June 8, 1961: Me, of a certain age


Two losses and a tie.

Fifty years ago today — which happened to be the day I was born, June 8, 1961 – the two L.A. pro baseball teams combined for those three outcomes.

The Dodgers lost a game at the Coliseum to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-2. Despite making three errors, the Pirates shut down the Dodgers behind Bob Friend. Bob Skinner and Bill Mazeroski hit a pair of two-run homers off the Dodgers’ Stan Williams in the fourth inning to account for the damage. Willie Davis’ solo homer in the sixth only made it look closer.
But the crazy thing about that game, according to the box score and description on Retrosheet.org — they actually staffed five umpires. There were the usual four, one behind the plate, and three on the bases. And there was Mel Steiner, assigned to left field.

I can’t find an instance of that happening before, or after, that game.

Just 17,599 attended. I like to think I could have made it an even 17,600.

Meanwhile, my Angels played a doubleheader in Boston — the first of five games in three days at Fenway Park. The next day would also be a double header.

Think things back then were different.

But on June 8, the Angels neither swept, split nor got swept in this twinbill. That would be too easy.

The Angels lost the first game, 6-5, despite a homer and two doubles from Leon Wagner – I actually have the middle name, Leon, which wasn’t for him.

The crushing blow was a two-out homer in the seventh by the Red Sox’s Vic Wertz off Ryne Duran. The inning was extended when the Angels shortstop Gene Leek made an error, allowing rookie Carl Yastrzemski to reach first base. Both runs were unearned.
In the nightcap, someone named Johnny James, a right-hander picked up from the Yankees a month earlier and playing in what would be his third and final big-league season, drew the start for Bill Rigney’s Angels. Gene Conley, the 6-foot-8 right-hander and former All-Star who was also playing for the NBA’s Boston Celtics at the same time, started for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox led, 4-3, going into the ninth. Steve Bilko drew a one-out walk off Conley. Albie Person’s pinch single sent Bilko to third. Next up, Eddie Youst – here’s a guy who started his career in 1944 with the Washington Senators. His pinch-hit single drove in Bilko and tied it up, knocking out Conley.

In the 11th, Leek homered with one out to give the Angels a 4-3 lead. But in the bottom half, Red Sox leadoff man Chuck Schilling drew a walk off from Angels reliever Tom Morgan (who would go on to be the team’s pitching coach in the early 1980s). Gary Geiger then hit a ball deep into center field, past Ken Hunt, that must have caromed funny off the Green Monster, because all heck broke loose.

Schilling came all the way around to tie the game, but Geiger, who must have thought he had a chance at a game-winning, inside-the-park homer, was eventually out when he over-ran third. The relay from Wagner in left to Ken Aspromonte at second, then over to Yost at third, then finally to catcher Earl Averill, ended it.

After Yastrzemski filed out – would it have been deep enough to have scored Geiger? – Jackie Jenson walked, and then stole second off new Angels reliever Jim Donahue. Frank Malzone struck out to end the threat.

Before it could go to the 12th inning, the umpire crew stopped the game because of rain. It was 12:27 a.m.

About 45 minutes later, it was called – a 4-4 tie. All the statistics counted, but each team would be short a win or a loss in the final standings.

And no one got those four hours of their lives back. Me, I was just starting to enjoy them.

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