baseball

October 2, 1957 – The 1957 World Series Begins

Milwaukee celebrates their David vs. Goliath win over the Yankees

On October 2, 1957, the National League Milwaukee Braves traveled to Gotham to meet the American League powerhouse and perennial favorite Yankees for Game 1 of the 1957 World Series.  The defending champion Yankees held the home field advantage over the Braves, runners-up to the Brooklyn Dodgers for the NL pennant the year before.  The Milwaukee roster featured outfielder Hank Aaron, third-baseman Eddie Mathews, outfielder Wes Covington, catcher Del Crandall, shortstop Johnny Logan, second-baseman Red Schoendienst, outfielder Bob Hazle, and pitchers Warren Spahn, Bob Buhl, and Lew Burdette.  New York sported giants of the baseball world: Mickey Mantle in the outfield, Yogi Berra behind the plate, Hank Bauer in the outfield, Tony Kubek in the outfield and on third base, Jerry Coleman on second base, Gil McDougald at shortstop, Enos Slaughter in the outfield, and pitchers Whitey Ford, Bob Turley, Don Larsen, and Tom Sturdivant.

The series went back and forth, with plenty of excitement for fans of the Fall Classic, taking the full seven games to determine the victors.  New York won Games 1, 3, and 6; the Braves took Games 2, 4, 5, and 7.  Milwaukee pitcher Lew Burdette (who had made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1950) was named Most Valuable Player.  Burdette posted wins in three games – 2, 5 and 7 – two of them shutouts (Games 5 and 7), and in all three he was on the mound for the complete game.  Asked about pitching in Game 7 after only two days’ rest, Lew quipped, “I’ll be all right.  In 1953, I once relieved in sixteen games out of twenty-two.  I’m bigger, stronger, and dumber now.”

Songstress Lucy Monroe. Photo: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

Songstress Lucy Monroe

The New York team sported a few big-name players who started every game –  and one member of the organization who is not so well-known.  Miss Lucy Monroe, the designated Yankees National Anthem Singer, sang “Oh Say Can You See” before every Yankee home game from 1945 until 1960.  Also the official soloist for the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lucy once estimated that she had risen to “the rocket’s red glare” over 5000 times in her singing career.  She sang at the New York World’s Fair, with the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras, and with the Chicago, St. Louis, and Metropolitan Opera companies.  Her soaring voice sold war bonds and inspired Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson, and Kennedy.  She offered her anthem rendition on the chilly platform for President Harry Truman’s inauguration, and at many, many other civic and patriotic gatherings.  After retiring in 1960 at the age of 54, she married New York lawyer Harold M. Weinberg one year later.  They enjoyed 16 years together before Lucy became a widow in 1977.  She died of cancer at her Manhattan home in 1987, at the age of 80.

Image Credits: Milwaukee County Historical Society; Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

September 27, 1957 – The New York Giants Rent San Francisco’s Seals Stadium

Seals Stadium, San Francisco

On September 27, 1957, New York Giants majority owner Horace Stoneham signed an agreement to rent San Francisco’s Seals Stadium for the 1958 and 1959 seasons, during construction of their new home field, Candlestick Park.  The New York Giants would be no more.  After their last home game at the Polo Grounds on September 29, 1957, the team which began as the Gothams in 1883 would thereafter be known as the San Francisco Giants.  Walter O’Malley’s Dodgers were making the move to Los Angeles; O’Malley’s encouragement, and the welcome mat set out by the second of the two major venues in California, sealed the deal.

San Francisco Mayor George Christopher spearheaded the transition from East to West Coast for Stoneham and his team.  New York city officials had been less than helpful to the Giants organization in finding a new home to replace their crumbling old stadium.  After winning the World Series in 1954 – as underdogs sweeping the Cleveland Indians in four straight games, including “The Catch” by Willie Mays in Game 1 – the Giants had slipped in the rankings and attendance fell off significantly over the next three years.

Seals Stadium had a long history as a minor league ballpark.  The San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate, made it their home from 1931 until 1957.  After the Giant’s 1959 season, the stadium was demolished and its location at 16th and Bryant Streets was developed for retail business.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

August 17, 1957 – Phillies Hall-of-Famer Richie Ashburn’s Freak At-Bat

Phillie Richie Ashburn

On August 17, 1957, one of Philadelphia’s most loved baseball heroes fouled twice, striking the same spectator, in one at-bat.

Center-fielder Richie Ashburn, one of the 1950 National League Champion “Whiz Kids,” played outstanding ball for the Phillies from 1948 until 1959.  He led the league several times in batting and fielding statistics, retiring with a .308 lifetime batting average.  After his retirement from baseball in 1962, he joined the Phillies radio and TV broadcast team as a color commentator, a job he loved and held until his death in 1997.  A long campaign by Philadelphia fans resulted in his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.  Over 25,000 local fans drove to Cooperstown for the ceremony – a day which must have meant much to the boy who grew up on a farm in Tilden, Nebraska, dreaming of his day in the big leagues.

But August 17th was not quite a day he had dreamed of.  In the second game of a four-game series against the New York Giants, which the Phillies won, 3-1, Richie fouled twice into the stands, striking spectator Alice Roth.  Alice was married to Philadelphia Bulletin Sports Editor Earl Roth.  The first errant ball broke her nose; the second struck her as she was being carried out of the stands on a stretcher.  Alice was a good sport and she and Richie remained friends for many years.

The Philadelphia Phillies retired Ashburn’s #1 in 1979.  The center-field entertainment area of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies current stadium, is named Ashburn Alley in honor of Richie’s 47 years of service to the Phillies organization.

Image Credit: Chuck Hofmann/Madison County Museum

July 9, 1957 – The 24th All-Star Game at St. Louis, Missouri

On July 9, 1957, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held at Sportman’s Park in St. Louis, Missouri, home of the National League St. Louis Cardinals.  Controversy surrounded the game as Cincinnati Reds’ fans stuffed the ballot box and sent all but one of their starting players to the 24th playing of the midseason exhibition game.  The Cincinnati Enquirer printed up pre-marked ballots for fans to send in; as a result, over half of the final vote tally originated from the Reds’ hometown.

New York Giant Willie Mays and Milwaukie Brave Hank Aaron were appointed by Commissioner Ford Frick to replace two Reds’ players.  Voting procedures changed as well – player selections were made by managers, players, and coaches until 1970, after which time fans were once again allowed to nominate their favorites.

Revenge was sweet as the American League team defeated the National League, 6-5, after an action-packed ninth inning which began with the AL team ahead 3-2.  In the top of the inning, a single,a  fumble, a sacrifice, another single and a double brought the score to 6-2 for the AL.  The NL followed with a walk, a triple, a wild pitch, a single and another walk, a strike out, another single, a runner out at third on a steal, and then a pinch hit caught in left-center. It wasn’t enough to overcome outstanding fielding by the American League stars, who were able to squeak out their second win in eight years.

The starting lineups:

American League
1. Harvey Kuenn, Tigers, SS
2. Nellie Fox, White Sox, 2B
3. Al Kaline, Tigers, RF
4. Mickey Mantle, Yankees, CF
5. Ted Williams, Red Sox, LF
6. Vic Wertz, Indians, 1B
7. Yogi Berra, Yankees, C
8. George Kell, Orioles, 3B
9. Jim Bunning, Tigers, P
Manager: Casey Stengel

National League
1. Johnny Temple, Reds, 2B
2. Hank Aaron, Braves, RF
3. Stan Musial, Cardinals, 1B
4. Willie Mays, Giants, CF
5. Ed Bailey, Reds, C
6. Frank Robinson, Reds, LF
7. Don Hoak, Reds, 3B
8. Roy McMillan, Reds, SS
9. Curt Simmons, Phillies, P
Manager: Walter Alston

Image Credit: Wikimedia Fair Use

Vintage 1957 – Near-Mint Near-Complete 1957 Topps Baseball Card Set

1957 Topps Mickey Mantle-Yogi Berra card. Photo: Sports Collectors Daily.

1957 Topps Mickey Mantle-Yogi Berra card. Photo: Sports Collectors Daily.

Attention, baseball card collectors! Rich Mueller at Sports Collectors Daily recently announced that a near-mint, near-complete set of 1957 Topps baseball cards will be put up for auction on eBay. Just Collect is planning to sell, piece by piece, a rare grouping of almost 400 cards obtained from a private collector which Mueller claims would rank “among the 50 best All-Time Finest sets on the PSA Set Registry.”

Topps made significant changes to their card line in 1957. They adopted the standard size still in use today and, rather than using both photo and artwork portraits, switched to photo-only shots of MLB’s Boys of Summer. Our banner year, 1957, is also notable for collectors in that it was a year in which many greats were playing, joined by a swath of soon-to-be-famous rookies. And 1957 was the last year that the Giants played in Gotham and the Dodgers owned Brooklyn.

Collectible baseball cards are rated on a score from 1 to 10. Each card is examined for its centering (how well did the printer do?), corners (how worn are the four points?), creases (did the card get bent or folded?), and surface (are there wrinkles, scratches, warping, damage, bubbles, marks, stains, or notches?).  A rating of ten is extremely rare, and means “taken off the printing press with tweezers and hermetically sealed” (I’m only slightly joking).  On the other end of the scale, a one rating would probably mean that the printing press was in dire need of a tune-up and a teething toddler with cotton candy got hold of the card (again, just a little exaggeration). All the cards in this 1957 collection have been rated a 7 “Near Mint”.

A few big names are missing in the collection, notably Red Sox immortal Ted Williams and  a regular issue of Yankee Mickey Mantle, winner of the Triple Crown in 1956. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, and Roy Campanella are there, along with rookies Brooks Robinson, Rocky Colavito, Don Drysdale, and Bill Mazeroski. Numerous commons, multi-player, minor stars, and team cards also add to the set.

I acquired my love of baseball when I married into the Red Sox nation at age 21. Now I can’t help but wonder about the identity of the persistent baseball card lover who amassed this treasure trove. Were they born in 1957, too?