Sep

24

 This excerpt about Yogi Berra is from "The Last Catholic in America" (1973), a book I have treasured through the years as the author was in many ways my youthful, angst ridden doppelgänger, and Bapa, the grandfather who shared it.

The first man Billy Pierce had to face in the top of the ninth was Tony Kubeck. On the first pitch, Kubek hit a high chopper to White Sox second baseman, who threw him out by twenty feet. The next Yankee up, Bill Skowren, also swung at the first pitch and lined it right back to Pierce.

The White Sox were now one run away from shutting out the Yankees and Whitey Ford! One out away! Just one!

Then Mickey Mantle, the clean-up hitter, drilled a single to center field. Two out, a man on first, and we still led the New York Yankees by one run. One more out and it would be all over. Just one more.

Slowly, the Yankee kneeling in the on-deck circle got up and began moving toward the plate, waving four or five bats around his head. His squatty legs had apparently forgotten to keep up with the rest of his body. His beefy shoulders almost hid his neck.

As he stepped into the batter's box, he threw four of the bats behind him and leaned the chosen one against his shoulder. Yogi Berra was ready.

Billy Pierce checked Mantle's lead over at first. Then Pierce pulled both feet together and proceeded to slowly rear back on his left foot, stretching his left arm so far behind him that he appeared as if he were going to knock the center fielder's cap off. At the peak of his windup, Pierce's body became momentarily motionless. An instant later, Pierce started leaning forward , his arm came racing over his head, and the hand released the ball as the windmill lash of his body sped it toward the plate.

The ball was coming low and outside. Yogi Berra stood dumb. The ball was almost past him. Suddenly, the springs unleashed in Yogi's wrists, the bat ripped off his shoulder, and the smack of bat on ball migrained through the park…

I looked back toward the field. The ball was just beginning to come down. That familiar thud of Minnie [Minoso] went plowing into the wall and crumbling at the base of it. The ball landed in the upper deck, fifth row, seventy feet over Minnie's head. A two run homer.

As Yogi went into the dugout, a few of his teammates patted him on the behind as he walked by. None of the Yanks seemed too terribly excited, though. Pros don't get excited…Already the crowd was moving towards the exits even though the game had half an inning to go…By the time we reached ground level, the final score was being announced: New York Yankees 2, and the White Sox 1.

"Well," said Bapa, "one more time and Minoso will tie Wallerson's* record."

"Think he'll make it, Bapa?"

"Oh, I think so. Minoso's got the head for it."

*Woody, 'The Wonder' Wallerson, established the record for being carried off the field unconscious after running into the outfield wall seven times in 1914.


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