As Boston was preparing for an epic blizzard last Sunday, former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette passed away. He was 78 years old and had been battling leukemia for the past seven years.
“Monbo” pitched 1622 of his 1961.3 big league innings with the Red Sox from 1958 through 1965.
A look at his baseball resume will tell you he won 114 games while losing 112 in a career which lasted a decade, from July 18, 1958 to September 3, 1968. It will tell you that he was 96-91 with the Red Sox from 1958 through the 1965 season. It will tell you that he played two seasons with the Tigers, two more with the Yankees and that he closed his career pitching 12 innings with the San Francisco Giants in 1968. It will tell you that in both 1963 and 1964 he surrendered 258 hits to lead the American League both years in that dubious category. It will tell you that in 1963, 113 earned runs were scored against him, also more than any other pitcher in the American League. It will reveal that in 1965 he was 10-18, to lead the league in losses. It will also tell you that in 1963 he led the American League with a 4.14 strikeout to walk ratio and that in 1964 he walked only 1.5 batters per nine innings, also best in the league. You will learn that from 1960 through 1965 he hurled 200+ innings with a high of 266 2/3 in 1963 and that in that same year he was 20-10 on a team that was 76-85 and finished in seventh place. The resume will note that he flipped a couple of one hit shutouts for the Sox as well as a 12 inning shutout on the season’s second game in 1962.
Bill Monbouquette was 20-10 in 1963 which included a 13-5 record at Fenway Park and a 4-1 mark against the AL Champion New York Yankees.
His resume will speak of a night in 1961 at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC when he struck out 17 batters to set a Red Sox record and earn him an introduction to President Eisenhower and the President’s autograph on a baseball which he held dear to him his entire life.
“Monbo” 1961 Topps
It will also mention a night at Commiskey Park in Chicago in August of 1962 when Monbo was almost perfect as he fired a no-hitter with only a walk to White Sox outfielder Al Smith keeping him from perfection.
“Monbo’s” no-hitter came exactly 36 days after teammate Earl Wilson twirled one at Fenway Park against the Angels.
What the resume won’t tell you is the tale of how an eight year old boy in East Weymouth Massachusetts would fall asleep on summer nights listening to the Red Sox on his six transistor radio. It won’t tell you how that eight year old boy developed a relationship with “Monbo” the kid from Medfah (Medford) Massachusetts who went on to become a star with his local town team. And all through the magic of radio!
Realtone 6 transistor radio.
It won’t tell you about the night of Friday May 12, 1961 when that little boy lay awake in the dark listening as “Monbo” struck out one Washington Senator after another. It began when he struck out right fielder Gene Woodling to end the first inning. Striking out first baseman Dale Long and catcher Gene Green in the second brought his total to three and in the third he whiffed the side getting former teammates Jim Mahoney and Billy Klaus as well as his opponent on the hill Pete Burnside. He had six K’s in three innings and Red Sox radio voice Ned Martin was starting to get excited.
The voices of the Red Sox in the early 1960s.
Excitement grew in those radio voices as two more went down in the 4th, another in the 5th, yet two more in the sixth; and when he struck out the side in the seventh he was one away from tying the Red Sox record and four from Bob Feller’s modern day record of 18 set in 1938. Curt, Ned and Art starting talking names of Red Sox pitchers of bygone days. They mentioned Joe Harris who struck out 15 guys waaaaay back in 1906 and Smoky Joe Wood who did it in 1911 and a lefty named Mickey McDermott, the southpaw who struck out 15 Indians in a 16 inning complete game win in 1951.
And when Willie Tasby was called out on strikes for the second out in the 8th inning, Martin bellowed, “Monbo’s tied the record” and the eight year old smiled as he whispered to his faithful sleep companion “Sad Bear”, “Just one more”. The eight year old got mad at catcher Jim Pagliaroni for dropping a foul tip by Jim King that would have ended the inning and set the record. “One more inning Sad Bear, he just needs one more.”
First baseman Dale Long struck out leading off the ninth and the Red Sox record belonged to the kid from Medfah! He padded it with another strikeout and his record of 17 strikeouts in a game lasted until Roger Clemens K’d 20 Seattle Mariners in April of 1986.
Coot Veal was Monbo’s 17th and final strikeout.
Somewhat forgotten by history is that the Red Sox won the game 2-1 and only had two hits in the entire game. In fact it was Monbo himself who had the game winning RBI when he walked with the bases loaded in the 7th giving himself and his mates a 2-0 lead. Entering the ninth with a shutout, the Senators scored on a single by Billy Klaus, who had struck out three times previous. The game was saved on a great catch by right fielder Jackie Jensen of a line drive off the bat of second baseman Danny O’Connell which would have plated two runners and Monbo’s record breaking game would have ended in a loss.
Jackie Jensen’s great catch saved the win for the Red Sox and Monbouquette.
The resume won’t mention that on the night of August 1, 1962, the nine year old boy and “Sad Bear” were once again listening in the dark, as he was mowing down the Chicago White Sox. It won’t mention that it was 0-0 in the seventh inning and that when White Sox right fielder Floyd Robinson flied out to Red Sox right fielder Lou Clinton to end the inning and Chicago was still without a hit, the nine year old fell asleep! It won’t tell you that when the nine year old awoke in the morning he tore into Dad’s room and not so gently nudged his Pop, “did he do it, Dad did he do it, did they win…Huh Dad did he do it?” Nowhere will it tell you that through the fog of Thursday morn, Dad rolled over and smiled, ‘sure did, they won 1-0″ and the nine year old then asked “did Chicago make an error?” “What?” “I don’t think so.” You see the nine year old wanted the line score in Monbo’s no-hitter to be all zeros; no runs, no hits, no errors. It was!
Clinton singled in Jim Pagliaroni with two outs in the eighth for the only run of the game.
Nowhere will the resume mention the story of the 57 year old man who had mailed “Monbo” a three page questionnaire about his former teammate and 1962 no-hit buddy Earl Wilson. It won’t tell you about the Sunday afternoon, when the 57 year old man was on his way home from the Capris Isle Golf Course in Venice Florida when his phone rang and an unfamiliar voice said, “Is this Ray?” “Yes it is”, “Yea, this is Bill Monbouquette, you wanna talk about Earl Wilson?” Nope, the resume won’t tell you about the hour conversation “Monbo”and the 57 year old had about his teammate, his friend, Earl Wilson and how much it meant to him to share that special no-hit summer of 1962 with the man he described as “a perfect gentleman.”
The resume will not include the time in August of 2012 when the 59 year old man was present at the induction ceremonies at Fenway Park for the 2012 Red Sox Hall of Fame members. It won’t mention that the 59 year old had the opportunity to introduce himself to “Monbo” and that the ever gracious kid from Medfah spent a few moments inquiring into the 59 year olds research into Earl Wilson. Nor will it mention that he signed the cover of the days program, shook his hand and said,” call me if you need more help.”
There is snow in Saturday’s forecast in Boston. And following an 11 am funeral mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Malden, “Monbo” will be laid to rest in the Oak Grove Cemetery in his beloved Medford.
The 8 year old boy’s heart is heavy and the nine year old’s eyes brim with tears. The 61 year old man is grateful that the man whom he came to know on the radio in the dark nights of childhood, took the time to make a call, to shake a hand and in so doing, spread his light along crossed paths. A light that will remain with me.
Goodnight “Monbo”, thanks from all of us and God speed!
And so it is on this sad day in Fenway Park history, January 30 2015.
Enjoyed this piece, your vivid memories of all this. My father was mentioned in here, and always had such a nice friendship, with Bill Mombo and his family. And, the ultimate respect of him as a competitor. Best Wishes to you. A son of Lou Clinton. 😉
Thanks Chris, I remember your dad. Number 6!