An article on baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle appeared in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The Mick played for the New York Yankees from 1951-68. He was my hero when I was a kid. I can’t think of him without thinking of my father Morris, since our strongest bond was baseball.
Dad sold springs to the bedding and furniture industry. He bought weekend/holiday season tickets to give to his customers. Some he saved for us.
A trip to Yankee Stadium was thrilling. We’d drive from Rego Park (Queens) to the Bronx. Usually, we’d park close by. When I was ten, the rivalry with the Cleveland Indians could pack 72,000 fans into the “old” Stadium. So we might park on the Grand Concourse and take the subway to 161st Street.
For a New York kid, entering the Stadium was breathtaking. After going through the tunnel to get to our reserved seats between home and first base, a huge expanse of green appeared. Given that even in Queens greenery was at a premium, the ball field represented another world.
We saw great Yankee players—Whitey Ford, a Queens guy, was a favorite—and also great opponents like Ted Williams, Al Kaline and the Jewish slugger Al Rosen. When the game started, my normally staid father would get excited when a Yankee got a hit or someone made a great play.
Leaving created another epic moment. We could walk across the outfield to the centerfield exit close to the subway and parking. I stood where Mickey Mantle stood! I’ve always remembered facing home plate and the huge grandstand with its gingerbread-like façade suspended from the roof.
Dad appreciated the game. He loved playing ball as a kid growing up all over Manhattan, including Harlem. Sadly, he never wanted to discuss those days. Most of the little I know is sports related. He saw a pitcher for his DeWitt Clinton High School—the old Clinton in Hell’s Kitchen—strike out Commerce’s Lou Gehrig three times. He saw Babe Ruth and other greats, first at the Polo Grounds—also home of the Giants—then beginning in 1923 at Yankee Stadium, “The House That Ruth Built.”
He told me one other thing. He thought his parents were “greenhorns.” They arrived with him at Ellis Island in February 1906 when he was two and a half, along with my aunts Alice (Elka) and Etta (Etka). Grandpa Sam (Chaim Shlioma) and Grandma Kayleh didn’t understand America like he did.
As a teenager, I went to Yankee Stadium with friends. We took the GG local from 63rd Drive four stops to Roosevelt Avenue, transferred to the E train and in Manhattan went uptown on the D. I also went to games with my brother-in-law Herb. We drove in his huge Mercury with the push-button transmission. At home, I never saw Dad read the sports section, but he’d still watch part of a game on TV with me. He always knew just how it should be played.
Last Saturday was the anniversary of Dad’s death 33 years ago. This Tuesday marks the 80th anniversary of his marriage to my mother, the inimitable Blanche Finkle. Mickey Mantle hit 536 career home runs. Through his love and kindness, Morris Perlstein hit a home run every day.
If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And draw up a fond memory or two.
The post will take a break for the July 4th weekend and return on July 8.
To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.