Games in New York ignited my love for baseball

Published 7:55 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In my youth growing up in Keyport, New Jersey, which is just 35 miles from New York City, I had the opportunity to watch some of the greatest New York Giant, Brooklyn Dodger and New York Yankee players of all time.

Those memories included watching the Giants’ Willie Mays, the Yankees’ late Mickey Mantle and the Dodgers’ late Duke Snider, three Hall of Famers and three of the greatest center fielders of all time. Their fans would regularly refer to them by their nicknames.

Mays, who was from Westfield, Alabama, would always greet his fans by saying hey to them so he was known as the Say Hey Kid. Mantle, who was from Spavinaw, Oklahoma, was just simply known as the Mick and Snider, who was from Los Angeles and played at Ebbets Field which was in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, was known as the Duke of Flatbush.

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Going in to New York with my late dad and my brother Tom to watch Giant games at the Polo Grounds, Dodger games at Ebbets Field and Yankee games at Yankee Stadium, provided many of my most exciting sports moments of my youth.

As its name suggests, the Polo Grounds was originally built with another sport in mind. The team locker rooms were located in dead center field. There were no tunnels from dugouts to locker rooms as there are today. When a visiting player or manager got thrown out of a game by an umpire he had to walk all the way out to the center field locker room. Often as he took each step the home fans would chant hup, hup, hup.

When Leo Durocher managed the Giants he was married to the late Larraine Day, one of the greatest movie stars of the time. Prior to each Giants home game on television she appeared on the Ask Larraine Show and answered questions from fans.

As a big Giants fan at the time I still remember their starting lineup during the early 1950’s that featured Whitey Lockman at first base, Davey Williams at second base, Alvin Dark at shortstop, Hank Thompson at third base, Monty Irvin in left field, Willie Mays in center field, Don Mueler in right field and Wes Westrum behind the plate.