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This Old House
William Nack
June 07, 1999
Babe Ruth may have built Yankee Stadium, but the foundations of its legacy are the battles waged there and the great athletes who called it home
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June 07, 1999

This Old House

Babe Ruth may have built Yankee Stadium, but the foundations of its legacy are the battles waged there and the great athletes who called it home

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And then Sandy stuck out his hand...."

All of Flatbush inhaled at once. Brooklyn fans had seen this all before, year after year—the killing Yankees rally, the turn of the screw. Frozen now in time, that moment, that scene, is a museum piece, an autumn diorama worthy of its own corner at Cooperstown—the October light playing tricks in leftfield, McDougald racing toward third, the players in the dugouts on their feet, heads craning toward that corner, the ball slicing and Amoros reaching out....

"The sun was devastating that day," says Coleman, "and there were dark shadows in front of Amoros. He never saw that ball...."

"And then Sandy stuck out his hand," says McDougald, "and found that Easter egg."

Both runners skidded to a stop as Amoros turned and fired to shortstop PeeWee Reese, who fired to first baseman Gil Hodges and caught McDougald between second and third. "I felt like cutting across the diamond, but I think the coaches would have got mad at me," McDougald says.

It all seems so simple to Podres now: "Yogi hit that ball off me, and Amoros made the greatest catch in America."

The Dodgers won, their first and only World Series in Brooklyn, and Erskine remembers walking into the clubhouse when it was all over—the same clubhouse where Ruth's and Gehrig's uniforms had been left hanging clean and neatly pressed in '49—and feeling a tranquillity that he'd never felt before. "To go to their park and beat them, after all those frustrating years, just added a dimension to it," he says. "There was a quietness when we first walked in that clubhouse, almost a spiritual feeling, gratitude for this accomplishment. Then someone popped a bottle of champagne, and the lid blew off."

Just as it was about to do again on the afternoon of Oct. 8, 1956, when Dodgers pinch hitter Dale Mitchell came to the plate in the top of the ninth, the only man standing between Don Larsen and his perfect game. Larsen had pitched brilliantly, to be sure, but the elements had favored him that day. In the fall the Stadium is hard on hitters late in the day. As the sun sets behind the upper deck, a shadow gradually moves across the infield; there is a time when the ball is pitched out of the sunlight and into the shade—the ball seems to flicker on and off like a light. The glare also makes leftfield the hardest position to play in baseball at that time of year. It gets late early out there, as Yogi once famously said.

In the second inning Jackie Robinson smacked a liner off third baseman Andy Carey's glove. The ball caromed to McDougald at short. "Luck, blind luck," McDougald recalls. Robinson's foot was six inches above the bag when Collins took the peg at first. "Out!"

In the fifth Hodges drove a ball into left center, a homer almost anywhere else, but Mantle, the fastest Yankee of them all, was in full flight, a la Gionfriddo, and made a sensational backhanded catch. And then Amoros hit a long drive down the rightfield line that looked like a homer, but it hooked foul by inches.

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