Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Sound of Metal Spikes on Concrete

Some encounters are almost too strange to believe. This one happened, I swear.

After a wedding in Connecticut, Janet and I stayed at her parents’ apartment in Brooklyn. On September 1, 1972, we drove to the Bronx to see the White Sox play the Yankees. Both teams were out of the pennant race and had called up several players from their AAA affiliates. For the Yankees, this included the aptly named Charlie Spikes, Rusty Torres and Frank Tepidino, who joined one of the great unsung baseball names, Celerino Sanchez. 

We settled down in box seats far down the left-field line, after which the usher yelled at me for not tipping him for wiping off our seats. The game, my second at Yankee Stadium, was uneventful. Mel Stottlemyre would shut out the Sox, 4-0, scattering four hits.
Yankee Stadium, before the 1970s renovation
Knowing we had a long ride back to Brooklyn, I stopped in the men’s room in the left-field concourse after the 7th inning. It was quite small: two urinals, two sinks and a stall or two. It was empty. Shortly after commencing the intent of my visit, I heard the door open and the unmistakable sound of metal spikes on concrete. Peering over my right shoulder, I saw a White Sox player, obviously in full uniform, assume the stance at the urinal next to me. I leaned back far enough to see his number – 55 – and determined it was relief pitcher (no pun intended) Jim Geddes, a recent call up. Trying to think of something smart or witty, I found neither, only “I came all the way from Chicago to see the game. I hoped you could win.” If he answered at all, I don’t remember what it was. He zipped up, and I watched the red #55 on the back of the baby-blue uniform exit into the concourse to the clack-clack-clack sound of metal spikes on concrete.

The john in the Sox bullpen obviously wasn’t working. Yankee Stadium would be closed for renovation in 1974 and 1975, and I think the Yankees, then owned by CBS and slated for sale, weren’t in a hurry to spend on repairs. Another explanation is the Yankees liked it that opposing pitchers had to mix it up with local fans.

Geddes pitched in only 11 games during 2 seasons, with a 0-0 record. Coincidentally, he was born one day after me. Several years later, the Sox were showing old videos on the scoreboard during a rain delay. One was from spring training in the early 1970s, and there was a segment about Geddes and his control problems after hitting a batter. I was just about to blurt out, “I peed next to that guy,” but realizing I was among strangers, kept it to myself.

Jim Geddes, 1973 Topps Baseball Card

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