World Series memories leap to mind for veteran broadcaster. Mays's catch, Lavagetto's hit stand out
CASEY Stengel used to say, ``You could look it up.'' I've got a lot of books on the World Series, but for a few memories of games I've seen and broadcast, I don't have to look up anything. The memories are that vivid. I see them now -- Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Terry Moore, Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle -- brilliant center fielders. I was always impressed by the flawless fielding of these men, their instant judgment of where the ball was going, their sure hands at impact with the ball. DiMaggio made his catches look easy. Mantle overhauled them, especially the deep drive hit by Gil Hodges that saved Don Larsen's 1956 perfect game against the Dodgers. Snider was handicapped by playing his home games in the ``bandbox'' at Brooklyn, but at Yankee Stadium where he had the room he roamed and ran. Mays went to deep right center field at the Polo Grounds to catch the 460-foot blast by Vic Wertz -- a home run in any other park -- and turn the 1954 World Series into a sweep by the Giants. You should have seen the graceful Terry Moore of the Cardinals diving and catching at the Stadium in '42.
There were superb pitchers: Carl Hubbell, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Preacher Roe, Allie Reynolds, Carl Erskine, Whitey Ford, Paul Derringer, Bucky Walters, Bobo Newsom, and many others. These men were pitchers, consummate artists.
Perhaps because I saw so many of his games, the smoothness of Pee Wee Reese at shortstop sticks in my mind. Slick as boiled okra.
When Jackie Robinson got on base, all eyes were on him. He made Whitey Ford balk, and he stole home.
The base hit, of course, was Harry Lavagetto's with two out, last of the ninth, fourth game, 1947, and Bill Bevens hadn't given a hit. Two men were on. On the second pitch Lavagetto doubled, breaking up the no-hitter and the game when he scored both runners.
I'll never forget Game 4, 1941. Top of the ninth at Brooklyn, the Yankees behind 4-3, two out and Tommy Henrich at bat with two strikes. Hugh Casey pitched, Henrich swung and missed -- but the ball got away from Mickey Owen. The Yankees scored four runs to win it, and took the Series the next day. The saddest day in Brooklyn.
Something happened off the field just before my first World Series broadcast in 1935 that has also lived with me through the years.
That contest between Detroit and the Chicago Cubs marked the first year a struggling new network, the Mutual Broadcasting System, did a World Series. Bob Elson of WGN in Chicago, and I, from WLW in Cincinnati, did the play-by-play. The Series was open then to all networks, and it wouldn't become an exclusive until Gillette bought the rights to it in 1939.
This was my second season in the major leagues. I'd never seen a World Series. I'd never seen Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball's commissioner, or any of the famous men who came to Detroit for NBC and for CBS.
Judge Landis had instructed all broadcasters and executives to meet with him on the morning of the first game. Elson knew the commissioner and went up to say hello. I was a green pea from the banks of the Ohio, and I took a seat in the back of the room and stayed there.
Judge Landis was a slender man with strong facial features. He had a full head of white hair that appeared to be as big as a basketball. This mane of bushy white was his trademark, and you could spot him by his hair from deep center field as he sat in his box seat.
I'll have to summarize what he said -- there isn't enough space to detail it.
``You men at the microphones let the players play. Report how they play, what they do, and what happens. You can't play yourselves, so don't try to say how they should play or how they shouldn't. Report.''
The room was completely quiet.
``Don't try to say what the managers should or shouldn't do,'' he continued. ``Report what they do, and what happens. Report.''
Now the judge got down to brass tacks, increasing the intensity of his speech.
``The umpires do not need your help. You haven't the training to umpire. You haven't the proper angle to see the plays. You report, don't umpire. Report the rulings they make, the reactions of the players and of the spectators. But don't have an opinion. Report.
``I assure you the full power of the commissioner's office will see to it that no player, no manager, and no umpire will leave the field, enter your broadcasting booth, and interfere with your work. Leave them to their work. Report it, report everything in the ballpark you can see. But report.''
Of course, I remember that Series. I still see Mickey Cochrane sliding across home plate with the winning run, which sent Detroit into a night-long celebration. I remember so many plays and so many players in World Series after World Series. But what Judge Landis said that morning in Detroit in 1935 gave me a philosophy for my work. I never again went into a broadcast booth that I didn't try to report, and just report. I was a broadcaster who had been told how to broadcast.