It was the underside of the ninth inning, and I used to be at the peak of agitation.
“Why did I do that?” I berated myself.
Though this was back in 1971, I believe of the drama every 12 months at the moment.
The High Holy eve of Rosh Hashana was fast approaching at Yankee Stadium. Every good Jew can be within the synagogue before sunset to greet the Jewish Recent 12 months. But here I used to be, within the press box, fists tightened over my Olivetti portable typewriter, staring down on the baseball diamond. Sure, it was the very best seat in the home. However it wasn’t where I desired to be. In only just a few hours, I used to be imagined to be on the Shelter Rock Jewish Center on Long Island, removed from the Bronx.
Could I make it home in time? The rating was tied, 2-2. The Yankees had managed only two hits all day. If the sport went into extra innings, I’d be out of luck.
Writing baseball was the gold standard for a sports journalist on the time. In spite of everything, it was America’s pastime, right? To cover a baseball game for a newspaper was practically an honor. This was 1971, and although I had been a reporter for eight years, I didn’t need to turn down the prospect to cover the Yankees — the Recent York Yankees, the Bronx Bombers, playing in Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built.
And so I accepted the project.
It had seemed so easy. I needed to be home by sundown. Most baseball games in those days took under two and a half hours. The sport began at 2:04 p.m. I figured it could be over by 4:30. I’m going to the locker room, get my interviews, come back to the press box, finish writing my 800-word story by 5:30 p.m., drive home to Roslyn, Long Island, arrive by 6:15, get my yarmulke to cover my head, and bible, and Roz, 5-year-old Ellen and 3-year-old Mark and I walk to temple — just before sundown.
I checked my notes. The Yankees were in fourth place with the season winding down. But third place was price fighting for. The players on a third-place team would earn $250 a person! Fourth place was price nothing. For a fellow like Ron Blomberg, who was earning $12,500 for the season, that $250 was the equivalent of getting paid for 3 extra games.
He wasn’t much on my mind because the Yankees prepared for the underside of the ninth. The rating was tied, however the Yanks had generated only two hits all game. Blomberg? He had been hitless in three at-bats.
I all the time considered Blomberg as more Georgia than Jewish. I had met him only once, five weeks before. And that was on the Long Island Railroad, of all places. The Yankees were conducting a marketing campaign in Mets’ country — Long Island — to get fans to go all the best way out to the Stadium within the Bronx. Traditionally, Yankee fans got here from the five boroughs (well, not a lot from Brooklyn) and North Jersey.
So here I’m, on the train with Blomberg, whose job was to wave to fans and say just a few words because it wended its way through the suburbs.
The train stopped in Ronkonkoma. Blomberg, who had complained earlier in regards to the heat, asked the conductor to show up the air con and said he was drained and hungry after having driven to Recent York from Recent Jersey.
“Boy, I’m exhausted,” he whispered.
Someone got here in with trays of party-sized cocktail sandwiches.
And so I watched Ron Blomberg, the Jew from Atlanta, eat eight ham and cheese sandwiches. He topped the banquet off by eating a complete lemon.
Now, greater than a month later I squirmed within the press box. I just knew this game would go into extra innings. The Bombers looked bad on the plate.
A fellow named Jake Gibbs led off, though, with a single against Steve Dunning — the primary hit the pitcher had yielded because the third inning. Gibbs got to second when the ball skipped off the correct fielder’s glove. Felipe Alou then sacrificed Gibbs to 3rd.
Next up was Roy White. He was walked intentionally in order that Cleveland could get arrange a double-play situation against … yes, you guessed it, Blomberg.
What was left of the group of 9,177 (I assume a great many left to go to temple) was now roaring.
Blomberg, a great percentage hitter — but not a slugger — strolled to the plate, and suddenly your complete Cleveland outfield left their positions and stopped halfway toward the infield. Manager Johnny Lipon was figuring a deep fly ball would send home Gibbs anyway.
And that’s what Blomberg hit.
Center fielder Vada Pinson checked out the ball sailing over his head for an quick — after which headed for the Cleveland dugout. He knew it was over. The ball landed in deep center, Bloomberg high-tailed it to first, Gibbs got here home. And the Yankees won.
Possibly I could make temple in any case.
I charged right down to the locker room and there was a jubilant Blomberg in the center.
“If the count had been 3-2 and the sun went down, I might have left for temple,” he shouted.
Wow. What a quote. So he would have left the sport to go to services? All of the writers were scribbling on their notepads, and Blomberg looked as if he had just capped a World Series game. He was ecstatic. He was at that moment a Jewish ballplayer who had just won the correct to go home and have a good time one of the vital essential holidays of his religion. I shared his excitement. I knew that while about 2 percent of Americans were Jewish, only about 1 percent of major leaguers had been Jewish.
“Well, Blomberg got an early celebration, huh?” said Alou.
I had my quotes, got back to the press room, typed my story, handed it to the Western Union telegrapher who sent it to The Times. And I made it to temple at 1 / 4 to 7.
The subsequent morning, I picked up the paper in anticipation. Would The Times, a paper that avoided religious talk back then, leave in all my references to Blomberg, his Jewishness, and the vacation?
It spread my story across the highest of the page.
The eight-column headline read:
Blomberg Gives Yanks 3-2 Victory in Ninth and a Blissful Recent 12 months
Below it, the one-column subhead read:
Sundown Kid Hits
Grinning all the best way, I went back to Shelter Rock for morning services. Rabbi Myron Fenster, a key figure in American Judaism, soon gave his sermon to a temple filled with greater than 700 people.
“Sundown kid hits deadline single,” he began. I used to be ecstatic.
The years passed and Blomberg continued his profession with the Yankees until a string of injuries curtailed his effectiveness. Yet, he made the Baseball Hall of Fame, in a way, by becoming the sport’s first designated hitter. The bat from that first appearance, in 1973, is in Cooperstown.
He played his last game for the Yankees in 1976. Free agency brought him to the Chicago White Sox two years later, but he lasted just one season and retired at 30.
Yet every 12 months l remember sitting in that press box, looking down as he belted the baseball into deep center, sending the Yankees to victory and me to the temple on time.