Monday, August 13, 2012

10/3/63

October 2, 1963 began perhaps the last normal month in America as we knew it. I was determined to challenge myself as the Fall Classic began in the Bronx. Before Game 1, I became aware that if I wanted to pitch game 2, it was all mine. At 13, I would be the youngest pitcher to ever pitch a World Series game. It was either that or another day in 8th grade. What kind of choice was that? By the time the bus dropped me off home, the Dodgers were up 5-2 and Sandy Koufax was wrapping up one of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history. Koufax started the game striking out the first five Yankee hitters. Kubek, Richardson, Tresh, Mantle and Maris; all down on strikes. It was all uphill from there. Sandy, the Dandy, finishing with 15 strikeouts, a Series high, a complete game and one of the most dominant victories against a Yankee defending world championship team in their own home park in front of 69,000. I knew destiny was staring me in the face. The world would be watching me tomorrow and everything was on the line. As is true with so many days in New York, clouds hovered in the morning, but the skies cleared. The Stadium was covered with a deep haze of smoke, but it would have no impact on me. From my downstairs playroom, I began to warm up for the biggest game in my 13 year old life. Of course, Al Downing was the name most Yankee fans would see in the box score that day, but this was only a ruse. I had been pitch for the Yankees since I was 11. My first season, 1961, I won 18 games and took the Yanks to a victory in 5 games over the Reds that Fall. Then I went 14-8 and unfortunately, Hebrew School interfered and I had to listen to game 7 and McCovey lining out to Richardson to give the Yankees back to back championships. Now, we were in danger of going down two games to none and many experts believed that if this was true, it would be the beginning of a sweep. In all of my years of following the Yankees, that would be unheard of. The house was empty. In the Bronx, they would announce the crowd at 66,455, but in my home, the wardens were at their other jobs and my sister was in her first year of Nursing School. The scene was set for me to pitch the Yanks back into the Series, but the Bums had other plans. We weren’t facing Koufax on this Thursday afternoon. The Dodgers were sending out their crafty left hander, Johnny Podres. Eight years ago, in the same ball park, he had won the final game of the 1955 Series, giving Brooklyn its first and last World Series title. Wills and Gilliam were pests all season long and in the first inning, they accounted for two runs and before that Yanks could even come to bat, we were down 2-0. It got worse from there. In the third inning, Roger Maris ran into the fence chasing a triple and injured his hand. We might have lost the remaining motivation we had as he left the field. Our old friend, Bill Skpwron, now a Dodger, homered in the fourth inning and the deed was done. Podres cruised through the eighth giving up six measly hits and the Yankee dynasty was crumbling before my eyes. I could tell that running around in my house was a great fantasy for the ten year old when I had started this three years so, but now it was getting old. It was time to hang up my sweat socks. As the Yankees, flew to LA and lost the final two games of the Series, I watched the games with the warden and rarely moved from the couch. The next time I could call my Yankees champions would be in 14 years. My youth was long passed. On a dark day in October, in a house where I had championed so many Yankee sweet wins, I was facing a hard fact in life. It was time to move on to my life and leave the ghosts behind. I didn’t take the news well. But some things die hard.

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