For this special classic edition of sports illustrated—our midsummer celebration of the rich and colorful history of baseball—we asked five current and former SI writers to take us back to the best games they ever saw. The reminiscences of Roy Blount Jr., Robert W. Creamer, Ron Fimrite, Peter Gammons and Tim Kurkjian unfold beginning on page 38.
In the case of Creamer, who retired from SI in 1984, this assignment started with an archaeological dig deep into the hall closet of his home in Tuckahoe, N.Y., a suburb of New York City. Riffling through a box of unpublished material, he uncovered a sheaf of notes he had typed up nearly 40 years earlier.
It was a steamy June evening in 1954. Creamer, a 31-year-old writer-to-be for a new weekly sports magazine that as yet existed only in the imagination of its staff, left work a little early with three of his colleagues and took the subway uptown. New York's two National League teams, the Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, were about to begin a three-game series at the Polo Grounds, and Creamer thought he would use the occasion to get in a little practice with his baseball reportage.
The magazine that had hired Creamer was not yet christened; its debut as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was more than a month away. "Come to think of it," Creamer says today while sitting and sipping on his shady front porch, "I don't know what the hell we did all day. But it seems to me we were always busy."
Creamer and his coworkers didn't consider asking for credentials to sit in the press box. Instead they walked up to the ticket window and bought rightfield bleacher scats for $1.10 apiece. Creamer spent the evening scrawling his observations into a steno notebook neatly balanced in his lap. As the action unfolded, it became apparent that he had landed upon a special game. We won't spoil the ending: Suffice it to say that on this night in June, the 1954 National League pennant would be decided—in Creamer's eyes, at least—in 13 classic innings of baseball.
A few days later Creamer transcribed his notes, more than 6,000 words in all, on a typewriter at the office. Then, for posterity, he filed them away. "Real solid work," he says appreciatively.
We would expect nothing less. In 31 years at SI, Creamer was writer, editor and resident sage. He grew in stature along with the magazine, eventually writing the definitive biographies of Babe Ruth and Casey Stengel. Since his retirement he has been an occasional contributor to SI and continues to write books. His work-in-progress: a historical novel entitled The Death of Nathan Hale.
Like most lifelong baseball fans, Creamer, 71, casts a watchful eye to a future filled with World Series champions who finished second in their division and playoff games on pay-per-view. His neighborhood is now teeming with young basketball players, so he takes solace from watching a small boy who lives up the street play catch. "I think to myself," says Creamer, smiling, "Thank God for you, Henry."
For you, too, Bob.
Creamer, who's an SI classic himself, strikes an appropriately Ruthian pose.