Mickey Mantle's tape measure home run was mentioned here recently. You can't imagine how many hours of my life that item has cost me.
The question from a reader was. "Who was the Washington pitcher?" My recollection was that it was Chuck Stobbs. However, a newsman learns not to rely entirely on his own memory, so I verified my recollection with several colleagues.
The last man I talked to was Washington Post copy editor Sid Carroll, who used to be general manager of the Washington Redskins.
"I saw it and remember it well," Sid said. "The pitcher was Stobbs, and the ball caromed off the upper right-hand corner of the football scoreboard and then disappeared into the street beyond."
So when I wrote about it, I used the words "football scoreboard" - but please don't ask my why in my mind's eye, there was a clear picture of that mightly blow glancing off the beer sign atop the left field bleachers - the "Mr. Boh" sign.
Well, that day's paper had hardly been distributed before letters and phone calls began pouring in to tell me I was all wet; the home run had hit the Boh sign, not a football scoreboard.
I went back to Carroll and waved a stack of letters at him. "You got me into this, you befuddled old coot," I said. "You answer these letter."
Carroll read one letter. "I said it glanced off the football scoreboard, and it did," he said. "If you'd like to lay a little bet on it, just speak right up."
Sid Carroll wouldn't bet you that tomorrow will be Tuesday unless you gave him 7 1/2 points to boot. If he was so eager to bet, I had to believe him. But if he was right, why did so many of us remember the Boh sign?
I went to Dick Darcy, who has been specializing in sports pictures since the French and Indian War. "Gee, you're going back 25 years," Dick said. "But I was in the Photographers' roost that day, and I have a clear recollection of the home run. It hit the edge of the Boh sign. There was no other structure above the bleachers."
Darcey paused for a few seconds. Then he asked, "Is it possible that the Boh ad was just a facing" During the baseball season we saw the Boh ad, during the football season they removed the facing and we saw the football scoreboard? Was that it?"
We spent an hour examining stacks of old pictures. The more we looked and counted spectators in front of scoreboards and Boh signs in various pictures taken during baseball and football games, the more certain we became that the football scoreboard and the Boh sign were one and the same.
But a reporter is supposed to be through, so I phoned John Schneider, Boh's advertising manager, in Baltimore."Norman Almony is the man you have to talk to," Schneider told me. "He handled all our sports advertising. But he's retired now."
"Is he still living in Baltimore?" I asked."Oh, no, he's in Bristol, Va., now," Schneider said.
I called Almony in Bristol and said, "I have a question about the Boh sign in old Griffith Stadium."
"Yes, well make it quick please, I have some people here," he said.
"Was that solely a Boh sign or was there a football scoreboard under it?" I asked.
Memories came flooding back to Almon's mind, and suddenly he wasn't in such a big hurry. "That was just a Boh ad," he said, "and you'll never know what I had to go through with old Clark Griffith to get that sign erected. We almost didn't agree to the radio-TV contract because of that sign." He went on to tell me about the complicated negotiations, but remembered nothing about Mr. Boh masking a football scoreboard.
There was one ultimate source left - a man who could say for sure what was under that Boh sign. I made five calls to the Minnesota Twins office without catching up with Calvin Griffith, and four calls to his home before I finally reached him on Saturday night.
"Speak up," Calvin said. "I can't hear you. I've got two radio going - the Twins playing at California on one, and the Vikings playing the Redskins on the other."
I repeated my question in a shout, and Calvin replied without hesitation. "Sid Carroll is right," he said. "There was a football scoreboard under the Boh sign. But you should not have written that the ball hit the football scoreboard. You should have known that baseball fans would remember the Boh sign, not the football scoreboard."
Yeah, I should have known. You have no idea how sorry I am, Calvin.