I have a really cool mother.
Her coolness came in handy yesterday, when I saw a column in the Free Press that detailed the magnificent feat of Ted Williams in homering in his final at-bat at Fenway Park on September 28, 1960.
The story was written by Free Press baseball writer John Lowe, who describes Williams’ career-closing home run as “somehow … the greatest Williams moment of all … Williams’ farewell shot remains among the most monumental in baseball history, and perhaps the most monumental homer that didn’t break a record or win a championship.”
Lowe loves baseball, and reveals that ardor with his singular style of describing its history, a readily identifiable touch. As a former newspaperman myself, a Free Press alumnus no less, I appreciate the care he takes in crafting his work. Baseball is a game suited to thoughtful writing, consumed at your leisure; football seems a game better presented on television and captured in highlight bursts. A shame that football rarely receives the kind of studied attention baseball does. But back to Williams, and my mom.
The story of Ted Williams’ farewell homer, the dramatic shot that he delivered as a farewell wave to the fans in Boston (the home run itself was his goodbye gesture; the Splinter famously refused to come out of the dugout and take a bow following the blow) stirred a maybe-memory in me.
A “maybe-memory” is the kind of recollection you have, or think you have, after passing a certain age in life. That age may or may not mark your passage into the realm of senior citizenry. But it hits home as the point when recollections seem to become hazy instead of stark; probable instead of dead-sure. If you’ve hit that mark in life, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t yet, you will. For a reporter, it’s a daunting concept.
My maybe-memory was that Ted Williams not only homered in his farewell appearance at Fenway in 1960 … BUT that he also homered in his farewell appearance at Briggs Stadium that same year. I was also sure, about 99 percent sure … that I was there that day — with my mother — when Williams said goodbye to Briggs, one of his favorite hitting sites, in such dramatic style. Perhaps I was 98 percent sure that we were there, and it actually happened. Or maybe 97 percent, but I DID see it, didn’t I? I mean, it was only 50 years ago. Or wait … yikes …it was fully 50 years ago.
Damn. Maybe I was only 95 percent sure.
That Ted Williams would homer his last time in Detroit, in our green cathedral, was a wonderful memory. Now if I could only prove it. Even if just to myself.
Thank the Lord, in this instance anyway, for computers. I logged on looking for “Detroit Tigers Season Record, 1960” and was directed to a cool site presented by the Baseball Almanac. There, in gorgeous black and white, was the proof I was seeking.
My maybe-memory was that my mom, my cool mom, told me that Ted Williams would be playing his final game in Detroit on Thursday, September 8, 1960 … and wouldn’t it be neat if we would go down and see him in his farewell appearance? My maybe-memory includes the recollection that it was a Ladies Day game, and that my mom said I could bring friends along. I know my old buddy Billy Hertz was one; the other youthful names and faces have retreated back into the realm of maybe-memory uncertainty.
Now … how we got out of attending school that day remains a mystery. Perhaps there was some weird holiday, which seems doubtful for that date. Or maybe my cool mom helped us all play hooky, but that seems really unlikely. Still, no matter. My mom and I, and good old Bill, were there, in upper deck seats on the third base side. Of that I’m 100 percent sure.
And the box score I was led to by the Baseball Almanac site proves the rest. There it is … Red Sox 6, Tigers 1. Al Kaline went 1 for 4. Charlie Maxwell knocked in Rocky Colavito for the lone Tigers run. And on the other side … the glorious story:
Williams, Left Field. Three for three, with one RBI … a solo home run in the fourth inning off Tigers starter Jim Bunning. I remember it soaring high into right field, and falling into the upper deck. Or was it the lower? No, I’m sure it was the upper. About 99 percent sure.
We were there for history (with an embarrassing 2,273 other fans), for Williams epic performance in his final Detroit appearance. How cool that it happened; that we were present to witness it. Williams was pulled for a pinch runner after his third hit, a centerfielder named Tasby. That must have come around the 7th inning, because Tasby (it doesn’t list his first name, let’s call him “Taz” Tasby) got a subsequent at-bat in the game. Did Williams get any kind of acknowledgment that afternoon from us, the puny Ladies Day crowd, as he exited Briggs Stadium for the final time?
I don’t remember, darn it. Wish I could. It would flavor the memory. But what I’ve recalled, with the help of the Baseball Almanac, seems pretty dang good. Ted Williams’ dramatic farewell to Detroit. And my mom and I, just as I remembered it, there as witnesses. Pretty neat.
One final note: My cool mom died in 2000, a month short of 80. I said I “have” a cool mother, because I could never put her in the past tense. She’s with me always, and out there somewhere awaiting our someday reunion. She was as good, and as cool, as moms come. And I’m 100 percent sure of that.