To Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees faithful I am an unrepentant apostate because I want both teams to flourish.
My first love was the Yankees, for which I had no choice since it was for all intents and purposes genetic. My father saw games in every World Series from 1948 to 1955, so you get one guess as to which team played in most of those series and which team he most often discussed.
DiMaggio was his favorite, and there really wasn’t a second place. For sixty-five years Joe DiMaggio was the gold standard, baseball royalty, in my dad’s eyes. My father’s glowing description of him made me think powerful and elegant grace. This from a man about whom you would be disinclined to use the word glowing. But what he saw perfectly aligned with a quote attributable to DiMaggio:
“There is always some kid who may be seeing me play for the first or last time. I owe him my best.” [Source: The Sporting News (4Apr1951)]
Humility and excellence from the premier baseball player of his time, and perhaps all time.
In 1951, my dad was in the Polo Grounds for Bobby Thomson’s ‘Shot Heard Round the World‘, and days later he watched Mickey Mantle catch a cleat and tear up his knee backing off a fly ball that Joe Dimaggio caught.
After watching late 1950s Game of the Week broadcasts, often a Yankees game, I remember spending hours emulating Mickey Mantle’s swing while using our green water meter cover as home plate. My towering imaginary right-handed homers sailed over the Case’s roof in left field, then just as many left-handed shots cleared the Lee’s in right.
One weekend in 1960 I saw Ted Williams swing for the first time. He was six-four and I was chasing five feet. His swing had more moving parts than an erector set, yet every swing looked like it should have had a home run attached to it. There was no slow motion then, and no instant replay, so I had to swiftly burn that magnificently choreographed dance into my brain. . . then run out to the water meter for more tape measure shots.