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!

Diamondbacks, A.J. Pollock avoid arbitration with two-year contract

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock drives in two runs against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.

Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.

Report: Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson agree to two-year, $29 million extension

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson celebrates his two run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Toronto. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.

The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.

Giants and Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

San Francisco Giants'  Brandon Belt reacts after being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Jim Joyce to end the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Friday, Sept.. 4, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.

Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.

Padres sign veteran utility player Skip Schumaker

Cincinnati Reds' Skip Schumaker is tagged out at home plate by San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.