Notes from the BoSox Club Luncheon - April 11, 2018

With Club President Mike Vining out for extended spring training (said to be "business"), 1st Vice President Jim Parker welcomed all.

Four Marine Corps sergeants were introduced to standing applause.

Jim passed the baton, so to speak, to emcee Tom Caron of NESN. He introduced the luncheon's active Red Sox guest, pitcher Brian Johnson, who had pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth the night before. The dry and cold conditions had resulted in a bloody nose for Johnson, and Tom asked him whether or not simply being able to pitch was ever going to be easy for him.  Johnson has overcome numerous obstacles in his drive to become a regular in the majors.  T.C. then asked him to talk about how it felt this spring to learn he had finally made the team to start the season.  Brian shared his feelings, and also talked about the fun this team is having in the clubhouse – while acknowledging that he is one of maybe six on the team who have not become engrossed with playing the video game Fortnight.

When prompted with T.C. noting that last year, Johnson was the only pitcher all year to throw a complete-game shutout, Brian also shared a story about how on the day of the game, he had walked his mother from a restaurant near Fenway and then taken his sister to a souvenir shop near Fenway (it sounded like Twins) so she could buy a green cap. No one recognized him. After the game, it was completely different.

Of the current season, he said, "Any time you get off to a hot start, it definitely takes the pressure off everybody."

T.C. then introduced Billy Conigliaro who recounted a number of interesting stories – from playing ball at Swampscott High to listening to a car radio when older brother Tony got his first at-bat at Fenway Park – and hitting a home run. Billy was home from the Army, and at the ballpark, the day Tony was hit by a pitch in August 1967.  He was asked by T.C. about the July 4, 1970 game in which both he and Tony hit home runs for the Red Sox in the same game.  He countered with the humbling story of another game in which both brothers were picked off base at different point in the same game.

Players had no agents in those days.  Billy talked about personally negotiating his contract with Oakland owner Charlie Finley.  After leaving the Red Sox, Billy was a member of the 1973 World Champion Oakland A's.

As someone who grew up in Greater Boston, he says that on occasion when he goes to Fenway Park and walks out on the grass, he still reflects on how amazing it was: he looks around and says to himself, "I played baseball here?"

After the guests had shared their thoughts, the raffle was held.  The Red Sox donated the grand prize of four State Street Pavilion box seats for Thursday night's game against the Yankees.  That prize was won a brand-new member and first-time luncheon attendee.

--by Bill Nowlin

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