World Series Memories

Before we got into the 1980 World Series, my experience with the Fall Classic involved volunteering to work that event for Major League Baseball. Thought I might share some of my memories.

Going to World Series in different cities, I could only imagine how Philadelphia would react to such an event. Couldn’t wait to see the outpouring of emotion I experienced in other cities. But, when your team is in the World Series, there isn’t much time to enjoy what the fans are experiencing. Trust me, I’m not complaining.

One of the early experiences was in Oakland in 1972. I was assigned to go to the Coliseum from the hotel to get all the credentials for the MLB office the day before the game one. The A’s, run by Charlie Finley, had a small staff and the best security I’ve witnessed. The doors to the A’s offices were locked. Had to pound on the door numerous times until someone came to let me in.

The A’s mascot back then was a mule. Yes, a big mule. The gala held the evening before the first game was in the Oakland Convention Center. Charlie didn’t spare any expense for the party. Lobster was everywhere. I’m sitting at a table with Warren Giles President of the National League and enjoying the lobster. I look up and almost nose-to-nose is this mule starring at my plate of food. Ever feel defenseless?

In 1975, the National League’s PR person resigned late in the season. Bill Giles was approached about “loaning me” to the NL for the Cincinnati-Boston World Series. I was willing. The series is best known for three days of rain in Boston between Games 5 and 6. The Reds won a terrific Series in seven. I was with a World Champion team, but, I really wasn’t.

Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson was awesome, so accommodating. We didn’t know each other before meeting in Boston. “Lawrence, let me know what you need from me or my players.” The only other person to call me Lawrence was Mom and she only did that when I misbehaved. Did Sparky know that?

Game 1, time for player introductions. It was cold and some of the Reds were wearing jackets. I thought it looked better if everybody looked the same, no jackets. “Sparky, no jackets, please,” I pleaded. He yelled, “Jackets off everybody.” Golly, that was easy.

Until we got to a WS, my most memorable moment came in 1977, Game 6. I was in the middle of history, as it turned out. Female reporters were not permitted in MLB clubhouses at the time. I was assigned to Melissa Ludtke of Sports Illustrated. If she wanted to interview a player, I was to accommodate her but outside the clubhouse.

Reggie Jackson hit three home runs that night in Yankee Stadium and Melissa understandingly wanted to interview him. Reggie’s clubhouse locker was mobbed, so mobbed he was unable to make an appearance in the interview room. So, my job: get Reggie to Melissa, who patiently, yet impatiently, waited outside the clubhouse. A concourse jammed with fans was where I was supposed to bring Reggie.

One hour went by and I still couldn’t get to Reggie. I don’t remember how much more time elapsed before I was able to deliver him to Melissa. She was denied equal access and it simply wasn’t fair. A year later, she filed a civil action suit against MLB and won, clearing the way for other female reporters.

In 1979, was again working for MLB. To get to Pittsburgh from Baltimore, we were allowed to travel on the Pirates charter flight. Once in the Pittsburgh airport, we were waiting for our luggage to appear on the carousel. All of a sudden a red Phillies bag appeared among all the black and gold Pirates luggage. Bill Robinson, a friend who had played with us and was now with the Pirates, took the chance to embarrass me in front of his teammates. “Hey, everybody. Look at this. A bag from the fourth-place Phillies. Who owns this bag?” I was trying to hide but couldn’t.

Two years later the New York Yankees were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Goose Gossage of the Yankees hit Dodgers third baseman Ron Cey in the head with a pitch in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. ABC TV was curious what happed to Cey. I was dispatched to the Dodgers trainer’s room. Cey was lying on a table. He didn’t know me and I didn’t know him. “Excuse me Ron, I’m with Major League Baseball and wondered what happened on the pitch from Gossage.” He removed the ice pack from his head, “That’s what happened. Dumb bleeping question.”

The 1984 World Series is another one I’ll always remember, Detroit Tigers and the San Diego Padres. Series started in San Diego. I’m assigned to pre-game press box duty, something I enjoyed…answering phones, assisting media with information, seat assignments, etc. It was a beautiful afternoon, so typical of San Diego. All of a sudden, my seat rumbled for a few seconds, like I just went over a couple of bumps riding a bicycle. My first earthquake.

Game 5, the decisive game, was in old Tiger Stadium. Detroit won and the city began to riot. From high in the press box we could see fires and smoke. Sirens dominated the night noise. More than an hour after the last out, we could still hear sirens. The buses that were scheduled to take the media back to the hotel were parked on the street. For safety purposes, the police brought the buses inside the park. As we exited the park, a fan somehow got on the roof of the bus. Using great judgment, the bus driver stopped the bus, got out and said, “You hang on tight and I’ll drive very slowly.” There were unruly fans all around us and it was scary. Several blocks later, our roof rider exited.

Another somewhat harrowing duty occurred in 1985. The St. Louis Cardinals were leading the series, 3-2, and had a 1-0 lead over the Royals going into the bottom of the ninth in Kansas City. ABC TV had set up a platform and a camera in the middle of the St. Louis clubhouse for the clinching moment. My job was to cart the bulky World Series trophy. With one out, the Royals rallied for two runs extending the Series to Game 7. We had seconds to get out of the clubhouse before the dejected Cardinals arrived from the field. Compared to the ABC crew, I had an easy job.

3 Comments

Great stories, Larry. That was a smart move on your part to work as a volunteer at all those Series! I like the guy riding on the roof of the bus in Detroit–crazy! And Bill Robinson was a good guy. He went much too soon. I met him a few times and he was nice as could be. And obviously he had a great sense of humor.

An off-topic question: when exactly did the Phillies move from red to burgundy as their color with the 1970-91 uniforms? Was it an all-at-once switch, or did it take place gradually? I don’t really remember one season saying, “Hey, the color has changed.” When I look at clips from 1980, especially during the daytime World Series games (all in KC, I think?), it clearly looks red. The nighttime home games seem to be between red and burgundy, but maybe it just looked that way in the dark. By the late 1980s, though, the color was clearly burgundy. I can also tell from the souvenir helmets I have; the ones from the late 1970s are very much red; the ones from a decade later are very much burgundy.

Thanks for any knowledge you have of the switch.

Steve: Really don’t have an answer off the top of my graying head. Will need to do some research. Hopefully, I get a grip on the change in the uniform color red.

Larry

Thanks, Larry. No rush. But do you agree that there was a change at some point? It was somewhat subtle, but I do think so–although my eyes could be playing tricks on me!

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