The Weather Report
from Mic Mac Media by Mark McLaughlin
October, the month when baseball fever is at its peak, is usually one of the driest times of year in sunny California. But as with any sporting event, where the outcome is never certain, weather patterns can be capricious and upset the norm — as people found out on Columbus Day weekend in 1962, when the remnants of Typhoon Freda roared in out of the Pacific.
The potent tropical storm took nine days to cross the Pacific Ocean from Wake Island, and along the way it merged with a vigorous cold front to become an intense mid-latitude cyclone bearing down on the West Coast. Although the storm steered north before its center made landfall in California, four days of high wind and torrential rains took 56 lives and caused $250 million damage . . . years later, this rare tropical storm still ranks as one of the worst in California weather history.
Typhoon Freda Washed Out the 1962 World Series
It was early October 1962, and media attention was focused on San Francisco and the World Series. The San Francisco Giants were down three games to two against the New York Yankees, with game six, and seven if necessary, scheduled at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. The mighty Yankees were going for their 20th World Series Championship, but the scrappy Giants intended to stop them at home.
During its long ocean crossing from Asia, Typhoon Freda was downgraded to an extra-tropical storm, but she still packed winds like a full-blown hurricane. Along the California coast, gale force winds and a soaking rain in advance of the main storm system forced the postponement of game six scheduled for Friday, October 12 and meteorologists warned both residents and baseball fans that Freda was no ordinary storm.
Three hundred miles offshore, Freda veered sharply north. Tracking up the West Coast, the storm blew down millions of trees along a thousand miles of coastline. Flying debris took the lives of many people caught outdoors or in their cars. In Oregon, where the storm is still remembered as "The Big Blow," wind gusts reached 170 mph and damage was extensive.
The Golden State was spared a direct hit, but San Francisco recorded more than 7 inches of rain. At Candlestick Park, the tropical deluge flooded the outfield and parking lot. Despite the deadly conditions, hundreds of die-hard baseball fans camped out Friday night in hopes of getting one of the 2,200 bleacher seats available for Saturday's sold-out game.
Giant's pitching coach Larry Jansen considered the rain-delay fortuitous, figuring that it gave another day's rest for his veteran left-handed hurler, Billy Pierce. Thirty-five-year-old Pierce, 12-0 at Candlestick that season, was matched against the legendary Whitey Ford, the Yankee's ace left-hander and most successful pitcher in World Series history.
Modesto's World Series
For those of us who love baseball, there is nothing more magical than watching the arc of a homerun ball as it travels majestically through the air and settles in someone's outstretched glove in the bleachers, way out beyond center field. In San Francisco's AT&T Park, there's a special kind of treat if the ball manages to make it into McCovey Cove to the joy of the brave souls on kayaks or dinghys waiting and hoping for it to happen.
So there is no surprise that when the baseball gods smiled on Modesto that quiet Sunday in October, 1962 a grand memory and historial moment was created that is still recalled with awe, fascination and the recollections of far more people than were ever near Del Webb Field that day. Local writer Ken White has written a book called, "Getaway Day," that tells a fictionalized story of a boy and his father whose lives are touched by the day the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees came to town, and the magic is captured with all the dazzle and glittering joy intact. Here's an excerpt from the book:
"Commissioner [Ford] Frick ordered Game Six postponed again after inspecting the field. Although it was sunny and clear, the field was still too wet. Standing in ankle-deep water, the Commissioner announced: 'It's a cinch we'll get in the game tomorrow if there is no more rain.'
"Another decision was soon made. The public first heard about it on KSFO, as Russ [Hodges] and Lon [Simmons] broke the news, then on KFIV, KTRB, and in the Sunday Modesto Bee. . .As soon as the paper was delivered before dawn that Sunday, it was confirmed. The headline read: 'Giant, Yankee Teams May Work Out Today in Modesto.' Word spread like wildfire. . .The Yankees and Giants were coming to the Central Valley. . .As the Yankees boarded the bus for Modesto, Whitey Ford said it all: 'I never thought I'd look forward to a two-hour bus ride.' And that's exactly how long it took to cover the ninety-four miles to Modesto.
"People started arriving at Del Webb Field around ten o'clock. By eleven, the crowd had grown to 3,000. By noon, when the Yankees arrived, there were 5,000 on hand. Within hours, an estimated 16,000 fans would be waiting to get the 2,500 available seats to watch the two teams work out."
It was Sunday, Oct. 14, 1962 and Major League Baseball's greatest competition had come to Modesto. The two best teams in baseball were on that little field over on Neece Avenue near the Muncipal Golf Course, where airplanes used to land. Some of the greatest players to ever catch a fly, field a grounder or hit a fastball were on that field that day.
The Yankees won the World Series when it resumed in San Francisco.. The Giants, a team that had moved to the Bay Area in 1958 had won in 1954 and surely would have another chance the following year. However, it was 1989 before they were back in the series delayed by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. They lost to the Oakland A's. Then 2002, when they lost to the Angels. It would be 56 years before they won in 2010 - their first championship since moving west.
All that and the 2012 and 2014 championships are great for all the Giants fans in Modesto and Northern California. But the real magic happened back in 1962, when the World Series came to town for a day.
Willie Mays, the "say, hey" kid himself, takes a swing during batting practice in Modesto. No one needed to ask if this was heaven, Modestans had arrived at their own baseball Nirvana for three glorious hours with Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie McCovey, Whitey Ford and more all in their little hometown ballpark, Del Webb Field.
The center of the world of baseball was Modesto, California on Oct. 14, 1962. That day, for three hours, the World Series arrived in town. Typhoon Freda had dampened the baseball classic, and after three consecutive days of a postponed game six, the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees sought a place to practice that was dry, well-drained and perfect for stretching their legs and letting the balls fly and the bats swing. Turned out, Del Webb Field, some 90 miles from Candlestick Park was the perfect place. Several thousand Modesto baseball fans showed up and filled the ballpark with joyful cheers. A few days later they would be listening to President Kennedy describe Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba aimed at the US.