Tag Archives: Red Sox



Last week the 106th opening game was held at Fenway Park.

In my old Darlington neighborhood of the 1950’s that meant a group of 9 and 10 year old boys would magically decide to head towards our makeshift ball field. We simply called it the “lot”.

Leaving home I would yell, “Mom, I’m going to the lot.”, as I scurried out the door.

The lot was a small oval plot of scruffy grass, encircled by Warwick and Windsor Avenues, plunked in the middle of our working class neighborhood. Woefully undersized for a ballpark, just 60 feet wide and 150 feet long, our gang made it work. Flat rocks were bases and telephone poles marked fair from foul. The only base paths were formed by our youthful romping. We had no fence.

One benefit of the size was the need for fewer players. We could manage with just 3 to a side; pitcher, shortstop and outfielder. The space was so tiny the pitcher could cover first base. A volunteer from the batting team would catch. The catcher was important because if the ball got past him it could easily land on the street and roll towards the sewer opening in the nearby curb. More than once we pried open the sewer cover and held onto the ankles of a playmate while we dangled him into the well to return our baseball, probably held together by black electrical tape, from the dark, dank mess.

The decision of which team batted first was decided by a vividly remembered ritual. One team captain would toss the bat vertically to the other captain who would catch it with one hand. The captains then topped each other fist over fist towards the knob of the bat. Whichever captain’s fist was the last able to fit on the bat’s barrel won the right for his team to hit first. However, before the bat toss, it was critical to establish if the “fingers” or “bottle cap” rules were in play for these arcane exceptions would change the outcome.

For the most part the neighbors who lived in the houses encircling our field were tolerant of the noise and potential damage to their properties. The one exception was a couple who lived in a home in foul territory past first base. They would keep any errant ball and worst of all they had the only picture window on the block! Fortunately, despite our unanimous hero worshipping of Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, all our gang were righties and we played slow pitch to keep most hits heading towards left field.
Until Charlie moved into the very house next to the picture window home. Charlie was different. He was a year older. He was rugged. He was an unrepentant lefty. After a few close calls with the dreaded window youthful innovation came to the rescue. When Charlie came to bat we simply flipped the field moving home plate to center field and Charlie’s pulled line drive shots would simply crash into a row of tall bushes.

The peculiarities of our oval island field come rushing back. The first player spotting an approaching vehicle would call out, “Cahh, cahh!” in our strong Rhode Island accent and play would momentarily halt. Our seventh inning breaks would consist of sitting on the steps of Artinian’s the mom and pop market located, in a Norman Rockwellian twist, directly behind home base. I’d drink Nehi grape while eating a Zagnut bar.

Curiously we never knew, nor much cared, who owned this little oval of green paradise. We never saw it being maintained. I guess our nonstop baseball, football and track games kept it from being overgrown.

I drove by the other day. A mature tree now rises from our old home plate. I see no sign of a worn basepath.

Times change, but early Spring will always bring these memories back to me.

Play ball!


My Play By Play Pitch To The Red Sox. (Published in the Providence Journal 10/22/15)


Somewhat forgotten in the angst over NESN replacing popular Red Sox TV announcer Don Orsillo with WEEI’s Dave O’Brien is the fact that there is now an opening for the radio play by play gig.

Now in my fourth year of retirement, I’m looking to start a second career, so, perhaps I should send them my play by play version of some of baseball’s most iconic moments.

It would go something like this:

September 29th, 1954 – Polo Grounds – World Series.

“ Little fires a fastball. Wertz swings and hits a towering drive. It’s heading over Mays’s head into the deepest part of center field. Willie races back, his number 24 barely visible 450 feet from home plate. At full speed he peers over his left shoulder and stretches his glove towards the sky. He’s got it! He’s got it! He twirls, hat flying off, and fires the ball back towards the infield! Willie Mays has just made a catch that tomorrow young boys all across the country will be trying to imitate, and, I have a feeling, for decades to come. Say hey, indeed!”

October 8th, 1956 – Yankee Stadium – World Series.

“Larsen nervously toes the rubber. Yogi gives the signal. The Yankee Stadium crowd is dead silent as pinch hitter Dale Mitchell waits. Larsen nods and starts his motion. Fastball coming in. Called strike three! Larsen has done it! Yogi races towards the mound, leaps into Larsen’s arms and wraps his legs around the pitcher’s body. The 6’4” Larsen is carrying little Berra like a team mascot towards the first base line. Don Larsen has pitched the first no-hitter in World Series history! Not just a no-hitter, but a perfect game! 27 up, 27 down. Don Larsen, not Cy Young, not Christy Mathewson, not Walter Johnson, but Don Larsen! Holy cow!”

September 29th, 1960 – Fenway Park – Final Red Sox home game.

“Williams waits impatiently in the batter’s box while Fisher goes to the resin. 1 and 1 count. The 10,000 plus fans watching their hero for the last time. Fisher deals. Ted uncoils. It’s a high, majestic fly ball heading to right. It’s out of here! Deep into the Red Sox bullpen! Ted Williams hits his 521st home run on his final swing at Fenway! Head down he’s rounding the bases. The small crowd is going wild. Williams touches third and heads home. He crosses the plate and turns towards the dugout, eyes still surveying the ground. True to form for 21 years Williams does not pander to the fans as The Kid bids the Hub adieu.”

October 27th, 2004 – Busch Stadium – World Series.

“Foulke is one out away from never having to pay for a beer in Boston. Edgar Renteria trying to keep the Cardinals slim hope alive. Foulke tugs at the brim of his cap as he stares into Veritek for the sign. Pujols hugs second. Here’s the pitch. It’s a sharp ground ball to the mound. Foulke leaps and grabs it! He takes a couple of steps towards first and underhands the ball to Mientkiewicz. New England, turn up Grandpa’s hearing aid. The Red Sox are World Champions! The Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918. After 86 years Harry Frazee and Babe Ruth have finally been granted pardons.”

Once WEEI hears my recording, I could just sit back and wait for their offer. It would be so great to sit in the press box with Joe Castiglione.
– END –

Final Out F-9. Published in the Providence Journal

The bright orange roof of the Howard Johnson’s was a benchmark. This particular Ho-Jo filled the triangle formed by the merging of Routes 1 and 1A in North Attleboro. Even at 11, I knew if we were driving this far north of our Pawtucket life, we were heading for Fenway Park! The Green Monster, the CITGO sign, sausage grinders from the street vendors, but, best of all, Ted Williams at the plate.
We’d drive past Ratty’s Car Hop where, if Dad was feeling flush and the Sox won, we might stop on the way home for the world’s best burgers on buttered and grilled rolls. Your order was taken, and your food even brought to your car, by achingly pretty teenage girls gliding on roller skates!
Dad’s hulking green Hudson maneuvered its way through the curves of the VFW Parkway like an armadillo on a mission. Duct tape, secured by faith, held the tailpipe in place. We’d be fine until we hit the rotaries in Brookline, where Dad always managed to exit either one spoke too soon or one spoke too late. Never mind batting practice, we rarely managed to see the first inning.
On this day, July 20, 1958 — 55 years ago today — the Detroit Tigers, my favorite team after the Sox, were in town.
We finally arrived, parked the beast somewhere illegal and scurried down Lansdowne Street. A loud roar poured out of the old brick ball yard as we turned toward the entrance.
“I bet Williams hit one out!” I pouted angrily.
But the crowd noise was unusual. It didn’t quickly spike then fade. Rather, it lingered punctuated with new passion then ebbing away only to reverberate again. This one mystified me. My father, brother and I pushed through the turnstiles and jogged up the tilted, zigzag ramp toward our first base side grandstand seats. The noise was over by the time we shot through the tunnel and finally looked onto the diamond. Umpires were concluding a huddled conference as we found our seats.
“What happened? What happened?” I pestered the man in the seat in front of mine.
“Billy Martin spiked Runnels sliding into second base. All hell broke loose,” he replied.
We had missed a real baseball rhubarb! A bench-clearing, infield-dust-swirling wrestling match. I consoled myself by rationalizing that the donnybrook had delayed the game some, so we’d missed less of the actual action.
The ball-filled afternoon then spun itself out on a tradition-laden web of hot shots to third, 6-4-3 double plays and the rhythmic “We want a hit” chanting and clapping.
Too many decades and too many ballgames have passed for me to recall all the details of the game. However, the final out in the bottom of the ninth is etched as clearly as Catechism lessons in my mind.
Jim Bunning, long and lean, was on the hill for the Tigers. He was one of the best hurlers of his time and I secretly admired him even though he played for Detroit. Heck, in those days, the Red Sox never had any pitchers to root for. Bunning was on top of his game that day, literally unhittable, carrying a no-hitter into the final inning.
If this game had been proposed as a Hollywood script, and the writer cajoled the action into having Ted Williams stride to the plate with two outs, some editor would have red lined it as too clichéd.
But, that’s how it happened, Ted taking languorously smooth half swings for practice as he headed for the left-handed batter’s box. (He would hit .328 that year, with 26 home runs and 85 runs batted in, in 129 games.) I froze, paralyzed by torn emotions, my devoted loyalty to Number 9 punctured by my wanting to see Bunning succeed.
The two baseball icons dueled for a couple of pitches, I think, but can’t swear. Bunning whirled and tried to sneak a fastball over the inside corner past Ted. Williams uncoiled, powerful hips turning into the swing.
“Crack!” The ball resonated off Ted’s Louisville Slugger. From our first base side seats we had the perfect spot to watch the flight of the ball.
I didn’t, couldn’t, cheer. The crowd didn’t cheer. It was eerily hushed as the ball started on its parabolic flight toward right field. Al Kaline, the Tiger’s brilliant right fielder, started drifting back. The ball reached its highest trajectory and began the slow descent as Kaline backpedaled onto the narrow warning track. Did it have enough distance to reach the Tiger bullpen?
Kaline casually lifted his Spalding glove and the ball settled in the pocket. I swear I could hear the “plop” as horsehide met leather. Ted had hit it too far down on the handle. Bunning had “fisted” him just enough. After a moment’s hesitation, the Beantown fans, still standing, started a long ovation for Bunning.
The Howard Johnson’s is gone, Ratty’s has been boarded up for decades, and my father passed away 16 years ago, but I can still instantly recall the triangle of Hall of Famers — Kaline, Bunning and Williams — and that final notation in my scorebook: F-9, which in baseball scoring means fly out to right field.

Jim Raftus, of Cumberland, is a retired marketing executive.