Thursday, March 22, 2018

FLASHBACK - First Opening Day at Fenway Park

First Opening Day at Fenway Park

By Harvey Frommer

  It was damp and chilly throughout New England for most of the spring of 1912, and in Boston, it took a few tries before baseball at a brand new ballpark could be played in decent weather.
On April 9th, the Red Sox and Harvard's baseball team met in an exhibition game in football weather and as one who was there observed, “with a little snow on the side.” About 3,000 braved the elements. Boston won the game, 2-0 with both runs driven in by their pitcher, Casey Hageman.
        The scheduled official Opening Day match on April 12th, however, was rained out. Finally on April 20th, the weather improved a bit, and Fenway's first major league game: the Sox versus the Yankees (then known as the Highlanders), was set to be played before a crowd of 27,000 on soggy, lumpy grounds and infield grass transplanted from the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds, the team’s former home.
Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald threw out the ceremonial first ball. The man, whose grandson would become the thirty-fifth president of the United States, was an ardent member of the "Royal Rooters" - a group of Red Sox fans who staged pre-game parades accompanied by the singing of "Tessie" and "Sweet Adeline."
Ordinarily the game would have been the stuff of front-page headlines in New England dailies. Six days earlier, however, the largest passenger ship in the world had struck an iceberg and gone down in the icy waters of the Atlantic.  The news of the sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage and the accompanying loss of 1,517 lives would eclipse all other stories.
        Nevertheless, it was good news in Boston that the Red Sox finally had a modern ballpark. The original field that the team -- then known as the Boston Somersets -- played on was a former circus lot where sand covered much of the outfield and a tool shed sat in the middle of centerfield.
Owner General Charles Henry Taylor, a Civil War veteran and owner of the "Boston Globe," had decided back in 1910 to build a new ballpark in the Fenway section bordering Brookline Avenue, Jersey Street, Van Ness Street and Lansdowne Street. It would cost $650,000 (approximately $14 million today), and seat 35,000. Ground was broken September 25, 1911.
An attractive red brick fa├žade, the first electric baseball scoreboard, and 18 turnstiles, the most in the Majors, were all features being talked about.  Concrete stands went from behind first base around to third while wooden bleachers were located in parts of left, right, and centerfield. Seats lined the field allowing for excellent views of the game but limiting the size of foul territory.
Elevation was 20 feet above sea level. Barriers and walls broke off at different angles. Centerfield was 488 feet from home plate; right field was 314 feet away. The 10-foot wooden fence in left field ran straight along Lansdowne Street and was but 320 ½ feet down the line from home plate with a high wall behind it.  There was a ten foot embankment making viewing of games easier for overflow gatherings. A ten foot high slope in left field posed challenges for outfielders who had to play the entire territory running uphill.
This was the Opening Day Lineup for the 1912 Boston Red Sox.
        The Sox, with player-manager first baseman Jake Stahl calling the shots, won the game, 7-6, in 11 innings. Tris Speaker -- who that season would bat .383, steal 52 bases and stroke eight inside-the-park home runs at Fenway -- drove in the winning run. Spitball pitcher Bucky O’Brien was the winner in relief of Charles “Sea Lion” Hall. The first hit in the park belonged to New York's Harry Wolter.  
        And that was how it all began.
BOOKENDS:  Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox by Bill Nowlin (University of Nebraska Press, $36.95, 531 pages) is a masterwork on the long-time BoSox owner that is long over-due. And Nowlin, whose resume includes almost 40 books on the Sox and a multitude of articles, has truly out-done himself. 
Nowlin writes in his intro: “As I began to write a biography of Tom Yawkey, I was surprised to learn how little had ever been written about him.”
        Now we have a lot written about the man who owned the team from 1933 to 1976. Complete, well written, filled with fascinating new information, Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox is a must read for fans of the franchise and all those interested in baseball history. Warts and all Tom Yawkey and his time comes to life. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED    
        Harvey Frommer is one of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey has been a professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the founder of His The Ultimate Yankee Book is available on Amazon or directly from the author.

Friday, March 16, 2018

You Could Look It Up - Casey Stengel


         "Make 'em pay. Make 'em pay you a thousand dollars. Don't go help those people with their shows for coffee-and-cake money. You're the Yankees—the best. Make 'em pay you high."—
Casey Stengel

By Harvey Frommer

I first met Casey Stengel in the dugout at Shea Stadium when he was the manager and ring-master for the inept New York Mets.  It was early in the day and I thought he was asleep. I presented a letter that was affixed to my clipboard from a publisher for a book I was doing and contained the information: “Please extend all professional courtesies to Dr. Harvey Frommer
He read it and then exclaimed: “I am extending – here is my arm, my fingers” (and other unmentionables). Casey also noticed the letter reference to “Dr.” and said I need a doctor.” Pointing at various parts of his body he exclaimed this hurts and this hurts, that hurts.”
“I am not that kind of doctor,’ I told him. “I am a Ph.D.”
“Why didn’t you say so? Let’s get down to business.”
Business was a rambling 35 minutes spiced with the line “You could look it up.” His gift for gab and charming but a bit common personality was hypnotic. From time to time representatives of the New York media appeared and he shooed them away waving his arms. “Come back later. I am with my doctor now.”
  I will never forget that time spent with Charles Dillon Stengel, born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri. Now there is a new manager at the helm of the New York Yankees. They can come and go but no one will ever match his winning record, his way with the media, his special ways with the English language.
The salty Stengel seemingly was a man who had been around baseball forever. And he always seemed to reincarnate himself. Back in 1912, he began in the big leagues playing 17 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His salary was $2100.
Fresh off piloting Oakland in the Pacific Coast League and the team of “nine old men” to the Pacific Coast League championship in 1948, Casey Stengel was introduced on October l2th at a press conference as the manager of New York Yankees. It was said that he was offered   the job on the recommendation of dour and business-like General Manager George Weiss.  Their friendship went back decades. 
 "I didn't get the job through friendship," he said in a serious tone. "The Yankees represent an investment of millions of dollars. Because I can make people laugh, some of you think I’m a damn fool.  But as player, coach and manager I have been around baseball for some 35 years. (He’d played in or managed over 5,000 games).  I’ve watched some successful managers as John McGraw and Uncle Robbie work. They don't hand out jobs like this just because they like your company. I got the job because the people here think I can produce for them.”
The new contract covered two years and was for a total of $70,000. At the start, there were doubters. There were also supporters.
EDDIE LOPAT: It was a shock when Stengel was announced as the new manager. We thought we got us a clown. When spring training started in 1949, we just sat back and watched his reaction. He never said too much about anything to anyone. It was a treat for him to be with us after all the donkey clubs he had. He was something. He didn't need notes. He knew what every hitter or pinch hitter could do against certain pitchers. He could make the moves.
         The great sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote: “Stengel is a high-grade manager who knows his trade.”
         That first Stengel Yankee season was one that he had to cope with injuries. The famous Charlie Keller-Joe DiMaggio-Tommy Henrich outfield was never in place. The entire season was missed by Keller while DiMaggio’s damaged heel kept him out until late June.  Phil Rizzuto missed playing time. Coping, Stengel mixed and matched, patched in non-prime time performers, game by game the new manager managed and led the Yankees to the first of five straight world championships.
EDDIE LOPAT: When we won the World Series in 1949 and came to spring training the next year, Stengel told us: “Last year is past history. We never look back. We gotta go back and beat ’em again this year.” We had guys on the bench who could play as good as the starters. They hated to get on the bench because they knew they might not get back for three or four weeks, or ever.  When we played the other teams, we never underestimated them or ourselves.  Casey’s attitude was our attitude. They would have to run us off the field, but not in the newspapers. 
             Together with his wife Edna, Stengel lived with in Manhattan’s upscale Essex House. Formerly a silent screen movie star, a fashion plate, Edna selected Casey’s clothes. Off season, the Stengels lived in a big house in Glendale, California. At times there were 50 to 75 children there even though Casey and Edna had no offspring of their own. Edna’s nieces and nephews and the children of Yankee players and their wives were always around.
“It was real Yankee family back then,” Yogi Berra said. “Casey and Edna were like a father and mother to us all.”
             The Yankee pipeline of talent flowed in the Stengel years. There was a Stengel induced ferocious competition for playing time. Organizational loyalty, Yankee pride, were the cornerstones of Stengel’s way...
 Left-handed hitting Gene Woodling and right-handed hitting Hank Bauer often shared outfield duties.
  "We didn't like it,” Bauer said. “But you couldn't complain too much—we walked into the bank every October."
BILL SKOWRON: Case would leave us alone to get in shape in spring training. But when those last 10 days of spring training came around you knew you had to be better ready to play.
            Oh, how they were ready to play. The Stengel Yankees became so successful that the line “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors” became a back-handed put down.              
JERRY COLEMAN: Casey was a great, great manager, probably the greatest of all. He understood his players, what they could do and what they couldn’t do. He understood the front office – what they wanted from him.  He understood the media and that was vital in New York. He understood the fans – he was great communicator.
         BILL SKOWRON: Sure he wasn't that young, but he knew and we knew what we had to do. He'd leave us alone when we were winning. He'd holler 'butcher boy' and 'don't swing too hard at ground balls' and 'don't beat yourselves.' But when he saw us making mistakes, he'd get excited and do some yelling.   
     Always with a way with words, with his players, with the media, Charles Dillon Stengel was nobody’s fool and he knew every trick of the trade .He rode the “hot hand.” Platooning players, odd deployment of pinch hitters, strange pitching match-ups, playing hunches - - all were part of his managerial persona. 
     "Casey knew his baseball,” Sparky Anderson, another top manager said. “He only made it look like he was fooling around. He knew every move that was ever invented.”
            The man who for decades had traveled through baseball’s wilderness, was generally the only one who knew what the next day’s batting order would be, what the pitching rotation would look like.
 STAN LOMAX: There was no doubt that Casey was a newspaperman's best friend. He only used 'Stengelese' (his own special version of double-talk) when he didn't want to say anything. He would talk about how he met the King of England when he and George Kelly made a 'round-the-world tour. Case would talk you 'round the world in his talks, but if you were honest with Case . . . Case would be honest with you
          TONY KUBEK: There was the Casey Stengel who could talk for hours on the long 36 hours of train trips to Kansas City. There was the sensitive Casey Stengel. There was the Casey Stengel   of the Yankee pride.
            ROGER KAHN:  I suppose a highlight of the time I covered the Yankees was being in the bar in the press room where Casey Stengel used to hang out. He had writers divided into two categories: "my writers" and "the other guy."  I was one of his writers, and he would go on and on to me about all subjects.
            The amazing streak of five straight pennants and world championships for the New York Yankees began in 1949 and Casey Stengel won the “Manager of the Year” award. "I want to thank all these players,” he said in the clubhouse celebration, “for giving me the greatest thrill of my life. And to think they pay me for managing so great a bunch of boys."          
         By 1958, Stengel’s New York Yankees were still top dog in baseball winning the pennant by 10 games. The following year, however, they finished in third place—their lowest position in Stengel's tenure.
Nearing 70, impatient, he made moves in games that were questioned, that seemed strange even for a manager who had always made some unorthodox decisions. There was another Yankee pennant in 1960 but a loss in the World Series to the Pirates on Bill Mazeroski’s walk off home run.
That ended it for the Ol Perfessor. Owners Topping and Del Webb dissatisfied with Stengel for a few years, moved him out. The word was that he had been let go because of a mandatory retirement age of 65—just for him.
         “I commenced winning pennants when I got here,” Stengel told those gathered at a press conference, “But I didn’t commence getting any younger. They told me that my services were no longer desired because they wanted to put in a youth movement as an advance way of keeping the club going.  The trick is growing up without growing old. Most guys my age are dead at the present time anyway and you could look it up. I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy years old again.”    
  In Casey’s time as leader of the New York Yankees there were 10 pennants and seven world championships, the greatest run by any manager ever.  Only once in his dozen seasons did his teams win fewer than 90 games; his Yankee career managing record was 1,149-696, a winning percentage of .623.
Again the life in baseball continued for Charles Dillon Stengel. He was installed and allied again with George Weiss as manager of the New York Mets. That was where I came to meet him.
    Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, Casey Stengel was fittingly selected as "Baseball's Greatest Manager" during the sport's centennial. He passed away on September 29, 1975 in Glendale, California.

One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone. In 2010, he was honored by the City of New York to serve as historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field.  A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College where he is known as “Dr. Baseball,” Frommer is the founder of
Some of the material in this article is excerpted from his latest The Ultimate Yankee Book, available direct from the author or at Amazon.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Not How You Start -Yankee Beginnings - by Harvey Frommer

Not How You Start - Yankee Beginnings

With the start of the 2018 baseball season highly anticipated by fans of the sport, here for your reading pleasure is a flashback to the meager roots of perhaps the most illustrious franchise in baseball history.
    Known as the Baltimore Orioles during the 1901 and 1902 seasons, the franchise went out of business and left their American League brethren much distressed.  Ban Johnson, American League President, sought balm for the wound - new ownership for the franchise and relocation to the major market of New York City.
Despite his energetic efforts, no takers surfaced as the 1903 season loomed. Enter William Stephen Devery, a former New York City police commissioner, and Frank J. Farrell, a professional gambler. The duo was the last and least of choices as owners.
A former bartender and prizefighter “Big Bill” Devery made a lot of money from shrewd real estate investments that he looked after from his estate in Far Rockaway, Queens. He also did quite well it was said, from graft, corruption and from his affiliation with the New York City Police Department. He moved up the ranks and wound up being the first Police chief. Along the way, when he was a police captain, he allegedly told his men: "They tell me there's a lot of grafting going on in this precinct. They tell me that you fellows are the fiercest ever on graft. Now that's going to stop! If there's any grafting to be done, I'll do it. Leave it to me.”
The word was correct that he was skilled in the art and science of collecting “honest graft” in saloons, brothels, betting parlors and gambling dens and dance hall. Protection was a big part of the daily work of those under him.
    The other part of the ownership duo was Frank J. Farrell who was immersed in the New York City gambling world, owned pool halls and a casino. He was called the “Pool Room King” because he controlled over 250 pool halls or “gambling dens,” most of them located in lower Manhattan. The short and stocky Farrell shared a love of baseball with his Tammany Hall cohorts
Devery and Farrell were friends, and made millions through their assorted and sordid ventures and services to Tammany Hall.
A news account of that time described one of them this way:
“MR. FRANK FARRELL is a gambler, the chief gambler of New York City, we suppose. The business to which he owes his bad eminence, and in which he gains his living is carried out in violation of the law. His gambling places have enjoyed the protection of the law (because) he is an intimate, personal friend of MR. W.S. DEVERY, the Deputy Police Commissioner of New York.”
  Suppressing his misgivings about Farrell and Devery, Ban Johnson, allowed the pair to purchase on January 9, 1903 the Baltimore franchise for $18,000. With the sale, the new owners were expected to move the team to New York City and build a new ball field for it.

          On the twelfth day of March 1903, Johnson presided over a press conference announcing that New York City would have a new team in his American League. Owners Frank J. Farrell and William S. Devery were not identified as the new owners; surprisingly, they were not even present.

  In Albany, a few days later, incorporation of the team took place. Again Frank J. Farrell and William S. Devery were not part of the program.

      It was no wonder American League President Ban Johnson chose to keep the twosome in the background when and while he could. It was crystal clear they were not the types he sought as owners.  But something was better than nothing, and Johnson had not been overwhelmed with ownership offers.
                That’s how it all started  . . .




One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone. In 2010, he was honored by the City of New York to serve as historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field.  A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College where he is known as “Dr. Baseball,” Frommer is the founder of
Some of the material in this article is excerpted from his latest The Ultimate Yankee Book, available direct from the author or at Amazon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Remembering Tom Yawkey by Harvey Frommer

Remembering Tom Yawkey

With the news out everywhere that the Boston Red Sox have filed a petition with the city of Boston to rename Yawkey Way, a road outside Fenway Park named after Tom Yawkey, who reportedly resisted integration efforts in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The goal is to restore the original name of the street, Jersey Street.
        Red Sox owner John Henry admitted the Red Sox did not have the power to change the name of a city street, but he believed Yawkey Way should be renamed. He said was "haunted" by the name.
Born on February 21, 1903 in Detroit, Tom Yawkey died on July 9, 1976 in Boston.  His mother was an heir to the Yawkey lumber and mining fortune. When she died, Tom was adopted by his uncle, William Hoover Yawkey, then-owner of the Detroit Tigers. At the age of 16, Yawkey inherited $20 million. Fourteen years later, he purchased the Boston Red Sox for $1 million in 1933.
       It was not the sale but the buyer who attracted the attention of Boston's newspaper men, a 30-year-old with a fortune estimated to be more than $40-million. They thought he was too young to have that kind of money. "He's just a kid," wrote one wizened scribe who couldn't believe the news.

The “kid” who at first would be called “Tom” and later on in his ownership tenure always “Mr. Yawkey,” was heir to an enormous timber and mining fortune. He would never own a home in Boston. His time would be spent at Fenway Park, in a suite between May and October at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton, in an apartment at New York’s Pierre, or on a 40,000-acre game preserve off the coast of South Carolina where he enjoyed hunting and fishing and entertaining guests  between October and April.

        Most thought that Yawkey had been taken, paying more than a million dollars for one of the worst teams in baseball and a decaying Fenway Park.
          Over the next 44 seasons, Yawkey was the face of the franchise, a man who lost an estimated $10 million attempting to develop championship teams.
 The young Yawkey hired veteran Edward Trowbridge Collins, Sr. the storied former second baseman and veteran baseball man as General Manager and Vice President, giving him the responsibility of transforming the sorry Red Sox into a contender and raising attendance at Fenway Park. The goals seemed wishful thinking especially in the middle of the Great Depression, but no one ever accused Yawkey of thinking small.
BILL WERBER:  In May 1933, when I came as a third baseman to the Red Sox from the Yankees, I met with Tom Yawkey about salary. It was for about $2,000 less than what I'd been earning— big money back then. But I signed at his figure. He was the owner.
Then, in a game , I ran after a high foul ball into the Yankee dugout. I missed the first step and went down on my back in the dugout with all the Yankees hollering at me.  But I caught the ball.
After the game was over, Johnny Orlando, the clubhouse boy, said that Mr.  Yawkey wanted to see me in his office.
       “Bill," he said to me, “that was the damndest catch I’ve seen in quite a while: you lying on your back with all those Yankees yelling. I am putting the money you wanted back in your contract.”
MONSIGNOR THOMAS  J.  DALY: I was an office boy in the front office from 1942 until 1946. I worked from 10 in the morning until the conclusion of the game for $2.50 a game. For a doubleheader I got $3.75. 
  I met Tom Yawkey.  To an office boy he was rather formidable, of course. He would come every day to the ballgame and speak with Mr. Edward Collins, the Vice- President/General Manager. Mr. Yawkey was rather relaxed in the way he dressed, high informal.
         Fenway Green was the color they used in the ballpark. It came from a paint company in Malden, Mass. There was a  commotion when they announced that they weren’t going to produce that paint any more, that green.
        So Mr. Yawkey promptly bought the paint company. That made sure that that famous green would continue. 
BOO FERRIS:  I was a rookie pitcher. My first-year salary was seven hundred dollars a month.  Since I was there five months in ’45, I got $3,500. 
After the season was over, Mr. Yawkey called me into his office. I wasn’t nervous.  He was an easy man to talk to.   He handed me a check – a bonus -   $10,000.
  I’d thought I had robbed Fort Knox.    I took the check to the bank back in my hometown of Mississippi, where I grew up.
MEL PARNELL: It truly impressed me as a rookie pitcher to see Mr. Yawkey on the field taking batting practice with us.  I didn’t see him hit any balls out, but he got some close to the wall. The kids who worked around the ballpark would shag flies for him. When he was done, he would give each one a twenty-dollar bill.
The Red Sox's longtime owner was never enthusiastic about night baseball. As The Boston Globe's Hy Hurwitz reported, "Yawkey is strictly in the baseball business" and added that Yawkey didn't "believe in fashion shows, nylon hosiery, door prizes and other nonsense."
Finally, bowing to League pressure, Yawkey agreed to 14 night games, two with each American League team. The Red Sox became the last club in their league to play under the lights at home.
In 1947, Fenway Park seating capacity increased by 500 to 35,500 – the first increase from 1912’s 35,000.  More importantly, arc lights were installed making the BoSox the 13th big league team to light up its home park. That same year, The two-hundred-and-forty feet wide left field wall was painted with multiple coats of green paint. Tom Yawkey gave the green light to cover up advertising billboards. It was then that the nickname "The Green Monster" was first heard.
 The Calvert Owl ("Be Wise"), Gem Blades ("Avoid 5 O’clock Shadow"), Lifebuoy ("The Red Sox use it") and Vimms ("Get that Vimms feeling") were now  history.
One thing Tom Yawkey held firm to was not integrating his Red Sox. Each season, his team had routinely received a waiver from the Boston City Council permitting them to play Sunday baseball. Now Councilman Isadore Muchnick, who represented the Mattapan section of Boston, teamed with African-American journalist Wendell Smith.  They had an offer for Tom Yawkey that they knew he could not refuse. A trade, of sorts.
 For the BoSox to keep the long-held waiver going, the team would have to allow three black baseball prospects to try out at Fenway Park.
    Yawkey, as the story was reported later, very reluctantly agreed to the tryouts of Jackie Robinson, Marvin Williams and Sam Jethroe but only the condition decisions about them would be the province of his baseball people.
Black ballplayers from the Negro Leagues from time to time had  played at Fenway when the Red Sox were on the road. The color barrier was firmly in effect at this time, but owners thought nothing of picking up some spare change through this business arrangement. Now they would have chance to break the big club’s color line at Fenway Park, or so was the understanding.
         April 16, 1945 began damp and drizzly. At about 10:00 A.M. Muchnick and Smith were in the stands watching as the tryout was getting underway.  Just back from army service in World War II, Jackie Robinson was set to play with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League that season.  Marvin Williams was a member of the Philadelphia Stars. Sam Jethroe was an outfielder for the Cleveland Buckeyes.
         Red Sox Manager Joe Cronin sat in the stands, according to one account, “stone-faced.'' Eddie Collins, the general manager, reportedly was unable to attend the tryout “because of a previous engagement.” 
        Near the end of their one-hour workout, according to Clifford Keane, reporter for the Boston Globe,  someone called out, “Get those niggers off the field!”
       Boston Red Sox immortal and Coach Hugh Duffy, 78, was one of those who conducted the workouts. Later that year he would be inducted into the Baseball  Hall of Fame. 
“You boys look like pretty good players,” he was quoted as saying. “I hope you enjoyed the workout.”  Later he remarked: “After one workout, it was not possible to judge  their ability."
        When the tryout was over, Jackie Robinson said: “It was April, 1945. Nobody was serious about black players in the majors, except maybe for a few politicians.”
According to United Press International, Jethroe and Williams “seemed tense and both their hitting and fielding suffered.”            According to the Red Sox front office, the players were not ready for the majors and would not be comfortable playing for the team's Triple-A affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky.
         According to Sam Jethroe, the entire experience was “a sham.”  The Red Sox front office would never contact the players.
        There was a need for players with the abilities of Jethroe, Robinson and Williams. As the 1945 baseball season began and the war still raged, Major League rosters were stocked with not quite ready for prime time players, a few underage ones and quite a few who were long in the tooth. But the game went on at Fenway Park in 1945 and other big league venues, as it had always gone on, only with white players.
FRANK SULLIVAN:  I went up from pitching in A – ball in  ‘53. I was 23. I saw buck shot wounds all over the walls and learned that Ted Williams was out shooting pigeons in the park. I heard Yawkey also shot along with him.
In 1959, the Sox became the last team to break baseball’s color line. It was a dozen years after Jackie Robinson did it with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some claim the racism with the Red Sox came not from Yawkey but from his general managers, his managers. That claim will be explored in detail in this book.
PUMPSIE GREEN: I was the first African-American there. The Red Sox got me a room in a hotel. I didn’t even know if I had to pay for it or not. I got to meet Mr. Yawkey the second day that I was in Boston. He was a very gentle, short, round man. He said he wanted to get to know me, and wished me well.
“If you run into any problems or need any advice on something, you don’t have to go to the coaches or manager. Come directly to me,” he said. I thanked him, and we shook hands.
My first night in Boston was July 24. Fenway Park just felt small.  Even Minneapolis, where I played for two years, seemed bigger. There was now more media pressure than ever.  “I can’t fail. I can’t make a mistake.” That was how I felt.
On Tuesday August 4th,   Green, 25, batted leadoff, played second base and made his Fenway Park debut in the first game of a doubleheader against Kansas City.  Boston won 4-1.
PUMPSIE GREEN: There was such a crowd, the park was full. A lot of blacks wanted to come to the game. They didn’t have seats, but they were accommodated. The Red Sox roped off a corner part of centerfield.
I got a rousing ovation when I got up to the plate - a standing ovation.  I can remember thinking to myself, "I really don't want to strike out right now. I really want to hit the ball.” I tripled off the wall. 
I made good friends on that team — Pete Runnels, Frank Malzone.  Jackie Jensen and also Ted Williams. They were fellow Californians. Williams was one of the nicest guys I've ever met around baseball or any other time. He'd say 'Hey,  Pumps, let's go warm up.' Me warming up with Ted Williams. I loved it.
Some people said he was making a statement. But it wasn’t just he who befriended me; it was he and a bunch of the guys. It was just that after the ball diamond, they went their way and I went my way.
FRANK MALZONE: I used to marvel at the way Tom Yawkey came around to say hello to everybody. They say he sat up in his box and not only watched our game but had two TVs going on watching two other games.  This is how much he loved baseball.  
BILL LEE: I pitched all summer and came in to the ballpark in the winter to get my mail at Fenway Park. Mr. Yawkey was always stealing my National Geographics.  I had to go up to his office to get them; he was going through chemotherapy at the time.  We had long talks.
Attendance on July 8, 1976 reached 1‚007‚491, the earliest date to that time the franchise topped the million mark. The next day brought the announcement that an ailing Tom Yawkey had died of leukemia at age 73 in New England Baptist Hospital. Team ownership was then taken over by a trust headed by his widow, Jean.

One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan,Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer has written several books on the Red Sox. .
            A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the founder of

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Remembering Jackie Robinson by Harvey Frommer

Remembering Jackie Robinson

He was born in Cairo, Georgia on the last day of January in 1919, and died on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut. Robinson attended UCLA, where he won letters in three sports.
He was in the Army during World War II and then played briefly in the Negro Leagues when the war ended. He was signed to a minor league contract with the Montreal Royals in 1946 by Branch Rickey, and the following year came up to the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's age-old color line.
He played in the major leagues for a decade. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he helped the Dodgers win six pennants and one world championship.
Despite all the pressure he played under, he was still able to record a lifetime batting average of .311. His base-stealing ability and hustle won many games for the Dodgers. He set several records for fielding for second basemen.
His influence on sports is immeasurable. His breaking of baseball's color line against the greatest of odds is still one of the most dramatic stories in all of sports history. And there are those who still have special memories of the man and the legend. Here is how one from that time still remembers the great player Brooklyn Dodger fans called "Robby".
When school was out, I sometimes went with my father in his taxi. One summer morning, we were driving in East Flatbush in Brooklyn down Snyder Avenue. My father pointed to a dark red brick house with a high porch.
“I think Jackie Robinson lives there,” my father said. He parked across the street and we got out of the cab, stood on the sidewalk and looked at the house. Suddenly, the front door opened. A black man in a short-sleeved shirt stepped out. I didn't believe it. Here we were on a quiet street on a summer morning with no one else around.
The man was not wearing the baggy, ice-cream-white-uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated his blackness. He was dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a regular house in a regular Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone else going out for a bottle of milk and a newspaper.
Then, incredibly, he crossed the street and came right toward me. Seeing that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the shoulders and hips that I had seen so many times before on the baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.
“Hi Jackie, I'm one of your biggest fans," I said self-consciously. “Do you think the Dodgers are going to win the pennant this year?”
"His handsome face looked sternly down at me.  “We'll try our best,” he said.
“Good luck,” I said.”
“Thanks,” he replied.”
He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands and I felt the strength and firmness of his grip. I was a nervy kid, but I didn't ask for an autograph or try to prolong the conversation. I just he walked away down the street.
That was my first personal contact with Jackie Robinson. Years later I came across him in downtown Brooklyn in a Chock Full O Nuts coffee shop. He was the company’s vice president and director of personnel. Now he was heavier, gray-haired, slowed, sitting at the counter. We chatted a bit but the meeting was sadder, even poignant for me to see how this great athlete had been slowed by time and illness. He did not remember our chance meeting that long ago summer day but I did. Ironically, that coffee shop on Montague Street was close by what had been the offices of the Brooklyn Dodgers where Robinson had his first meeting with Branch Rickey who helped him shatter baseball’s color line.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was my first real hero and one of the most important figures in the history of sports. Two of my favorite books I have written are about him.
One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan,Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.
            A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the founder of   His ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK can be instantly purchased from AMAZON: or from the author.
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