Johnny Blanchard was an exceptional three-sport athlete at Minneapolis Central in football, basketball and baseball. He was a left-handed hitter, right-handed thrower and primarily a third baseman in those years.

Blanchard was 18 when the Yankees signed him to a substantial bonus in 1951. They decided to turn him into a catcher and his first season in that role – 1952 with the Class C Joplin [Mo.] team – was not smooth. He led all of professional baseball with 35 passed balls.

Then came his draft notice, and he spent the next two years in the Army. It was the midst of the Korean Conflict, but he spent most of his stretch in Germany.

He came back to the loaded Yankees' farm system and had only one game and four at-bats in the big leagues over the next four years. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 184 runs combined in 1957-58 at Class AAA Denver, and the Yankees finally found a place for him in 1959:

Third-string catcher behind Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, past and future American League MVPs, and also outfielder and pinch-hitter. Lefty pinch-hitters in Yankee Stadium … the Bronx Bombers loved those guys for generations.

Blanchard played in five straight World Series with the Yankees from 1960 through 1964, with the first one being the most-notorious and his role being the most-intriguing.

I played cart-mate golf with Johnny a couple of times years later. Good stick, great guy, and as his son Paul Blanchard pointed out in our conversation last week: 'You guys were long-term members of the same club.''

That would be Alcoholics Anonymous – and it was discussed in the cart.

I was in a conversation with Paul about his pending retirement after 27 years as Southwest Minnesota State's baseball coach, and then the conversation drifted to his father, and he said:

"Did you realize that my dad was catching when Bill Mazeroski hit the home run to end Game 7 in the 1960 World Series? Most people assume it was either Yogi or Elston Howard, but it was John.

"Great story about that, too.''

And there was, from Johnny now told by his son, but first a few details:

The Yankees were heavy favorites against the Pirates, the upstart winners of the National League. Pittsburgh had won three games 6-4, 3-2 and 5-2. The Yankees had won three games 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0 (Game 6 in Pittsburgh).

Then came Game 7 on Oct. 13, 1960 – the Greatest Ballgame Ever Played, at least for twists and turns, in the opinion of many.

How about this: There were 19 runs, 24 hits and the game time was 2 hours, 36 minutes. Also this: There was not single strikeout recorded by the nine pitchers used (Yankees 5, Pirates 4).

Through the first six games, Berra had caught two and Howard was catching his fourth in Game 6. Pittsburgh starter Bob Friend hit Howard in the hand in the second inning and Elston wound up with a broken hand.

Blanchard caught the rest of that 12-0 Yankees win, and was back there again in Game 7, with Yogi in left field. The Yankees were down 4-0 early, scored five runs in the middle innings, then two more in the eighth for a 7-4 lead.

Blanchard's fourth hit in 11 Series at-bats drove in the seventh run. Then, the Pirates scored five in the eighth, a rally triggered by a double-play ball that took a bad hop and hit shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat.

Kubek's mouth was full of blood and he had to leave the game. Later, he compared the infield at Forbes Field to the beach at Normandy, which might not have worked too well in the age of social media but apparently didn't cause a ruckus six decades ago.

Down 9-7, the Yankees of course tied it with two runs in the ninth. And Yankees manager Casey Stengel elected to go with Ralph Terry, the losing starter in Game 4, to get the Yankees to extra innings in bottom of the ninth.

And here's what Paul Blanchard said he was told by his father:

"Mazeroski was leading off and the scouting report on him was that he liked the ball up. What he didn't want was a fastball down by the knees. My dad called for a fastball, and wanted it low. Terry shook him off, and threw a high breaking ball without much on it and Mazeroski took it for ball one.

"My dad walked out toward the mound to tell Ralph that they should be throwing fastballs down. He said that Ralph told him in no uncertain terms to get back behind the plate, he was going to throw the pitches he wanted.

"So, he threw another high breaking ball and Mazeroski hit it over the 406-foot marker in left-center field and made one of the most-famous trips around the bases in baseball history.''

Pirates 10, Yankees 9.

That wasn't the end of it.

Paul Blanchard: "When my dad got to the dugout, the pitching coach [Eddie Lopat] started yelling at him, 'Why didn't you follow the reports on that guy? Fastballs down.'

"My dad was just going to wear it, but Ralph Terry was walking behind him and said, 'This isn't on Johnny. That's what I wanted to throw.' ''

Stengel was fired later that month after his long run as Yankees manager, replaced by third base coach Ralph Houk. The Yankees' dynastic ways continued through 1964, then officially ended (for a decade, at least) on July 11, 1965, when Harmon Killebrew hit a two-out, 3-2 home run off Pete Mikkelsen to give the Twins a win that buried the Yankees in the AL standings.

Old Twins fans can find the audio of Ray Scott calling that homer and have dead hair follicles comes to life on their scalps.

You also can find on internet suggestions that Mazeroski hit a fastball from Terry. There's video available. If that was Terry's fastball, he never would've gotten out of his hometown of Big Cabin, Okla.