From 1958 to 1963 I called the Phoenix, Arizona area home. Well, I lived in Glendale from 1958 to 1960 and on Luke Air Force Base from 1960 to 1963. The Phoenix area hosted Major League Baseball’s Cactus League every spring. Named for the cactus that was everywhere in the Arizona desert, in 1963 the league hosted Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Houston Colt .45s, and the California Angels
I’ve said a few times being military brat had many benefits. One advantage was the USO sponsored events with ball players. The big leaguers weren’t too big to come to my elementary school on their off days and work with us on fielding and hitting, the fundamentals of baseball.
In the spring of 1963, we had a big thrill as Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese came to a calling. Dizzy Dean had pitched for the St Louis Cardinals. He won over thirty ball games back in the 1930s. Pee Wee Reese was the famous Brooklyn Dodger shortstop and Jackie Robinson’s roommate. They made up the famous announcing team for the Game of the Week. Broadcast each Saturday afternoon, three out of every four televisions in the USA were tuned into the game.
I played Little League Baseball like most boys. I was the third baseman for the Luke Lions that year. I was one of the few nine years old boys to make the Little League Roster. We played a game when old Dizz and Pee Wee were on the air base. What a thrill it was for the players and most of the airman and their families when the announcer pair showed up at our dusty field. The USAF special services people and USO liaison people were there as well.
That night the special services airmen set up special speakers and a public address system. Dizzy and Pee Wee took a seat in front of the microphone and introduced the teams, the players, and I almost fainted when one of them called my name. The same men that called the names of Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays called my name. They didn’t stop there. They did a play by play of the game over the PA system. It was just like they did announce the game of the week every Saturday.
Meeting the ballplayers and getting coached by them was great. But having Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese announce my Little League game was a lifetime memory.
Did you have any similar memories from your childhood? Please leave a remembrance in the comments if you do.