In this, our Pandemic Year, the online archives of old Baseball Digest magazine continue to enrich me in many ways: I’ve expanded my knowledge of baseball in “the old days” (aka the 1950s and 60s); I’ve annoyed my family by sharing this expanded knowledge, in person, via text and on Zoom calls; and I’ve avoided household tasks. I just tell the wife that, after I finish each chore, I shall read aloud to her the online archives of old Baseball Digest magazine.
Actually, even though she cares not a whit about baseball, she might get a kick out of some of the goofy stuff that has appeared in this magazine over the decades. For example:
Item: Cuban-born Orestes “Minnie” Minoso was a fine player from the 1950s and 1960s. In 1954, his White Sox were battling the Yankees for the American League championship. The two teams were playing each other one day, and Minoso came to bat with the winning run on base. Yankee manager Casey Stengel came up with a scheme to unsettle Minoso and hopefully damper his performance: He asked Yankee player Willie Miranda, also from Cuba, to make Minnie mad by shouting epithets in Spanish – the fans and umpires wouldn’t know what Miranda was saying, so no one would be offended except Minoso, who’d get peevish and distracted by the insults.
Ah, but Stengel’s ointment had a fly in it: Minnie and Willie were buddies. So Miranda put on an angry face and started hollering in Spanish, “Hey, Minnie! The old man tells me to yell insults at you and get you mad!” Minoso, looking ticked off, responds gruffly, “Okay Willie – let’s have dinner after the game and talk about it!” Miranda barks back, “Fine! Let’s meet at El Rancho!” Minoso shouts, with the added flourish of shaking his fist at Miranda, “Good idea – they have great food there!”
Manager Stengel, convinced Minoso is well-distracted, smiles at Miranda and thanks him. And Minoso proceeds to hit a triple that wins the game for the White Sox.
Item: I’ve never heard of this before. . .As everyone knows, to win a typical baseball game, a team has to score more runs than the other guys and record 27 outs. In 1952, a minor-league pitcher named Ron Necciai single-handedly secured all the outs required by his team – he threw 27 strikeouts.
Item: Once, when the Boston Red Sox were thinking about trading for a player, the executives spoke to one of his former teammates as part of the decision-making process. When asked about his hitting, the ex-mate said, “Oh! He hits three ways! – right-handed, left-handed, and seldom.”
Item: A fine pitcher of the 1960s named Vern Law was raised a Mormon, a sect known for abstaining from vices like alcohol and tobacco. When he became eligible to join pro baseball, scouts from scads of teams were eager to sign him to a contract. So, on the day of his high school graduation, they descended on the Law household. A scout named Babe Herman was disconcerted seeing all this competition loitering around the Law house. But he got an idea. He went to a nearby drug store, bought a bunch of cigars and cigarettes, and handed them out to the other scouts while they waited for the Laws to return from Vern’s commencement ceremonies. Everybody fired up a relaxing smoke – except Babe. When Vern and family returned, they began a series of interviews with all the scouts. None of them lasted long – two minutes at most, and then, “Next!”
Babe Herman’s chance to speak with the family came last, and Vern’s mother, who was taking charge of the negotiations, said Babe could stay as long as he wished, because only he, of all the scouts, hadn’t offended their household by filling the air with smoke. Yup -- Vern signed with Babe’s team.
Item: In the early 1960s, a public relations man for the Cincinnati Reds was interviewed about the role of baseball in American society. He said clear proof of baseball’s value was evident in the public schools. He told of a teacher he personally knew who used baseball in math problems. One such problem went like this: A baseball team gets $100 for each game it wins, and $10 for each game it loses. This team wins 10 games and loses 20 games. What does the team get? She got a quick answer from a kid in the front row, who said, “A new manager!”