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World Series flu?

Maybe it was in October 1955, when Dave was in the eighth grade in Fratt School, part of the Billings Catholic school system. That was the fall when the Brooklyn Dodgers topped the New York Yankees in their second “Subway Series,” Brooklyn winning the deciding seventh game behind the pitching of most valuable player Johnny Padres. Whitey Ford pitched the Yankees to wins in Games One and Six of that Series.

Or maybe it was 1953, when Dave was in the sixth grade at Fratt. That was the fall when the Yankees prevailed in their six-game World Series showdown with Brooklyn, and Ford lost to the Dodgers, 7–3, in the fourth game, his only Series outing.

Whether it was 1953 or 1955, Dave already had experience as a Little League pitcher at Lissa Field, and Ford was his big-league hero.

Based on his later recollection of that time, it’s easy to imagine Dave knowing that a daytime game of the Series was on the radio and feeling imprisoned as he sat in his Fratt School classroom.

And the teaching nuns at Fratt knew that Dave was becoming a “baseball nut.” So one of them walked over to his desk.

“David, you need to go down to the office,” she may have said.

He may have talked to Sister Ellen Louise, the school principal in the mid-1950s.1

She took a look at him and said, “David, you look a little peaked to me. You’d better go home.”

“Sure, Sister Superior,” Dave said.

Before she could change her mind, he grabbed his belongings, put on a jacket to ward off the fall chill outside and asked for permission to use a phone in the office to call his mother to ask for a ride home. And if Beth McNally couldn’t take time off from her job as a supervisor at the Yellowstone County Welfare Department to give him a ride, he probably would have had to walk. His sister, Dee, had graduated from high school in the spring of 1953, but that fall, she was attending college in Missoula.

If walking home was the only option, Dave might have thought, no problem. It was about 1–1/2 miles from the school to his home on Elm Street. However, he got home, once there he turned on the radio to listen to the Series game.

Dave totally identified with Ford because he was, as Baltimore Sun sportswriter Phil Jackman wrote two decades later, “short, squatty, cunning.” 2

Agreeing with Jackman, Ed Bayne, Jr., the older of Ed Bayne’s two sons and a Billings American Legion teammate and good friend of McNally, said “Dave initially patterned himself after Whitey. He looked up to him.”3

That’s easy to understand since both were southpaws, and their physiques were almost identical. Ford, born 14 years before McNally in Lake Success, New York, stood 5–10 and weighed 178 during his playing days. Dave carried 185 pounds on his 5–11 frame.

Ford and McNally faced off on the pitching mound three times, in 1963 and 1964, but only one of those games resulted in a decision for both pitchers. That was on July 1, 1964, when Ford threw a three-hit, 2–0 shutout at the Orioles in Yankee Stadium. McNally yielded six hits in a losing effort.4

Another early hero of Dave’s was Robin Roberts, who pitched 14 years for the Philadelphia Phillies before coming to the Orioles in a trade in 1962, the year McNally made his sparkling big-league debut. Roberts was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976, two years after Ford joined those honored at Cooperstown, New York.

Television joined radio as an option for watching, as well as listening to, World Series games in Billings by the mid-1950s. KOOK-TV (now KTVQ) hoped to become the first TV station to begin broadcasting in Montana in 1953, but a strike delayed construction of the station, allowing KXLF in Butte to claim first-in-the-Treasure-State honors in early September.5 KOOK went on the air later that month. 6

Bayne’s parents got a TV soon after KOOK began beaming its signal, and it wasn’t longer before Billings viewers could watch World Series broadcasts.

That created another bond among Ed Bayne, Jr., McNally, and another of their good friends from Little League days, Bill McIntosh.

“Sometimes, Dave and McIntosh came over to the house to talk to Dad and watch or listen to the games,” Ed Bayne, Jr., said.

The trio didn’t know it then but less than a decade later, thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans would tune into the 1966 World Series. They would watch Dave McNally, as an Orioles pitcher, throw a brilliant victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  1. Billings Gazette, August 20, 1954 ↩︎
  2. Baltimore Sun, September 1, 1978 ↩︎
  3. Phone interview with Ed Bayne, Jr., June 24, 2023 ↩︎
  4. ↩︎
  5. The Yellowstone News, September 3, 1953 ↩︎
  6. The Yellowstone News, September 24, 1953 ↩︎

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Jamie Larson