Brian Sullivan: Fall tales: Doughnuts and Ditmar
PITTSFIELD -- One of our favorite spots to land is The Donut Man on Route 7, just before you get to the Lanesborough town line. Unlike other doughnut/coffee shops I know, this place is clean, friendly and the doughnuts and muffins they make always seem to be fresh. The coffee, too, strikes me as tasting better than the brew from the national chain.
But what I like most is the small gazebo in the back. It sits right on the shore of Pontoosuc Lake and offers a spectacular view across the big pond. Whether it's the first few warm days of spring, the dead heat of summer or the fall foliage season, it's great to just sit there and take in the view of the homes on the water across the lake that rest in the shadows of the majestic outline that is the Taconic Range. We were there on Monday and I always find that particular view invigorating. It works for me and it's a reminder how fortunate we are to have two such magnificent bodies of water like the lakes Onota and Pontoosuc.
I don't mind striking up conversations with strangers, and I do that often at The Donut Man. I enjoy especially talking to natives of Lanesborough, and while you wouldn't think there would be a decided difference between these folks and we Pittsfield types, well, think again. It's a huge gap in personality and attitude. I'm not saying one is better than the other. I'm simply saying those Lanesborough citizens have their own style.
I spoke briefly to an elderly man and what I assumed was his son during my Monday holiday visit. The television is always on CNN and we were laughing and commenting about the news story that was the wedding reception that turned ugly and required almost an entire police squad to restore order. The elder gentleman said he'd been to a number of wedding receptions in his day but never one that turned out to be that chaotic. I agreed, although I've been to a few that I refer to as messy.
We both agreed, however, that wedding receptions are best held as early in the day as possible. The one on the news took a turn for the worse at 2 a.m. This, we both thought, was not good planning. No doubt an open bar, I offered.
I took a chance with my new friend, and as he and his son left I asked if by any chance he had come to this country with Christopher Columbus. Thank fully, he had a sense of humor. He stopped and said, "No, but I didn't miss the trip by much."
He added, "How old do you think I am?" I sized him up quickly. He had the look of a man who had worked hard all his life. A country man, I thought. Someone who cut wood when he was young and grew up on a farm. Someone who knew what a hard day's work truly means. A sinewy body still made of steel. It's these kind of guys that live a long and fruitful life.
"I'm going to say 92 years young," was my guess.
"Close," he said.
I'm going to say he was on the morning side of that number. And as he was leaving, I gave him some advice. Yeah, like this fellow needs any advice from me.
"If you want to see your next birthday, then stay away from those crazy wedding receptions," I said.
He laughed and left. In that short time, I could tell he had been a humble and strong man in is day. I love guys like that because they have a life's worth of stories to tell. I hope I run into him again and have more time. Those of his generation are such a precious resource. They should never be disregarded or overlooked.
The October spectacle that is playoff baseball is upon us in full swing, and this past Monday was the anniversary of the Yankees Don Larsen's perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series at Yankee Stadium. There were 64,000 in attendance, but I've never met anyone locally or elsewhere who could boast of being there.
The closest local connection to that historic event -- and let me know if you think there is a better one -- is that former Pittsfield High standout Art Ditmar was a Yankee teammate of Larsen's in 1957. Ditmar had signed with the Philadelphia Athletics after his brilliant PHS career, moved to Kansas City when the franchise relocated there, and was traded to the Yankees after the 1956 season. Ditmar was an unheralded 12-22 for the A's in 1956, but beat the Bombers a few times and caught the eye of New York manager Casey Stengel.
Former Adams High great Dale Long was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956, but joined Ditmar on the Yankees' 1960 World Series team that fell in seven games to Long's former team, the Pirates. Larsen had moved on to the Athletics at that point in time. Long was a left-handed power hitter who had a few years in Pittsburgh as a regular outfielder before settling into a platoon role for much of his career.
Long, though, did lead the National League one year in a category you wouldn't expect. Local baseball trivia fans might be interested to know that Long and Willie Mays were co-leaders in the NL with 13 triples in 1955. Long stood at 6-foot-4 and checked in at more than 200 pounds. He had 10 career steals in his 10-year career. So, 13 triples was quite a feat indeed.
Some years ago I purchased a two-CD set that has the actual wire-to-wire radio broadcast of Larsen's perfect game. I listen to it this time of year and the hair on my arms still rises even though I know the outcome. Larsen was good that day -- he had only one three-ball count -- but he was also a bit lucky. Mickey Mantle tracked down a long drive in left-center field in the later innings, but the first four innings included all sorts of wild action.
The best was when Jackie Robinson, who was hitting cleanup, led off the second inning with a laser that caromed off third-baseman Andy Carey's glove straight to shortstop Gil McDougald, whose throw to first beat the speedy Robinson by an eyelash. There were a couple of line-drive rockets to Hank Bauer in right field while Mantle had to hustle in from center to snag a floater. Billy Martin did the same at second base, having to hustle to short right field to track down a bloop.
The broadcast includes plenty of little sidebars that rarely get repeated. The one I like is about the game's home plate umpire Babe Pinelli, who was a National League umpire who I doubt had seen much of Larsen since in those days umpires didn't cross leagues. Pinelli had called plays at first base in Game 4 the day before and been struck on the leg by a vicious line drive. He could have opted out of his home plate assignment in Game 5 and his rendezvous with baseball history, but the story goes that Pinelli had at that point in his 20-year career never missed a game.
Pinelli donned the mask and chest protector, called the Dodgers' Dale Mitchell out on a check swing to end the contest, and walked away as catcher Yogi Berra took a big leap into the waiting arms of Larsen.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.
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