Yankee Stadium was a field of dreams and then some for one nine-year-old boy in 1961. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
On July 7, 1961, I attended his first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Wednesday was the 60th anniversary of that first visit. It was a magical time with wonderful memories.
By Michael Lewis
The nine-year-old boy clutched his grandfather’s hand as he walked into Yankee Stadium for the first time.
All the black and white scenes he had seen on TV of the House That Ruth Built turned into living color. The outfield was indeed green, the warning track was a reddish-brown and the grand old stadium, built in 1923 for what was to become the most storied baseball club in history was, of course, beautiful green, with three majestic decks and poles that provided obstructed views of some seats.
It didn’t matter.
The nine-year-old was shaking from pure excitement.
He still couldn’t believe he was going to watch his beloved Yankees for the first time.
He and his grandfather, Poppa Harry, settled into their $2.50 reserve seats on the first base side and ate their deli sandwiches while the Yankees took batting practice. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Yogi Berra smacked unofficial home runs into the stands, much to the delight of the fans.
For some reason, a few older Red Sox fans visiting from Boston wound up sitting next to the grandfather and grandson and teased the boy on how their team from Beantown was going to beat the Yankees.
The nine-year-old disagreed. He was not going to let anything spoil what was a perfect or near-perfect weekend, which included his first one-on-one visit with his grandparents in Brooklyn from his Plainview, Long Island home. A day prior, the boy, with his grandma Rose, traversed Coney Island and the New York Aquarium for the first time.
Nothing could spoil this magical weekend. Could it?
Jackie Jensen did his best with a three-run homer in the first inning for the visiting side, but the Yankees stormed back and did not disappoint. They slammed five home runs in an 8-5 victory. The Mick, his hero, hit one, his 29th of the season. So, did Bill Skowron, John Blanchard and Tony Kubek. Whitey Ford, his favorite pitcher, hurled six innings for his 16th win before his personal reliever, Luis Arroyo, came on to earn a three-inning save (yes, that’s three innings, not three outs).
On the way out of the stadium the boy’s grandfather bought him a Yankees’ Yearbook that cost all of $1.00.
Today, the experience is as magical as it was six decades ago.