That was a historic year in American baseball as Yankees and Dodgers met at the World Series for the first time since 1963, but a more momentous event has occurred a few months earlier. On July 16th, 1977, Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle made an appearance together at Old Timer’s day during All-Star Game weekend at Shea Stadium.
As the quartet walked away from the Center Field, an iconic photo was made; the jersey numbers — 4, 5, 24, 7 — were sufficient to convey that this was the group who had staggering 1,964 homeruns among them. A few years later, Terry Cashman, that Balladeer of Baseball, recalled this iconic photo to write his famous song, “Talkin’ Baseball” (itself later immortalized by The Simpsons)
Cashman wrote the song during a bitter baseball strike, harkening back to a different America. That sunnier era for him was 1957, when New York had three great teams in the city — and three of the greatest center fielders in history. That was, according to Gallup, also the happiest year in American history, right amidst the Ike prosperity. Soon Edsel would disastrously debut, Sputnik went up — twin ignominies for American science and industry. That same year, the Giants and the Dodgers moved away to San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively.
Try as he might, Cashman couldn’t find a rhyme for DiMaggio’s name; the star was left out of the song and airbrushed from the record’s picture sleeve (below) — something that had disappointed both the singer and the player. Cashman later wrote, “Cooperstown, The Town Where Baseball Lives” where diMaggio featured prominently as an apology.
[I have no idea who the original photographer is. Any help?]
4 thoughts on “Old Timers’ Day, 1977”
It’s interesting that the two photographs are not actually the same. One is taken just slightly to the side of the other — look at where the players’ heads line up with the aisles in the stands, or the player on the near side of the group on the left — he’s got his back to us in the color shot, but is side-on in the other. Mays’s arm is in a different position. I wonder if the photographer was moving left to right while he was snapping, or even if there was a group of photographers together there, at the center-field fence.
Great memories. I have the The Baseball Encyclopedia 1974 edition and read through it every now and then. What a historic sport!
Love the memories and the story behind them.
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