Jim Kaat and the 1965 Opener (players arriving by helicopter)
by, 05-31-2012 at 12:41 PM (1944 Views)
I get a regular e-mail from Richie Decker with "legal blasts" related to
baseball. He had this, Opening Day memories, from Jim Kaat that includes
the 1965 Opener:
Blog #27 - New Legal Blasts (and Unrelated Baseball Opening Day Memories)
In 1965, I was scheduled to start against the Yankees. I left for the
park in Minnesota, but there was a huge traffic backup. I got out of my
car and a guy told me that the bridge was closed because of a big rain
storm, and the river was flooded and no one could get over the bridge.
And I said, 'I'm supposed to pitch today.' I called WCCO, where Paul
Gale, who was a teammate of mine a few years before, was the sports
director, and he flew a helicopter out to Birdsville HS, and Rich
Rollins, Dick Stigman, Bill Bethea and myself flew two at a
time to the stadium. I think we only had about 15,000 for the game
because of the flood. I was one out from a win, and Cesar Tovar
dropped a little pop up, but he made up for that by knocking in the
winning run in the eleventh.
Paul Giel and Burnsville High School are misspelled, but it's interesting.
I had heard about the players being helicoptered in and wondered why they
didn't use a different bridge. Apparently it was the traffic jam resulting
from the Cedar Avenue bridge being closed. I was at that game with my dad,
grandma, and cousin - the beginning of the end of the great Yankees
dynasty. Mantle had led off the ninth with a single off Kaat and
pinch-runner Arturo Lopez got to second with two out when Tovar dropped the
pop up, allowing Lopez to score the tying run. Lopez then dropped a fly
ball to start the last of the 11th, setting up Tovar's game-winning hit.
That might have been the start of problems for Jim Bouton, who started for
the Yankees. He said he hurt his arm on such a cold day and never was the
same, leading him to the knuckleball and Ball Four. The game was on a
Monday and probably wouldn't have been played if it hadn't been the Opener.
During the game, the Twins announced that the game the next day was being
postponed because of the cold.
My dad took some good pictures, which I've dug up. One is of Kaat making
the first pitch of the season. Another is with Mantle at bat. Another is of
the construction of the double-decked grandstand in left field. Elston
Howard homered out there, and one of the construction workers got the ball.