Musings by Dick Flavin: Ken Coleman


I have been thinking a lot lately about my old friend Ken Coleman.

This is the fiftieth anniversary of both the Impossible Dream season of 1967 and the

founding of the BoSox Club, the official booster club of the Red Sox, and Ken played an

integral part in both of them.

As the Red Sox' main play by play man during that season, his is the voice most

associated with the team that resurrected baseball in Boston and throughout New

England. And, put simply, there would be no BoSox Club had it not been for him. When

he returned here from Cleveland, where, by the way, he had been the absolute king of

sports media, doing play by play for the Indians in baseball, the Browns in football and

sports reports on the news at six and eleven o'clock, to fulfill his boyhood dream of

calling Red Sox games, he took note that the team had no official fan club. He had

belonged to the Indians' Wahoo Club so he went to work to set up a similar entity in

Boston. He and Red Sox pr director Bill Crowley recruited Boston business and civic

leaders, chief among them Dom DiMaggio, who became the first BoSox Club president.

The first BoSox luncheon was attended by every single member of the Red Sox team.

Manager Dick Williams showed up at every luncheon that season. For years Ken served

as master of ceremonies at every event. The BoSox Club was such a success that there

was a waiting list for membership. (You can find more about the club's history by

reading The BoSox Club – Fifty Years, by the estimable Bill Nowlin, who is the author of

all things Red Sox.)

If that didn't keep Ken busy enough, he was for many years the executive director of the

Jimmy Fund. He'd spend his days raising money to fight cancer and his evenings calling

Red Sox games. That's what I call a full schedule.

In later years he and I spent many happy hours crisscrossing New England to make

appearances at Jimmy Fund golf tournaments and other fund raising events. He had a

wonderful, off-beat sense of humor that was put on display one night when he introduced

my by saying, "Our next speaker needs no introduction." Then he stepped away from the

microphone, went up to the bar and ordered a drink, leaving me to pick up the pieces.

As the years went by he sometimes became a little forgetful, like the time he wore a

spiffy new sport coat to an event he was emceeing. Everyone in the place knew the coat

was new because he had forgotten to remove the price tags. Then there was the time he

turned a sand wedge into the lost and found bin at White Cliffs in Plymouth, where he

lived. The next time he went golfing he reached into his bag for his sand wedge only to

discover that it was his own club he had turned in.

He and I were flying from Hyannis to Nantucket once and a woman with a golden

retriever boarded and sat in the row behind us. As he and I chatted he reached idly back

to pat the retriever's head, which he continued to do for the duration of the short flight.

As we came in for a landing he looked back at the dog, which is when he discovered that

he hadn't been patting its head at all. He'd been patting the woman's knee. She never said

a thing and neither did the dog.

Ken had an easy-going personality, but he also had a reporter's instinct, and when he saw

a chance for a scoop he went for it. Back in 1986 Red Sox super fan Tim Samway, whose

brother was the head of the White House secret service detail, arranged for a Red Sox

delegation to visit with President Reagan when the team was playing just up the road in

Baltimore. One of the ground rules for the visit was that were to be absolutely no

interviews; this was to be just an informal gathering. When the President came into the

room, Ken asked him about his days doing telegraphic recreations of Cubs games when

he worked for station WHO in Des Moines. The President's face lit up and he started

telling baseball stories. Sensing an opportunity, Ken fished out his tape recorder and put

the microphone in front of him. The Gipper was on a roll so he had no objections. Rules

or no rules, the President's aides weren't about to intervene because their boss, having

been set at ease by Ken, was obviously having such a grand time.

Imagine the surprise of listeners to Ken's pre-game show that night when his guest was

not a player or one of the beat writers but the President of the United States.

Ken died in August, 2003. Like so many others, he never got to witness the miracle of

2004. But every Red Sox fan old enough will always hear the sound of his voice from the

magical year of 1967.

He was a great pro, a good man and a wonderful friend - and I miss him.

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