"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #58

By Pat Jordan

I was 12 the first time I visited Yankee Stadium in 1953. I had been invited to appear on Mel Allen’s pre-game TV show because, as a Little League pitcher in Connecticut, I had pitched four consecutive no-hitters and struck out every batter I faced except two. I arrived in a tan suit, and tie, with my glove in a paper bag. I expected the Yankees to ask me to throw a few, and then sign me to a contract. But they didn’t. Mel Allen just talked to my parents, then asked me a question. I mumbled and answer and sulked. That’s all I remember about the Stadium on my first trip.

The next time I went to the stadium was in 1959, when I was 17, and trying to get the Yankees to give me a bonus. That trip, I remember clearly. The Yankee p.r. person ushered me and my older brother down to the team’s press room which, I was amazed to discover, had wood-paneling painted white with blue pinstripes.

Mel Allen was there, again, at a table. He mistook me for Rocky Colavitao, the Cleveland Indians slugging outfielder. Why not? We were both Italian. But he didn’t remember me from six years before. Then I was led to the Yankees’ clubhouse, where all my heroes were in various states of dress. I gawked at my idol, Whitey Ford, with his freckled red skin and blue eyes, and Yogi Berra, squat and homely, and Mickey Mantle, sitting in a whirlpool. I thought Mantle was ten feet tall as a kid but when he got out of the whirlpool I, at 6’1″, towered over him.

I dressed into a Yankee uniform, then went out to show my stuff to the Yankee scouts. When I stepped out of the dugout the vastness of the Stadium loomed up all around me. It was the biggest place I’d ever been in. Now that I was no longer a boy, I wasn’t interested in such things. The scouts sat behind the home plate screen while I warmed up on a mound behind home plate. Johnny Blanchard was catching me. When I finally cut loose with my first fastball Blanchard turned towards the scouts, said something, and tried to slip a sponge into his mitt, without me noticing it. But I did. After that, each succeeding fastball exploded in his mitt and around the Stadium like a canon’s roar. I will never forget it.

After I finished throwing, I went into the general manager’s office where the g.m and my brother bargained over my bonus, while I sat there silent at a big conference table. The Yankees offered me a $36,000 bonus and I was crushed. The Braves had offered me $50,000, but I desperately wanted to pitch for the Yankees in their Stadium which I had come to see, over the years, as my rightful baseball home.

But, alas, it was not to be.

Pat Jordan, the author of A False Spring and A Nice Tuesday, is a freelance writer.


1 Todd Drew   ~  Dec 1, 2008 2:59 pm

I read “A False Spring” when I was a kid and liked Pat Jordan immediately. I wish he’d been everything he wanted to be as a ballplayer, but then he might not have been such a great writer.

I love this line from the New York Times Magazine story on Mickey Rourke:

“He has spent his entire adult life playing not fictional characters but an idealized delusional fantasy of himself.”

It made me think that we all play an idealized delusional fantasy of ourselves.

2 Yankee Mama   ~  Dec 1, 2008 7:23 pm

Pat Jordan is my favorite. I make it a point to read almost everything he writes including his compilation that Alex edited. His exposés give great insight into his subjects and his take on them is hard to ignore, even when he's writing about himself. Exposés is the perfect word to describe his articles as he exposes his characters with honest wit.

I enjoy how he injects himself into the interview as if to show us how his subjects relate to him is pertinent to the story, i.e. Mickey Rourke giving advice to Pat about his sick dog and how Pat cried.

As per his Yankee Stadium memory, I can't help but feel a bit jealous that my experience was purely as a spectator (and a woman) and not as a potential player, even if his signing bonus was undercut. The memory might be bittersweet, but it's certainly uncommon.

Interesting that the Yankees didn't offer arbitration to anyone. Abreu would have made sense to me, a Type A player who would have given them a compensation pick if he signed elsewhere or at worst, would have stayed another year. Hey, what do I know?

3 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 1, 2008 8:13 pm

I really liked Abreu. He had a million-dollar smile.

4 yankee23   ~  Dec 2, 2008 1:28 am

[1] It's like what Vonnegut said: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

5 Yankee Mama   ~  Dec 2, 2008 8:48 am

Yeah, his smile did it for me as well.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver