Watching the great movie “42” I was once again struck with a little smile when actor Max Gail first appears on screen. He is the gentleman who plays manager Burt Shotton in the film, who was the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier. My smile was easy and quick because, like many others I assume, my mind still thinks of Mr. Gail as Detective Stanley Taddeus "Wojo" Wojciehowicz from the great TV sitcom, “Barney Miller.” That show cracked me up, and Wojo was one of the big reasons why.
In character as the detective, Wojo was a cop who tended to act entirely on his impulses, causing his captain endless headaches. He was uncouth and dense and clueless about a great many things. But he also had some great lines. In one episode titled "The Indian," the detectives catch a shoe fetishist. During the course of events Wojo says, "You can point to any object in the Sears catalog, and there's someone out there who wants to sleep with it." It may be his most famous line in the show’s run.
As my mind skipped from Shotton and 42 to the precinct and Wojo, I thought of that line and realized that it doesn’t take much twisting to fit it onto the sports collecting hobby. If it is connected to the game in some way or some fashion, there is someone who is probably building a collection around it. Which is a whole lot better than the Sears comment.
This was likely on my mind because of a great connection made with a collector and new customer. The United States Postal Service caused us to “meet” one another as an item I had shipped to him was slated for delivery on a Saturday, and by the following Wednesday he still had not received it nor had the tracking number been updated. The guy was great about the whole thing, and the USPS finally found the item.
That item was a ticket stub from the 1976 All-Star Game held in Philadelphia. Of course, collecting tickets or stubs from All-Star Games or World Series or Super Bowls is fairly wide spread. In comparison to collecting certain press pins the tickets or stubs are very affordable, even though they are not always easy to find in collectible condition. Each ticket is tied to a game, and each game is a part of the larger story.
But my customer wasn’t collecting All-Star Game tickets per se. Nor was he building a 1976 collection or even a Phillies hosted event collection. Rather, his desire is to build a collection of tickets and/or stubs from the milestone games of his favorite player. That player? Ron Cey, the third baseman known largely for his glory years with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In fact, the gentleman mentioned that finding tickets from the Penguin’s milestone games (games in which he homered or other certain happenings) was getting a bit difficult. The market that is eBay was proving to be fairly empty. He sent me a list of the games for which he is looking, and if you think you might be able to help this fellow collector, please contact me via the link on this page. It would be awesome to help this guy’s dream become a reality.
My new collector friend and customer has a plan. Unfortunately, the story behind each individual ticket or stub cannot always be known, but with the advent of the internet and all the great baseball research tools we possess it is become easier and easier to know the stories that are in those stubs.
Not too long ago I came upon a fairly large collection of paper baseball memorabilia. In the collection I discovered an apparently unused ticket from August 20, 1964. Although it seemed a rather “common” forty-six year old ticket from Comiskey (White Sox) Park, and not all that unusual, we did not take for granted that it was a worthless ticket. And that proved to be a good thing.
This Comiskey game on August 20, 1964 was between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. In itself, the game was fairly routine. The White Sox, behind pitcher John Buzhardt defeated Whitey Ford and the Yankees 5-0. But what took place after the game has become legendary.
That day’s events involved Yankees manager, Yogi Berra, player Phil Linz and a harmonica. It has been known to Yankees fans for decades now as “The Harmonica Incident, ” and the ticket we had come across was from the game that got it all started. There was a story in that stub.
Despite a string of four straight pennants, the Bronx Bombers were a bust throughout much of the 1964 season. Yogi Berra had succeeded Ralph Houk as skipper, and it was getting to be late August with the Yankees in third place behind the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox. The Yankees were on the team bus heading to O’Hare Airport, losers of four straight to the White Sox, winless in 10 of their last 15 games. A 5-0 shutout at the hands of Chicago’s John Buzhardt that afternoon had totally demoralized them.
Phil Linz, a career .235 hitting reserve infielder, was an aggressive player who loved being a Yankee. “I sat in the back of the bus, ” Linz has said. The bus was stuck in heavy traffic. “I was bored. I pulled out my harmonica. I had the learner’s sheet for ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb. ’ So I started fiddling. You blow in. You blow out. ”
An angry Berra snapped from the front of the bus: “Knock it off! ” But Linz barely heard him over the sound of the harmonica. When asked what he had said, Mickey Mantle said, “Play it louder. ” So Linz obliged.
Berra stormed to the back of the bus and smacked the harmonica out of Linz’s hands. The harmonica flew into Joe Pepitone’s knee and Pepitone jokingly hammed it up as if in pain. Soon the entire bus – except for Berra – was in stitches.
Linz was fined $200 – but as the story goes he received a large sum for an endorsement from a harmonica company (in fact, he's had a great sense of humor about it, often signing autographs "Phil 'Harmonica' Linz"). But, as so happens frequently in baseball, the whole thing changed things around for the Yankees. The summer of 1964 ended up as Linz’s most productive season. Injuries to Tony Kubek made the “supersub” a regular and Linz started the majority of the games down the stretch, and every World Series game at short.
New respect for Yogi propelled the Yanks to a 22-6 record in September and a win in a close pennant race over those White Sox. A loss in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games cost Berra his job. But there were those who said he was on his way out the day of the “Harmonica Incident. ” What a story to be found in a ticket.