Poised at a console with 115 buttons, rookie operators Steve Cavender, Hayden Terry and Joe Epps kicked only a few that night. They were awaiting the activation the following week of an object standing behind them in the press box that resembled a blue refrigerator. A memory bank, it can store hundreds of taped messages which, when fed through a telelight machine, flash instantly on the left-field board, adding considerable variety to the basic wow and CHARGE the trio kept posting. Next year Fair-Play plans to install a similar $1 million board in right field, but an inherent weakness apparently will remain: no permanently mounted out-of-town scores.
On this warm Texas night the home team had enough hardware to win—and the official scorer should have awarded the highly biased and personable scoreboard an assist. Trailing 1-0 in the fifth, the Rangers collected three hits and two runs while the Twins seemed to reel from two prodigious blasts of CHARGE—first the cavalry music played on a tape in the press box and broadcast from an enormous loudspeaker in left center, then the towering letters flashed off and on in left. Afterward Minnesota's manager at that time, Bill Rigney, paid the board a grudging tribute. "Sure, I think it's good for the home team. It kind of bugs you a little. I could go for something like that in our park."
On the Sunday afternoon when Hutton's homer drove Philadelphia Phil and Phillis berserk, 21-year-old Denny Lehman sat at a computer console in a control booth above home plate and toyed with the emotions of 57,267 people. Lehman and Danny Baker, who operates a balls-strikes-outs board, have a year's edge on the Arlington crew—and quicker hands than Phillie Shortstop Larry Bowa's. When a boy in the stands caught a foul fly, Lehman flashed SIGN HIM UP. When Don Money beat out a hit: NEVER A DOUBT. Then- Philadelphia Manager Frank Lucchesi was thrown out for protesting a ball-strike call, and the board merely shut up. But when Met Manager Yogi Berra and his catcher, Jerry Grote, challenged the plate umpire an inning later a Phils' public relations man yelled to Lehman, "Get the rhubarb tape." Click. Snap. Pop. On the right-field screen an enraged manager stormed around an umpire, who calmly turned his back and began to play Hearts and Flowers on a fiddle.
It is no mean trick to overcome the combined protestations of 34,000 bat-wielding kids and a prejudicial million-dollar scoreboard, but in the eighth inning the Mets took the lead and won 4-3.
Or rather, Willie Mays did. He hit a two-run homer, and up in the control booth Denny Lehman's fast right hand closed in an angry fist above the console. The scoreboard didn't even burp. Chalk one up for tradition.