In the papers, one will read that the Detroit Tigers swept the New York Yankees in a Sunday double-header at Yankee Stadium. But what will be missing from the news stories is the conditions in which the games were played. Tiger players were pelted with seemingly anything that the crowd could get their hands on – apples, peaches, pears, rubber balls, rubber bands, peanuts. Jim Northrup was nearly splattered by an apple tossed from the upper deck as he was getting ready to bat in the ninth inning of the second game. The apple hit in front of him and smashed into a million pieces. The plate umpire, Bill Haller, had to go to the dugout to clean himself off.
Don Wert nearly got hit by another piece of fruit as he knelt in the on-deck circle. Haller had a cherry bomb explode at his feet while he was working at first base in the opener. One “fan” even ran onto the field and swiped Al Kaline’s cap right off his head. The friendly fellow approached Kaline and said, “Hi, Al.” Kaline was startled to see him there. He replied, “Well, hello.” And with that the fan grabbed Al’s cap and ran. He was apprehended by the police as he clambered back into the right field stands. The cops threw Kaline’s cap back to him.
The Tiger players were pretty mad about the treatment they got. Long after the final out, the smoke was still pouring from Northrup’s nostrils. “They’ve got about as much respect for you here as an alligator has for a deer in the middle of a swamp,” fumed Northrup. “It’s a disgrace the way they act in this ball park. I blame the parents. They send their kids here to get rid of them and what do you expect when you’ve got so many youngsters running loose in such a confined place for so long a period of time? These kids aren’t stupid. They know what they’re doing. But there is nobody to watch over them. I can’t recall seeing so many teenagers at the game as on this Sunday.”
“I never saw anything like it,” said Kaline. “They were throwing everything out in right field. I’ve never seen so many kids in my life.” The Yankees are trying to build a new image, to create interest in their team. The Mantles and Berras and Fords are gone and now the Yankees are trying to identify with the younger generation by promoting the Bobby Murcers, Roy Whites, and Jerry Kenneys. They have to keep up with the Mets, who are the “people’s team” in New York. But if this creates the kind of atmosphere it did in Yankee Stadium, then something is wrong somewhere.