When I was writing a sports column in Manhattan in the mid-'60s, I liked baseball almost as much as football. Now I would have trouble answering a simple trivia quiz that involved present-day ballplayers.
Because of my familiarity with players from the '50s and '60s, I have enjoyed seeing the two old-timers games that have been played at Pilot Field and look forward to Monday's game here.
But I can understand why some people don't like to see an erstwhile speedster, once "quicker than a hiccup," totter to the batter's circle. They wince when they see the pitcher once described as "so fast he could slip a lamb chop past a wolf" lobbing in slow balls.
As I looked through the list of the players who will be in Monday's game, some memories flooded back.
Sandy Koufax's name recalled the day in 1966 when he signed as a sportscaster with NBC-TV for what was said to be the princely sum of $100,000 a year. At the time I was writing a column for the Hall Syndicate and, knowing something about the secrecy attached to TV contracts, I checked the figure with Bud Rukeyser, vice president of press relations at NBC.
Bud, who once had been my boss at at the network, grinned and said: "He could make that much if he would do sports other than baseball. But he said he isn't qualified to do other sports. So he will make only about half of the reported figure. Of course, you know that NBC never announced a figure. That sum started with one writer and, as often happens in sports, the other media people accepted it as a fact."
So help me Phyllis George, there really was a man who refused to cover a sport for a TV network because he wasn't qualified to do so.
On Monday, an interesting question could be asked of Enos Slaughter, who once was featured in a famous photograph in Life magazine.
The picture showed Slaughter weeping profusely after being told that he had been traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the New York Yankees. The caption said Slaughter was crying because of his love for the Cardinals. And as late as last week, a writer bemoaning the blase attitude of most modern players yearned for the time when loyalty could make a man weep.
The late columnist Bob Considine would have enjoyed that item. You see, Bob once wrote a column in which he stated that Slaughter was crying for a different reason. Considine said that the player had just completed a lineup that called for a meeting with a different female in every city in the league, and the trade to the other league had upset his plans.
The sight of Whitey Ford's name brought memories of a night in Chicago with pitcher Mickey Mantle, a classmate named Dick Fincher and a piano player known as George the Goon. And that, in turn, brought back a report about an unclassy act by the general manager of a team that supposedly had class before George Steinbrenner came along.
The story has it that after having had a big year, Mantle asked for a large raise. The man on the other side of the table said that the team had hired private detectives to follow the star and now had a full report. It would be a shame, the official added, if a copy of that report were to fall into Mrs. Mantle's hands.
The salary request was withdrawn.
Social note: Franklin J. Schweitzer, of the crew of the fireboat Edward M. Cotter, and Patricia K. Diebler will be married on the fireboat on Saturday.