From the third
row of bleachers, near the green screen on the left-field side, Louis Kleppel
occasionally watched the game through heavy German field glasses. He has been
watching the Giants for 47 years. "I made the road trip with the Giants in
'51. Every day I'd shake Bobby Thomson's hand. I gave him a lift, a
psychokinetic push. I went to Chicago with them and Eddie Brannick got me a
seat behind the Giant dugout and I got Thomson going good. Shaking hands with
me did something to him. Then Branca threw that fast ball on the
Kleppel used to
collect money from Polo Grounds bleacher fans, so that he could present watches
to Giant ballplayers. "I got 12 watches. I got them for Sal, for Westrum,
Jansen, Irvin, Mays, Dark, Thomson, Lockman, Mueller, Hank Thompson,
Shellenback—for doing such a great job with the pitchers—and Bobby Hofman, for
all those pinch-hit runs. Then I started to collect money for an Antonelli Day,
but they stopped me. I turned $18.50 over to the Damon Runyon Fund. Here, I'll
show you the clipping."
about 50 Giant games in 1957, 25 to 40 Yankee games and 20 to 30 Dodger games.
He turned to a young boy behind him. "Don't chew so loud. It's not nice.
I'm talking." Kleppel is a bachelor. "I married baseball," he
threatened in the eighth when Gomez hit his second double, but Harris and
Mueller went down. The game moved into the ninth, scoreless.
Kleppel took a
baseball from his pocket and read the inscription: "To my friend with all
good wishes, Wahoo Sam Crawford, August 23, 1957, Hall of Fame, July 22,
1957." Kleppel is having the ball autographed by outfielders only.
tried to get baseball fans to volunteer to give blood, but he was advised to
drop the idea. "They thought baseball was a recreation, just for fun, and
you shouldn't remind people of serious things. They don't realize that man is
attached to each other man. Man is a Siamese twin, but he doesn't know
The only home
run ever hit into the center-field bleachers—by Joe Adcock—landed between
Kleppel's legs. "I've got a bad back, a sacroiliac. So I couldn't bend.
Somebody else picked up the ball and sold it for $25."
On the field in
front of Kleppel, Frank Thomas lofted a high fly along the left-field foul
line. It fell into the upper deck for a home run.
cautioned the fans about walking on the playing field. A fan said, "What
for? To save the field for houses?"
lengthened, covering right field and half the infield. Willie Mays came up and
hit a long fly to center field, near the bleacher wall. A fan said, "That's
all right, Willie. Home run in San Francisco." Paper littered the grass.
Children ran the bases. The fans, barely 3,000 of them, filed out.