A Memorable Baseball Game

A Memorable Baseball Game

© David Burton 2024

Baseball
 


     For the past seventy-six years Iíve carried around a reminder of a most memorable baseball game Ė a slightly misshapen index finger on my right hand. The somewhat bent finger is a gentle reminder of a memorable baseball game in which I participated way back in the year 1948 when I was a strapping 12-year-old boy living in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

     That summer, I and eight or nine of my friends decided to form a baseball team at our local playground. We named our team the Comets. For uniforms, we had blue short-sleeve shirts with yellow lettering spelling out Comets on the shirt fronts.

     The father of one of my teammates Ė Mr. B - served as our coach. Fortuitously, he possessed a small truck and the team would ride on the open back of the truck to away games.

     Mid-summer of 1948, the Comets scheduled a Saturday afternoon game with a team in nearby Lynn, Massachusetts. Late Saturday morning, the nine members of the team assembled at the home of Mr. B for the 20-minute truck ride from Chelsea to the baseball field in Lynn. In Lynn, our coach was asked to serve as home plate umpire.

     I played center field and during the first eight innings of the game I came to bat some three times. One thing that made this baseball game memorable for me was the fact that I hit two home runs over the center field fence and another long ball for a triple during my three times at the plate.

     The game stayed close throughout the first eight innings, with the Lynn team leading by a run or two.

     The second thing that made this game so memorable for me took place in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Lynn team was hitting our pitcher pretty hard and our coach decided to change pitchers while the score was still close. We only had nine players at the game and our relief pitcher was doing the catching. I was asked to take over the catching duties so the catcher could assume the relief pitching duties. The starting pitcher took over my position in center field. This was my first time in the role of a catcher.

     Being a novice at catching, I didnít know that I should keep my right hand Ė the throwing hand Ė closed. The second Lynn batter of the inning fouled a ball back that hit my right hand on the outstretched index finger. Looking at my hand, I could see that the tip of the finger was bent at an unnatural angle. The finger also hurt.

     I turned to our coach who was umpiring behind me and showed him the strangely bent finger. He took my hand and reset the finger, after which I resumed catching. A batter later, I looked down and saw that the finger was out of place again. So, once more, the coach took my hand and popped the finger back into near alignment. We completed the bottom of the eighth inning without further incident with the Lynn team still leading by one or two runs.

     In the top of the ninth inning, our first man up reached base. I was the second batter. By then, my right hand was throbbing and I was in considerable pain. I wasnít sure that I could swing the bat, but I went up to the plate anyway. The Lynn teamís manager had enough of my long ball hitting and ordered their pitcher to issue me an intentional walk. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving for not having to swing the bat.

     We didnít score in the top of the ninth and Lynn won the game. The ride home in the back of our truck turned out to be rather painful.

     The next day, Sunday, my fatherís brother, his wife and his son visited us in Chelsea. My uncle was a dentist with an office in Chelsea. I was still in pain and when he saw my misshapen finger, he suggested we go to his office where he could take an x-ray of it to see if it was broken. We went to his office, where he cranked up his dental x-ray machine to maximum power and x-rayed the finger. He developed the x-ray which showed a fracture near the tip of the finger.

     The next day, Monday, I went to the office of our family doctor and showed him the x-ray. He confirmed that the finger was fractured, but would not require it be reset. He placed the finger in a splint which I kept on for a week or two. Except for being slightly bent out of shape, the finger has given me no problem ever since.

     1948 turned out to be the year that the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians finished the season in a tie with identical records of 96 wins and 58 losses. The teams then played a tie-breaker game, which was won by Cleveland, 8Ė3. Thus, the Red Sox finished their season with a record of 96 wins and 59 losses, one game behind Cleveland. This was also the first season Red Sox games were broadcast on television, with broadcasts alternating between WBZ-TV and WNAC-TV. The first Red Sox game to be broadcast on television was on July 2, 1948, a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Athletics.[1]

     1948 was also the year the Boston Braves won the National League pennant. It was the 78th consecutive season of the Major League Baseball franchise, its 73rd in the National League. It produced the team's second NL pennant of the 20th century, its first since 1914, and its tenth overall league title dating back to 1876.
     Led by starting pitchers Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn (who combined for 39 victories), and the hitting of Bob Elliott, Jeff Heath, Tommy Holmes and rookie Alvin Dark, the 1948 Braves captured 91 games to finish 6-1/2 games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. They also attracted 1,455,439 fans to Braves Field, the third-largest gate in the National League and a high-water mark for the team's stay in Boston.
     The Braves fell in six games to the Cleveland Indians in the 1948 World Series. The team experienced a swift decline in popularity over the next four seasons. Declining attendance - the Braves would draw only 281,278 home fans in 1952 - forced the team's relocation to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in March 1953 and then to Atlanta, Georgia in 1966.[2]

     Some 12 years after my memorable baseball game in Lynn, I experienced another notable day on a baseball diamond - actually a softball diamond. In the summer of 1960, the softball team at MIT's Naval Supersonic Laboratory (NSL) where I was working, won the MIT summer softball league championship. I was the first baseman on that team - my height (reach) was advantageous while my lack of speed was not a great hinderance at that position. Fortunately, there were no broken fingers to accompany the trophy which the team was awarded that year.
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References:

  1. 1948 Boston Red Sox season, Wikipedia, Accessed 20 March 2024.
  2. 1948 Boston Braves season, Wikipedia, Accessed 20 March 2024.

 


  04 April 2024 {ARTICLE 617; WHATEVER_87}    
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