Harvey Frommer / Yankees
Harvey Frommer Sports
Excitement for all major league teams builds in the spring. It is a time of looking forward and also looking backwards. Herewith for your reading pleasure are some BoSox nuggets to savor. Enjoy…
The “X” in Red Sox
(1) The Boston Americans became the Red Stockings in 1907, a name referring to the socks the team wore. Newspaper headlines shortened the name to “Sox” – a shorter and more appealing name than Red Socks.
Curse of the Bambino, etc.
(2) Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, former Peoria, Ill. billposter who became a show business wheeler-dealer, sold Babe Ruth to his good friends Yankee owners Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Colonel Tillinghast l’Hommedieu. Frazee had a home in Boston, but his main residence was on Park Avenue. He joked: “The best thing about Boston is the train ride back to New York."
As the story has been handed down, Frazee triggered what became known as “the curse of the Bambino” because he needed money to pay off debts and finance his new show “No, No Nannette.”
The story is untrue. Frazee had money. He wanted to free himself from an out of control Babe Ruth who constantly wanted his salary raised and broke team rules.
It is also untrue that the Red Sox got worse after sending Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Boston actually became better. The 1919 team won 66 games. The feeling was that the team was better because it was not affected by Ruth, considered by many a bad influence. In 1920, the Sox moved up to fifth place with seventy-two wins. The next year they won 75 games. It was not until the 1922 season that the Bostons experienced truly bad times. Numerous personnel decisions sunk them.
(3) A 30-year-old heir to an enormous timber and mining fortune, estimated worth more than $40-million, Tom Yawkey bought the Red Sox in 1933 from Bob Quinn who had bought the team from Harry Frazee. . "He's just a kid," wrote one wizened Boston newspaperman. The “kid” was first called “Tom.” Later on it was always “Mr. Yawkey” who would remain on the Red Sox scene for 44 years. He never owned a home in Boston. His time was spent at Fenway Park, in a suite between May and October at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton and in an apartment at New York’s Pierre Hotel, or on a 40,000-acre game preserve off the coast of South Carolina between October and April.
DOM DIMAGGIO: In 1941, when my brother Joe had the 56-game hitting streak going, Ted Williams would be talking to the guy in the scoreboard and the guy would keep him posted when Joe got a hit. You couldn’t do that at any other park but Fenway.
There were times at Fenway when Joe would be coming in from centerfield and I would be coming out. I said very little to him on those occasions. What the hell was I going to do, stop in centerfield and have a conversation?
(6) The Red Seat
As the story goes Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21) in the bleachers is where Ted Williams hit a 502-foot home run on June 9, 1946, allegedly the longest home run in Fenway Park history. A Yankee fan, Joe Boucher, wearing a straw hat, sat in that seat. Ted Williams hit a shot that made it thru the straw hat and hit Boucher’s head. No damage. No seat either – back in that day there were benches and the spot where Williams hit the ball was approximated when the seats replaced the benches.
(7) Disgraceful fake tryout at Fenway Park
The Red Sox had routinely received a waiver from the Boston City Council permitting them to play Sunday baseball. In 1945, Mattapan Councilman Isadore Muchnick and black journalist Wendell Smith made the team an offer it could not refuse: Boston could retain the waiver and continue playing Sunday baseball; in return the Sox would have to allow a tryout of black baseball prospects - - Jackie Robinson, Marvin Williams and Sam Jethroe. Incredibly, all three talented players were found wanting in this phoniest of tryouts. It was not until 1959 that the first African-American played for the Red Sox, the last major league team to break the color line.
(8) The Trade?
As the story goes, Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankee boss Dan Topping were at Toots Shor’s one night bantering about how much more suited to hit at Yankee Stadium was Ted Williams and how much more suited to hit at Fenway Park was Joe DiMaggio. The evening allegedly concluded with the two owners exchanging a handshake and agreeing to make a DiMaggio for Williams’s trade.
It was reported that when Topping arrived home at around 4:00 A.M. and realized what he had agreed to, he picked up the phone and in a panic called Yawkey.
"Tom," he began, "I'm sorry but I can't go through with the deal."
"Thank God," was supposedly Yawkey’s reply.
Another account claims Tom Yawkey made the phone call.
"Dan, I know it's very, very late, and I still want to make that trade we discussed. However, if you still want to make it you'll have to throw in that left-handed hitting outfielder. You know who I mean, that little odd-looking rookie."
"I can't," Topping said. “We’re thinking of making him a catcher. I guess we’ll have to call off the deal."
So Joe DiMaggio remained a Yankee.
Ted Williams remained a member of the Red Sox.
And the little and awkward looking rookie remained with the Yankees and became a catcher. His name - Lawrence Peter Berra.
(to be continued)
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 all things baseball having written many books on the team including the classic REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK.
A professor now 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 www.HarveyFrommerSports.com.