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"THE ONE THAT SLIPPED AWAY..."



You don’t get too many cold calls when you’re a self-proclaimed baseball-history lunatic.
 
Calls mostly come from creditors or money-starved alumni associations, rather than from potential employers, friends or girls, for that matter.
 
The only e-mail squatting in my inbox this morning, for example, was an ad for inflatable, team helmet-and-tunnels — the kind the college and pros run through to take the field.
 
I’m thinking of getting a University of Arizona one.
 
It was June of 2007 when my cell phone flashed a foreign, Florida area code.
 
The man on the other end of the digital line was cold calling the sports writers of Tucson, in a quest to locate an old, yet lost, friend.
 
Billy Loes,” the Floridian said. “He was a pitcher; won a World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
 
“Ever hear of him?”
 
‘Um, do you mean the same Billy Loes who famously “lost a ground ball in the sun” during the 1952 World Series?’
 
The man’s quest to track down his lost friend led him to an Old Pueblo nursing home. And from what little he’d deduced from the tight-lipped nursing staff, it seemed that good old Billy wasn’t his affable self.
 
In fact, according to the caller, it sounded as if Loes had two outs in the ninth inning of the game of life and had just gotten himself into a run-down between the bases.
 
The timing of the call couldn’t have been worse. The next morning, I tossed the last of my belongings in the back of my truck, jumped on I-10 and didn’t stop until I reached a new job and life in South Carolina.
 
The opportunity to chat with the infamous Brooklyn Dodger right-hander slipped through my fingers like an over-petroleumed spit ball.

Loes, 80, passed away on July 15 in a Tucson hospice.

I wanted to talk with Loes, to look him in his quirky face and ask him firsthand if he really lost that ball in the sun. Several of his Dodger teammates came to his defense, affirming that the late-day sun poking through the pillars of Ebbets Field, did, indeed, cause sun spots.

I wanted to know which hitter was the toughest he faced in the pre-steroid era of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial.

I wanted to know if the Dodger really predicted in the New York press that the Yankees would win the 1952 series against Brooklyn in six games. He later proclaimed that he was misquoted. He actually said ‘Yanks in seven,’ to which he was correct.

I wanted to see what shell a former player wears when his legacy isn’t held together by stats, but rather by dubious anecdotes — the kind only the game of baseball can concoct.

Loes allegedly has claimed that he didn’t want to win 20 games in a season, because that meant having to reach the benchmark every year. And that was just too much stress for the Queens, N.Y. native.

He needn’t stress too much. In 11 seasons (including stints with the Orioles and Giants) he finished with a forgettable 80-63 record and a clunky 3.89 ERA.

I wanted to ask Loes about yakking up one of the most notorious balks in baseball history.

It was in that fabled 1952 World Series and Loes was on the mound with a lead in game six.

An anxious Brooklyn crowd on the edge of their seats clasped their hands together in prayer, as if to will their Dodgers to the first World Series title in its seven-decade history.

Instead of becoming a hero, he balked, moving a runner into scoring position. That set up the infamous “lost ground ball in the sun,” to the next batter, which gave the Yankees the win.

The very next day, the Bronx Bombers snatched another World Series trophy away from the Brooklyn ‘Bums.’

According to the legend of the balk, while standing on the mound, the ball simply fell out of his hand.

And a golden opportunity literally slipped through his fingers.

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THIS DATE IN FUTURE HISTORY
06.05.2040
Breast In Peace: Pamela Anderson passes away at the age of 72. Her lifeless body was found floating face-up in a Los Angeles pool. The buxom actress flourished in her second career as a Senior Olympic gold-medal swimmer, excelling in, of course, the breast stroke.




___ . VISIT THE FOLLOWING SITES FOR MORE WRITING FROM CHRISTOPHER C. WUENSCH . ___

My Blog List

THE PUBLIC SOUNDS OFF ON..."NO AUTOGRAPHS PLEASE...UNLESS YOU'VE GOT $10."


"Great article! I'll never forget as a teenager, seeing Carl Yastrzemski at a show. I waited in line, not realizing he was charging for his signature (I didn't pay). It's sad. You grow up idolizing these guys and want to honor them by asking for their autograph, all they want is the money."

- Abdulhadi Ahmedi, via Facebook

SIPAPT: It really is a bummer. Among some of the nicer athletes I've met, I'd have to include Tommy John and Martin Brodeur. Oh, and nice work on correctly spelling 'Yastrzemski.' !!
...

"I'm still waiting for Jerome Walton's $8 autographs to live up to its price tag. I think I bought like 8 of them and waited an hour on line in a mall. And I don't think he said a word to me."

- Gary Housman, via Facebook

SIPAPT: You can get an autographed Jerome Walton bat on eBay for $72. If you hadn't bought all those autographs back when Walton was considered a young phenom and not-a-future bust, you'd have enough to buy that bat today...and still have enough left over to buy a Bob Feller signature.
...

"Since my uncle, Jesse Hill was head football coach at USC in the mid 1950's and later A.D., I've got every Trojan Heisman winner on a correct period football program.

"But my prized Heisman winner autograph is Glen Davis of Army, who won it in 1945. Back in the '70's, I was working at the L.A. Herald-Examiner and went to the Times Grand Prix on a press pass, and Davis was the PR guy for the Times in charge of the press. I had to have him sign my press pass so I could get into the Press Patio for the free lunch and beer.

"I kept the signature because I had heard that when he was married to his 1st wife, Terri Moore, Davis had caught her and Howard Hughes making love on the couch in his living room one evening and he knocked Howard out, over the couch, and threw him out on the front lawn, naked before throwing the clothes in the trash. I shook his hand, too.

"I got this story from Jim Bacon, who was Howard's PR guy, and was my co-worker at the Her-Ex later.

"Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba"

- Ferrari Bubba, via TucsonCitizen.com

SIPAPT: Wow.

...


"When I was 15, I worked as a caddie at the really nice local golf course in my hometown. It was the middle of summer and I had other things to do than sweat it out for some rich bozo on a Saturday morning.

"Anyhow, I get to work at 7 a.m. and I get the 'privilege' of being assigned to carry the bag of former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Forsch. For a guy who slammed 12 home runs and threw two 'no-no's,' he couldn't hit the green to save his life. I know, because I was carrying that 1/4-ton bag of his. Mind you, I've played enough golf to give tips to the guy if he's struggling (He did listen, too).

"So, 18 holes, four hours and what seemed like 15,000 yards later, it finally comes time to pay out. After he signs my pay-card, I look at it, and there it is in all it's glory.

"Right next to this 168-win, 1,100+ strikeout, 3.75 ERA Cardinal great's John Hancock: $2.

"I guess Major Leaguers didn't get paid that much in the '70s and '80s."

- Scott Salisbury, via e-mail

SIPAPT: You gotta remember, back then $2 could get you and a date into a movie, popcorn, Sno-Caps, one milkshake (two straws) and still have enough left over to tip the soda jerk (insert your Bob Forsch joke here).

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In Progress At Press Time