Game Seven of the 1960 World Series: a contemporaneous account

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Who says you don’t get anything good via the regular old U.S. Mail these days?  I just got a great letter. It just so happened to be written in 1960. At least originally. Its author — the mother of one of my close friends — transcribed it for me and sent it my way.

The date: October 13, 1960.  The author: Judi, a nice retired grandmother now, but then a student at Pitt.  Now, as then, she was a baseball fan.  The letter was written to her parents right after she got home from watching Bill Mazeroski hit the most famous home run in World Series history.  I won’t reproduce it all, but it starts out with a bang:

“You will never guess where I have just been. To the last and most exciting World Series game!”

The letter describes the spur of the moment decision — “it wasn’t too hard a decision to make” — to wait in a line for standing-room-only tickets. She and two friends took turns waiting in the line that queued up at 9PM the previous night until noon on the day of the game, relieving each other to go to morning classes and the like. They got their tickets: “$4.40 for standing room! I think that is terrible, but I was happy to go.”

Once the gates opened, Judi and her friends had to run — literally run — to find a good place to stand in Forbes Field.  They made it directly behind home plate. Which, given how you can barely loiter down the baselines at minor league games these days, seems incredible to me.  Today, standing in the aisle behind the plate during the World Series would likely get you sent to Guantanamo.  In Yankee Stadium it would mean summary execution.

The game: “perfectly fabulous.”  Judi kept score, and enclosed the scorecard in the original letter to her parents. She said “I missed some of the pitchers, etc., because people were yelling so loud, and I forgot whether right field was 7 or 9.”  She had to explain to her companions — two male math majors who obviously didn’t know much about baseball — why, if such a beast as “pinch hitting” were allowed, Casey Stengel couldn’t just have Mickey Mantle bat every single time. Judi didn’t mind, however, because she enjoyed being “the expert,” for a change, and schooling these young men on baseball was a lot of fun.

At this point I’m going to risk both my marriage and my friendship with Judi’s three children to say that if I found a woman like her when I was a-courtin’, I probably would have proposed to her on the spot.  But I digress. Let’s cut to the best passage of the letter:

“So many times we were perfectly jubilant and so many times really sad, and yet, in the end, I was so weak I could hardly scream. As we went out of the ballpark there was Benny Benack and the Boys really whooping it up . . . the streets were full of happy people, and horns have been blowing from the minute the game was over until right now (7:00 p.m.).  I imagine it will go on all night.”

Mazeroski’s home run itself got a basic description, most notable because “he had to fight his way to home plate due to all of the fans on the field.”  But the description of the crowds, the city and the campus — where students feared that the Cathedral of Learning would tip to the Forbes Field side because so many people were watching out the windows all week — went on and on, with great warmth.

Community. Passion. Shared experiences. Infectious enthusiasm. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but there’s a lot more to the game than the game itself. Even when it’s one of the greatest games ever.

Thanks for sharing, Judi!

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.