A good friend, a cup of coffee between days of his dialysis, and, an old scrapbook can sometimes make for a magnificent "Glory Days" of baseball story. After enjoying a cup of Joe at Jim's in Bethany (Oklahoma) with my friend Harold Billen, some glory days stuff from 1952 was discovered and certainly worth documenting and sharing with the world as it is now and will be in the days to come.
I'll be danged if ole Harold's brother Clarence (aka Corky) didn't receive a golden aged baseball contract offer from the St. Louis Cardinals. Now this has always been a dream of mine and many of other young men that has never came true. Just go figure how a young twenty year old would feel about getting a letter in the mail from the Cardinals asking you to play for them. I'm getting re-excited about my old kids life dream just thinking about it.
Problem was for Corky, another letter arrived in his pile of mail on that same day in that same box. It was a draft notice from our great Uncle Sam. What a predicament of boyhood dreams vs. the call of duty for Corky. Much like most young men of valor in the early 1950's, Corky signed up with the United States Air Force while playing ball for the Cardinals was reduced to the dream it is and has been for many like me.
Luckily for Corky, Uncle Sam strategized the utilization of America's Game to build public relations within the less hostile countries where many of our young men of war time were based. Ole Corky was assigned to the 42nd Equipment Repair Squadron, 6208th Depot Wing on the now defunct Clark Air Force Base which was located sixty miles north of Manila in the Philippine Islands. His assignment was not only relative to his highly trained ability to repair airplanes but also word was up that this young man from Oklahoma could play some ball. Sort of a dual recruiting and assignment process by his superior officers in charge.
With a lot of hard work to be done and a little downtime to be had, Corky was afforded opportunity to play ball once again. Not only playing but becoming a noble champion of the Clark Air Force Base Red Raiders under Manager and Master Sergeant Larry Linton.
Within the 1952 championship season for the Raiders, Corky hit the "Shot Unheard Of Around The World." Although a huge walk-off blast to right field with comparison to Lou Gehrig's home run hit in the same stadium near twenty years earlier, it has mostly gone unrecognized and unheard of until you just read of it now. Despite the lack of remembrance and recognition of such a magnificent moment in baseball's time, seems Corky was fulfilling the foreign relations strategy implemented by our great Uncle Sam that he proudly served in 1952.
An unidentified writer with the Sunday Times shared on April 13, 1952: "A spectacular home run over the right field fence (where the late Lou Gehrig blasted the sixth homer at Rizal ball park in 1934) in the last half of the ninth inning made a hero out of left fielder Clarence "Corky" Billen, who won the game for the 6208th Depot Wing Raiders against the highly favored Canlubang Sugar Barons, 4-3, in yesterday's lone Manila Baseball League encounter at Rizal diamond.
With one down, Billen, a 21 year-old outfielder who entered the game in the fifth frame, won the game for the soldiers by clouting a home run over the right field fence in the last half of the ninth. The ball landed against the wire over the wall where the late Lou Gehrig slammed out his second home run on December 10, 1934."
Clark Air Force Base Public Information Office released a presser on such an impressive shot to right field. It was distributed "For Immediate Release" and included detailed descriptive of Billen's home run as follows:
"By blasting a spectacular home run in the bottom of the ninth far over the right field retaining wall at Rizal Memorial Stadium, Manila, Raider substitute left fielder Clarence "Corky" Billen, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Billen, 25 East Edwards St., Edmund (Edmond), recently entered the 6208th Depot Wing Sports Hall Of Fame by breaking a tie (3-3) with the powerful Canlubang Sugar Barons to boost his team into second place in the 1952 Manila baseball pennant race."
The 21-year-old Oklahoma's circuit clout, almost as high as it was long, landed near the spot where the late Lou Gehrig recorded the sixth homer at Rizal Park on December 10, 1934.
Billen entered the crucial Raider tilt in the fifth inning.
With searing summer temperatures reaching 97.8 degrees in Manila (the hottest since 1948) the American servicemen found it tough going by the end of the ninth, but used no substitute pitcher for Big B (aka Ballard Branham).
Off to a strong start, the Raiders chalked up two tallies in the first inning. After five futile innings, the Sugar Barons broke into the scoring column with one run in the sixth and two in the seventh. In the top half of the ninth, the Sweeties threatened to score on two hits, but Baron Second Baseman Julve was trapped at third to end the inning.
Billen, a holder of an airman third class rating in the U.S. Air Force, is now assigned to the 42nd Equipment Repair Squadron, 6208th Depot Wing on Clark Air Force Base, located 60 miles north of Manila."