Downhome Magazine

From The Barrens To The Bronx

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The seminal moment for this story was Saturday, October 15, 2016. An e-mail from my son, Juan, working in Northern Alberta, informed me that a co-worker had left on his desk a new, authentic, N Y Yankee toiletry bag, the same one that is issued to Yankee players. Juan had earlier indicated to him that I was a staunch Yankee fan; fortuitously for me, the co-worker's son is a padre with the N Y Yankees. I was so overwhelmed by the gesture that my initial reaction was "Often we feel like we don't have a friend in the world, then someone, we don't even know, befriends us."

In my thank you note I included how I got interested in the Yankees, some of my favourite moments and memories, culminating in a visit to the old Yankee stadium during its close-out season in 2008.

Post World War Two
It was around 1947, our world began to change. We had just added electricity to our modest abode. My older brother who worked at a Cod Liver Oil factory in Bay de Verde purchased a radio. We couldn't wait to get home from the berry barrens of Old Perlican to enjoy this new novelty. There was a U.S. military base at Ft. Pepperrell, St. John's, about 164 Kms driving distance from Old Perlican, but less than half that for transmission distance, or as the crow flies to the North West. From station VOUS baseball games were broadcast quite frequently especially the Yankees. When I discovered the Armed Forces Network on a short wave band, the selection and reception was even better.

Yankees' Memorable Moments
During the late 1940s we saw the twilight of Joe DiMaggio, the "Yankee Clipper's," career and the entry of Mickey Mantle on the scene in 1951. A Yankee-Brooklyn Dodger World Series was almost a given during the '50s when the Yankees appeared in six World Series. In 1956 Mantle won the triple crown and Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. I was teaching in a small school in Summerville, and heard most of the game, after school, at Tilley's "rambling house." Following this dramatic game, I recall the announcer, Mel Allen, say, after using up most of the adjectives, "words cannot describe what Don Larsen has accomplished here this afternoon."

In 1961, two team mates hitting back to back, competed for the home run title. When Mantle and Maris hit back to back home runs on one, of many occasions, Mel Allen, the voice of the Yankees, said "Dial M for Murder, Maris and Mantle." Mantle who missed the last week of the schedule, wound up with 54 home runs; Maris broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 with his 61st home run on the last day of the season.

Media And Memorabilia
When I moved to Gambo in 1962, I purchased a red, Phillips, all transistor radio from Peter Paul Ltd. I've carried it to bed, outdoors, camping, as well as to the cabin. (Even a spider had become trapped inside the plastic casing). I tuned in regularly to WCBS and WFAN in New York, especially at night. With the advent of television, games were less frequent on short wave radio.

Quite often, the Yankees were on the televised MLB game of the week. One beautiful, sunny day in July, I was enjoying the Yankee game downstairs in my recreation room when the game was suddenly in a rain-delay. I shouted to my wife Dora to take the clothes in from the line because it was raining.

My Yankee memorabilia, especially hats, keeps growing. Juan's friend, now living in New Zealand, visited New York and sent me two hats. On returning to work after Christmas, 2016, Juan found a new post-season hat on his desk. Just recently another one of Juan's friends dropped off at my door a new Jeter #2 hat. Like Kris Kristofferson said in his song "What did I ever do to deserve all the kindness you've shown?"

Trip To New York
Under Manager Joe Torre, and led by Captain Jeter, and the core four, the Yanks, starting in 1996, appeared in 5 straight postseasons, winning 4 World Series. Some of the euphoria still lingered as we planned our trip to "The House That Ruth Built" in its final year.

My brother Max, also a Yankee fan, made arrangements to make our dream trip to New York on the last weekend in August, 2008. Our oldest brother, a Merchant Marine World War 2 Veteran, living in Montreal was not well, so we did a side trip. After spending two days on his front deck telling stories and reminiscing, we said our final good-byes, and headed out to catch our flight to New York.

Arriving at Newark, New Jersey, on Thursday, August 28, our shuttle took us through the busy Lincoln Tunnel on our sixteen-mile journey to Manhattan. We checked in at Hotel Deauville on 29th and Park Avenue for three nights. The next day, August 29, we took the City Bus Tour, which included a spectacular view of the City from the 86th story of The Empire State Building. It's interesting to note that Newfoundland iron workers were among the 3400 emigrants, which in 1931, completed this immense project in 410 days, twelve days ahead of schedule. Another attraction was the 5 mile, 25 minute Staten Island Ferry ride which provided a majestic view of New York Harbor. From the deck of the ferry we had a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, while the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan made for spectacular viewing.

The Bronx
The long-anticipated day was here; we were about to see the Yankees at the Mecca of baseball, Yankee Stadium. On Saturday, August 30, after a late breakfast at Guy and Gillard's on Park Avenue, we boldly set out to get the subway to the Bronx; 28th to Grand Central, from there to 161st street. Subways were crowded, but people were friendly and helpful. Brother Max, who could strike up a conversation with a scarecrow, spoke to several stating the reason for our visit and where we were from. Passing through security, we had ample time to meander around and moved up close to see the batting practice warmups. As we got to our seats, the sunshine was resplendent, the atmosphere simply amazing, the stadium fans so animated and energized. I couldn't help but think how special this moment was, with all the aura and mystique associated with this hallowed place, It was all so surreal. It's a long way from picking berries on the barrens of Old Perlican to sell for thirty-five cents per gallon, or listening to a game, with spasmodic static occurrences, on my red radio.

With the exodus of approximately 56,000 fans from the Stadium, and the late Bob Shepherd's voice still sounding in our ears, we managed to stay together and intact. One consolation, amidst all the frenzy, we need only follow the crowd heading to the subway. After a short wait in queue, we were on the crowded subway back to the hotel.

Departure
Next morning, after getting a copy of the N Y Post, and bantering with a Met fan at the hotel desk, we awaited our shuttle to the airport. We took comfort in the fact we had a direct flight to St. John's. On route, I happened to mention Yogi Berra, legendary Yankee catcher and manager, who was probably better known for his humorous malaprops or yogi-isms. One of my favorite ones was when his wife said to him, "Yogi, you were born and raised in St. Louis, you spent all those years in New York with the Yankees, you retired in New Jersey, where would you like to be buried?" Yogi replied, "I don't know, surprise me."

 
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