For baseball fans, the World Series represents the best of times.
For one Milwaukee native and longtime Northwoods summer resident, the championship baseball series represents something much more… the memories of having played in the World Series.
Meet number 10, Tony Kubek, of the New York Yankees. WXPR’s Dave Daniels has the story.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Early October, 1958, I’m in grade school at Whitman Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington. My teacher, Mrs. Myre is a huge baseball fan. That afternoon it’s the first game of the ’58 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees. A black and white TV is wheeled into the room and our class will spend the rest of the afternoon watching the game. And there on a grainy black and white TV picture, my baseball hero, in Yankee pinstripes, shortstop, Tony Kubek. The Milwaukee boy who made good in the major leagues.
“My father played professional baseball with the old Milwaukee Brewers in the 20’s and 30’s,” says Kubek. “It was in the blood.”
1958 marked Kubek’s second year with the Yankee’s, he came to the big club as a 19 year old teenager the year before, playing for manager Casey Stengle.
Kubek says he made a decent catch and the response was "This kid can play."
“We played in my hometown in 1957 – the first World Series game I was in, " he says. "And I remember going to the bathroom and I heard someone throwing up in the stall next to me and I walked out and it was Mickey… I actually called him Mr. Mantle. And he said, ‘Don’t call me that, call me Mick.’ And he said, 'Don’t be nervous. I’m so nervous and this is about my 5th or 6th World Series.' So they made you feel at home and that was kind of good.”
After his playing days, Kubek was never really very far from his baseball roots. There were his many years on national television with the game of the week for NBC. In Canada he called games for the Toronto Blue Jays, and finally closed out his broadcasting career, working Yankees games.
But in between, the pull of family, his beloved wife Margaret, and the Northwoods , kept returning him home to Wisconsin. It’s been 46 summers that the Kubek family has called a lake north of Eagle River their summer Northwoods residence. There’s roots in the north for Tony that run as deep as his memories are for those players so long ago. Their names are never very far from his thoughts. Hank, Gil, Mickey, Elston, Yogi, Whitey, Bobby, Moose, and all the rest. We remember them as “the” Yankees. Tony and wife Margaret just call them “The Team.”
And now in the autumn of his life, as another Fall Classic gets underway tonight, number 10 of the New York Yankee’s, my boyhood baseball hero, can look back on a life well lived, on the field and off.
“Oh, it’s been terrific,” says Kubek. “You know, a lot of the things I like to do I can’t do anymore. You get a little old and you get a few aches and pains but I can still observe and see and still have friends up here. Still get to see this enchanting paradise we have up here and I think it’s a wonderful place.”
This story was written by Dave Daniels and produced for radio by Mackenzie Martin. It's part of our We Live Up Here series, where we tell the stories of the people and culture of northern Wisconsin. Music for this story came from Blue Dot Sessions. If you're interested in reporting a story for this series, reach out to Features Editor Mackenzie Martin: email@example.com
This story was funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.