BY JIM MISUNAS
Two years after Larned’s Ralph Terry yielded one of the most famous home runs in World Series history, he set a major-league record.
Terry earned World Series Most Valuable Player honors in 1962 while pitching the New York Yankees to the title.
MLB was a different game more than 50 years ago when Terry pitched to Willie McCovey with first base open and runners on second and third base. The Yankees led the San Francisco Giants 1-0 with one out left in Game 7.
“It was the best game I ever pitched,” Terry said. “These days, they probably would send in a left handed pitcher.”
New York manager Ralph Houk discussed how to pitch carefully to McCovey, who would be followed by Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
“I told Ralph I’d take my shot at him. Let’s pitch around him, high and tight and low and away,” Terry said. “If we got behind him, we’d pitch to the next guy.”
The subsequent line drive caught by Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson secured Terry’s place in history as the first pitcher to win and lose the World Series facing the final batter in Game 7.
“We played a shift on him,” Terry said. “McCovey hit a line drive to my second baseman. If I had lost that game I would’ve had to change my identity.”
Two years earlier, Terry yielded the game-winning Game 7 World Series home run to Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski after he warmed up five times in the bullpen.
“It was legendary at the time,” Terry said. “That was one of the greatest home runs ever hit in major league baseball. It put Maz in the Hall of Fame. I carried a big load mentally.”
Terry was thankful he got an opportunity to earn his place in baseball history two years later. He won 23 regular season games and pitched 300 innings. He won two World Series games.
“I was thankful to get an opportunity to pitch in another Game 7,” Terry said. “I never had to take a lot of guff over losing a big one because I won a big one. But I don’t brag either because I lost one and won one.”
Terry signed dozens of his autobiography “Right Down the Middle,” Wednesday at Great Bend’s Stoneridge Country Club. He will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Stoneridge junior golf program, which helps the Great Bend High School golf program.
Terry pitched the Yankees to the 1962 World Series with a 2-1 record and 1.80 earned run average. Terry won 107 major league games pitching for the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians and New York Mets. Terry played professional golf on the Senior PGA Tour. He was born in Big Cabin, Okla. and attended Chelsea High School.
In “Right Down the Middle: The Ralph Terry Story,” he recalls the first batter he faced, which made for a perfect book title.
“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 with an average over .300.
I looked for the sign from Yogi (Berra). 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 eyes 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 the opening kickoff back when I’d played high school football in Chelsea, Oklahoma. I was in the game. That was all it took.
No matter where I played after that, in the World Series or anywhere else, I was never afraid again.
The Amazon link for Terry’s book is (https://www.amazon.com/Right-Down-Middle-Ralph-Terry-ebook/dp/B01M24J8QT/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1)