Showing posts with label President Bush. Show all posts
Showing posts with label President Bush. Show all posts

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How President George H.W. Bush was set to play hero in the 1948 College World Series

President George H. W. Bush’s leadership can be traced back to his days as the captain of Yale University’s baseball team. The first baseman led Yale to the 1948 College World Series against the University of Southern California. His diamond presence was evident even as a young man, demonstrated by how one opponent clearly remembered the President’s role in deciding the 1948 College World Series more than six decades later.

“In 1948, we won the first national title for USC,” Art Mazmanian recalled during a 2009 phone interview from his California home. “We beat George Bush’s Yale team. He was their first baseman and captain. I remember everything. I have a good memory; it was just like yesterday. He got two hits in the three games. He batted seventh in the lineup and both of hits were doubles.”

President George H.W. Bush receiving Babe Ruth's manuscript at Yale / US National Archives
In the first game of the series, Yale had USC pinned down with a narrow one-run lead when Bush scored on an early error. Mazmanian described how USC thwarted Yale’s attempts to advance their margin.

“They had us beat 1-0,” he said. “Bush scored a run on our shortstop’s error in the third inning. In the sixth inning, they tried to double steal and we threw the guy out at the plate. In the eighth inning, [it was] the same thing and we threw the guy out at the plate.”

USC entered the top of the ninth with their backs to the wall as Yale looked to close out the game. The Trojans showed their fighting spirit by scoring three runs in the top of the inning to set up a drama filled final frame.

“In the top of the ninth we scored three runs, so we’re up 3-1,” he said. “They come up, and the first guy singled. The next guy walked, and then the next guy hit a shot off of our third baseman who was a very good fielder. He managed to knock it down, but everyone was safe. It was now bases loaded and nobody out.

“They put in a redheaded guy to pinch hit, his last name was Breen. He hit the first pitch back to the pitcher. Wally [Hood] threw home for one out and then [the catcher] threw to first base for a double play. The guy on second base rounded too far and [our] first baseman threw the ball across the diamond, but he threw it in the dirt. If the ball gets by [him], two runs score and they tie the game. Our third baseman Bill Lilly came up with the ball, tagged the guy, and the game was over.”

The Yale base-running gaffe may have ultimately cost the Bulldogs the National Championship, as the Bulldogs won the second game 8-3, before dropping the deciding contest 9-2. Mazmanian, who led the series in hitting (6-11), revealed that the future President was left stranded on-deck during that wild ninth inning of Game 1.

“You know who the next batter was?” Mazmanian asked. “George Bush! And Bush has never forgotten that play. I have an article and a picture of him on the wall, and he calls it, ‘The Play.’ And he’s never forgotten it; he would have been the next hitter.”

Friday, November 23, 2018

How Nick Testa made a lifetime baseball career from only one major league game

Nick Testa made the most out of his one major league appearance with the 1958 San Francisco Giants, spending seven decades in the game as a player and a coach. A professional career that started in 1946 took him across the globe to far-reaching baseball venues such as Colombia, Italy, and Japan. The well-traveled baseball lifer passed away November 16, 2018, in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York. He was 90.

Nick Testa / Author's Collection
Testa’s lone major league game came on April 23, 1958, when he pinch-ran for Ray Jablonski in the 8th inning. He remained in the game as the catcher, where he was charged with an error in the 9th inning when the San Francisco winds blew a pop-up out of his reach. That error made his only mark in the record books, as he was two batters away when Daryl Spencer launched a two-run home run to cap the Giants’ comeback victory.

Shortly after his cameo, Giants manager Bill Rigney made Testa an interesting offer. With Bob Schmidt and Valmy Thomas holding down the catching duties, it was clear that Rigney did not need a third-string receiver.

“About a month into the season the other two catchers were doing so well, there was no way I was going to play,” Testa said to Steve Bitker in The Original San Francisco Giants. “So he says, ‘Would you consider being a bullpen coach the rest of the year?’ And I says, ‘Oh, sure, I’d love to.’ I was probably the youngest bullpen coach in the majors at 29.”

Testa finished the season as their bullpen coach and in 1959, he returned to the minors, where he played through 1964. During this period Testa became part of the early group of Americans to play in Japan when he spent the entire 1962 season with the Daimai Orions. 

Nick Testa 1962 Japanese Baseball Card

While Testa was no longer playing affiliated ball, it was far from the end of his time on the field. He returned home to the Bronx to work as a health and physical education instructor at Lehman College, where he piloted their baseball program to the 1974 CUNY Baseball Championship. During his summers off from teaching, Testa played in the Canadian Provincial League well into his 60s, often facing high-level competition half his age.

Testa catching at 45 in Canada / Attheplate.com

The professor was a fixture for both of New York’s professional teams, serving as a batting practice pitcher for the Mets and the Yankees. Testa continued with the Yankees through their championship run in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2001, the Yankees tasked the 73-year-old Testa with the responsibility of preparing then-President George W. Bush for his historic first pitch at the 2001 World Series. Before Game Three, Testa patiently caught the President's warm-ups in the Yankee Stadium tunnels before he made his way to the mound.

Testa remained a pillar of physical fitness well into his 80s, serving as an exemplar for the multitudes of students he prepared for work in the field. Lehman College inducted him into their Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.