One of the things I enjoy the most about writing this is how one story leads to another. Yesterday’s piece brought me to Bill Monbouquette’s 17 strikeout night in 1961 and that brought me to his catcher that evening, Jim Pagliaroni.
Jim Pagliaroni appeared in only 239 games for the Red Sox in 1955, ’60’, ’61’, and ’62’.
Jim Pagliaroni was one of my first Fenway favorites. Of course at eight years of age many of those 1961 Red Sox were among my first favorites but with “Pag” it was a bit different. First off there is that vowel at the end of his name which had a way of endearing Red Sox players to the head of the Sinibaldi household and that came with, what I will call, the trickle down effect. However, in that summer of 1961, when I began, in earnest, to follow this team, “Pag” earned his Fenway stripes.
1961 Topps Baseball Card.
Signed as a “bonus baby” out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach California in June of 1955, he made his major league debut at Fenway Park two months later. It was the top of the eighth inning of a game in which the Washington Senators were pounding the home team 14-6. Manager “Pinky” Higgins told the kid to get the gear on and catch the rest of the game to give his regular back stop, Sammy White a breather. Jim Pagliaroni was 17 years old. In his only at bat, he hit a sacrifice fly to center field in the ninth scoring Jackie Jensen. He would not see action in another major league game until the summer of 1960.
Pagliaroni in 1960.
It was a pretty historic season, 1960, the last season of the eight team American League, and the last season of Ted Williams. He got his first hit, hit his first homer and on September 28th, the last game of the season at Fenway Park, he found himself hitting cleanup, behind none other than “The Splendid Splinter” himself.
The sky was a gloomy gray that Wednesday afternoon and only 10,454 of the Fenway Faithful were present to bid adieu to “The Kid”. It was the bottom of the eighth inning, the Red Sox were trailing the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 and Eddie Fisher was on the mound. Take a peak. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN0uD8F3-QQ It was a legendary finish to a legendary career and Jim Pagliaroni stood witness to history!
“Pag” welcomes Ted home and says goodbye after he hit his 521st and last home run in his last major league at bat.
What most don’t remember is the Red Sox came back and won that game in the bottom of the ninth on a walk off error, 5-4, oh and Pagliaroni singled following Ted’s home run.
Pagliaroni’s propensity for historic moments was only beginning. On May 12, 1961 he found himself behind the plate in Washington’s Griffith Stadium catching Bill Monbouquette’s 17 strikeout game. (see yesterday’s post). However, it would be a little over a month later when he would eternally endear himself to the heart of eight year old Raymond Sinibaldi.
It was June 18th, a Sunday, and a great time of the year. The last week of school was upon us and the Sox were playing two at Fenway! Oh how we loved those Sunday doubleheaders. Sunday meant a TV game, what a treat! Well it didn’t seem so as Washington took a 7-5 lead into the top of the ninth. When they added five runs and were now trouncing my boys, I grabbed my glove and rubber ball and headed out to the driveway for a game of wall ball. The Red Sox always won in wall ball!
Washinton starter Carl Mathias was on the mound for the Senators and he got Sox first baseman Vic Wertz to ground to first leading off the inning. After a Don Buddin single, Mathias punched out Billy Harrell and the Sox were doomed! Not so fast! Two singles and a walk later, Mathias was replaced by former Red Sox pitcher Dave Sisler. And that’s when the fun began! Jackie Jensen walked, scoring a run, Frank Malzone walked, scoring a run and up stepped Jim Pagliaroni. It was then that Dad poked his head out the kitchen door and said “you might want to get in here”. I came a runnin just in time to see “Pag” launch a bomb into the left field screen, a grand salami baby and the game was tied! The Sox won that game and it still is on the books as their “most spectacular rally to win”.
However, “Pag” was not through for the day, no siree, he caught the second game as well and wait, it gets better! In the bottom of the 13th inning, that’s right the 13th, he hit a walk off home run into the left field screen giving the Sox a sweep and crowning him my new all time favorite Red Sox player!
His dance with history was nowhere near complete. On August 1, 1962 he found himself behind the plate at Commiskey Park in Chicago and once again Bill Monbouquette was on the mound. Well, that night he caught a no-hitter as “Monbo” allowed only a second inning walk to Al Smith, avoiding perfection. “Pag” did a bit more than catch that game, he also scored the only run in the eighth inning following a two out single.
Earl Wilson (who pitched a no-hitter six weeks earlier) greets “Monbo” after his no-hitter August 1, 1962. Smiling between them is catcher Jim Pagliaroni.
“Pag” was traded to the Pirates at the end of the 1962 season. He was part of the deal that brought Dick Stuart to Boston. Yet there was still more history to be made. After five seasons with teammates Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell he found himself in Oakland for the 1968 campaign. A back up catcher, he was behind the plate on May 8th when 6,298 folks jammed Oakland Alameda County Stadium to watch the A’s take on the Minnesota Twins. They saw history as Jim “Catfish” Hunter became only the seventh pitcher in modern baseball history to throw a perfect game. His catcher, you guessed it, Jim Pagliaroni!
Catfish and Pag
“Pag” had one more stop on his magical history tour and it would come in 1969 as a member of the Seattle Pilots. Who? The one year wonders who after playing but one season in Seattle left for Milwaukee to become the Brewers!
Not a bad ride “Pag”, not a bad ride at all.
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, “Pag’s” time.