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Through a Nine Year-Old's Eyes - Revisited

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Joined: 10 Aug 2005
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Location: San Diego CA - deep in the heart of SoCal

PostPosted: Fri 7/19/19 7:44 am    Post subject: Through a Nine Year-Old's Eyes - Revisited Reply with quote

I originally wrote this "essay" ten years ago, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969.

The Summer of '69 may have been one Bryan Adams sang about, but that song was written from a very different perspective than mine.

On July 20, 1969--40 years ago this week--the historic moon landing took place, mid-summer in the last year of the turbulent decade of the '60s. Those who weren't born then no doubt know our country was embroiled in a war in Vietnam, with a new president in the White House who'd been inaugurated that January.

Baseball season in 1969--the 100th anniversary of professional baseball--saw several changes in the MLB. Two expansion teams, the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos, were added to the National League. Two more, the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots, were new franchises in the American League. Because of the fact more teams were now competing, 1969 marked the first time each league was split into two divisions, the East and the West. Baseball's Rules Committee also decided to lower the pitching mound from 15 inches to 10 inches, in an attempt to spur more offensive output throughout the game.

For me, at age nine, this summer was special. I attended my first major league game--the Dodgers vs. the Padres--at San Diego Stadium. I bought my first pack of baseball cards. I began to learn who a lot of the players were.

It was an era of brand-new multi-purpose stadiums, a lingering time of the last few years before free agency would rear its (fill-in-the-blank) head.

But on July 20, the eyes of the nation were diverted from our national pastime to an unprecedented occasion--the landing of three men on the moon. I remember our family barbecuing dinner, then coming indoors that evening to watch this exciting event on TV--a color TV set, which we, probably the last family on the block to have a color TV, had just gotten a few months earlier. Our closest family friends joined us, and everyone shared the moment and celebrated with ice cream. Next to baseball, I considered the futuristic concept of men walking on the moon (no one would dare consider a female astronaut in those days) one of the most fascinating things in the universe.

Many years ago, I acquired an audio tape of the Dodgers game vs. the San Francisco Giants played in Candlestick Park that same night, in which Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully giddily announced that "The Eagle has landed." In the midst of a division race between these two bitter rivals, both took a back seat to the space race. "Can you believe it," exclaimed Scully, "here we are talking about the Dodgers and the Giants, and there's a man on the moon!"

Forty years later, during a Dodger game in 2009, Scully referenced that game several times during the broadcast. Between innings, Dodger organist Nancy Bea Hefley played "Blue Moon", and the PA piped in Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon." Was former Dodger Wally Moon in attendance? It was never mentioned, so probably not.

Back to '69: The All-Star Game that year was held just a few days later, on July 23, in Washington, D.C. (The NL won, 9-3.)

The Giants' Willie McCovey was the National League MVP, and Ted Sizemore of the Dodgers was the NL Rookie of the Year.

I learned so much that summer--what the "standings" were, how to read a box score, what teams played in which league, etc. By the time September arrived and I started fourth grade at Ross Elementary, I almost felt qualified to talk about baseball with the boys in my class, who were sure I didn't know anything because I was a girl.

Culminating the year in baseball, the New York Mets, perennial losers in their first seven years of existence, would go on to win the World Series, upsetting the favored Baltimore Orioles, becoming the darlings of the sports media and shocking the world. The Mets' improbable dream season was led by the stellar pitching of future Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. Seaver would win the National League Cy Young Award.

One of my dad's favorite players, Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, would cap off
is Hall of Fame career that summer. So, too, did Yankees great Mickey Mantle retire. Stan "The Man" Musial, forever a Cardinal, and Roy Campanella, forever a Dodger, were inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame that July.

But for me, the summer of 1969 was all about the beginning of a love affair--my love for baseball, still in its infancy, but which would blossom to fullness over the next five decades.


Now, that was my original essay. Yet, I'm still drawn back to July 20, 1969. Because of the way baseball and the moon landing were interwoven.

In particular, the following excerpts from an article on, from 2009, underscored what happened in San Francisco that night.

While (Neil) Armstrong and fellow astronauts Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins were changing the course of history in a different part of the galaxy, a select group of well-trained men were doing the best they could to make their mark down among the rivers, mountains, forests and cities of our planet.

Their uniforms didn't have aluminum neck rings and hose fittings, sun-shielded helmets and space boots, though. They wore the traditional caps, numbered jerseys, pants and spikes of Major League Baseball.

Twenty teams were in action on the dirt and grass diamonds of Earth, and many of the players who suited up that day remember it all vividly and with emotion.

...The day man first walked on the moon started like any other game day for Gaylord Perry, a 30-year-old right-hander in the middle of a season for the San Francisco Giants in which he'd go 19-14 with a 2.49 ERA.

But though Perry would eventually qualify for the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, he never quite got his due as a hitter, and that was about to change -- sort of.

First, a flashback to 1964, Perry's third season in the Major Leagues.

As Perry recalls, his manager, Alvin Dark, and a sportswriter for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, Harry Jupiter, were watching Perry take his hacks during batting practice.

"I was good friends with Harry, and he and Alvin were watching me in the cage, and Harry said something like, 'You know, Perry isn't a bad hitter. He might hit a home run or two for you,' " Perry says.

"Of course, Alvin saw a whole lot that he liked in my pitching and saw a whole lot that he didn't like in my hitting, and he said, 'Mark my words. A man will land on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.' "

More than five years later, Apollo 11 landed on the dark, cratered lunar surface at 1:17 p.m. PT. Down among the green hills of Earth, a Sunday crowd of 32,560 had settled into their seats at Candlestick Park on the San Francisco Bay to watch their hometown Giants hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And in the bottom of the third inning, a not-at-all-serious prophecy was fulfilled.

"Well, about the top of the third, over the loudspeaker, they were telling everybody to stand and give a moment of silent thanks for the astronauts who landed on the moon," Perry remembers.

"And I'd say 30 minutes later, Claude Osteen grooved me a fastball, and I hit it out of the park."

Perry pitched a complete game and got the victory, one of the 314 he'd notch over a legendary, colorful 22-year career that saw him log more than 5,000 innings, strike out more than 3,500 batters and wear eight uniforms.

His moonshot 40 years ago was the first of six career homers and, as he explains, the thing he's talked the most about to this day. More than the Hall of Fame. More than the 300 club. Heck, even more than the Vaseline.

"I don't mind it at all," he says. "I was very proud, because I remember seeing President Kennedy saying we will put a man on the moon before anybody else. And that was a very proud moment, with the astronauts being safe and being able to get back home, it was an amazing thing.

"It was more of a feat than me hitting a home run."

Two weeks ago, Perry was vacationing at his fishing house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He was in the garage looking for something, opened a wooden box and found the bat that launched that historic first homer.

"It made me think about July 20, 1969, all over again, and it brought a big smile to my face," he says. "Hitting a home run that day and winning that day and a man landing on the moon ... That was a great day.

"You can be sure I'll have a glass of champagne [today] and celebrate it all over again."

While I'm not too fond of the outcome of that game, I truly enjoyed hearing Vin relive it during the broadcast in 2009. And the Alvin Dark anecdote mentioned above is one for the ages.


A few other recollections of that momentous day are contained in that same article, which can be read here.

"The Dodgers have always occupied an enormous place in the history of the game. If the Yankees are the most successful team in baseball history, the Dodgers are the most essential. Their legacy is unique."

-Baseball Hall of Fame
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Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: San Diego County, CA

PostPosted: Fri 7/19/19 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DB I loved this! It gives me a feel of what was going on before I was born. Also, my brother was born in August of 1969 so I'll share this with him, too. Yes, he will be 50 too!
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