My mom and the Red Sox: a lifelong passion
My 78-year-young mother has been a member of the “Fenway Faithful” since the 1930s, and she has a unique connection to the Sox: she had the privilege of having dinner with Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr when she was in junior high school. The meeting of the two legends solidified her intense passion for the game of baseball and the Red Sox.
“I remember shaking Ted Williams hand, and he seemed larger than life,” she said.
Williams and Doerr used to do business at one of my mother’s friend’s houses around the corner from the Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale back when my mother was young. One time, she got wind that the two players were having dinner at her friend’s house, and she seized the opportunity and invited herself over. She said she was in awe as both men seemed rather imposing and intimidating to my mother at first blush. Williams gave my mother an autographed bat before tucking in to the spaghetti and meatballs they all ate for dinner.
This past Mother’s Day, I spoke with my mom about her memories of the Red Sox, baseball history and what the present team brings to home plate. My mom spoke fondly of listening to the play-by-play broadcasts on the radio alongside her father. The “voice of the Red Sox” back then was Jim Britt and his voice resonated throughout the house when the Sox were in town.
I asked my Mom who her favorite manager of the Red Sox was and her answer did not surprise me: Dick Williams. During Williams’ first year as head coach of the Sox, he and captain Carl Yastrzemski led the “Impossible Dream” Sox to the World Series.
Boston lost in Game 7 to the St. Louis Cardinals, but it was still a season for the ages. Unfortunately, Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Red Sox, handed Williams a pink slip two seasons later, and my mother has yet to forgive Yawkey for that.
“Dick Williams was firm with his players and the team responded by taking care of things,” my mother said. “It was a real loss for the Red Sox when Dick Williams was fired.”
Her intuition was spot on as Williams went on to lead the Oakland A’s to two World Series titles.
My mother spoke highly of Terry Francona as well, and under his guidance, the team returned the World Series trophy to Beantown in 2004 for the first time in 86 years. My mother recited the names of the players on the team as if she were reciting the alphabet: Johnny Damon, Pokey Reese, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and her beloved Jason Varitek (she also is a huge Carlton Fisk fan, so there is clearly a special spot in her heart for catcher).
We also touched upon tragic moments in Red Sox history.
“Tony Conigliaro had the looks of a movie star and could make all the girls swoon,” my mother said as we spoke of the tragic story of Tony C., who, at 22 years old, was struck in the head at home plate on a steamy August night in 1967. The memory of that moment still brings my mother to tears.
“Jack Hamilton pulled Conigliaro towards the plate with a fastball and shattered his cheekbone,” she said. Conig, as he was affectionately known, was on track for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Rico Petrocelli was so shaken by the accident, it was so sad,” my mom recalled with a distant tone to her voice.
As she continued her reflections about her beloved team, she touched on the always-controversial Manny Ramirez.
“He had a balky attitude and if he was able to overcome his personality his playing would follow,” she said. “He is a great player and a great hitter with a lot of raw talent.”
Fast forward to the present and my mother shared that she is enthusiastic about the role that Pedro Martinez is playing with the Red Sox. The pitching icon works as a special assistant for Juan Nieves, the Red Sox pitching coach, and is ever popular within the organization.
“Pedro is an excellent addition to the pitching staff and he was an effective pitcher who, when healthy, could get the job done,” she said.
My mother also likes Daniel Nava, a new kid on the block on Yawkey Way. She said he is a tremendously strong outfielder. He was labeled as a below average outfielder due to his string of hip injuries yet has proved the naysayers wrong.
Recently, Nava was instrumental in an impressive 5-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
My mother has always enjoyed baking and informed me that the ingredients for the recipe for the Sox to be contenders are there. May — so far — has been a lackluster month for the Red Sox, but my mother still believes in the impossible dream. Here’s hoping that the Red Sox go the distance and fulfill my Mother’s Day wish for her.
But even if the Red Sox don’t win any trophies this year, I would gladly take my Mom to the ballpark any day. For now, she will have to reminisce as she pulls out her cherished vinyl record of the “Impossible Dream” and hopes to hear that music one more time.