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Mesa Musings: Listening to the old Pacific Coast League

December 12, 2011|By Jim Carnett

College football's bowl season is upon us, but it's time to talk a little Hot Stove League baseball.

The year was 1957. I was 12 years old and a huge Mickey Mantle fan. We didn't have Major League Baseball in Southern California in those days.

The Dodgers were a year away from moving west from Brooklyn, and the modern-day Angels wouldn't be established for another four years.

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We made do with triple-A, minor league baseball: the Hollywood Stars and the Los Angeles Angels (the original Angels) of the Pacific Coast League.

I loved the '57 Stars, led by Bill Causion, Carlos Bernier and Paul Pettit. The "Twinks" went 94-74 that year and finished third in the final PCL standings.

I hated the Angels, powered by big Steve Bilko, who clubbed 56 home runs and had 140 RBIs. The Halos were 83-85 and finished sixth.

I listened to "re-creations" of the Stars' away games on the radio. A re-creation meant that the broadcaster took a "real-time," pitch-by-pitch summary off a Teletype machine and produced a "live" studio re-creation.

A crowd-noise soundtrack played in the background, and the broadcaster knocked a wooden peg against a hollow gourd (or some such utensil) to simulate the crack of a bat.

I was aware of the fact that it was an absolute contrivance, but I also knew it represented reality, so I listened to Stars' games throughout the season.

Weekend Stars and Angels home games were broadcast on local TV, and I watched whenever my mom allowed. I also watched Major League Baseball's Game of the Week on Saturday mornings on CBS and NBC.

Because Mantle's New York Yankees were the scourge of the American League in 1957, I frequently got to see the Bronx Bombers and their chiseled young slugger on the Game of the Week. I fell in love with Mantle. The American League's MVP hit .365 that year and slugged 34 home runs.

Today, 54 years later, my 12-year-old grandson has a framed Mickey Mantle picture on his bedroom wall. Baseball is timeless.

I was prompted to write this column while recently reading Jane Leavy's fascinating book, "The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood."

I've long known, at least since my 39th birthday, that the guy I idolized — and watched slug a towering drive over Yankee Stadium's right field wall against the Angels on May 24, 1964 — had feet of clay.

But so did many of my heroes, like John F. Kennedy, Gen. George Patton, Ernest Hemingway and Halley's Comet, circa 1986. No one's perfect.

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