Johnny Blanchard, Four Straight Hommers - July 21- 22,
Most people associate home run hitting and the Yankees with 1961 and
Roger Maris. But it was also the time of Johnny Blanchard. The third
string catcher nearly quit in 1960 when Casey Stengel toyed with
activating 40-year-old Jim Hegan as a back up to Yogi Berra when Elston
Howard was hurt. Casey was glad he didn't go for Hegan; Blanchard had a
career year and was adequate behind the plate. And he also did some
special home run hitting.
On July 21, Johnny B hammered a ninth inning, two out, pinch hit grand
slam home run at Fenway Park to push the Yanks to an 11-8 victory over the
Red Sox. The next day Blanchard hit another ninth inning, pinch hit homer
to spark a second come-from- behind victory over Boston.
On July 26, the man they called "Super- Sub" slashed his third and fourth
home runs at Yankee Stadium against the Chicago White Sox. The homers
drove in four runs as the Yanks beat the White Sox, 5-2.
Four straight homers over three games tied a major league record. Not bad
for a guy who was ready to pack in his career the year before.
Blanchard's career was essentially spent as a third string catcher: He
played in 516 games, batted .239, hit 67 home runs. In the World Series he
caught fire; in 15 games he batted .345 and had five home runs.
In 1965, the Yankees traded him to to Kansas City. The "Super- Sub" sat in
the Yankees clubhouse and sobbed away. Mickey Mande sat down next to
Blanchard and attempted to cheer him up.
"Don't take it so hard, John. Just think, in Kansas City you're going to
get a chance to play."
"Hell, I can't play, Mick. That's why I'm crying."
But Blanchard could play especially on July 21- 22, 1961 - when his bat
was lit by lightning.
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
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"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
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Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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