and cold weather played havoc with the schedule and a couple of games had to be stopped early due to the 11:00 PM curfew.[vi]  The kinks were worked out and, in late 1953, the St. Louis Browns were sold to a group based in Baltimore.  The major league Orioles commenced play at Memorial Stadium in 1954, drawing 1,060,910 fans in their first season, as the stadium was enhanced with the addition of an upper deck.

The Orioles stayed there for almost forty years, closing up the building at the end of the 1991 season.  Well, not really. In 1993, the Bowie Bay Sox joined the Eastern League.  While their stadium was being built, they played for one year at Memorial Stadium.[vii] Could it be that someone got sent down to Double A from the major leagues and did the feat?  Stranger things have happened.  Actually, there were three players who homered in the Eastern League that year who had homered at Memorial Stadium when they were in the majors. Were any of their 1993 Eastern League homers at Memorial Stadium?  We’ll get into that later. For now, let’s continue with the history.

The next migration was that of the Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City in 1955.  The A’s had declined significantly over the years and were no longer the Championship caliber team of the glory days of Connie Mack.  In 1954 they stumbled to a last place finish, winning only 51 games and attracting only 303,666 witnesses. Kansas City was home to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, but the minor league facility was totally inadequate for major league ball.

Anticipating the arrival of major league baseball, a bond issue was passed to put an upper deck on the existing facility and increase the seating capacity to major league standards.  Early in the efforts to acquire the Athletics, the city had paid for a survey and it had been assured that this structure, built in 1923, contained pilings strong enough to support a second deck.  And so the plans for a new stadium were drawn up accordingly.  Then came the bombshell.  Engineers discovered that the underpiling was not nearly strong enough to support a second deck.  In fact, it had been barely substantial enough to support the single deck which had been used.[viii]

In the off-season between 1954 and 1955, Municipal Stadium was completely restructured.  For purposes of this research, it has been determined that the changes were so major that, indeed, the A’s played in a new ballpark when they relocated. In their first year in Kansas City, the A’s played in front of 1,393,054 spectators, second best in the league.

Minneapolis was the next city to join in the pursuit of a major league team.  In 1956, the replaced their minor league facility, Nicollet Field, with Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.  The stadium was built so as to be expandable to major league size when major league ball came to the Twin Cities.  The minor league Minneapolis Millers occupied the facility for five years.

The next moves were by far the most dramatic in terms of both distance and impact.  The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants were both playing in outdated arenas.  The Dodgers were winners of six of ten National League pennants going into the 1957 season.  They were drawing well at Ebbets Field, attracting 1,213, 562 of the faithful in 1956.  But owner Walter O’Malley was set on getting a new facility.  Indeed, during the 1956 and 1957 seasons, his Dodgers played a total of 15 games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. But O’Malley had his sites further west, and in Los Angeles he found his pot of gold.  Los Angeles was home to two minor league teams in 1957.  The Hollywood Stars, an affiliate of the Pirates, played at Gilmore Field, and the Los Angeles Angels played at Wrigley Field, their home since it opened in 1925.  The Angels for many years had been affiliated with the Cubs but, prior to the 1957 season, O’Malley bought Wrigley Field and affiliated with the Angels. Wrigley Field, even as a temporary home, was too small for O’Malley and the Dodgers played their first four seasons at the Los Angeles Coliseum before record audiences. 1,845,556 newly anointed Dodger fans came to the Coliseum in 1958.  In 1962, the new Dodger Stadium opened to 2,755,184 paying customers.  Wrigley Field remained unoccupied until 1961.

The Giants were playing at the Polo Grounds, a horseshoe shaped facility in upper Manhattan.   In their championship year of 1954, attendance was 1,155,067, but from 1955 on, it was downhill. Attendance in 1956 was only 629,156, last in the league.  Owner Horace Stoneham had been looking to move for some time and his eyes were initially set on Minneapolis, and the new ballpark in nearby Bloomington.    However, Minneapolis wasn’t the destination for the Giants, and Metropolitan Stadium would not see major league baseball until 1961.  O’Malley knew that in order for his move to Los Angeles to be viable his could not be the only team on the West Coast.  Thus, he encouraged Stoneham to also set his eyes west and the city of San Francisco embraced the Giants with open arms. San Francisco had long been the home of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, and they had been playing in Seals Stadium since 1931.  For two years while their new home, Candlestick Park, was under construction, the Giants played at Seals Stadium. In 1958, the Giants were seen by 1,272,625 fans at Seals Stadium.  Attendance grew to 1,795,326, second only to the Dodgers, when the Giants moved to Candlestick in 1960.

So, in the space of six years, the major leagues had gone from 16 teams in 10 cities to 16 teams in 15 cities.

But expansion was on the horizon.  The country was growing and people were moving into new areas.  Also, the player pool had grown dramatically.  When Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947, full integration of the major leagues was inevitable.  At first, the pace of integration was all too slow.  From 1947 through 1959, only 120 players of color entered the major leagues.  But as the country moved into the 1960’s, more and more black and Hispanic players, barred from the game prior to 1947, knocked at the door.

The first wave of expansion came in 1961-62.  The American League was first to expand.  The Washington Senators, perennially at or near the bottom of the American League standings, moved to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins.  They took up residence at Metropolitan Stadium, previously home to the Millers of the American Association from 1956 through 1960, and stayed there from 1961 through 1981.  To pacify the Washington populace, the American League placed one of the expansion teams in the Nation’s capital.  The other expansion team was awarded to Los Angeles, and the major league Los Angeles Angels in 1961 played at Wrigley Field, home of the minor league angels from 1925 through 1957.  In 1962, they took up residence at Dodger Stadium where they stayed for four years while their permanent facility was being completed in Anaheim.  During the 1961 season, Wrigley was a veritable launching pad with no less than 242 home runs being hit there by the Angels and their opponents.

The National League expanded in 1962.  The New York Mets took up residence in the abandoned Polo Grounds (aka Polo grounds V) for two years until Shea Stadium was completed in 1964.  The other franchise was awarded to Houston. The minor league ballpark in Houston was so far lacking in capacity that a temporary structure, Colts Stadium, was built and served as the home of the Houston Colt 45’s, as they were then called, until 1965 when the team was renamed the Houston Astros moved into their new facility, the Houston Astrodome.

So, by 1961, five ballparks that had been used as minor league venues had also been used by major league teams.  Memorial Stadium, Roosevelt Stadium, Seals Stadium, Metropolitan Stadium and Wrigley Field (LA) were so used.

But they were not alone for long.  By the mid 1960’s, the honeymoon between the Braves and Milwaukee was coming to an end.   Attendance had dropped from a high of 2,215,404 in 1957 to 555,584 in 1965. In each of the last four years in Milwaukee, attendance was less than one million.  The Braves’ next home was Atlanta.  Atlanta, anticipating the arrival of major league baseball, had completed Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1965.  Due to an action by the Milwaukee City Fathers, the Braves were not allowed to move to Atlanta in 1965 as initially planned.  While they were in lame-duck status in Milwaukee, they put their Triple A affiliate into Atlanta and Atlanta Stadium became the home of the Atlanta Crackers for the 1965 season.  The Braves moved in in 1966.

Another honeymoon ended not long thereafter when the Kansas City A’s moved to Oakland in 1968.  Oakland had been without minor league baseball since 1955, when the Oakland Oaks became the Vancouver Mounties.  The A’s moved into Oakland-Alameida Country Stadium in 1968 and have been there ever since.

The next wave of expansion came in 1969, and with it, the introduction of divisional play.  The American League added teams in Kansas City and Seattle.  The National League added teams in Montreal and San Diego.  Although there had been minor league baseball in each of these locations, only two of those teams used former minor league parks. The Seattle Pilots, as they were known, went into a 30-year-old facility known as Sick’s Stadium.  Sick’s Stadium, during its years as a minor league venue, was decidedly not as much of a home run haven as Wrigley in Los Angeles.  Indeed, during a game in 1964, the visiting Indianapolis team scored 15 runs in the first inning without the benefit of a home run.  Structurally, the ballpark left much to be desired and, after the 1969 season, the Pilots relocated in Milwaukee, becoming the Milwaukee Brewers.

Of the five Hall of Famers who hit home runs in 1969 at Sick’s Stadium, only Brooks Robinson had played there as a Minor Leaguer.  Indeed, someone suggested that he had performed the feat. He was with Vancouver for only a short time in 1959, and in his only game in Seattle, went 1-for-4 with a double.  His time at Sick’s Stadium was limited.  There were two rainouts during his team’s first series there and an injury kept him out of the second series.  By the third visit, he had been recalled to Baltimore. I would find that several non – Hall of Famers that homered in 1969 had played for the Seattle Rainiers in the PCL prior to 1968 and were likely candidates. That research would come later.  From my early research on the 1957 and 1959 minor-league seasons, I knew that home runs did not sail out of Sick’s Stadium in the PCL days.  Only 46 were hit there in 1957, and 39 in 1959.

That was not the end for Organized Baseball at Sick’s Stadium.  The Seattle Rainiers of the Class A (Short Season) Northwest League played there from 1972 through 1976.  This was a very low level minor league that attracted few former Major Leaguers.  There were a couple of younger players who showed some promise, and in 1976, two 17-year-olds started their long careers in this league. Rickey Henderson played for the Boise A’s and batted .336 with three homers.  Interestingly enough, Henderson also played at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City in 1978. Mike Scioscia was playing with the Bellingham Dodgers in 1976 and hit seven home runs. Tracking down game-by-game information for that league is problematical, and it is hard to determine if any of Henderson’s or Scioscia’s blasts were at Sick’s Stadium.

In 1968, the city of San Diego opened San Diego Stadium, a multi-purpose field that would be home to the San Diego Padres of the NFL and, in 1969 and beyond, the San Diego Padres of the National League.  However, in a scenario much the same as Altanta, there was minor league baseball for one year at San Diego Stadium.  In 1968, the minor league Padres were the Triple A affiliate of the Phillies.  I had originally, not known of this, but was informed of this when I did a presentation at the SABR convention in 2012.

In 1972, the new Washington Senators, having enjoyed about as much success in the nation’s capital as the old Washington Senators, moved to Texas where they moved into Arlington Stadium.  This facility, first known as Turnpike Stadium, was built in 1965 and was initially the home of the minor league Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs.[ix] The Spurs played in the Double A Texas League. The seating capacity was increased on more than one occasion to accommodate major league baseball and the Texas Rangers played at Arlington Stadium from 1972 through 1993, moving into The Ballpark at Arlington in 1994.

The American League expanded to 14 teams in 1977, adding Toronto and moving back to Seattle.  The Seattle Mariners moved into a new arena, The Kingdome, and the Toronto Blue Jays moved into Exhibition Stadium.  Exhibition Stadium had never been used for baseball prior to the Blue Jays arrival. The minor league Toronto Maple Leafs had last played in 1967, where they occupied Maple Leaf Stadium for 42 years.  Maple Leaf Stadium was demolished in 1968.

And then came 1981.  The players went on strike and the country, and its ballparks, were without major league baseball.  Some organizations brought minor league games, on a very limited basis, to major league parks.

The Angels and Padres got together for a two game set featuring their Class A California League affiliates. On July 3, the Redwood Pioneers and Reno Padres (aka Silver Foxes) played at Anaheim Stadium. The next day, San Diego Stadium saw its first minor league game since 1968 when the teams played in front of a Class A record 37,665 onlookers.[x] Did anyone on either of these teams make it to the majors? Five Reno player sand four Redwood players made it to the majors, but none of them ever homered in the majors at San Diego or Anaheim.

Another stadium that saw a minor league game during the strike was County Stadium in Milwaukee.   Milwaukee, in 1981, hosted one other minor league game, this one at County Stadium.  During the strike, Wausau played Burlington in a Midwest League game.

Further expansion took place in 1993 as the National League added teams in Denver and Miami.  The Denver team took up residence in Mile High Stadium.  This storied ballpark had seen many minor league campaigns over the years, and served as the home of the Colorado Rockies in 1993 and 1994.  The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995.  In Miami, the Florida Marlins took up residence in the local football stadium and stayed there for nineteen years.

The final expansion took place in 1998 with the additional of Tampa Bay and Phoenix.  The Tampa area had been trying to attract a team for some time and had built a new enclosed stadium.  The Devil Rays, as they were called at the time, took up residence in the new arena – Tropicana Field.  The Devil Rays were placed in the American League and the Milwaukee Brewers were moved to the National League.  The Phoenix entry became known as the Arizona Diamondbacks and moved into the new Bank One Ballpark.   The team has been there since, although the stadium is now called Chase Field.

The final migration took place in 2005 when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, DC, making them the third franchise to call the Nation’s Capital home.  They temporarily moved into RFK Stadium. RFK Stadium had never housed a minor league team.  However, prior to moving to Washington, the Expos played 22 games in San Juan, PR, at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in 2003 and another 21 in 2004.  Also, the Florida Marlins played three games against the Mets at Bithorn Stadium in San Juan in 2010.  Puerto Rico had a rich heritage as a Puerto Rico Winter League site in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  As a minor league locale, San Juan’s days were limited to part of the 1961 season in the International League and part of the 1979 season in something called the Inter-American league.

In 1961, the Miami Marlins moved to San Juan.  While waiting for a new ballpark to be built, the San Juan Marlins played at Sixto Escobar Park in San Juan. They broke ground for the new ballpark on May 17, 1961.  Unfortunately, the team would not be around long enough to play in the new Ballpark.  After the game on May 17, 1961, the franchise was moved once again, this time to Charleston, West Virginia, making it three cities in two years for one franchise.[xi]  Their first opponent in Charleston, oddly enough was Jersey City, a team that had also relocated from the Caribbean.  The Marlins weren’t in Charleston long, either, as the franchise was moved to Atlanta for the 1962 season – four cities in three years.

The Inter-American League folded after three months in 1979.  By the time the Expos and Marlins played in Puerto Rico, anyone involved with either the 1961 or 1979 minor league teams was long gone from baseball.

There were other short term major league stays in minor league venues.

In 1996, modifications in the stadium in Oakland resulted in the A’s playing six games in Las Vegas at Cashman Field.  During those six games, 23 homers were hit by 15 different players. Of these players, eight had played in the Pacific Coast League.  Las Vegas joined the PCL in 1983 and Cashman Field has been the only facility used by the Las Vegas PCL team.

In recent years, major league baseball has taken to scheduling games outside of the Continental United States.  In August, 1996, the San Diego Padres entertained the New York Mets at Estadio de Beisbol Monterey, the home of the minor league Sultanes Monterey team.  In April, 1999, they opened the season against Colorado at the same locale.  None of the players who homered in those four games ever played in the Mexican League.

In 1997, the Padres ventured to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu for three games with the Cardinals.  Honolulu had been in the Pacific Coast League from 1961 through 1987.  In the early years, the Islanders played at a ballpark that was quite friendly to home run hitters.  They moved into Aloha Stadium in 1975, and stayed for thirteen years through 1987.  Aloha Stadium did not yield many long balls.  Only one major leaguer, Ron Gant, homered in the series in 1997.  He never played in Hawaii during his minor league days.

And then there was the case of the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Before they changed names and started to win, they played three games at nearby Walt Disney World in 2007.  After the name change to the Tampa Bay Rays, they returned for three games in 2008.  The ballpark serves as the spring training home of the Braves.  Minor league ball was played there from 2000 through 2003 by two teams – The Gulf Coast League Braves and the Southern League Orlando Rays. After the 2003 season, the Rays left for Montgomery, Alabama, and the GCL Braves moved a few miles east to Kissimmee. The GCL Braves returned to Champion Stadium, as it is now known, in 2008.  During the six major league games, ten players homered, two of whom played some minor league ball in the Ballpark at Walt Disney World, which, in the minor league days, was known as Crackerjack Stadium.

Now that I got the history straight, I realized just how common this could be with twelve ballparks and as many as twenty-nine Major League teams in the mix (Arizona never played a single game in a former Minor League park).  And, to think of it, Major League Baseball had gone from 16 teams in 10 cities to 30 teams in 28 cities.  And, of the 15 ballparks in use in 1952, only 2 (Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston) would be in use in 2009.

And the answers kept pouring in.

Bill Carle suggested that Mantle, Berra, and Rizutto had accomplished the feat in Kansas City.  Berra did not play his minor league ball in Kansas City.  He played at Newark in 1946, chasing Jackie Robinson for the International League Batting Crown.  Although Mantle and Rizutto each played in Kansas City in the minors, the ballpark that they played in, while at the same site, bore little resemblance to the Municipal Stadium that was used by the Kansas City Athletics when they relocated from Philadelphia in 1955.  In late 1954 Blues Park in Kansas City was sold to the city in conjunction with a bond issue that was passed to convert the facility into a Major League Stadium. The conversion was delayed for any number of reasons, including the American League’s failure to approve the move of the Athletics until late October.  Initially, it was expected that the addition of an upper deck to the facility would do the trick, but a complete redo became necessary.[xii]

Rizutto did not hit any home runs in Kansas City as a major leaguer. Mantle had 26 major league home runs at Municipal Stadium during the course of his career. He had 11 home runs while a member of the Kansas City Blues in 1951, some of which we can assume were hit at his home ballpark.  But then, in reality, Blues Park and Municipal Stadium were definitely not the same ballpark.

Steve Bilko

Among the non-Hall-of-Famers to accomplish the deed, none stands out more than Steve Bilko.  The Los Angeles legend hit 313 minor league home runs and hit 148 in three years (1955-57) with the minor league Los Angeles Angels, 97 of which soared out of Wrigley Field (LA) and four which soared out of Seals Stadium (San Francisco). His first Wrigley blast came on April 20, 1955.  Another of those Wrigley blasts, on May 30, 1957, gave Tom LaSorda, another Los Angeles legend, his first PCL victory. In 1956 and 1957, Bilko had 36 home runs at Wrigley Field. His first Seals Stadium round tripper came on May 21, 1955.

Bilko was initially signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1945 and began his climb through their minor league system.  In his first full season at the Triple A level, he banged out 34 homers for Rochester in 1949.  That got him his first shot at the Big Leagues.

The buildup was significant.  No less an observer than Red Smith wrote these glowing words:

“Steve Bilko is a great, lummocking, broad-shouldered, wide beamed broth of a boy whose brutal behavior towards pitchers in the International League last year made him the leading candidate for the job as first baseman for the St. Louis cardinals this year.”[xiii]

At 22, this young man is the most important individual in the Cardinals’ camp.   but it was a brief trip. He appeared in 6 games at the end of the 1949 season. He started the 1950 season with St. Louis, but he wasn’t ready for the big time.  He was batting a lowly .182 when he was sent back to the Rochester Red Wings in early May.  By then the International League Orioles were playing in Memorial Stadium, and he hit the first of his two minor league Memorial Stadium home runs in Baltimore on June 23, 1950.

After a respectable showing with Rochester in 1950, he got another try with the Cardinals in 1951, but once again, he was farmed out to Rochester in May.  1952 was a repeat of the prior two years.  That season, by the time he joined the Rochester Red Wings on June 19, the team had played the first seven of its eleven games in Baltimore.  Did he muscle one out in 1952, or not? In his team’s next to last game in Baltimore, Bilko launched one as they defeated Baltimore 10-3. That gave him two minor league homers at Memorial Stadium.

In 1953, the Cardinals gave him a real shot, and he had 21 homers in 154 games.  However, he led the league with 121 strikeouts, and the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs early in 1954.  The Cubs did not use him much and sent him to their minor league affiliate in the PCL for the 1955 season and the phenomenon of Steve Bilko, Angels legend, was born.

He returned to the Majors in 1958 and proceeded, over a four year span, to hit homers at each of the three former minor league venues. On June 9, 1958, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, he homered off Johnny Antonelli of the Giants at Seals Stadium in San Francisco.  Later that season, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he victimized Antonelli again at Seals Stadium.

On June 7, 1960, as a member of the Detroit Tigers, he homered off Hoyt Wilhelm at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium in a 5-2 Angel win. In 1961, he returned to Los Angeles as a member of the expansion Angels and a year to the day later, June 7, 1961 he returned to Memorial Stadium, and homered again, this time off Billy Hoeft in a 4-0 Angel win.

Bilko was a true character of the game.  Los Angeles Angels teammate Billy Moran summed up the Bilko training method.  “Bilko would go in the (hotel) bathroom and turn on the hot water to steam up the place.  Then he’d climb into the bathtub with a case of beer right beside him.  Then he’d sweat and drink the case of beer.  That was his routine for getting into shape.”[xiv]

With the Angels, he hit eleven major league home runs at Wrigley in LA.  The first of those eleven Wrigley Field home runs came off Herb Score, who was then pitching for the White Sox, on May 19, 1961.  Fittingly enough, the last of Bilko’s home runs at Wrigley was the last home run ever hit at the facility.  It came on October 1, 1961 in the last inning of the last game played at Wrigley. The solo homer came with two outs off Cleveland’s Mudcat Grant, but was too little, too late in an 8-5 loss.

There are always arguments about players not in the Hall of Fame who belong there. One name that often comes up in this regard (particularly in Cleveland) is Rocky Colavito. After tearing up the American Association with 68 home runs over two years with Indianapolis, he was brought up to the Cleveland Indians at the beginning of the 1956 season.  However, he got off to a terrible start and, through 42 games had only five home runs and was batting a dismal .235.  In 1956, Cleveland had entered into an affiliation with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League.  San Diego’s GM, Ralph Kiner, was a close friend and protégé of Cleveland’s General Manager Hank Greenberg, and knew something about hitting home runs.  Rocky was sent down on June 25 and spent about five weeks with the Padres. On the Fourth of July at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, there were indeed fireworks.  During the course of a double header, there were ten home runs, including three by Bilko.  It was in the second game of that doubleheader that Colavito slammed his first home run at Wrigley Field.  On July 14, after hitting a total of 12 home runs and batting .368 in thirty-five games, he was recalled by the Indians.  He would never play minor league ball again.

Rocky was not your classic five tool player.  Although lacking in speed, he had a cannon for a throwing arm to go with his power at the plate.  During his 14 year career, he was named to six All-Star teams.  In 1959, en route to leading the league with 42 homers he had a career day at Baltimore on June 10.  In the first inning, he walked and scored on a homer by Minnie Minoso.  He homered in each of his next four at-bats as the Indians won 11-8.

Just prior to the 1960 season, in a trade engineered by Frank Lane, Colavito was sent to Detroit for American League batting champion Harvey Kueen.  The trade was ill-received in each city, and Rocky’s 1960 output was subpar.  After hitting over forty homers and driving in over 100 runs in each of the prior two seasons, he fell off to 35 homers and 87 RBIs in 1960.  He bounced back at the plate and in the field in 1961. In 1961, he led the league in assists by an outfielder with 16, and had career highs in homers (45), RBI’s (140), and total bases (338).  He returned to Wrigley Field in 1961 with the Tigers and bashed the first of his Wrigley Field major league homers off Ronnie Klein on May 26.  In all, he had four home runs at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles during the 1961 season.

Earl Battey, the great catcher of the Minnesota Twins, also was mentioned by Ted Knorr.  Earl was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1953, and spent the latter part of the 1957 season with the minor league Angels, going deep for the first time at Wrigley Field on August 13.  On September 8, he sent three balls flying out of the friendly confines, accounting for all three of his team’s runs in a fourteen inning 3-2 marathon win over Sacramento.  Yes, we all know that Ernie Banks used that nickname for the other Wrigley Field, but it seems appropriate considering the exploits of Bilko and Battey in Los Angeles.  Battey never quite made it with the Sox, appearing in only 151 games over a five year span and batting only .209.  In those days, Sherman Lollar was a fixture behind the plate for the Sox and showed no signs of slowing down at age 35.

Battey was deemed expendable and was traded to the Washington Senators prior to the 1960 season, along with Don Mincher, for Roy Sievers, as the Sox loaded up their squad with veterans to try to repeat as American league champions.  Battey moved to the Twin Cities with the Senators in 1961.   Returning to Los Angeles in 1961, as a member of the Twins, he belted a home run off Eli Grba on April 27 in the first major league game played at Wrigley.  His three-run-homer in the sixth inning put the Twins in the lead as they spoiled the Angels home opener with a 4-2 win.  Two days later, he homered off Ken McBride.  He never homered in Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium as a minor leaguer.  During his time with the Twins, he was named to four All Star teams and earned one Golden Glove, before retiring at the end of the 1967 season.

Never an unkind word was said about Earl Battey.  Teammates such as Pedro Ramos extolled his defensive excellence, and pitcher Johnny Klippstein, who was a teammate in 1964 said, “He could settle down any pitcher.  I thought he was like a granddaddy.”[xv]  In his later years, Earl moved to New York and worked with Con Ed in community relations.  It was not unusual to see Earl Battey, who served as a youth worker with Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, bring scores of children to afternoon games at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, and sit with them, answering questions about baseball.[xvi]

Many other guesses came in and then Cary Smith suggested that Carl Yastrzemski may have done the deed at Metropolitan Stadium.  Yaz was highly touted when the Red Sox signed him in 1958, and he had a great year in 1959 at Raleigh in the Carolina League, batting .377. He had hoped to be promoted to the big club in 1960, but was sent to Minneapolis.  A key reason for the extra season in the minors was to learn how to play left field.  Yaz had been a second baseman.  Ted Williams would be retiring at the end of the 1960 season, and Yastrzemski would be his replacement.[xvii] With the Millers, he continued to hit for average and was among the league leaders in batting all season.  Towards the end of the season, he went on a thirty game hitting streak that raised his average to .339, good for second in the league.  He was chosen the league’s Rookie of the Year.  However, in the early part of his career, the home runs came slowly.  His first homer of 1960 did not come until June 5, and it was on the road at Indianapolis. He connected at home for the first time on June 11, once again victimizing Indianapolis. He joined the Red Sox in 1961 and, over the course of his 23 year career (spent entirely with the Red Sox), he hit 18 at the Minnesota locale, the first coming on May 29, 1962 against Lee Strange.

That makes two more Hall of Famers for a total of three.

The fourth Hall of Famer hit more than his share of home runs at Metropolitan Stadium during a long career with the Twins.  Things did not start out well for this guy.  He signed for a bonus with the Washington Senators and spent parts of five seasons in the nation’s capital from 1954 through 1958 amassing 7 home runs and 30 RBI.  The first two years, due to the way the bonus rule worked at the time, he spent the entire season with Washington.  In 1956, he was sent down to Class A Charlotte and, in 1957, the Senators sent him to Double A Chattanooga, where he was mentored by his manager Cal Ermer.  In 1958, the Senators shipped him out to Indianapolis in the American Association where, in 38 games, he banged out, get this, 2 home runs and hit for a .215 average.  The second of those two home runs came at Metropolitan Stadium on June 15.  On June 16, he was shipped back to Chattanooga of the Southern Association where he found his hitting eye. At the end of the 1958 season, he returned to the Majors to stay.

In 1959, playing fulltime, he banged out an American League leading 42 home runs.  He went to Minnesota when the Senators became the Twins in 1961 and proceeded to bang 246 home runs at Metropolitan Stadium over the next 15 years. The first came on April 30, 1961 against Bob Shaw of the Chicago White Sox.  At the very end of his career, he played a season for the Kansas City Royals.  Fittingly enough, the last of Harmon Killebrew’s 563 career home runs came at Metropolitan Stadium off Eddie Bane on September 18, 1975.  In addition to those 246 regular season blasts, Killebrew hit two homers at Metropolitan Stadium in a losing cause during the 1970 League Championship Series against Baltimore.

Killebrew in later years reflected on his early years in Washington.  He wasn’t getting much playing time and was pretty much an unknown quantity when he stepped to the plate on June 24, 1955.  To say the game was “lopsided” was an understatement.  The Senators were trailing 13-0 when Harmon stepped in against Billy Hoeft with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. “Frank House was the Detroit catcher. And with a 2-2 count, he said, “Kid, we’re going to throw you a fastball.” What did I know? I was a green kid and wasn’t sure if I would get a fastball. But I did get one and hit one of the longest home runs I would ever hit in that park, maybe the longest.  When I came around the bases and touched home plate, House said, “Kid, that’s the last time we ever tell you what’s coming.” And he never did it again.”[xviii]

And the research went on.  It did not take me long to discover that an ex-Yankee had done the deed. Actually, there were quite a few. Bill Robinson was in the minor leagues with the Atlanta Crackers, the Braves Triple A affiliate in the International League in 1965, when the team played at Fulton County Stadium.  He homered there for the first time on May 2, 1965. He returned there with the Pirates and Phillies several years later and hit a total of 12 major league dingers at the Atlanta ballpark.  The first one came as a member of the Phillies on September 2, 1972 off George Stone. After his playing days Robinson went on to become a successful hitting coach, and in 1986, he was with the World Champion New York Mets.  Research revealed that another member of that Mets’ team was in the “minors-majors” club, by virtue of homering at Atlanta.

Davey Johnson was making his way through the Oriole organization and spent parts of three seasons with Rochester in the International League.  In 1965, he began the year with the Orioles, but was batting only .170 on June 11, and was sent back down to Rochester.  On July 21, 1965, he homered at Atlanta Stadium.  He batted .301 at Rochester in 1965, and in 1966 he was up to the majors to stay.  He was traded from the Orioles to the Braves after the 1972 season and he became quite comfortable in his new surroundings, slugging 43 homers in his first year with Atlanta.  In all, he hit 33 home runs at Fulton County Stadium, the first coming on April 28, 1973 against Jon Matlack of the Mets.  Johnson was named to four All-Star teams during his 13 seasons in major league baseball.  He went on to manage the New York Mets to the World Championship in 1986.  In all, he has managed five teams to a combined record of 1,333 – 1,042.

As the research went on, the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees were announced and Barry Larkin was selected.  Barry accomplished the feat at Denver’s Mile High Stadium. The Colorado Rockies played at Mile High during the first two years of the franchise (1993-94).    Prior to that, this ballpark was used for many years by the Denver Zephyrs, for whom Larkin played in 1986.  Larkin’s career started when he was signed by the Reds in 1985 after being chosen by the Reds in the first round of the amateur draft.  After a year at Double A Vermont, in 1985, he was sent to Denver in 1986.  That year, he batted .329 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs, and was named the American Associations Rookie of the Year and MVP.  On April 30, he led the way in a 7-6 win over Omaha with two doubles and a home run. He was called up to Cincinnati in August, 1986, and played his entire career with the Reds, retiring at the end of the 2004 season. He was named to twelve All Star teams and was selected as the National League’s MVP in 1995. His one Major League Home Run at Mile High Stadium came on May 24, 1994 off Dave Nied.

That makes five Hall of Famers.

Another player that I thought had accomplished the feat at Mile High is Larry Walker.  Walker started his career with Montreal, and moved on to Denver in 1995.  Hence, most of his Denver home runs were hit at Coors Field – his personal launching pad.  Indeed, he hit 154 homers at Coors.  How many at Mile High as a Major Leaguer during his days with Montreal?  His first, and only, came on September 1, 1993 off Kurt Bottenfield.  In 1989, he was playing with Indianapolis in the American Association and played six games at Mile High Stadium.  He had 12 home runs that season, but alas, none came at Mile High Stadium.  During the course of the six games, he went 5-for-22 with a pair of doubles.

Rod Nelson suggested that Gary Sheffield had done the deed.  Sheffield played for the Denver Zephyrs in 1988, banging out 9 home runs for the Zephyrs.  His time with Denver was brief.  A first round draft pick of the Brewers in 1987, he began the 1988 season with El Paso and was promoted to Denver at the beginning of July.  In his very first game with the Zephyrs, he doubled and homered.  By the end of August, he was with the Brewers in Milwaukee.  During his major league career, Sheffield hit homers at forty-two different ballparks. Three came at Mile High Stadium.  Interestingly, they all came off the same pitcher, Willie Blair, on 06/19/93, 04/19/94, and 07/24/94.

Johnny Callison is best remembered for this time with the Philadelphia Phillies.  With the Phillies from 1960 through 1969, he banged out 185 round trippers.  He finished his career in the American League and on May 18, 1972, his first home run as a member of the New York Yankees came at Metropolitan Stadium off Bert Blyleven. It was his only major league home run at Metropolitan, and went with two home runs that he hit there as a minor leaguer in 1958 while playing in the White Sox system with the Indianapolis Indians

Bobby Tolan was more renowned for his speed than his power.  He started his career in 1963 with Reno, a Pittsburgh farm club in the California League was drafted by the Cardinals from the Pirates prior to the 1964 season. He made the Texas League All-Star team at the tender age of 18 in 1964, stealing 34 bases with Tulsa.[xix] The next season, he was promoted to the International League and, on July 8 and July 11, 1965, at the age of 19, hit homers at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium while playing for the Jacksonville Suns.  That season in the International League he also lit up the base paths He arrived in the majors with St. Louis later in 1965, but did not really hit his stride until he was traded to Cincinnati in 1969.  He had 21 homers in 1969 and hit the first of four Atlanta Stadium major league homers on April 21, 1970 off Bob Priddy.  His 57 stolen bases led the league in 1970 and he followed that up with 42 thefts in 1971.

The term dynasty tends to, at times, be overused, but during the early 1970’s, few teams could match the Oakland A’s.  Dynasties do not happen overnight, and the Oakland dynasty, truth be told, started in Kansas City.  In 1965, the amateur draft was introduced and the A’s, one of the American League’s perennial doormats, chose wisely.  Their sixth round selection was one of their best decisions. They chose a 21-year-old and sent him to Burlington, Iowa of the Midwest League.  He joined the team in mid-season as they went on to post an 82-40 record, winning the league pennant by 11½ games. From there, he was promoted to Mobile in the Southern League.  The team won the pennant with an 88-52 record, and included several names that would be associated with the A’s for many years.  Names like Blue Moon Odum, Rick Monday, John McNamara, and Tony LaRussa.

Sal Bando moved on to Vancouver for the 1967 season.  Vancouver finished in third place, just two games out of first place. With Vancouver, he batted .291, and homered at Sick’s Stadium in Seattle on August 23, 1967.  He got to spend some time with the A’s in Kansas City in 1966 and 1967 as a late season call-up, and he arrived in the majors to stay in 1968 when the A’s moved to Oakland.  The team finished the 1968 season with an 82-80 record.  It marked the first time since 1952, that the A’s had more wins than losses. Bando, was the Iron Man of the Oakland A’s, not missing a game during his first two years with the club.   In 1969, he was named to the All-Star team for the first time and set career high marks in home runs (31) and RBI (113).  During the course of that season, he hit five homers, more than any other visiting player, at Sick’s Stadium.  The first two came on April 27 against Mike Marshall and propelled the A’s to a 13-5 win. 1969 was the first year of divisional play and the A’s finished in either first or second place for eight consecutive years. They won their division five consecutive years (1971-75) and brought home three straight World Series Trophies (1972-74).  Bando, during those years, averaged 156 games played per season, banged out 183 homers and drove in 722 runs.  His on-base percentage was .361. He was named to four All-Star teams.  After the 1976 season, he filed for free agency and signed on with the Brewers.  He finished up his career with Milwaukee in 1981.

Of those non-Hall-of-Famers to have homered at Roosevelt Stadium during the 1956-57 timeframe, Hank Sauer excited my interest.

Sauer was initially signed by the New York Yankees in 1937, and spent three years in their minor league system before being drafted by Cincinnati.  His last year in the minors was 1947.  That season marked his fourth year playing or the Syracuse Chiefs, and he permanently punched his ticket to the major leagues by banging out 50 homers, including four at Roosevelt Stadium.  He was named minor league Player of the Year.  His first minor league homer at Roosevelt Stadium came on May 20, 1946 when he homered for Syracuse in a 4-2 win over Jersey City.

During his first seven years in the big leagues, he had 30 or more homers six times, and he was named the National League’s MVP in 1952. Sauer played 15 years in the majors with Reds, Cubs, Cards, and Giants.  In 1952, with the Cubs, he led the National League in Homers (37) and RBI (121).  On June 11 of that season, he homered three times against Curt Simmons of the Phillies in a 3-2 Chicago win.  Over the course of his major league career, he hit 288 homers, including the next-to-last major league home run hit during the brief tenure of Roosevelt Stadium as a major league site.  Sauer, at age 40, had been acquired by the New York Giants in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals and hit 26 homers in 1957, earning comeback player of the year honors.  His Roosevelt Stadium home run came on August 7, 1957.  Sauer was called upon to pinch hit for Valmy Thomas with the Dodgers leading 5-3 with two on and none out in the top of the ninth.  His three run homer off Don Newcombe put the Giants in the lead and they went on to win 8-5.  He batted cleanup in the lineup for the Giants and provided protection in the lineup for Willie Mays, who batted third.[xx]

Sauer accompanied the Giants to San Francisco and had the distinction of hitting the first homer at the LA Coliseum.  But he was now 41, and the Giants were stocked with young outfielders. Sauer only appeared in 88 games in 1958.  He retired after the 1959 season, but stayed on with the Giants working with their minor league prospects.

The last player to homer there during the Roosevelt Stadium’s brief tenure as a major league ballpark returned there in 1961 as a member of the Triple A Jersey City Jerseys.  Harry Anderson had played his major league ball with the woeful Phillies teams of the mid-fifties.  His first season was 1957.  That year, he had 17 homers, including a two-run ninth inning poke at Roosevelt Stadium off Don Drysdale on September 3.  It tied the game at 2-2, and the Phillies went on the win the game in the 12th inning.

There was no sophomore jinx for Harry, as he had his best season in 1958, batting .301 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs.  After that, it was downhill.  Anderson was traded to the Reds during the 1960 season and, after playing a handful of games in 1961 was sent to the minors, where he split time between Indianapolis and Jersey City.

He joined the Jerseys on June 27, 1961, and first home game with the Jersey City was on July 11.  In that game, he went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles as Jersey City defeated Charleston 4-3.  He had five homers with Jersey City but, alas, none were hit at Roosevelt Stadium. He would never return to the major leagues and after playing in 1962 with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, Anderson hung up his spikes.

Of course, there were others suggested to me who did not make it into this club.  One player, suggested by Ted Knorr, was Monte Irvin.  Irvin, whose career began in the Negro Leagues, played in Organized Baseball from 1949 through 1957, including eight years in the majors from 1949 through 1956. He finished up with the Minor League Angels in 1957 and hit a home run, his only one of the season, on Opening day at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.

And there were other dead-end searches. A possibility was Frank Howard.  Hondo, it was said, could hit the ball out of any park, including Yellowstone (okay, the quote was about Killebrew, but it applied to Howard as well), and he hit four in six games at Sick’s Stadium as a member of the Washington Senators in 1969.  However, he was not successful in 1959, when he was playing for Spokane. In 1960, he had left Spokane for the Dodgers before his team visited Seattle.

The nature of research is such that some of the online copies of The Sporting News are barely legible.  So it was that by careful process of elimination, I determined that Andy Carey, playing for Syracuse on September 7, 1952, the last day of the season, had homered with one on at Memorial Stadium in a 5-0 win over the Orioles.  I verified this by accessing The Syracuse Herald on NewspaperArchive.com.  Carey’s third inning homer off Kent Peterson put the Chiefs in front to stay. In 1952, Carey spent time with the Yankees and the Kansas City Blues before being sent to Syracuse.  He played 24 games with Syracuse, during which he had two home runs, and the Chiefs went 16-8 to solidify their hold on second place.

Carey was originally signed by Joe Devine of the Yankees for $65,000 after just one year At St. Mary’s College in Morega, California.  He went on to play for the great New York Yankees teams of the 1950’s, hitting 47 home runs before being traded to Kansas City and finishing his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He gained the distinction of being the first player to hit home runs at the same ballpark in the minors and majors in the migration/expansion era when, in his second full year with the Yankees, he homered on May 16, 1954 off Dave Koslo as the Yanks defeated the Orioles 2-0. In all, he homered four times at Memorial Stadium as a major leaguer.

You also never know what to expect.  In exploring home runs hit at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore during the 1953 Minor League season, I stumbled across someone named Bell, or so it said in the box score in The Sporting News.  He had hit two home runs in a game in May, 1953.  He was playing for Syracuse.  That year, Syracuse was the affiliate of the New York Yankees.  In those days, the Yanks sent their top prospects to Kansas City (still a minor league team).  I checked the Syracuse roster and Bell was not amongst the no-names.  How could this be? Well, I checked out people named Bell who had played in Organized Baseball and I happened on one Charles Bell who, according to BaseballReference.com was in the Minor Leagues in 1953.  His line for 1953 at Syracuse read seven games played.  Nothing about at-bats, hits, etc. That explains why he was not listed on the roster. I also discovered that he had never played in the Major Leagues.  And the search continued.

I found many others that had hit home runs in the same park as minor Leaguers and major Leaguers.  Some are quite obscure.  Others knocked on Cooperstown’s doors.  They will be shown in no particular order.


[i] Cy Kritzer. The Sporting News, April 25, 1946, page 18.

[ii] Robinson. Pages 151-152.

[iii] Yastrzemski. Page 48-53.

[iv] The Sporting News. July 6, 1960.

[v] Braves Perini Inks Lease on Milwaukee’s New Park. The Sporting News. August 27, 1952.  Page 28

[vi] Dick Carroll. The Montreal Gazette, April 25, 1950, page 16.

[vii] Rafael Alvarez, Baltimore Sun, April 16, 1993, Page 1A

[viii] Ernest Mehl. The Kansas City Athletics, pages 132-133.

[ix] Merle Heryford. The Sporting News, May 8, 1965, page 35.

[x] The Sporting News, July 25, 1981, 41

[xi] Jimmy Burns and A. L. Hardman, (Separate Stories), The Sporting News, May 24, 1961, page 32

[xii] Ernest Mehl. The Sporting News, January 26, 1955, page 15.

[xiii] Red Smith, Boston Globe, March 14, 1950, 12

[xiv]  Peary.  page 551.

[xv] Peary, page 617.

[xvi] The New York Times, August 18, 1968, page S-4.

[xvii] Yastrzemski. Page 59.

[xviii] Peary. Pages 309-310.

[xix] Gene Granger, The Sporting News, June 12, 1965, 33

[xx] Peary.  page 360.

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R C Stevens

R C Stevens
By Alan Cohen
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King – 1963
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson, broke into Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On April 17, 1954, Curt Roberts became the first black player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At that time, six of the sixteen Major League teams had yet to integrate.
On May 17, 1954, The Supreme Court ruled, in Brown vs. The Board of Education, that separate was inherently unequal.
As late as 1956, the Louisiana State Legislature sought to outlaw athletic contests between whites and blacks.
In 1958, during Spring Training, players in Florida were housed, bussed, and fed separately.
Through 1959, 120 Black players had made their way to the Major Leagues.
Yet, by 1963, when Dr. King delivered his most famous words, little had changed. During this period, although more than 100 players of color had made it to the Major Leagues, often their stays were far too brief. They experienced severe prejudice.
There were the stars. Even the most casual of fans knows of the exploits and records of Mays and Aaron, Cepeda and McCovey, Gibson and Banks, Campanella and Clemente, and Jackie and Frank Robinson. But so many others were impeded. For some, such as Satchel Paige and Monte Irvin, their time had almost passed as they spent their primes in the Negro Leagues. Countless others were allowed to show flashes of brilliance, but “it was not their time.” And R. C. Stevens was one of these players.
R. C. “Seaboat” Stevens was born on July 22, 1934 in Moultrie, Georgia. His parents were I. H. Crapps Jr. and Minnie Stephens Griffin. He attended the Moultrie High School for Negro Youth, and after graduating High School, he worked in construction. In a time when there were not many Black players in organized baseball, Stevens was among the first signed by the Pittsburgh organization. Pittsburgh did not integrate at the Major-League level until 1954.
By 1952, Branch Rickey had left the Brooklyn Dodgers to take over as GM of the Pirates and was on the lookout for talented young Black ballplayers. Rickey had sent letters to baseball coaches at black high schools throughout the South. One such letter arrived at Moultrie. Upon receipt of the letter from Rickey, Stevens’ High School Coach, A. F. “Papa” Shaw had recommended the 6 foot–5 inch first baseman to the Pirates. After a tryout in DeLand, FL, Stevens was signed by Pirates Scout George Platt.
Stevens had a long minor-league career, making six stops before making his big league debut with the Pirates in 1958.
Mr. Rickey, in his days with the Dodgers and subsequently with the Pirates, would send his black players to minor league locales where he hoped the prejudice would not be severe. Jackie Robinson played for Montreal and Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella began their careers in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Stevens’ first stop was the Batavia (NY) Clippers of the Class D Pennsylvania-Ontario New York (PONY) League, where he played for George Genovese. He had several key hits.
On June 1, he drove two runs with a pair of singles in a 6-4 win at Corning. On June 3, his first inning home run put Batavia on the path to a 10-4 home win over Corning. On June 12 his two run triple provided the impetus for a 4-2 win over Corning. But Batavia was in fifth place in the eight team league. On Sunday, July 13, his home run keyed a 9-5 win over the Hamilton Cardinals.
He got into 102 games and batted .246, earning himself a promotion to Class C and the St. Jean Canadians of the Provincial League. He was once again managed by Genovese.
In 1953, He batted .313 with St. Jean, but the team finished in sixth place.
The next stop on Pirates minor-league ladder would be less hospitable.
In 1954, Stevens was off to Class B and the Burlington-Graham Pirates in the Carolina League. As the only black on the team, he encountered more than his share of prejudice. It was still the early fifties. In his first game, and opposing fan brought in a black cat and hurled racial epithets at Stevens. He was denied accommodations with his white teammates and stayed in either black hotels or with families in the area. Despite this, he had a great year on the field, batting .293 with 31 doubles, 25 home runs, and 115 RBI.
His season was highlighted by his performance on July 28, when he had a grand slam and a two run homer in a 9-1 win over Reidsville. In August, in what was to become a habit when he reached the majors, he broke up an extra inning affair by singling in the winning run in the fifteenth inning against High Point-Thomasville.
He tied for the team lead with 149 hits, and the team finished the regular season in second place. In the first round of the playoffs, the Pirates came from two games down and swept the final three games to defeat Greensboro. In the next round, they lost four of five to Fayetteville. Stevens had three home runs in the ten playoff games.
He was initially scheduled to play in New Orleans in 1955, but shortly before the end of Spring Training he was sent to the Pirates affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, the Hollywood Stars.
In those days, the Pacific Coast League did not have a designation (i. e. Triple A, etc.). It was “Open” and many of the teams were not affiliated with Major League teams. The Westernmost Major League city was Kansas City, and for most West Coast residents, the PCL was a close to the Major League experience as they would get. Many PCL players were career minor leaguers or former major leaguers past their prime. There were relatively few major league prospects on the team that R. C. Stevens joined in 1955. R. C., at age 20, was one of the younger players. Other prospects included outfielder Bobby Del Greco and an 18-year-old shortstop turned second baseman named Mazeroski.
R. C.’s first batting practice proved interesting. He stepped into the batter’s box and the catcher, Bill Hall, was quick to strike up a conversation with the big first baseman. Hall asked Stevens where he was from, and Stevens replied that he was from Moultrie, GA. Hall couldn’t help but laugh, as he was also from Moultrie. Eventually, Hall and Stevens were teammates on the 1958 Pirates. Hall and Stevens were two of five Moultrie natives to make it to the Majors.
Stevens spent 1955 and 1956 with Hollywood, and in 1957 split his time between Hollywood and Columbus in the International League.
His 1955 campaign started poorly. Although he got two hits in the team’s opener, a 4-3 loss to Sacramento, he went hitless in the next four games. His first home run of the season came in his team’s twentieth game, a 6-4 win over San Francisco at Seals Stadium on April 24.
He put together an eight game hitting streak in May, going 13-for-30 with 3 doubles, 1 home run, and 5 RBI. He raised his batting average to .301, but his strikeouts were a problem. He struck out 42 times in his first 38 games.
On June 5, 1955, Stevens had two home runs and three RBI in a 5-1win at Portland in the first game of a doubleheader. This capped a 10 game hitting streak for Stevens, during which he went 13-for-31 with 3 doubles, four home runs, and 9 RBI. During that stretch, the team won seven times.
The team was surging into contention. They were in the basement on May 24, 13 and 1/2 games out of first place. They proceeded to win 18 of their next 23 games and climb to third place.
Unfortunately, both R. C. and the team were unable to keep it going as the team lost six of seven to the Portland Beavers at Hollywood’s Gilmore Field, and Stevens saw his average drop to .272. Manager Bobby Bragan lost some confidence in Stevens, removing him for a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning in a game at Oakland on June 23. At the time of the change, there was a 0-2 count. The pinch hitter, Curt Roberts, eventually struck out, and the strike out went against Stevens’ record.
But, now and again, there was the highlight. Stevens was part of a triple play in a 6-2 win over Sacramento on July 1. Centerfielder Bobby Del Greco made a tumbling catch, threw to Curt Roberts at second who threw on to R. C. at first, completing the triple play.
He injured his knee on July 3 and was used sparingly for the balance of the season. He got into only 18 games during July and August, mostly as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement. But the team went well, moving into first place on September 1. Down the stretch, however, they lost 9 of 13 games to slip into a third place tie with the Los Angeles Angels. Stevens’ average dropped to .241 for the season.
Hollywood and Los Angeles contested a five game playoff for thing place, and the Stars won 3-2. In the second game of that series, Stevens was in the middle of a come from behind rally, driving in one run and scoring another in the ninth inning as the Stars scored three times to win 7-5.
Winter ball was the norm in the 1950’s and Stevens was off to the Mexican PCL where he and other Pirate minor leaguers played for Mazatlan.
Prior to the 1956 season, Hollywood acquired Paul Pettit, a $100,000 bonus baby who never bloomed. . Pettit was a converted pitcher who swung with power from the left side of the plate. He started the season at first base, and Stevens was used sparingly for the first seven games of the season.
Once he got into the lineup, he produced. Two home runs came in a 3-for-3 performance on April 21, when he drove in four runs in an 8-6 win over Vancouver. His fourth home run of the season on April 25 was the difference in a 4-3 win over Vancouver, and he was leading the Stars with 5 home runs and 14 RBI when he was hit by a Jerry Casale fastball in a 5-0 loss to San Francisco on May 2. He suffered a broken hand which caused him to miss a month of play, but upon his return, he picked up where he left off.
By the time he returned on June 3, the Stars had dropped to seventh in the standings as Stevens was one of several players who missed time due to injury. On June 4, the Stars began to win, putting together a twelve game winning streak, the longest in team history. They wound up winning 15 out of 16 and climbing to third place. R. C. capped that 15th win on June 19. After striking out twice early in the game, he came through with a ninth inning bases loaded game-winning single off Vancouver’s Charlie Locke.
In July, R. C. went on a tear, hitting seven home runs in his first twelve games, as the Stars solidified their hold on third place. For the month, he had nine home runs and twenty-five RBI.
By August, it was apparent that nobody was about the catch Los Angeles for the Pennant. The Angels won the title by 16 games. Hollywood’s hold on third place took a jolt when they lost twelve of fourteen games in late August and early September. They scored two runs or less in ten of those losses. Stevens slumped along with his teammates, going 9-for-51 during that stretch.
The battle for third place was settled in a season-ending five game series with the Portland Beavers at Portland. The teams entered the series tied for third place and split the first four games. After falling behind, Hollywood tied the game with two runs in the top of the sixth, but Portland pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh to win the game and capture third place. In the final series, R. C. went 7-for-19 with four home runs and six RBI.
Stevens wound up the season with a .262 batting average. He finished third in the league with 27 home runs and had a team leading 72 RBI. He was able to cut his strikeouts down from 102 (in 316 at-bats) to 92 (in 427 at- bats). In 1956, Mazeroski, batted .306 before being called up by the Pirates, and another future major leaguer of note batted .359. That player, Luis Arroyo, went 14-for-39 as a pitcher, and would gain fame in the majors with the New York Yankees.
That off-season, he played winter ball for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican League. He was among the league leaders in batting, with a .291 average.
He trained with the Pirates in Fort Myers in 1957, but began the 1957 season with Hollywood.
After an early season slump, his bat came alive, and he had several key hits as the Stars gained first place. Over a twenty-four game span from April 23 through May 17, he had 6 home runs and 20 RBI, as the team went 18-6. By that time the talk was focused on the possible move of the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles the following season.
Nevertheless, the season went on and the race for the pennant became a three team affair with Vancouver and San Francisco battling it out with the Stars. Stevens’ playing time diminished some. Although he led the team in home runs and RBI, his batting average was mired in the low .200’s. Manager Clyde King suggested he choke up on the bat and Stevens emerged from his slump going 11-for-28 as the Stars took five of seven games at Vancouver in mid-June. During the series, Stevens had two home runs and three RBI, and increased his average for the season to .254. It was all downhill from there. Stevens went into a prolonged slump, going 1-for-27 against Portland, and sprained his back at the end of June. He was forced to the bench at the beginning of July, missing a series with San Diego.
His average had slipped to .221, and he was reassigned to the Columbus Jets of the International League on July 9. Suffering from the effects of the back injury, he did not see any action with Columbus until July 19, and in his first weeks with his new team, he and the squad faired poorly. He contributed a key two run double in a 4-3 win over Buffalo on July 25, but the team at one point lost fourteen of seventeen games.
In August, things changed. The team briefly escaped the cellar by winning eight straight games between August 11 and August 17, and R. C. Stevens, between August 5 and August 31, batted .327 with six home runs and 22 RBI. His August was capped on August 29 when he doubled and homered off the legendary Satchel Paige as the Jets the Miami Marlins 3-0 in the first game of a doubleheader.
By the time the season wrapped up on September 8, Stevens had raised his International League batting average to .294 by batting .341 in his last 39 games. With Columbus, he had 8 home runs and 37 RBI. Columbus snuck ahead of Montreal for seventh place by winning the last two games against Richmond.
Spring training in Fort Myers in 1958 afforded Stevens ample opportunity to show his stuff when the team’s other first base candidates Ted Kluszewski and Dick Stuart were sidelined. Big Klu was having back problems, due to a slipped disc, and Stuart came down with the flu. In the span of a few days, Stevens clobbered a triple and two home runs while keeping down his strikeouts. He would go north with the Bucs.
Eleven years to the day after Jackie Robinson broke in with the Dodgers, Stevens finally arrived with the Bucs in 1958 and got off to an unbelievable start. He entered the April 15 opener against Milwaukee as a defensive replacement for Ted Kluszewski in the bottom of the ninth and proceeded to go 2-for-2 at the plate, as the game went into extra innings. His first hit was off Gene Conley in the 12th inning, but the score remained tied at 3-3. His second hit, in the fourteenth inning off Conley, drove in Dick Groat with the winning run. Four days later, he hit a pinch-hit two-run homer off Harvey Haddix of the Reds in a 9-6 loss. The next day he knocked a ninth inning walk-off homer against Willard Schmidt of the Reds, as the Bucs won 4-3. After three games, he was 4-for-4 with two home runs, and he had driven in the decisive run in each of the Bucs’ first two wins.
His third home run of the season came in a 3-1win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles on May 3.
His opportunities were rare, but he had a knack for getting the game winning hit. After striking out in his first three at-bats, he broke up a scoreless game, singling in Dick Groat in the top of the eleventh inning to give the Bucs a 1-0 win over Philadelphia on May 11.
But his role in 1958 was as a replacement. He had only 19 starts in the early part of the season, playing behind Ted Kluszewski. Big Klu continued to be beset by back problems. He clearly was not the answer, and, on July 10, the Bucs elected to bring up Dick Stuart from the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League and send down Stevens who, despite his few clutch hits, was striking out far too much. He had 25 K’s in 85 at-bats. Salt Lake City was the new home of the transplanted Hollywood Stars.
Before he was sent down, Stevens had one special moment with the Pirates. On May 5, the Pirates were playing the Giants in San Francisco, and R. C. got the start at first base, batting cleanup. He was hitless in his first three at bats. He came up in the seventh inning with Dick Groat and Bob Skinner on base. He sent a fly ball beyond the reach of Willie Mays for a three run home run that put the Bucs ahead 8-1. It was Stevens’ fourth home run of the year, and he gained the distinction of having hit home runs in the same ballpark (Seals Stadium) as both a major leaguer and a minor leaguer. Pittsburgh held on to win by an 11-10 score and moved into first place tie with Chicago.
On Memorial Day, he drove in a pair of runs with a triple as the Bucs won 12-6 to gain a doubleheader split against the Braves and, for the moment, occupy third place, four games out of first.
His seventh, and last, home run, again off the Giants came in a 5-4 win on June 10, giving Bob Friend his ninth win of the season. But the Bucs had fallen back into the second division.
At Salt Lake City, he roomed with Joe Christopher. Joe Christopher is one of the more insightful players to come into baseball and feels that the Pirates had done a grave injustice in sending Stevens back to the minor leagues. Christopher and Stevens remained close friends after their careers were over, and Christopher made it standard practice to call R. C. on his birthday.
Stevens returned to Pittsburgh late in the season, but saw very limited action.
However, he did become part of history. On September 22, in the first game of a doubleheader, he struck out in the thirteenth inning. His was the nineteenth strikeout by the Phillies pitching staff, as they went on to strikeout a record 21 Pirates. In the second game of the doubleheader, the Phillies’ Jack Sanford stuck out 10 Bucs, bringing the doubleheader total to a record 31.
For Pittsburgh in 1958, he batted .267 with 7 home runs and 18 RBIs in 90 at-bats. Interestingly, his .556 slugging percentage was tops on the team, but the Bucs, who finished second in the standings with an 84-70 record, made the decision that Stuart was to be their first baseman. Stevens would never again see meaningful playing time in Pittsburgh.
Of course, the one question on everyone’s mind was, “What does R. C. stand for?” It seems that R. C. was given the initials, rather than a name, at birth. His Pirate teammates decided that R. C. stood for “Real Cool”, and that was his nickname during his limited time with the Bucs.
In 1959, Stevens was sent to Salt Lake City and batted .287 with a team-leading 19 home runs and 75 RBIs. On Labor Day, his ninth inning home run gave the Bees a 6-5 come-from-behind 6-5 win over San Diego and extended the Bees league lead to 2½ games. The Bees won the PCL Championship. He had two stints with the Pirates, getting into only 3 games and going 2-for-7.
In 1960, he again spent most of the season in the minor leagues with Salt Lake City, batting .276 with personal bests of a league leading 37 home runs and 109 RBIs. Among those home runs was a blast against young Juan Marichal of Tacoma on May 24. The Pirates called him up on September 10. He got into only nine games, mostly as a defensive replacement. He only had three at-bats and went hitless. However, in the team’s last regular season game, a 9-5 win over Milwaukee on October 2, he entered the game as a pinch runner for Stuart and scored the last run of the season when he was singled in by Dick Schofield.
During his time with the Pirates, Stevens became friends with infielder Gene Baker, and their friendship extended beyond their playing days as Stevens and his wife Carrie relocated to Baker’s hometown of Davenport, Iowa, becoming Baker’s next door neighbor for close to forty years. Baker passed away in 1999. R. C. and Carrie did not have any children.
Another lasting friendship from his years in baseball was with pitcher Dean Stone. They played a season of winter ball in Venezuela in 1959-60 for the Elders of Vargas in the Valencia Industrial League. Stone lived in Silvis, IL, not far from Davenport, and after their baseball careers ended, they were frequent companions on the golf course.
After the 1960 season, he was dealt to the expansion Washington Senators, along with two other players for Bobby Shantz. The Senators had selected Shantz from the Yankees in the expansion draft. Shantz was familiar to Pirate fans from his five inning relief stint in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. Stevens’ role, once again would be as a backup with Dale Long starting most of the games at first base for Washington.
In 1961 with Washington, he became the team’s first pinch-hitter, grounding out. His numbers with Washington were unimpressive, and he was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. He had only 8 hits in 62 at-bats with Washington. His last major league game was on June 10, 1961.
His Major League statistics were not particularly remarkable. But he was part of the show and took away memories to last a lifetime. He appeared in 104 games and batted .210 with 8 home runs and 19 RBIs. His fielding numbers were impressive. He made only two errors in 426 chances at first base.
He played with Toronto for parts of three seasons.
With Toronto, on July 26, 1961, he homered in a 9-8 win over Columbus.
He served in the U. S. Army reserves during his last years in baseball and he was discharged on November 13, 1964.
Towards the end of the 1963 season he played at home for the Quad Cities Angels, getting into 57 games and batting .245.
His minor league numbers were solid and gave a glimpse of what he may have achieved, given the opportunity. Over 12 minor league seasons, he batted .269 with 191 home runs and 459 RBIs.
Once his playing days were over, he moved to Davenport. He worked for Ametek in East Moline before going to work for International Harvester, where he rose to the rank of department manager. He lost his job at International Harvester in 1985 when the company sold off its agricultural division. After leaving International Harvester, he became a Davenport city bus driver for 12 years. Carrie Stevens passed away in 1995.
He was among the first inductees into the Colquitt County (GA) Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
He died on November 30, 2011 at the age of 76, in his adopted hometown of Davenport, Iowa.
Dean Stone, Bob Oldis, Everlene Register, and Joe Christopher were interviewed for this biography.
Bibliography:
Richard E. Beverage. The Hollywood Stars: Baseball in Movieland – 1926-1957, Placentia, CA, Deacon Press, 1984.
Articles used in this biography include:
Ned Cronin. The Los Angeles Times, Cronin’s Corner, September 6, 1956, Page A3
Don Doxsie. Quad-City Times, Ex-major leaguer, Q-C resident Stevens dies, December 3, 2010
John Naughton. Des Moines Register, Des Moines Sunday Register’s Sports Hall of Fame: Gene Baker, July 18, 2009
Eric Page. Quad-City Times, Davenport’s Stevens made big splash in majors 50 years ago this week, April 12, 2008
Wayne Grandy. The Moultrie (GA) Observer, December 3, 2010
Edward “Abie” Robinson. Abie’s Corner, The California Eagle, April 10, 1958
Young R. C. Stevens Shows Some Strong Power at Plate. Tonawanda News, April 4, 1958, Page 7

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The Surprise October Storm

While it is somewhat fresh in my memory, I have decided to write about the events of the past week. Most of us will remember this week for a long, long time.
It all started innocently enough. On Friday, October 28, we received a message from Gabe. Gabe is my wife’s former boss and his singing group was putting on a show on Saturday, October 29. He called to say that the show was postponed one week due to the unfavorable weather forecast. Well, unfavorable weather forecasts don’t always materialize.
On Saturday, I ran some errands in the morning, including a trip to Blue Back Square to buy a couple of books to be signed by author Jane Leavy the following morning. The streets of Blue Back were filled with legions of trick-or-treaters. Books in hand, I left for the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) meeting in Hamden, about a half hour southwest of us. As we arrived, several of us noted the deteriorating weather and concluded that not even Ernie Banks would have said “It’s a beautiful day for baseball – Let’s Play Two.” A couple of presenters decided to stay at home (smart move). The meeting proceeded. We took a break about 2:30 and things were not looking good outside. We resumed, but at about 4:30 decided to end the meeting early. By that time, we had received word that Jane Leavy (she is a sportswriter) had cancelled her Sunday morning book signing event. Also, the Trivia Contest will wait for another day.
We made our ways to our respective homes. Merritt Parkway was closed, so it was up Route 10 to I-84. The scene was not pretty as some trees and wires were down. I finally made it to Mountain Road. Mountain Road is one of the prettier roadways in West Hartford. Not this late afternoon. Trees and wires were down and in volumes much higher than further south in the State. I finally made the turn onto my block and, thank heavens the lights were on at my house. However, the house next door to our right was dark as a large limb came off the maple tree out front and took all the wires with it. We sat down, watched the news accounts of the storm, and had a quick supper. I then, it wound up being fortuitous, started a fire in the fireplace.
At 7:30 PM on Saturday October 29, the lights went off. We were plunged into virtual darkness, the only illumination being from the fireplace. I made my way upstairs and found the flashlight we keep in our bedroom. We suddenly became very religious as my wife found every candle holder in the house, located our box of Shabbat candles, and lit up the house as best she could. It wasn’t getting any warmer. We hunted down extra quilts for the bed and tried to get some sleep.
It was a very long night. Any attempt at sleep was interrupted by the sound of falling trees and limbs. By some miracle, nothing came crashing into the house.
Sunday morning, we awoke early. I went out to assess the damage. Out front, there was no lawn, just downed branches and limbs from the oak tree. One limb had missed the picture window in our living room by less than an inch. It was, by far, the heaviest of the limbs that fell. As bad as the front was, the back was worse. At least two very large limbs had come down from the maple tree, and huge limbs had come down from our neighbor to the left’s large old pine tree and fallen onto our yard. What a mess!
It was time to drive out and explore the neighborhood. Or so I thought. First I had to shovel and a foot of snow off the driveway. Then I ventured forth onto the unplowed streets of West Hartford. I tried taking my usual route to Main St. with no luck. I zigzagged my way through downed wires and trees only to find the access road totally blocked by a downed tree. I retraced my steps and was finally able to make my way to Bishops Corner, the main shopping area in our part of town. By some miracle, all the lights were on in Bishops Corner. I quickly made it to the bagel store and, after waiting on a very long line, got a couple of bagels along with hot tea (more me) and hot coffee (for my wife). We tried to get the radio going, but the batteries were week and reception was bad. From what we heard, the Governor warned everyone to prepare for the long haul. It would be a while before we got our power back – For once, One-Term Malloy was telling the truth.
In the early afternoon, I took Nikki and Sammy for a walk. They wanted to see the damage. Nikki is our big dog and best source of security. She is an Australian Shepherd/Collie mix. She is thirteen now, and her hearing isn’t that good. But the important things, she hears. Like the mailman. She also recognizes my mother-in-law’s voice on the answering machine and gives us the message when we get a call from Florida. Sammy is our little dog. He is a Shih Tzu. Of the three of us, Sammy has the best eyesight (Nikki wanted to be a seeing eye dog, but failed the vision exam). We walked our usual route, making our way through the destruction, until the road was totally blocked and we had to retrace our steps. We made it home and agreed that Barksdale Road (pun intended) was in very bad shape.

Later that afternoon, suffering from cabin fever, we made our way out to find a place for supper. Other than Bishops Corner, everything was closed. We went to an Italian Restaurant and waited 40 minutes. Waiting was no problem. My wife had brought along the Jodi Picoult book she was reading (autographed by the author – no less). And, we were warm. Finally, it was time to go home. Flashlight at the ready, we entered the house, started the fire, lit the candles, and endured our second heatless, lightless, sleepless night.
Monday morning, my wife ventured forth to work and promptly got stuck trying to get out of the driveway. Eventually, she made her way into work and was the first to arrive. I, being retired and having nothing better to do, made my way to Panera Bread. Not only were they serving breakfast, but they also had access to the internet. I saw some people I knew and quickly became friends with people I had never met before. Unfortunately, there was something wrong with my computer and I was unable to access WiFi. Not to worry, the Geek Squad at Best Buy could help me. So I made my way, circuitously, to Corbins Corner only to find that Best Buy did not have power. I was told that the store in Newington was open and off I went. Geek looks at computer, presses two buttons and – Voila! – I was good to go. I also went to the camera department (a trip to Best Buy always includes a visit to the Camera Department).
Since I was in Newington, I decided to head to their library. The Library was closed due to lack of power. Back to West Hartford I went. I made my way to the Main Library in Blue Back Square. It was closed. The search continued. The Bishops Corner branch, and the adjoining Senior Center were open. I found an empty table, took out a book that I was referencing in my most recent research, and began to write about Bill Virdon. For those of you that don’t remember him, he played centerfield for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates and hit one of the more famous (not the most famous) ground balls in World Series History. Enough about that. After some time, the battery got low on the computer and I went in search of an electric outlet. Searching for an available outlet was to become an art form. So there I was, the next great American baseball writer, on a chair next to an outlet, no table, laptop on my lap, books to the side, writing away about the Yankees of 1974. Things weren’t bad enough – I am now writing about the Steinbrenner Yankees (Virdon was the manager in 1974).
My wife got home, started the fire, and lit the candles. I was off to the Chinese Restaurant to pick up dinner. While waiting for the food, I went back to the Senior Center and found an outlet to charge up my cell phone. At home, we had our Chinese Food by candlelight. The Wonton soup never tasted better. Not long after, we tried to sleep in the cold and the dark.
It was Monday Night – our third night of Darkness.
Tuesday morning, my wife decided to see if they had showers for employees where she works (they do have facilities for guests). Low and behold – they did. She packed up a change of clothes and off she went. For me, it was back to Panera’s. That morning, I sat across from a man who was trying to sell a business idea to a prospective investor. I listened in. Hearing his pitch, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for some folks in South Florida with whom I have been dealing for the past few months – but that is another story. Tuesday, the main library was open. I made my way down to Blue Back, parked in the garage (free parking – hooray), and ventured forth. The elevator wasn’t working so I walked up. I definitely could use the exercise. I finally found a free table, hooked up the computer and MiFi, got on the internet and was in research heaven – the SABR website. I was in another type of heaven as well. Sitting at the table were a couple of pretty young ladies, one bearing a remarkable resemblance to Julia Roberts, who someday will make their careers in Medicine.
As I prepared to leave, I called my wife and told her to meet me at the library and we would dine in Blue Back. She said to meet her at the Senior Center. So, off to the Senior Center it was. On the way out of the library, I saw one of my former co-workers. She told me that the fitness center at work was allowing employees to shower, even if they weren’t members. Something to think about.
At the Senior Center, my wife did some reading (she is a perpetual reading machine). I continued with my writing. The TV was on, and we got the updates from the Governor and the head of our Power Company Connecticut Light and Power (the initials say it all). After that, it was the Silly News. Does anybody really care about these dumb celebrities? I heard someone mention my name. Wasn’t sure it was me that was being called. It seems there are many people with my name in West Hartford. Anyhow, it was another coworker and another invite to use the facilities at the office. At 8:00 PM, the Senior Center closed and it was off to Harry’s Pizza. We took home leftovers for the dogs – they are helping me write this. We got home, let the animals out – one of the cats decided to spend the night outdoors, and went to bed.
It was Tuesday Night – Our fourth night without power, and it was cold.
Wednesday morning, it was back to Panera’s. The internet was not working well there, so I went to the library/senior center for a couple of hours. It was warmer at midday, so I went home and started cleaning up the yard as best I could. The snow had melted and I filled several bags with leaves and smaller branches. That night, the wife decided to grill some dinner. We are not big into grilling, but she found the charcoal, ventured to the back porch, and got the grill going. The best part of the dinner was the hot tea.
Then, night fell. We sat by the fire. Our cat Elsie (Elsie is part cat, part bowling ball) sat by the fire. Our cat Morty (Morty is part persian, part undetermined) was outside again, guarding the neighbors’ houses. He also discovered it was warmer outside than inside. Smart Cat.
And Wednesday came to a close. We were in our fifth night of darkness, and the power company said we would not have power until Sunday night.
Thursday was pretty much a repeat of Wednesday. However, my wife decided to head to the Senior Center to do some work, after she got home. I joined her after filling a few more bags with debris from the yard. That night was pizza night. We grabbed a couple of slices. And at 8:00 PM we made our way home to sixth night of darkness. We had had it. While at the senior center, I had called our son Marc and told him that we would go out with him to his place in the Poconos for the weekend. Details to be worked out on Friday morning. We also were getting low on matches, so I went out to pick up some. It took me three stops. At my second stop, Walgreens’s, I was told “If you need it, we ain’t got it.” That summed things up quite concisely.
Friday morning – aka The Promised Land
When I got up on Friday morning, there was an electrician’s truck blocking my driveway. Definitely a good sign. It seems that overnight, CL&P had reattached the downed electric wire to my neighbor’s house. I asked the electrician how things were going and he said that crews were in the area checking for safety concerns. He was optimistic that the grid would be turned on “soon.” Once he left, I was off to Panera, hopefully for the last time. I told my new friends the encouraging news. One man had picked up a generator the night before.

My MiFi connection was working well, and I was pouring through old copies of the Sporting News when I saw one of my neighbors. She told me the power was back on. So long – Panera. Forget about escaping. I was going home. Got home, had lunch, and got to work on the yard, cutting things up with my electric circular saw. Not quite as powerful as a chain saw, but not bad either. Friday night, we just rested and made sure the alarms were off.
Saturday, the yardwork continued. My neighbor from across the street offered to help me do the cleanup out back. He has some heavier equipment. He also appreciates my cat’s effort at keeping his home free of pests. Thanks to Morty, our area is free of chipmunks, mice, etc.
Saturday Night we went to the show in Waterbury. On the way down, we saw how lucky we were. Most of West Hartford was still without power, and Friday night had been brutally cold. Saturday night was more of the same. The show, a Halloween Performance called Zombie Jamboree was great. Gabe, my wife’s former boss, had written it for his singing group (sixteen strong). It included great parodies, wonderful acting and singing, and great scenery. And that was only the first half of the show. After the intermission, we were entertained by a guest group “Without Warning (WOW)”. They were a female barbershop quartet. Then the Valley Chordsmen, who put on the show, took off their makeup, donned tuxedos, and sang a few numbers. Afterwards, we went out to eat with sever members of the cast and friends. It was a truly enjoyable evening.
Not sure what the next days will bring, but it has been quite an adventure.

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Thirty Two Innings

Memorial Day, Sunday May, 31, 1964 – Thirty-Two Innings
Across from the magnificent New York World’s Fair is a spacious arena which is popularly known as Shea Stadium. During the spring and summer months, baseball is played there. In the fall, football attracts fans to the new arena. This essay concerns baseball and, more specifically, two teams that on a part cloudy, part rainy, part clear, and much too long day, played a doubleheader during which records were set, broker, and made altogether unrecognizable – and after which the result was absolutely clear. The San Francisco Giants had swept two games from the New York Mets.
The “Official Program and Scorecard,” available at the Stadium, includes a number of features, one of which is a higher price than existed during the days when the Mets played their home games at the Polo Grounds. Looking around the stadium, one could notice that it was very difficult for those keeping score (most had given up), to find room on the scorecard to keep an account of the second game as it went into its latter stages.
The first game will be mentioned here only to fill a void in the minds of any readers who may not be familiar with the result.
Clouds hung overhead as the first remnants of a crowd entered the Stadium. The time was half past ten. It was unbelievable, unless one had seen the lines of fans outside the stadium purchasing tickets (and knowing that the lines were longer than any that existed on the other side of the tracks at the World’s Fair) that the crowd would eventually number 57,037, paid. It would be the largest major league crowd since another sweep had taken place, that being in the 1963 World Series when the Los Angeles Dodgers, formerly of Brooklyn, had defeated the New York Yankees.
By noon, most of the seats not sold in advance had been gobbled up. However, a mist like rain began to fall. Umbrellas sprung up all over the park, and some spectators elected to purchase hats in order to shield their heads from the steadily falling rain. The rain stopped just as the game was to begin. The time was 1:05 PM. The Mets took the field and were wildly applauded by their fans. The Mets, for those who do not know, are an expression of human futility.
The Mets gave their fans something to cheer about in the second inning. Joe Christopher, who, as the day passed into night, was to gain a great following in right field, singled. Ed Kranepool singled. Ed was tired. He had just been called up to the Mets from their Buffalo farm team after playing a doubleheader for the Triple A affiliate. With two men on base, Giant Pitcher Juan Marichal faced Jim Hickman, an original Met more commonly known as “Whiff.” Hickman put the Mets ahead with a home run over the left field wall.
The score remained 3-0 until Jesus Alou, batting against the Met starter Alvin Jackson, knocked in Orlando Cepeda with San Francisco’s first run in the fourth inning. The Giants took the lead with three runs in the fifth inning, all charged to Jackson. After allowing the first three batters to reach safely, Jackson was relieved by the former Yankee, Tom Sturdivant. The lead run was scored by the Baby Bull, Orlando Cepeda. After doubling and going to third base on a sacrifice by Jim Davenport, Cepeda stole home. His steal was remarkable in that Sturdivant’s pitch appeared to have the runner beaten by at least ten feet. It has been said by some observers that catcher Jesse Gonder’s better-than-average stomach got in the way of the tag.
The Giants completed the scoring in the ninth when Harvey Kueen drove in Jesus Alou with the Giants’ fifth run. Juan Marichal completed the game by striking out two batters in the ninth inning, bringing his total to seven. In wrapping up his eighth win of the season, the San Francisco ace allowed nine hits.
The time of game was 2:29.
Between games, the Sunrisers Band from Mineola, Long Island, presented entertainment for those fans wishing to remain in their seats. As the musicians completed a fine performance, the two teams returned to their respective dugouts.
The Giants continued their scoring binge as they took the second game lead with two runs in the first inning of the Mets’ starter Bill Wakefield.. The runs were driven in by Jesus Alou and Willie Mays. The Mets closed the gap by scoring an unearned run of the Giants’ Bob Bolin in the second. A four run outburst by San Francisco in the third inning widened the gap to 6-1. Met Pitchers Craig Anderson and Tom Sturdivant were victimized by the Giant rally which featured six singles and no extra-base hits. Singles by Jesus Alou, Cepeda, Tom Haller, Chuck Hiller, Jim Ray Hart, and Bolin resulted in some fans heading home. The exodus was slowed by not stopped when the Mets scored two runs in the sixth inning. The rally featured singles by Christopher and Charley Smith sandwiched around a triple by Kranepool past Mays in center.
In the Mets’ have of the seventh inning, Roy McMillan and Frank Thomas singled. Joe Christopher then stepped in. Encouraged by his supporters in right field, he hit a pitch to deepest centerfield, 410 feet from home plate. The biggest roar of the afternoon came as Mays, the great San Francisco centerfielder, leaped against the wall and, with his glove extended over the wall, grabbed the ball as it was leaving the field. He came to the ground with his glove high in the air, signifying for all to see that he had caught the ball. There was one thing wrong, however. There was no ball in the glove. After Christopher had circled the bases and touched home plate, the score was knotted at six-six.
From that point on, the score remained tied. It was not an absolute pitchers’ battle however, as Cepeda, Haller, and Jesus Alou maintained hot bats for the Giants against the superb Met relief pitching of Larry Bearnarth and Galen Cisco. In the top of the tenth, Haller tripled but was stranded at third as Bearnarth got pinch hitter Matty Alou to ground out.
Shuffling of players between positions became commonplace. In the bottom of the eighth, after Willie McCovey had pinch hit for shortstop Gil Garrido, Jim Davenport was inserted into the game to shortstop. In the bottom of the tenth, after Matty Alou had pinch hit for Jim Ray hart in a lefty-righty switch, Davenport was moved to third base (his natural position) and Willie Mays took over at shortstop. Mays, temporarily, was replaced in cernterfield by Matty Alou.
The Mets, especially Charlie Smith and Christopher, would get some hits, but were unable to convert anything into a run. The hits were singles, and the Mets were not able to bunch three singles together to score a run.
The pitchers were in control. Giant relief ace Ron Herbel pitched the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. Bearnarth of the Mets pitched from the 8th through the 14th inning. In his seven innings of work, he gave up three hits and struck out four.
But Herbel and Bearnarth’s accomplishments were to be overshadowed by the exploits of Gaylord Perry of the Giants and Galen Cisco of the Mets.
Perry entered the game in the bottom of the thirteenth, and there were wholesale changes in the fielding alignment. Mays went back to centerfield. He did not have anything hit at him during his three innings at shortstop. Davenport went back to shortstop and was replaced by Cap Petersen at third base. Matty Alou moved from centerfield to leftfield, replacing Harvey Kueen.
In the thirteenth inning, Amado “Sammy” Samuel reached Perry for a single. This was followed with a single to right field by Roy McMillan. A great through by Jesus Alou cut down Samuel trying to advance to third base.
In the fourteenth, the Giants had Jesus Alou on second and Mays on first with none out, with the great Cepeda coming to the plate, prompting more fans to head for the exits. Dark, with fast runners on base, put on the signal for a hit-and-run play. It was the obvious thing to do, and why shouldn’t Dark have made that call with Cepeda, the hottest bat in the Giant lineup, coming up. Well, as one Met fan may have reasoned – if Cepeda should hit a line drive at an infielder, there could be a triple play. He did, there was, and the fans returned to their seats.
The Mets’ 15th inning provided the best argument of the long day. Dark argued that umpire Ed Sudol should have conferred with the other umpires before making a decision on a pitch that resulted in a walk. Sudol, whose temper had become very hot, quickly ejected Dark, but before he left the playing area, the Giant manager put the game under protest. The base on balls was not fatal. Davenport grabbed a hot grounder off the bat of Cisco, and turned it into an inning-ending double play. From then on, Sudol became the target of taunts from the Giant fans in attendance.
At this stage of the game, the impatient fans could hear constant police whistles as fights sprang up around the stadium. Hunger was a problem throughout the park. The vendors had left the park at 8 o’clock. Most fans were not about to leave their seats for food, fearing that they might miss an important piece of action. Up until that advanced stage off the game, the spectators had felt that the game would not last more than fifteen innings. Over the course of the day, twenty-four innings had been played before their eyes, and those eyes were beginning to close. It looked as though the game would go on forever.
The Mets were not going to remove Cisco, as they had run out of pinch hitters. The Giants had back-up catcher Del Crandall on the bench available for pinch-hitting duties, but opted to leave Perry in the game. Perry, in relief, went on to strike out nine batters, allowing seven hits.
In the top of the 20th inning, Haller singled with one out, was slow getting back to first on a fly ball to right by Hiller, and was thrown out by Christopher.
It seemed as if every longevity record would fall. The first record to fall was time for a doubleheader, followed by innings in a doubleheader. The teams went into the twenty-third inning, and it became clear that the single game record for time would quite obviously be broken. The teams set a new record as they went into the eighth hour of the second game.
In the Giants’ half of the inning, Hiller and Matty Alou were out before some fans in the front row had had the time to sit down from their between inning stretch. Jim Davenport, who had been excelling in the field, then stepped in. The crowd roared as he hit a ball that travelled into the right field corner. By the time a very tired Joe Christopher could retrieve the ball, Davenport was standing at third base with a triple. Met Manager Casey Stengel ordered Cisco to intentionally walk Cap Peterson, bringing up Perry. Perry was not your typical hitting pitcher. He was worse, and had gone 0 for 3 with a strikeout and two ground balls. The brain trust of the Giants sent in Crandall to pinch hit for Perry. Of course, Giant fans were a bit apprehensive as Perry was not showing any signs of tiring on the mound. Crandall proceeded to break up the game, plating Davenport with a ground rule double to right field. Peterson advanced to third and scored on an infield hit by Jesus Alou. The Giants were to take an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the 23rd inning, and very few fans were around for the finish. Bob Hendley then came in to settle the issue retiring the three Mets he faced, striking out two.
In the twenty-third and final inning, two records were set – one was a National League Record, and the other was a Major league record. One was about time, and the other was about dexterity. The strikeouts by Hendley brought the total by Giants pitching for the game to twenty-two, eclipsing the mark for strikeouts in an extra-inning game, set by Tom Cheney of Washington who had struck out 21 in a sixteen inning complete game against Baltimore in 1962. When Jesus Alou caught the final out, the game became the longest ever, in terms of time, to be completed in the history of the national League – 7 hours and 23 minutes.
Fans filed out of the ball park, and the looks on some faces implied that some fans were hoping for the game to last even longer so as to break more records. None of the Met fans seemed to mind the loss because in that loss there had been several wins – the thrills of such a game, the fact that the Met pitchers had kept the Giants scoreless for twenty straight innings, and the realization that it would not be hard to fall asleep. How could you stay awake after a game like that?
Postscript and Notes:
This was originally written in June, 1964.
In those days, fans would come early for batting and fielding practice. Fielding practice for the Giants was always a highlight as Willie Mays played at shortstop during the infield drills. Thus it was no big surprise when Giant manager Alvin Dark played Mays at shortstop during the nightcap.
The New York World’s Fair lasted from 1964 through 1965. Not much is left. The Unisphere was US Steel’s contribution. This large globe is still there, as are the towers of the New York Pavillion. The Singer Bowl was renamed the Louis Armstrong Arena and is part of the US Tennis Center. It has played host to numerous US Opens and now stands aside the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center.
Shea Stadium did not see much baseball activity during the fall months during its first years of existence. There was post season play starting with the Miracle Mets of 1969. Shea Stadium was torn down prior to the 2009 season and replaced (to use a Paul Simon lyric) with a parking lot.
The New York Jets played at Shea Stadium until they moved to Giants Stadium in New Jersey in the 1980’s.
One of Shea’s drawbacks, abundantly clear on that day, was that there was little protection from the elements.
Joe Christopher was to go on to play 154 games and bat .300.
And yes, Orlando Cepeda did steal home.
And yes, Kranepool tripled past Mays.
Gaylord Perry, prior to this outing, had minimal success. In this game, legend has it, he used a new pitch, his “hard slider”, to dominate the Mets. Over the course of his more than twenty year career, many accused him of doctoring the ball.
The second game ended at 11:30 PM, prompting Met announcer Ralph Kiner that it had been the longest color television broadcast ever. In New York, TV ratings were higher than those for such stalwarts as “What’s My Line?” on CBS.
This writer took the subway to Woodside, Queens and transferred to the LIRR for the long trip to Babylon. Mom came to pick me up at the station. The next day was a school day. In homeroom (I was a High School Senior at the time), I mentioned that I was at the game, and the girl to my left had also been there.
Five future Hall-of Famers were in the second game for the Giants: Mays, Cepeda, Perry, McCovey, and Duke Snider. Another Hall of Famer, Marichal, had pitched in the first game of the doubleheader.
The extra inning team strikeout record has been eclipsed on four occasions. The record, set by the Oakland A’s (in 20 innings) in 1971, and tied by the Angels (also in 20 innings) in 2004 stands at 26. The double header strikeout record of 29 still stands.
Combined team strikeouts were equally impressive. Mets and Giants pitchers combined for 36 strikeouts in the second game and 47 strikeouts for the doubleheader. The single game record, set in 1971 by the Angels and A’s is 43. The double header strikeout record of 47 still stands.
The record for the longest game in terms of elapsed time is 8 hours and six minutes, set by the Brewers and the White Sox in 1984. The game began on May 8, suspended at 12:59 AM on May 9, and resumed later in the day on May 9. The Mets-Giants game is still the longest without an interruption. The Mets have been involved in five games of twenty innings or more, including three of the eight longest.
The records for most innings in a double header (32) and time of a double header (9 hours 52 minutes) still stand.
Chris Cannizzaro (Mets) and Tom Haller (Giants) caught all twenty-three innings of the second game.
Harvey Kueen went on to become a Manager. Al Jackson, Larry Bearnarth and Galen Cisco became pitching coaches.

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SABR

I just attended a SABR breakfast. SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research. Our local chapter gets together periodically. I am new to this. It was great meeting with fellow Baseball friends, gaining insights, sharing stories, etc. I am currently doing research on Gino Cimoli, an outfield who played for several teams from 1956 through 1965. More to come.

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