Hot Stove Reading, Remembering Yankee Stadium: Fifties
The 2014 baseball season belongs to history as do so many others. Now as we move into winter, it’s time for hot stove news and talk and reflection. Flashbacks are a way of life. So come, let us celebrate a special time in New York City Baseball history.
The World Series competition for the New York Yankees in 1951 was the Giants of New York. Leo Durocher’s team had a storybook season, chasing, catching and then conquering their hated rival Brooklyn Dodgers in a one-game play-off on Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
EDDIE LOPAT: All the reporters told us to watch out. “The Giants are hot,” they said. “They beat the Dodgers coming out of nowhere.” We didn’t believe what anybody told us or what they printed in the newspapers. The other teams had to beat us on the field. That was where it counted.
MONTE IRVIN: We were still on a high after beating the Dodgers in 1951 in that playoff game when we went up against the Yankees in the World Series. Without a chance to rest, we reported to the Stadium the next day. I got four straight hits and also stole home in the first inning.
My last time up, Yogi Berra said: “Monte, I don’t know what to throw you. You have been hitting high balls and low balls and curve balls. I’m gonna have you get a fastball right down the middle.”
I really didn’t believe Yogi. But sure enough Reynolds threw me a fastball right down the middle. I hit a line drive. The ball was caught. I really wanted that hit. No one had ever gone five for five in the World Series.
Fielding the first black outfield in World Series history – Hank Thompson, Monte Irvin and Willie Mays – the Giants defeated Allie Reynolds and the Yankees 5-1 with Dave Koslo going the distance for the win.
STEVE SWIRSKY: I was ten years old and a Yankee fan. My dad didn’t have a lot of money but he came home one day with two tickets for the second ’51 World Series game.
I remember everything about that day – the smells, the walking around to the little shops, my dad digging deep to buy a cap and a hot dog for me. It almost glowed in my heart ’cause I used to listen to the Yankee games on the radio from all over the country even though there were times I could barely hear it.
We sat down the left field line underneath the overhang – 20 rows back. In those days poles held up the overhang. My seat had an obstructed view. But you know how some women are about little boys. A woman switched seats with me so I could see. It was Willie Mays who hit the fly ball that Mantle, playing right field, chased. Mantle was not the superstar that he was going to be, but there was a big hush when he went down. It seemed like the world stopped.
The 19-year-old Mantle, attempting to avoid a collision with Joe DiMaggio, twisted his ankle in the fifth inning on a sprinkler-head cover protruding from the outfield grass. He lay there, motionless. His right knee had snapped and was he was lost to the Yankees for the rest of the series.
No matter – the Yankees were loaded with talent and though the Giants had momentum, it was another world championship for Stengel’s guys on October 10, 1951 as Vic Raschi bested Dave Koslo, 4-3 before 61,711. That was the last World Series game Joe DiMaggio ever played in.
Dr. Harvey Frommer is in his 39th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium was published in 2008 and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park was published to acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer’s WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME, AN ORAL HISTORY OF SUPER BOWL ONE will be published in 2015.