Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox - Great Fenway Park Writers Series


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Thursday, May 8, 2008
The Great Fenway Park Writers Series Proudly Presents:
Peter Gammons, Maureen Mullen & Johnny Pesky
Speaking on: "Diary of a Red Sox Season: 2007"

12-Noon Luncheon
Absolut Clubhouse at Fenway Park (enter off Brookline Avenue)
Red Sox Nation & BoSox Members, $50
Non-Members, $60

Event Sponsor:

Peter Gammons

Peter Gammons is an American sportswriter, media personality and National Baseball Hall of Fame honoree.

Gammons attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He worked for the university`s student-run newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. After graduating in 1969, he began his journalism career at The Boston Globe.

Gammons was a featured writer at The Boston Globe for many years as the main journalist covering the Boston Red Sox. (1969-1976, 1978-1986), or as a national baseball columnist. Between his two stints as a baseball columnist with the Globe, he was lead baseball columnist Peter Gammons for Sports Illustrated (1976-78, 1986-90), where he covered baseball, hockey, and college basketball. Since 1988, he has worked at ESPN, primarily as an in-studio analyst. During the baseball season, he appears nightly on Baseball Tonight and has regular spots on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and ESPN Radio. He writes an Insider column for ESPN.com and also writes for ESPN The Magazine. The Globe reprinted some of his ESPN columns well into the 1990s. In 2006, Gammons was named as one of two field-level reporters for ESPN`s Sunday Night Baseball, joining Bonnie Bernstein.

Gammons is regarded as one of the top reporters in sports and is known for his high-profile interviews and his network of sources which allow him to report on major events (such as trades) days before they are official. His knowledge has earned him the nickname "The Commissioner.” He is regularly interviewed on radio and television programs. Gammons has also authored numerous baseball books, including Beyond the Sixth Game.

He was voted the National Sportswriter of the Year in 1990, 1991 and 1993. He has also been awarded an honorary Pointer Fellow from Yale University. In 2004, Gammons was selected as the 56th recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing, given by the BBWAA, and was honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 31, 2005.

Raised in Groton, Massachusetts, where he graduated from Groton School. He lives in Boston and Cape Cod with his wife Gloria.

On June 27, 2006, Gammons was stricken with the rupture of a brain aneurysm in the morning near his home on Cape Cod, Mass., and was initially taken to Falmouth Hospital before being airlifted to Brigham and Women`s Hospital in Boston to undergo surgery. On July 17, he was released from the hospital.

On August 19th, Peter made his first public appearance since the aneurysm rupture at Fenway Park when the Red Sox played the Yankees.

Peter returned to ESPN on Wednesday, September 20, 2006. He reported from Fenway Park on the 6 P.M. edition of Sportscenter and the 7 P.M. edition of Baseball Tonight. Gammons has resumed his regular reporting coverage during the 2007 baseball season.

Gammons is also a noted fan of indie rock and the blues, and is active in the Boston indie rock scene when his other commitments allow him the time; he has been sighted at several Midnight Oil shows, and has mentioned the band in several columns. He is also a fan of Pearl Jam, as he has talked about experiences at concerts as well as previous albums (as heard on various ESPN Radio shows.)

With the assistance of a band of Boston musicians and Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, Gammons plays a Fender Stratocaster and sings at the annual Hot Stove, Cool Music concert event to benefit Theo and Paul Epstein`s Foundation To Be Named Later, a charity that raises funds and awareness for non-profit agencies serving disadvantaged youth in the Greater Boston area.

Gammons debut album, Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old, was released on July 4, 2006. Gammons sang and played guitar on this collection of originals and covers that includes The Clash`s Death or Glory and Warren Zevon`s Model Citizen. Proceeds again went to Epstein`s charity.

Maureen Mullen

Maureen Mullen, co-author with Johnny Pesky of “Diary of a Red Sox Season: 2007”, is a prolific writer, whose work appears in such newspapers as the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Hall of Fame Magazine, and she’s a regular contributor to MLB.com.

Here’s is one of Ms. Mullen’s recent article for MLB.com (it ran on RedSox.com);

Ortiz mourns soldier lost in Iraq

FORT MYERS, Florida – We`re all going to get them. It`s not a matter of if -- just a matter of when. Those phone calls, the bits of news that strike from nowhere, turning a perfectly average day into an exceedingly miserable one.
They may be a part of life, but that doesn`t make them any easier to take.

On Tuesday morning, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz got one of those messages. A young soldier he met last summer at Fenway Park was killed last week in Iraq.

Sitting at his locker in the clubhouse of City of Palms Park after the morning workout, Ortiz called a reporter over.

"I have a story for you," Ortiz said.

With that he told the story of meeting Spc. Justin Rollins. Within minutes, this mountain of a man -- the one with the megawatt smile, whose booming voice precedes him into any room -- was reduced to tears.

Rollins, 22, of Newport, N.H., was killed with five other soldiers on March 5 in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near their unit during combat operations. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

"He was such a good kid," Ortiz said. "He came to Fenway to watch a game, and he wanted to meet me. It was going to be his last game at Fenway because he was going to Iraq. He came by the clubhouse, and I talked to him for a while. He just seemed like he was so full of life."

So impressed was he by Rollins, Ortiz promised to hit a home run for the young soldier. Ortiz kept that pledge, and for added measure, it was one of his patented walk-off numbers, in the 10th inning against the Phillies on June 24.

"I told him at the time that that home run I was going to dedicate to him for going to Iraq," Ortiz said. "And just today I received a message from his family."

Clubhouse attendant Jared Pinkos had the unenviable task of delivering the news.

"He came in jovial, typical Ortiz, laughing," Pinkos said. "But this just knocked him out. He started shaking."

Asked to send something for the funeral, scheduled for Saturday in Newport, with burial on Monday in Arlington National Cemetery, Ortiz has dispatched a white No. 34 uniform jersey, with the inscription, "My deepest condolences to the Rollins family. It was an honor to meet Justin and I will keep him in my prayers. Sincerely, David Ortiz."

He is also sending a ball, to be placed in Rollins` casket, on which he wrote: "To Justin Rollins, Rest in peace. God bless, David Ortiz," and another with his autograph as a memento for the Rollins family.

"It`s just so sad," he said. "He`s a young kid, full of life. Unbelievable, you know. It`s just sad."

Ortiz paused, turned away and grabbed a T-shirt from his locker, wiping the tears from his eyes.

Though it was the first time Ortiz had received a call informing him of the death of a soldier who was also a fan, he is no stranger to the pain of that kind of news. His mother, Angela Rosa Arias, died in a car accident on Jan. 1, 2002, at the age of 46. Her birthday was last week. He also has a friend coping with the loss of his own mother two days ago.
The memories brought on by his mother`s birthday, his friend`s loss and, now, the news of Rollins` death have all hit him very hard, he said.

"It just got me," he said. "I think of the pain coming from his family."

"I can`t believe he remembered Justin," said Rollins` girlfriend, Brittney Murray. "Well, I can believe it because Justin left such an impression on people. But I know that Justin would be very excited right now. I remember him saying that home run just made him so happy, especially since it was dedicated to him."

Rollins was to have come home on leave in April, on his wish list a trip to Fenway with Murray, who has never been to the fabled park.

"That was one thing he said -- `We have to go to a Red Sox game. I really want to take you to Fenway.` That was one of his priorities for his leave," Murray said. "He loved baseball, and he loved the Red Sox. He told me his favorite place in the world was Fenway. It meant a lot to him."

At his funeral service, Rollins will posthumously be awarded the Army Service Ribbon, the Iraq Campaign Medal Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Ribbon, the National Defense Medal Ribbon, the Army Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Good Conduct Medal Ribbon, two Purple Heart Medal Ribbons and the Bronze Star with Valor.

"It`s gong to be a long road," Murray said. "But he lived very passionately, and he passed that on to me. I`m glad to have known him. He believed in what he was doing, and he died doing what he loved."

Donations may be made to the Justin A. Rollins Memorial Scholarship Fund, payable to the Newport School District, c/o Diane Fisher, 245 North Main St., Newport, N.H. 03773.

Johnny Pesky

John Michael Pesky (born John Michael Paveskovich, September 27, 1919 in Portland, Oregon), nicknamed "The Needle," is a former Major League Baseball shortstop/third baseman who played in the American League from 1942 to 1954. He missed all of the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons while serving in World War II.

Johnny Pesky`s biography is Mr. Red Sox by Bill Nowlin, published by Rounder Books. Pesky has been associated with the Boston Red Sox for 56 of his 68 years in baseball – from 1940 through June 3, 1952; 1961 through 1964; and continuously since 1969. He was their manager in 1963-1964, and in September 1980.

Pesky played seven-and-a-half seasons for the Red Sox and was selected to the All-Star game in 1946. An unselfish player, he moved from shortstop to third base in 1948 to make room for slugging shortstop Vern Stephens and was Boston`s regular at the hot corner until 1952 when he was traded on June 3 in a multi-player transaction to the Detroit Tigers. Almost two years later in 1954, he was again traded mid-season, this time to the Washington Senators, and was released at season`s end.

A left-handed hitter who threw right-handed, Pesky was a tough man for pitchers to strike out. As a hitter, he specialized in getting on base, leading the American League in base hits three times - his first three seasons in the majors, in which he collected over 200 hits each year - and was among the top ten in on-base percentage six times while batting .307 in 1,270 games over ten seasons (1942; 1946-54). He was also an excellent bunter who led the league in sacrifice hits in 1942.

He was a teammate and close friend of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio. Their friendship was chronicled in David Halberstam`s book The Teammates.

Pesky also has a feature of Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, named after him. The foul pole in right field is also known as Pesky`s Pole, named in honor of the former Red Sox shortstop by former teammate and Sox broadcaster Mel Parnell. The story goes that Pesky won a game for Parnell in 1948 with a home run down the short (302 feet/92m) right field line, just around the pole. Being that Pesky was a contact hitter who hit only 17 home runs -- six of them at Fenway Park -- in 4,745 at bats in the major leagues, it`s quite possible that the home runs he hit there landed in close proximity to the pole. Research, however, shows that Pesky hit just one home run in a game pitched by Parnell, a two-run shot in the first inning of a game against Detroit played on June 11, 1950. The game was eventually won by the visiting Tigers in the 14th inning on a three-run shot by Tigers right fielder Vic Wertz and Parnell earned a no-decision that day.

Although he is an icon as "Mr. Red Sox," Pesky actually began his coaching career in the New York Yankees organization with the 1955 Denver Bears of the AAA American Association — working under manager Ralph Houk. From 1956-60, Pesky was a manager in the Detroit farm system, reaching the AA level. He then rejoined the Red Sox in 1961 as manager of their AAA farm club, the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League.

Pesky enjoyed two winning seasons in Seattle. At the close of the 1962 campaign, Boston owner TomYawkey elevated manager Pinky Higgins to the club`s vacant post of general manager and personally appointed Pesky as Higgins` replacement. Although the selection of Pesky was a popular choice, the Red Sox were a second division team and notorious as a "country club" — a group of unmotivated players who did what they wanted, when they wanted. In addition, Higgins and Pesky were not particularly close, and the general manager would be accused of undermining Yawkey`s hand-picked skipper.

A major off-season trade added slugging first baseman Dick Stuart to Pesky`s maiden roster, and whileStuart would lead the American League with 118 runs batted in during `63, he was an atrocious fielder (nicknamed "Dr. Strangeglove") who would constantly defy Pesky`s authority and make it difficult for him to control his players. Pesky`s `63 club started quickly and briefly had pennant hopes, but lack of pitching soon doomed it to a second-division finish — 76-85, bad enough for seventh place. The 1964 Sox also languished deep in the nether regions of the AL, winning only 70 of the 160 games Pesky managed. With two games left in the season, he was replaced as manager by Billy Herman, the club`s third-base coach and a friend of Higgins`.

Pesky then left the Red Sox for four seasons, and joined the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. From 1965-67, he served as first-base coach for Pirate manager Harry Walker. There was rich irony in the fact that it was Walker who hit the double that scored Enos Slaughter with the winning run in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1946 World Series — the play on which Pesky was accused (wrongly, in many eyes) of "holding the ball" on a relay from the outfield, allegedly hesitating as Slaughter raced home from first base. After Walker`s firing in 1967, Pesky managed the Bucs` AAA farm club, the Columbus Jets of the International League, to a second-place finish in 1968.

In 1969, he returned to the Red Sox organization, although he was miscast as a color commentator on the Sox` radio and television announcing crew. He worked with Ken Coleman and Ned Martin on Boston`s WHDH Radio and TV from 1969-71, then strictly on television with Coleman on WBZ-TV from 1972-74. He later served as analyst for selected games on radio with Joe Castiglione calling play-by-play.

In 1975, Pesky finally returned to uniform as a fulltime coach under manager Darrell Johnson. As in Pittsburgh, he worked at first base and, in his first season back on the field, the Sox won the 1975 AL East title, swept three-time world champion Oakland in the ALCS, and battled the Cincinnati Reds in a thrilling, seven-game World Series. Pesky remained first-base coach under Johnson and his successor, Don Zimmer, before moving to a bench and batting coach role for Zimmer in 1980. The Red Sox had been contenders for most of the late 1970s, but in 1980 they stumbled to fourth place in the AL East, resulting in Zimmer`s dismissal with five games left in the season. Pesky took command as interim pilot, and Boston lost four of five, to finish Pesky`s career managing record at 147-179 (.451).

The following season, his old friend Houk became Boston`s manager, and Pesky resumed his role as the club`s batting and bench coach. He was especially valued by Sox slugger Jim Rice, with whom Pesky worked tirelessly. Pesky missed the entire 1983 season with a serious food allergy that caused severe weight loss, but once the source of the illness was discovered, he was able to return for a final season as a fulltime coach in 1984. In 1990, nearing age 71, he spent almost 2½ months as interim manager of Boston`s top farm club, the Pawtucket Red Sox, when the team`s skipper, Ed Nottle, was fired in June. But since 1985 he has been a special instructor and assistant to the general manager, suiting up before games to work with players.

Intermittently, Pesky has since been allowed to sit on the Red Sox bench during games, but three times has been prevented from the task — once by his own general manager, Dan Duquette, a second time when the Baltimore Orioles complained to MLB, and a third time in March 2007, when Major League Baseball announced it would enforce limitations that only six coaches could be in uniform during a game. Pesky, as an instructor, was ineligible. On April 3, 2007, the North Shore Spirit, a now-defunct team in the Independent Can-Am League, invited Pesky to sit in their dugout – and serve as an honorary coach – anytime he wanted.

Pesky attended the 2004 World Series and, after the Game 4 triumph, was embraced by current Boston players such as Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling as a living representative of star Red Sox players of the past whose teams fell short of winning the Fall Classic. He played a poignant and prominent role in the ceremony in which the World Series Championship Rings were handed out (April 11, 2005). With the help of Carl Yastrzemski, he raised the 2004 World Series Championship banner up the Fenway Park center field flagpole.

On his 87th birthday, September 27, 2006, the Red Sox honored Pesky by officially naming the right-field foul pole "Pesky`s Pole." There have also been persistent rumors that the club will retire the number 6 Pesky wore as a player, even though he does not meet the stated requirements — chiefly, membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame — for such an honor. (Although he still suits up in No. 6, Pesky wore 22 as the team`s manager in the 1960s, and 35 as a coach from 1975-80.)

A longtime resident of Boston`s North Shore, Pesky is a visible member of the community, making personal appearances for the Red Sox. For years, he has been a commercial spokesman on television and radio for a local supplier of doors and windows. The commercials are deliberately and humorously corny, with Pesky and the company`s owner calling themselves "the Window Boys."

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Photos courtesy of Julie Cordero, staff photographer, Boston Red Sox.