In '69, Gazette paperboys go to Yankee game, see Bouton pitch, weird on-field scene
Working as a paperboy for the Schenectady Gazette in 1969 came with a benefits package.
For one, exercise was part of the job. And clients in Mont Pleasant, Bellevue, Carman and other neighborhoods might tip guys for their early-morning services. There was even the chance for an extra newspaper stashed in canvas delivery bags.
Gazette managers gave their employees a bonus, sometimes a picnic, sometimes a field trip. On June 15 — a Sunday, and Sundays were then days off for the dawn patrol — kids got a free baseball game. They boarded a Wade Tours bus with Gazette chaperones at 8 a.m. and rolled south to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for an afternoon appointment.
The sports fans would have had a lot to talk about during the 21⁄2-hour ride, which included a stop for lunch. The Yankees would be playing the Seattle Pilots, who had just joined the American League. And just the day before, New York had traded longtime shortstop Tom Tresh to the Detroit Tigers for rookie outfielder Ron Woods.
Paperboys might also have thought it was a great day for the road trip. The Yanks were running their annual Bat Day promotion, and every youngster would receive a free wooden souvenir.
More pessimistic members of the expedition might have worried about the weather. Rain was a possibility.
Once on site, kids posed for pictures in front of hallowed Yankee Stadium. Once inside, the guys bought souvenirs, hot dogs and soft drinks and watched players like Horace Clarke, Bobby Murcer and Gene Michael.
Bouton on the mound
The game was actually historic, for a couple of reasons. Former Yankee Jim Bouton, who went 21-7 during his 1963 campaign with New York, relieved Seattle starter Fred Talbot in the bottom of the fifth inning. By this time, the Yankees had a 4-0 lead, thanks to first baseman Jimmie Hall’s two triples and four runs batted in.
Sports fans knew Bouton was a pitcher, but didn’t know he was a budding author. The personable, wisecracking Bouton took notes during the 1969 season. In 1970, his insider’s look at the game was published as the now infamous “Ball Four.”
Bouton didn’t write much about the game, but mentioned manager Joe Schultz rallied his team with some colorful cuss words. Jim raved about his personal performance. “I pitched against one hitter in the game, Jimmy Lyttle,” Bouton said in the book. “Struck him out on five knuckle balls. Nothing to it.”
There was something to the rain that showed up right after Bouton got that final out in the fifth. A thunderstorm halted play for 29 minutes, and rain soaked the tarp that covered the infield.
Play resumed in the top of the sixth, but rain came back. That’s when hundreds of kids left their seats and ran onto the field. The grounds crew was unable to totally cover the field, and water soaked parts of it for 10 minutes.
Joe Schultz might have done a little more cursing. He griped to the umps, and insisted the Yankees had an obligation to protect the field. The home team and the umps countered the rambunctious fans had nothing to do with the delay — the tarp was already soaked.
But that was it. The game was called after five complete innings, and New York and pitcher Stan Bahnsen got the win in a baseball year that really belonged to the New York Mets. The amazing National Leaguers would win the World Series.
The paperboys were back in Schenectady by 10:30 that night. Monday morning, and another day on sidewalks and driveways, would come quickly.