Yankee Stadium was packed as usual on Easter Sunday in 1979.
George Steinbrenner’s Yankees were one loss away from being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers to start the season. That was no way for the two-time defending World Series champions to perform, so the boss had a conversation with his new veteran left-handed starting pitcher prior to the game.
“He told me ‘This is the biggest game of the year,’ ” Terre Haute’s own Tommy John recalled earlier this week.
In the first inning, Steinbrenner didn’t see the same John who, pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, shut the Bronx Bombers out for the first six innings of the 1978 World Series, putting the Yankees in an early deficit.
In his Yankee debut, John walked Brewers’ leadoff man Paul Molitor on four pitches and threw a fifth straight ball to designated hitter Don Money, drawing boos from the Yankee faithful. John allowed an RBI single by Cecil Cooper that drove home Molitor, but scattered five hits and held Milwaukee scoreless the remainder of his seven innings. Goose Gossage locked up the Yankee win with two scoreless innings for the save.
John’s first game in Yankee Stadium is his favorite memory of the “House that Ruth Built,” which was home to its last game Sept. 20.
It was also the first start of John’s best two seasons during his 26-year major league career. John went 21-9 in ’79 with a 2.96 earned-run average, 17 complete games and three shutouts. He one-upped himself with a 22-9 mark, a 3.43 ERA and six shutouts in 1980.
John’s 808 1/3 innings in Yankee Stadium were second only to the 809 1/3 he tossed in Comiskey Park.
John first pitched there in 1964 as a 21-year-old Cleveland Indian.
“I remember going out and seeing how huge the stadium was,” John said of the ballpark that had its capacity reduced from more than 70,000 to its current 57,546. “It was bigger than it is now.”
John’s generation had seen plenty of the Yankees on television; when John was growing up in the 1950s, the Yankees won six World Series titles.
“Before the game, I went out to the outfield and you just think ‘This is where DiMaggio used to run, and Mantle,’ ” John said. “It was a very, very special place.”
John’s second-best memory was when his son Travis was carried to the mound by Reggie Jackson to throw out the first pitch. Steinbrenner asked Travis to do so because the 2-year-old had recently come out of a 17-day coma after a fall from a third-story window.
“I remember the crowd chanting his name,” John said.
Terre Haute’s Brian Dorsett also had the opportunity to suit up in Yankee pinstripes at baseball’s marquee ballpark.
“Your mouth drops open; you can’t even grasp it all,” Dorsett said of the first time he walked up out of the dugout. “It was really special.”
Dorsett’s first start in Yankee Stadium was Sept. 16, 1989. He went 0 for 3 against a young Randy Johnson.
“It’s a fun night just to be in that ballpark, having a Yankee uniform on,” Dorsett said.
Dorsett also had chances to start games at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, which will become the only historic ballparks left standing when Yankee Stadium is demolished later this year.
Dorsett remembers catching a two-hitter by Jeffersonville native Walt Terrell at Fenway.
Dorsett would like to see both those ballparks stand the test of time.
“The history of the game is there, so it’s something fans would miss out on,” he said.
John, whose name will forever be linked with the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery he had in 1974, is not optimistic about Wrigley and Fenway sticking around.
“It’s almost inevitable that it’s got to go,” John said when asked about Wrigley Field. “The whole thing now is revenue. How can you make more money? They can’t add any more here or there. If there was someplace they could add luxury boxes, maybe on the roof or something … ”
On opening day this year, a group was petitioning for signatures to have Wrigley named a National Historic Landmark. Few sporting stadiums have achieved this status, according to a 2007 piece in USA Today. Fewer than 2,500 historic places have attained that status and less than 1 percent of those have to do with sports. A site must meet criteria, and the owner must comply.
According to the USA Today article, Wrigley is safe because the city of Chicago designated “The Friendly Confines” an individual local landmark in 2004. This means any alteration at Wrigley must be approved by the commissioner of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
Yankee Stadium was denied landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission due to the 1974-75 major renovation that included demolition of portions of the stadium.
Fenway, the oldest MLB stadium, having been built in 1912, was saved for the time being in 2005 when plans for a near replica with a new Green Monster were abandoned.
The demolition of Yankee Stadium will prevent future MLB players from walking the massive outfield grass where Mantle and DiMaggio once patrolled.
The aura from the uniqueness and historic feel of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park should be saved at all costs. Both of those teams have proven in recent years they can generate a competitive level of revenue to maintain winning products on the field.
• • •
• Andre Dawson coming to Terre Haute — Former Cub great Andre Dawson will visit the Roly Poly restaurant (424 Wabash Ave.) in Terre Haute on Oct. 18 for a public signing.
“The Hawk,” who finished third in the Hall of Fame voting this summer, will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Advance ticket prices are $15 for signed 8x10 flats, cards, balls, mini-helmets; $20 for bases, helmets, gloves, caps and photos larger than 8x10; and $30 for bats and jerseys.
Contact Larry Kassis at email@example.com or (812) 251-2204.
Craig Pearson can be reached by phone at (812) 231-4357 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yankee Stadium was packed as usual on Easter Sunday in 1979.
- Given to Fly
GIVEN TO FLY: Come to expect new standards of excellence
Records are definitely meant to be broken; athletes today are faster and stronger than those in the past in many endeavors in athletics.
GIVEN TO FLY: ISU women have solid recruiting class
The caliber of athletes that the Indiana State women’s basketball coaching staff is bringing in is on an upswing.
GIVEN TO FLY: Major leaguers John, Dorsett meet up at tonight’s game
Terre Haute’s only two big leaguers of the last 50 years — Tommy John and Brian Dorsett — will catch up with one another today.
FOOT NOTES: Valley natives perform well on national stage
Several Wabash Valley natives continue to shine on the national track and field scene.
'Til It's Over: Sycamores ‘in a good place,’ but searching for more in MVC
Can Teri Moren lift Indiana State, last year’s seventh-place team in the Missouri Valley Conference, to one of the league’s contenders in her first year on campus?
'Til It's Over: Two sets of identical twins should keep North Central baseball a contender
The last high school baseball team standing in the Wabash Valley was the North Central, the Thunderbirds falling short 4-3 in the Class A Semistate on Saturday just one game shy of Victory Field.
'Til It's Over: Jarvis, Anderson confident Olney, hard work leads to Division I dream
Olney, Ill., population 8,000-plus and known for its population of white squirrels, might not be the dream destination for high school basketball players in Indiana.
'Til It's Over: Robinson 7-footer more focused in postseason; 6-foot Jones keeps producing
Robinson 7-footer Meyers Leonard is not going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA some day, but his odds of reaching the league are pretty solid if his game continues to evolve as it has during high school.
- 'Til It's Over: ‘Stepping stone’ game points Sycamores in right direction Whether the win comes against a top-25 team or a conference pushover, ending a four-game losing streak is always a relief.
- 'Til It's Over: Indianapolis ISU recruit rolling along in senior season As Indiana State recruit Anna Munn approached Christmas with the Decatur Central basketball team, the senior guard didn’t seem to need much of a wishlist.
- 'Til It's Over: Magic’s still there for '79 Sycamores For the former Indiana State players who visited the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in late November, the weekend was a chance to relive memories with teammates and see Larry Bird’s career with the Sycamores celebrated again.
- CRAIG PEARSON: North has strong history in cross country state finals Vigo County is home to just four IHSAA state championships in team sports. Most recently, Terre Haute South won girls titles in basketball (2002) and tennis (2001).
- 'Till It's Over: It’s been rough year but no need to break up Cubs' core Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry is only in the first year of a three-year contract, and aren’t back-to-back division championships enough to keep him around despite this year’s season filled with bad luck?
- 'Til It's Over: Hansbrough, Hibbert give Pacers glimpse of future You might have heard of the Indiana Pacers’ 2009 first-round draft pick. He was on the television once in a while during his four-year career at North Carolina.
- 'Til It's Over: Bertoli, Moore put on show in abundance of events “Anthony and Erica” may not have the marketing capability of “Dan and Dave,” but neither of Indiana State’s outstanding multi-event participants had let-down performances this weekend in the Missouri Valley Conference Championships.
- ‘Walking wounded’: ISU seniors return to provide spark All three ISU seniors will graduate in May, and all three will be in uniform today as Indiana State battles Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals.
- Given to Fly: Northview standout runner Thacker coming to ISU Doc Brown told an old-timer in a saloon in “Back to the Future III” that despite having automobiles in the future people run for recreation.
- Given to Fly: Schilli’s Rodman-like performance aids ISU With Indiana State’s women’s basketball team ranking eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference in field-goal percentage (36.5), the Sycamores need as many shot attempts as possible to maintain their standing on top of the league.
- Given to Fly: A classic in every sense of the word What tournament director and co-founder Gary Fears had in mind when creating the tournament came to fruition Tuesday. Marshall, with an enrollment of 438 students, became the smallest school to win the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic in the ninth season of the tourney.
- Given to Fly: ISU women should build confidence off strong outing Indiana State did not pull off the monumental upset Saturday against No. 23 Kansas State, but the Wildcats are —aside from Connecticut in 2005 — the best team the Sycamores have played in the Jim Wiedie era.
- Given to Fly: ISU women's hoops team slides onto commercial radio Coach Jim Wiedie expects the Indiana State women’s basketball team to have a bit of a retro feel this season, meaning the Sycamores have the potential to get back to creating havoc with their full-court press.
- Given to Fly: ISU vets hope to prove pundits wrong Indiana State’s only two seniors were surprised to see they were picked ahead of just three Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball teams Tuesday morning.
Footnotes: In first marathon, former Sycamore comes out a winner
Indiana State graduate Dani Prince made her debut in the event with a victory in the Columbus Marathon on Sunday.
Prince’s goal was a time under 2 hours and 50 minutes, and she ran a 2:48.56.
Given To Fly: ISU volleyball turning things around
It was an extremely busy weekend for Indiana State athletics this weekend.
- Footnotes: Here’s hoping perfect weather is still around for Nationals in November The weather made for a perfect fall afternoon Saturday at LaVern Gibson Championship Course. For what it’s worth, the Farmer’s Almanac calls for more sunny conditions from Nov. 20-24, with the NCAA Championships falling on the 24th this year.
- Terre Haute natives cherish memories of ‘House that Ruth Built’ Yankee Stadium was packed as usual on Easter Sunday in 1979. George Steinbrenner’s Yankees were one loss away from being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers to start the season. That was no way for the two-time defending World Series champions to perform, so the boss had a conversation with his new veteran left-handed starting pitcher prior to the game.
- Footnotes: Oregon men and women have strangehold on preseason NCAA cross countryrankings The Oregon men and women were almost both unanimous picks as the No. 1 teams in the nation in the preseason cross country national rankings released recently.
- Given to Fly: Bronze medalist has strong ISU ties One of the remarkable American medalists of this 2008 Olympics thus far also provided one of the most sparkling stories in the brief history of the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course here in Terre Haute.
- Former ISU QB gets back to Amarillo This week, Indiana State signed its most highly-touted football prospect in years, and former quarterback Julian Reese is ripping it up for the Amarillo Dusters of Arena2.
- Indiana State track sending strong group to NCAA regional Three sophomore women and three senior men lead a large Indiana State contingent of track and field athletes into the NCAA Mideast Regional this weekend at Fayetteville, Ark.
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- GIVEN TO FLY: Come to expect new standards of excellence