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mickeyThe World Series season approaches and baseball fans are remembering the games of the past. I like to watch a good ball game too, but if you ask me who won the World Series in any particular year I will not be able to tell you.

Unless you are asking about 1941 or 1951.

All Brooklyn Dodger fans remember the 1941 Series, and I was one of them that year (don’t ask me why; I lived in Manhattan). That was the year that Dodger catcher Mickey Owen dropped the ninth-inning third strike on the Yankees’ Tommy Henrich. The strike, if caught, would have won the game for Brooklyn right there, but instead, (see photo above) Henrich scooted to first and the damn Yankees went on to win the game and, the next day, the Series. I lost a ninth-grade fortune, twenty-five cents, on that Series, and for years I insisted Mickey Owen owed me a quarter.

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Heartbreak Ridge

The 1951 Series haunts me for a different reason; ten years can change a young person. I was a war correspondent in Korea and in October, 1951, I was covering the battle for Heartbreak Ridge. That was a month-long struggle that killed or wounded 3,700 U.S. and French troops and more than 20,000 Chinese and North Koreans.

At a medical station near the front one night I saw two American soldiers, walking wounded, sitting on a bench, waiting to be told whether they would be treated there or sent to the rear. Their silence, glazed eyes, and blank expressions testified to what they had been going through out there on the blasted ridge, and to what, it seemed, they were still fighting inside their heads.

A medic near them turned on a radio for an Armed Forces Network newscast. One of the wounded men on the bench heard it and said quietly to his buddy, “Hey, the Yankees won the World Series.”

It took a full minute for the second man to comprehend, to extract the concept of baseball from the bloodshed and battlefield confusion still gripping his mind. Finally he nodded, ever so slightly.  “The World Series,” he said slowly. “The Yankees.”

And then, after another long silence: “Who did they beat?”

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