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SIXTIES AT FENWAY: FLASHBACK

This was the opening day lineup on April 19th as the new decade began at Fenway Park.

Don Buddin ss

Pete Runnels 2B

Frank Malzone

Gene Stephens rf

Ted Williams lf

Bobby Thomson cf

Ron Jackson 1b

Haywood Sullivan c

Tom Brewer p

It was 58 degrees at the start of the game. Playing before 35, 162 against the Yankees of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, Tony Kubek and company, the Red Sox disappointed the Fenway faithful, losing 8-4. Roger Maris slugged two homers for the New Yorkers.

BOB SULLIVAN: I grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts in the 50s and early 60s. It thought of itself then as a farm town.   

      My early games on TV from Fenway had everything to do with Curt Gowdy.  I can to this day regale one with the Narragansett Jingle. Games on the radio from Fenway were as resonant to me as going to the ballpark. My grandfather used to sit on the back porch in Lowell, Mass in his Mount Vernon Street home. I must have been four or five. 

  I remember coming home one night with my brother from catching crappies, coming into the house, Dad sitting on the couch.  “Hey, come here and listen to this.”   

     Home run call:

Ned Martin: “Long drive, left field. Way up, and gone. Mercy!”

               CARL LOVEJOY: We’d park in the same spot in the area which is now for Boston University fraternities. We would walk past the wooden cart with the old wagon wheel and the black guy who was the salesman with an apron and a hat, sort of a bender’s hat, the change maker on his belt.

    You’d  hear the crack of the bat as you were buying peanuts and wanting to get inside, wanting to get to your seats to  see batting practice, hoping to catch that foul ball. 

I loved it when the foul ball would come down the screen and everybody would, “whoooop!”  and the bat boy would catch it.

Going into a public men’s room for the first time was to be intimidated. The urinals were troughs. And there were all these men and boys lined up. 

         HARRY BAULD:  Fenway was a place that you could go to the same way you went to the movies.  I paid 50 cents to sit in right field. The ushers were all those incredibly florid-faced old guys. They’d dust the seat for you.  I never did give them a tip. We were working class kids.  It was hard enough  for us to scrape up the 50 cents admission.   

On July 22nd, 1960 Ted Williams homered in a 6-4 Sox win over Cleveland. In the seventh inning he stole second base to become the first  Major Leaguer to steal bases in four straight decades. 

BOB SULLIVAN: Dad wanted my brother Kevin and me to see Williams play before he retired, so he planned a big day. We were going to go in early and we were going to come back relatively late considering we were so young.

So we  drove down in the Oldsmobile with my brother and I on the back couch in the days before seat belts and my mom sitting up front as terrified of 128 as Dad was back then, the way Dad would have driven, I’m sure it took an hour and a quarter. He parked under the Common.   We took a taxi up, the first taxi we had ever taken in our lives.

Fenway was such a dungeon down underneath that you came out of the darkness and into the light.  This was like, oh my goodness, it was like sending you to heaven.   It was like a religion. Ted Williams. Fenway Park.  I, of course, was a young Williams fan.  And Dad was a World War II veteran, a Master Sergeant, and he was a Williams devotee.  There’s a myth now that all of the Boston fanship booed Williams. He was a prickly character.  But it was the sportswriters who had problems with him, personal problems, that they took out on him in the pages of the newspapers.   

He played hard. The fans in left-field would heckle him and he’d spit and all the rest of it, but mostly the fans loved the guy.  And Dad, as a veteran was eternally devoted to this guy. His military background, his patriotism, his heroism. 

We sat behind first base.  It was just some game in August.  There was no one in the park; they had given up on the team for every good reason.    

Afterwards, we got a taxi and Dad took us to Bailey’s for enormous ice cream sundaes, served in silver cups with gooey, dripping marshmallow.

On the 25th of September Casey Stengel clinched his 10th pennant in a dozen seasons as manager of the New York Yankees as Ralph Terry edged Boston 4-3.

“I drove into the ballpark,” Curt Gowdy recalled,” parked the car, went into the clubhouse, and Johnny Orlando, the clubhouse guy, said, ‘Gowdy, Gowdy come here, this is the Kid’s last game ever.’

‘What do you mean? We have a series in New York this weekend.’

‘Mr. Yawkey told him to take the last two games off and go fishing. This is his last game. You have to promise me you won’t mention it to anyone.’

“I said, ‘I promise I won’t.'”

BOB KEANEY: I was a Lynn, Mass  kid who loved Ted and trembled that his final game might be rained out that damp, drizzly dark Wednesday. I sat with my friend Bruce Jackson on the third base side, where John Updike sat collecting notes for his prize-winning essay on Ted’s farewell game.

Ted warmed up with a pre-game catch near the dugout with Willie Tasby and I loved that because Tasby lived in  Lynn, too,  ironically, Williams Avenue.

FRANK MALZONE: It was a cold day, the wind was blowing northeast in from right field, the kind of day you say nobody is going to hit one out.

      September 28th, 1960, Red Sox vs. Orioles.  Overcast, dank, chilly the final day of the final home stand of the 1960 season. Only 10,454 showed up.  The game was not televised locally or nationally. “You Made Me Love You,” playing over the loudspeaker, created a melancholy mood.

LINEUP

Pumpsie Green SS

Willie Tasby       CF

Ted Williams       LF

      Jim Pagliaroni       

       Frank  Malzone    3B

        Lou Clinton           RF

         Don Gile             1B

         Marlan Coughtry        2B

         Billy Muffett               P   

FRANK MALZONE:  I wish there was more people there.  They didn’t realize, you know.   

Curt Gowdy, Red Sox radio and television voice, began the spare ceremony: ”Twenty-one years ago, a skinny kid from San Diego, California…”’ Boston Mayor Collins, seated in a wheelchair, presented a $1,000 check to the Jimmy Fund, the favorite charity of Ted Williams, 42, who was given a plaque by the local sports committee. The inscription was not fully read. Williams hated a fuss. 

He even was annoyed by the news announced to the crowd that his uniform number, 9, would be permanently retired. It was  the first time the team ever honored a player that way.

”In spite of all the terrible things that have been said about me by the knights of the keyboard up there,” Williams said over the loudspeaker… “and they were terrible things, I’d like to forget them, but I can’t…. I want to say that my years in Boston have been the greatest thing in my life.”

FRANK MALZONE: Ted hit two balls good, the first one got into the wind in the right field corner and was pulled back and caught by the right fielder, the next one the center fielder caught.

      In the fifth inning, the “Splendid Splinter” clubbed the ball 380 feet, but the centerfielder caught it in front of the visiting bullpen. “Damn,” an annoyed Williams said to first baseman Vic Wertz. “I hit the living hell out of that one. If that one did not go out, nothing is going out today.”   

BOB KEANEY: In the 8th inning, Tasby, a black centerfielder obtained from Baltimore, led off with Ted’s last-at bat seconds away.

CURT GOWDY (Game Call) “Everybody quiet now here at Fenway Park after they gave him a standing ovation of two minutes knowing that this is probably his last time at bat. One out, nobody on.

BOB KEANEY: Ted dug in, wiggled his fanny, and glared at pitcher Jack Fisher. Everyone stopped breathing. Ted swung as hard as he could, but he missed the fat pitch and nearly sprained his arms.    Some dreamers said later that Ted missed on purpose, so that Fisher would be fooled into throwing that fast ball again.

CURT GOWDY (Game Call)  Jack Fisher into his windup, here’s the pitch. Williams swings — and there’s a long drive to deep right! The ball is going and it is gone! A home run for Ted Williams in his last time at bat in the major leagues!”

FRANK MALZONE:  He hit one a little lower and a little bit  better, and the wind didn’t hurt it, and it made the bullpen.

JERRY CASALE:  I was in the bullpen with  Bill Monbouquette and Mike Fornieles and others. We were all  up front looking over the railing.  The ball went over our heads.

Williams circled the bases as he always did in a hurry with his head down trotting out Number 521, his final homer. The crowd stood and cheered the man and the moment.

FRANK MALZONE: When he hit a home run, it was usually high—it wasn’t no line drive.  This time he got it all. When he hit a home run, he had a way of loping. This time his running was like a hop.   

       TED SPENCER:  Williams hits the  home run.  I hear it on the radio. I said to myself, “Damn, I should have been there.”   

STEVE RYDER: I’d broken my knee in June when I was playing baseball in the Milwaukee Braves system and was in a recovery stage.  I was a left-handed hitter and the amazing thing was seeing how he held through right to the last moment.

BROOKS ROBINSON:  I was playing third base.   He went running around the bases, and I looked at him as he passed second base. I had my arms folded as he passed me. That was absolutely a magical moment to be a part of that history.

STEVE RYDER: He had that regal trot around the bases.  Didn’t tip his cap, didn’t look at the stands, just right into the dugout.

The inning ended and Williams went out to play left field in the top of the ninth. Just before the inning began Carroll Hardy replaced him. “The Kid” ran in. The crowd had one more standing ovation in it.

“We want Ted. We want Ted!” The fans chanted. But he refused to come out for a curtain call. Later it was reported that players and umpires tried to get him to come out. No dice.

       FRANK SULLIVAN:  We all wanted him to stop and at least take his cap off but that sonofabitch, he just ran into the dugout.  He didn’t stay around or let us say anything.    You know that was the way that Ted was.  He went down the dugout steps straight into the tunnel. That was it, aloha.  We didn’t know that that was his last game but we all suspected it.  We were out of contention, so he wasn’t robbing the team.  It was just Ted was Ted and it was tough at times. 

FRANK MALZONE: Typical Ted. Whoever was close by, he shook their hands and waved his hands to everybody else “See you gang.”  That was it.

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