“It’s deja vu all over again.”–Yogi Berra
Today is the 38th anniversary of Bob Watson’s scoring baseball’s 1 millionth run, May 4, 1975. I expect to meet Bill Brown, author of one of the books mentioned below, tonight at Minute Maid Park in Houston. My original blog post on this event below.
“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”–Andy Warhol
The date was May 4th, 1975. The place was Candlestick Park, San Fransisco. And the man of the hour was Bob Watson of the Houston Astros, who scored the 1 millionth run in major league baseball history. Watson beat Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds by four seconds in a race around the bases from opposite ends of the country. It was one of the most exciting early-in-the-season baseball moments ever.
To this day Watson’s name, and to a lesser extent Concepcion’s, is associated with that event in baseball history. But there was another name in the news that was connected to the story. He was a 24-year-old local sportscaster from Westport, CT who used a first generation, eighty dollar electronic calculator to research and originate the millionth run contest, thus scooping all the professional statisticians and baseball journalists. He went on a media tour to promote a “guess-the-player” contest sponsored by Tootsie Roll. His picture and name appeared in wire service stories, in Sport Magazine and in the New York Daily News. He appeared on television and spoke at press conferences alongside the likes of Stan Musial, Ralph Branca, Mel Allen and Bowie Kuhn. He had 15 minutes of Warholian fame. Then came oblivion.
The 24-year old whiz kid with the calculator was, of course, me.
I was exhilarated, excited and even euphoric; then it was over. And for thirty-something years the memory simply faded, almost to the point that it seemed to have happened to another person in
another lifetime. It became just another forgotten footnote in the deep and illustrious history of our national pastime. After awhile, I didn’t even care, so why should anybody else?
Then something funny happened. Straight out the blue, nearly four years ago, I received an email from Kansas City Star sportswriter Joe Posnanski.
“Are you the Mark Sackler who originated the millionth run?” he asked. “I’m writing a book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. I want to include it and the events involving Davey Concepcion as an interesting sidebar to the season’s story.”
The next year, The Machine, Posnanski’s book chronicling a great season by one of the best teams in the game’s history, appeared in bookstores with a chapter on the millionth run. After 34 years, somebody remembered. My sister joked that I was getting another 15 minutes of fame. My retort was that it was more like 30 seconds.
But then it happened again. A few months ago, a gentleman named Timothy Gregg contacted me on Facebook to make the same inquiry. Was I the millionth run originator? Gregg, also a former sportscaster and sports promoter, now a digital media producer, was co-authoring the memoirs of Houston Astros TV commentator Bill Brown. Of course, there would be a chapter on the millionth run in that book as well. This time not from the Reds point of view, but the Astros. This book–My Baseball Journey—was just recently published. So fifteen minutes of fame is now fifteen minutes and forty-five seconds. And counting…
If you are a baseball fan, both of these books are worthwhile. Otherwise, stay tuned for more effluvia from my hopelessly cluttered cranium.