Fertile Ground Found to Create Field of Esteemed
Roberto Clemente stole three bases, Willie Mays homered and tripled, and Sandy Koufax scattered six hits as the National League defeated the American League, 3-2, in this week’s memorial flashback game inside a baseball fan’s mind.
The game was interrupted by a bench-clearing brawl after Ty Cobb said something about Lou Gehrig’s wife. Joe DiMaggio told Cobb that he should be ashamed of himself, but Babe Ruth advised DiMaggio to mind his own business.
The game took only two hours to play and ended long before children went to bed.
Mickey Mantle, who has no incentive clauses in his contract for statistics or appearances because “that’s what they pay me for,” began the game with a leadoff hit against Koufax that he legged into a double.
After dusting himself off, Mantle pinched the bridge of his nose as though suffering from a painful headache, then whispered to shortstop Ernie Banks, “You’ll never know how hard that was.”
Banks smiled at Mantle and said, “Yes, but oh, isn’t this a beautiful morning?”
Frank Robinson followed by hitting behind the runner, exactly the way he had been taught, and advanced Mantle to third with a deep drive to Clemente in right field, for which he was justifiably given a sacrifice fly. The runner then scored on Ruth’s single off the top of the right field fence.
Ruth nearly ruined the game before it began by holding out for free hot dogs, but was talked out of it by American League starting pitcher Satchel Paige, who said: “Man, how many chances like this will I ever get?”
The exhibition was broadcast to a nationwide radio audience, sponsored by Burma Shave lather and Van Heusen dress shirts. The $1 parking fee was donated to war relief.
A twi-night doubleheader was originally scheduled, but Game 2 had to be suspended because of an approaching thunderstorm and the fact that baseball was naturally being played outdoors. Also, Gehrig had promised his wife that he would be home by 5 o’clock.
Second baseman Jackie Robinson beat out a bunt to begin the bottom of the first. In the press box, broadcaster Red Barber tousled the red hair of his young partner and said, “We may be seeing the beginning of something here.” His partner agreed and said: “Pull up a chair, because this one should be a dandy.”
Pete Rose collected $2 bills from several teammates in the dugout.
“Told you that kid would get on,” Rose said.
The next batter was National League first baseman Marv Throneberry, who said he still couldn’t understand what he was doing in this game. He struck out on three pitches and was immediately replaced in the lineup by Stan Musial.
Henry Aaron struck out, but Mays drove home Robinson with a triple to the gap in right-center. Tagged out by Yogi Berra trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run, Mays shook hands with Robinson--a simple handshake, in which one man grips the other’s hand and squeezes.
Pee Wee Reese put an arm around Robinson’s shoulders and brought him his glove.
The score remained 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh, right after the lucky-number program drawing. Batting for the pitcher, pinch-hitter Vic Wertz crushed a ball that drove Mays all the way to the warning track in center, scoring Cobb, who tagged up at third and slid spikes-first into Johnny Bench’s mask. On the bench, Don Drysdale told Koufax to be sure to stick one in Cobb’s ear.
American League Manager Miller Huggins had made a suggestion not to have pitchers bat for themselves, but the National Leaguers all looked at him as though he were nuts.
At one point, hundreds of fans rose and sat, rose and sat, waving their arms, until older customers told them to sit down and stop blocking their view. Several elderly women, admitted at half-price on Ladies’ Day, got into an argument with a man smoking a cigar, but it ended quickly when a fast-thinking vendor gave everyone a free bottle of beer.
In the ninth inning, Brooks Robinson saved a run with a diving grab at third, but Mays followed with a game-winning two-run homer on a suspiciously slow fastball by relief pitcher Eddie Cicotte. The ball cleared the left field fence and went into the corn. Shoeless Joe Jackson toppled over the fence trying to make the catch and was never seen again.
Mays really belted that apple off the vanquished hurler, ending the tussle with his round-tripper in the final stanza.
“I would play this game for free,” Mays said.
“Me, too,” Paige said.
“Like hell,” Cobb said.
“Money isn’t everything,” DiMaggio said.
“What’s important is the game,” Frank Robinson said.
“And the fans,” Brooks Robinson said.
“And opportunity,” Jackie Robinson said.
“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” Gehrig said.
“Oh, give it a rest,” Ruth said.
“Let’s play two,” Banks said.
“Let’s play forever,” Musial said.
“Wish I could,” Clemente said.
“Me too,” Drysdale said.
“Not me,” Koufax said.
“I’d like to break some records,” Aaron said.
“Ten bucks says you do,” Rose said.
“You should switch-hit,” Mantle said.
“Mickey’s amphibious,” Berra said.
“I wish we made more money,” Cicotte said.
“We will,” a younger man said.
“Lots more,” a second man said.
“Tons more,” a third man said.
“Who are you guys?” a fan asked.
“The future,” they replied.