Baseball BeatJuly 29, 2006
A Mystery Solved
By Rich Lederer

Is there a better baseball website than Retrosheet? Thanks to the miracle of Dave Smith's creation, I was able to identify the date--rather easily, I might add--of the following photo of my brother Tom (right) and me prior to an afternoon ballgame at Dodger Stadium.


The date? July 29, 1962. Yes, this photograph was taken 44 years ago today by my Dad prior to a game between the Dodgers and Giants in the first year of the stadium that was also known as Chavez Ravine.

JFK was President. Richard Nixon, Kennedy's opponent in the 1960 election, would go on to lose the California governor's race in November. Lawrence of Arabia won an Oscar for Best Picture. Johnny Carson took over as host of the Tonight Show. Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in a single game. Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round to become World Heavyweight Champion. Arnold Palmer won two of golf's majors and Rod Laver became only the second man to capture the Grand Slam in tennis. Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson were voted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

The photo was snapped one week before the birth of Roger Clemens and the death of Marilyn Monroe. I had just turned seven earlier that month. My brother was ten. We spent many a Sunday in those days in Loge 149, Row A, Seats 1-4. It was our home away from home. (The Dodgers later moved our season tickets down a couple of aisles to Loge 153, Row A, Seats 1-4. But we didn't complain. They were free.)

For Dodger Stadium historians, note the yellow seats in the Loge section--the same color as the Field Box and the Pavilion. The grass was not particularly green and the outfield wall was a pale blue. Looking past the two cowlicks on my head, the left-field foul pole (which was mistakenly placed in foul territory that first year) and the Dodger bullpen can be seen to the right of several palm trees with brown drooping fronds in serious need of some tender loving care.

Oh, I almost forgot. Now, why am I so sure of the date, you ask? Well, the scoreboard above the left-field pavilion and below the Union Oil 76 sign tells it all.

The American League scores were on display at that moment. All ten teams were in action. In a sign of the times, there were three doubleheaders (signified by 1G and 2G). The Los Angeles Angels--not quite yet of Anaheim--and Detroit Tigers were deadlocked, 2-2, in the third inning of the first game of a doubleheader. The New York Yankees were beating the Chicago White Sox, 5-3, in the fifth. The Cleveland Indians were shutting out the Minnesota Twins, 1-0, in the seventh. The Kansas City Royals...err, Athletics...were leading the Baltimore Orioles, 4-2, in the fifth. And the Washington Nationals Senators were edging the Boston Red Sox (yes, your father's Red Sox), 2-1, in the fourth.

Going into this project, I suspected that the year was 1962. But I wasn't 100% sure. To satisfy my curiosity, I went to the home page of Retrosheet, clicked on Boxscores, then 1962, Los Angeles Dodgers, Game Log, and began searching various Sundays in the hope of finding the head-to-head contests as detailed on the scoreboard. Starting with April 15, I clicked on seven dates until I found the perfect match.

It was magical. I checked the line scores for every American League game first, making sure that they coincided with those on the scoreboard. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Five-for-five.

Upon the realization that I had stumbled upon the actual date of the prized photo, I wanted to know who the Dodgers played and how they fared on that sunny day in Los Angeles. Lo and behold, the Dodgers beat the Giants that afternoon, 11-1. Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, Willie Davis & Co. batted around in the first inning, scoring six runs while knocking out starter Billy O'Dell. Don Drysdale won his 19th game by limiting the team that Danny Kaye called the JINTS in his D-O-D-G-E-R-S song later that summer to six hits, no walks, and one run.

Here is an excerpt of Dad's game story, which appeared in the Long Beach Press-Telegram the following morning:

The sizzling Dodgers completed a three-game sweep by belting their immediate challengers, 11-1, Sunday, thereby taking a four-game edge into the second All-Star break. Not since 1955, when they won by 13 1/2 games, have the Dodgers enjoyed such a refreshing pause.

The one run the Giants scored was on a homer by Willie Mays. It was his 32nd of the season. While perusing the other line scores, I learned that Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson each slugged two HR playing head-to-head in Cincinnati, while future Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, and Billy Williams also clubbed long balls that day.

Furthermore, I noticed that Bob Gibson picked up his first and only save of the season and second of his career while giving up three hits and two runs in just one inning against the hapless New York Mets (who were 26-76 and 43 games back of the Dodgers before August rolled around). I also got a kick out of the fact that Juan Pizarro lost the first game and won the second game of a doubleheader against the Yankees. The southpaw started the opener and pitched just two-thirds of an inning, then came back in the nightcap and hurled 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

As shown in the Standings At Close of Play of July 29, 1962, the Dodgers were leading the major leagues in runs scored and the Yankees in fewest runs allowed. Did I get that backwards? Nope. That's not a typo. Oh sure, the Dodgers could pitch and the Yankees could hit. Don Drysdale won the Cy Young Award with a 25-9 record and a 2.83 ERA while leading the majors in strikeouts with 232. Sandy Koufax led the NL in ERA (2.54), H/9 (6.54), WHIP (1.04), and K/9 (10.6). Conversely, Mickey Mantle won the AL MVP, finishing second in AVG (.321) and first in OBP (.486), SLG (.605), and BB (122).

But the Dodgers had a potent lineup that year. Tommy Davis led MLB in batting average (.346), hits (230), and RBI (153). Maury Wills, the NL's MVP, broke Ty Cobb's 47-year-old record by stealing 104 bases. He was only thrown out 13 times all year. Maury also led the big leagues in games played with 165. Ahh, yes, 165.

The Dodgers and Giants finished the regular season with identical records of 101 wins and 61 losses. They met in a best-of-three playoff series in October and the Giants prevailed two games to one, thereby winning the National League pennant. The stats from the playoffs counted so Wills was credited with playing in a total of 165 games that year.

The Giants faced the Yankees in the World Series and lost in seven games. MVP Ralph Terry threw a four-hit shutout in the decisive game for his second victory of the series. Nursing a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and runners on second and third, Terry got Willie McCovey to line out to second baseman Bobby Richardson to end the game and the series. Some say that if the ball had been hit a half-foot higher, it may have left the ballpark and the Giants--rather than the Yankees--would have been crowned World Champs.

The 1962 season is coming back so clearly to me now. Thank you Kodak. Thank you Retrosheet.


Great photo and wonderful history saga, Rich.
I was also seven years old and it was the first year I started reading box scores. Your mention of the accomplishment of Juan Pizarro, instantly made me think of my dad. I showed him how the lefty had lost one and one won on the same day and he commented how bizzare a situation it was. Of course for the rest of his career I always referred to the White Sox hurler as Juan Bizarro.
p.s. that is a nice pocket you have got in that glove there Rich.

I almost cried at the beauty of this post, Rich. Maybe it was the vintage 1962 picture or the almost cosmic convergence of all things baseball, but the sense that the world seemed a whole lot more sane then than now was almost too much to handle this morning. Call me a freak (or more accurately, an idealist), but this is what I love about baseball. Sigh. Thanks for writing this.

Thanks Rich. Reminds me of the movie Sandlot. Remember the narrator in the movie said it was the year when "Dodger Maury Wills broke Ty Cobb's record for stolen bases in a season." I've watched that movie with my son a hundred times, but I never checked to see what year that was. Now I know. There's so much history packed into this beautiful essay. I was wondering if you enjoyed the '65 series. It was my indoctrination into baseball as a Twins fan.

Thanks, Kevin, Craig, and CMathewson. I appreciate the kind words and am glad the article touched you all in some way.

To answer the question about the 1965 World Series, yes, I enjoyed that one very much. In fact, I still have my ticket to the game my brother and I sat in the RF Pavilion.

I wrote an article, entitled Sandy Koufax and the 1965 World Series, back in January 2004 that you might enjoy reading.

They had electronic scoreboards back then?