When Red Sox fans took over Yankee Stadium

Much is being made of Amed Rosario’s walk-off home run at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 28, which gave the New York Mets a victory over the Yankees. In this strange Covid-riddled season, visiting clubs are being designated as the home team for some games, because of scheduling situations. But what about when the archrival Boston Red Sox invaded Yankee Stadium to play the Yankees and Red Sox fans outnumbered Yankees fans by the thousands? It happened in one of the greatest seasons in Red Sox history.

Impossible Dream

It was 1967 and the Red Sox were in a historic four-way American League Pennant race with the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. Boston came to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series Aug. 28–30. Meanwhile, the Yankees, three seasons removed from their last dynasty, were languishing near the cellar, 15 1/2 games out of first, in their so-called “Horace Clarke” era. The club finished last the season before, right behind the now-improved Red Sox. Attendance had dropped dramatically at a rundown stadium and the Mets, playing in shiny, new Shea Stadium, had taken over New York City’s baseball rooting interest. If the Yanks drew 10,000 to a game, it was considered a good night.

With new, blue seats, an exterior and interior stadium paint job and ushers, wearing spiffy new outfits, the Yankees were hoping for a rebound in fan interest, but those who were mostly in attendance for the next three days were more interested in the Red Sox.

Monday night battle

The series opened on Monday night, Aug. 28 and 27,206 fans were in Yankee Stadium, most of them rooting for the Red Sox. (Many Sox fans came from Connecticut and thousands of Red Sox fans lived in New York City.)

Elston Howard, one of the backbones of the Yankees Dynasty, was now catching for Boston. Earlier in the month the Red Sox had acquired Howard from the Bombers for another catcher, Bob Tillman. During batting practice, Red Sox manager Dick Williams made a point in front of reporters of thanking his counterpart, Ralph Houk, for sending Howard his way. Howard did not disappoint his skipper, knocking in a run and throwing out Mickey Mantle, attempting to steal second base, in the Red Sox 3–0 win. Mantle ended up injuring his foot and was sidelined for the remainder of the series.

Coincidentally, Howard had broken up Red Sox rookie, lefty Billy Rohr’s no-hit bid in the ninth inning, earlier in the season in the Yankees’ home opener with former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her son, John, seated near the Red Sox dugout. And it was Howard, who greeted Mantle at home plate in a May 14 game against Baltimore, after Mick belted his 500th career home run. Howard was the next batter.

Dave Morehead notched the victory, pitching 5 1/3 innings, but Sparky Lyle hurled 3 1/3 innings with nothing to show for it, statistically. What would have been a save was not considered an official statistic in 1967. Lyle, by the way, would be traded to the Yankees and win the Cy Young Award in 1977, helping the Bronx Bombers win their first World Series in 15 seasons.

Sox fans jam Stadium

The second night of the series featured a twi-night doubleheader and it was a doozy. On the day Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were paired in the final round of the rain-delayed Westchester Classic in nearby Harrison, NY, 40,314 jammed Yankee Stadium, most of the fans cheering on the Red Sox. (Covering the game for the New York Daily News, Larry Fox referred to the attendance as “the Beantown oriented crowd.”)

In the first game, the Red Sox nipped the Yankees, 2–1, as Jim Lonborg – who would go on to win the Cy Young Award – outdueled Mel Stottlemyre, winning his 18th game. Both pitchers hurled complete games in a tidy 2:10. Who knew the second game would produce the longest game in the history of this renowned ballpark?

It wasn’t until 1:57 the following morning, long after the 27-year-old Nicklaus won the golf tournament, that the aforementioned Clarke delivered a run-scoring single in the 20th inning to give the Yankees a 4–3 victory. The two clubs had to be back at the ballpark for the series finale, 12 hours later.

Series finale

Not content with 20 innings, the Red Sox and Yankees played extras again in the day game. Carl Yastrzemski, who had been rested because he was in a slump, was inserted late in the game and snapped a 1–1 tie with a home run off of Yankees starter Al Downing in the 11th inning. (Downing became famous as the Dodgers pitcher who served up the home run to Hank Aaron that broke Babe Ruth’s career home run mark.) On the wings of Yastrzemski’s 35th home run – which ended an 0-for-18 skein – the Red Sox had a 2–1 win, before 22,766, most of them Boston fans. The Red Sox left town in first place by a game-and-a-half.

As the New York Times reported: “…the Yankees and Red Sox completed 40 innings of hard-fought baseball replete with outstanding defensive plays, in just under 24 hours.”

The Red Sox would go on to win their first pennant in 21 years, with the race going down to the season’s final day. But in an “Impossible Dream” year, for three days the impossible occurred at Yankee Stadium, when Boston fans stormed the big ballpark, making the Red Sox players feel right at home.

Yankees of 2020 can’t hold a candle to 1960 Yankees

The New York Yankees played three doubleheaders in three days, 60 years ago this week. Keep that in mind, when you hear and read about the “tough” schedule the Bombers will face, starting on Aug. 26, 2020: three doubleheaders in five days. And unlike this Covid-riddled season, when each game of the twin bill will be seven innings in length, in 1960 each game of the doubleheader was a scheduled nine-inning affair.

Three-way race

On August 26, 1960, the first place Yankees found themselves in a tight three-way pennant race with Baltimore and the White Sox. Before their 6 p.m. doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, New York held a one game lead on the Orioles and two games over Chicago.

The first game on a Friday night, with 56,508 in attendance, went extra innings, lasting 3:43. The game ended in the last of the 11th inning on a Yogi Berra home run, his second of the contest, giving New York a 7-6 win. The Indians seemingly had the game in hand, taking a 5-2 lead on a two-run homer by Tito Francona, whose son Terry Francona is the current manager of the Cleveland Indians.

The Yankees needed a second-game comeback too, winning 7-5. The game did not end until 12:58 Saturday morning, leading Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto to tell the radio audience, “we should probably sleep right here in the booth.” The two clubs had to be back at the Stadium that afternoon for another doubleheader, starting at 2:00.

There was no sneaking over the bridge in the seventh inning for “the Scooter,” back in those days, working the games with Mel Allen and Red Barber.

Saturday doubleheader

With both clubs playing on little sleep, starting 13 hours later, the Yankees made it another doubleheader sweep, winning the first game 7-4 (Francona homered again for Cleveland) and capturing the nightcap, 3-0, behind a Ralph Terry complete-game, two-hit shutout. It took 2:45 to play the opener and a thrifty 2:07 for the second contest, played before 42,520.

Tigers in for two

The marathon weekend concluded with a Sunday doubleheader starting a 2 p.m against the Detroit Tigers. Perhaps feeling as if they were in a daze, the Yankees lost the opener, 6-2 in a game lasting 3:24. But New York bounced back to win the second game, 8-5, paced by Mickey Mantle’s home run and four RBI. The game lasted 2:30 in front of 47,921.

Final totals

When the weekend was over, the Yankees had played 56 innings of baseball or 17 hours and 19 minutes over 50 and-a-half hours. With both the Dodgers and Giants having moved out west, the Yankees, being the only game in town, drew 146,949 for the three days. There is no telling how many throat lozenges were used by Rizzuto, Allen and Barber.

After the six games the first place Yanks had picked up a game and held a two-game advantage over Baltimore. It wouldn’t be until mid-September, before the Yankees finally shook off the Orioles in a weekend series to win their 10th and final pennant under manager Casey Stengel. The “ol’ Professor” was denied his eighth World Series title when the Pirates defeated the Bombers in the deciding game of the series on a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski.

But over the next few days, while the media makes a big deal about three doubleheaders in five days, remember the 2020 Yankees cannot hold a candle to their 1960 counterparts.

Covid is real

The sports world continues to muddle along, struggling with Covid’s refusal to go away. For example, I read on Sunday that Major League Baseball has not had a full slate of games since July 26. Games have been postponed because of Covid outbreaks, rain or both. In my home state of Connecticut, meanwhile, there is a battle going on, involving high school sports.

Clueless Dan
In Connecticut, the overseer of scholastic sports is the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, or CIAC. Within that body are various boards. One board ruled to cancel the football season. Another board said play the games. Now everything is on hold, as the CIAC, getting pushback from parents and other groups, decides on what to do. Throw in the students, who want to play, and your have the makings of a controversy.

From my perspective what decision is there? The Connecticut Department of Public Health, Dr. Fauci, doctors from Yale and elsewhere have explained the risks inherent with Covid and football. I say cancel the season.

My viewpoint has been challenged by some on Twitter as being “clueless.” Well, count me among the clueless then for siding with Dr. Fauci and experts whose opinions are grounded in years of education and experience in such matters.

As I pointed out on Twitter, one need only look to Danbury, where Covid is making a comeback. The mayor has put a hold on all sports leagues, closed down boating by outsiders on Candlewood Lake and taken other steps to halt the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, in Bridgeport and New Haven, city officials are not waiting for any CIAC ruling. They have ordered no high school football. I’m guessing Danbury will follow suit.
And if the experts who deem me “clueless” for calling for the cancellation of high school football are so sure the virus won’t spread, how come a very limited number of spectators will be permitted, if high school football is played?

I am a big high school football fan, who also broadcasts high school games on the radio. But we need a reality check here. As much as I want the games to be played, the reality is Covid is not going away anytime soon. And if school districts are implementing a hybrid system, whereby students will spend some days in an actual classroom and other days at home, for health reasons, how can you be staging high school athletics in the fall, especially football?

In nearby Massachusetts, high school football has already been cancelled. Connecticut should do the same. If that makes me “clueless,” than count me among the clueless.