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Today in My History


2000:   Snippets
2001:  The Mama Caper
2002:  Fun in the Su n
2003:  Well, There Ya Go!
2004Screwed by CSPAN

2005:  K-K-K-Katey

2006: Bittersweet Memories
2007: Joe's Coat
Oh Say Can I See?
2009: And a Good Time was Had by All
2010: A Great Way to End it All
2011: ...and Check the Tires, Please

2012: A Little Compassion
Sunday Stealing

Bitter Hack
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Grapes of Wrath

Books Read in 2014
"Fade Away"

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The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers

The story of Delicate Pooh

mail to Walt


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

Heading into the bottom of the ninth, pitcher Ralph Terry had allowed just two base runners all day – Sanford’s single and a two-out triple by Willie McCovey in the seventh. The slender 1-0 margin still held, and now the Giants had just three outs left.

Leading off the ninth, pinch hitter Matty Alou bunted for a single off Terry for the third Giants safety of the day. However, Terry bore down and struck out the next two batters. One out from yet another Yankee triumph, Kubek’s run-scoring GIDP looked like it was all the offense Terry needed.

However, up to the plate came the one and only Willie Mays. Don’t look now folks, but the game may not be over yet. All Mays had done in 1962 was hit 49 homers, hit .304 and drive in 141 runs. Yeah, that’s all.

Mays swung on a Terry offering and his aim was true. The ball went to the outfield, where right fielder Roger Maris had to make a good play on it to cut it off before it got to the wall. Mays got a double, but Maris’ defense kept Alou from scoring. And now, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the World Series, the Giants had the tying and winning run in scoring position with the heart of the order coming up.

And what a heart of the order it was! OK, so Mays was already on base. But next up was young Willie McCovey. All he’d done that year was hit 20 homers in 92 games. Plus, let’s not forget he thrashed Terry for a triple just two innings ago.

I guess you could intentionally walk him, but that means that Ralph Terry would have to face another future Hall of Famer, Orlando Cepeda. Folks, Cepeda was the reason McCovey had to fight for playing time. Not only had Cepeda hit 35 homers with a .306 average for him at age 24, but that was actually a bit of a down year for him. In 1962, he smacked 46 homers while hitting .311. So if you walk McCovey, you get a man who is possibly even a better hitter—and you’d have to throw him strikes because a walk would tie the game.

Ralph Terry gave it his best shot, and threw a pitch to the young Giants slugger. McCovey swung—and hit a liner.

Let’s pause here. This is the ultimate hair-standing-on-end moment. Once the ball leaves McCovey’s bat, it looks like the World Series will be decided, one way or another. Odds are, it’ll land where no Yankee can get to it, in which case the Alou and speedy Mays both score and the Giants win it all. However, if it goes where a Yankee is, then the Bronx Bombers will have done it again, winning 1-0.

End pause. McCovey’s liner has the oomph to land for a hit—but it just doesn’t have the placement. It goes to second baseman Bobby Richardson, who catches it in self-defense.

The sadness that Giants Nation must have felt was best expressed by comic strip legend Charlie Brown in a pair of Peanuts strips. In the first, there are three panel of Brown and friends looking utterly dejected. In the last panel, Brown screams out “Why couldn’t McCovey had hit the ball three feet higher?” The second strip is the same thing, except this time Brown cries in the last panel, “Why couldn’t McCovey hit it just two feet higher?”

Two feet. That’s all that separated a Yankee triumph from a Giants victory. But that two feet went to the Yankees.

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,

Photo of the Day

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