It's been almost 50 years, but I remember when the National League honored New York with its All-Star Game in 1964. On July 7, the National League played the American League in an afternoon game that ended with a "walk-off" home run by the Philadelphia Phillies' Johnny Callison in the bottom of the ninth inning.
I remember that Mets-hosted All-Star Game because my good buddy Tom Newman, and I were in the ballpark to observe 12 future Hall of Famers that afternoon.
At the ages of 12 and 13 (I am six months older than Tom), we also saw four future Hall of Fame managers -- Casey Stengel coaching first base; National League manager Walt Alston (former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers manager) and American League manager Al Lopez. The catcher for the National League was a Milwaukee Brave and future
Yankees manager, Joe Torre, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 27.
This historic game was available to Tom and me because we worked during the summer of 1964. We both were newspaper carriers with the original Long Island Press and had the money to see the game.
We were excited because the Mets (started in 1962), in addition to 73-year-old Stengel, were sending second baseman Ron Hunt in as a starter.
We completed our Lindenhurst paper routes in record-breaking time that Tuesday morning and hopped the Long Island Rail Road to journey to Willets Point station via Jamaica and Woodside. The New York World's Fair was on site, so we were familiar with the area. I remember making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for nourishment and put it in a brown bag. I had just enough money for a soft drink and a scorecard.
We made good time and reached Shea Stadium right before the gates opened. I remember waiting on queue at Gate E, and we each paid $5.50 to sit in the top tier at Shea. I bought a scorecard, and we took the long escalators up to our seats. We sat directly behind home plate but in the very top row so we could see the entire field. From there, you could see the World's Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the skyscrapers of New York City. On the green field below us gathered baseball's best players.
The game was exciting, with action rarely seen in today's game; we stayed to the very end and were back on the LIRR to our South Shore homes before dinner. We knew better than to tell our parents where we had been, so as not to worry them. But those were simpler and less-dangerous times.
Last year's All-Star Game was on July 16 at Citi Field. Tom and I watched it together at home. We get together every Tuesday night, and we still watch baseball, but we could ill afford to go to the game.
It's not that we are not successful, but the price of Major League Baseball has increased significantly. I was told All-Star Game seats cost $500 to $800 apiece; whereas, in 1964, two youths from Lindenhurst could purchase All-Star Game seats as "walk-ups." All these years later, you have to purchase an All-Star "package" and be a season-ticket holder.
This offends us, but we realize that times have changed. The All- Star Game is now played for prime time TV and not in the early afternoon; business and money are the priorities.
Times may have changed, as there are no longer paperboys and afternoon papers, no daytime All- Star Games and no more World's Fairs. And it takes a wheelbarrow of money to go to today's national pastime.
But next time you go to Citi Field, look for our engraved brick near the Tom Seaver 19 strikeout memorial. It reads, "MICHAEL MANERI, TOM NEWMAN, 1964 ALL-STAR GAME, POLO GROUNDS, SHEA, CITI FIELD . . . NEXT?"
Michael C. Maneri,
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