Fifty years ago, one of the great accomplishments in human history occurred. In the late afternoon of July 20, 1969, after several orbits around the bases, the New York Yankees defeated the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium
Gene “Stick” Michaels propelled the Yanks to victory with a few small steps to first base, after singling in the winning run in the 11th inning. When teammate Roy White’s foot landed on home plate, Yankee Stadium exploded with pride.
I was there with my father and brother to witness this historic event. The Yankees were terrible that year as they were for most of the 1960s. As others focused on America’s “race in space,” I was more concerned about the “race for last place” in the American League. The Yankees and Senators usually occupied that low orbit.
So this win was one giant leap for the Bronx Bombers. I was a lunatic for the Yanks. I reveled in their accomplishment that day and felt a universal closeness with the 32,000 or so other fans in attendance on “Bat Day.”
But get this, they actually stopped a tie game in the eighth inning for four full minutes when the great PA announcer Bob Sheppard – the “CAPCOM” for Yankee games -- informed us in his stentorian tones: “A Special Announcement. You will be happy to know that the astronauts have landed safely on the moon.” Then Yankee Mission Control flashed this on the scoreboard: “Theyre on the moon”.
The lunar intrusion in baseball continued. Both teams lined up on their respective base lines – the Yankees on the first-base side and the Senators on the third-base line -- for a moment of silence to pray for the safe return of the astronauts. This was followed by a playing of “America the Beautiful.”
I wanted desperately to resume the mission to show the red-and grey-uniformed Senators which team was better at bad baseball. Thankfully, the game soon was declared a “go.”
After the game, we traveled with the crew from another family. We loaded into our command module – a station wagon – for the long journey home. This earth rover had a backward-facing bench seat in the rear that fit three young men. It was cramped quarters but given the historic nature of our journey, we did not mind.
On our trip, we stopped to refuel at the home base of our fellow travelers in Red Hook, N.Y. This consisted mainly of beer for senior members of our crew and possibly Tang for the junior travelers. Then we watched the day’s other historic event on TV as men walked on the moon.
When night fell, the senior male members of our crew ordered us to ascend to the roof of the home to give us a better view of the moon. It was a dangerous journey but we were successful because of meticulous planning by these “brilliant” mission leaders.
The view from our perch atop the world gave us a new perspective on the humanity below, which consisted mainly of the senior female members of our crew who had now joined our party. They were greatly concerned about gravity’s potential effects should we veer off course while on the roof. They issued several crisp commands to end our mission. We descended quickly and safely.
We soon returned to our home in Hudson where my brother and I quarantined ourselves in our bedroom for the night. I dreamed of what I had witnessed that day on a tranquil sea of green in the Bronx.