October 8, 1956. Nice fall day in Fulda, Minn. I skipped lunch in the cafeteria/church basement at St. Gabriel’s and pedaled by bike around what we called “First Lake’’ to check on what was happening in the fifth game of a World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees.
I was soon to turn 11. Sixth grade. Sister Marna. Uff da. This was high risk; she didn’t like either me, or my neighbor and bad influence, Daniel Weicherding.
My mother Cecile had the game on the black-and-white Philco. It was mid-game, the Yankees were leading and Don Larsen was pitching a shutout. Wait a second – a no-hitter. Wait another second – a perfect game.
What are you going to do? Eat the sandwich, get back on the bike and make the class bell, or wait to see if Larsen made it through another half-inning. I waited, then pedaled back, was late, and received the “where have you been’’ stare from Sister Marna.
“I went home to check on the World Series,’’ I said. “Don Larsen is pitching a perfect game for the Yankees through seven.’’
This was baseball and the World Series in America in the mid-1950s, and a grade-school nun understood the importance of this, meaning: It might have been the only time Sister Marna accepted one of my excuses.
And, yes, Larsen completed what remains the only perfect game in 115 World Series, in the old, old Yankee Stadium, with the famous autumn shadows.
The final was 2-0, the game time was 2 hours, 6 minutes, and there were two pitchers used: Larsen, and Sal “The Barber’’ Maglie for Brooklyn.
Nobody in America referred to that losing pitcher simply as Sal Maglie. He was always “Sal the Barber,’’ because he liked to give hitters a close shave with inside pitches.
Sort of like I had with Sister Marna on that historic afternoon, if I had been old enough to shave.
I was fortunate to cover 24 consecutive World Series from 1981 through 2005 (the strike wiped out 1994), and then a 25th in 2007. I covered seven for the St. Paul newspapers from 1981 through 1987, and the remainder for the Star Tribune.
I was sitting next to Tom Powers from the Pioneer Press in the outside auxiliary press box in the upper deck at Candlestick Park before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series. I’ll never forget that brief conversation.
“What’s that?’’ Powers said.
“Must be a vibration from the plane,’’ I said, pointing to a jumbo jet that was rising low over the stadium against a gorgeous blue sky.
One second later, Powers said, “That’s no plane vibration,’’ and I had to agree, as the upper deck started trying to lurch forward and light towers swayed.
October 17, 1989. My 44th birthday. A World Series earthquake that created almost as much anxiety as coming through that classroom door at St. Gabe’s 10 minutes late to face Sister Marna all those years earlier.
The World Series was my favorite event to cover, edging out the Masters. Some Series were dull and one-sided; others provided tremendous drama; all were different.
I enjoyed the challenge of trying to write something coherent on deadline; trying to get to a postgame clubhouse and grab a quote or a scene that gave a twist to the next morning’s effort.
There was still a Sunday afternoon game in 1983, when the Orioles polished off the Phillies 5-0 in Game 5 to win the series 4-1. Eddie Murray hit two home runs in that decisive game.
Later, the champagne spraying had ended in the visitors clubhouse, and this older African-American fellow was standing off to the side, an appreciative smile on his face.
I started talking to him. It was Charles Murray, Eddie’s father, a man who had moved from the Deep South to Los Angeles and raised his family in Watts. A gentle man, you could tell.
Already, Eddie was known to sports writers for his refusal to conduct interviews, but talking to his dad for 10 minutes on that happy day for the Murrays, I got a different glimpse of this superstar ballplayer.
“Every Sunday night, no matter where he is, Eddie calls his mother [Carrie] at 8 o’clock in California, tells her he loves her, and they have a nice talk,’’ Charles said.
And Mr. Murray beamed with as much pride over that, as in talking about his son’s two home runs that had done in the Phillies and won the World Series for the Orioles.
The game times for the five games of the Orioles-Phillies World Series were 2:22, 2:27, 2:35, 2:50 and 2:21.
You could work a World Series, make a deadline. Heck, you could massage a game story and write a whole new column for the late run.
Starting times were pushed back. Commercial breaks became longer. Games grew longer and longer. The large websites arrived and sent several reporters and had no firm deadlines to cover the Series exhaustively. The print newspaper business fell on hard times. Even the successful newspapers – including the Star Tribune – became more locally focused, which is the only way to go.
We have more people dedicated to covering the Vikings and Gophers sports now than we did when the print business was in its heyday; again, that’s the only way to go. I mean, this elongated piece is intended for startribune.com, not a print edition.
If the Twins had made the World Series, it would be all hands on deck. They didn’t. Three-and-out vs. the Yankees. Not much surprise in that.
As part of the routine, the Strib stopped covering the World Series with a reporter a number of years ago. And why bother? You can’t get to a clubhouse anymore, you don’t have time to find a Charles Murray standing there; not with game times of 3:43, 4:01, 4:03, 3:48, 3:18 (not bad) and 3:37 for the first six games of this World Series; you can’t actually work a World Series game and have time to get it in a morning newspaper.
There’s been a lot good about this World Series:
Outstanding starting pitchers. Great players. A magnificent all-around Astros team vs. a gritty Nationals team trying to give the city of Washington a World Series championship for the first time since 1924.
And people are watching in small numbers and sports writers from MLB towns other than Washington and Houston are almost non-existent in the media corps.
On Wednesday night, with Game 7 being played in Houston, I’ll be at the Pavilion writing a column on the Gophers-Ohio State volleyball match.
I’m not complaining. Gophers volleyball has become one of the most-entertaining activities on the local sports scene.
And if I get home by 11 or so, there probably will be a couple of more innings to play, particularly if the umps have had to waddle over, put on the 1980s headsets and confer with “New York’’ for 10 minutes.
That’s if someone is around to respond. Apparently, that didn’t happen during Tuesday night’s fiasco. They hooked up the umps and nobody was on the other end for a while.
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed with baseball since my first World Series:
MLB still can screw up a one-car parade.