General Non-Fiction posted October 5, 2022


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A love affair with baseball

Baseball, Records and Heros

by Terry Broxson


The baseball regular season for 2022 is over, and the playoffs are beginning. Eventually, two teams will play in the World Series.
 
The most exciting thing about this season has been Aaron Judge's pursuit of breaking Roger Maris's American League home run record for a single season. Aaron hit home run number sixty-two this week in Arlington, Texas, and set the American League record besting Roger Maris by one.
 
For our international members and those who don't follow baseball, there are two leagues. The American and the National leagues have separate playoffs, champions, and records. The respective winners play in the World Series.
 
I know the cynics are asking, "How can twenty-nine teams in the US and one in Canada make a World Series?" The answer is we have been doing this for a hundred years. Please don't bother us with details. We are not going to change—so there.
 
For the baseball purist, I am only writing about the American League. But I will acknowledge in the National League; the home run record has been beaten six times. The National League records range from sixty-three to seventy-three. However, each time the use of steroids tainted the history.  
 
Aaron Judge is a big boy, Six feet seven inches tall. He plays for the New York Yankees in the American League. Aaron is a very good all-around player. He can hit, field, and is noted for his home runs.
 
The American League home run record has been held since 1920 by two men who also played for the New York Yankees, Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.
 
I was fifteen in 1961 when Maris set his record of sixty-one homers. He beat the Babe by one. Babe Ruth set the home run mark in 1920 at fifty-four. In 1921, he hit a new record of fifty-nine, and in 1927 another record of sixty.
 
I lived in Texas but I pledged allegiance to the New York Yankees; my hero was Mickey Mantle. For most of the 1961 season, Roger and Mickey were neck and neck in home runs.
 
The Yankee fans wanted Mickey to break the record. Babe had been a long-time Yankee, and Yankee Stadium came to be known as the "House That Ruth Built."
 
Mickey was a lifetime Yankee; Roger had been traded from Kansas City to New York before the 1960 season, a relative newcomer. Unfortunately, Mickey was injured, missed part of the season, and finished with fifty-four homers.
 
***
 
I could hit home runs, too, of sorts. 
 
In the spring of 1956, I turned ten years old. I could now play my first season in little league. Our coach was Hugh Gilmore, my dad's partner selling insurance for the Equitable Life Assurance Society.
 
Mr. Gilmore assigned me to be the first baseman. I could catch the ball—a plus for a ten-year-old. But I had no idea where the ball might go when I threw it. First basemen rarely made critical throws in little league. 
 
Before each game, we had infield practice. Mr. Gilmore hit grounders to the infield. An infielder would catch it and throw the ball to me at first. I would then whip it home to the catcher. On my first whip home, on the first day of practice, I hit Mr. Gilmore right behind the ear. 
 
When I told my dad about the throw, he smiled; I think he almost laughed.
 
I wanted to be a slugger like Mickey Mantle. A home run occurs when a batter hits the ball over the fence of play. A home run could also happen when hitting the ball, running around the bases, and scoring. This hit was an inside-the-park home run. I led the league in those. 
 
I would whack the ball down the middle of the field between the legs of the second baseman, rolling to the center fielder, who would try to scoop it up, missed, and the ball rolled to the fence. By the time the center fielder got the ball, I had rounded second base and headed to third. The center fielder relayed the ball to the shortstop, who threw it over the third baseman's head, landing it in a mesquite bush. I crossed the plate for a home run!
 
We didn't keep track of errors. 
 
***
 
Mickey Mantle lived in Dallas with his wife and four sons during and after his baseball career. Kids like me in the fifties and sixties regarded Mickey as a hero. In 1980 he left the family and lived with a mistress in New York.
 
Mickey Mantle was not a hero in life. Shortly before he died, I watched a press conference with Mickey, his wife, and the doctor who performed a liver transplant for him. 
 
A shadow of himself. Mickey had one message, "You want a role model? This is a role model, don't be like me. I am not a hero." The great baseball player Mickey Mantle became a falling down, nasty, womanizing drunk. His liver transplant had been controversial. His celebrity status was cited as the reason he received the transplant.
 
The liver transplant failed. Mickey died on August 13, 1995, at age sixty-three.
 
The family requested instead of flowers; donations could be made to the Mickey Mantle Foundation. I sent a memorial donation. Letting go of your heroes is hard to do. 
 
***
 
Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle are National Baseball Hall of Fame members. Roger Maris died in 1985 of cancer at the age of fifty-one. Bobby Richardson, a teammate of Maris and Mantle, read the following poem at both funerals.
 
GOD'S HALL OF FAME 
 
        Walt Huntley
 
Your name may not appear down here
In this world's Hall of Fame.
In fact, you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The headlines here may pass you by,
The neon lights of blue,
But if you love and serve the Lord,
Then I have news for you.
 
This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind. God's Hall of Fame
Is for eternity.
 
This crowd on earth they soon forget
The heroes of the past.
They cheer like mad until you fail
and that's how long you last.
But in God's Hall of Fame
By just believing in His Son
Inscribed you'll find your name.
 
I tell you, friend. I wouldn't trade
My name, however small,
That's written there beyond the stars
In that Celestial Hall,
For any famous name on earth, 
Or glory that it shares;
I'd rather be an unknown here
And have my name up there. 
 
 
 
 
 



Recognized

#22
October
2022


The picture is of a collector's plate in honor of Mickey Mantle's seventeen-year career as a New York Yankee.
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