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Mickey Mantle's Cousin and Former New York Giants Player Competes in 90s Game
Sept. 1, 2023
By Donna McGuire
Softball News Report
A large and energized crowd heartily cheered the 28 ball players who participated in Senior Softball USA’s second annual 90s versus 90s game during the 2023 World Championships in Las Vegas.
The fans whooped and shouted for every base hit, nice catch and strong defensive play during the Sept. 18 game at Big League Dreams Sports Park. At times, they good-naturedly booed the umpire for yelling “foul ball” on close shots down the line. Mostly, though, they simply enjoyed watching the old guys play the game they have loved for decades.
The players had so much fun, they were like little kids who didn’t want their parents calling them inside from a neighborhood sandlot game. So, they lobbied organizers to extend the game to seven innings from the originally-planned five-inning match. Naturally, SSUSA obliged.
The game featured three home runs, 22 runs scored, and one “Happy Birthday” serenade.
Oh, and the East All-Stars defeated the West All-Stars 15-7.
“That was fun,” said West player Carroll Shook, 87, of Wenatchee, Wash., who ignited the scoring with a grand-slam inside-the-park homer over the right-center-fielder’s head in the first inning. “It was a bunch of neat guys to play with, and the competition was good.”
Players ranged in age from 87 to 94. They came from as far as Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Most had children or even grandchildren watching from the stands.
The Easterners generated the most consistent offense. They scored in each of the first five innings, sparked by a first-inning home run hit by Art Barnes, 87, of Littletown, Pennsylvania. Teammate Joe Sykes, 89, of Clarksville, Tennessee, followed with a second-inning home run.
Later in the game, a coach ran onto the field just as Jim Richardson of Oklahoma City walked toward the batter’s box. Richardson, who grew up playing ball with his first cousin, Mickey Mantle, won a World Championship with the Texas Classics. A long time ago, back in 1953, the New York Giants signed him to play baseball. A hand injury and the Korean War interrupted his pro days. After returning to the states, he turned to fastpitch softball.
Now at the plate for a slowpitch at-bat, he hesitated to see what the coach wanted.
“We understand someone on the field has a birthday,” the coach announced.
Wouldn’t you know it. Richardson, who was coaxed out of retirement to play in the special game, was celebrating his 91st.
Led by home plate umpire David Lee, the fans sang him “Happy Birthday.”
That was special. So was getting a base hit.
Yet like his famous cousin, Richardson owns a strong competitive spirit. Before the game, his top goal had been a victory. So how did he feel after the game?
“We didn’t win,” he said curtly. Disappointment dripped from his voice.
OK. But did you have fun playing with those guys?
Well, yeah, he admitted.
On that, everyone could agree.