Notes from the BoSox Club Luncheon - September 25, 2018

Club President Mike Vining opened the luncheon by introducing all at the head table. 

He then introduced three special guests from the United States Coast Guard. 

Dick Flavin was then welcomed to the podium, and he presented a poem that he had written this very morning, celebrating this Red Sox team which had just won 106 games, and looks forward to several more to come. 

Autographing followed.

MC Dan Roche of WBZ Boston offered some opening remarks of his own.  He then introduced Blake Swihart as the 2018 BoSox Club Man of the year, and introduced Blake's recent (December 2017) bride Shelby. She herself has a bit of a baseball background, having played outfield at the University of New Mexico.

Dan mentioned how Blake had started with the Red Sox as a catcher, and early in his career became one of just four Red Sox batters to have hit two runs in the same game while visiting at Yankee Stadium. He noted that, in addition to the versatility he has shown at different positions in the field,  he was 5-for-9 as a pinch-hitter this year.

One of the reasons Blake Swihart was selected as the Man of the Year was because of his extensive community work with various charitable organizations that the Red Sox support. In particular, we learned that he was the first major-league baseball player to visit the Home Base program.  Dealing as it does with wounded warriors, Blake said it felt very good to him to have connected with some who had only been in the program for as few as three days, but being told by staffers that they had opened up to him more than anyone else.

He thanked the Club for the honor of being presented the award, and said that he believed it was very important for players to do community work.

Dan asked him what it meant to him to visit a place such as the Jimmy Fund and see the smiles that put on the kids there. Blake first acknowledged that Brock Holt had been the leader among Red Sox players organizing Jimmy Fund visits, but said, "It puts a smile on my face, to see the smiles on the faces of those kids."

"What's Brock Holl like?" he was asked. "We're all like brothers," he said, recalling the days that he and Mookie Betts and Sam Travis were all on the same team at Portland. They hang out with each other, away from the field, too. "We're all buddies."

He credited first-year manager Alex Cora for keeping the clubhouse loose.

Asked about the 106 wins to date, he simply said, "To be part of history like that is pretty special."

He agreed that last year he had probably tried to come off his ankle surgery too quickly, but then added that playing in actual games is irreplaceable as far as getting into playing shape. "You can practice all you want" but the actual experience of playing in games becomes essential to success.

He ended by saying that this year's team is one in which "every guy in the lineup has contributed to winning."

Dan then introduced special guest Bob Stanley. Bob pitched his entire 13-year career for the Red Sox, 1977 through 1989, both as starter (85 games) and a reliever (552 games).  He was 115-97 with a 3.46 ERA and in 10 postseason games posted a 2.77 ERA.  He was, said Dan Roche, "invaluable – everything you could want in a pitcher."

After his ballplaying career, he coached in the New York Mets system for six years, in the San Francisco Giants system for six years, and in the Toronto Blue Jays system for seven years. This year he retired, "to stay home and be with my grandchildren."

Asked about changes he had seen over the years, he said there was just a lot more analytics now, and high performance training. The Blue Jays even had a former rugby player to help them better prepare player for high performance work.

Asked about the workload that some of the relievers of his day used to maintain, he recalled the 1982 season when he worked 168 1/3 innings, all in relief, and then joked, "That's when men were men."

His best memory in baseball, he said, was the first day he was with the Boston Red Sox. Having been born in Maine, he was always a Red Sox fan.

Toughest batters he faced?  He mentioned Roy Smalley and Cecil Cooper, saying how Cooper might get nine hits in 10 at-bats off him, but the one time Bob got him out, he'd run by the mound and say Stanley was just lucky.  It was Luis Tiant, though, who was the funniest guy he ever played with. Rice and Yaz were great players.

He brought up and mentioned 1986, saying, "I got Alzheimer's after '86. I can't remember."

He did add, "If they'd had the Wild Card back when he was playing, the Red Sox would have been in the playoffs more often that they were, noting in particular the 1978 team which won 99 games and didn't even make the playoffs.

Red Sox Hall of Famer Tommy Harper then joined Bob Stanley and the two presented the Annual Baseball Amateur Champion Awards to 11 teams who had sent representatives to the luncheon. All posed with Messrs. Harper and Stanley.

The raffle followed. As it happened, all three guests from the Coast Guard had purchased raffle tickets and each of the three won prizes in the raffle.

The next Club luncheon will be the Hot Stove Luncheon on November 12.

--by Bill Nowlin

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