EARL WILSON…TRAILBLAZER, PITCHER, HUMANITARIAN…..

It was nine years ago that Robert Earl Wilson passed away at the age of 70. He died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Detroit Michigan. He was known primarily as a member of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers and that is as it should be, for it was with the Tigers that he had his best years and it was the city of Detroit where his huge heart found its home. However before he made his way to Detroit in 1966; that huge heart touched the heart of a little boy in Weymouth Massachusetts. A little boy who fell in love with Red Sox pitcher Earl Wilson, the pitcher who hit home runs!

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He was signed on May 11, 1953 only the second black player to be employed by the Boston Red Sox organization. Originally a catcher, his rifle arm peaked immediate interest in converting him to the mound. By the end of 1954 and after two stops at the Class C level in the Arizona Texas League, and a short stint with the San Jose Red Sox in the California League, he settled in with the Class A Montgomery Rebels of the South Atlantic League. He was exclusively a pitcher and he was 20 years old.

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From 1956 -1961 his minor league journey took him through; Albany NY, Minneapolis, Seattle and two stops with the Red Sox. When the Red Sox broke Spring Training from Scottsdale Arizona in April of 1962, Earl Wilson was in the major leagues to stay!

My earliest baseball memories are a mosaic of images; some more vivid than others. The first trip to Fenway where Dad pointed to left field and stated with reverence, “that’s left field and that’s where Ted Williams plays”. I still smell the cigar smoke wafting across the diamond. I rooted hard for the White Sox in the 1959 World Series because those dastardly Dodgers had abandoned the good people of Brooklyn. I was in the chair at Tom’s Barbershop while Bill Mazeroski rounded the bases in triumph after slaying the mighty Yankees with the homer that ended the 1960 World Series. Leaping with a scream of joy nearly cost me an ear.

As vivid as each of these are, they remain but snippets of a tapestry of yesterdays. My first memory of a complete nine innings of baseball involved, my Red Sox, my dad, my living room, my black and white TV and the mighty Robert Earl Wilson. The date was June 26, 1962. School had just ended and I was promoted to Mrs. Lenihan’s fifth grade classroom at the James Humphrey School. Summer had officially arrived and the confirmation of that was that the Red Sox were going to be on TV! This may seem like no big deal today, however, a televised night game during the week was a rarity and I was excited at the prospect. With school out it meant that I would get to stay up and watch the whole game. Make no mistake about it, Christmas had come in June!

A summer rain threatened to melt my early Christmas, but it only delayed the start by a half hour. I was shooting hoops on the makeshift basket on the telephone pole in front of my house when dad called me in, “game time” he said and I was gone! The sweet fragrance of that summer rain remains with me as I see myself bounding up the front stairs and into my living room.

The Sox were playing the Angels who were sending the flamboyant rookie lefthander Bo Belinsky to the hill. Belinsky had exploded on the scene six weeks earlier when he hurled a no hitter on May 5th against the Orioles! Belinsky entered the game with a 6-3 record while Wilson was 5-2. It had all the earmarks of a pitcher’s duel and a little over 14,000 fans showed up at Fenway to see it. One of the largest crowds of the year!

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The first two innings went quick as each pitcher walked a man in the second. It was 0-0 with one out, in the bottom half of the third, when Earl Wilson strolled to the plate. He took a hardy cut at the first pitch and missed. The next fast ball he launched into the blackness of the night clear over the screen in left centerfield giving his team and himself a 1-0 lead. It was his second home run of the year and of his career but the true significance of that home run was six innings from being realized.

It was the only run that he would need as one Angel after another came up and went down. He walked two men in the fifth and one in the sixth. The Sox added an unearned run in the fifth on an RBI single by right fielder Carroll Hardy. Belinsky was nearly as formidable, striking out 10 and allowing only three hits before departing in the eighth for a pinch hitter. Following Wilson’s walk of Billy Moran with one out in the sixth, an Angel had not reached base and when the ninth inning arrived, Earl Wilson stood on the threshold of history.

Moran led off and down he went, Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner flied out to Yastrzemski in left field and only Lee Thomas stood between Wilson and immortality. Thomas lofted a fly ball to centerfield and as that ball nestled into the glove of Gary Geiger, the 14,002 members of the Fenway faithful erupted. So did the living room at 57 Endicott Street, for Earl Wilson had fired a no hitter!

Wilson was the 12th Red Sox pitcher to throw a no hitter. He was only the second pitcher in Major League history (Wes Ferrell 1931) to throw a no hitter and hit a home run in the same game. And he was the first black pitcher in American League history to pitch a no hitter. All of that was unknown to the nine year old boy in the living room. All he knew is that Earl Wilson was AWESOME!!!!

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It was a half century ago that Wilson spun his magic in the Fenway night yet the significance of that night, his career and indeed his life has grown in stature with each passing year, unveiled by history and embolden by his character.

His impact upon the game of baseball went far beyond his no hitter. In 1965 he hired Bob Woolf, a Boston attorney, to represent him in contract negotiations with the Red Sox. He was the first professional athlete to hire “an agent” both changing the face of professional sports and launching Woolf on a career which made him the most sought after agent throughout the decade of the 1970s.

Earl Wilson Posed

Wilson endured the prejudice, discrimination and hatred ever present throughout his journey through the minor leagues in the 1950s. An incident which occurred in the spring of 1966 would stretch his tolerance to the limit and take him to his ultimate destiny. Following a spring training game in Lakeland Florida, Wilson along with teammates Dave Moorhead and Dennis Bennett entered the local Elks Club for a beer. The trio was immediately informed by the bar tender that “we don’t serve niggers in here”. The three of them left the premises and when the Boston press got word and wrote of the incident, Wilson was told by Red Sox GM Dick O’Connell to not “make an issue of it”. A man of dignity and pride, Wilson was not happy that the Red Sox did not come to his aid and defense. He expressed that disappointment and before the June 15 trade deadline he was on his way to Detroit, exchanged for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Julio Navarro.

The Tigers and Wilson were a perfect match. Wilson fell in love with the city and the city and the Tigers fell in love with him; and why not? From the time he arrived until his arm failed him in 1970; Wilson was 64-45 with Detroit including a league leading 22 wins in 1967. He was a mainstay on the staff which won the 1968 World Series and he continued to hit. He finished his career with 35 home runs. Warren Spahn is the only pitcher who hit more. Oh, and as for Demeter and Navarro? Wilson hit more home runs for the Tigers than Demeter did for the Red Sox and Navarro never threw a pitch in a Boston uniform.

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After baseball he founded a very successful auto parts distributorship in Detroit. The humanity that was Earl Wilson would manifest itself long after his playing days ended when he served four years as president of the Baseball Assistance Team. BAT is an organization which aids former players who have fallen upon hard financial times. During his tenure as BAT’s president he raised over $4,000,000 to assist his comrades. Beyond that he was a constant force in countless charities and charitable events throughout Michigan and beyond.

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On April 23, 2005 Earl Wilson was at his home in Michigan when a heart attack struck him down. That huge heart had simply had enough and in a matter of an instant, he was gone. His passing brought accolades from the many who knew him. Willie Horton said “one of the great teammates I had…and a greater individual.”

Earl’s resume speaks for itself. However nowhere on that resume will it tell about the 12 year old boy who approached him at a “Sports Night” at East Junior High School in Weymouth Massachusetts. Looking up at the elegant “Duke of Earl” clad in a “shiny” gray suit with a powder blue shirt and a gray tie; the page of his 1965 Red Sox Yearbook opened to Wilson’s picture, He asked, “Mr. Wilson could I please have your autograph?” “You sure can” he said as he signed, creating a moment and a memory which, like Wilson, grows in stature with the passage of time into that unrelenting veil of history.

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“There Comes a Time When All the Cosmic Tumblers Click and the Universe Opens Up To Show You What’s Possible”…..Terrance Mann

It was an unusual day in Boston 46 years ago today. A chilly day in early spring in which the low temperature was 45 and although the thermometer would not get past the 52 degree mark, a brief thunderstorm appeared.

April 23 1967

There were 18,041 patrons who made their way to Fenway Park on this Sunday afternoon, to watch the four and four Red Sox take on the New York Yankees. It was the ninth game of the young season and it was the sixth time the Sox and Yankees squared off against each other.

Darrell “Bucky” Brandon was on the mound for the Sox while knuckleballer and soon to be best-selling author Jim Bouton got the call for the New Yorkers.

 

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Bouton  violated the sanctity of the clubhouse with the first ever “tell all” book about the inner workings of a pro baseball team. Revealed in his 1970 book, among other things was  Mickey Mantle’s propensity to consume large amounts of alcohol on a consistent basis; a well-known fact within baseball’s inner circle which had protected Mickey throughout his career. The book led to Bouton being blackballed from baseball.

The day before, the Red Sox had come from behind to take a 5-4 win sparked by a three run fifth which saw Carl Yastrzemski single with the bases loaded to plate two runs and then steal second base. Yaz had homered in the first inning, his first of the season.

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The aged Mickey Mantle made a great play at first on Reggie Smith tagging him out on the first Sox play of the game.

It was Yaz who got em going on this day when he staked the home town team to a 2-0 lead with his second, first inning homer in as many days.

Yaz homered after Dalton Jones doubled giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

A George Thomas single, scored first baseman Tony Horton and after the first inning the Sox had a 3-0 lead. Bouton did not get out of the second inning and an RBI single by Mantle in the third made the score 3-1.

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Local hero, rookie Russ Gibson had caught Billy Rohr’s one hitter in their big league debuts just nine days earlier.

Russ Gibson countered with a clutch two out, two run double in the bottom of the third giving Brandon and the Red Sox a comfortable 5-1 lead.

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Brandon could not get out of the fifth.

It all unraveled in the fifth inning and the chief “unraveler” was veteran Yankee catcher and 1963 MVP Elston Howard. For on this day he would complete his own personal troika of dagger wounds inflicted on the Red Sox in their young 1967 season.

 

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Elston Howard

His first had come on the aforementioned debut of Gibson and Rohr at Yankee Stadium; for it was Howard who had singled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth spoiling Rohr’s no-hitter. The second came exactly a week later at Fenway Park when Howard again singled, this time in the eighth inning knocking in the only Yankee run of the day and ruining Rohr’s bid for his second shutout in as many big league starts. On this day he was called upon to pinch hit for shortstop John Kennedy. There were two outs, two on in the top of the fifth and the Yankees were trailing 5-4. Howard delivered with a double giving the Yanks a lead they would never relinquish on their way to a 7-5 win.

Howard would turn things around in August when he donned a Red Sox uniform and played a crucial role on their march to their Impossible Dream pennant.

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 The Red Sox acquired Howard on August 4, 1967. A key acquisition for the stretch drive. As Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman stated, “the man who had broken our hearts in April, made them soar in September.”

In the Red Sox half of the fifth, Carl Yastrzemski was in the box. He took a called strike which Manager Dick Williams didn’t particularly agree with and the young Skipper let plate ump Red Flaherty know about it. In fact he let him know about it so vociferously  that Flaherty decided to give Williams the rest of the day off. When Flaherty called a second strike on Yaz that he did not particularly agree with, he too found his way to the clubhouse courtesy of the home plate umpire. There were the first ejections of the 1967 season and only Yaz’s second in his then seven-year career.

Those who play and understand this great game know that there are good losses and bad losses. On the surface this one looks like a bad loss. A 5-1 lead blown, the manager and star ejected for losing their cool after the lead melted away. However, how much of this game, indeed life, plays out beneath the surface? On this day this team showed a fire that had been absent from the Back Bay for a long, long time.

The day began with the oddity of thunder clouds in the midst of only 50 degree weather, the cosmic tumblers of the universe clicking in to show what’s possible? Signaling the arrival of an energy force never before seen in the city?

And what of today, four and a half decades later? Is it coincidence that the heavens are putting on a meteor display the likes of which we have never seen? Is it coincidence that this team playing at Fenway Park is taking on many of the characteristics of that team of so long ago, the grit, the fire, the zeal?

Are the cosmic tumblers which set that energy force in motion so long ago clicking once again? Opening up to show the possibilities?

The cosmos clicks, and will reveal itself to those who dare, those who believe, those who open themselves to it. So on this April 23rd I look to the heavens, I look to Fenway…..For I’ve seen the miracle and I know what’s possible…..

May I Hope!!!!!

 

 

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“Long Live Their Fame and Long Live Their Glory and Long May Their Story be Told”……

A year to the date that the Red Sox celebrated Fenway Park’s 100th birthday, the Fenway Faithful participated in a different kind of pre-game ceremony. A ceremony that was a combination memorial service/tribute to remember and honor the fallen and acknowledge the heroic efforts of law enforcement, first responders and simple citizens; all of whom played their parts in caring for and treating the wounded and in apprehending the faceless cowards responsible for their acts of terror.

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As the city’s secular cathedral, Fenway Park became the chosen venue in which the community paused, mourned, honored and remembered taking the city’s, indeed the region’s, official collective first step toward healing.

In times of turmoil and crisis, we turn to traditions and rituals to emote, to process, to grieve and to heal. There is no other sport that is more steeped in tradition than baseball and there is no other city which surpasses Boston nor is more steeped in their baseball team. So to borrow the words of the Great Emancipator, ‘it is all together fitting and proper that we should do this”.

There were prayers for young lives stolen…..

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Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell.

 There was acknowledgement of heroic acts of compassion and courage,

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Steven Byrne who was wounded shielding others from the blast, waves to the crowd. He had just been released from the hospital.

There were expressions of gratitude.

And there was of course, traditions; some old, some new, some old with a new twist.

First there was the uniforms.

The traditional Red Sox on the front of the home jerseys was changed to Boston with the Boston Strong patch displayed over the heart!

The symbol of the city’s determination and strength was emblazoned on the Green Monster where I suspect it will be for a long time, like maybe forever.

There appeared the embodiment of determination which is indicative of the Marathon and the city.

Police commissioner Ed Davis shakes hands with Boston marathon participant Dick Hoyt prior to the start of a game between the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Dick Hoyt (with his son Richard) shakes hands with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. Dick has run 31 Boston Marathons pushing Richard in his wheelchair. Monday was to be his last, however because of the bombing he was unable to finish. Next year he will run again in honor and memory of this years victims.

Seventy-two year old Neil Diamond showed up to lead the “Faithful” in Sweet Caroline, bringing with him “love from all over the country”.

And as for the game? Well the script could not have been written better in Hollywood.

Daniel Nava celebrates at home with Johnny Gomes (5) following his three run homer in the eighth.

Daniel Nava!

A kid who didn’t make his college team and became the manager just so he could be around the team and practice.

A kid who, in 2007, was signed by the Red Sox after playing for the Chico Bandits in California’s independent Golden Baseball League which had been formed just two years earlier.

A kid whose signing bonus was one American dollar!

A kid who, in his first major league at bat, on the first pitch he ever saw, hit a grand slam home run into the Red Sox bullpen off Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton.

A kid who came to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning on the 101st birthday of Fenway Park with his team losing 2-1 and blasted a three run homer into that same bullpen, propelling his team, his city to victory!

A kid who now has woven himself forevermore into the patchwork quilt of Boston, the Red Sox and Fenway Park history.

So on Saturday April 20, 2013, the city of Boston took a step forward, a step toward healing. The lives of  Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell will now be incorporated into the tradition that is the Boston Marathon. And their names will, with Daniel Nava’s be forevermore woven into that same patchwork quilt of Boston, the Red Sox and Fenway Park history!

You are and will forever remain a part of us!

In Memory

Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell

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Patriots Day, The Boston Marathon, The Red Sox and Fenway Park…..

 Yesterday the Fenway Faithful emerged from Fenway Park as they have every Patriots Day for near a half century. The mood was light as they made their way to and through Kenmore Square, many on their way to Copley and the finish line of the Marathon. The Sox had battled back from a blown save and finished off a sweep of the Rays with a walk-off 3-2 win.
Boston is a city steeped in tradition and Patriots Day, the Red Sox and the Boston Marathon are woven within the fabric of that tradition. Yesterday faceless cowardice attempted to kill that tradition with murderous hate, terror and fear!
What faceless cowards do not understand is that tradition does not simply whither away and crawl off into the night. What faceless cowards do not understand is that tradition will take their act of hatred and weave into its own fabric of honor, of remembering, of tradition.
What faceless cowards do not understand is that this great city will bleed, will weep, will grieve as we heal and as we mourn and we will endure.
What faceless cowards do not understand is that we are emboldened and what they have done is unified a people and in the midst of their hate they have, once again, brought out the best in us!

This morning I repost last years story about this special day, in honor of the innocents lost, the wounded and in memory of a simpler time…..

What do

Johnny Kelley (the Elder), 1935 and 1945.

Mike Timlin, 2004.

Johnny Kelley (the Younger), 1957

Josh Beckett, 2007

Bill Rogers, 1975, ’78′, ’79′, ’80′.

Clay Buchholz, 2008.

Timothy Cherigat , 2004.

Dice K Matsusaka, 2011, and

Wesley Korir, 2012.

all have in common? It’s simple really, they all won on Marathon Day!

The Boston Marathon ran its first race in 1897 and yesterday marked the 54th year in a row that the Red Sox played at Fenway Park on the same day the race was run; and it was the 44th time that the game started at 11 AM.

You see Marathon Day also happens to be Patriots Day. That day is big doings in Boston for it is the day that marks the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Perhaps you have heard of it? If not, it took place on a green a bit northwest of Boston on April 19, 1775 and it began a small event that had a slight impact on history. I think it was called the American Revolution or something like that. But I digress.

Patriots Day is a holiday in the state of Massachusetts and until 1969 it was celebrated, strange as it may seem, on April 19th. In 1969 a law was passed that now celebrates the day on the third Monday in April every year giving the residents of Massachusetts a three-day weekend.

It is a day steeped in tradition and since 1969 that tradition has included the Red Sox playing at Fenway Park in a game that starts at 11:00 AM. I’m sure you are wondering why 11 AM, a lot of visiting players probably wonder why too.

The Boston Marathon started in Hopkinton Massachusetts at noon and ended in Kenmore Square, 26 miles away, hence a marathon.

Fenway Park is in Kenmore Square and back in the day the Marathon winning times were in the two-hour 15 to 20 minute range so they would be hitting the finish line at between 2:15 and 2:25. Well also back in the day, a baseball game that lasted three hours was a very long game however even if the game was also a marathon, it would end at right around two PM affording the Fenway Park patrons time to spill out of Fenway, walk down the hill over the Brookline Avenue bridge and watch the winner hit the finish line. Pretty good plan don’t cha think?

A while back the finish line was moved a mile up the road to the Prudential Center in Copley Square, baseball games got longer and longer and the Fenway Patrons could, if timing were right, catch a glimpse of the leaders with a mile to go. In 2005 it all changed and now there are varying starting times for various groups of participants and the Fenway patrons have zero chance of seeing the leaders unless they leave the game in the third inning or so.

But tradition is tradition and they can still saunter down the hill and catch the battlers, the everyones who run the Boston Marathon because it is the Boston Marathon, the oldest one in the country.

Yesterday the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Red Sox 1-0 in a great duel of pitchers between Daniel Bard and James Shields. The game took three hours and eight minutes, perfect for the back in the day time to see the Marathon come through.

Daniel Bard threw eight straight balls in the 7th inning yesterday, four of them to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria accounting for the games only run.

The Red Sox are now 4-6 in fifth place in the AL East, two games behind the division leading Baltimore Orioles.

On April 16th 1912, they defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 9-2 at Shibe Park. They were 4-1 and in first place by 1/2 game and they headed home to open their new ball park which was slated for April 18th. Oh and on Marathon Day, Patriots Day 1912, a young man named Mike Ryan, had himself quite a day!

And so it is and so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, Patriots Day.

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Patriots Day, The Boston Marathon, The Red Sox and Fenway Park…..

fenwaypark100:

Yesterday the Fenway Faithful emerged from Fenway Park as they have every Patriots Day for near a half century. The mood was light as they made their way to and through Kenmore Square, many on their way to Copley and the finish line of the Marathon. The Sox had battled back from a blown save and finished off a sweep of the Rays with a 10 inning 3-2 win.
Boston is a city steeped in tradition and Patriots Day, the Red Sox and the Boston Marathon are woven within the fabric of that tradition. Yesterday faceless cowardice attempted to kill that tradition with murderous hate, terror and fear!
What faceless cowards do not understand is that tradition does not simply whither away and crawl off into the night. What faceless cowards do not understand is that tradition will take their act of hatred and weave into its own fabric of honor, of remembering, of tradition.
What faceless cowards do not understand is that this great city will bleed, will weep, will grieve as we heal and as we mourn and we will endure.
What faceless cowards do not understand is that we are emboldened and what they have done is unified a people and in the midst of their hate they have, once again, brought out the best in us!

Originally posted on fenwaypark100:

What do

 Johnny Kelley (the Elder), 1935 and 1945.

Mike Timlin, 2004.

Johnny Kelley (the Younger), 1957

Josh Beckett, 2007

Bill Rogers, 1975, ’78′, ’79′, ’80′.

Clay Buchholz, 2008.

 

Timothy Cherigat , 2004.

 Dice K Matsusaka, 2011, and

Wesley Korir, 2012.

all have in common? It’s simple really, they all won on Marathon Day!

The Boston Marathon ran its first race in 1897 and yesterday marked the 54th year in a row that the Red Sox played at Fenway Park on the same day the race was run; and it was the 44th time that the game started at 11 AM.  

You see Marathon Day also happens to be Patriots Day. That day is big doings in Boston for it is the day that marks the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Perhaps you have heard of it? If not, it took place on a green a bit northwest of Boston on…

View original 524 more words

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Billy, Lee and Me…..

This is Billy…..

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This is Lee….

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And this is me…..

BLMRay

Billy was born in San Diego California in 1945, Lee was born in Albany, New York in 1944 and I was born in Boston in 1953. Our lives would intersect on Friday April 14, 1967 in Yankee Stadium and then would serendipitously converge again in April of 2013.

Sunday April 14th marked the 46th anniversary of that intersection and a very special day in Red Sox history. It was Billy who, on that day, took center stage when in his major league debut he shutout the Yankees losing a ho-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. I wrote about it a couple of weeks back.

  http://fenwaypark100.org/2013/03/22/billy-rohr-on-the-threshold-eight-hits-in-the-game-all-of-them-belong-to-boston-ken-coleman/

Lee has been a Yankee fan since the days when Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle patrolled the outfield together. He was listening to the game on the radio when Mickey ruined his knee catching his cleats on a Yankee Stadium drain going after a fly ball.

Mickey Mantle (prone) and Joe DiMaggio in 1951, Mantle’s rookie year.

Mickey was Lee’s favorite player but in deference to his grandfather, who was a diehard Red Sox fan, he became a huge fan of Ted Williams. He rooted for Ted but Mickey and his pinstripes were where his heart lay.

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 Ted and Mickey, two all time greats.

He made his first trip to Yankee Stadium in 1955. Boarding the train from Albany, he made his way to “the Stadium.” His memory of the specifics of that game have long since left him except that Mickey, walked twice, bunted once and was called out on strikes. It was his first pilgrimage.

It was in Juinor High music class where he watched, on a 12 inch black and white TV,  Don Larsen pitch his perfect game in the 1956 World Series.don-larsen1-595x395

Don Larsen pitching his way to immortality October 8, 1956.

In 1960 he watched his first ever baseball game on a color TV at his buddy’s house as Pittsburgh Pirate second baseman Bill Mazeroski broke the hearst of Yankee fans with his game winning home run in the seventh game of the ’60′ Fall Classic.

He had his own car in 1961 and it was on its radio that he listened as Roger Maris hit his 61st home run off of Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard in the season’s last game.

 Maris hits number 61, October 1, 1961 at Yankee Stadium.

After graduating  high school, Lee gave college a whirl but left to join the Marine Corps in 1963.

Around this same time, Billy was tearing things up at Bellflower High School; hurling four no-hitters and captaining his basketball team. An outstanding athlete, his special talents on the mound opened the door to a professional career and it was the Pirates who came a calling. The Red Sox drafted him from them in 1963 and Billy’s course with destiny was set.

Billy Rohr number 30.

As for me, well, I watched Mazeroski’s home run on a TV as well. It was a black and white one and it was at Tom’s Barber Shop in lower Jackson Square in East Weymouth Massachusetts.

Unlike Lee, I was delighted by this home run. It is my first TV baseball memory!

In 1961 I was one of 19,582 patrons at Fenway Park for a Memorial Day baseball game between the Red Sox and Yankees. The Bronx Bombers lived up to their reputation that day as they clubbed the Red Sox 12-3 with what was, at the time, a record seven home runs in the game.

marisgang

 Maris hit home run numbers 10 and 11, on his way to 61 in ’61′. Mantle (third from left) hit numbers 12 and 13 on his way to 54 in ’61′. Skowron (Mantle’s right) added a couple of homers that day as well and for good measure Yogi Berra hit one.

Billy’s trek to the mound at Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967 would take him through Wellsville New York, Winston-Salem North Carolina and Toronto Canada.

Lee’s trek toward April 14, 1967 would take him to the deck of carriers in the Caribbean, the Mediterranian, the Atlantic, artillery field training and then to Chu Lai Vietnam.

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Lee in Chu Lai 1967.

My trek toward April 14, 1967 would take me through the halls of East Junior High School to the soda fountain at Reidy’s Drug Store in East Weymouth Massachusetts and an eight transistor radio.

As Billy was breaking camp in Winter Haven Florida to head to Boston and the big leagues, Lee was receiving orders that his time in Vietnam was done. He left on March 26th and headed to California and the El Toro Marine Base. He was discharged on April 4th and arrived back home in Albany New York on the following day, his Mom’s birthday! His buddies tracked him down and told him they had a ticket for him for Opening Day at the Stadium, Friday the 14th.

He and his buddies along with Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her two little ones were in the crowd as Billy Rohr worked his magic on the mound. Two hundred miles north, I was huddle around that eight transistor radio with my high school buddies listening as Tom Tresh came to bat for the Yankees, setting up Carl Yastrzemski’s catch for the ages. Our hearts sank as Elston Howard singled to right ending Rohr’s bid for immortality!

I met Lee a couple of years ago at the Capris Isle Golf Course in Venice Florida. he’s a snow bird now and he spends his winters among we Venetians. We play every Sunday morning and Lee follows this blog. After my story on Billy Rohr, he emailed me….”believe it or not, I was at that game, I never gave Rohr another thought, until today.”

A couple of weeks ago I communicated with Mr. Billy Rohr. We spoke on the phone and exchanged some emails. He wrote about his moment at Yankee Stadium, his “fifteen minutes.”. He’s a gracious gentleman and a successful attorney with a practice in California and he is forevermore linked to that day in Yankee Stadium and the magic it ignited for the Impossible Dream Red Sox.  He too is a passionate golfer.

So it is appropriate that on April 14, 2013, forty six years to the day of Billy Rohr’s major league debut that Billy and Lee and Me were on the golf course!

BLMLeeMe

Lee and me.

Rlationships, relationships, relationships!

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Lets Have at It…..

The Red Sox will open Fenway Park’s 101st year and their 102nd season this afternoon when Clay Buchholz takes to the hill against the Baltimore Orioles. There are smiles from the Fenway Faithful as the Sox have taken both series from the Yankees and highly touted Toronto Blue Jays. They come home in  first place with a 4-2 record well ahead of last years horrid pace.

Me thinks the Blue Jays will spend 2013 learning the Red Sox lesson of last year which is simply, a team filled with all-stars does not a team make! But that’s for another day.

The torch has been passed to a new generation of Red Sox. Born in this winter, tempered by the battles of seasons played, disciplined by the fight through the minors and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of the past decade of Red Sox success!

Will Middlebrooks, freshly off his three homer game yesterday, leads this new crew in sporting the number 16 on his back. A number indicative that he is here to stay. Gone is his number 64 and he joins illustrious company as he dons 16, the same number worn by the Red Sox first ever Cy Young Award winner, Jim Lonborg in 1967.

Middlebrooks became the 26th Red Sox player to hit three homers in a game in yesterday’s 13-0 romp over the Blue Jays. He felt just a few feet short of hitting number four when he flied deep to left in his last at bat.

There is a lot to like about this team! They are battlers, dirt eaters, hard-nosed and seem to be old-fashioned baseball players. There are kids who are here who can flat-out play and they are exciting and fun to watch.

Jose Iglesias is a defensive wizard at short who appears to have overcome his “can’t hit” knock as he comes in to Fenway’s home opener having gone 2-5 yesterday and watching his average DROP to .529. Yikes!

Jackie Bradley Jr. has generated enormous excitement with his glove in left and his wheels.

These kids coupled with the likes of Dustin Pedroia who is, well, Dustin Pedroia, a healthy and rejuvenated Jacoby Ellsbury, the additions of players like Victorino, Gomes, Napoli and back up catcher David Ross seem to have created a chemistry mix not seen at Fenway since 2008!

Add to the mix the return of John Farrell and the departure of Mr. Sweetheart oops Valentine and there is reason for excitement!

Lester is 2-0 this year and Blue Jay announcer and former catcher Buck Martinez noted during yesterday ‘s broadcast, his “swing and miss stuff is back….he hasn’t had it the past couple of years but it’s back today.”

Two starts does not a season make, however the Jon Lester I watched yesterday was the Jon Lester I watched three years ago! He dominated the lineup which many have said will rule the AL East this year! Buchholz shows signs that he may be back and early indications are that the bullpen has lights out potential .

There are 156 games to go and a lot can happen. I’m not one for making predictions about who will make the playoffs, win pennants and World Series for my answer is always the same, because it always is the same. The team(s) which get the best pitching in August and September will win! It’s really a simple game which begins and ends with those guys in the middle of the diamond!

But I will say this, the 2013 Red Sox will compete, something they have not really done much of the past couple of years!

Let’s Have At It!!!!!

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