At the SABR Convention in Cleveland, I bought a couple of DVDs from Rare Sports Films. They supposedly represented the earliest known tapes (actually shot from kinetscopes) of Dodgers and Angels broadcasts. Both were from 1972. In this piece today, I was going to look back at the July 23, 1972 game between the Angels and Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
My earliest baseball memories go back to 1971, but 1972 would represent the first full season I can remember. I was six years old and in first grade at St. John Baptist de la Salle School in Granada Hills, California. It was the only year when my three older brothers and I were in the same school at the same time. My older brothers were in 5th, 7th, and 8th grades.
It's unlikely that we would have been watching this game when it aired on KTLA on a Sunday morning in Southern California. We weren't big Angels fans, although for some reason, we had an Angels media guide for that season, with a smiling Del Rice on the cover.
The Angels were hoping to turn things around after their disastrous 1971 season, when they expected to contend for the AL West and instead just went completely to hell.
I was not sure just when the Angels televised games. There never seemed to be a pattern like the Dodgers had (all games from San Francisco and Sunday road games).
The DVD starts in the bottom of third and the Angels already had a 4-2 lead. Ken McMullen hit a 3-run homer in the first off of Mike Kekich and in the second, catcher Art Kusnyer scored all the way from second when Thurman Munson fumbled away a Kekich wild pitch. The Yankees had scored twice in the second on a 2-run double from Horace Clarke.
It was a very hot day in the Bronx according to the Angels broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Don Wells (the box score linked above says it was 93). And I suppose Yankee fans didn't want to sit out in the heat. The attendance for the game was 10,756.
Neither team had a memorable lineup. The Yankees infield consisted of Felipe Alou, Clarke, Gene Michael, and Hal Lanier. The Angels started Bob Oliver, Sandy Alomar, Leo Cardenas, and McMullen.
The best part of watching the game was seeing Yankee Stadium in what was its original state. You could see the flag pole and monuments in center field and in play.
It was just 301' down the left field line and the fence was low, so when Andy Kosco homered to left in the top of the 5th off of reliever Fred Beene, Roy White fell into the seats trying to catch the ball. White almost got the ball. He was helped back into the field by a small group of boys who wandered over. There was no one sitting in that part of the park.
The short porch in left field also made it look strange when Alomar stroked a hit to left that bounced on the warning track and right to White. In most parks today, a ball caught on the warning track is an easy double, but Alomar only got a single and Angels pitcher Clyde Wright, who singled earlier, could only advance one base.
The Yankees were not able to do much against Wright, even though he was far from dominating. Wright had no strikeouts in the game and walked five. But he was able to get a lot of ground balls. And he also got to pitch to Gene Michael and Hal Lanier.
Players in 1972 acted much differently than their counterparts today. For starters, they were all wearing stirrup socks and their uniforms were actually uniform. The batters tended to stay in the box during their entire at bat. There was very little calling of time to back out of the box. Pitchers weren't stepping off the rubber. When Wright got the ball, he was pretty much ready to pitch again. Then again, it was really hot.
Don Wells handled the middle three innings on the broadcast. Wells was a solid announcer, but not overly flashy. He wasn't much for discussions of extraneous matters to the action on the field. It's probably fitting that after leaving the Angels, Wells spent much of his life before retirement working for an all-news station, KFWB, reading sports updates (15 and 45 minutes after the hour.) Wells did seem to dislike a sign that a few fans were parading around the seats that said "MURDER the ball, MURCER." His reply to seeing it on the air, "OK, boys, that's enough."
The final three innings were handled by the Angels lead announcer Dick Enberg, who seemed much more engaged and energetic than Wells. There were no occasions for him to come out with an "Oh My!" unfortunately.
Enberg spoke of the Yankees fabled "Five O'Clock Lightning" and how no matter how many runs you had, you needed more to finish them off. And the Yankees did rally a bit in the eighth, scoring a run and loading the bases with two outs.
Rice summoned Eddie Fisher from the bullpen. Not that Enberg knew who was coming in because he couldn't see into the bullpen very well. And since the feed was from the Yankees broadcaster, they weren't very interested in showing the Angels bullpen either. Fisher came in by car of course as this was the 1970s. And since Fisher threw a knuckleball, Angels catcher John Stephenson left the mound to go get a bigger mitt and left his first one with Rice. So Wright left the mound, Stephenson left the mound, and for a few moments, there was just Del Rice standing on the pitcher's mound with a catcher's mitt.
Fisher didn't need much time to get White to bounce out to Alomar at second to end the game.
The Yankees top reliever, Sparky Lyle, pitched the final three innings and he entered the game with his team down by four.
When Lanier came up to bat, he used a bat that looked quite thick and he choked up on quite a bit. Michael did the same. No doubt this strategy allowed Lanier to pick up an OPS+ of 44 in 1972 and Michael an OPS+ of 72.
By the next season, both teams had been retooled. The Angels fired Rice at the end of the year and promoted first base coach Bobby Winkles to manager. Mike Epstein replaced Oliver at first. Rudy Meoli replaced Cardenas at short. Vada Pinson became the new left fielder.
Also, the Dodgers and Angels also completed their biggest deal ever between them when the Angels shipped Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, Billy Grabarkewitz, Bobby Valentine, and Mike Strahler down the 5 Freeway for Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen.
Yankee Stadium would have one more season in the old configuration and Houk would manage the Yankees that year. But in 1973, Houk would have Graig Nettles available to play third instead of Lanier. Matty Alou would join his brother Felipe and play right field.
This game was the last of a five-game series between the two teams that featured two doubleheaders. The Yankees won three of the games with the Angels winning only the finale and the first game on Saturday, a combined 1-0 shutout by Steve Barber (whom I never remembered being on the Angels) and Fisher.
Enberg enjoyed his time in New York and spoke glowingly of the three Broadway productions he took in. He saw two musicals (both relatively recent revivals) and one play ("quite gripping") and I will let you try to sleuth out what he saw. But Enberg said that he was still just a kid from Central Michigan and a trip to the Big Apple was the highlight of his year.
However, what struck me the most from the telecast was that for all the hoopla surrounding Yankee Stadium's final year, back in 1972, the Stadium looked to be a place that was not all that popular with fans. It didn't look historic. It just looked old. Mystique and Aura weren't stopping by this facility even though the monuments were still in play.
Better days were coming. But with the exception of White, Lyle, and Munson, the players wearing pinstripes that day for the Yankees weren't going to see them.