Tis the season to interject a little Santa at Fenway! Santa? Is that you? I know, I know, you’re thinking what does Santa have to do with Fenway Park?
This story begins in the Gulf Coast town of Venice Florida, 1500 miles southwest of Fenway Park and 90 miles north of the Red Sox spring training home in Ft. Myers Florida. It was the fall of 2002 when Franc Talarico knocked upon my back door. I had known Franc for a number of years however, I never knew what he did. I answered the door, welcomed Franc in and after a little small talk Franc got to the point. “Ray” he said, “I know you’re a big baseball fan, I know you grew up in Boston and I need your help…..I need you to help me come to know Ted Williams.” A bit taken aback and not quite understanding I asked Franc to explain. ” I’m a sculptor Ray and I have been asked to sculpt a statue of Ted Williams for his museum in Lecanto so I need you to help me get to know him.”
The magnitude of that question never really hit me. In fact it has only been recently that I have come to understand it. Of course I said yes, and after “introducing” Franc to Ted I made arrangements to meet Franc at his studio which was in his home a few blocks away. And there Franc and I began to educate each other, I educated him about Ted Williams, Fenway Park, the Red Sox and he educated me about the art of sculpting.
So, I brought several books with scores of photographs of Ted. I told Franc everything I could think of about Ted Williams. I told Franc all the things my dad had told me about Ted Williams.
Of course I started with what a great hitter he was!
I told him how he loved to fish!
I told him how he served in both WW II and Korea losing five seasons to wars. I told him that while serving in Korea he flew 39 combat missions. And I told him if that if he played those five seasons, he might have passed Babe Ruth in career home runs.
I told him how a cantankerous relationship developed between him and the Boston media, whom he referred to as “the knights of the keyboard.” I told him how this, at times, led to frustration and caused a block of fans to get on Ted, to ride Ted and sometimes Ted responded by doing things that he wished he had not done. The worst of which were throwing a bat up into the air which struck a fan in the first row and once spitting towards booing fans on his way off the field! I told him how this caused him to stop tipping his cap! And how once making that decision he never tipped his cap again until 1991, 31 years after he retired.
And then I told him about the “Jimmy Fund” and how much it meant to Ted Williams!
to be continued…..
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, the fall of 2002.