It's a shame. Not to recall if Boston was hosting the Detroit Tigers and Ty Cobb, who led the American League in hitting that year with a .383 average. Or the Yankees and slugger Wally Pipp, who would finish with a league-high nine home runs in 1917. Or the Chicago White Sox, who with Shoeless Joe Jackson would win the World Series that year.
Mal is almost surely correct regarding Ruth's failure to hit a homer. The Babe hit only two home runs in 1917, though he did pitch a league-best 35 complete games.
Mal has brought "a youngster" with him from Maine, 70-year-old Bernie Johnson. Johnson, who briefly pitched in the minors for the Red Sox, is something of a legend where Mal lives. In 1946 Johnson, pitching for the University of Maine, no-hit Bowdoin College. The next year Johnson transferred to Bowdoin, for which he no-hit Maine. "Bernie Johnson is the best athlete I've ever seen," says Mal, as he peels one of two bananas he has brought for today's outing. "Even better than Hooky Hackenbuckle."
The first-place Yankees score seven runs in the third inning to take a 7-2 lead. For a person who has ingested all his baseball for eight decades by radio or TV, Mal has a keen eye for diamond minutiae. "Look at how they're giving [Derek] Jeter all of left center," he says, as Boston centerfielder Darren Lewis drifts toward right.
In the fifth inning New York bombards the Red Sox for six more runs. The score is 13-2. For second-place Boston, which will finish this day five games behind the Yankees, it's beginning to look as if another year will be added to the World Series drought.
Until early this summer Mal played tennis and bridge twice a week, in addition to his daily routine, which included cribbage, gardening and martinis. The more I find out about Mal, the more I understand what kept him away from Fenway. "It's not about baseball," Mal says. "I just have had so many other things to keep me busy."
At the end of the fifth inning he taps me on the leg and signals that we should depart. Maineward, homeward we head. "I'm glad we came," he says, "and I'm glad we're leaving."