Friday, February 1, 2013

Random '70s Flashbacks (Part III)

Here are a few more random blurbs from the colorful decade of the 1970's:

During a 1977 Monday Night Baseball broadcast at Arlington Stadium, a sixteen year-old ballboy named Rich Thompson was clowning around with a microphone near the Texas Rangers’ dugout. Assuming it had been switched off, he directed a stream of insults at ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell. His commentary included the abusive sentiment: “Bite me, Howard. The entire state of Texas hates your guts.” He was surprised and embarrassed when he discovered that his remarks were actually being televised. A startled Cosell declined immediate comment, but co-host Keith Jackson referred to the interlude as a “stupid incident.” Rangers’ owner Brad Corbett issued an apology to Cosell and a suspension to Thompson. Despite the regrettable faux pas, Manager Frank Lucchesi discouraged Corbett from firing the boy.    

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Army at Shea Stadium in June of 1975, a pair of 75mm cannons from Fort Hamilton unleashed a twenty-one gun salute that blew out several sections of the outfield fence and set portions of the bleachers on fire. After the damage was repaired, fans partied in their own fashion with dozens of fistfights and the release of a live chicken, which strutted on top of the backstop screen for two full innings. A night of mayhem was capped off with an eighth inning bomb scare directed at the California Angels’ dugout. A thorough search by New York City Police uncovered nothing contraband and the Yankees (guests at Shea while their own stadium was being refurbished) moved on to an uninspiring 6-4 victory.

During the ’76 campaign, the Dodgers were playing the Padres at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium. As catcher Steve Yeager waited on-deck, Bill Russell made contact with a high fastball and broke his bat. To the absolute horror of everyone watching, the jagged end pierced Yeager’s throat. The Dodger backstop recalled being mesmerized. “I couldn’t move. I knew it was going to hit me and I knew I had to let it,” he said.  In those days, there were no ambulances at the stadium and it took nearly twenty minutes for one to arrive. Yeager was rushed to the ER and the wound was repaired. His doctor explained that vital structures had been missed by a fraction of an inch. Afterward, the L.A. backstop wore a protective chin flap attached to his mask—a piece of hardware used by catchers for many years.

(This next one comes from Gaylord Perry's classic book, Me and the Spitter, which was published in 1974. I've always loved this particular anecdote, even if Perry embellished of fabricated it.)

Looking for something to push the Giants over the top after five consecutive second place finishes, manager Clyde King hired a psycho-cybernetics expert to help the team in spring training of 1970. When Willie Mays asked what it was all about, utility infielder Jim Davenport explained that King wanted players to concentrate.
 “Concentrate,” said Mays, “what’s he think I’ve been doing for the past twenty years?”
Without missing a beat, Davenport retorted: “Maybe if you’d learned this concentration bit a few years ago, Willie, you’d have 800 homers instead of the lousy 600 you’ve got.”

(...One more for good measure. This comes from Pete Rose's 2004 Confessional My Prison Without Bars)
A devout Catholic, Reds’ shortstop Dave Concepcion got in the habit of making the sign of the cross before each at-bat. One year, while mired in a horrible slump, he organized a Sunday chapel service to be held in the clubhouse. When several agnostic teammates (Pete Rose among them) showed up to meet with the trainer, they found Concepcion and a handful of others engaged in prayer. One of them commented: “I hope he’s thanking God for that piece of ass he had last night because he sure ain’t had no hits!”

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