By Dr. Harvey Frommer
With the New York Yankees back in business and the future looking bright and my THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK coming out this fall, for your reading pleasure - -a small excerpt.
Story or statement of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true.
As the story goes, Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankee boss Dan Topping were at Toots Shor’s one night bantering about how much more suited to hit at Yankee Stadium was Ted Williams and how much more suited to hit at Fenway Park was Joe DiMaggio. The evening allegedly concluded with the two owners exchanging a handshake and agreeing to make a DiMaggio for Williams’s trade.
It was reported that when Topping arrived home at 4:00 A.M. and realized what he had agreed to, he picked up the phone and in a panic called Yawkey. "Tom," he began, "I'm sorry but I can't go through with the deal."
"Thank God," was supposedly Yawkey’s reply.
Another version of the purported DiMaggio-Williams deal has Tom Yawkey being the one who made the phone call.
"Dan, I know it's very, very late, and I still want to make that trade we discussed. However, if you still want to make it you'll have to throw in that left-handed hitting outfielder. You know who I mean, that little odd-looking rookie."
"I can't," Topping said. “We’re thinking of making him a catcher. I guess we’ll have to call off the deal."
So Joe DiMaggio remained a Yankee.
Ted Williams remained a member of the Red Sox.
And the little and awkward looking rookie remained with the Yankees and became a catcher. His name - Lawrence Peter Berra.
The 1966 season and September 22nd proved to be sad metaphors for the sorry state of affairs for the New York Yankees. The whole week had a light schedule.
PAUL DOHERTY: The only Yankee games scheduled for the week were Tuesday the 20th of September, a night game and Friday September 23rd. The Yankees closed out their home season that Sunday the 25th.
Those who had tickets would get rain checks first for Wednesday (no go, rain) and then the Thursday. In effect, they would only be able to go to a week day game on the 22nd. Prior to this 9/22 makeup game the Yankees had lost 10 out of their previous 14 games. And Mickey Mantle was not playing either. There were probably a number of people who assumed this game would not be made up at all.
There was a strong possibility of rain on September 22. The entire metropolitan area was wet generally. The day before that game, 5.54 inches of rain fell on New York City – still a record for that day. So, maybe people just assumed that the field would be unplayable? The forecast for the day of the game had a chance of rain in it too.
On September 22, 1966 just 413 showed at the Stadium, the smallest home crowd in the Yankee’s proud history. The last-place Yankees were downed, 4-1 by the White Sox. Broadcaster Red Barber ordered TV cameras to show the empty seats. As the story goes, that assertiveness by one of the greatest baseball announcers of all-time cost him job with the Yankees.
"I don't know,” Red Barber said, “what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium...and this crowd is the story, not the game."
PAUL DOHERTY: Making an issue of the 413 in the house was not the reason Barber was let go. Although Red still called a good game on radio, he was never a good TV announcer. By 1966 his vocal instrument wasn’t as supple as it had been in his Brooklyn heyday. And Red was far too caught up in broadcast booth politics and egotism to function properly as the broadcast team’s leader. His Yankee fate was sealed no matter what happened at the low-attended game. By the end of 1966 Garagiola and Rizzuto wouldn’t work with Barber who just worked on-air with Jerry Coleman. Alas, at this stage of the game, Red was the haughty one. And it cost him his Yankee career. He never landed a regular play-by-play gig with a major league team again.
And something rarely brought up. The next day’s game, 9/23 Friday against Boston, day game: 1,440 was the attendance. This game must also be among the lowest attended games ever. It was a breezy day, around 70 degrees. And Yom Kippur started at sundown this day.
Yogi Berra never was paid for the character Yogi Bear even though it was obviously named for him.
“Mickey Mantle’s Tape Measure Shot”
According to Marty Appel: "Red (Patterson) never got hold of a tape measure; he walked it off with his size 11 shoes and estimated the distance."
“Centerfielders: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bernie Williams”
The popular perception is that Joe DiMaggio was a Yankee centerfielder for 13 seasons, His tenure was actually for 12.5 seasons. In 1936 the Yankee Clipper started 54 times in center field. After that he made at least 113 starts almost every year for the remainder of his playing career aside from 1949. Injuries limited him to just 76 games. Service in WWII 1943-45 cut into his playing career.
After DiMaggio retired, Mickey Mantle became the next longest serving center fielder. However, “the Mick” was not exclusively a centerfielder. In his rookie season of 1951 DiMaggio was still there. The Commerce Comet played 84 games in right field and three games in centerfield. From 1952 for the next 15 seasons the Mick was fixture as the Yankee centerfielder. In 1967, Mantle moved to first base for his final two seasons.
Bernie Williams was not the regular center fielder until 1993. He actually played from in 1991-1992, but that was part-time. The graceful Williams manned centerfield through the 2005. His 16th and final year as a Yankee in 2006, he splitting time between left field, center field and designated hitter.
Wally Pipp & the Aspirins
“"I took the two most expensive aspirins in history" has gone down in history as one of baseball’s most famous quotes.” It is untrue.
Technically Gehrig's streak began a day earlier when he pinch-hit. The next day he was positioned at first base and his long tenure began – 2,129 straight games. Back in those days a mild headache would never keep a player out of a game. They played on through pain and injury. That, in fact was what the Iron Horse had to do to set his record consecutive games played.
About the Author: One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone. In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.
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