Play Ball!!

Well the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the NBA Basketball Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, Golf Tournaments and just about everything else, (wait, not “just about anything,” EVERYTHING has been cancelled or postponed. But not Major League Baseball. Nope! No-sir-ee Major League Baseball is just about to begin So “Play Ball.” The first thing we all do right before the first ball is tossed out is to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” So here we go……………..”Take Me Out……….” What? Say What? Huh? Say that again!! NO BASEBALL! O BASEBALL!

Someone call Tom Hanks and tell him, “there is crying in baseball,” or to be more precise, “crying when there’s no baseball.” Hmmmmm. Now what. Is this the end? Well, maybe not the end of the world, but possibly the end of my column if I don’t think of something quick. Hmmmm, let me see. Let me see……My eyes close, my head lowers and before you know it, an official nap has commenced.

“Play Ball” the Comiskey Park Announcer blares into the loud speaker. The National Anthem has been played and the Chicago White Sox take the field as they face the powerful New York Yankees. It’s June 3, 1961 and the New York Yankees are playing the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Ball Park on the south side of Chicago This is my very first Major League baseball game. I’m nine years old and my brother, his friend and one of my friends are sitting about 20 rows up down the right field line. I have my autographed “Mickey Mantle” Rawlings baseball glove and we’re ready for that first pitch.

“Play Ball,” the umpire yells. I couldn’t hear him of course as we’re way out in right field. But what an experience! The White Sox have Nellie Fox, Louie Apparicio and Minnie Mineso, and the Yanks have Mantle, Berra and Maris. I’ve got a bag of peanuts and we’re ready to go.

The line-up that beautiful summer day in Chicago for the Yankees went like this: batting first and playing 3rd base was Clete Boyer. Tony Kubik, the Shortstop, batted second and then it was Roger Maris, batting third and playing right field. The clean-up hitter that gorgeous afternoon was none other than “The Mick” who also covered all of center field. Yogi Berra, playing left field that day, was fifth in the lineup and the big first basemen, Bill, (Moose) Skrowron, batted 6th. Elston Howard, giving Yogi a break at catching, batted seventh while all-star 2nd basemen, Bobby Richardson was eighth in the line-up. Finally the starting pitcher for the Yankees, Ralph Terry, was the final batter in the Yankee line-up. There was no Designated Hitter yet.

I have no idea what the line-up for the White Sox was that day. They were just simply the other team the Yanks would slaughter that day.

And what a game it was! 13 innings Roger Maris hit his 14th home run of the season, the season in which he hit the record 61. Ya, I saw #14! Mickey Mantle, alias, The Mick, went 0-5, striking out twice. But mighty swings they were! The Yankees and Sox were tied in the eighth inning 2-2, when Maris got his pitch, hitting his home run, a three-run four-bagger. However, in the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox once again tied it up.

And so, extra innings it went. 10th, 11th and 12th innings produced nothing from either side. Yankees went scoreless again in the 13th inning and then the White Sox came to bat. Roy Sievers for the White Sox was the first batter of the inning. First pitch was a ball. He swung mightily at the second pitch but got only air. Third pitch was also out of the strike zone and then it came. Art Ditmer, who relieved Terry on the Yankee pitching mound, threw a mean hard fast ball, right down the middle of the plate. Sievers saw it “real good.” He swung, the ball connected with the bat….and in a matter of seconds, that ball flew over the left field wall for a game winning home run for the Sox.

The Yankees lost 6-5!!! But I had a great time anyway. Next thing I knew, I was hurled back to 2020. Oh no, reality! No Baseball!! But what a nap as I my very first Major League Baseball Game was played again in my mind. Ah, for a few moments, 1961 came alive for me once again. Here’s some advice for you…..during this time of Covid-19, take a nap every now and then and take yourself back to a more carefree time in your life. It’s well worth it.

Let me know what you think at jsheda@indytel.com or call me at 319.327.4640. This too shall pas!!