"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball." —Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones), Field of Dreams
For over 100 years, baseball has been a cultural reference point for millions of Americans. Just as certain songs are associated with special times in our lives, so many of us remember our past in terms of: "That was the year Player A or Team B did this or that."
Having grown up three-and-a-half miles north of the Detroit city line, I have been a lifelong Tigers fan. It has been a half-century now since that magical 1961 season when the Tigers, led by the awesome trio of "Kaline, Colavito, and Cash" in the heart of their batting order, made a legitimate bid for the American League pennant for the first time in my living memory.
As October approaches and baseball fans root for the team they want to win the World Series, it is also a time for nostalgic reminiscences. Here are some of my dearest baseball memories:
As a kid, I rooted for National League teams in the World Series to beat whatever team (usually the hated Yankees) had beaten my Tigers in the American League. Thus, I exulted when Lew Burdette won three games to lead the Braves to victory over the Yankees in 1957. The Soviets launched Sputnik during the series.
I thrilled when a now-forgotten pitcher named Larry Sherry led the Dodgers to victory over the White Sox in 1959, pitching in four of the six games, saving two and winning two. (Sherry also batted .500 in one of the great individual series performances of all time.) In the game-six finale, the Dodgers’ Hall-of-Fame manager, Walter Alston, did something that you’ll probably never see again. He handed the ball to Sherry, his closer, in the fourth inning, and watched Sherry blank the ChiSox for the rest of the game.
In 1960, I had the privilege of watching Ted Williams play at Tiger Stadium. The Splendid Splinter is the greatest hitter I ever saw. His presence in the batter’s box was majestic; he was lord of that domain. My other 1960 highlight was Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer to complete the David-beats-Goliath upset victory of the Pirates over the Yankees—the most exhilarating moment in World Series history.