...this could be it. its going way out there-way back, way back .its got the distance-its going, going-its GONE & Disco Dan Ford has just hit the first homerun in the new Yankee Stadium.
Ronald & Marquette Frye heard the police siren & pulled their car over to the side. Being black they were conscious of the fact that the officers would probably be white & wanted no trouble with them. This was Watts, the year was 1965, & for the past few years there had been difficult moments between blacks & white police officers.
During the questioning the officers accused Ronald of drunken driving. The two brothers were peacefully answering questions & then Rena Frye, their mother, showed up. A crowd had gath- ered at this time. Suddenly Rena, the two brothers, & the officers began to angrily push against each other. The officers arrested the Fryes. Other officers came over & while putting the broth- ers in a squad car hit them repeatedly with their clubs. The car left the scene but the damage had been done.
Breaking up into militant groups the crowd began to go through the streets, rioting, breaking into shops, looting, & confronting the police. It spread. It went on for days. After six days, 34 people were dead, more than a thousand injured, and there were at least 40 million dollars in damages.
This was Watts during the 60s. It was an era where the jobless rate was high among Chicanos & blacks. Schools were badly staffed, housing was mediocre, & police confrontations among the disenfranchised happened frequently. It was constantly pointed out that the police lied in their reports. Beatings & torture were frequent against black prisoners. Quite often blacks had their fingers broken & handcuffs would be tightened so badly that circulation would be hamper- ed. Legs & stomachs would be routinely clubbed & heads were smacked against police car doors as the suspects were pushed in. Watts was a powder keg at this time. Violence was often the answer for both sides. And this brings us to Dan Ford.
interview with Disco dan ford
AN ARTICLE FROM ONE MORE INNING FOR BASEBALLGURU: JUNE, 2003
Dan Ford grew up in this atmosphere. Although not part of it, he was surrounded by these conditions. He did manage to rise above it, because of his athletic ability, and he and friends like Al Cowans and Albert Belle went on to have fine careers in baseball. The violence was something he was always aware of. He did see friends of his consumed by it and also some members of his family. To his credit, Dan used his athletic ability to escape the turmoil of the conditions that were prevalent in Watts during that period.
He will always be known as the man who hit the first home run in the new Yankee Stadium. Playing for ten years he managed to acquire a lifetime BA of .270, 121 homeruns and 566 RBIs. When he was given a chance to play every day he performed well. He is very much aware that because of where he lived during his formulative years , his life could have turned out differently.
Having come off my first difficult interview with a ballplayer (in over 100 that Ive had over the years) it was a pleasure spending time with Dan. He answered everything with concise, thorough information & always there was a sense of fun & joy in having played the game.
DISCO DAN FORD:THE ONE MORE INNING INTERVIEW
...There really wasnt that much of a fuss made about that HR in the Stadium. I knew about it and it was talked about but now I hear about it all the time. It was in 1976 and I remember a few things about it. I hit it off Rudy May he was with NY then. I though I hit it pretty well it went into the bullpen area. Never got the ball.
When I first got up to the Majors it was with the As. They had a great outfield and I couldnt break into it. Jack-son was there, Joe Rudi too and Bill North was with them also. Eventually went to the Twins.
In coming up I had good support from my parents. My dad played a little semi-pro ball. I started in the Minors & was drafted by the As. Was in single A ball and then went into the service for a year. As a kid I was a Dodgers fan and liked Wills and thought Jim Fregosi was a very good player too. Had help coming up to the Majors and once I arrived the older vets helped too. People like Reggie Jackson and Billy North. Reggie was a hard worker! On a personal level I found him to have good leadership ability. Also found Rod Carew to be a big help. What a hitter he was hit to all fields. He taught me to hit sliders. In the Minors I was a dead pull hitter. Carew and also Tony Oliva helped me in my hitting especially with sliders. My best year with California was in 1979. Had 21 HRs, hit .290, and had 101 RBIs. That was my first year with the California team. Before that when I was with Minnesota was with them a few years I had a good year in 1976. Played full time. Getting back to Tony Oliva, he was some hitter. I think he should be in the HOF. Too bad he got hurt so early in his career. He could hit everything. Led the league in hitting his first two years up.
About my nickname, Disco Dan. I used to go to this club in Minnesota and got friendly with the people there. They put on Disco, and came out with a T-shirt of me and the nickname came out because of that.
I was an aggressive outfielder. Went after everything that came my way. Some guys that I came across didnt move and let line drives get pass them. I tried to get everything that went my way so there were some errors I made because of that. Found that Baltimore and Minnesota were difficult parks to play outfield in.
During the League Championship Series IN 1983 I strained my leg turning first base and pulled up lame. Ended up missing 2 games. That was disappointing. (Editors note: Dan played in two League Championship Series. In six games he batted .273 with 2 homeruns). Also played in the World Series and we beat Philadelphia. I got a hit off Steve Carlton that was a big thrill.
When Gene Mauch came to the Twins it was like water and oil between us. He traded me to the Orioles for Doug DeCinses. That was in 1981. When I got there Earl Weaver told me, Youll hit behind Eddie Murray. That was fine by me. By the way Eddie and I grew up together in Watts. I know Eddie has this reputation for being diffi- cult. Hes had his troubles with reporters. But you know what, a lot of reporters ask personal questions and get annoyed if players dont want to answer them.
The toughest pitcher for me to hit was Ron Guidry. Also Jack Morris was hard too. Best pitcher I saw was Jim Hunter.He was always around the plate. Best hitter there were a few Rod Carew, Puckett, and you could put Mattingly in there also. Think he should be in the HOF.
I worked out with the Nautilus during my career. Baseball has changed a lot since my day. I watch it a little now but not a great deal. The game is trying to make stars out of a lot of people. I know theres Steroids, but you know what, you still have to hit the ball, Steroids wont do that for you.
After my career was over I did some scouting with the As. Didnt like it much. Judging talent isnt easy. After that I formed an intervention program with Darryl Jackson. We worked with tough kids and tried to help them adjust to things.
You asked me about the ending of my voice mail. (Editors note: Dan ends his voice mail by saying, Have a blessed day.) Well, I feel that for the grace of God who knows what could have happened? I grew up in Watts. Being athletic kept me away from a lot of things that could have affected my life. I try to live each day the best I can and to the fullest.
Editors note: Dan very kindly picked out an All Star team for me based on players he saw and played with and against. Youll see a lot of Yankees made the list. Maybe thats why I enjoyed doing the interview with him!
1B: DON MATTINGLY 2B: WILLIE RANDOLPH SS: MARK BELANGER 3B: GEORGE BRETT
C: THURMAN MUNSON RF: REGGIE JACKSON CF: MICKEY RIVERS/PAUL BLAIR LF: LAR-RY HISLE RHP: NOLAN RYAN LHP: VIDA BLUE REL: GOOSE GOSSAGE