by Mick 7
A deep love, a promise and one man's dream come true.
Monday October 6, 1952 was a spectacular Autumn day in New York City. If there ever was a perfect day for a baseball game this was it; let alone a World Series contest.
If you were a New Yorker and a baseball fan you were ecstatic, one could say almost in heaven.
Nothing could be greater than the rare opportunity to witness a hometown New York subway series. The National League Champs, the scrappy Brooklyn Dodgers recently beaten in the last few World Series by their nemesis the Yanks. Once again they squared off with the American League’s infamous Bronx Bombers.
Game 6 was scheduled to be played in Brooklyn’s famous Ebbett’s Field, where a highly charged atmosphere, one where you could feel the drama engulfing the stadium on an incredible bright sunny and unseasonably warm October afternoon.
Brooklyn lead the World Series three games to two. Many respected sports enthusiasts were predicting an upset, a Dodger win since they held home-field advantage and a delirious cheering fan-base behind them. This hopefully was the extra edge to propel the Dodgers to a World Championship, upsetting the heavily favored Yanks bidding for their 4th consecutive world championship.
The Dodgers were led during the regular season by powerhouse slugger Duke Snider, plus the all popular and great player Jackie Robinson. The Yankees loaded with talent as well, featured All-Star catcher Yogi Berra, and the sensational rookie and the Yankees and Major Leagues new batting king, Sir Mickey Mantle.
Among the throng of baseball fans across America watching this highly anticipated classic fall match were Clarence and Irene Fortin of Waterbury CT. both long time die-hard Yankee fanatics, as some close friends referred to them.
Watching intently and unaware this day stood to become a memorable one for her and her man, a glowing Irene sat quietly, an expectant mother. A one month pregnancy with their second child. She and Clarence both had high hopes along with a strong belief she was carrying was a boy, especially since the first baby delivered three years earlier, was a daughter.
Clarence was a veteran having served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, enlisting when he had just turned sixteen. Besides a devoted love in his heart for his country, his second greatest love, was the New York Yankees. His fancy captured as a child by legendary Hall of Fame ball players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Di DiMaggio. These players the greatest among a long line of past Yankee superstars who won the hearts and captured the imaginations of generations of devoted fans, young and old, men and women, Clarence Fortin included.
There was far more in the air than electricity and drama brewing that afternoon inside Ebbett’s field. Fate and destiny were in attendance that day. Folklore claims that they sat right beside the God’s of baseball in this game packed to the rafter’s, SOLD OUT!
As expected, the game became a hard-fought battle the lead changing several times throughout innings. Duke Snider already Brooklyn’s hitting hero crushed solo home runs in his 2nd and 3rd at bat that day. Duke’s miraculously swing had placed Dodger fans into a crazed frenzy; the smell of blood and taste of victory was a few innings away, and an overdue payback was waiting in the wings, or so they thought.
The 8th inning began, with the Yanks holding a slim one run lead. Approaching home plate was Clarence's and America’s new charismatic idol, # 7, Mickey Mantle. Fortin overtaken, felt a tremendous surge of emotion it seemed to overwhelm him. This seemed to him a surreal baseball moment which captured his wild imagination.
Suddenly as being hit by a spell his eyes twinkled, his heart began to flutter and pound, while an insane idea flashed before him. Described as a whim, without a word of discussion he declared, “Irene, I have been following this Mantle kid all year, he is the next Yankee superstar, I am sure of it. I love the way he plays the game, he switch hits, his power is absurd from both sides of home plate. He is phenomenal.
I’ll make you a promise right here and now, if Mantle hits a home run in this at bat, and we have a baby boy, we will name him after Mickey Mantle, his name will be Mickey Mantle Fortin and play baseball.”
These presumptuous and careless words were heard that afternoon.
The baseball God’s were listening.
Clarence’s home-run request was heard while this man’s incredible passion for baseball, his Yankees, and Mickey Mantle was felt. The promises made that day were serious.
Suddenly that loud familiar sound, the crack of the bat when it meets the baseball silenced the Brooklyn crowd immediately, while the wild cheers of joy erupted from Yankee fans. Mickey Mantle and Clarence Fortin complete strangers unknowingly forged a bond on that day.
A fan’s simple wish for a home run and a fateful promise would all come true. The home run Mantle crushed would hold this one Yankee fan accountable to only himself.
Clarence being a man of his word, committed once again to his earlier declaration, “Irene it looks like we got a slugger in our tank, let’s pray he’s a son.”