When World War II veteran Ralph Houk, "the major," was a Yankees coach under manager Casey Stengel, Stengel one day gave him a bag of baseballs to hold onto during batting practice, while the "Old Professor" went off to tend to some pregame business. Houk set the bag down a little too close to the box seats and a zealous fan reached over, grabbed it, and ran off with the baseballs.
George Michael Steinbrenner III, the colorful, turbulent, and outspoken owner of the New York Yankees, died Tuesday at age 80, after a massive heart attack. His passing came just nine days after his July 4th birthday and only two days after the team's legendary public address announcer, Bob Sheppard, died at age 99.
Like millions of other baseball fans, I vividly remember the sights and sounds of the first big league game I attended. The journey began early on a Sunday morning with a two-hour train ride from Wallingford, Connecticut, my hometown, to New York City, the capital of the universe. I was ten years old at the time and was making the trip in the company of an adult cousin and his son, a boy of about my age. It was only my second trip to the big city, the first having been a year earlier when I accompanied an aunt and one of her friends on a sightseeing trip, visiting attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. But this trip was even more special. This was a trip to Yankee Stadium.
Now that we are done with three days celebrating — or at least (more or less) observing — Independence Day with cookouts, fireworks, trips to the beach, and possibly even a thought or two about our independence from Great Britain, it might be a good time to turn our minds, however briefly, across "the pond" to jolly old (well, old anyway) England and remember a man who lost his head on this date 475 years ago.
John William Finn, the last survivor of the 15 Navy veterans who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, died on May 27 at the Veterans Home of California in Chula Vista. Finn, who retired from the Navy in 1956 with the rank of Lieutenant, was 100 years old.