What they said:Readers' memories of Al Lang Field

Tom Romano: I was a freshman at Eckerd College back in August of 1979, and I had played ball on some really nice fields (Cooperstown to name just one), and had never heard of Al Lang Field and didn't give it much thought.

But then I had the opportunity to play a few games there, found out the history and was totally in awe. So much in awe that my first time playing there I was sitting on the bench, waiting for my time to go in and pitch and was looking around and thinking of all the great Hall of Famers that had walked where I was walking, sat where I was sitting and pitched from the very mound where I would be pitching.

Then my coach told me to get ready, I was going in the next inning. Well, I couldn't find my hat, I couldn't find my glove, and the coach looked at me like I was some kind of freshman buffoon. It's a shame no other freshman will be able to get an experience (or better) like I had in the years to come.

Larry Burke: My greatest memories of Al Lang Stadium were those of my childhood. Every spring you could find me down around the park, not usually as a paying customer, but outside along the sea wall!

I was there with many other "contestants" eagerly waiting for the next chance to recover a foul ball that would be hit right into the drink of Tampa Bay! Living on the water myself, I had an advantage over most of my opponents who desired that stray ball as much as I did but didn't enter the water with as many swimming skills.

The balls would ricochet off the roof of the old Al Lang Field like rockets heading for the salty water. That is when I would put my expertise to work. When most of the others were jumping in feet first, there I was with my ability to dive in head first getting ahead of the wet pack! I would attack the balls with all the power of a very determined 11-year-old boy who just wanted tokens of major league spring training.

The "tokens" may be gone, but my memories will never be.

Dennis Schrader: I was 9 years old when I snagged a lose ball during practice at Al Lang Field, and Mickey Mantle came by and signed it for me. That started the largest autographed collection in the world. I now have over 3,000 baseballs.

In 1956 Mickey Mantle hits a pitch off Larry Jackson over the left field wall into the bay. Yankees top Cards 4-3. Stan Musial contends, "No HR has ever cleared my head by as much as long as I can remember." Mantle hits another off Bob Mave March 20th that also lands in the water. Mantle won the triple crown that year.

Somethings ya never forget.

Joe Baal: In the 1970s when we were young kids, our dad would pack the station wagon on Long Island and drive down to St. Pete to visit our grandparents for spring vacation. Of course, being avid baseball fans, this was the perfect time to come. We have always been Yankees fans, and if the schedule allowed, we would catch them playing the Mets or Cards at Al Lang.

My brother Mike is two years younger than I am, and he was about 7 one particular time that we saw the Mets host the Yanks there. We arrived early and we rushed to the railing with autograph books and pens. … Yogi Berra, then the Mets manager, was nearing us and the crowd around us surged forward to make contact with the legendary Yankee. This caused Mike to drop his book through the fence at Berra's feet. He leaned down and picked it up to hand it back to my brother. His little hand muffed the exchange and the book fell again. Yogi once again bent to pick it up and this time took the pen and signed it. As he carefully placed both in Mike's hands, he said, "I'm glad you're on the other team, kid!"

I don't remember the score of the game, and the autographs are long gone. But that is still a vivid memory refreshed each time I visited Al Lang over the past 30 years.

What they said:Readers' memories of Al Lang Field 03/28/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:00am]

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