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A prayer for Van McKenzie

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dave Kindred, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Does anyone know where I can find a copy of Hinton's story -- it sounds like it would be incredible.
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Didn't you say you had ProQuest access? Search the AJC for "Hinton Maris" (or just "Maris" from 1984-86 ... might have to dig for it, but it should come up ...
  3. Dave Kindred

    Dave Kindred Member

    (An editor's primary job is to put writers with stories. Nobody did it better than Van. Here's the Hinton example. But, remember. Ed Hinton is a fabulous reporter and writer, the kind who'd make any editor look good. Which, of course, Van knew.)

    By Ed Hinton
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    FARGO, N.D. - It was late on the night before Roger Maris' funeral. At Fargo's only Holiday Inn, wet-eyed Whitey Ford and Moose Skowron shot a game of pool and Mickey Mantle and Clete Boyer stood at the bar and had "a drink for Roger," as Boyer said when the bartender delivered the second round - or third or fourth - of many rounds the old New York Yankees would have on this frozen Wednesday night which had warmed to five below, up 12 degrees from morning. Ryne Duren, long off the bottle, ordered Coke after Coke - doubles -and they all drank to Roger, eyes sadder with this round, merrier with the next, sad again with the next, joyous with the next, and so on, into the night.

    Did they think it odd, these one-time Bombers from the Bigtown, that Roger, one year the biggest bomber of them all, would ask to be brought home and buried in this place so far from where he lived his last years in Florida, this place that in so many ways is the farthest place on earth from New York?

    Mantle thought, misted up again, then shook his head slowly:

    "No. I think he'd want to go where he came from. I'd probably like to go back to Commerce, Oklahoma."

    "I took my brother home," Boyer said of the burial of Ken Boyer in rural Misso uri. "I think we all want to go home."

    "It's hard for me to talk about this," said Mantle, who'd been in virtual seclusion since Maris' death last Saturday and even on Wednesday night had slipped quickly and quietly through the hotel lobby on his way to and from a prayer service for Maris at St. Mary's Cathedral. "You don't know what to say about this. What the hell do you say?"

    Mantle, though he'd known Maris was seriously ill, had not been able to prepare himself for the shock of Saturday evening, for "I still thought he was going to make it."

    Mantle and Boyer grieved the most among the old Yankees, for Mantle had been Maris' home-run twin that year, far closer to the other of the M&M Boys of '61 than the press had let the public realize, and Boyer had been in deed, if not in fact, a brother to Maris during that best and worst of years for Roger.

    "I talked him into going to M.D. Anderson (the Houston hospital where Maris died)," Mantle said. "I'd taken my son (Billy) there after he'd been given a 25 percent chance to live."

    Mantle's son had been rescued from Hodgkin's disease at the clinic. Mantle had hoped for another rescue, for his friend who'd broken Babe Ruth's record with 61 home runs in '61, while Mantle himself, who'd been on a parallel homer tear that year, had been injured that September and stalled at 54.

    "I'm sure if Roger'd had a chance, he'd have made it," Mantle said of the last hospitalization for experimental cancer treatment.

    But "it was all over by then," Boyer said. "After we saw Roger in May, in Gainesville (Fla.), I told my wife she'd probably never see Roger again. I saw how he'd deteriorated, how his muscles were gone. I'd just been through it a couple of years earlier with my brother. You can see it coming.

    "I felt in my heart that Roger told me then," Boyer said. "Roger gave me some mementos he'd been saving just for us, just for that '61 Yankee team. A man can't come out and say, `Look, I'm dying.' But I saw him, and I felt like it was all over."

    And then, just as the sadness welled again, from over near the pool table came a joyful chorus of "Happy Birthday," led by Whitey Ford, directed at Moose Skowron. Bill Skowron, who batted fifth in the Yankee lineup of '61 in the South Bronx - Maris hit third, Mantle fourth -turned 55 this frozen Wednesday in North Dakota.

    The highs and lows ebbed and flowed this night for old Bronx Bombers just back from St. Mary's, where when the priest called for individuals to come forward to articulate their own reflections on Roger Maris' life, Bobby Richardson nudged Clete Boyer and said, "You were closest to Roger and his family. You go up and speak for the ballclub."

    (To the jump)
  4. Dave Kindred

    Dave Kindred Member

    (The jump)

    The old third baseman, urged by the old second baseman, had got up, terrified, in front of 500 people and begun, "My name's Clete Boyer, and I was a teammate of Roger's. We were great friends." He'd gone on to try to tell a story of a doubleheader against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium in '61.

    Back at the Holiday Inn, Boyer said, "Roger and I were brothers. Probably closer than brothers."

    The deeply religious Richardson, who delivered the eulogy at Maris' funeral Mass, was - typical of Yankee road nights yore - in his hotel room rather than in the bar late Wednesday night.

    But earlier, Richardson had surveyed the group as a bumpity school bus made its way over the icy streets of Fargo, among the head-high snowbanks, back from St. Mary's. On the yellow bus provided by Shanley High School, where Roger had starred in football and track, Richardson had wished for the presence of Tony Kubek, the Yankee shortstop of '61 who wasn't here due to commitments in the Dominican Republic.

    "If Tony were here," Richardson said, "we'd have a full team. We've got first (Skowron), second (Richardson), third (Boyer), and (Johnny) Blanchard could catch or play left."

    Richardson had trailed off before mentioning Ford as the starting pitcher, Duren in the bullpen, Mantle in center.

    And Maris in right.

    Right field of Yankee Stadium had been the suffering spot of Roger Maris' life, before he suffered in Gainesville and in Houston in the last months. The short right-field fence of the time - 295 feet down the line - had been held up by miffed media types as one crutch upon which Maris had built his record. And then in '62, as he'd stood there as a fielder, the Bronx bleacher bums, whipped t o a frenzy by said miffed media, had taunted him.

    If the public of the time resented Maris' breaking of Ruth's record, it was due to one small misunderstanding that led to negative press down the stretch of the '61 home-run derby, Boyer reflected Wednesday night.

    "You've got to remember that Roger was 26 years old and wanted to get into the World Series," Boyer said. "We were in first place by a percentage point when we went into Baltimore. Roger went 1-for-9 in a doubleheader. Afterward, a reporter came up and . . . well, he just put it wrong. He asked Roger if he wasn't choking. That makes you mad. Roger said, `I'm not talking to the press anymore.' Then it snowballed. It's like a tug of war. Nobody means anything bad. But it took 12 or 14 years f or everybody to get over it.

    "Everybody who knew Roger - knew Roger - loved him," Boyer continued. "Not just respected him. Loved him."

    Whitey Ford walked past with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.

    "I just wish," said Boyer, "Roger was here to laugh at us all."
  5. Jones

    Jones Active Member

  6. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Ditto. Worth every bit of praise.

    And knowing the story behind it makes it even more amazing ...
  7. Columbo

    Columbo Active Member

    In case anyone forgot how great, and versatile a writer Ed Hinton is.

    Christ on a sidecar.
  8. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Goose-bump city. Thank you, Dave.
  9. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Don't have a chance to read the whole thing now, but I'm definitely saving this and I'll read it tonight once I get home. Thanks for posting this, Mr. Kindred.
  10. Left_Coast

    Left_Coast Active Member

    Um ....

  11. That's a keeper.
  12. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I hate to weigh in with another wow, but wow. This whole thread has been amazing, despite the reason for it. Thanks for posting the Maris story, Dave.
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