The 1964 Yankees Come to Richmond for an Exhibition Game

Ike Futch, who played in the Yankees’ minor league system as, primarily, a second baseman, from 1959 through 1964 (check his stats), recently left a comment on a post on this blog about Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. When I wrote an email back to him, he told me about an exhibition game he had played for the Richmond Virginians (they were the Yankees’ AAA affiliate) at the end of 1964 spring training. Ike sent along files of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s coverage of the game, played on Sunday, April 12, 1964, at Richmond’s Parker Field.

Here is some of the coverage; to begin, Ike sliding into second under Phil Linz’s tag to steal the base; he would score the winning run a couple minutes later on a Horace Clarke single.

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The box score:
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Part of the game account:
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And a few game notes, featuring an item on Mickey Mantle and his health:
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I believe that of all the Richmond Virginians, Mel Stottlemyre, who pitched in this game, went on to have the best MLB career. Also, I have interviewed Ike Futch about his minor league career, especially his years in the Yankees organization.

Published in: on June 5, 2014 at 8:53 am  Comments (3)  
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An Exchange Between Mickey Mantle and Joe Pepitone in 1965

The Life issue of July 30, 1965, features Mickey Mantle on the cover. The magazine’s feature on Mantle includes this scene in the Yankee clubhouse:

Pepitone walks in, bragging about the balls he has hit in batting practice. Mantle turns on him: “You think that if everyone on this club is batting .195 and you’re batting .200 that’s all right, huh?” he asks.

“Sure,” answers Pepitone, “I got to think about myself—it’s the only way I’m going to make my money.”

“Well, you keep batting .200 and you’ll make a lot of money Jody,” says Mantle caustically, and Pepitone shuts up.

This exchange says a lot about why the long Yankee dynasty ended in 1965.

Published in: Uncategorized on July 20, 2013 at 9:49 am  Comments (2)  
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Mickey Mantle in 1950 and 1951

I recently looked up the beginning professional careers of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, as reported by the New York Times in 1950 and 1951. The paper talked about Mantle more before he came up than it did Mays.

On September 17, 1950, the Times reported:
“The highly touted Mickey Mantle, brilliant 18-year-old shortstop prospect, also will join the Yanks on this jaunt (road trip).

“‘Nothing like giving these kids first-hand demonstration of what it’s like on a ball club shooting for a pennant,’ says Casey (Stengel). Mantle, a switch-hitter, batted at a .390 clip for Joplin during the past season.”

Mantle was on hand as only an observer for the conclusion of the Yankees’ 1950 season. On January 6, 1951, the Times added that “Mantle is a shortstop on the Binghamton roster but, in the opinion of Tom Greenwade, veteran scout, ‘might be a great center fielder.’ This means that the Yankees are looking to the day when DiMaggio hangs up his glove.”

In the middle of that April, days before the start of the season, word came from Oklahoma that Mantle would escape being drafted into the military:

On April 17, 1951, Mantle made his debut, playing in right field and batting third, with DiMaggio in center and batting cleanup, for a 5-0 home win over the Red Sox to start the 1951 season. In the sixth Jackie Jensen led off with a double, in the wake of which “came solid singles by Mickey Mantle (scoring Jensen), tagged as the rookie sensation of 1951, the venerable Joe DiMaggio and robust Yogi Berra.”

Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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Billy Martin’s Death on Christmas Day 1989

To recognize the 20th anniversary of his death, I’m going to present first an account of the truck accident that killed Billy Martin and then a sampling of the many responses to the death. This, from the New York Daily News:

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Before his death in a truck crash Christmas Day, former New York Yankee manager Billy Martin drank heavily for several hours in a bar here and appeared too drunk to drive home, sources said.
Midway through Martin’s four-hour binge at Morey’s Restaurant on Front Street, bartender Robert Dunlop asked him, “Who’s driving?” an employee who requested anonymity told the New York Daily News.
“I got the keys,” said Martin’s Detroit pal, William Reedy, holding them up for the bartender to see. The keys were for Martin’s 1989 pickup.
Dunlop and Al Raimondi, manager of the restaurant — where Martin was a regular — refused comment Thursday, but a top law enforcement source here confirmed the employee’s account.
Reedy “appeared OK” to Dunlop, the employee said, and left the bar with the former Yankee in tow shortly before 5:30 p.m. for the 6- mile drive to Martin’s home in nearby Fenton, N.Y.
As Reedy turned onto a hairpin curve near Martin’s home, the truck skidded down an embankment.
Martin, who was not wearing a seat belt, was killed when he was flung through the windshield.
Reedy suffered a broken hip, cracked ribs and lacerations and is recovering in University Hospital in Syracuse.
He was charged with driving while intoxicated when his blood alcohol level was allegedly found to be above the legal limit.

In response to the wreck, Joe Gergen of Newsday wrote about Martin, Mickey Mantle, and their shared drinking. Here are some quotes from the article. Mantle: “I would like to say something in defense of Bill Reedy. He could drink that whole pickup truck full of beer and not get drunk. I think it wasn’t drink but just slick roads [that caused the accident].”

And: “As far as I was concerned, he [Martin] was misunderstood terribly. He was like that little cartoon character that walked around with a black cloud over his head. At Billy’s roast, I did say that he was the only man alive who could hear someone give him the finger.”

Mantle added this about Martin’s fight in a topless bar near Arlington Stadium in 1988: “He got kicked out of the game that night and we were sitting with his coaches in a perfect place, behind a tree in the hotel [bar]. Billy said, ‘Let’s go to another place.’ When we got there, there were a bunch of rednecks. They were yelling, ‘Hey, Billy, you got thrown out.’ I said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ He said, ‘Why, are you chicken?’ I thought, ‘Well, yeah.’ I got a coach to drive me back.”

And: “I’m not saying do it [drink]. If there’s a moral to my book, it’s not to be like me, Billy and Whitey [Ford]. I had to retire at 36 and it was because of stupidity.”

The fans came to New York City to say farewell. Bob Pecario, from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: “I’m a Yankee fan and a heavy-duty Billy Martin fan. I was a fan of Billy all my life. I remember the times he kicked dirt on umpires. I remember when he stood up for Bobby Meacham against an umpire. He would always stand up for the little guy.”

Mike Morra, who came in from Secaucus, N.J.: “I was shocked when I heard the news. I’m not naive and I know Billy was no angel, and had his faults, but I was shocked at some of the things I read about him.”

A fan from Staten Island: “I was home when one of my friends called me on Christmas to say too bad about Billy Martin and I thought he was just joking. When I found out it was true, I went into my room and just started crying so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t stop crying for about two hours. I didn’t go to work today. I told my boss somebody in my family died, and he’d be real mad to find out I’m here, but I just had to come. I remember meeting him four times, one time when me and my friends were up at the stadium, we only had two tokens to get back home and he came by and gave us a dollar to buy a pretzel outside the stadium.”

Art Rust Jr.,  longtime host of Yankee pre- and post-game shows on the radio: “Billy was a heck of a guy. When my wife, Edna, was sick back in 1986, he was very supportive. He was a sensitive and caring guy, a lot more than some of the guys writing about him today. He was a good friend of mine. I loved him and that’s why I’m here.”

In response to Martin’s death, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Art Rosenbaum wrote:

A fine racehorse was named for him, quite apt because Martin loved the oval sport. He was never in a league with Pete Rose and never bet on baseball, but he could plunge on the steeds. More than once I overheard him on his office phone talking horse bets to a bookie or a friend. It wasn’t much of a secret.
Once at Golden Gate Fields he sought out George Andros, a professional at this game, and after a long huddle came away with an exacta ticket that netted $4,000. Andros, meanwhile, let himself be talked out of the bet, a common failing of horse players.

Rosenbaum added that sportswriter Maury Allen

told me he had printed a prominent doctor’s psychological profile on Martin, indicating a personality that resented male authority stemming from a guess that he was angered in his childhood when his father disappeared. Therefore, it was analyzed, Martin would always lose a manager’s job if forced to take orders from a general manager or owner.
I had the audacity to place Allen’s article in front of Martin, whose reaction was unexpectedly calm. He said he had seen it and found it laughable.
His reason made a lot of sense. He said: “Did any psychologist talk to me or examine me? No, he just drew his conclusions from newspaper stories. How could a guy who calls himself an M.D. accept gossip and innuendo as legitimate research? How could he guess why I do some of those things (arguments with umpires)? That guy must be fluttery in the head.”

Martin was a many-sided man, thoughtful and generous at times, bitingly combative at others. Unfortunately, a lot of fans saw him as a comic figure after kicking dirt on umpires or after bar battles. But he was not a comedian per se. He never told a joke or even blooped a one-liner, a la Yogi Berra. In the league of humor, Martin could take a kidding if he liked the kidder.

[He] must have gone on and off the wagon a few hundred times. Once, during spring training, he announced his attention to go dry forever. That night I saw him at one of the Scottsdale restaurants, bright and chipper.
How was the vow going? “Perfect,” he said. “All I had was two glasses of red wine.” For Billy, wine and beer didn’t count.

From the Bay Area, Bill Rigney, then an A’s executive, said: “I knew him since he was a little kid. I remember him playing semipro ball in Bushrod Park (in Oakland). I was 10 years older than he was, and he would ask me about things. He wanted to know about playing the infield. He thought he had ‘stiff’ hands and wanted to know what we could do about it. We worked one winter on technique, on bringing his hands toward his body as he fielded the ball to ‘soften’ them a little.

“He had to work hard at being a player, but he had an instinct about the game and was a tremendous competitor. He had a great desire to be a player. He was always on the edge. It seemed like he was trying to prove something. I never thought he had to prove anything. He was just a damn good manager.”

Yogi Berra: “Billy was a hard-nosed ball player, he was a great friend of mine and he loved baseball. He was a very gentle man. You have to be with him to know Billy. If somebody rubbed wrong against him, he’d punch him in the nose no sooner than look at him. But he was a great man, a kind-hearted man and he loved baseball.”

Roy Eisenhardt, the A’s executive vice president who was involved in getting Martin to manage Oakland in 1980: “All that stuff (his reputation as a brawler) is unimportant. I just remember him as having compassion and love for kids and baseball. Obviously I’m very saddened because I’ve lost a good friend.  I just never thought Billy would go. Billy was a great baseball figure. He taught me a great deal and I’ll remember him forever.”

Bob Stevens, a former Chronicle baseball writer, played semi-pro ball against Martin in the Bay Area and said: “He was a genuine man, no pretenses. His character was always the same – pugnacious, but polite as hell. But he was always thinking. He gave something to the game.

“He paid his dues. He had a good reputation as a manager. He once told me, ‘They know what I plan to do, but they don’t know when I’m going to do it.'”

Joe DiMaggio said: “It was a big loss. He was a dear friend and I will miss him. He was a great little guy. I know the Yankees will miss him because Steinbrenner depended on him so much as a team man.”

Here’s a link to an article Baseball Past and Present wrote on what Martin might have done as manager for the Yankees [or another team] in 1990 and beyond if he had not died late in 1989. Meanwhile, Steinbrenner said: “It’s like losing part of my own family … He’s going to be awful hard to replace. He was one of a kind. There are not many people in the world who can be called one of a kind.”

I’ll give Billy the last word. He explained once: “I didn’t like to fight, but I didn’t have a choice. If you walked through the park, a couple kids would come after you. When you were small, someone was always chasing you. I had to fight three kids once because I joined the YMCA. They thought I was getting too ritzy for them.”

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 10:05 pm  Comments (6)  
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Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, With Some Audio

I’ve come across some recordings of Mantle and Berra in the ’40s and ’50s, including Yogi’s first at-bat (a homer), Yogi and Jackie Robinson talking at the end of the 1955 World Series, and Mantle’s retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium. You can click here to hear them.

Also, read on for some of a Mike Lupica column in the Daily News of October 17, 1996, on the start of that year’s World Series:

The only thing that could make the night perfect is if Yogi Berra could walk out to the middle of the diamond with DiMaggio. They are the two greatest living Yankees. Only one still comes around, though. And the one who does not come around Yogi knows more about nights like Saturday, about the World Series, than anyone alive. Reggie Jackson is called Mr. October. Yogi Berra was October in baseball.
“I’ll be like any Yankee watching the game,” Yogi said yesterday. “You see the Yankees in the Series and you feel like you’re watching your whole life.”

“You don’t want to come?”

“Nope.”

George Steinbrenner fired him after just 16 games of the 1985 season after saying that Yogi would have his job as manager all season. Yogi Berra, No. 8, said he would not come back to the Stadium as long as Steinbrenner ran the team. He has not come back. He said yesterday he would not be at the first game of this Series, any of the games. The Series thus misses an honored guest.

“You’re not going to change your mind about this?” he was asked.

“Nope.”

“But you’ll be pulling for the Yankees.”

“I’ll be rooting like hell,” Yogi Berra said. “I’ll never stop being a Yankee.”

He was asked if anybody had called this week to ask him to throw out a first ball at the Stadium.

“They’ve called asking me to come back,” Yogi said. “They haven’t called about the Series.”

Steinbrenner has tried to get Yogi Berra to come back, for Old Timer’s Day, for anything. He tells people all the time that he feels terrible about Berra’s self-imposed exile. But No. 8 has been the same in retirement as he was behind the plate in all his Octobers: You don’t move him. In this case, you don’t move him out of New Jersey on Saturday night.

“It’s easier on television,” he said. “There’s no crowds to fight in my living room, believe me.”

“There was one call I made sure to make yesterday,” Yogi said. “I called Joe in his office and told him how happy I was that he finally made it. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for Zim (Don Zimmer), I gotta be happy for Mel (Stottlemyre), he won me a game in ’64 when he was just a kid.”

‘I’m getting old,” Yogi said. “All these games we’re talking about, they seem like they happened yesterday.”

In December 1995, the Daily News had reported on Yogi honoring Mantle’s last wish:

A tearful Yogi Berra yesterday honored the last wish of his long-time friend and teammate, Mickey Mantle.

He signed a “Join Mickey’s Team” organ donor card at the Manhattan kickoff of a year-long organ donor awareness campaign in the metropolitan area.

“I lost a great friend,” he said, his voice choking and his eyes filled with tears. “I really can’t say anything else right now.”

The Mickey Mantle Donor Awareness Foundation was launched by the family of the Yankee slugger, who received a liver transplant before dying of cancer Aug. 13. His final request was for a continuing organ donor program.

Mantle’s restaurant partner, Bill Liederman, said 3 million Mantle donor cards have been distributed since Labor Day.

Yesterday, Mantle’s widow, Merlyn, and sons, Mickey Jr. and Danny, watched as Berra, sportscaster Bob Costas and ex-Knicks star Earl (The Pearl) Monroe signed donor cards at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant and Sports Bar on Central Park South.

Then, finally, in early 1999, Berra came back to the Yankees:

The emotional reunion that ended the 14-year cold war between George Steinbrenner and Yogi Berra was triggered by none other than the Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio.

During a 45-minute meeting in his Florida hospital room, the ailing baseball legend implored the Boss to bury the hatchet and end the feud, said Dr. Rock Positano, a long-time DiMaggio friend.

Sources told the Daily News that Steinbrenner had already been leaning toward making a gesture toward Berra but DiMaggio pushed him to go all the way.

“It shouldn’t be a personal thing,” DiMaggio told Steinbrenner, according to Positano.

“It should be first for the fans, then for the game, then for the Yankees. That should be more important than two men having a feud.”

Steinbrenner, 68, took DiMaggio’s words to heart and got the ball rolling to Tuesday’s mea culpa meeting with Berra, 73.

Yesterday, DiMaggio who was in a coma and near death on Dec. 11 was happy to hear the pair were talking, Positano said.

“Joe definitely had a hand in it,” said Positano. He added that DiMaggio’s brush with death “shook up a lot of people.”

DiMaggio, 84, has been in Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., waging a battle against post-operative complications that arose after a tumor was removed from his right lung Oct. 14.

Joltin’ Joe’s near-death experience upset Steinbrenner. During his Tuesday meeting with Berra at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, N.J., the principal owner of the Bronx Bombers referred poignantly to DiMaggio’s illness.

“We lost Mickey [Mantle], we almost lost Joe [DiMaggio], we didn’t want to lose you,” Steinbrenner told Berra.

The cold war melted Tuesday when Steinbrenner told Berra, “I know I made a mistake by not letting you go in person. It was the worst mistake I ever made in baseball.”

“I made a lot of mistakes, too,” Berra responded. They hugged, shook hands and even talked about Berra’s coming back to Yankee Stadium, perhaps for a Yogi Berra Day.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Death of Eddie Mathews

In the aftermath of Eddie Mathews’ death on February 18, 2001, the Houston Chronicle published a writer’s memory of Eddie Mathews. It included a reference to another athlete by beginning:

“Life is not a game, it is not the wheel of fortune, and we are reminded of this in sometimes cruel and jarring ways. Dale Earnhardt, the brightest name in stock car racing, met his death in Daytona, crashing into a concrete wall at a speed faster than most people can think.

“He was a couple months short of his 50th birthday, but, of course, drivers think more about miles than years. Dale Earnhardt’s warranty ran out after heaven knows how many miles.

“Meanwhile, on the same day, Eddie Mathews, a Hall of Fame third baseman who hit in front of Hank Aaron for most of his career, died in his sleep of pneumonia. He was 69 and had not been his usual robust self since a freakish accident five years ago. He slipped and fell into the water as he left a cruise liner, getting pinned between the ship and the pier. His pelvis was crushed.”

In its report on Mathews’ death, the AP said:

“Mathews died in his sleep at Scripps La Jolla hospital, his wife, Judy, said. He had been hospitalized since Sept. 3 when she took him to the emergency room after he had trouble breathing.

“Mathews died of complications of pneumonia, said his son, Eddie Jr., an anesthesiologist at Waukesha (Wis.) Memorial Hospital. Mathews also had congestive heart failure, although that didn’t play a significant role in his death, his son said.

“Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978, Mathews hit 512 home runs, was one of baseball’s greatest third basemen and the only person to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

“Mathews had been in fragile health since being seriously hurt in an accident while on a Caribbean cruise in December 1996. When Mathews stepped off a boat taking passengers to shore, the boat moved back and he fell into the water. He was crushed three times between the boat and pier, shattering his pelvis.”

Joe Torre, a Mathews teammate from 1960 to 1966, said: “Eddie Mathews was my hero. He was captain and I always called him that. He never backed off, never was tentative.”

I wrote a profile of Mathews based on a visit David Lamb, the author of Stolen Season, paid to him in 1989, when he was a Braves’ minor league hitting coach.  In part, it compared him to Mickey Mantle. It’s on the Seamheads site; here’s a couple excerpts:

Assessing his character, Mathews said: “I know I’m a ding dong, but in my day, if you hit .330, it was OK to be a ding dong.” One day at a rooftop hotel bar in St. Louis, he and teammate Bob Buhl were drinking, listening to four of the locals say “the Braves suck” over and over again at a nearby table. The two Braves started up as though to walk out, came up behind the four patrons, “and beat them zingy,” as Eddie said. That and the other brawls notwithstanding, he had an honorary deputy sheriff’s badge for DeKalb County, Georgia, which was a gift from former Braves pitcher and county sheriff Pat Jarvis. He said: “We had so much fun, I can’t believe it. We thought it would last forever.”

In the summer of ’89, Mathews summed things up this way: “I’ll tell you the truth, if I went South [died] tomorrow, I wouldn’t have many regrets. I wished my father had lived to see what I did with the Braves. That’s about it. I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun. People say, ‘Slow down, aren’t you afraid of dying?’ I tell them, ‘I just want a week to apologize to everyone before I go.’”

Putting aside Mantle’s much greater fame, the similarities are extensive. It seems pretty clear that alcohol curtailed both their lives, although who knows what would have happened to Eddie if that cruise ship accident had not happened. In the case of both Mantle and Mathews, the decline of former golden boys must have been a sad thing to witness. The dumb, tragic mishap of his accident on the cruise ship is a harsh contrast to his days as a hero to the Milwaukee youth.

Three decades before that crippling accident, Mathews hit his 500th home run, on July 14, 1967, at Candlestick Park with a shot off Juan Marichal while playing for Houston. At the time, Mathews was only the seventh player to reach the 500-homer mark.

Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Comments (3)  
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