Game Was 50 Years Ago, but Memories of Bygone Era Live On


It was a different autumn in a different place, but Arnold Hano can still see it in his mind’s eye -- the New York City of 1954, the haze that adorned the morning of Sept. 29 and the D Train that took him into upper Manhattan and the Polo Grounds for the first game of the ’54 World Series between the Indians and his beloved Giants.

It turned out to be a memorable day in baseball history, which is why we’re talking in his Laguna Beach house on what is the game’s 50th anniversary. With a lifetime of professional writing behind him, Hano seems unable to get soapily sentimental about the whole thing, mainly because at 82 he’s still the same wisecracker he says he was as a kid in the Bronx who wrote his first novel at 8.

“My memory goes back to about last Thursday,” he quips.

Even if that were true, he’d still have “A Day in the Bleachers” to leaf through. It’s a book he wrote within weeks of that ’54 World Series game, an event immortalized because it included Willie Mays’ famous over-the-shoulder catch in the top of the eighth inning that many baseball lovers still revere as the best ever.


Though critically acclaimed, the book never sold many copies. Hano is philosophical about that, but he’s gotten a renewed round of publicity for the 50th-anniversary stuff, including a New York Times piece and a spot on National Public Radio. Da Capo Press has re-released it with a new afterword by Hano. For reasons only they know, the Giants have done nothing to commemorate the anniversary.

But Hano isn’t moping. While talking, I keep thinking we should discuss something weighty, but he’s so consistently entertaining and breezy that we never get around to it. Besides, I want to save my space here for passages from the book, like this one where Hano muses about taking a radio and sitting outside the Polo Grounds:

“I could climb to the top of Coogan’s Bluff, overlooking the ball field to the northwest, sit on the rocks and grass, and watch second base while I listened to the game. I had done this many times in my youth.”

Or this account of the Giants’ starting pitcher Sal “The Barber” Maglie, after he was relieved in the eighth:

“There was a sprinkling of applause for the man who had come into the stadium some time before 11 o’clock that morning, clean-shaven and tastefully dressed and was now going off tired and grimy, his face coated with sweat and dark beard.”

As a Nebraska boy in the early ‘60s, I remember Hano’s byline from Sport magazine. We’re both hard-pressed to believe that the trail has led us to meet in 2004 in Laguna Beach, where Arnold and his wife, Bonnie, have lived since leaving New York in 1955.


Can he connect the dots from that World Series game to today? “I was 32 then,” he says. “I’m 82 now. The dots would run from here to the Nile.”

Hano writes a column for the local Laguna Beach newspaper and says writing has always come quickly to him. No grunting or groaning over the keyboard. At Long Island University, he’d planned to be a doctor. “I was hating biology and chemistry,” he says. “One day I went into the newspaper office and they were laughing, having fun. I didn’t know you were allowed to have fun.”

That set him on a professional career that includes 26 books and more than 400 magazine articles. He still roots for the Giants but doesn’t live and die for them.

In our only look into “the good old days,” Hano says the thing he laments today is the “absence of spontaneity.” For the ’54 Series game, he decided the night before to stand in line on game day for a bleacher seat that cost $2.10.

Today, he says, everyday life is so “controlled and channeled” that even children’s activities seemed programmed on a daily basis. “The book talks about a different era when things were more spontaneous,” he says.

Things change, but I get the impression that Hano, who greeted me in blue jeans and sneakers, isn’t far removed from the cutup of yesteryear.


While I’m there, someone phones and asks him about another interview he’d done. “I don’t think I was bright or scintillating,” he says to the caller. “But, then, the questions were kind of flat, so they got what they deserved.”

Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana. An archive of his recent columns is at