On the morning of Sept. 29, 1954, Arnold Hano took the subway to Upper Manhattan and bought a bleacher ticket — it cost $2.10 — for the first game of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and his favorite team, the New York Giants.

Mr. Hano, then 32, was a journalist and book editor, but he had no plans to write about what he saw that day. He arrived at the ballpark in the morning, found an empty seat beside some men playing cards and watched the players file into the center field clubhouses at New York’s Polo Grounds, near where he was sitting.

He began to jot notes on his newspaper and scorecard, observing with some annoyance the gamblers, loudmouths and fans from other teams around him. As the players warmed up on the field below, Mr. Hano marveled at the perfect throws unleashed by the Giants’ young center fielder, Willie Mays….