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Labor Day, 50 years ago


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Labor Day, 1965, my father took me to Yankee Stadium for a doubleheader between the Orioles and the Yankees. It turned out to be a memorable day, as it was the first time the battery of Palmer and Etchebarren appeared in an Oriole game. It was also the occasion of Etchebarren's first major league home run.

The Birds won the first game, 2-1, as Milt Pappas, with relief help from D*ick Hall, got the decision over Whitey Ford.

Regular catcher D*ick Brown had caught the first game, but Hank Bauer, with another doubleheader coming up the next day, chose to rest Brown in the second game and started Etchebarren, who had just been called up from the minor leagues, behind the plate.

Etchebarren's recall had been so recent that there hadn't been time to include his name in the game program. When Stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard came near the end of the Orioles' starting lineup and proclaimed, with his customary flawless diction, "Batting eighth - number eight - catcher - Andy Etchebarren - number eight," you could hear fans all over the stands asking "Who?"

The Yankee Stadium scoreboard was one of the first to feature a message board. It was all of eight characters wide. When Andy came to bat for the first time in the third inning, the following appeared on the message board:



NO. 8




The Orioles' starting pitcher in the game was Frank Bertaina, who had a rocky first inning, giving up two runs on two hits and two walks. When Bertaina was drilled by a line drive off the bat of Phil Linz leading off the bottom of the second, he was removed from the game and Jim Palmer was brought in from the bullpen.

The score remained 2-0 until the Orioles came to bat in the top of the fifth. Jerry Adair led off with a double and moved to third on a single by Paul Blair, bringing up Etchebarren.

Andy ripped Bill Stafford's pitch over third base and down the left field line. Mickey Mantle, who was suffering from a sore arm, was playing left field in the hope that there would be less call for him to make any long throws. However, Mantle was unaccustomed to playing caroms out of the tricky left-field corner at Yankee Stadium. The ball got past Mantle untouched and rolled along the warning track toward the left-field bullpen gate, 402 feet from the plate.

By the time Mantle finally got to the ball, he could do no better than lob it to Tom Tresh, who had come over from center field. Tresh relayed it back to the infield as Etchebarren rounded third. Linz fired the ball home, and on a close play at the plate, Etchebarren was ruled safe with an inside-the-park home run. It was his first-ever major league homer, and it turned out to be the game-winner, as Palmer held the Yankees scoreless through the sixth inning and Stu Miller finished up for a 6-2 Oriole victory.

The date was Sept. 6, 1965, 50 years and one day ago.

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