I was watching an excellent program on the history of baseball-this particular segment featured the Negro Leagues and the first black players to get into the major-Robinson, Paige, Flood and many other heroes.
There was a long segment on on Hall of Famer Willy Mays during which they showed his miraculous catch of Vic Wertz’s 400 foot drive to centerfield (and long throw in) during the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.
It broke my heart to see this-bringing back painful memories from childhood, the sort of trauma which never leaves one no matter how far in the distant past ! As mentioned previously I have always been an Indians fan (because I appreciate pitchers more than batters)-I know, it’s like hitting oneself over the head with a hammer- only two pennants in my lifetime- but it could be worse, I could have been a Cubs fan I guess.
This World series was my first introduction to baseball. I recall the Daily News cartoon with a huge giant (with no eyes for some reason) holding a bat and the title ran “I have a war club too” it’s amazing what sticks’ in your mind! Perhaps I was scared of the giant, and started supporting the Indians, but Mays catch and the 4-0 whitewash-Dusty Rhodes urghhh-left strong connections in my synapses which still spark when I think about it.
That said there is a new added trauma. During the programs segment on Mays a ballplayer being interviewed said, whilst they were showing May’s incredible, back to the home plate running catch, “of course his hat flew off like that because he wore a size too big to create exactly that effect”.
What a rotten thing to say, it was bad enough seeing poor Vic Wertz done out of a probable inside the park home run and the Indians a win. To have one’s childhood illusions-and baseball illusions are the sweetest and best-utterly destroyed is horrible. I don’t blame Mays for creating the magic in young kids minds-good for him but how sad to see the magician behind the curtain. Darn it I wish I had never seen the program, there are so many illusion in life which get knocked off as one progresses but people, or rather spoil sports (literally) should leave things like Willy Mays cap size alone.
In passing every generation thinks their childhood baseball memories are the best and I am no exception-for all you older and younger than me you have missed out in life by not seeing (amongst many others which I can’t remember just now !)
Bobby Shantz in the All-Star game mowing through batters in his all to brief time at the top before his arm went.
Listening to Hoyt Wilhelm’s no hitter on a transistor radio under my pillow.
Seeing the otherwise nondescript Johnny Schmidt throw a curveball so huge it went right around Hank Bauer’s bat (in grainy black and white on channel 13 in New York City).
Being privileged to actually see Mickey Mantle hit one almost out of Yankee Stadium off Chuck Stobbs (the Senators were ten runs behind the Yankees every game they played against them, even before the game started).
Crying as I listened to Yankees announcer Mel Allen describe what had just happened to Herb Score who was hit in the eye by a ball of the bat of Gil McDougal. Score would have been one of the greatest of all time if that split second of bad luck had not happened.
And so many more-baseball is better than any drug/money-in fact anything, when you are young. I just hope any memories you might have are not so sadly overthrown as mine of Mays were !