We’re near the end of our Pinch Hitters series, but next up is Frank Funicello, who chose not to look ahead, but rather to look back and write about one of his most vivid Yankee memories.
Having grown up in Utica, N.Y., Frank now lives in Europe after a lifetime spent traveling the world. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s brought his love for the Yankees with him.
“Since graduating from college, I have rarely been back, preferring to live and travel overseas,” Frank wrote. “I have worked in many countries teaching English in schools and businesses and have now permanently settled in Heidelberg, Germany. Recently, though, I have become unemployed as the financial crisis has made English lessons a luxury expense. But, hey, now I can listen to the Yankee games that start at 1 a.m. here and not have to worry about getting up for work. Every cloud has… well, you know.”
While most Yankee fans are anticipating the first slaps of horsehide on wood of 2010, and making untenable predictions, I am standing at the opposite end of the field. Approaching retirement, I have more Yankee years behind me than I have ahead. Throughout changes of countries, jobs, girlfriends and wives, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part, the Yankees have remained a stability and a staple in my life. Fortunately, most memories ring loud with triumphs, but there clangs a devastating recollection which I will carry with me six feet under.
On a mild fall day in 1960, the Yankees faced the Pirates in the seventh game of the World Series. I picked up my afternoon copies of the local newspaper, packed them in the newsprint-splotched canvas bag and slung it over my shoulder. My other arm remained free to hold my transistor radio (ah, the wonders of technology!) close to my ear. Unbalanced and walking like an inebriated umpire to keep the antenna tuned to the strongest signal, I began my deliveries.
Listening to arguably the wildest game ever in World Series history, I had to stop frequently to absorb it all, with an especially long break when Tony Kubek was hit in the throat by a groundball and had to leave the game. The resilient Yanks kept coming back, though, and rallied with two runs to tie the score 9-9 in the top of ninth.
Of course, they would shut down the Pirates in the bottom of the inning and Mantle or Berra or somebody would win it in the 10th. I was in the Knobloch’s (no relation to Chuck) driveway when Bill Mazeroski came up. No problem. A career .260 hitter with only 11 home runs in 1960, he was a soft out — at worst a single.
Ralph Terry’s first pitch was a ball; then he served up a fat one and Maz crushed it over Yogi Berra’s head and the left field wall. Stunned, I dropped my bag and sat on the cool tarmac. The world was coming to an end, and at 14, I had experienced death.
All the newspaper deliveries were late that day.