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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Frank Robinson robbed Roy White of a game winning home run in Yankee Stadium June 21, 1966. Or did he?

All these years later I still feel the sting of that defeat, which seemed unfair. Frank Robinson was in his first season with the Baltimore Orioles on his way to the triple crown and the World Series championship. 1966 was the only season in which Robinson led a league in RBI, HR, BA. Robinson was also a good right fielder.

We have had video review of home runs for several years. But back then the umpires ruled. Today a friend asked three of us a trivia question: which 500 home run player hit the most homers on mother's day. He then gave a hint: he is in the Hall of Fame. Then another hint to me specifically: he robbed a player of a game winning home run in a game that I had told him I attended. It took a while but suddenly the brutal memory returned: Frank Robinson! Frank Robinson robbed Roy White in the bottom of the ninth in the first game of a doubleheader batting against Stu Miller.

Tuesday, June 21, 1966
Venue: Yankee Stadium I
Game Duration: 2:34
First game of doubleheader
Orioles (43-22) 7, Yankees (26-34) 5
Attendance: 29,449

Game two:
Yankees 8, Orioles 3

Roy White was batting third in the Yankee lineup and playing left. Joe Pepitone was playing center in place of Mickey Mantle. Both White and Pepitone had already homered before the ninth inning. Roger Maris was in right. Maris had been acquired in a trade before the 1960 season for his predecessor in right, Hank Bauer, along with others, especially Norm Siebern. Bauer was now the Orioles manager.

The Yankees trailed 7-5 in the ninth. With two out, Tom Tresh singled and Bobby Richardson walked. Bauer replaced relief pitcher Eddie Watt with 38 year old Stu Miller. Both threw right handed, so the switch hitting White would bat lefthanded hitting towards the short right field porch with the low wall.

From retrosheet:

S. MILLER REPLACED WATT (PITCHING); White flied out to right;
Frank Robinson fell into the stands and completely disappeared
after catching apparent game winning homer; Yankees manager
Ralph Houk furious with call; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Orioles
7, Yankees 5.

That extra bold description is not in the baseball-reference version.

I attended this doubleheader with my brother Gary and our cousins Richie and Phillie. We were sitting in the lower deck in reserve seats between third base and left field. We were far from the spot where Frank Robinson disappeared but we were looking straight ahead at him. My reaction was that Frank was down there on the other side of that ridiculous three foot fence long enough to have autographed the ball. The umpire had run out there but had no idea what was going on while Frank was in the stands. The Yankees circled the bases and the scoreboard showed the Yankees winning the game 8-7. But Frank emerged with the ball and White was called out.

My friend said that game one was not on TV. When he tuned in to watch game two, all the Yankee announcers were talking about was the ending of game one.

We saw Yankee employees leading fans away from that section, apparently ​to take depositions for the league.

Before game two, Bob Sheppard, who started as Yankee public address announcer in Mantle's first game, announced that the Yankees were protesting game one. He sounded like God or at least the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but with more authority.

We were all excited because we had no idea that the protest had no chance of succeeding. We thought: "Hey, Ralphie boy!". Ralph Houk had returned to be field manager twenty games (4-16 under Johnny Keane) into 1966 after an ill fated stint as general manager and Houk still his Army Ranger leadership aura. The Yankees had fired Yogi Berra after he managed the Yankees to a seven game loss to Keane's Cardinals in the 1964 World Series. The Yanks then hired Keane to replace Berra. Keane had quit the Cards before they could fire him. Maybe the Yankees were being punished for being mean to Yogi. Maybe Frank Robinson was just administering some form of baseball justice. Who knows?

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