A Little Sunday Morning History

Sunday, April 10, 2011

30 Years Ago

Bob Rosenberg, longtime Chicago official scorer (pick the sport) and collector of all things Chicago-sports related, recently passed along newspaper clippings to Jerry Reinsdorf (“I’m just catching up,” Rosenberg told me, which begs the question of … “if you’re just catching up with 1980 …”).  Jerry passed them along to me, saying, “You might enjoy some of this or want it for our files.”

The clippings are from newspapers of December 1980/January 1981 and feature the debate surrounding Reinsdorf’s purchase of the White Sox and American League approval, which came on January 29, 1981, just over 30 years ago (if Jerry has let us, we would have celebrated his 30th anniversary as owner but he is much more low key than that).

Among the quotes from the then 45-year-old Reinsdorf, “I’ve wanted to own a baseball team since I was a little boy.  It’s a fantasy.

“The thing a kid in Brookyln dreamed about being was a ballplayer,” Reinsdorf told Phil Hersh of the Sun-Times.  “If that didn’t happen, you wanted somehow to be associated with a ball team.”

I’d say that fantasy came true in spades.

DiMaggio

I read a lot, but normally, during the baseball season, I try to avoid reading baseball books (kinda obvious, huh?  For example, this spring, I read Pistol Pete, Decision Points and Last of the Mohicans, so go figure).  But I did just break my own rule and read “56″ by Kostya Kennedy about Joe DiMaggio’s unbreakable hitting streak in the summer of 1941.

It’s a very good read, but three seemingly little things caught my eye.

Many years ago in Oakland — Jerry Manuel was our manager — I was sitting the dugout with Jerry and a little old man out of central casting — tiny, Sansibel slacks, mesh baseball cap — came onto the field.

“Dairo!” Jerry called out, getting up and going to the man with arms outstretched.  His respect was apparent.

“Who was that?” I asked Jerry later.

“One of our scouts,” he explained.  “He is from SF and played with Joe DiMaggio.”

Dairo Lodigiani.  Hmmm.  I filed it away.

After we won in 2005, Dairo received his World Series ring and I remember seeing a lot of coverage from the Bay Area about this veteran baseball man, he was in his 90s then, and what a nice gesture it was for the team to remember his contributions.

Filed it away.

Then I read 56.  Dairo indeed was one of DiMaggio’s pals from North Beach, but I didn’t realize he also played in the major leagues.  An infielder, Dairo found himself playing third base for the White Sox at Comiskey Park one day that summer when his friend was on a just-being-recognized hitting streak of 24 games.

John Rigney was on the mound for the White Sox that day and DiMaggio was 0-3 in his first three times up while the Yankees led, 5-0.

In the seventh inning, Lodigiani played deep and tight to the line as DiMaggio came to the plate, likely for the final time that game.  The streak was on the line.

On Rigney’s first pitch, DiMaggio lined a shot at Dairo.  The ball hit in front of him and then off his chest, six inches higher and it would have taken out his teeth.  Lodi had no time to react.  He sprang for the ball and fired to first.  The throw was accurate, but the Great DiMaggio beat his throw.  Base hit.  The streak stayed intact.

How many times had those two competed on the baseball diamonds?

Another story involved Elden Auker.  A submariner pitcher with over a decade in the big leagues, Auker was on the mound for the St. Louis Browns when DiMaggio hit safely in his last AB of the day to extend the streak to 38 games.

In 1989, I interned with the Class A Springfield Cardinals of the Midwest League.

We had planned an Old Timers game, and one of my duties was to find as many Old Timers as I could.  Somehow, I don’t recall how, we found Auker, who lived in Central Illinois.

He showed up that day in full 1945 era Chicago Cubs uniform, even down to the cleats.  If I remember, the Springfield newspaper ran a great photo of him that day.

And he immediately took a spot on the field at third base.  I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, my God, we have a 70-something-year-old man standing at third base.  He could get killed there.”

To now read about Auker’s career and his competition with DiMaggio brought a smile to my face.

And my last laugh from 56:

One day, someone asked Yankees manager Joe McCarthy if DiMaggio could bunt.

“We’ll never know,” he replied.

Age of Innocence

And this from longtime White Sox fan Bob Vanderberg from 1963′s Opening Day at Comiskey Park:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/?watchId=4b0db513-7c38-44a8-bdb7-f982591dc119

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