Long before there was the Internet or ESPN or even cable television, there were three ways for me to keep up with the sport of baseball and my team, the New York Yankees. There were broadcasts of games on WPIX: Channel 11 (or on radio), newspapers like the New York Daily News and the Bergen Record and The Sporting News (TSN). The Sporting News of my youth was an over-sized magazine printed on newspaper paper. Its arrival on Friday or Saturday was always one of the highlights of the week. At that time, TSN really covered sports in depth and baseball in particular. Each team was given at least a full page or possibly two from journalists who covered those teams. The writing was fantastic and probably sowed some of the seeds of my own desire to write.
After I devoured that thing from cover to cover over a four or five hour period, my fingertips would be black from the ink. It was only then after reading about every team and then looking at the league statistics at the end of the baseball section that I could begin my scrapbooking.
I used the term, "Scrapbooking," because that is what the world calls it now. We had no such word then nor the nice materials they have now to fuel the scrapbooking craze (which I think has kind of gone by now, eh?). We had these big scrapbooks that had a semi-cloth cover and gray or yellowish construction-like paper inside.
Each team was given four pages in my scrapbooks. I would cut pictures of players out of TSN and paste them with Elmer's Glue as tightly as I could in those scrapbooks. Through those pages you could find Harmon Killebrew, Don Mincher, Mike Shannon and a host of others.
The Yankees were given six pages. The last page was the Mickey Mantle page. It was dominated by what I seem to remember as perhaps an 8" by 10" picture that had to be from Spring Training of 1967. I can remember exactly what the picture looked like, though I cannot remember if it was color or black and white. It must have been a cover picture to be that large, so it had to have been color.
It was in the spring of 1967 that the Yankees asked Mantle to hang up his outfield glove and save his legs by playing first base. Mantle would play that position exclusively for this last two seasons. The picture was my favorite Mantle picture of all time. It captured all the boyish charm that he was famous for without the darker clouds that we would only find out about later.
The picture had Mantle standing on the infield, presumably near first base. There is a big smile on his face and his hands are extended a bit from his sides with his palms out (think a Jesus statue) and the entire pose must have been caught during some joking around because Mantle seems to be in a pose that says, "What?"
I tried for several hours to find the picture around the Internet yesterday and came up empty.
But Mantle's pictured only covered part of the last page. The other five pages were filled with pictures of several Yankees like Joe Pepitone, Mel Stottlemyre, Fritz Peterson, Gene Michael and all the rest.
I believe I created two of these big scrapbooks over perhaps a four year period and by the time they were full, you could barely close them and they always had loose pictures between the last page and the back cover that had not been pasted in yet.
Some years after the scrapbooking years, they were put aside and high school began. Back then, in a far less enlightened world, the boys had to have some sort of "shop" and the girls had home economics, which I suppose included cooking because the girls made me cupcakes and other goodies in the one year I was found interesting before my shyness got in the way and the goody-train stopped.
I was not interested in cars even though my first car as a teenager was a killer 1969 Olds Cutlas that was dark green and faster than anything. So auto shop was out. All I could think about when it came to wood shop was cutting my fingers off and that terrified me. So I took four years of printing shop.
I was fascinated by that class. It was the one thing in high school that seemed to keep me awake. It's too bad that the shop was run by some guy named Nowitzki or something like that. He was kind of a gruff so and so and was not a joy to be around.
During my years in that shop, I made rubber stamps, did silk screening, learned how to set type for the old Franklin Press. It was not until my senior year that we were taught about the huge offset printer, at the time, the state of the art way to print. In offset printing, you created a "plate" that was developed like a photography negative and then that plate was put in the printer to make your image.
For my final year project, I decided to make a scorecard. I always kept score when watching the Yankees on television or when I went to the Stadium. I thought it would be great to create one that I could give as gifts to my brother and best friend and have one for myself. The project was pretty complicated as the scorecard had to be designed for the offset plate and then after being printed, had to be bound with large round coils so you could flip the pages. I decided to use large sheets of paper as I wanted it to be dynamic.
Above the score sheet, I decided to use my favorite picture of Ron Blomberg. I am not sure I had the picture from the newspaper or from TSN. In the picture, Blomberg was in mid-stride coming into home plate scoring a run. His teammate has his hands held up meaning Blomberg did not have to slide. There is a big smile on Blomberg's face. Again, I tried to find the picture online and searched and searched to no avail.
Blomberg was a big fan favorite back then. He swung so hard and his bat speed was something that captured our imaginations. He was lousy in the field and I remember him dropping the throw at first base that would have completed a triple play. Thus, he was a natural to become that trivia question about the very first designated hitter.
Anyway, I showed the picture to Nowitzki or whatever his name was at the shop and what I wanted to do. Being printed on newspaper paper, the picture was naturally grainy. Nowitzki said it would never work. I stuck to my guns and said it was going to work. The shop teacher shrugged and said, "It's your grade, do what you want." I did.
I do not remember all of the processes of the job as that was a very long time ago. But I remember the results were stunning. The score sheets were stunning and Blomberg's picture was as clear as day. Despite it likely being a stroke of luck, it was the one time I remember that shop teacher giving effusive praise in my four years of being there.
The score book was completed and not long after, I went away to college. I don't believe I ever used it more than once or twice. I never really went back home after going away, so I lost track of what happened to my scrapbooks or my masterpiece score book. I remember visiting my sister several years after. She is the only one in the family who stayed in New Jersey. She had them in a box.
I cannot remember if I took them back with me or if they were left with her. If I took them, they are in a box in the basement somewhere which sadly needs to be cleaned up. Perhaps I will find them again. I would surely love to see them.
The love of baseball takes many forms for many people. My concrete examples were my scrapbooks and my score book. They were two places where I poured out my love of the game and that passion to a sport that is part of the core of who I am.
P.S. My hometown Bergenfield High School Marching Band will be a part of the halftime show during the Super Bowl.