Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
The New York Yankees in the ‘60s would take a day off after Spring training and make a bus trip up the Hudson River Valley to play the Army baseball team at West Point in an exhibition game. This event was much anticipated by the Corps of Cadets and it was obvious the Yankees had fun too as there was no pressure and they could relax for that one day.
In 1962 I was in my second year at West Point and was on the wrestling team. I could not go to the baseball game. After wrestling practice I was running laps around the indoor gym when two guys came onto the basketball court and started shooting hoops one-on-one. I recognized them immediately as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the Yankee stars. The baseball game was over and they were having some fun before they would be guests of the Corps for dinner in the mess hall.
Growing up in Canton, Ohio, of course I was a Cleveland Indians fan from birth. In the early ‘50s I listened to baseball on our RCA tube-type radio in the living room and scored the games—every pitch. Roger Maris started his career in Cleveland but deserted the Indians to become a Yankee and we all hated him for it. Now I was shagging balls and throwing them back to him and Mantle as they played. They joked around with me—we were the only three people in the gym—and I got to like them.
Later in the mess hall, the Yankees were scattered around the corps squad tables where I was also assigned, passing out signed baseballs. I asked Mickey to sign one, he did and passed it to Roger. They told their teammates our “basketball story” and passed the ball around to be signed by almost all the Yankees on the 1962 team, except a big start, Yogi Berra.
Two years passed. I was now a “Firstie”, my senior year at West Point. It was again time for the exhibition baseball game, which once again I could not attend. I was now the rider of the Army Mule, Hannibal III, and had sprained my ankle when he flipped over on me while I was riding him at a fast trot on an asphalt road. His shoes slipped; it was dumb of me. Hannibal could have been hurt.
While I was sitting in the locker room having my left ankle wrapped, Yogi Berra jumped up on the table beside me and asked what had happened. Yogi was a very personable guy and just wanted to talk to a cadet. He was now the manager of the Yankees and up here for the annual game. I asked him if he would mind signing a baseball that had been signed two years before by most of the Yankees, but not by him. He was surprised and happily agreed; I grabbed the ball from my locker where I had stored it hoping something like this would happen today. Now I had a baseball signed by almost all the most famous Yankees of all time!
I carried that precious souvenir with me to Fort Benning, then Germany, back to Fort Campbell. When I got assigned to Viet Nam I had to sell my Corvette Sting Ray for almost nothing and dump everything I could not carry with me. I did not know where I would go or what I would do—if I came back. As I was packing up my gear to go to war, I did not know what to do with the baseball, and flipped to a young boy I had just met. I hope he still has it. I was off to Viet Nam.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.