Great Memory from Ed Berlin, Class of 1954

Sid Gordon, of the New York Giants, Stopped to Watch Us Play Softball, and Took a Swing
by Ed Berlin, FRHS, 1954

Sid Gordon, an All-Star outfielder for the New York Giants, used to summer in a bungalow in Far Rockaway. This would have been in the 1940s, long before the paparazzi and, as far as I could tell, no one ever bothered him. We would see him in the distance and simply cry out, “Hey, there’s Sid Gordon!” It seems amazing today that a big-league baseball player would have lived in one of those tiny bungalows, but baseball salaries were quite modest at that time. I would guess that he probably never earned more than $10,000 a season.

It must have been around the summer of 1949 that this memorable event occurred. We were playing softball on a sandlot that occupied the full block between Beach 13th and 14th streets, across the street from one of the beach clubs—Sea Breeze, I think.  Gordon walked by and, seeing us play ball, stopped to watch for a moment. Naturally, we begged him to take a swing, and he agreed to do so. I was standing behind second base and could clearly see the action.

As the ball came in, he lowered the bat and flicked his wrists. That’s all, just his wrists; there was no swing of the arms. The ball took off, going up, up, up, up . . . it seemed as if it would never stop rising. I couldn’t believe that a softball could be hit so high. Finally, it reached its apogee and started coming down, right at me. I got ready to catch it but at the last moment became frightened and pulled my glove back, allowing the ball to hit the ground with a thud. And it was all done with a flick of the wrists. What muscles he must have had in those wrists!

That’s when I realized professional athletes are not like other humans.

And a few after thoughts . . .
Sid Gordon died at age 57, suffering a fatal heart attack while playing softball in Central Park. After a career in the big leagues, he’s playing softball in Central Park? He really must have loved the game.

I wonder if the emergence of 70-yr-old memories might suggest I'm getting old.



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