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THREE FEET HIGHER
13 October 2014
In 3 days it will be 52 years since the day when Willie McCovey did not "hit it three feet higher." (I am amazed that I was able to find that on the Internet!)
It was the day the defending American league champion New York Yankees played the national league champion San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series, at now about-to-be-demolished Candlestick park.
I've liked baseball all my life. It's probably the only sport that I will sit down and watch by myself. (Sorry, Tom.) I like football if I'm watching with a group, particularly if watching with Tom (when the 49ers are winning. I am always glad I am not in Santa Barbara when the 49ers are losing since Tom takes those losses so personally!)
There was a time when I was a bigger fan and knew all the players on the Giants. To this day I still remember that Willie Mays wore number 24 and Willie McCovey wore number 44.
We didn't attend a lot of games live, but attended our share, getting sunburned in the box seats lining the field at Candlestick, shivering in the cold when the fog rolled in off the hills, filled the stadium, and made the teeth of those hardy souls who stuck it out to the bitter end chatter.
Even before the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, I was interested in baseball, not so much from watching games (though I remember my father taking me to one San Francisco Seals game) but because players like Pee Wee Reese, shortstop for the Brooklyn (and later Los Angeles) Dodgers, used to make guest appearances on kids' radio programs like Big John and Sparky. At least I think that was the program. I remember hearing him with at least one other baseball player on a kids' show. I guess I rememember Reese's name because it was so unusual.
We used to play baseball in the neighborhood. I do wish I had had a camera back then and could have recorded the yard where we played. It was long...maybe 30 feet? and narrow, maybe 8 feet across? On one side was the wall of the flats that my parents rented and our kitchen window opened out onto "home plate." First base was a bump in the wall halfway down. Second base was the back wall which was part of the four story apartment building in which my friend Stephen lived. Third base was just past the stairs that you climbed to get up to Stephen's apartment building, and then round again to home plate. I can't begin to count the number of games we had there. Stephen and his brother Michael, Karen and I, and a few other kids from the neighborhood. I think we used our forearms for a bat and hit tennis balls. I was never good at it, but we had fun.
So when "real baseball" came to San Francisco it was fun to follow the Giants. During the 1962 World Series, I was working at the Physics Department in Berkeley and I don't remember how I followed the series, but I do know that by the time the final game was being played, baseball fever was at a peak. So much so that the woman who was in charge of the department brought a teeny TV set in to watch it. The screen may have been 6" wide. I don't remember, but it was teeny.
Her office was also teeny, but we crowded in there like clowns in a circus car, Nobel Laureats squished up against the girls from the copy room, physicists and secretaries. And like all the playoff games this year have been, it, too, was a nail biter. Reliving the day, from The Hardball Times, which I found on line
Like today, there was no joy in Mudville when Mighty McCovey flied out. The Physics Department manager's office cleared as fast as a political ralley after the losing candidate gives his concession speech.
At least the Giants have another chance to win their second game in this playoff series tomorrow, but if it's another losing nailbiter I know I will be thinking of McCovey and the time when he couldn't hit it three feet higher,
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