Recently, while cruising around You Tube, I happened upon a telecast of the seventh game of the 1952 World Series, played at storied Ebbets Field in Brooklyn (attendance 32,000). For a New York baseball fan it was a treat, a classic matchup – Yankees vs. Dodgers. On the field were the fabled players of yore – Mantle, Mize, Rizzuto, Bauer, Berra, Martin, Casey Stengel (manager), Robinson, Campanella, Snider, Hodges, Reese. At the microphone were Mel Allen and Red Barber, authoritative voices without question. I made the decision to stay with the game. (I wasn’t sure whether this was the series the Dodgers, who had never won the Fall Classic, broke through. It wasn’t. That came three years later – in 1955.) My principal interest here was to take note of how baseball had changed since that time, nearly 60 years ago. What follows is an account of my observations.
• There was but one sponsor – Gillette Razor Blades. It was entirely low key with no commercial inserts, like today, during the play by play
• Allen and Barber split the game, each alone on mike. There was no back and forth conversation (except when the game concluded). Remarkably lean and straight forward.
• Neither announcer said a word about the 1952 baseball season, or how either team made it to the Series. No mention of player season batting averages or accomplishments. Most strange. Commentary was strictly confined to developments during the Series.
• Except for Dodger starting pitcher Joe Black, who had come out of nowhere to lead the team to the pennant, nothing much was said about any of the players (except for 20-year-old Mickey Mantle, who was declared to be a future star). “Color” Commentary, “human interest” stuff was almost entirely absent.
• Both announcers provided the details of each play, even though viewers could see for themselves what had happened. (There was a separate radio “feed,” so it wasn’t as if such detail was intended for listeners.)
• This was the era of black and white TV. Camera coverage was limited (though split screen technique allowed viewers to see the pitcher about to deliver, along with the runner on first making his moves). There was, alas, no replay. I did miss it. Imagine being unable to review (often endlessly) noteworthy action on the field. We sure are spoiled these days. Furthermore, no speed gun informed us about pitch velocity.
• Players gathered on the mound. Managers came out to speak to their pitcher. No one covered their mouth, as is the practice today. Absent were fears about lip reading, eavesdropping, or “stealing” information.
• Baseball uniforms were ridiculously baggy. A stiff wind might have resulted in some of the lighter players becoming airborne. Numbers, but no names, on the uniforms. Players, as they left the field and headed into the dugout, casually tossed their gloves into foul territory. There they remained, until the next half inning.
• The dugouts were confined spaces. No railings to lean on or to protect players. They were sitting ducks in the event screaming balls rocketed their way.
• Batters rarely, if ever, “stepped out” while at the plate. They never requested that the home plate umpire check with a fellow umpire to rule on whether he had “swung” at a pitch. The speed of the game was remarkable since pitchers spent little time between deliveries, nor entered into discussions with their catchers. Famed Dodger slugger, Duke Snider, with the game still scoreless and with a runner on first, actually attempted to bunt the first pitch he saw!
• In this game the Dodgers had three black players on the field (Joe Black, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella). The Yankees – none (though front-line pitcher Allie Reynolds – who appeared in relief – was a Native American.
• Not surprising, most all spectators were well dressed, a majority wearing suits and hats. Women could be seen here and there, but men were overwhelmingly present.
• The Yankees won 4-2 (their fourth straight World Series victory). After the last out, players mobbed pitcher Bob Kuzava, but then promptly walked off the field and into the dugout. Today, in comparison, players remain out there, reveling in victory – jumping, hugging, high fiving, in no hurry to exit, while photographers rush into the tangle of bodies to record every moment of the raucous celebration.
It was a rewarding stroll down memory lane. And because I once was a NY Giant fan I rooted for the Yankees to win – to beat the “Boys of Summer.”