Crosby Find a Baseball Mine
As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted. Months ago I filed my last column for MLBblog.com, since then being chained to an upcoming book. Next May Potomac Books will publish A Talk in the Park: Nine Decades of Baseball Tales from the Broadcast Booth. I hope that you enjoy.
A sequel to 1996’s The Storytellers, the book will feature about 120 big-league announcers telling their favorite stories: the largest total of Voices in any sport, in any work. Last year Potomac published Pull Up a Chair: The Vin Scully Story, in its fourth hardcover edition, recently released in paperback, and a “talking book” by Blackstone Audio.
While I was away, Joe Hardy became Stephen Strasburg, the 2010 Red Sox filled a big-league Medical Center, and Ray Halladay threw two hitless jewels. More nostalgically, baseballphiles were invited to a magical point of our past: October 13, 1960.
At 3:36 P.M. Eastern Time, Pirate Bill Mazeroski homered in the ninth inning to win World Series Game Seven, 10-9, against the Yankees: given plot and context, arguably the greatest game ever played. Never forgotten, NBC’s telecast was heretofore never again seen, since baseball was not then preserved by videotape.
Only a process called kinescope — to quote the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir, “an early relative of the DVR, filming off a TV monitor” — saved even random coverage. Yet kinescopes were bulky, thus often destroyed. Even later videotape was senselessly erased or discarded. The upshot was a 1950s-70s lost generation of classic ball.
Enter Der Bingle: Bing Crosby, the musical, film, radio, and TV star and longtime part Pirates owner. In October 1960, too nervous to watch the Series, Crosby went to Paris with wife Kathryn, listening there by radio. “He said, ‘I can’t stay in the country,” his widow said. “‘I’ll jinx everybody.'” At the same time, Bing knew he would want to see Game Seven if the Buccos won: thus, had a company “kinescope” the final.
Back in America, Crosby watched the five-reel 16-millimeter film, then put it in his wine cellar-turned-vault, chockablock with the legend’s records, tapes, and films. Undisturbed, the reels lay undiscovered till December 2009, accidentally found by Robert Bader, Vice President for Marketing and Production for Bing Crosby Enterprises. Ali Baba never found such gold.
“I had to be the only person to have seen it in 50 years,” Bader told Sandomir. “It was just pure luck.” Bader approached baseball, which, stunned, viewed the black-and-white film, grasped its cachet, and will show the game this December on the MLB Network, Bob Costas hosting.
“It is a time capsule,” said Major League Baseball Productions senior library and licensing manager Nick Trotta: simple graphic, sans slow-mo, instant replay, or analysis, but rich in look, sound, and feel. Mel Allen and Bob Prince did NBC’s play-by-play. Casey Stengel and Danny Murtaugh skippered. Forbes Field and the original Yankee Stadium were nonpareil sanctora: the Pirates’ hull so intimate you could almost reach out and touch the field.
Crosby’s film shows Forbes Field’s right-field wall, in-play batting cage, and vast stretch of outfield acreage heavy with gap hits. My next column will etch why Game Seven remains a generation’s touchstone with its Good God Almighty, can you believe that, one play-topper after another’s lilt.
In the meantime, I appreciate your patience with my 2010 sabbatical. I’ll try to do better as I begin a new book about Fenway Park’s centennial, to be released in 2012.