I was just 9 years old, but it was my first-ever Major League baseball game. It was 1966 and my grandfather took me to the Big A in Anaheim. Angels vs. Yankees. I saw Mickey Mantle giving an interview near the dugout and Jimmy Piersall was playing in the Angels' outfield. Whitey Ford was on the mound for the Yanks, closing out his last season, and the starting pitcher for the Angels was another old guy, Lew Burdette, who was then 40. The Angels won in extra innings, on an inside-the-park home run by Paul Schaal. Life was good and the memory stuck.
I didn't know back then that big Lew was probably a spitballer, but he never got caught, so maybe he wasn't. Or he was the best ever.
Let's say the best ever. Lew Burdette died Tuesday at his home in Winter Garden, Fla. He was 80 and had lung cancer.