Just yesterday I was in fifth grade. The morning light flooding my bedroom awakened me with a start. The alarm clock did not go off! Peeking out from under the covers and absorbing the cool fresh morning air rushing in through the bedroom window, I lay there and wondered. Did Mom and Dad forget me? Did they over sleep? I heard no one but smelled coffee subliminally under the fresh autumn air.
The clock indicated 9:30 a.m. Well, I thought, school has begun and here I am. Should I ring the alarm? Sound the warning? Convict them of forgetting about me? Or should I lay here and be quiet enjoying the late slumber just like a Saturday morning but with guilt? Conundrums like this were seldom posed to 11-year-old boys to solve. In my pre-adolescent way I mulled over my predicament and in a very 1950’s way decided to keep a low profile and attempt to play hooky.
In an instant the bedroom door opened and there stood Dad in his suit and tie. Before I could speak to defend my decision he smiled and wished me a great day at the World Series before turning on his heel and leaving for work.
“The World Series,” I screamed as I buzzed around my room getting dressed to go to Ebbet’s Field in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was Wed., Oct. 10, 1956, and if the sun wasn’t shining for one minute that day I didn’t notice.
We arrived at the baseball stadium amidst crowds of New Yorkers, everyone rooting for a home team. That day like many others in NYC there just was no place else on earth west of the Hudson River or east of the Atlantic Ocean.
I greedily grabbed my copy of the MLB schedule as we waded through the gates of Ebbet’s Field. Showing our tickets was Ernie’s dad, the vocal sensation Snooky Lanson from “Your Hit Parade.” We made our way up to the second tier of left centerfield grand stand. I remember a square pole in front of our seats. Snooky, being the epitome of a southern gentleman, saw to it that Ernie and I had an unobstructed view and took the pole seat himself.
The roster for the game read like a who’s who in the baseball Hall of Fame. For the NY Yankees: Hank Bauer in right field, Billy Martin at second base, Mickey Mantle in centerfield, Yogi Berra was catcher. Yogi’s back-up, Elston Howard, was now playing left field. Gill McDougald was, as usual, at short stop, and Andy Carey anchored third base. Johnny Kucks was our pitcher. The other team was the Brooklyn Dodgers. Their roster was just as famous, but I spiritually was and am a Yankee.
I as in Heaven that day as the Yankees trounced the Dodgers 9-to-0. In the seventh inning with three men on base, the mighty Moose Skowron was at the plate. This is the 200 pound, six-foot-tall giant of a man that Casey Stengal needed badly enough in the lineup even though he could not catch a fly ball. Stengal made a first baseman out of the Moose by requiring him to take dancing lessons at Arthur Murray Dance studios.
The Moose was up, and the signal must have been to bat away as there were no outs. I was in the left center upper tier next to Ernie. The pitch came at the Moose. He would say later he swung because the ball looked really big.
Contact! Time stood still as it does sometimes when Finn McGee travels in his time machine. The world was in slow motion. The white sphere sailed through the air to the left center upper deck. I saw it bounce while I was reaching in vain to catch it as the roar of the crowd blew through Ebbet’s field like a hurricane.
In memory of a baseball giant: Moose Skowron 1930-2012, also a Chicago great.
Theodore Morrison Homa MD