Bob Lilley

and Roger Maris

In the eye of my mind, I can still see Bob Lilley staggering under the longest, highest fly ball ever hit at Doubleday Field, post Babe Ruth. The ball was struck by Roger Maris during the exhibition game against the Yankees. Bob was holding down right field and had moved back towards the Library Tennis Courts fence out of respect for Maris. Now, if this happened in 1962, Maris was coming off the year he hit 61 home runs. If it happened in 1961, it was just after the major league season had begun, the season in which Maris would break the record. In fact, if it was 1961, it would have happened about
the time Maris began his run at the record, because he did not hit his first homer until game 9 of the season. (He hit 61 homers in his last 154 games of the season, just as Ruth had hit 60 in his 154 games.)

The overflow crowd had leeched onto the playing field and more or less surrounded Bob as he followed the arc of the ball, gauging its trajectory with geometric logic and experience gained from hundreds of games of baseball. I heard someone yell, “Go back further!” Bob heeded this advice, camped under the high-flying missile and actually got his glove on it but could not hold it. Maris strolled into third base. The ball struck the ground perhaps 20 feet from the fence, a monstrous shot.

It is like it happened yesterday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s