In the ninth month of 1965, baseball fans reveled in the aura of excellence displayed at major league ballparks.
Ernie Banks, the jovial Cubs shortstop, whose trademark suggestion “Let’s play two!” indicates pure delight in playing baseball, knocked his 400th home run. Appropriately, it happened in Wrigley Field rather than during an away game for Chicago’s beloved Cubbies.
Dave Morehead came within a baseball stitch of pitching a perfect game for the Red Sox. Rocky Colavito punctured the hopes of Bostonians when he drew a walk in the second inning of an Indians-Red Sox game, which had a measly attendance of 2,370. A no-hitter remained in sight as Vic Davalillo strode to the batter’s box in the top of the ninth, pinch hitting for Dick Howser. When Davalillo’s grounder bounced off Morehead’s glove, the no-hitter flirted with jeopardy.
Morehead retrieved the ball, threw to first baseman Lee Thomas, and watched with relief as first baseman Lee Thomas scooped the lowly thrown sphere from the dirt.
Bert Campaneris played all nine positions in a game for the A’s, Willie Mays reached the milestone of 500 home runs, and Mickey Mantle enjoyed a day in his honor to commemorate his 2,000th major league game.
Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against the Cubs, relying on a scant 1-0 lead—it was the fourth no-hitter for the Dodgers phenom. In his account, Charles Maher of the Los Angeles Times quoted Koufax: “You always know when you’ve got a no-hitter going, but you don’t particularly pay any attention to it early in the game. In the seventh, I really started to feel as though I had a shot at it.
“But I still had only one run to work on. I still had to win the game.”
Koufax offered compassion to his Cubs counterpart, Bob Hendley. In his 1966 autobiography Koufax, written with Ed Linn, the legendary hurler wrote, “I sympathized with him only as a fellow pitcher, only in retrospect, and—most of all—only when we were in the locker room with the game safely won.”
In Maher’s report, Koufax said, “It’s a shame Hendley had to get beaten that way. But I’m glad we got the run or we might have been here all night.”
Vin Scully, the Dodgers announcer for generations since the team’s last days at Ebbets Field, cemented the occasion in his radio broadcast by highlighting the time. In her 2002 book Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Jane Leavy wrote, “Baseball is distinguished by its lack of temporal imperatives. Nine innings take what they take. Scully intuitively understood that locating the game in time would attest to its timelessness. Always, he gave the date. This time, he decided to give the time on the clock, too, so that Koufax would remember the exact moment he made history.”
In the Midwest, joy enveloped one major league city while wistfulness dominated another one. The Minnesota Twins—formerly the Washington Senators until the 1961 season—won their first American League title. Milwaukeeans, meanwhile, said goodbye to the Braves as the team headed to its third major league city—Atlanta.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on January 24, 2016.