With his New York Yankees hat resting on his head, and his golden 1961 World Series ring glistening on his left hand, Jack Reed reclined in the bright red stadium seat at Indians Stadium.
“That day was just like this one,” he recalled.
More than 54 years after the Silver City native and former Gulf Coast Military Academy attendee ended the longest game in Yankees history with his lone career MLB home run, “Mickey Mantle’s Legs,” as he was known back then, was back on the Coast to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Biloxi’s playoff opener against St. Martin.
“It was a nice Sunday afternoon. We scored six runs in the top of the first inning, one run in the second inning and (the Detroit Tigers) just kept pecking away. Finally at the end of nine innings we were tied 7-7,” Reed said of the June 24, 1962 game in Detroit. “We went 13 innings until we scored again.”
It was around that time that Reed, now 84, was a defensive replacement for Phil Linz. Mickey Mantle, who Reed typically “caddied” for, started in right field but was replaced in the seventh inning by Joe Pepitone, who was later removed for Linz.
The game, which started at 12:31 p.m. CT, seemed to go on forever.
“There were 34,000 (35,368) fans when the game started and 32,000 when the game ended. They sold all the concessions,” Reed laughed. “Everything.”
Finally, in the 22nd inning, Reed delivered. Following a Bobby Richardson lineout and a Roger Maris walk, Reed swatted the lone homer in his three years as a Yankees outfielder.
“I knew I hit it good,” Reed said. “I didn’t have the luxury of standing there and watching it. I thought maybe it was a double. When I got to second base I was running as hard as I could go. The umpire (signaled a homer) and I said ‘are you kidding me?’”
Jim Bouton surrendered a single in the bottom half of the inning, but the Yankees held on to win in Tiger Stadium 9-7 — seven hours after the game’s first pitch.
“It was long,” Reed said. “It looked like we were going to play all night. I got lucky.”
Beautiful day in Biloxi
In town Friday to watch his grandson, Jacob Collier, and the Biloxi Indians open the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs against St. Martin, Reed was asked to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. Following some light conversation by Biloxi’s dugout, Collier and Reed walked side by side out to the field.
Reed bounced the pitch, but the connection was what was important.
Collier fed off of the moment. With Reed sitting on the front row behind home plate, Collier delivered a big two-run hit in Biloxi’s 5-1 win and made several nice defensive plays at second base that would have made his grandfather proud.
“Obviously my hit will never compare to his Cooperstown homer, but it’s neat,” Collier said. “It’s his first time ever coming to Biloxi to watch me play here. He’s a legend to me.
“He’s a hero. I wear 27 for him and I was just glad to get the hit.”
Prior to the game, Reed touched on a number of things from his playing days. Reed grew up in Silver City and attended GCMA in Gulfport before playing both football and baseball at Ole Miss. He made his Major League debut at age 28 in 1961 and was primarily used as a defensive replacement and pinch runner with the Yankees.
Meeting Joltin’ Joe: “One of the best things I ever did when I was with the Yankees was I met Joe DiMaggio. I got lucky. Joe was kind of an aloof guy. You didn’t just go up and start talking to him. I made a shoestring catch in an exhibition game. The next day he starting talking to me and I really burned his mind.”
Maris’ athleticism: “I told (Collier) last week how Roger Maris held the bat in his fingers — with his top hand, not both hands. Made him quicker. He was pretty quick anyway. He was a complete ballplayer. He could run and had one of the most accurate arms I ever saw.”
Playing baseball at the GCMA: “I pitched a lot. I wasn’t too good of a pitcher but I had a good arm. I was wild. I remember playing St. Stanislaus. I hit three guys, one of them twice.”
Replacing Mantle: “I was his legs. He had bad legs. I didn’t go to bat a lot, but I played in a lot of ball games. You don’t hit for him.”
Playing at Yankee Stadium: “I can remember the old (Yankee Stadium), the original stadium, sloped off to left field. That took some getting used to with fly balls because you’d start running in and next thing you know it looks like it gets higher.”
Dave “Boo” Ferriss: “I knew Boo real well but it wasn’t from (Mississippi) State. I knew him from Delta State. ... He has a museum on the campus. I went up there one time to see him. I said, ‘I have a Yankee ball here, is it all right if I put it in your museum?’ He said no Yankees! He was a good fella – about as good as you want to meet.”