I’ve just done a column for the NYT on the double opening day in New York.
But wait, there’s more. I just heard from Bill Wakefield, who pitched quite well for the Mets in 1964, and he recalled the first game ever at Shea. He was a Stanford guy who during spring training had become friendly with Hot Rod Kanehl, who was not a Stanford guy.
Bill’s e-mail reminded me why I love baseball so much:
“We were staying at the Travelers Inn as a team,” Bill wrote. “Rod Kanehl took me out the night before and we went to Toots Shor’s, and Howard Cosell came up and said, ‘Runner Rod, how are you?’ and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the Big Leagues – better than Tulsa.
“We then took separate cabs back to the Travelers. I was late going to breakfast and I remember Rod telling me, ‘I thought somebody had taken you to Brooklyn and I’d never see the rookie again. I’m glad you’re here for breakfast.’
“I had a one-day pay check from the Mets. 1st and the 15th. I think it was around $160. I cashed it – in NYC – cash in my pocket. This is the life.”
“Game against the Pirates. Saw buddies from college along the stands in right field. Hickman looking at the stands and asking me, ‘Are we good enough to play here?’
“As Chris Cannizzaro used to do before opening day – he went around the entire clubhouse, shook hands with all 25 players and said, ‘Have a good year.’ You, too.”
You know you are going good when an old friend writes such a literate e-mail. Then I dug dug out my battered copy of The Southpaw by Mark Harris, which I regard as the best baseball novel, ever. A 17-year-old lefty from upstate New York attends opening day in the city, a few years before he will be the surprise starter there.
'There was an announcement by the loudspeaker, 'Ladies and gentlemen, our national anthem,' and the band struck the tune and some lady that I could not see begun to sing, and a mighty powerful pair of lungs she had. It is really beautiful, for as the last words die away, a roar goes up from the people, and for a minute there is no sound but the echo of the singing, and no movement or motion except maybe a bird or the flags waving or the drummer on his drums, and then the music dies and the people spring to life and the chief umpire calls loud and long, 'Puh-lay ball! And the game is on.''
You should read the book.
As Chris Cannizzaro said, “Have a good year.”