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Friday, April 08, 2011

1958 and now

I have some old Cincinnati Reds baseball team yearbooks from my younger days growing up in that city. I was looking through one of them today from 1958 and, although it is 53 years old, there are some interesting items there that offer a good look at the contrasts of life then and now.

There is an ad for the new 1958 Ford Thunderbird advertising that is “all swoop and no sway.” Those of you familiar with T-Birds know that ’58 was the year they enlarged it into an ugly 4 seater thus ending the three great model years of 1955, ‘56, and ’57. That also was the year the Edsel was introduced so it wasn’t a good year for Ford.
There is an ad for Weidemann’s Beer, a popular local brand at that time. It asks me if I am “beer hungry.” Of course, who isn’t? On the next page is a half page ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes boldly telling me that “LUCKIES TASTE BETTER!” No surgeon general warnings in those days. As they used to tell us in basic training: “Light ‘em up!”

Another half page is for some hotels you may wish to stay in during your next trip to New York. How about the Hotel Times Square or the Knickerbocker? In 1958 you get a room at those places for $4 and up. A cup of coffee at Starbucks costs that much today.

One of the big time hotels in Cincinnati in 1958 was the Netherland Plaza. They had a cocktail lounge there called “The Gay Peacock.” Do we have to even imagine how a name like that would be interpreted today? For those too young to remember, the word “gay” used to have a lot different definition than it does now.

How about a complete steak dinner at Jack Stayin’s Charcoal Steak House for $3.75? The ad says it is “magnificently prepared” so it must be good.

Since these are ads from the Cincinnati Reds yearbook, I must mention the price to see a ball game in those days: Box seats, $2.00, general admission, $1.50, bleachers, .75.

It all sounds good but we must remember that incomes were a lot lower in 1958 so when the steakhouse finally raised their steak dinner price to $4 they probably caught hell for it.

Another interesting note from 1958 is where the ballplayers have their biographies. Each player’s ancestry is listed. For Pitcher Brooks Lawrence and other black players they are “Negro”. A pitcher named Johnny Klippstein is listed as “German-Scotch, English-Indian”. I doubt if such nomenclature would be available in the yearbooks of today. In 1958, it was still a big deal.

Another oddity is the addresses of the players during the off season are listed. If you wanted to go by and say “Hi” to Brooks Lawrence in 1958, all you had to do was stop by his home at 1817 Springmont Avenue in Springfield, Ohio.

With everyone’s paranoia about privacy today, it’s amazing how accessible ballplayers were then. But, since they didn’t make much money and had to work during the winter at regular jobs, maybe they didn’t consider themselves the celebrities that today’s players with their millions think they are.

Well, it’s time for me to stop by Jack Stayin’s for a complete chicken dinner for $2.00. Then, I’m heading to the Reds’ game to sit in a box seat for $2 and drink a couple of 25 cent Wiedemann’s. Let’s see, that’s $4.50 for the evening so I’ll have enough to buy a deck of Luckies for a quarter on the way home. It’s 1958 and life is good!

1 comment:

finnertyjj said...

The year 1958 was the first year my favorite team, the New York Giants, played in San Francisco at Seals Stadium. I had moved to California in 1954, and thought it was a tribute to my loyalty that persuaded them to follow me there. They had a few stars I remembered, including Willy Mays, but the new kid on the block was the Baby Bull, Orlando Cepeda. That team also featured Felipe Alou, Leon Wagner and Jim Davenport, while Johnny Antonelli, Stu Miller and young Mike McCormick were the starting pitchers.

I never saw any of their games that initial season for a number of reasons. My second child was born in July, and she exhibited no interest in the sport. You might think that I would have made the effort, but traveling to that park from San Mateo, about forty miles to the south, would have taken me forever by car. Commuting to that city from any of the towns on the Peninsula is singularly difficult. I know from personal experience.

In 1961 the Giants played their first game in their brand new stadium, Candlestick Park. It was a terrible place to play ball, always windy and cold. Once I took my pregnant wife to see a night game there. We arrived in the bottom of the first inning just in time to see McCovey come to bat with two men on base. He hit a pop-up that got lost in the ever-present fog bank. It landed about twenty feet behind second base, where he now stood with a double. The umps called a ‘fog’ delay that lasted for about a half hour, at which time my wife and I departed for home. I have no recollection of who won that game. I only went to one other game there, the final game of the 1962 World Series that they lost 1-0 to the Yankees when McCovey’s line drive was caught by Bobby Richardson in the ninth inning with runners on second and third. Where was the fog when we needed it most?