By Marty Appel
The first of the two All-Star Games of 1961 was to be played in Candlestick Park, San Francisco.
With the game being played on Tuesday, and the Yankees playing Sunday afternoon in Chicago, teammates Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford flew to San Francisco immediately after the game and had a full day off on Monday.
They decided to play golf.
Not being members of any clubs in the area (and not even familiar with the area, as American League baseball was not yet played in the Bay area), they called Toots Shor to see if he knew anyone who could get them into a club.
Toots, out there for the game, was the celebrated New York restaurateur who made a point of catering to star ballplayers. He immediately phoned Horace Stoneham, owner of the Giants. Stoneham told Toots he could get a tee time for the Yankee duo at his club, the Olympic.
So on Monday, Whitey and Mick headed to the Olympic Club for a beautiful off day of golf.
Not having brought any equipment with them, it was necessary to obtain some goods in the pro shop. The guys felt right at home – Joe DiMaggio was there, to play with Lefty O’Doul, and the club pro was Don Harrison, who Whitey knew from New York.
You couldn’t pay cash at the club; purchases could only be charged to a member’s account. So Whitey and Mickey rented clubs and purchased shoes, gloves, and what the heck, alpaca sweaters. And they signed Horace Stoneham’s name to the receipt.
After their round, they went to the clubhouse, had a few drinks, and also charged them to Stoneham. The day came out to about $200 each.
As it happened, there was a party in town on Monday night, to which Toots invited the celebrated Yankee pals, and Stoneham was there.
Whitey told Mickey to give him $200, and he would present Horace with $400 and a big thank you for a great day.
But Horace was in a playful mood.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. If you pitch against Mays tomorrow, and if he gets a hit off you, you owe me $800. But if you get him out, we’ll cancel the debt.
This was no small order, because Mays “owned” Ford. He had a lifetime average of something like .500 off him in their brief encounters. Nothing Whitey could throw at him seemed to matter. Willie hit him like he was playing Little League.
But Mick and Whitey were up for the challenge. What they didn’t know was that when they woke up in the morning, the headline said, “Spahn vs. Ford Today.” It’s true; Whitey did not know he was the starting pitcher until he saw the morning paper. (The manager of the team was the Orioles’s Paul Richards; the winner of the 1960 A.L. pennant, Casey Stengel, had been dismissed after the World Series).
With Mantle in center field, Ford retired the first two hitters in the N.L. lineup, but then Roberto Clemente doubled and up came Mays.
Ford looked at Mantle in center. The two of them knew that $800 was riding on this at bat. Mays of course, had no idea. The count went to 0-2 with two tremendous long fouls down the left field line.
As Whitey recounted to writer Phil Pepe in his book, “Slick,”
“I never had much luck throwing the spitball, although I had been experimenting with it on the sidelines and occasionally in a game. I never knew where it was going to go, but I figured if I ever was doing to throw one, this was the perfect time. I figured I might as well try something different. I had nothing to lose. He was hitting everything I threw up there anyway.
“I loaded one up and threw it. The ball was heading right at Willie, between his shoulder and his elbow and Willie thought it was going to hit him, so he jumped out of the way, and damned if the ball didn’t drop down and sail right over the plate.
“‘Strike three,’ shouted Ed Runge, the home plate umpire.
“There were seventy million people watching the game on television. It was only an exhibition game and they saw out famous center fielder jumping up and down and clapping his hands as he ran in from center field.
“Mays saw this and he looked at me with a funny expression. As we passed, he said, ‘What’s that crazy $#$ clapping for?’
“I’ll tell you about it later,” I said to Willie.
And that was how Mickey and Whitey enjoyed a day of free golf in San Francisco at the 1961 All Star Game.