http://baseballaces.net/buy-books/What beck’ning ghost, along the moonlight shade, Invites my steps and points to yonder glade?
Ghosts of Baseball
By John B Holway
My family was convinced my great grandfather (the one on the left) haunted our house in New Hampshire. One night Jeep and I were the only ones up as I read a book on the sofa. Suddenly he sat up. His ears went back. The fur rose on his spine. He growled and jumped off the sofa. He restlessly prowled in every corner and sniffed behind every door. After about five minutes his hackles went down, he jumped back on the sofa, put his head on my lap, and went back to sleep.
Does Babe Ruth haunt the Yankees’ old training field in St Petersburg? Or is it Casey Stengel? Lights in the office flicker for no reason, doors open and close themselves, whispers are heard, the smell of cigars wafts in the air.
In Yankee Stadium, they report, many players swear they feel the presence of past Yankee greats. Former manager Buck Showalter says he heard noises around the monuments when he was alone at night.
Dodger Stadium has a “woman in white,” who has been seen on the field late at night. Guard dogs won’t enter the loge level. Guards feel cold winds and taps on the shoulder. They hear footsteps. Doors open and close by themselves.
Some Chicagoans feel that old-time skipper Charlie Grimm may roam in Wrigley. The bullpen phone rings at night, though it can be dialed only from the dugout. When the Cubs hired a ghost buster to check out the field, he reported that the bleachers were “crazy” with cold spots. A little boy who died there is sometimes seen. Outside the park Buck Weaver (right), of the infamous Black Sox, has been spotted at his nearby grave, begging passers-by to “clear my name.”
San Diego’s Safeco Field has its own eerie stories. In Rochester’s Frontier Field, paranormal investigators report “hundreds of swirling spirits.” Players also swear that some hotels are haunted. Bradley and Gordon say the most infamous is the Renaissance Savoy in St Peterburg. Locked doors fly open, unlocked ones lock themselves. Clock hands re-set themselves. Figures hover over players’ beds.
Another is the Westin St Francis in San Francisco. Coco Crisp reports “funny things” in elevators. Ellis Burks has seen a lady in a long blue dress. CC Sabathia admits he gets “chills” there.
In the Texas League, Shoney’s Inn in Bozier City Louisiana, Scott Podsednick (right) saw a lanky, shadowy figure walk past a bed, said to be a player who had hanged himself. Travis Hafner awoke one night with something forcibly shaking his bed – and he’s a big guy. Other players report seeing an old lady.
Scranton’s Lackawanna Station Hotel is the creepiest. Roy Halladay (left), David Wright, and Randy Knorr have been spooked there. Lights and TV sets turn themselves on and off. Doors lock themselves. Pianos play when no one is sitting there. One player awoke to find a strange man sitting on the foot of his bed. Three other players saw a boy in the hall, who could turn his head 180 degrees.
With grateful acknowledgment to Mickey and Dan and their publisher, The Lyons Press of Guilford, Ct.
A Message for Gehrig
From my forthcoming book, Amazin’ Baseball:
In 1939 Fred Lieb, the dean of American baseball writers, wrote a little-known but important book, Sight Unseen:A Journalist Looks at the Occult. A close personal friend of Lou and Eleanor Gehrig, Lieb reported spending an evening with the Gehrigs playing with a ouija board.
Two months later Lou learned that he had contracted the muscular disease that would kill him two years later.
In 1943 Jack Lohrke, a 19-year-old shortstop for Twin Falls Montana, was on a troop train to California. The train ran off the rails and crashed, killing three men and spewing scalding water over most of the rest, but Lohrke walked away without a scratch. It was the first of his legendary escapes from death.
He would fight in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Men died all around him, but again he escaped without a wound. Back in the States in ‘45, Lohrke boarded an army transport plane for a flight home to California. “I was already in my seat,” he says, “when an officer climbed aboard with a priority and took my seat.”
The plane crashed, killing everyone on board.
On June 19 1946 Lohrke was playing with Spokane, and the players piled into their bus for the trip across the mountains to Bremerton. It was rainy and slick when they pulled into a diner at Ellensburg, then filed onto the bus once more.
Just as Jack was about to climb aboard, the diner manager called him back to take a long distance call. It was his owner, who said Jack had just been promoted to San Diego. Did he want to return to Spokane or continue to Bremerton and leave from there? Jack said he’d rather go back. So he waved goodbye to his buddies and watched the bus disappear into the rain.
Twenty minutes later the driver smashed through the guard rail and plunged over a bank. Men were thrown out the windows or trapped in flames inside. Nine were killed. One received a broken neck.
Lucky went on to play with the 1951 “Miracle Giants.”
I’m a firm believer in fatalism. It just wasn’t my turn to go. But I’ve often wondered how the owner knew we’d stop at the diner in Ellensburg. That was pure fate. And what if he had called a few minutes later and missed us? I would have been on the bus.
A Ghost Goes to the Playoff
In 1984 Darrell signed with the Tigers and reached the playoffs against the Kansas City Royals. But his father would not be there; he had died of cancer in mid-season.
Darrell’s wife, LaDonna, told Sports Illustrated:
We were in Kansas City for the playoff, not too far from Pop’s favorite seat. For some reason I looked over to where Pops would be sitting, and I saw something strange. Standing there at the seat with his back to us was a tall man – Darrell’s dad was 6’4 – wearing exactly the same kind of cardigan sweater Pops had always worn. I about dropped. I could have sworn it was him. I told Darrell’s brother Michael to take a look, and he said the same thing.
The Tigers won the game in 11 innings, and as the crowd began to leave,
We looked back to that seat. There was no one there. The man had vanished. How could anyone have left a game like that? We’re sensible people, religious people. Maybe we’re just susceptible, really open to some things. I just don’t know.
The Death of Clemente
If you have the opportunity to make things better, and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth.
On New Year’s Day 1972 Roberto Clemente boarded a plane to carry aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Hours earlier his young son told his grandfather, “Daddy isn’t coming back, because the plane is going to crash.” The old man dismissed it as “a little boy talking.”
Three hours later, several miles away, Clemente’s father-in-law, Melchior, was having “a terrible dream…. I saw a plane crash into the sea, and I saw Roberto go down with it. There was no doubt that it was Roberto’s plane. The dream was so clear.”
Clemente’s mother frantically phoned the airport. Her call was too late. The plane had already crashed on take-off. Roberto was killed.
His close friend, catcher Manny Sanguillen (on the left), had been scheduled to be on the flight, but when he tried to drive to the airport, his car wouldn’t start. The flight was postponed one day, but the second day Manny couldn’t find his keys. They later turned up in a closet high on a shelf he never used.
When I asked him about it, he said it was too painful to talk about. “But is the story correct?” I asked. He silently nodded his head.
She came upon a new-built wall,
A wall of ivy bare;
She paused, then opened
And passed through
A gate that once was there.
Edna St Vincent Millay
“The Little Ghost”
Thomson’s Called Shot
I saw the game. Great articles. Keep them coming.
As always, your article on Thomson is food for thought. My problem with it is that you are 30 years too late. It’s a what-if situation at this point, because all the players are gone. I’d ask Vin Scully what he’d heard. The speculation on who said, who heard, maybe this, maybe that is interesting, but does not really nail down the facts (as best we know today) An earnest effort, but needs more fact-backing. Yet all-in-all, an interesting article.
John Holway Responds:
You are a true Baseball Ace: You ask questions and question answers.
Do you mean that no historical writing is possible after the people involved are dead? Do you question all the quotes in the story? Which facts should be nailed down? 99% of the story is background for younger readers who aren’t as familiar with it as you are. The only quote that counts is Thomson’s “suddenly I knew.” That’s the whole point of the piece. It implied that you can steal signs with your mind alone. This could be a revolutionary concept. My book Amazin’ Baseball will have evidence that it’s actually been going on for over a century.
(Incidentally, Red Barber, not Vin Scully, was broadcasting the Dodgers games then; Russ Hodges, the Giants’ voice, called the game on radio. But I’m not aware that any of them said they did or didn’t hear Thomson say those three words.)
Almost every historian has the same problem: Did Lincoln, Washington, or even Jesus, say exactly what the old texts say they said? Wish we had tape recorders back then. We can question the reports, but must we automatically reject them?
Meantime the only thing that matters for our purpose are the three words by Thomson. If he didn’t say them, then nothing has changed. If he did, they can open up an entire new view of the game. Maybe even of life.
Pesky’s Bum Rap
John Holway wrote: “If he had not gone to war for three years, Pesky may very well have been the only man in history to make 200 hits in his first six years.”
Ichiro Suzuki started his major league career with 10 straight.
(Thanks, Art. Good catch.)
Do you have any information as to why Pesky was switched to third base when Vern Stephens came to Boston? Was it a matter of range?
Dana X Marshall
(Stephens reportedly did not want to play third, so Pesky volunteered. It cost John heavily in his batting average. But Stephens protected Williams so well – Ted had probably his best season in ’49 – I’d give Johnny a lot of votes for MVP. What do you think?) Really enjoy reading your columns, John. Thank you.
Your story on Johnny Pesky was exhaustively researched, and well-crafted into a fascinating read. Fun stuff, and I appreciate your considerable effort.
I was puzzled, however, by one passage: “This gave us the picture of the bold Anglo-Saxon ignoring a timid Latin to seize the victory.” A base runner – of any race – is sprinting around third, hoping in one breathless moment to win a World Series … Yet this runner factors in the ethnic derivation of the base coach? The stereotype of a “timid Latin” is a clanger. Timid people, of any race, do not make it to the big leagues.
(Mark: Your comments are eloquent. But they should be directed to those who invented the story. I didn’t make the statement, and neither did Enos. I share your views, and I think Slaughter would as well. Gonzalez was a popular figure in the Cards’ locker room for years.)