A hundred years ago, growing up in Southern California, World Series time was a different animal.
Taking nothing away from the 2012 electronic, 1,000-frames-a-second, all-access media coverage of the Giants-Tigers games, in 1957, the World Series was almost the second coming of Christmas — even though this then-fifth-grader caught only two games on black-and-white television (if the rabbit ears worked).
Fifty-five seasons ago, the Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees four games to three.
This kid had finished his second Little League season with a championship of his own — playing for the Kenneth Chevrolet Braves.
With no Major League Baseball yet in Los Angeles, it was easy for me to root for Lew Burdette, Billy Bruton and Nippy Jones.
I tried teaching myself to throw left-handed because of Warren Spahn. I became a switch-hitter (if I was going to ask my mom to reverse the 14 on my uniform and re-sew it to mirror my hero Eddie Mathews’ No. 41, the least I could do was bat left-handed).
At school, the World Series was used as reward.
Since the games were always day games in ancient times, morning radio broadcasts were the norm.
Fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Simpson told my class a week before that, if we watched our behavior, we could listen to the World Series during school hours! Big stuff for 11-year-olds..
Those of us who ran afoul of Mrs. Simpson leading up to the Series would be sent to Mrs. Parks’ room for extra study.
The rest of us could listen to Mel Allen’s unforgettable voice, helping nurture our imaginations as we tried to envision Bobby Richardson diving to his right — or where the shoe polish settled on the ball after Nippy was hit in the foot.
Great catches were always better in my mind than they actually revealed themselves decades later on ESPN Classic.
As tired as I got of listening to my father tell me how much better players were of his era — how much more interesting the baseball stories were — six decades later, I get it. I’m sure my wife and kids are bored to tears with Johnny Podres, Ernie Banks and Robin Roberts tales.
Anyway, this Giants-Tigers thing nonetheless has been pretty interesting. Mostly, because they’re our guys, the journey of the San Francisco Giants is compelling. And with each pitch, the plot thickens.
I’ve been taking mental notes, occasionally looking to the future, and this World Series is pretty cool (even if my Braves spit the bit in that one-game-and-out wild card deal).
Just some thoughts …
Neato Zito: Channeling the 1926 efforts of old Grover Cleveland Alexander, Barry Zito will win Game 5 as the Giants take it 4-1. Zito — not on the postseason roster for the 2010 World Champion Giants — will be named MVP and everyone in America will be re-energized.
(Alexander, by the way, won two games in ’26 and saved another as St. Louis beat the Yankees. Alexander was 39, alcoholic and washed up. Really? Did anyone notice, with Ol’ Pete on the mound, Babe Ruth was nailed trying to steal second, ending the Series?)
Bay Bridge Section Collapses Again: A 7.0 earthquake, its epicenter at AT&T Park, knocks down another section of the retrofitted span. Apparently Prince Fielder, in being thrown out going from first to third, collides with Pablo Sandoval.
Verlander, Schmerlander: The Tigers were 8-5 favorites to win Game 1. Verlander’s postseason ERA was invisible to the naked eye and he was 3-0 this fall. Hmmmm. Didn’t the oddsmaker see this year’s All-Star game? Weren’t those Giants running around the bases in his five-run, first inning?
McCarver and Buck. Yuck: Regardless of what you think of the Fox television duo of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, there is nothing they can do to make things better for Giants’ fans. The local fans know their team, their history, their ballpark. Buck and McCarver mess-ups aren’t so blatant when they’re in Miami or Boston during the regular season, but in our backyard World Series, don’t start playing fast and loose with the truth about the rookie seasons of Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. Tim, it was two triples and two singles in Stretch’s debut. And Cha-Cha was a rookie in 1958.
While I Have You Here: When Gregor Blanco popped Doug Fister in the head with a liner Thursday, I flashed back to what might have been for my kid, Nick, in 2004.
Former UC Davis baseball coach Phil Swimley was managing a college summer league team in Vacaville. He enlisted my ball-playing “baby” to be the bullpen catcher. Nick was just a high school junior, but has always handled himself pretty well on the diamond.
The Thunderbirds, as the Solano County team was known, had a pretty good pitcher from Fresno State – one Doug Fister.
A great guy, Fister, however, was imposing on the mound. At 6-foot-8, he could bring it even then. My gun (I was the GM of the T-Birds) always had him in the mid-90s.
So, the flashback? Nick was taking BP and Fister was pitching. Swim, soon-to-be New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel and I were hanging on the cage, chatting.
Fister’s first pitch to Nick was outside. His second pitch was blasted off the wall in right center …
This was a Major League-bound pitcher throwing to a high school junior. It wasn’t lost on the big right-hander. Fister’s next pitch was under my kid’s hands — about 200 mph.
“Hey, Nick! Get outta there,” Swimley yelled, not real thrilled.
He had just noticed: The bullpen catcher didn’t have a helmet on.
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.