It's Sept. 29, 1954. The Polo Grounds in New York. It's Game 1 of the World Series between the Indians and the New York Giants. The score is tied, 2-2, in the top of the eighth inning, but the Indians are threatening. There are runners on first and second, no outs. Vic Wertz is at the plate against Giants reliever Don Liddle. Wertz crushes the ball to right-center field; it would have landed 460 feet from home plate. But, of course, we all know that Willie Mays caught it with his back to the infield. It was known as "The Catch." And Joe Corrado was there. Corrado is 90 years old and a press box attendant in Jacobs Field. On game days, you can find him sitting in the Jacobs Field press box, wearing an Indians hat adorned with Employee of the Month pins.
"I've seen Willie Mays when he caught that ball from Vic Wertz," Corrado says. "Right-center field. It was a beautifully hit ball. I don't know how Willie Mays got that ball. We lost four straight to 'em in '54." Corrado, who has a son, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, has spent a staggering amount of time with the Indians. This year is his 57th with the Tribe; he's been working for the organization since 1949. "I was an usher [in 1949]," Corrado says. "In those days, if we had too many ushers, and it was going to rain or something, they'd ask you if you wanted to volunteer to pull the tarp. They'd give you a dollar extra." Corrado and his fellow ushers were paid two dollars a game in 1949. Corrado started as a part-time usher before retiring from an industrial job; he was middle-aged then, but there was so much history left in front of him. "I worked in the steel mills," Corrado says. "I worked for U.S. Steel. And I retired at the age of 51. I had 30 years and I got out. It seemed an appropriate transition, going from one of America's great industries to America's pastime. Corrado had the misfortune to come on board just one year after the Indians won their last World Series championship; he worked his nights away at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the "Mistake By The Lake." Some nights, Joe and his fellow ushers seemed to be the only ones at the park. "Yes, I worked at the old stadium," Corrado says. "On Opening Days, we'd have a sellout: 78,000. The next day, we'd be seating the pigeons." Corrado was promoted from usher to press box attendant in 1981. He can regale you with stories about his experience for hours; some of those stories are touching, some are just funny. "At the old stadium, we had a ramp that went up to the press box," he says. "I can tell you so many stories. There was one fellow out there one night, going back-and-forth with a trench coat on, looking at me. And I watched him." The man would later approach Corrado with curious request.
"He says, 'I'm going to take something out of that press box,'" Corrado says with a smile on his face. "'This is all confidential.' I say, 'What are you? A policeman or what? Show me your credentials.'"
The man wouldn't show Corrado any papers, insisting that it was a confidential "mission." Corrado sent the man on his way.
"He said, 'What's your name?'," Corrado relays. "'Your name's going to be in the paper tomorrow.'" Well, I said, 'Make sure you spell it right.'"
But Corrado's most fascinating and touching story involves Billy Martin, the occasionally brilliant, usually acerbic, manager of the Yankees for so many years.
"One of the nicest stories I can tell you is about Billy Martin," Corrado says.
That's instantly intriguing, as "nice" and "Billy Martin" don't usually go together.
"Billy Martin was a beautiful man," Corrado says. "He was in-between jobs one time, and he came in with the Yankees. Two little kids came by, they were about 12-years-old. And they say, 'Hey usher, we want to talk to Billy Martin.'
"I went up and got Billy Martin, told him, 'Two little kids want to talk to you.'"
Martin came right down to talk to the kids.
"He came down, talked to those two little kids, put his arms around them, made them feel like a million dollars," Corrado says. "I walked up the ramp with him, and I said, 'Billy, that was great of you to talk to those kids.'
"He says, 'Remember this: These are our future fans.'"
Corrado witnessed some of the exceptional moments in Indians history over the last half-century. He was there on May 7, 1957, when Herb Score was struck in the eye by a line drive from Gil McDougald.
"I liked Herb Score," Corrado said. "He loved everybody. Whenever somebody came up to see him, he always had time to talk to the people.
"I was here the night that he got hit in the eye. McDougald, played second base for the Indians, he hit a line drive, right at Herb Score, right in the eye. They came out with towels and everything, they came out, got him out. Bob Lemon took over, beat the Yankees, 2-1. But from that night on, [Score] was gun-shy."
Corrado was there on May 15, 1981, when Len Barker pitched a perfect game against the Blue Jays.
"I've seen Barker's no-hitter," Corrado says. "It was a dreary night, kind of cold. I was working right behind the plate as an usher. He pitched a beautiful game. They said there was about 7-8,000 people? I bet you there wasn't more than 2,000. They always pad it a little bit."
Ninety years old, and still possessed of a sharp wit, Corrado credits baseball to keeping his mind active and vigorous.
"I love the game," Corrado says. "That's the reason we're living longer. You know, when you retire, you should have something to do to occupy your mind. It keeps you young.
"Don't sit in that chair waiting to die."
: : : This Edition: June 28, 2006 : : :
Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.