The late Phil Pepe has covered sports in New York for more than five decades. He was the Yankees beat writer for the New York World Telegram & Sun from 1961-64, and for the New York Daily News from 1971-84. His latest book, from Triumph Books, is Core Four, the story of the four New York Yankees players that grew up together in the team's farm system and spearheaded the Yankees' most recent championship teams. The Ballad of Billy and George, the story of the unique and bizarre love-hate relationship between Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner, was published by Lyons Press in 2008. 61*, a first-hand account of the 1961 baseball season, focusing on Roger Maris' chase of the single-season home run record, was published in 2011, the 50th anniversary of Maris' feat, by Triumph Books. A revised edition of his follow up book with Triumph, Core Four, was published in 2014. Now available in ebook format from Diversion Books are two of Mr. Pepe's classic works: Come Out Smokin', the biography of boxing great Joe Frazier, originally published in 1972, and The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra.
The game I wish I saw is one of those shoulda, coulda, woulda things, of which I have had many in more than a half century of covering baseball. For instance, why didn’t I ask Frank Crosetti, whom I saw almost every day during the baseball seasons of 1961 through 1968, if Babe Ruth really did point to where he hit that pitch off the Chicago Cubs’ Charlie Root in the 1932 World Series?
When I was just a kid growing up in Brooklyn, baseball to me meant sitting with my ear to the radio listening to the sweet, syrupy, Southern drawl of the ol’ redhead Red Barber describing the fate of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers:
“Oh, Doctor, they’re tearin’ up the pea patch at Ebbets Field . . . the bases are FOB, full of Brooklyns, and with master Pee Wee Reese, the pride of Louisville, Kentucky, comin’ to the plate, the Dodgers are sittin’ in the catbird seat.”
It’s growing late on the night of Thursday, December 9, 1965, and I am a lonely figure sitting in front of a typewriter on my desk in the sports department of the now-defunct New York World-Telegram and Sun “bleeding” over the column I am obliged to produce for the following day’s newspaper.