A total of 12,476 members of the Fenway Faithful clicked the turnstiles at Fenway Park on Friday night July 16, 1948. They came to see Red Sox right hander Joe Dobson take on Art Houtteman and the Detroit Tigers. The fans knew that Ted Williams would not be in the line up on this night. Sidelined with a bruised cartilage on his left rib cage, the Splendid Splinter had not played since July 9th in Philadelphia. Stan Spence had been filling in for Ted and in five games he was 4-19 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Hardly Williamsesque numbers as Ted was hitting .388 when he went down.
None the less, the Red Sox had won four out of five games and were within striking distance, just six and a half games back in fourth place.
Williams, Doerr, DiMaggio and Stephens.
The Red Sox won the game 5-3 in a come from behind effort led by the bats of Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Vern Stephens and “Birdie” Tebbets. And even Stan Spence walked and scored a run. Dobson hurled a complete game for his 11th win and the Faithful went home happy.
But more importantly to this Fenway patron, on that very same day, this guy came into the world!
He’s William Frank and he’s my Big Brother!
Now I have written often of the role of relationships within the game of baseball and on this, my brother’s 64th birthday, I am reminded of a couple of Fenway classic moments we have shared.
Back in the day, as they say, the Red Sox used to hold what they called “Family Nights” and they went something like this: the “head of the household” purchased a ticket at full price and he (note the political incorrectness here) could purchase tickets at half price for the rest of the family. They would do this a couple of times a year and that brought joy to the Sinibaldi house for we were on our way to Fenway!
One such night, was August 8, 1961 and the Minnesota Twins were in town. They actually were the old Washington Senators who had just moved to Minnesota and were playing their first year in the Twin Cities. Big Bro was 13 and I was 8.
Camilio Pasqual was pitching for the Twins.
Bill Monbouquette was on the hill for the Sox.
This guy was a rookie and playing left field.
Yaz went 1-4 that night, struck out twice and was picked off of first base by Twins catcher Earl Battey.
But it was this guy who was the hero of the night.
Gary Merle Geiger.
Gary Geiger played 12 seasons in the big leagues, most of them as a reserve outfielder. He appeared in 954 games, 588 of them with the Red Sox from 1959 through 1963. In 1961 he was their regular centerfielder. He batted left, wore number seven and he could fly, not a prototypical Red Sox player of the early sixties.
It was the bottom of the third inning in a scoreless game when Sox right fielder Jackie Jensen led off with a double to the gap in right center. Shortstop Don Buddin walked and after Monbo forced him at second, Pete Runnels walked loading the bases.
Pete Runnels was the American League batting champ in 1960 and ’62’.
This brought the 6 foot 165 lb Geiger to the plate. He scorched a Pasqual offering down the first base line and inside Harmon Killebrew. The ball clung to the lower portion of the right field wall and rolled past Twins right fielder Bob Allison. The race was on and boy was Geiger moving! Nearly catching Runnels rounding third, he slid safely into home for an inside the park grand slam home run!
The euphoria was short-lived as the Twins scored three runs in the fifth and added three more in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead. Don Buddin hit a homer into the screen in the seventh to account for the final, a 6-5 loss. As disappointed as I was leaving the park that night, I smile this morning as I can still see Geiger flying around the bases and sliding safely home, in a cloud of Fenway dust!
Then there was the night of August 15th five years later. My Big Bro was a big man now as he had just graduated from high school the previous June. I was a pretty big shot myself for I was a teenager.
I was feeling pretty cool as we headed into Fenway, in a car that looked something like this.
However, we ran into a little snag as we missed the exit for Fenway Park off of Storrow Drive and headed north towards Cambridge,
Not to fret, we would turn around in Cambridge and head back. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.
When we got off the exit that black car I showed you, began a sputtering, coughing a little and basically told us it needed a rest, needed to lay down for a little while. So we pulled into this parking lot.
We let “Ole Bessy” rest but within a short time she told us she needed more than just a rest, she needed a doctor. Well neither Big Bro or I were qualified to treat the old girl so we walked off to find a phone booth (remember them?) and call, who else, Dad! One problem, Dad was not qualified to treat the old girl either and that meant one thing, Uncle Billy! Well it actually meant two things, a call to Uncle Billy and bye-bye to being a part of the Fenway crowd that evening.
Well Uncle Billy and Dad arrived and to be honest, I don’t remember if he got “Ole Bessy” going or if she had to take an ambulance; but I will tell you what I do remember! I remember listening to the Sox Orioles game on the radio while sitting in “Ole Bessy” with my Big Bro in the parking lot of Harvard Stadium. And I remember getting home just in time to see this guy,
Johnny “Boog” Powell
launch his third home run of the night over the left center field screen in the top of the 11th inning to give the Orioles a 4-2 win!
In my Big Bro’s rookie year of 1948, the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians tied for first place and played the first ever American League playoff game for the pennant. The Sox lost!
In my Big Bro’s 64th year, he was at Fenway Park to celebrate their 100th birthday. It was a day wrought with solemnity, reflection and pure joy. And why???? It’s all about relationships!!!!!
Happy birthday Willie…..
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, July 16, 2012.