Thanks Mr. Legg for letting us listen to the '61 Series

Thanks Mr. Legg  for letting us listen to the '61 Series

Even if my mother was still alive today to read this, I’d have to fess up. I’d feel compelled to tell her I don’t remember too many of the specifics about life as a fifth-grade student.

This is significant because Mom was my elementary school teacher that entire year, and I’m certain she was the best of the best at her chosen craft. I’m convinced her meticulous devotion to education taught us rascally fifth-graders all the things we needed to know in order to advance to the sixth grade, and to infinity and beyond.

I just don’t remember it, especially when it comes to arithmetic. That skill I learned while keeping score in the junior bowling league on Saturday mornings. (Back then we used actual paper score sheets and meaty pencils to add things up frame by frame, not to mention tallying our team totals once our three games were complete.)

The irony is that with the World Series now in progress between the Dodgers and Rays, I do recall one of the things I learned in the fifth grade. It came not from Mrs. Rife, but instead from Mr. Legg, our all-too-kind playground supervisor.

I guess Mr. Legg officially was our P.E. teacher. But honestly, his real role was to make sure we didn’t get hurt — or start fights — when we played four square and kickball during our lunch break.

What Mr. Legg, eventually my seventh-grade basketball coach, taught me had nothing to do with the three R’s — nothing at all. I now realize the gift he gave me was a lasting appreciation for World Series baseball games played in the daytime.

The atmosphere was as rare as the autumn air, as distinct as the voice of Reds play-by-play broadcaster Waite Hoyt, the former right-handed pitcher and Hall-of-Famer who faithfully manned the mic in Cincinnati for 24 years.

As masterful as Mom was when teaching fifth-graders, Hoyt was equally as skilled at winning over an audience.

Back in the day when it was common for the primary broadcasters of participating teams to be used in network broadcasts of the Fall Classic, Hoyt called the 1961 World Series action for NBC.

Reds vs. Yankees. Houk vs. Hutchinson. Jay vs. Ford. Pinson, Robinson and Post vs. Maris, Mantle and Berra. (Yes, Yogi became known more as a stubby little catcher than outfielder, but the box scores from the ’61 Series show Elston Howard was the one wearing the fabled “tools of ignorance” for N.Y.)

The Fall Classic of 1961, contested at Yankee Stadium and Crosley Field, was the only World Series called by Hoyt. And thanks to Mr. Legg, this fifth-grader got to hear it on the loudspeaker Mr. Legg set up on the school playground.

All over town, in fact, life paused as the drama of another World Series played out. Nobody seemed to notice — or care — if a few minutes of school or work were lost. There was always time to play catch-up, even if the Reds couldn’t, losing four games to one.

While night games in the Major League began with the Reds in 1935, the World Series remained a strictly daytime event for years thereafter. In the fifth and final game of the 1949 World Series, a game was finished under the lights for the first time due to encroaching darkness in the ninth inning.

The first scheduled night World Series game was Game 4 of the 1971 World Series at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. Afterward, World Series games were frequently scheduled at night when television audiences were larger, which meant more money for nearly everyone involved. The almighty dollar ruled then, and, of course, still does.

Game 6 of the 1987 World Series was the last World Series game played in the daytime — indoors at the Metrodome in Minnesota. The last World Series played outdoors during the day was the final game of the 1984 series in Detroit's Tiger Stadium.

As time goes on and the airwaves become more and more saturated with night baseball, there remains no suitable substitute for the World Series games played in the light of day when fifth-graders are still awake to marvel at the magic only a World Series can produce.

Does anyone else miss World Series baseball played in the daytime?

I sure do.

Mom seemed to enjoy it too.

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