The date might not ring any bells, but it seems to stand out in the minds of a lot of fans of a certain age. I am one of them. It was a Wednesday, the Yanks had returned from a road trip and were off to their best start in years. The club entered that Wednesday afternoon with a record of 40-26, on tap two against the Indians, an afternoon doubleheader. I’ve heard Mike Francesa talk about that doubleheader, he was there that day, and so was I. Michael Kay spoke about it several times this week and a new book, titled “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” mentions it. School had just ended, the taste of sweet anticipation of the summer ahead was in the air.
In the first game, Mel Stottlemyre was pitching well but he got hurt and had to be removed from the game, he had pitched four innings. Now, maybe this is just me, but something changed about him after that day. He never seemed to be the same pitcher again. I checked his record, after that date he was 59-62 for the remainder of his career. Before that date, he was 105-77.
A big moment in the game came when Steve Hamilton threw his “folly floater” to Tony Horton. Horton, at the time 25 years old and full of talent, played first base for the Indians. Horton swung almost helplessly at the floater, fouling to rookie catcher Thurman Munson. Horton crawled back to the dugout. It was some scene. Very funny. Two months later this 25 year old star would attempt suicide, he never played in another major league game after August of 1970.
Ray Fosse was the Cleveland catcher that day and another star on the rise, Fosse and Munson both 23, looked like the elite catchers of the future in the American League. Less that a month later, Pete Rose plowed into Fosse on a bang bang play at the plate at the All Star Game effective ending Fosse’s day at the top. He went on to have a representative career for sure, but never came close to being star.
Of course that day belonged to Bobby Murcer who blasted a homer in the first game and three in the second (four consecutive at bats). He carried that streak into the next night, but after a first inning walk, he failed to hit a homer his next at bat. The attendance was about 32,000, a great crowd for the Yankees of that era, but the stadium was still half empty. My friend and I upgraded (at no cost) our seats between games of the doubleheader and found ourselves in box seats in a nest of Indian fans. How great it was to watch the smiles wiped off their faces with each Murcer blast, the last one pulled the Yankees out of a 4-3 hole, giving them the lead at 5-4, a lead which they would never relinquish.
The Yankees split the doubleheader losing the first game 7-2 and winning the nightcap 5-4. The Orioles (the eventual World Champs) lost to Boston that evening putting the Yanks 2.5 out of first. Let me tell you, this was a big deal for Yankee fans.
I mentioned the fact that Mike Francesa was at the game, I also mentioned that I was at the game. I heard an interview on Kay’s radio show with someone else who claimed to be in the dugout that afternoon as Bobby had the game of his life. The man’s name, Ron Blomberg. Ron played for the Yankees, in fact, he was a first round draft pick. He was a piece of work (I’m going to do a post on him soon) . I find no record of him being on the Yankees in 1970. He was on the roster of the Syracuse Chiefs all year so his memory may be like many other things with Ron, a little off.