Tom Molito watched Mickey Mantle from the upper deck in left field as a 17-year-old New York Yankees fan. Little did Tom dream that in the distant future, he and Mickey would become the best of friends, but this is not about friendship. It is about the excruciating tension some fans experience when watching the seventh game of the World Series.
Tom, his uncle Chubby and grandfather Mac got into their seats in the upper deck near the left field foul pole about an hour before the start of the game. Racing through Tom’s mind endlessly was the fact that it was the seventh game of the 1957 World Series. It made him very nervous.
Uncle Chubby asked Tom if he wanted anything to eat. The thought of food made Tom nauseous.
The Yankees were taking batting practice, but Tom refused to watch them hit because he didn’t want to use up all the home runs during batting practice. He wanted to see them when they counted, which reminded him of the belief that a hitter has a limited number of good swings and a pitcher has a limited number of throws in his arm.
MIckey Mantle wasn’t supposed to play. Milwaukee Braves second baseman Red Schoendienst fell on Mickey’s right shoulder on a pick off play, forcing both of them out the fourth game, but this was the seventh game of the World Series. Mickey played and Tom felt more confident.
Warren Spahn was scheduled to start, but he had the flu, forcing Milwaukee Braves manager Fred Haney to start Lew Burdette, who had pitched a shut out in Game Five on two days rest. It is not possible that would have happened today.
Don Larsen completed his warm up tosses and Bob Hazle, a late season call up who batted over .400, stepped into the batter’s box.
Tom’s stomach was churning, but not from hunger, What surprised him was once Larsen threw his first pitch, he started to calm down. He told himself it was just another ball game, but he didn’t come close to believing it.
It as difficult to gauge the strike zone from where Tom was sitting, but that didn’t stop the fans near him from helping home plate umpire Bill McKinley make his calls.
The Braves went down in order in the first,
Hank Bauer, the gritty ex-Marine, hit Burdette’s first pitch for a double. The tension welled up again. The Yankees had to score. They didn’t.
Tom knew there was trouble when Enos Slaughter hit a come backer to the mound. Bauer was hung up between second and third.
Bauer returned safely to second, but the aggressive Slaughter never stopped as he rounded first base with his head down. He was tagged out. Mickey Mantle was the batter.
All Tom’s idol could do was hit a soft ground ball back to Burdette for the second out. Tom’s uncle Chubby hit his knee with his fist in disgust. Tom was afraid to look at grandfather. You had to get Burdette when you had the chance.
MIckey was a great hitter, but opponents feared Yogi Berra as much as Mickey. Haney ordered an intentional walk. He knew how important it was to score first. Gil McDougald popped up to end the threat.
Tom really got sick in the third inning.
Larsen retired Burdette on a foul pop up behind third, but Hazle, going the other way, hit a single to left. Then the Yankees lost the World Series.
Johnny Logan hit a scorching grounder to third base that looked like a certain double play. Tony Kubek fielded it cleanly and fired to Jerry Coleman at second, but Kubek’s throw pulled Coleman off the bag.
Coleman fired to first in an attempt to get at least one out, but Logan beat the throw, putting Braves at first and second with one out.
Tom keep repeating to Chubby and Mac, “The inning should be over, the inning should be over.” But it was just starting.
Eddie Mathews drove in Hazle and Logan with a double down the right field line, Bobby Shantz came in for Larsen, the Braves scored two more runs, and Tom was crestfallen.
As Tom left the ball park, the joy and excitement of watching the seventh game of the World Series was gone.
Chubby asked Mac and Tom if they wanted to get something to eat before they drove home to Yonkers. Tom said he didn’t mind if they went to the Roxy Deli but he wasn’t hungry.
Tom didn’t eat until breakfast.
Drebinger, John. “Burdette Hurls 7-Hit Shutout in 7th Game for His 3d Victory. Braves Win and Take Series.” New York Times. 11 Oct. 1957. p.1.
Molito, Tom and Harold Friend. Double Dating With Mickey Mantle. New York. 2011