How The World Wags
By Dave Kiffer
I was six at the time and - to be fair - the experience on September 9, 1965 was sandwiched in between visits to Disneyland, Marine Land and Knotts Berry Farm, which were the real highlights of the trip. We were on a family visit to Los Angeles. I remember the traffic backed up on the Santa Ana freeway (people were actually reading their newspapers as their cars inched forward!). I remember how icky the tap water tasted in Anaheim. And I remember how boring the baseball game was at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 9.
It was my first big league baseball game. I probably hadn't even seen any live baseball on TV at that point because Ketchikan was still in the television dark ages. American TV was taped delayed here and in 1965 we were still watching highlights from the 1959 World Series.
I had certainly had seen hockey and curling on the Canadian channels but little else. Still, I knew what baseball was from watching people play the game here. I knew that you pitched the ball, you hit the ball and you caught the ball.
That's why the Dodger game we saw was so boring. There was a lot of pitching and some catching but there wasn't any hitting! Really, I didn't see a single hit!
So I amused myself by getting my parents to take me to the concession stand at every opportunity. Fortunately, they were bored too. Only my older brother Jerry - a big baseball and Dodger fan - grasped what was happening and saw "something" in the "nothing" that we were watching.
Through the miracle of modern technology (a website called www.retrosheet.org that offers up play-by-play recounts of notable baseball games of the past) I can now recreate this momentous event and better understand why I remain a baseball and Dodger fan to this day.
Sandy Koufax was pitching for the Dodgers that day. I knew this was important because my brother told me Sandy Koufax was a famous baseball pitcher, probably the best one in baseball. From our seats in the upper loge area on the first base side of the field, he was about the size of one of my fingernails. We weren't in the nose bleed seats but we were quite a ways back. I just remember that Sandy Koufax seemed really small from up there. He was left-handed, had a really high leg kick and the ball seemed to explode out of his hand toward the plate.
He was facing the Chicago Cubs and a pitcher named Bob Hendley. This game was to be the highlight of Hendley's career. He would give up one hit and one unearned run and he would lose the game.
In the first inning, both the Dodgers and Cubs batters would go down in order.
In the second inning, both the Dodgers and Cubs batters would go down in order.
In the third inning, both the Dodgers and Cubs batters would go down in order. You see a trend developing here. Strike out, pop out, ground out. Strike out, pop out, fly out. Etc, etc, etc.
I was really bored. So we went to the concession stand for a Dodger Dog and a Dodger Soda.
In the fourth inning, both the Dodgers and Cubs batters went down in order.
We went to the concession stand and bought a Dodger Hat and a Dodger Pin.
In the fifth inning, the Cubs batters went down in order. But something happened in the Dodger half of the fifth.
Dodger left fielder Lou Johnson walked. This was the first baserunner of the game. Everyone cheered loudly. He was just walking to first, I didn't see what the big deal was. Ron Fairly dropped down a sacrifice bunt, sending Johnson to second. Then Johnson attempted to steal third base. The catcher threw the ball over the third baseman's head and Johnson came home to score. Everyone cheered wildly. There had been no hit. I was still waiting for a hit.
In the six inning, both the Cubs and Dodgers went down in order. By now, the crowd - including my brother - was cheering loudly on every pitch. I still didn't get the point.
In the seventh inning, the Cubs went down in order again and I demanded we go to the concession stand for some candy. I think we got a Dodger Donut instead. We also bought a Dodger Baseball and a Dodger Pennant. As we were leaving the concession stand, a mighty roar erupted. When we got back to our seats, Lou Johnson was standing on second base. He had hit a double. I had missed it. The next Dodger - Ron Fairly again - then grounded out and the inning was over.
In the eighth inning, the Cubs went down in order to even wilder cheers from the crowd. So did the Dodgers, and the crowd even cheered that. This was the most boring game in history. I asked to go to the concession stands again. My Mom said no. My brother had finally explained to her and my Dad what was going on. I still didn't get it.
In the top of the ninth inning, the first Cub batter Dick Tracewski - struck out. Then the second Cub - Joey Amalfitano - batter struck out. I remember Koufax was throwing the ball so hard that his hat actually fell off a couple of times. The crowd cheered wildly as he retrieved it. Then the final Cub batter Harvey Kuenn - struck out and there was bedlam in the stadium. My normally sedate older brother was cheering wildly. Even my parents were applauding and yelling. I was just happy that the boring game was over.
Koufax had pitched a perfect game. He had to. Hendley had only given up one hit and the unearned run had scored on an error. It was the fewest hits and base-runners for both teams in major league history. It was also the only time in the history of Dodger Stadium that no one left early to beat the traffic!
So what did I learn on that life changing that day?
1. When in Rome root for the Rome team. At the beginning of the game I was rooting for the Cubs because, well, a cub is cute and furry and a Dodger is, well, a Dodger.
2. Ninety percent of success
is just showing up. If Lou Johnson not a big hitter by
any stretch of the imagination - had been stuck in all
that traffic on the Santa Ana freeway, then there would have
been no baserunners at all. And both teams would still be playing
in bottom of the 5,365,392 inning, forty years later.
4. Baseball (and life) isn't fair (Hendley's pitching would have won 99.999999999 percent of the other games he pitched in his lifetime).
5. That baseball is like soccer, sometimes nothing happens. But unlike soccer, you don't have a riot after a game where nothing happens.
6. Dodger Dogs are great, but
Dodger Donuts are stale.
Contact Dave at email@example.com
Dave Kiffer ©2005