By Thomas "Dennie" Williams, excerpted from a series of anecdotes he provided.
When I was but a broth of a boy, say nine or ten, my Dad, Thomas David Williams, made me into a full time New York Giants fan. Occasionally, we'd drive down to the old Polo Grounds in Harlem, the northern section of New York City, and see a game or two. Dad was so busy being a well-known antique dealer with my Mom, Constance Ripley Williams, he didn't have the time for a more regular ballpark visitation. But, of course, we did listen to their games often on the radio. The announcing of Russ Hodges and Ernie Harwell then seemed much better than what we later viewed and listened to on television. I guess, as a boy, imagination travels beyond any filming.
One day, Dad came back from a New York City antique business trip with a wonderful surprise. One of Dad's buddies, Harry Bland, an antique art and print specialist, had given me a beautiful print of the Giants playing the original Baltimore Orioles in the Polo Grounds, probably, I guess, in 1894. That was when the Giants lost the pennant by three games to the Orioles and then beat them in a post season series to win the National League championship. In the detailed, colorful print, many of the male fans are fancily dressed in black top hats and suits, while the females have on beautiful dresses and designer hats. The players not on the field sit sprawled on benches next to the wall behind home plate. In the game, it looks like the Giants runner on first is aiming to steal second, while the runner on third holds his ground. Meanwhile, the Orioles pitcher is delivering sidearm to the Giants' hitter. As the ball moves toward home plate, an ancient train moves above and beyond the stadium, not far away from the Harlem River and a bridge crossing it in the deep background.
The print, dated April 1, 1897, still hangs in our television room with the rest of the baseball memorabilia. That includes a small sculpture of Babe Ruth swinging the bat, created by a Balinese artist my daughter, Gisela, found when she was visiting Bali. Not too long after Mr. Bland gave me the print, Dad convinced me to lend it to a baseball memorabilia exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Days later, I was astonished when Dad told me to look at the New York Herald Tribune Sports Section. There on the featured first sports page was a large photo of Leo Durocher, the Giants' manager, and his wife, Loraine Day, standing right in front of my print. That was a thrill of thrills. Later, I got another pleasant surprise. I entered a museum baseball contest, part of the exhibition slate, and won an autographed baseball! I'm not sure, because I still have a dozen or more such balls, but I think it may have been George Kell's. He was then a third baseman for the Detroit Tigers and shortly afterward for the Boston Red Sox.
In 1951, Willie's rookie year, Dad and I went to at least one or two games and saw him scooting around the outfield like young deer chasing looping or line drive butterflies. What a thrill! I still have the picture of him in my mind's eye catching baseballs and hitting them too! I became so transfixed, I had to listen to Giants' radio games to regularly find out what controversial manager Leo Durocher was doing with his lineup and whether the team was on a roll or not. In August, the pain became overwhelming for young fans like me The Giants dived to 13 ½ games behind their cross-town rivals and constant thorns, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
But, despite their failings, I never lost hope. In fact, I sent the team a one page letter. I wrote that I was still rooting for them every day, and I was sure they were going to make it back to first place by the end of the season. Of course, I ended by asking for all the players' autographs. Honestly, I didn't expect any answer. I was just a little boy idolizing players I thought were so busy and high in the sky that they wouldn't even read my scrawly handwriting. But, guess what?! Some official connected with the Giants did read the letter and collected the autographs of everyone on the team on the letter's blank spaces. That was it! I was going to be a Giants fan until I was no longer on the earth, and maybe even afterward, if that was possible.
Thomas "Dennie" Williams shared many more pages of his Giants' fan stories with me. If you'd like to read more from Dennie, let us know in the comments.
Dennie suggested creating a whole section of sports stories. If you have a first-person sport story to share, post it or a link to it on this page! Maybe we'll create a My Embellished Sport Life section within this blog.