Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ralph Terry

Sorry, boys, I’ve been sick this week, and just don’t have the gumption to keep up with both the mountains of work and the mountains of phlegm in addition to the molehill that is this blog. But I did read something this week, that I’ll write about, and get back to it in a couple of days.

I’ve been reading historical sports books by great writers, and am currently working on some of the late, great David Halberstam’s baseball books. I’m in the middle of “October, 1964”, a recount of one of the greatest World Series ever between the Yankees and the Cardinals. It’s a wonderful period piece, and as a 12 year old Yankee fan at the time, it was a truly memorable series.

It was Mickey’s last series, during which he hit WS homer #18, a record that’s never going to be broken. Never. It was Gibson’s and Brock’s first, two guys who were incredible Series performers. It came at the end of the great Yankee run, and was in the early part of the National League’s dominance. Highly recommended.

In the middle is a great little story about Ralph Terry, who has a special connection to the Giants. Terry was the pitcher who won game 7 in 1962, getting McCovey to line out to Bobby Richardson with runners on second and third in the ninth to preserve a complete game 1-0 shutout. The story that Halberstam wrote that I love came a few years before his great triumph, when he was first signed out of a small town in Oklahoma by the same great agent, Tom Greenwade, who signed Mantle. Halberstam writes:

…He had even played on the same Baxter Springs team that Mickey Mantle had once played on, and in time Greenwade showed up at Terry’s home – a lean, older man driving a black Cadillac. Tom Greenwade, Terry thought, had a pretty good line when he dealt with country boys. “Ralph,” he said, “how would you like to play baseball in the biggest city in the world?” Terry liked that idea immediately, and he liked it even better when Greenwade told him that Terry’s timing could not be better. “Why, son, the Big Three (Raschi, Reynolds, and Lopat) are getting old. You’ll be coming up just in time.” And Terry loved the sound of Greenwade’s words, but with the confidence of the young, he believed them as well. He signed with the Yankees for a small bonus and was sent to Binghamton, New York, to play with one of the Yankee Class A teams.

Since Cooperstown was not very far away, he got permission from his manager to go over and watch the annual hall of Fame game there, where the Yankees were playing that day. Jim Turner, the Yankee pitching coach, recognized him and, because it was not a league game, told him it was all right to sit down at the end of the Yankee dugout.

Terry walked down to the end of the bench, where he found three very old men sitting together. Very full of himself, and sure that the big leagues were just around the corner, Terry introduced himself to the nearest of the men. “Hi, I’m Ralph Terry, and I’m pitching for the Binghamton Yankees,” he said, and the tone of his voice, he later decided, was more than a little cocky, implying that within a year or two he would be with the big-league club. The older man, one of the most courteous people Ralph Terry had ever met, said, “Well, Ralph, it certainly is a pleasure to meet you. Now, my name is Cy Young. And these fellas over here next to me are Zack Wheat and Ty Cobb.” Just as Terry decided that he was the youngest and biggest fool in professional baseball, Cy Young moved over a little closer, to sit next to him, and he talked pitching with him for the rest of the day.

That story probably took place in about 1954. Cy Young was born in 1867, so that would have made him 87. In fact, he died in 1955. What an incredible and lucky moment for any young man. As for Cobb, well let’s just leave it to Ray Liotta who as Shoeless Joe Jackson, said it best: “Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son of a bitch when he was alive, so we told him to stick it!”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Fred Bengis, I was the Yankee BatBoy from 1959-1962 and in SF when we beat the Giants. I am retired and live in SC not far from Bobby Richardson who I see on
various occasions. Just finished
Bobby's annual FCA Golf Tourney.
Hope this note finds you and your family well. You were always a favorite of mine and Frankies who was the BatBoy with me.

Sincere Good Wishes,
Fred Bengis

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Bengis:

I've been looking for you for years! I collect autographed baseballs by players, etc. who were with the 1961 team and just saw a reference to you. I would so much love for you to sign a ball for me. Could you email me at ronjfitz@cox.net if this is possible. Would be willing to pay for it as well. Thanks!!! Ron Fitzsimmons

1:31 PM  

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