Mendel Letters 25 — Yankee Games

April 17, 2021

Yankee Stadium when I was a boy

Dear Mendel,

The Yankees lost to the Tampa Rays last night 8–2. It has been a rocky start to the season.

We lived about ten blocks from Yankee Stadium. I could see the stadium lights from my bedroom window. My childhood dream was to become a Yankee shortstop. I was going to be their first Jewish player. Across the street from our apartment building there was a four-foot high rock wall. I spent hours throwing a rubber ball off of the rocks so I could field it as it bounced back at unpredictable angles.

I went to my first Yankee game in 1958 when I was eight years old. Saturdays were “Lady’s Day” so neighborhood moms could buy a ticket for their escort and get in for free, a 2-for1 deal. I always believed that Mickey Mantle hit a home run at every game I attended. I was listening on the radio and cried when Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off ninth inning home run defeated the Yankees in the 7th game of the 1960 World Series.

On September 18, 1960 my friend Bobby and I got to go to our first Yankee game by ourselves, a Sunday double-header. In those days a bleacher ticket cost 75 cents. I think a hot dog was a quarter. We were sitting near the Orioles bullpen in left field. An old guy started to talk with us and tell us baseball stories. Who knows how old, we were only ten? He claimed he played minor league ball. It was a great story. Then he took us to the fence separating the fans from the players and introduced us to his old buddy Hoyt Wilhelm, an Orioles relief pitcher.

I checked the box scores online. The Yankees won both games, 7–3 and 2–0, part of a fifteen game end-of-the-season winning streak. Art Ditmar started and won the first game, Ralph Terry the second. Tony Kubek hit a home run, but not Mickey Mantle.

Bobby and I walked home after eight o’clock when it was already dark. Both sets of parents were furious we stayed so late. But we were at the game. They were still playing. “Look, you can still see the stadium lights are on.”

Your son

The bleachers in the original stadium.

Hard copies of these typed letters were discovered in an old camp trunk in the basement storage facility of one of the few buildings that remain standing in this Brooklyn neighborhood. The building is quite decrepit and is scheduled for demolition. The letters were found in November 2048 by a teenager who believes they were written by his great-grandfather. The letters are addressed to Mendel, the letter writer’s father, who appears to have been dead for at least six years when his son, whose name we are unsure of, started to write him. The son appears very agitated in some of the letters. With permission from the family, we are publishing them on the date they were written, only 28 years later.