LARNED — Ralph Terry lives in Larned with his wife Tanya in the house where they raised their kids.
He lives the small-town life, enjoying frequent trips to the area golf courses, but in 1962 — 50 years ago this October — he accomplished something very few people do in their lifetimes.
Ralph Terry won the 1962 World Series as a member of the New York Yankees. He was named the World Series Most Valuable Player after pitching three games, including Game 7.
“Both teams had great hitters,” Terry said. “It was a real heavy-weight championship series. There were real sluggers. They had four or five hall of famers. We had a few hall of famers, too.”
It wasn’t all about the fame and the accolades for Terry and the rest of the Major League players.
“The salaries weren’t that big in those days, we needed the money,” Terry said. “It was more than the glory. It was pretty serious business. It wasn’t all the sunglasses and autographs, you know. It was tough.”
Terry pitched 12 seasons in the league, throwing for the Yankees (1956-57 and 1959-64), as well as the Kansas City Athletics (1957-59 and 1966), Cleveland Indians (1965) and New York Mets (1966-67).
Terry pitched on seven pennant-winning teams, all as part of the Yankees. He has the distinction of being the only pitcher to throw the final pitch in two World Series.
The first came in a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series when Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off home run to win Game 7, a 10-9 setback for Terry and the Yankees.
“I felt bad for Casey Stengel, our manager,” Terry said. “He’s the one that gave me my shot to pitch for the Yankees. That was his last year.”
Terry said that Stengel was one of the best managers he ever worked for.
“I went to see him in his office,” Terry said. “He was a tired old-timer sitting there by himself. I said, ‘Sorry I ended it that way for you.’ He said, ‘How’d you pitch to him?’ I said, ‘Well, I tried to pitch him low and outside.’ I knew he was a high-ball hitter.
“He said, ‘As long as you pitch, you won’t always get the ball where you want to. As long as you weren’t going against the scouting report, than I wouldn’t sleep at night. Forget it kid, come back and have a great year next year.’ That’s the greatest counseling a manager can give a young player.”
The second time he threw the final pitch in a World Series was in 1962.
Terry pitched in three games during the ’62 series against a San Francisco Giants team that boasted Willie Mays, Jose Pagan, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal.
In Game 2, Terry lost 2-0 pitching against Jack Sanford, who finished that season 24-7 with a 3.43 ERA.
“We faced each other three times,” Terry said of Sanford. “He was a very good pitcher, too.”
Terry took the mound again in Game 5. This time, he beat Sanford with Tom Tresh hitting the game-winning three-run home run for New York.
Rain delayed Game 6 for four days, which allowed for enough time between games for Terry to start Game 7.
Terry pitched a complete game, scattering four hits and allowing no runs. The Yankees won 1-0.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Matty Alou, pinch-hitting for Billy O’Dell, led off with a bunt single.
Terry struck out the next two batters to get to Mays, who hit a double to Yankees right fielder Roger Maris. The Yankees’ slugger fielded it and returned the ball to the infield quick enough to hold Alou at third.
“Mays hit a double to right field,” Terry said. “Maris ran hard to his left and cut it off. It was basically a long single. It didn’t go through to the wall or Matty Alou would have scored easily.
“I had good luck with Mays during the series. I held him 1-for-12. I got (Willie) McCoveyl, he was 3-for-12, and Cepeda was 0-for-12. I had pretty good luck, but their pitchers had good luck with our power as well.”
This left Terry staring down McCovey with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second.
McCovey hit a line drive to Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson.
“I saw it go by me,” Terry said. “It was about five feet high. We had the shift on him. We played him to pull. We had the first baseman and the second baseman way out in the grass, shifted over. I knew it was catchable because it wasn’t going to go over anybody’s head.
“I knew I had a guy over there, and he had time to move laterally. Our second baseman, Bobby Richardson, had it played perfect.”
Looking back, Terry said that it was best game he’d played, considering the pressure.
“It had been a long series with the rain delays,” Terry said. “When you get down to the seventh game, that’s probably the most pressure you can put on a pitcher. I’d already lost a seventh game in ’60 in Pittsburgh.
“When you have two evenly matched teams like that, there is a very thin line between who wins and who loses. It was the best game I’ve ever pitched when you consider the circumstances, and it turns out I was fortunate to win.”
Completing his Major League Baseball career in 1967 with a career record of 107-99 with 1,000 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.62, Terry turned to golf.
Terry qualified for the PGA, competing in 106 Senior PGA events and had five top-10 finishes in his career.
“I am the only baseball player to actually qualify for the PGA events instead of getting in by invitation,” Terry said. “It was really good for me as an athlete. It helped me make the transition from a highly competitive major league sport to another sport, but it got my competition fix.
“It helped me make that adjustment back into the real world. Somebody asked me, ‘What was the highlight of your senior tour experience,’ and I said, ‘I made more than I spent.’”
Now, Terry enjoys living in Larned.
“I really like the Larned and Great Bend area,” Terry said. “I like all the hunting and golfing and bowling and the people. I like small-town living.”