Camera Day at classic Shea!

Hello all, been so busy with work lately that I haven’t had much time to write or research, so getting by with ninja strikes of great photos for a short while.

Here’s some photos that I took at Camera Day 1974 (Saturday, August 10) as a young tyke, and finally got around to scanning. Loved these events, getting to see my heroes up close and personal. A little blurry, but hey, I was only 11 and cameras were much less fancy in those days.

Nothing beats good old Shea in its heyday, especially with us Mets fans; the grass was always greener, the sun always brighter. Oh, and not surprisingly, the Reds and Don Gullett bested Tom Terrific and the Amazins, 5-3. Ray Sadecki himself would take the loss by allowing 2 runs in the 8th, but they were unearned due to a Felix Millan error. Ah, the good old days.

 

Ken Boswell, Ray Sadecki

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Jerry Grote

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Tug McGraw sporting a beret

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Jon Matlack

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Duffy Dyer

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Ron Hodges and Duffy Dyer

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It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

With the earlier Mantle post regarding a Yankees legend’s at-bats at Shea, it made sense to also check the final playing days of another Yankee immortal, Yogi Berra. Unlike the Mick, Yogi actually went on to don the Mets’ uniform and become an Amazins icon himself. But among his last few at-bats in baseball are some interesting stories indeed.

Most die-hard fans are aware that Yogi’s official Yankee playing days ended with the 1963 World Series, after which he was named the Yankees manager for the 1964 season, after Ralph Houk was summarily dismissed following the WS loss. But although he never had an official game at-bat for the Bombers in 1964, he did step up to the plate to face major league competion once – August 24, 1964, at Shea Stadium, in the Mayor’s Trophy Game vs. the Mets, the first one in the Amazins’ new park, and the last time he stepped to the plate in an actual game in a Yankees uniform.

Ticket stub (was rained out at least once), program, and rare photo of ’64 MTG info on Shea scoreboard

 

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Skipper Berra was already in a bit of hot water with the Yankee brass and the team themselves after a very recent incident regarding Yankee Phil Linz playing a harmonica in the back of the team bus after a loss. Per Wikipedia:

Much was made of an incident on board the team bus in August 1964. Following a loss, infielder Phil Linz was playing his harmonica, and Berra ordered him to stop. Seated on the other end of the bus, Linz couldn’t hear what Berra had said, and Mickey Mantle impishly informed Linz, “He said to play it louder.” When Linz did so, an angry Berra slapped the harmonica out of his hands. All was apparently forgotten when Berra’s Yankees rode a September surge to return to the World Series. But the team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, after which Berra was fired. It was later learned that general manager Ralph Houk had been ready to discharge Berra since midseason, apparently for a perceived loss of control over the team.

This game was soon after that incident, and Yogi, either looking to reassert control over the team, or just pull a grandstand play to loosen everyone up, found his chance in the top of the 7th inning. With two men on and one out, the score 4-3 and the pitcher Jim Brenneman due up, the time was ripe for a big slugger to pinch hit and put the game away. Yogi’s choice: Himself. As described below within the Times article the next day (which also had a heavy and unusual harmonica-incident theme), Yogi grounded into a double play to end the inning, and his Yankee playing career.

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Herewith, the last box score with Yogi Berra as a Yankee:

 

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An interesting followup to the above article is Casey Stengel’s insistence on Berra coming over to catch for the Mets, with Casey’s humorous asking price of a then-exorbitant $200,000. Yogi did indeed come to the Mets in 1965 after he was let go by the Steinbrenner-esque Yankee front office, but for the far more reasonable salary of $35,000, as a unique “catcher-coach”. Yogi’s beautiful last player baseball card from the 1965 Topps set says it all (albeit in a Yankee uniform sans cap):

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In 1965, while Casey must have been thrilled, as it turns out, Yogi was much more coach than catcher, but did play in 4 games for the Mets that year, 3 at Shea Stadium:

First game (on the road), 5/1/65 at Cincinnati, 0-1 as a pinch hitter.

5/4/65: vs Phils, 2-3 (2 singles, a run scored). Caught the whole game.

5/5/65: vs Phils, 0-1, pinch-hitter in 8th.

Sunday, 5/9/65: vs Braves, first game of a doubleheader, caught the entire game, batting 7th, but went 0-4 with 3 K’s against Tony Cloninger (in his 24-11 season with 211 K’s). He came up in the 9th with two on, but grounded into a forceout, and called it a career.

So, the final tally for Yogi at Shea: 2-9 (.222) in 4 games (1 as a Yankee, 3 as a Met), with 2 singles and a run scored. And It was Over. Except…that harmonica would come back to haunt him again in 1967, when still a coach with the Amazins, Linz himself became a New York Met!

PostScript: As for Yankee Jim Brenneman, the pitcher who Yogi pinch hit for in the Mayor’s Trophy Game, and who marvelled at how “beautiful” brand new Shea was on that August night, that game also had special significance – it was his only start on a major league mound in his short career of 5 total games against major league competition. Unfortunately, while he pitched 6 strong innings at Shea that night, surprisingly he did not get the win (the judgment of the official scorer in those days). In his 4 other appearances, 3 were official, and in one he was pinch-hit for again – this time by Mickey Mantle. So he was only pinch-hit for twice: by Berra, and by Mantle.

That 4th game? The Hall Of Fame Game at Doubleday Field, Cooperstown, NY, on 7/26/65, Yanks vs Phillies, his last MLB appearance. He walked 3, and gave up a HR, but finished the game…and got the only official win of his career against major league competition. He was out of baseball by 1966.

Now, It’s Over.

So Long, Shea

Missing old Shea. Here’s two quickie videos I made that last year. Our season ticket seats we had in ’07 and ’08 (same seats – we now own them! And, we have the nameplate too) shot on the last Opening Day (2008), and my last beer at Shea at the late, great Broadway Brew House, with my favorite beer guy! Don’t know if he made it over to Citi, haven’t seen him yet. Sorry about the shake.

You Gotta Believe (in YouTube)!!

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Although my first Mets’ game was in 1971 (Mets won 2-0 over the Phillies), and I saw another game at Shea in 1972, I really didn’t become a die hard Amazins’ fan until the 1973 World Series. I remember seeing them on our small TV and thinking that this would be a great team to root for, being in the Fall Classic every year! I also remember being so bitterly disappointed when they lost the 7th game, and especially hated Wayne Garrett, who unforgivingly made the last out (I was just a kid).

Anyway, for some reason, video of the TV broadcast of this series is among the scarcest in the game, whether the master tapes were lost or damaged, or some other mysterious calamity befell the reels; and except for produced highlight films of the series, have not seen any of the original games as they were broadcast in over 40 years. Until now.

Someone wisely made tapes of Game 3 all those years ago, and has recently uploaded them to YT. First game at Shea, on NBC, with Curt Gowdy, Lindsey Nelson and Tony Kubek. Seaver vs Hunter. Four videos in all, of four different half-innings – the entire 1st, top of the 5th, and some of the top of the 9th. No other videos from the source yet, but more to come, see below.

Retrosheet box score: http://tinyurl.com/8ujxlkn

Top of the first. Gowdy PBP. A’s are scoreless, including striking out Reggie Jackson, and a great placard from the Mets’ old sign man, Karl Ehrhardt.

Bottom of the first, Gowdy PBP, Mets go up early 2-0, including a leadoff HR by Wayne Garrett.
Unfortunately, that was the extent of the Mets scoring for the evening.

Top of the 5th. Gowdy PBP. Tom strikes out the side! In case anyone wonders what all the fuss was about regarding Tom Terrific, watch this.

And THIS is what You Gotta Believe! was all about. Top of the 9th, special bonus with Lindsey doing PBP. Tug (You Gotta Believe!) comes in for Sadecki with 2 on and nobody out in a 2-2 game, and shuts the door, for now (and check out what appears to be a “75” type patch on Yogi and Rube’s jackets in the dugout). Complete with great fan shots and Tug pounding his glove and going manic in the dugout. Wow, memories. This was the 1973 magic I remember well.

Mets lost on an unearned run in the 11th inning off Parker (walk, rare passed ball by Grote, Campaneris single). Too bad, a win here would’ve gone a long way towards a ’73 title, since most of us know they won the next two at Shea to take a 3-2 series lead to Oakland, but lost both out west to lose the series in 7 games. This series came to be known by Mets fans as the “Near Miracle”, and has largely faded into the background of Mets’ lore. But, for me, this is the World Series of my youth.

The original uploader says in YT comments that he has almost this entire game, until it cut off in the 10th inning, and also will be posting video from the 1973 NLCS! Can’t wait. So watch this space!

Welcome to Shea Stadium…now batting, #7, Mickey Mantle

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Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra at the 1964 All Star Game at Shea Stadium

There was a discussion in the Baseball Fever boards a while ago whether the venerable Mickey Mantle ever played at the Polo Grounds, and I believe it was determined he made one appearance, for an exhibition in 1957. Anyway, it got me to thinking about the Polo Grounds’ descendant, Shea Stadium, and how many times old #7 stepped to the plate at Shea (and probably stepped out a few times to let the planes pass as well).

Since, unfortunately, the Mets and Yankees did not meet in the World Series during Mantle’s career (Mick just missed his shot, retiring before the Mets’ first championship season), any appearances would have had to be limited to exhibition games of some sort.

First up would be the most obvious, the All-Star Game at brand new Shea on July 7, 1964. Mickey went 1-4, with the one hit a 6th inning single off the Phillies’ Chris Short, and scored along with Harmon Killebrew on a Brooks Robinson triple that just eluded Willie Mays and tied the game at 3-3 (Johnny Callison winning it for the NL with his classic walk-off in the 9th).

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Only known photo of Mickey Mantle batting at Shea Stadium, ’64 ASG

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After that, the only other exhibitions where the Yankees would play in Queens would be the Mayor’s Trophy Game (NYNL vs NYAL), revived in 1963 at Yankee Stadium. With the game at Shea every other year, Mantle played in the 1964, 1966 and 1968 contests in Flushing (boxes below).

August 24, 1964 – A month after the ASG, 0-0, appeared to have walked in his first and only at bat, and Pepitone pinch-ran for him.

June 27, 1966 – 0-1.

May 27, 1968 – 1-2, a single off Dan Frisella.

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So, Mick’s career at Shea: 4 games, going 2-7 in 8 official trips to the plate (.222), with 2 singles and a run scored.

Incidentally, the 1968 game above was not his last at-bat in an NL park – he went 0-1 in the Astrodome at the ASG on July 9th, in his last ASG appearance, striking out in his only at bat. Who was the NL Star who struck him out? None other than Met Tom Seaver, the only time the two faced each other in their careers (video of the K below).