Right Down the Middle
Ralph Terry with John Wooley
Mullerhaus Publishing Arts, Inc. – the book is releasing with a hard bound collectors edition, signed and numbered limited edition. The total is 338, one for each game Ralph started in MLB. Please follow us on Facebook “RalphTerryBaseball” or order direct a soft bound copy from Amazon.com, Prime.
Ralph Terry, the top right-handed pitcher on the fabled New York Yankees teams of the early 1960s, is known for two big moments at the end of one of their many World Series.
Terry is the only pitcher to throw the final pitch in two World Series Game Sevens. He gave up the game-winning home run to Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates in 1960 and, two years later, he went the distance in the finale against the Giants to help the Yankees win the title, and was only the seventh man in history to win the World Series MVP Award in 1962.
Right Down The Middle is an inspiring story of an 18-year-old rookie from small-town Oklahoma taking the field with the likes of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin, Whitey Ford, and Moose Skowron while playing on the biggest baseball stage, Yankee Stadium.
A lot of Terry’s stories give details about the game in the 1950s and 1960s, especially around contracts and how the minor leagues were laid out.
This also is a fun book because there are pictures mixed in throughout the text, unlike most books, which have a gallery in the center. Having the pictures with the text enhances the visual picture one has in their mind reading it.
One story Terry tells is of his first start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and it sets the tone for the book: “Whatever the reasons, I was getting more and more rattled the closer it got to game time. In those days, pitchers would warm up between the dugout and home plate, on the third-base and first-base side. So I was throwing before the game, warming up, and I was bouncing the ball up there. I had nothing on my throws. The crowd was buzzing, and I couldn’t look up at the stands. I actually felt physically weak.
“I remember thinking, ‘What the hell is going on!’ It was weird.”
“Then the game began. Billy Martin, batting leadoff for us, doubled to right field and went to third on a wild pitch from (Tommy) Brewer. But Hank Bauer and Mickey struck out and Yogi Berra flew out to center, so Martin was stranded. No score.
“In the home half of the first inning, I finally got out to the mound at Fenway, in front of that noisy crowd, and watched as the first batter, Billy Goodman, stepped up to the plate. He was a left-handed hitter and a good one, with an average at the time of over .300.
“I looked in for the sign from Yogi. Putting one finger down, he held his mitt right in the middle of the plate. A fastball down the middle?’ I thought. ‘That’s Billy Goodman up there. He’s a good hitter. Shouldn’t I throw him a curve or something on the first pitch?’
“I could almost hear Yogi’s voice in my head: ‘C’mon kid. Right down the middle.’ That mitt didn’t move. Keeping my eye on it, I wound up and let go, and the ball split the heart of the plate. A fastball, right down the middle. ‘Strike one!’ called the ump.
“And that was it. Just like a cloud dissipating, the nervousness left me. It was like an opening kickoff back when I’d played high school football in Chelsea. I was in the game. That’s all it took. No matter where I played after that, in the World Series or anywhere else, I was never afraid again.”
How Terry ended up a Yankee was a unique story. He had sent a telegram to the Yankees, and right after that, Cardinals officials Ferrell Anderson and Freddie Hahn came to his house to sign him.
Terry writes, “I liked Ferrell Anderson. He was a good catcher and a good guy, and I thought it would be good to work with him at Omaha. So I said, ‘Well, here’s what I’ve done. I just sent a telegram to the Yankees agreeing to their terms, and I don’t know if I can get out of that.’
“‘That doesn’t mean a thing,’ Freddie Hahn told me. ‘Until they get your name on a contract, it’s not binding.’
“I didn’t know anything about contract deals, so I took his word for it. ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘I’ll sign with you.’
“They just happened to have a contract with them, and I signed it, looking forward to playing with Ferrell Anderson at Omaha. But my anticipation was pretty short-lived. That evening, I got a call from the Associated Press office in Kansas City.
“‘What’s going on?’ The guy asked. ‘We saw that you’d signed with the Yankees, and then we see that you’ve signed with the Cardinals. Which one is it?’ I had no comment.
“Things blew up pretty quickly then. The story of my signing with two different teams made sports pages all over the country, and Ford Frick, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, got involved. He sent a guy to Chelsea named Buck Green, who’d been with either the FBI or the CIA and was now a special investigator for Frick’s office. He spent five days in town interviewing all these different people, including the CHS (Chelsea High School) superintendent, checking up on my character. He visited the house and talked to my family members, and he turned out to be a really nice guy, a great guy.
“So Buck Green made his report to the commissioner’s office ad in early December Frick handed down his decision. He said that since a cable wire was binding – despite what Freddie Hahn had told me – I was the property of the Yankees.”
When Terry was signed by the Yankees, the Chelsea, Oklahoma native was immediately linked with Commerce, Oklahoma’s own, Mickey Mantle. Terry writes of Mantle and the contract he signed with the Yankees:
“Mickey was about five years older than me, so although the Chelsea and Commerce high school teams went head-to-head each year, I never played against him. By the time I got to the ninth grade at Chelsea and started playing high school ball, he’d already graduated. I did play against his brothers, Ray and Roy, who were a year behind me in school.
“But even though he was older, I knew Mickey, and I knew where he hung out in Commerce. It was a classic pool hall, a real dive. Sure enough, we went in and there he was, shooting a game. But he stopped and congratulated me and agreed to be photographed. (note: the picture is in the book adjacent to this story) The shot has since become kind of famous, but there’s something most people don’t know about it. The picture everyone has seen, with Mickey and me shaking hands, has a blank wall in the background. But that’s actually the second photo that was taken. The first one had a bunch of pool cues hanging behind us, and the photographer or reporter or someone thought that didn’t look very wholesome, so they moved us to another wall.
“The contract Mickey and I celebrated with that handshake was a special one because it started me with the big-league team. This was an important thing, because in those days when you signed with a team you got three options. No matter what level you entered, from Class D to AAA, you had three options, each one for a year.
“Let’s say you signed a contract with a double-A team. If you couldn’t make it at that level, the parent club could option you to a team in a lower league. That could go on for three years. So, at the end of that three-year period, if you couldn’t stick on the double-A roster, you’d be released.
“On the other hand, if you were good enough to move up a notch to triple-A, then you’d have three years of options with that team. If you made it to the big leagues, there were three more options. Really, a player that started at one of the lower levels could be controlled by the major-league team forever, or at least for most or even all of his career.
“The Yankees starting me at the big-league level meant that they only had a three-year option on me. If I wasn’t with the parent team at the end of those three years, I’d have to be cut loose; if that happened, I figured I’d have a pretty good chance of catching on with another big-league team – a lot better than if I’d signed at a lower level and then either gotten released or tied up for years. So, a couple of months later, as a brand-new Yankee, I got on the train at the old Frisco Depot in downtown Tulsa, headed down through New Orleans, and changed trains in Jacksonville, Florida for my final destination of St. Petersburg, Florida. It was the first journey I’d made as a pro ballplayer.”
It took Terry a while to latch on with the Yankees, and in the middle of the 1957 season, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics with Billy Martin. This was after the Copacabana incident that Martin, Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra were involved in. The Yankees were convinced that Martin was a bad influence on Mantle and had to move him.
Terry was involved in a serious car accident in the fall of 1957, and the following spring, he played golf to get his body into shape. He fell in love with the game of golf, and only got better, to the point he played professionally. There is a nice story about his friendship with Arnold Palmer.
Terry was traded back to the Yankees in May 1959. He was very lucky to be traded back to New York, and he wrote about that, “Once they’d gotten rid of someone, the Yankees very seldom traded back for him.”
In 1960, Terry went 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA, seven complete games – three of them shutouts – and even a couple of saves.
The Yankees made the World Series against the Pirates, and it came down to the seventh game, in which he entered in the eighth inning with two outs: “I retired Don Hoak on a fly to left, getting us out of the eighth inning. Down 9-7, we rallied in the top of the ninth with singles by (Bobby) Richardson and Dale Long, and they both scored, Richardson on a Mantle single and Long on a groundout by Yogi. So when I came back out to the mound, we were knotted up 9-9.
“Although I’d been able to get Hoak, I wasn’t at all in a groove. The pitching mound at Forbes Field where I’d been warming up was small and steep, but the mound on the diamond itself was high and flat. I wasn’t making the necessary adjustment. My foot was hitting too early, and everything was going high. I threw a couple of extra warmup pitches to try and adjust, but I still couldn’t get the ball down. I even tried to bounce it in, and I couldn’t.
“Elston (Howard) had been hit on the hand by a Bob Friend pitch during his first at-bat in Game Six, so he wasn’t available to catch. Yogi was in left field that day. So my catcher was Johnny Blanchard. he knew immediately that I had a problem. After I took my warmup tosses, he came out to the mound and said, ‘Ralph. You’ve got to get the ball down.’
“‘Yeah, yeah, I know,’ I told him. ‘I will.'”
“First up for the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth was their No. 8 hitter and second baseman, Bill Mazeroski. Despite my best effort, I was high with my first pitch to him, which went in for a ball, and high with the second as well, which went over the left-field wall. Game over. The Pirates won 10-9 on what is still the only World Series ever decided by a Game Seven home run. It was also the only time I ever saw Mickey Mantle cry.”
Terry writes about how he got over it, and didn’t get too down about it. That is one of the redeeming qualities of the book, that Terry never gave up and got his redemption two years later in San Francisco.
Terry started Game Seven of the 1962 World Series against the Giants and was clinging to a 1-0 lead:
“With runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, up came (Willie) McCovey, who’d gotten that triple off me in his last at-bat. And the setup was in place for a classic confrontation.
“(Yankees Manager Ralph) Houk came out to the mound, and the infielders gathered around. Since first base was open, Ralph asked me if I wanted to pitch to McCovey, or load the bases and face (Orlando) Cepeda.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute. Isn’t that how the Giants got into this World Series?’
“The Dodgers and Giants had ended the regular 1962 season with identical records, leading to a three-game playoff for the National League championship, which had taken place only a few days earlier. Splitting the first two with Los Angeles, the Giants had won the rubber game after Dodgers’ reliever Ed Roebuck walked McCovey in the top of the ninth inning. At the time, Los Angeles was ahead, 4-2, but that free pass opened the floodgates and San Francisco ended up scoring four runs and winning 6-4.
“‘This is a National League ballpark with a National League umpire behind the plate,’ I said. ‘Anything close, I’m not going to get the call.’ If I walked McCovey to load the bases and then fell behind Cepeda, I’d have to come in on him and not work the corners. Because of that, he might get something he could get his bat on, and he’d just put in an All-Star season, batting over .300 with 35 home runs…
“Then it was down to business. McCovey liked the ball out away from him. He had long arms, and he could reach out there and get it. I knew he was a lowball hitter, so I worked him high and inside, just as I said I’d do.
“He was a great hitter, and he did a good job of hitting the second pitch I threw him – an inside fastball. (Mazeroski hit the second pitch I’d thrown him, too.) Later, I saw film of McCovey getting on the ball,and he’s leaning back, trying to get his arms extended. But he couldn’t, so he hit it mostly with his hands. It was still a hard-driven ball. Luckily, we had Bobby (Richardson) playing in the hole, in an infield shift, and the ball sailed past me and toward him, high but catchable. Sure enough, he grabbed it, and just like that we were World Series champions, on the winning side of a 1-0 game.”
A book for any young and old baseball fan, Right Down The Middle is a captivating story of living history to be read, treasured, and passed down to future generations.
This is a must for Yankee fans who appreciate their illustrious history.