Near the end of Cy Young’s life, a rookie sportswriter (it is said) saw him in the press box and asked whether he had been a player. Young replied, “Son, I’ve won more games than you’ve seen.”
Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the first baseball game I ever saw in person. My father took me to Griffith Stadium for my eighth birthday to see the Washington Senators host the Baltimore Orioles. It was supposed to be a double-header, but the first game lasted almost four hours, so we left after one inning of the nightcap. That game was suspended after five.
I’m not going entirely from memory here. Rather, I’m relying on a great baseball site called Retrosheet, which has the boxscores and play-by-play of the two games, and (as I understand it) virtually every other major league game played since 1957.
The play-by-play confirmed my only three memories of the game. First, Senator’s pitcher Bob Chakales, in what would be his last big league start, did set down the Orioles in order in the top of the first inning (with two strike-outs). I can still see how pumped up the Senators were as they ran towards me and into the dugout at the end of the inning. That was something I couldn’t witness listening to games on the radio or even on the few occasions I’d seen a game on television.
And my favorite player, Roy Sievers, did hit a home run. He would go on to lead the American League in homers and RBIs (as we called them then) that year. And he would hit at least one home run in more than half the games I saw at Griffith Stadium until he was traded at the end of the 1959 season.
Finally, Bob Boyd was, in fact, the hero for Baltimore. He had a double, a triple, and home run. The double sent the game into extra innings and the Orioles went on to win 11-9. I’ve seen a few hitters have more productive games, but I can’t remember anyone hitting three harder line drives. The link above to Boyd says his nickname was “Rope” and that certainly describes those hits.
I’d forgotten, though, that Boyd didn’t start the game. The O’s started George Kell (a Hall of Fame third baseman) at Boyd’s position of first base to clear a spot for 20 year-old Brooks Robinson. I would see Brooks play dozens times in Washington and Baltimore, but he was unknown in 1957 and I have no recollection of him playing in this game. Orioles manager Paul Richards removed Brooks in the fifth inning as part of double switch. Boyd, who had pinch hit for the pitcher, stayed on and Kell replaced his fellow future Hall of Fame third baseman at that position.
Have I “surpassed” Young’s mark (511 wins) in the past 50 years. Probably not, since I’ve seen fewer than 20 big league games since the 1994 strike. I must slowly be getting close, though, and with a team in town and retirement approaching, I think I have a shot.
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