Notes from the BoSox Club Luncheon - August 16, 2017

The luncheon did indeed sell out a few weeks beforehand. Apologies to those who wanted to make reservations after the hotel had let us know there was no more room in the banquet hall.

Club President Mike Vining introduced the luncheon and the head table.

Before the program got underway, the three military guests – all from the United States Coast Guard – were welcomed to the luncheon.

Dick Flavin was then introduced, and all assembled were informed that an honor had been bestowed on Dick at a board meeting just prior to the luncheon. Dick was named a lifetime honorary member of the BoSox Club and poet laureate of the Club as well. He then recited a poem about baseball's longest game, the 33-inning affair of the Pawtucket Red Sox.

The Hilton provided a special 50th anniversary cake to the BoSox Club, which was ceremonially cut by Mike and the Club's first vice president Jim Parker.

A large mock-up of a check for $5,000 payable by the BoSox Club to the Jimmy Fund was displayed to luncheon attendees. Members were reminded that a portion of their annual dues and raffle monies go to a number of charitable organizations.

There was then a break as members lined up for autographs in the hall outside the luncheon room with members of the 1967 Red Sox team: Gary Bell, Darrell "Bucky" Brandon, Hank Fischer, Bill Landis, Dave Morehead, Jerry Moses, Billy Rohr, Jose Santiago, Reggie Smith, George Thomas, and Gary Waslewski.

As the lunch program resumed, Joe Amorosino, Sportscaster of the Year for 2016 and a 19-year veteran at Channel 7, spoke about how his own father was still talking about how he had attended Game Two of the 1967 World Series. The love for the '67 Red Sox runs deep in Joe's family.

Red Sox team historian Gordon Edes then prepared to introduce author Bill McSweeny, author of the first book ever published on the 1967 Red Sox, published in 1968. Before he did so, Gordon asked everyone to stand and read the names of the members of the 1967 team who have died.

Gordon then interviewed Bill about the year, starting off by asking why it was considered to be "impossible" to dream of a pennant heading in 1967. Bill talked about the hiring of Dick O'Connell, who in turn hired Dick Williams. And then Bill mentioned that it was former Red Sox catcher Moe Berg who had been the one to urge him to write his book on the 1967 team. He said that Dick Williams had told Moe Berg back in 1963, "If Yawkey ever lets me manage this team, I'll get rid of all the country club guys and we can win."

Bill offered a number of insights into how things were behind the scenes. Though Williams had famously stripped Carl Yastrzemski of his captaincy before the season and said there would be no favoritism on the club, as the season progressed Williams and Yaz would sometimes go into Williams' office and talk about the coming game. The message was that while Williams wasn't going to play favorites, he recognized that Yaz was a special talent and could make things happen on the team, things that could help win games and move the club forward.

Asked if Tony Conigliaro's injury threatened to jeopardize the success the team was having, Bill said, "No, it was really Yaz and Jim Lonborg that carried the team."

Gordon noted that Lonborg had hit 19 batters that year, intimidating them enough to back them off the plate. Bill joked that people already knew Jim wanted to become a dentist (and suggesting that opposing batters' teeth may have been a target). More seriously, he pointed out that American League pitchers themselves had to go to bat in 1967, so Lonborg had to take his place in the batter's box.

McSweeny concluded, "The '67 team was absolutely poetry ... baseball like you always believed baseball would be."  Then he reminded everyone of the old saying, "There's no cheering in the press box" -  and said he was going to make an exception, applauding and leading a cheer for all the players present from the 1967 team.

Joe Amorosino then asked questions of three members of the 1967 team, first noting that Jose Santiago was the first Latin-American pitcher to ever start a World Series game, and then asking him what it was like to have hit a home run off Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson in his first World Series at-bat.

He then asked Bill Rohr about pitching a near no-hitter in the Yankees' home opener at Yankee Stadium. Rohr also noted that after the game was over, he was approached by the US Secret Service who told him that Jacqueline Kennedy wanted to meet him, and how he signed a baseball for her son John-John. He added he wished he knew then to ask John-John to sign a baseball for him!

Joe then asked Reggie Smith for a hug on stage, and then told Reggie that he was considered a saint in the Amorosino household when Joe was growing up; that his father had focused more on Reggie that on Yaz. Reggie talked about how so many on the '67 Red Sox had all come up through the minor leagues together and how that forged a unity among them. He also said that while playing for Dick Williams, "losing was not an option."

Joe asked Reggie about the current 2017 outfield – Benintendi, Bradley Jr., and Betts. Reggie said he saw them like Yaz, himself, and Conig – playing together, having fun, communicating, and knowing each could depend of the others – that's being teammates.

Gordon then walked over to the table where the others on the 1967 team were seated. Gary Bell took them microphone and went around and introduced everyone while engendering a degree of hilarity – joking about Santiago being a Mexican (he is a proud Puerto Rican), asking George Thomas if he was really Mudcat Grant, etc.

Gordon said he understood that Bell had once said the entire team was united because of a common feeling they all had about Dick Williams (the quotation was a famous one about them being united by their hatred for Dick Williams).  Bell wouldn't take the bait, asking facetiously, "What, you want me to say something NICE about Dick Williams?"

George Thomas had several cracks of his own. Referring to his own team spent largely on the bench as a backup outfielder, he said, "It was a joy watching these guys play." He and his wife – present at the luncheon, as were several other wives – had given birth during the season but that she wouldn't let him hold their baby, "She wouldn't let me hold the baby. She'd seen me field."

Gary Waslewski was Williams' surprise choice to start Game Six of the World Series, a game in which the Red Sox could have been eliminated. Waslewski said he remembered seeing a newspaper lead saying "Gary Waslewski has as much chance of winning today as Custer did against the Indians."  Waslewski said he wondered who this guy Custer was and how he had fared against the Cleveland Indians. And then went out and held the Cardinals to two runs over 5 ½ innings, the Red Sox ultimately winning the game, 8-4.

After the conversation unfortunately had to come to a close, the raffle was held and many people went home with prized souvenirs.

The program proved to be an inspiring one, fully enjoyable, and the buzz afterward was unanimous that it was one of the best events the Club has hosted.

--  Bill Nowlin

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