There are some that we all remember, especially those that have been around long enough to have seen special games. Oh, I don’t mean a game you saw in the comfort of your own (or dad’s and mom’s) home. No, not the Greatest Game Ever Played – Baltimore and New York sudden death OT Championship game played on 28 Feb 58 at Yankee Stadium (Colts 23 – Giants 17 – Alan Ameche 1 yd run). I’ve seen the replays of that over and over, but I bet you it was nothing like being there live. I remember watching my Dallas Cowboys fail to score on the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field on 31 Dec 67 in the “Ice Bowl.” The game time temperature was −15°F. The loss by the Cowboys allowed the Green Bay Packers to go into history as (once again) the NFL’s participant in what became the Super Bowl. I was bitterly disappointed. No, those don’t count. I saw them on TV – not in person. These are all great games, but not at the top of my list.
I did see the later version of the Ice Bowl where Dallas’ Leon Lett helped Miami score when the game was essentially over and Dallas had won – hold your tickets folks; we have a protest. Yah, it was Dallas once again. But I do have a picture stashed away of OJ wearing those black leather gloves that he had such a hard time trying on come trial time. It in the office stashed away with all those other incriminating photos I have gathered over the years. This game is not even a contender.
I spent the baseball summers of 1979, 80, & 81 in the New York area and have the opportunity to take in many Yankee games. Oh, what times. We bought our share of scalped tickets always trying to get somewhere on the 3rd base side. This gave us the opportunity to watch the goings-on in the dugout – Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin was well worth the price of a ticket. I remember watching Bobby Murcer spark the Yankees on to victory many, many times. You remember Murcer, he’s the guy who replaced Mickey in the line-up. Then there’s Tommy John, Goose Gossage, Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry, Dave Righetti, Thurman Munson, Gregg Nettles, Bucky Dent, Willie Randolph, Lou Piniella, Mickey Rivers, Dave Winfield and coaches on the bench like Yogi Berra, Bob Lemon, Elston Howard and Dick Hauser. I even saw the home run hit by George Brett, it landed in the upper deck just to the left of our bleacher seats. Still, none of these games were the best or most memorable.
I saw my first World Series Game just this last year and that game sticks out as very memorable. I had waited a long time to see a World Series Game. I have made mention of that here before. But that game pales in contention.
Today I lamented the passing of “The Duke of Flatbush,” Eldon Donald “Duke” Snider at 84. Duke Snider was also known as the third best center fielder in New York for many of the years he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He had to compete with both #24 (Willie Mays – New York Giants) and #7 (Mickey Mantle – New York Yankees. How ya gonna win with competition like that? Up in that same office I also have a 45 rpm record of that ballpark song marking its 30th anniversary, “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.” I need to get that out, dust it off and play it a couple hundred times.
Well, the game that is special to me, I saw in the summer of 1951. My folks, my brother and I were living in a forty foot trailer house in Taylorville, Illinois. We traveled to two games that summer; St. Louis wasn’t that far away. The second trip we saw the New York Giants and the Cardinals play. The Giants had several notables on their roster that day: Sal Maglie, Wes Westrum, Alvin Dark, Whitey Lockman, Bill Rigney, Eddie Stanky, Monte Irvin, Bobby Thompson (the guy that hit the Shot Heard Round the World), Willie Mays, and manager Leo Durocher.
But it was that first weekend that my family and another family made our way to St. Louis to take in the Dodger game that sticks out in my mind. This game will always be my “special game.”
In the lineup that day for the Cardinals that day were: Stan (The Man) Musial, Enos (Country Boy) Slaughter, Joe Garagiola, Dell Rice, Solly Hemus, Red Schoendienst, Harry Walker, Peanuts Lowrey and manager by Monty Marion.
The Dodger lineup that day held: Ralph Branca (delivered the Shot heard round the World in the magical playoff game larter that summer), Carl Erskine, Clem Lebine, Don Newcombe, Preacher Rowe, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, Andy Pafko, Duke Snider, Dick Williams (manager of numerous major league teams), Rube Walker, Billy Cox (current Atlanta manager) and manager Charlie Dressen.
Hall of Famers that played, coached or managed that day are noted above in Bold. Oh, there’s some other Hall of Fame members in the other games mentioned above but they don’t count like the ones I saw that summer of 1951.
What a thrill? The passing of the Duke of Flatbush brought it all back. Thanks Mr. Snider. We’ll miss you.