I can remember only two arguments with my Grandfather Bagley, on my mother’s side.
One was when I announced to him that I was going to major in journalism as a university student. He was extremely disappointed that I wasn’t intent on pursuing a profession that paid better money, which would’ve been most of the other professions.
The other disagreement had occurred earlier, in October of 1963 when I wanted to watch the NFL game on TV and he held firm that we were to view the World Series instead. We were having dinner at one the home of one of my aunts. It was a Sunday afternoon dinner and the aunt had just moved back to Missoula from first, Rochester, Minn., and then Butte
She really didn’t care what we watched on her TV, but figured having the television on showing sports was part of the deal of having the men and boys of the family show up for the meal. In those days, households usually had only one TV and it was normally a black-and-white model with rabbit-ear antennae drawing in the signal.
Two channels were available. On this day, one channel had the football game on it and the other was showing the World Series baseball game.
My grandfather was used to having a few more channels available. He had cable television at his house. The extra channels were broadcast to Missoula from Spokane and often carried the San Francisco Giants’ games. So, with the Giants in this year’s World Series, those boyhood days of walking the half mile to Grandpa’s house on Saturdays to see the Giants games — ones in which Willie Mays hit four home runs and made five diving catches every game, in which Willie McCovey blasted homers to Reno and Juan Marichal struck out 20 batters a game, or so it seemed to an 11-year-old sports-crazy boy at the time — have been on my mind.
A funny man named Joe Garagiola was one of the commentators on those Giants telecasts. Funny, too, then it was that I had the privilege of meeting Joe Garagiola Jr. several years later when the ex-ballplayer’s lawyer son was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ general manager and investigating the possibility of linking the club to the Butte Copper Kings outfit in the Pioneer League. The Diamondbacks chose Lethbridge instead, and then that franchise moved to Missoula where the affiliation remains intact.
Anyway, after watching those 1960s Giants games at Grandpa’s place, I’d go home and throw and bat the ball around the yard being Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Jose Pagan, Felipe Alou, etc., in my imagination.
This day, though, by 1963 I’d become a fierce football fan. Grandpa liked football, too, but probably no more than he did baseball. World Series baseball trumped regular-season football, though, in this case.
So, I sat and simmered and seethed and reluctantly watched baseball.
While I’d become a Twins and Giants fan in baseball in those days, I also had a spot in my heart for whoever was trying to beat the Yankees. The first World Series I ever saw on TV ended with Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates beating the Yankees with a grand slam. Here it was three years later and a pitcher named Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers was mowing down the likes of Mantle, Maris, Berra and such without much resistance.
Now, I was interested.
Whitey Ford was on the mound for New York and it was Game Four of the World Series. The Dodgers had a 3-0 lead in the games played, which was highly unexpected and mostly not thought possible. The Yankees were in the Series for something like the 12th time in 14 years and I’d already seen them dispatch the Red Legs (now the Reds) and the Giants in the preceding years, after the loss to the Pirates.
The Yankees were a constant. They were always champions. They won the American League pennant every year of the years I’d become aware. The National League, on the other hand, was considered inferior and saw a new champion rise to the top of the standings every year.
But here it was, Koufax against Ford and I was absolutely mesmerized. Ford fired a two-hitter at the Dodgers, and Koufax struck out eight Yankees while beating them 2-1, absolutely baffling them with a dancing, knifing curveball and overpowering them with perfectly placed fast balls.
The victory finished off a four-game sweep of the vaunted Yankees.
I was hooked. Again.
Of course, I learned shortly after then that Koufax was simply magnificent as a pitcher, anyway. Just in that 1963 season he posted a 25-5 record that included 11 shutouts. He had a 1.88 earned run average and struck out 306 batters.
I’ve been forever grateful that Grandpa won that argument (as if I had a chance), that he didn’t give in to the whines of a somewhat uppity 11-year-old and recognized the importance of the sports moment we were to witness. I couldn’t even tell you one of the teams, much less both, that was playing football on TV that day.
It might’ve been a good game, too, however, it probably wasn’t historical.
A cherished reconciliation had been reached.
Thirty years later, Grandpa passed away and I dreamed that night that he and I were standing in line together at Woolworth’s, when it was still in business in Butte.
We were there because he was buying me a new typewriter.