December 9, 2007
Larsen's Feat Lives in Amateur Movies
On Oct. 8, 1956, Saul Terry took his 8-millimeter camera to Yankee Stadium, where he and his wife settled into seats in the right-field bleachers, which would cast occasional clouds of darkness onto his film.
Terry and his wife, Elissa, were native New Yorkers at the end of a cross-country trip in their Chevrolet Nomad from their adopted home in Los Angeles. They were not big baseball fans and hoped to see "My Fair Lady," but one of Terry's suppliers in the lighting business could only get them tickets to the game.
Two men out of 64,519 fans were unknowingly producing the lost films of Don Larsen's perfect game, color home movies that complement the few newsreel clips of the game that are frequently replayed, and the NBC broadcast that has been seen only by small groups since it was carried live.
Terry captured Mickey Mantle's great one-handed catch in left-center off Gil Hodges's bat in the fifth inning; Mengert followed Mantle's trot after his home run in the fourth, but not the swing itself. Duke Snider's tumbling catch in the fourth is in Terry's; Mengert's shows Yogi Berra tossing balls to Bill Dickey, who was hitting pregame fungoes. A few feet away, Sal Maglie, the Dodgers' starting pitcher, warmed up. Terry's film found the Yankees' bullpen with Whitey Ford and, it seemed, Bob Grim warming up.
Terry was the less-experienced filmmaker, having received his camera as a wedding gift that April. He was sitting far away, underneath a deck, and fired off shots of Hank Bauer's back in right field — and a few too many of the crowd. In a voice-over added to the film, Terry said, "I should have used my telephoto lens more to catch the batter more in the batter's box." The existence of his film was first reported last year.
Abramowitz added, "He didn't really know how much it was worth." Terry died in May, and Abramowitz said he was trying to interest auction houses, among others, in a sale.
Color home movies shot by players and fans were stitched together to create the "When It Was a Game" documentaries on HBO. George Roy, the co-producer, said: "When somebody has something nobody has seen, it's noteworthy and great to see. Beyond that, I can't tell you what it's worth."
Berra watched the Terry film at a cocktail party in Florida in late October with numerous other former Yankees, including Larsen, his batterymate in the game. "It was all right, but I liked the other one better," he said in reference to the broadcast.
"And there it is," Terry said in the narration. "The Yankee Stadium."
Elissa laughed. "You're funny," she said.
He added: "In the final inning, it was hard to hold the camera steady, but I did. I was excited, but I was more nervous on the first tee with Sam Snead in the final round at Augusta."
When Berra leapt into Larsen's arms (the home movies show the moment from different angles and also portray the well-dressed fans who flooded the sun-splashed field), Saul Terry recognized the thrill.