Chapter 10 Baseball & The World Series PageI of III
When it appeared that the Cleveland Indians had a good chance to win the American League pennant in 1948, Hi Corbett, a lifelong friend and died-in-the-wool baseball nut, and I decided that we saw no reason to break our promise to see the World Series.
Our pact was agreed on one Sunday afternoon while watching a ballgame in Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in the summer of 1944. I was a buck private in the infantry stationed at Camp Roberts, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and had come to L.A. to meet Hi and take in a game between the military all stars and the Pacific Coast League all stars. Joe Dimaggio and other big leaguers were playing for the military team.
Hi and I agreed that, as soon as the war was over, we would start going to the World Series each year as long as the good Lord was willing to cooperate with us. Together we saw over 75 World Series games during the next 15 years, and this was before the expansion program brought big league baseball to the Coast.
The first Series we saw was the Series of 1945 between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs, who haven't played in a Series since then. We saw the ones in '46 and '47 also, but with Cleveland having moved their spring training base to Tucson in 1947, we naturally were excited about "our" Indians having a good chance of playing in the World Series in 1948. They were in a nip-and-tuck race with the Boston Red Sox for the pennant. We decided to go to Boston to see the weekend games scheduled to be played in Boston the last two days of the season between the Red Sox and the Indians.
The Indians won on Sunday to tie the Sox for the pennant. A one-game playoff was played on Monday, which the Indians won, largely due to the heroic efforts of left-handed Gene Bearden and Lou Boudreau, the Indians' manager and shortstop, who blasted two home runs among other things.
Bill Veeck was the owner and president of the Indians and a close friend of mine. He had a home in Tucson even before he acquired the Indians prior to the 1947 season. He had invited us to come to Boston, had arranged our hotel reservations, got us tickets for all the games in both Boston and Cleveland. He even invited us to ride on the World Series special train transporting the teams between Boston and Cleveland.
And the night that the Indians won the pennant in Boston, he threw quite a party at one of the hotels celebrating his first pennant. It was not a large party, but it was first class all the way and lasted into the early morning hours. Hank Greenberg was aboard as one of the officials of the Indians and was one of several former stars and sportswriters who helped make the affair a memorable one.
On Wednesday, after the first game (which was Bob Feller's first World Series appearance and which he lost 1 to 0, if my memory serves me right), four of us Arizonans left the stadium in Boston amid some 35,000 fans seeking ways to get home.
Hi Corbett said to me, "Kid, you're the youngest one, run ahead and get us a cab." I went trotting down the street ahead of most of the throng. I spotted an empty black and red cab, opened the front seat door and slid in next to the driver, who asked, "Where do you want to go?" When I told him to drive straight ahead to find my three friends, he said, "How in the hell are you going to find anybody in this crowd?" He was a tough guy and wanted me to get out so he could find a less complicated fare. But we soon picked up our party.
When we told him we wanted to go downtown to our hotel, he said that the fastest way was longer, and he didn't want us to think he was taking us for a joy ride. We told him that this was our first trip to Boston, and we would like to drive around anyway.
He showed us some of the points of interest. He knew the town well since he was a native. We learned that he owned the cab and that, after all, he was a pretty nice guy. We got to the hotel about 5:30 p. m. and asked him to come up and have a drink with us. He put his cap under the seat and spent a couple of hours drinking and visiting with us. He was a baseball fan, but couldn't get any tickets for the games, so we made a deal with him to pick us up the next day to take us to the game, and we'd have a ticket for him.
In fact, he picked us up the next morning at nine and showed us some of Boston's interesting things, such as the fish market, Peabody Hall where we saw the lovely glass flowers, and some of the historical buildings. His name was Stanley Krinsky and turned out to be good company. After the game, he took us back to the hotel, where we picked up our luggage, and drove us to the railroad station where we were to board the special train for Cleveland. He said if we came back to Boston for the sixth and seventh games, he'd meet us and take us to the hotel and the games.
One of the guys in our party said that he had been disappointed in not finding any steamed clams on the menus while in Boston. When we came back for the sixth game, which the Indians won to clinch the series, Stanley Krinsky not only met us, transported us everywhere, went to the game with us (along with his wife, whom we had invited), but also took us out to his home for dinner where he served us a large bucket of steamed clams.
The next day, he drove us to the station and promised to keep in touch, which he did during the winter with Christmas cards and a couple of letters.
The next year the Yankees and the Red Sox were battling for the pennant and, again, Hi and I made arrangements to go to New York City to see the final pair of games between the Yankees and the Sox on Saturday and Sunday, and then go to Boston if they won, or stay in New York for the World Series.
Boston had been enjoying a slim lead in the standings during the last few weeks of the regular season, and we had been in touch with Stanley, who had made hotel reservations for us and planned to see us. When the Yankees won the pennant on the last day of the season on Sunday, we sent Stanley a telegram expressing regrets for not being able to see him and take him to the games.
The series always starts on Wednesday, and we always went out to the ball yard an hour or so before the game started in order to see the teams work out and watch the crowd, which was usually filled with celebrities and interesting to watch.
About 10:30 that Wednesday morning we were sitting around our rooms waiting to go to the game when the phone rang. It was Stanley Krinsky, our Boston cab driver, and I nearly fainted when he told me he was downstairs in the lobby of our hotel and was ready to take us to the ballgame. He had driven his cab down from Boston during the night and was going to provide us cab service while we were in New York!
We got him a room, arranged for tickets for him and paid him for the special service he was providing, although he wanted us to know that the trip to New York, as far as he was concerned, was a social visit, not a business trip. We were stopped once or twice by the cops who asked questions about an unfamiliar cab on the New York streets, but we all agreed that once a Boston cab driver says he'll take you to a ballgame, he doesn't care where the game is played.
For most of the twenty years that Del Webb and Dan Topping owned the New York Yankees (1945-1965), their ball club either won the pennant or was right up there battling for it. Starting in 1948 I was involved in business with the Del E. Webb Corp. in one capacity or another.
When the Webb company came to Tucson in 1948 to construct a large housing project, L. C. Jacobson, Del's partner and executive vice-president, contacted me, and I sold them the land on which they built the 700 homes in Pueblo Gardens and the Pueblo Plaza Shopping Center. From that time on I was either a consultant on real estate matters for them, a partner in shopping centers, office buildings or motor hotels, or in charge of their shopping center division. It has been a lengthy and most pleasant relationship, and sometimes profitable. I served on their board of directors until mid-1977.
Jake, as L. C. was known, grew up in Tucson, and as a kid was in some kind of mischief most of the time, generally trying to sneak into one of the movie houses I was running. So our friendship went back for many years. I first met Del Webb at golf tournaments back in the thirties. Hi Corbett was also a good friend of both Del and Jake, so it was only natural that when Hi and I went to the World Series that Del would help us get tickets for the games played at the Yankee Stadium.
In 1947 the Yankees won their first pennant under the Webb-Topping regime, although at that time Larry MacPhail was their partner in the ownership of the team. In fact, at that series certain incidents occurred that resulted in the purchase of the MacPhail interest by Webb and Topping.
A big crowd of Phoenicians, and a few of us from Tucson, went to the 1947 series and had a whale of a time. Del Webb arranged for a room in the stadium to be set up where he entertained all of us Arizonans before and after each game with cocktails and buffet lunch, served by the Stevens Brothers catering service, which at that time had the stadium concessions. All of us had passes to the Stadium Club, but the large crowds made the place a madhouse, and besides the prices were better in what became known as the Arizona Room-the booze and food were on Webb.
In 1949, when the Yankees again won the pennant, the room was officially named the Arizona Room. Those of us who went to the series provided some special things to provide the proper decor: We donated Navajo Indian rugs, a couple of Indian baskets, a typical western saddle, and large colored photos of Arizona scenes.
In time Del and Dan invited many notables such as movie people, politicians, business leaders and others to come to the Arizona Room during the series games. After the games we would gather again for more refreshments while the mob cleared out.
Going to the World Series was quite a treat in those days, especially when the Dodgers won the National League Pennant and a "subway series" was played. I was fortunate to be in the stadium when several history-making events took place. I saw Al Gionfriddo rob Joe DiMaggio of his home run by a miraculous catch in 1947. I saw the first series in which Jackie Robinson played. The electricity in the air when he got on base could be felt by everyone present. He nearly drove the Yankee pitchers out of their minds by his antics of the base paths, and he proved that Blacks deserved to play in the big leagues.
I also watched Don Larsen pitch his perfect game, which, without doubt, was the most thrilling ballgame I ever saw. There were so many exciting things that took place in the long string of a Series in which the Yankees were involved that it is utterly impossible to mention all of them. But I saw all the series in which the Yankees participated and many of the other World Series also. Sitting in the Yankee Stadium at a Series game, watching the crowd come in, recognizing the notables, seeing old friends, is just about as nice a way to spend an afternoon as I can imagine.
At one Series game, Bill Becker and I and our wives were sitting in our box when Premier Nehru of India came by heading for his seat back of home plate. In a few minutes Herbert Hoover, our former president, came by, heading for his seat in the same area. About ten minutes later something happened back of the plate which caused everyone to stand up, stretching their necks trying to see what had attracted everyone's attention. Bill Becker said in a very loud voice, "Hoover took a punch at Nehru." This caused a wave of laughter to sweep across the crowd as the remark was repeated. Nothing could be more ridiculous than Hoover and Nehru being embroiled in fisticuffs, and the crowd on the first base side of the stadium enjoyed a good laugh over Bill's remark.
In 1950 the Yankees met the Philadelphia "Whiz Kids" in a four game Series. The Yankees traveled to Philadelphia by special train, to which was added a private car where cocktails and food were served for the Arizona contingent. The Yankees also provided a musical combo and other entertainment for us.
There were several people from Tucson who were seeing their first Series. Two of the wives, who had said at first they didn't want to go to the games in Philadelphia, changed their minds, came down to the train, hoping that tickets would be available. By chance, a friend of Hi Corbett, who was in the produce business in Arizona, was offered four tickets to the games in Philadelphia by a produce man in that city. We told the ladies they could have our tickets, and we would go to the office of the produce company, pick up the tickets, and see them at the game.
The special Series train stopped at a suburban station where everyone, including the ball team, got off, except Hi and me, who stayed on the train to go to the main depot. It was about 11:00, and we had two hours to pick up the tickets and get to the ball park. No sweat, we thought.
However, when we reached the front of the station we found a crowd of over one hundred people waiting for cabs. I offered the starter $10, but he shook his head and said he couldn't help us. He suggested we go to a nearby hotel where we might find a taxi. As we walked towards the hotel entrance we could see a very large crowd also waiting for a ride. We went to a couple of other hotels, with the same dismal result.
Time was flying. Here we were 2,500 miles from home in the city where the Series was being played, and we couldn't get aride for the last five miles. We were getting desperate. We kept walking on the busy streets hoping someone would drive up in a cab, alight and let us have the cab, but no such luck.
Finally, we were standing at a busy corner, when a young man about twenty-years-old drove up and stopped right in front of us for the stoplight. Hi said, "follow me." He suddenly approached the kid's car, opened the door, slid in the seat, with me right on his coattails. Before the young man could say a word, Hi said, "Young fellow, you're going to take us to the ballgame, and I'm going to pay you $10 for the ride."
The signal changed, and we started down the street. We told him what our situation was, and that before we went to the ballgame, we had to go to the produce district and pick up four tickets. Hi told him he could even go to the game with us if he wanted. The kid got excited over the prospect of seeing a World Series game but said he'd have to phone his boss to see if he would give him the afternoon off.
We stopped at a phone booth. The young man made his call and then came back to the car and told us his boss said he could go to the game, providing we came by and picked him up as well. This was great for us.
We picked up the tickets, and the kid's boss, and got to the turnstile at the ball park just as they struck up the Star Spangled Banner. We made it, by just a squeak!
The strange thing about that first World Series game in Philadelphia was that tickets were practically impossible to get for Philadelphians because of the small seating capacity. To make matters worse, someone in the organization of the Phillies goofed and failed to put on sale over 5,000 tickets! It's hard to believe, but one entire section of the grandstand was empty for that first game! A thing like that wouldn't happen with the Yankees; they were pros in handling tickets for such events.
After the game, the Yankees threw a party for their friends at the Warwick Hotel before we boarded the train to return to New York. Those Yankees were champs, off the field as well as on.
After the Series, providing the Yankees won, which they did most of the time, they would have a victory party. A few of the press would be invited, as well as the officials of the club, the players, many of whom showed up with their wives, a very few entertainers and some of us lucky people. I attended three of the parties and they were memorable affairs. Watching Casey Stengel dance with Sophie Tucker to the music of Jimmy Durante isn't something everyone gets to see. There were always a few serious speeches, much champagne, some humorous talks, more champagne, some group singing, more champagne. All this topped off by a late supper.
At one of the Yankees' World Series in the early fifties, the Goldwater tribe from Phoenix showed up in force. Barry and Peggy were there, as were Bob and his wife, Sally. They had several friends from Texas along also. I got involved with them, since we have been friends since Barry attended the University of Arizona in Tucson. I had known Bob through golf for years and years. They are an entertaining group with never a dull moment.
One evening I had tickets for a Broadway show and announced I was looking for someone to go with me. Barry suggested that I take Peggy, since he wanted to take a nap, and would meet us at El Morocco at midnight. We went to Club 21 for an early dinner before the theatre. There were eight of us, and we were immediately seated on the first floor near the entrance.
We sat and sat, waiting for someone to take our order for drinks. Soon Bob Goldwater became impatient and said to his wife, Sally, to whom he had been married but a very short time, "Your old boyfriend, Mac Kriendler, must have told them to ignore us. You're supposed to have influence here, let's see you use it to get us some service." The Kriendlers owned Club 21.
Sally motioned to one of the captains, who came over to her. She whispered something to him, and things began to happen. Soon the waiters, bread boys, and a couple of captains were swarming over us. Sally said to Bob, "Well, is this what you wanted?"
Peggy and I went to the show. At the intermission we went over to the cocktail lounge at the Picadilly Hotel for a drink. Peggy borrowed a quarter from me to go to the ladies' room. In a couple of minutes she came back in hysterics, with the ladies' room attendant following close behind. Peggy said, "You can't do it here for a quarter. It's a half-dollar; so please give the lady another quarter." I joined her in a good laugh over the incident. I promised her I would speak to Freddie Dreier, who owned the Picadilly about his high-priced restroom.CONTINUE