This is Billy…..
This is Lee….
And this is me…..
Billy was born in San Diego California in 1945, Lee was born in Albany, New York in 1944 and I was born in Boston in 1953. Our lives would intersect on Friday April 14, 1967 in Yankee Stadium and then would serendipitously converge again in April of 2013.
Sunday April 14th marked the 46th anniversary of that intersection and a very special day in Red Sox history. It was Billy who, on that day, took center stage when in his major league debut he shutout the Yankees losing a ho-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. I wrote about it a couple of weeks back.
Lee has been a Yankee fan since the days when Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle patrolled the outfield together. He was listening to the game on the radio when Mickey ruined his knee catching his cleats on a Yankee Stadium drain going after a fly ball.
Mickey Mantle (prone) and Joe DiMaggio in 1951, Mantle’s rookie year.
Mickey was Lee’s favorite player but in deference to his grandfather, who was a diehard Red Sox fan, he became a huge fan of Ted Williams. He rooted for Ted but Mickey and his pinstripes were where his heart lay.
Ted and Mickey, two all time greats.
He made his first trip to Yankee Stadium in 1955. Boarding the train from Albany, he made his way to “the Stadium.” His memory of the specifics of that game have long since left him except that Mickey, walked twice, bunted once and was called out on strikes. It was his first pilgrimage.
Don Larsen pitching his way to immortality October 8, 1956.
In 1960 he watched his first ever baseball game on a color TV at his buddy’s house as Pittsburgh Pirate second baseman Bill Mazeroski broke the hearst of Yankee fans with his game winning home run in the seventh game of the ’60’ Fall Classic.
He had his own car in 1961 and it was on its radio that he listened as Roger Maris hit his 61st home run off of Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard in the season’s last game.
Maris hits number 61, October 1, 1961 at Yankee Stadium.
After graduating high school, Lee gave college a whirl but left to join the Marine Corps in 1963.
Around this same time, Billy was tearing things up at Bellflower High School; hurling four no-hitters and captaining his basketball team. An outstanding athlete, his special talents on the mound opened the door to a professional career and it was the Pirates who came a calling. The Red Sox drafted him from them in 1963 and Billy’s course with destiny was set.
Billy Rohr number 30.
As for me, well, I watched Mazeroski’s home run on a TV as well. It was a black and white one and it was at Tom’s Barber Shop in lower Jackson Square in East Weymouth Massachusetts.
Unlike Lee, I was delighted by this home run. It is my first TV baseball memory!
In 1961 I was one of 19,582 patrons at Fenway Park for a Memorial Day baseball game between the Red Sox and Yankees. The Bronx Bombers lived up to their reputation that day as they clubbed the Red Sox 12-3 with what was, at the time, a record seven home runs in the game.
Maris hit home run numbers 10 and 11, on his way to 61 in ’61’. Mantle (third from left) hit numbers 12 and 13 on his way to 54 in ’61’. Skowron (Mantle’s right) added a couple of homers that day as well and for good measure Yogi Berra hit one.
Billy’s trek to the mound at Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967 would take him through Wellsville New York, Winston-Salem North Carolina and Toronto Canada.
Lee’s trek toward April 14, 1967 would take him to the deck of carriers in the Caribbean, the Mediterranian, the Atlantic, artillery field training and then to Chu Lai Vietnam.
Lee in Chu Lai 1967.
My trek toward April 14, 1967 would take me through the halls of East Junior High School to the soda fountain at Reidy’s Drug Store in East Weymouth Massachusetts and an eight transistor radio.
As Billy was breaking camp in Winter Haven Florida to head to Boston and the big leagues, Lee was receiving orders that his time in Vietnam was done. He left on March 26th and headed to California and the El Toro Marine Base. He was discharged on April 4th and arrived back home in Albany New York on the following day, his Mom’s birthday! His buddies tracked him down and told him they had a ticket for him for Opening Day at the Stadium, Friday the 14th.
He and his buddies along with Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her two little ones were in the crowd as Billy Rohr worked his magic on the mound. Two hundred miles north, I was huddle around that eight transistor radio with my high school buddies listening as Tom Tresh came to bat for the Yankees, setting up Carl Yastrzemski’s catch for the ages. Our hearts sank as Elston Howard singled to right ending Rohr’s bid for immortality!
I met Lee a couple of years ago at the Capris Isle Golf Course in Venice Florida. he’s a snow bird now and he spends his winters among we Venetians. We play every Sunday morning and Lee follows this blog. After my story on Billy Rohr, he emailed me….”believe it or not, I was at that game, I never gave Rohr another thought, until today.”
A couple of weeks ago I communicated with Mr. Billy Rohr. We spoke on the phone and exchanged some emails. He wrote about his moment at Yankee Stadium, his “fifteen minutes.”. He’s a gracious gentleman and a successful attorney with a practice in California and he is forevermore linked to that day in Yankee Stadium and the magic it ignited for the Impossible Dream Red Sox. He too is a passionate golfer.
So it is appropriate that on April 14, 2013, forty six years to the day of Billy Rohr’s major league debut that Billy and Lee and Me were on the golf course!
Lee and me.
Rlationships, relationships, relationships!