Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ted Kazanski recalls his magical moment in the wake of Angel Pagan's feats

Earlier this week, Angel Pagan of the New York Mets made baseball history against the Washington Nationals, being the first player in 55 years to hit an inside the park homerun and start a triple play in the same game. The last player to accomplish that feat was shortstop Ted Kazanski of the Philadelphia Phillies on September 25, 1955 against the New York Giants on the final game of the season at the Polo Grounds.

The 76-year-old Kazanski, living in Northern Michigan, was reached via telephone Friday evening to discuss his memorable day in Manhattan. Ironically, he remembers the triple play much clearer than the home run.

Ted Kazanski / 1954 Topps
“I remember the triple play because it ended the season," Kazanski said. "It was the last play of the season and I think it was the last game that Leo Durocher managed the Giants. I remember that part of it. They got the first two men on. [Joey Amalfitano singled and Whitey Lockman walked.] We were winning the game 3-1. I think Bobby Hofman pinch hit. I was playing closer to second base for a possible double play. He hit a line shot right at me, I flipped to Bobby Morgan and he threw to first [Marv Blaylock] and the season was over! I don't remember the home run too much. The left and right center gaps were a mile away.”

The New York Times account of the game details his inside-the-park homerun as a result of a crash between Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes.

“Kazanski's round-tripper was an inside-the-park affair that was somewhat of a gift. Kazanski drove deep to left center. Mays raced over and caught the ball, but Dusty Rhodes ran into Willie. The ball, Mays and Rhodes hit the ground and Kazanski crossed the plate.”

Even more prominent than the triple play from that game, were his memories of a teammate that had fallen asleep despite all of the commotion. Saul Rogovin was a pitcher for the Phillies who would later become a standout teacher at Brooklyn's Eastern District High School, where he would mentor future Major League pitcher Frankie Rodriguez. Rogovin was out cold as his team ran off the field.

“The thing I remember the most about that day is Saul sleeping in the bullpen," he said. "He was a funny guy, a great guy. Saul had narcolepsy, you know, where you fall asleep anytime. So that day, Saul is in the bullpen. Bang, the triple play happens, the season's over! We're all running off the field. You had to go all the way to center field and up the steps in the Polo Grounds to the clubhouse; that's where our clubhouse was. People were running onto the field. Meanwhile, we're all in the clubhouse showering and Pete the clubhouse guy looks out on the field and says, 'Holy ----, Saul is still out there in the bullpen sleeping!' So they had to send the batboy out there to tell him the season's over. That was a classic, I'll always remember that. He was still sleeping in the bullpen!”

Kazanski said that his efforts went with little media coverage, as compared to the coverage of Pagan's play.

“Every time I turned on Baseball Tonight, they showed his play. In our day, I don't even think they made a big deal of it in the newspaper.”

Kazanski played six seasons in the majors from 1953-58, and another six in the minors, retiring after the 1964 season at 30 after multiple surgeries on his left shoulder. This is the second time this season one of Kazanski's feats has been in the papers. In April, Atlanta's Jason Heyward became one of only ten Major Leaguers to have 4 RBIs in their Major League debut. One of those other ten was Kazanski who collected four in his first game on June 25, 1953.

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