Brian Sullivan: Perfect way to spend an October day
It was a perfect way to spend an autumn afternoon. I mentioned two weeks ago that Oct. 8 was the anniversary date of the Yankees' Don Larsen pitching his famous World Series perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Yankee Stadium.
I also said that I had never met or knew anyone either locally or elsewhere that had been to that historic contest. The hook that I dropped, however, did get two bites. And the stories are too good not to share.
The first to check in was Larry Moore, who oversees Gymfest of the Berkshires on Lyman Street. A county resident for more than 50 years, Moore was raised in New York City. Larry's father took him to what would become the infamous Game 5, a pleasant Monday afternoon. It was Moore's 12th birthday and Dad took his son to the game as a present.
It took Larry out of school for that day, so he was already playing with house money. Neither Larry nor his Dad could have anticipated the outcome of the afternoon.
"We were in the upper deck behind third base," Moore recalled. "My Dad was on the edge of his seat from the seventh inning on. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, the game had been pretty ho-hum even though my hero, Mickey Mantle, had hit a home run and made a great catch."
Yes, not a lot of offense. But Larsen and Dodgers starter Sal Maglie had a lot to do with what ended up to be a 2-0 New York win.
Added Moore, "At one point, I did say something about a ‘no-hitter.' I thought I was going to be beheaded. My dad quickly put his hand over my mouth."
Moore, no doubt, could not have been the only fan to make such remarks. Dodger fans for sure were hopeful of jinxing Larsen's effort by letting everyone know that a no-hitter was in progress. Fate, however, was able to withstand any jinx effect.
"I still have the program," Moore said. "Of course, it's Yankee-ized. I drew beards and horns on all the pictures of the Dodger players. So much for memorabilia."
Moore went to school the next day and said he bragged about where he had been the previous afternoon. It earned him an "illegal absence" notice on his next report card.
Regardless, said Moore, "A great father-son memory."
And just a bit down East Street from Gymfest of the Berkshires is Teo's Hot Dogs. Jamie DiMassimo, the proprietor of the popular restaurant, checked in to say that his father and Teo's founder, Joe, was also in attendance for Larsen's perfecto.
Joe and friend Bill Stumpek were guests of Pittsfield native Tino Barzie (more on Barzie in a moment). The pair had behind-the-plate tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5, with the best certainly coming last among that trio of games.
It could not have been a more remarkable day, said Jamie, who was visiting his Dad in Naples. Fla. Not only did Joe and Bill see Larsen's perfect game, they were again guests of Barzie that same night at Cafe Rouge at the Statler Hotel in Manhattan.
Barzie managed the Dorsey Brothers Band, which was playing there that night.
"My father was just 24," Jamie said. "Not a bad day for a kid just down there to watch his Yankees."
Jamie added that Larsen lives now in Marcos Island, Fla., about 30 minutes from Naples.
Barzie (birth name was Barzottini) died in June 2009 at the age of 83. He was a Pittsfield boy who made good. A music prodigy of sorts, he was enough of a clarinet player that the Pittsfield High band director plucked him out of Central Junior High School (the former school on the Common) to enroll him in the high school band as lead clarinet player.
Barzie went on play in a number of the "Big Bands" during that era and eventually worked toward combining the separate bands made famous by Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey into one super "Big Band."
Barzie managed the band for years and later managed the careers of such stars as Frank Sinatra Jr., Pia Zadora and Paul Anka.
Barzie also became a sports agent and represented many Boston Red Sox players. That list included Marty Barrett, Bruce Hurst and Tony Armas. He was a close friend of Red Sox legends Dwight Evans and Carl Yastrzemski.
With the World Series upon us, some final thoughts on Oct. 8, 1956. It was the Fall Classic and lived up to that name. The series finished a few days later when New York took Game 7. It's a reminder of how much earlier the season ended then compared to now. Larsen, obviously, and Maglie each went the distance in a game that took just 2 hours and 6 minutes.
Each team played its starters the entire game. The exception came with two outs in the Dodgers' ninth, when pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell batted for Maglie and was called out on a check-swing by umpire Babe Pinelli.
Mitchell, an Oklahoma University baseball legend, maintained to the end that the pitch was a ball. Lost to history is the fact that Mitchell, again as a pinch hitter, grounded out to end Game 7, a 9-0 Yankees' win at Ebbets Field. It was Mitchell's final at-bat of his career.
The only surviving members from the group of players who actually played in Game 5 game are Larsen and his batterymate Yogi Berra, who homered twice in Game 7 off Brooklyn right-hander Don Newcombe.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.