Carl Yastrzemski back in spotlight after Miguel Cabrera wins Triple Crown
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For people on the East End, the best part about Miguel Cabrera achieving baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967 is that it has allowed America to remember Carl Yastrzemski, who had been the last one to do it.
In Bridgehampton, of course, no one ever did forget.
"It really says something, that he came from such a little town. You could throw a hardball from the Candy Kitchen to the monument," said Billy DePetris, Yastrzemski's childhood friend and Bridgehampton High School teammate, referring to a couple of landmarks. For many years, DePetris owned another local landmark, Billy's Triple Crown, a restaurant bedecked with Yastrzemski memorabilia.
DePetris' father once owned a restaurant there, and Billy and Yastrzemski used to wash dishes before going out to play stickball, or whatever sport was in season. At the tiny high school, DePetris said, "I was the pitcher, he was the catcher. In football, I was the quarterback and he was the halfback. In basketball, we were both forwards."
So it was a big deal for DePetris, 76, who lives in Flanders and works as the chef at the Cormaria spiritual retreat house in Sag Harbor, when he heard that the Tigers' Cabrera led the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. It meant Yastrzemski's name would be everywhere again.
But not Yaz. The 73-year-old Hall of Famer lives in Florida, rarely makes public appearances or speaks to the media and, according to residents, hasn't been seen in Bridgehampton in years.
Yastrzemski released a statement through Major League Baseball, saying, "I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on winning the Triple Crown. I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title. I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox Impossible Dream team."
For Eastern Long Islanders, the real impossible dream was reaching Cooperstown from a high school that had a class of 16 when DePetris graduated in 1956, a year ahead of his buddy. Residents are well aware that Yastrzemski scored 1,253 points in his basketball career, a Suffolk record until Allen Edwards of Greenport broke it in the early 1970s. They know that as a junior, Yastrzemski scored 25 to lead Bridgehampton over Mattituck for the 1956 Suffolk Class B title, and that he had 20 strikeouts in a no-hitter over Center Moriches in the 1957 Class B baseball championship game.
"There were a couple years there where he hit .600 or .700," said DePetris, who signed with the Giants but hurt his arm. Having worked out for the organization, he was ruled ineligible to play his senior season for Bridgehampton. "Newsday wrote a story about me, about how they wouldn't let me play," he said.
That was not one of the many clippings that used to be on the walls of Billy's Triple Crown, where a Boston film crew shot part of a documentary on the leftfielder in 1983. Out front, there used to be a 7-foot Yastrzemski statue. "But somebody made off with that," DePetris said.
No one can take away the memories of Yastrzemski living across the street from the Little League field and firehouse in a home that DePetris' brother bought when Carl Sr. moved to Boston. DePetris remembers how the elder Yastrzemski, a potato farmer, hollowed out a baseball, put a rod in there and attached it to a fishing line so his son could whack it and reel it back in -- practicing the swing that led the AL in average (.326), homers (44) and RBIs (121) 45 years ago.
Bridgehampton was and is a proud place, the biggest little sports town you'll find. One of the employees at Billy's Triple Crown was Ed Pierzynski, whose son A.J. has caught for the White Sox since 2005. Ed also was a good catcher, the former boss said, adding, "He was my bouncer." Eddie moved the family to Orlando when A.J. was 3.
Decades are connected in Bridgehampton, and they run through the favorite son who was back in the news this week. DePetris said, "The years have really gone by. He probably feels old."