New England on a Pedestal

109. Play Ball

April 29, 2023 Doug Farquharson Season 1 Episode 9
New England on a Pedestal
109. Play Ball
Show Notes Transcript

Better late than never, here's a look at a few statues inspired by Spring arriving and the baseball season opening!

Greetings Pedestal Peeps! A little heads up on the timing of this episode. A couple of unforeseen issues delayed publishing it when I wanted to, but hey, better late than never. So, without further ado, I present episode nine! Hope you enjoy it!

Around here this time of year, we start yearning for long summer days and warm sunshine. Winter is almost over even if there is still some snow on the ground and frost on the car’s windshield every morning. There is hope though and some sure-fire signs of Spring. A few weeks ago, there was one such sign. A big one in these parts. Truck Day. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s when the big rigs load up at Fenway and head south with all the equipment to prepare for spring training. Shortly afterwards, pitchers and catchers report and before you know it Sox preseason games are competing for airtime on the local news with the Bruins and Celtics scores.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the New England on a Pedestal podcast. I am your host, Doug Farquharson. While the Red Sox are getting prepared for their new season, this inaugural season is winding down for us with these last couple episodes. And while the Sox are still at their winter home in Florida, in this episode we will be looking a little closer to home at a few statues outside of historic Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.

We’ve been quite fortunate over the years to have some of baseball’s biggest names play under the lights at Fenway and we’ve had some tough times as well. Losing season after losing season. The Curse. Broken dreams. And those damned Yankees. But we have also had some great seasons playing into October. Several World Series trophies. And Fenway has hosted more than just baseball games. The NHL’s Winter Classic, big name concerts, even ski and snowboard competitions!

I grew up a very short walk from Fenway Park. My Mom was a rabid Sox fan for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate as a kid to go to many a ball game with a family friend. And of course, I played Little League baseball for several years. My Dad volunteered for years as a coach and manager. Baseball and the Red Sox were all around us. So what say we take a look at some of the great baseball players who wore a Red Sox uniform and have found themselves memorialized up on a pedestal.

To quote George Brennan, “Play Ball!”

Fenway Park. Historic. Beautiful. Iconic. Visit this storied park and walk down Van Ness St and at the corner of Ipswitch Street by Gate B, you’ll find a few statues overlooking the crowds entering the park. As this is episode #9, it’s fitting we start with the man who wore #9 on his uniform. Of course, we are talking about Teddy Ballgame, the Kid, the Splendid Splinter, none other than the Thumper himself, Ted Williams. Born and raised on the west coast, he played baseball from a young age and was quite good even in Little League and high school. He batted lefty but threw with his right hand. He played in the minor leagues in California and Minnesota before playing his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox in 1939. It was a good start for him, with a batting average of .327. Even though he had a slightly better average the next year of .344, it began with a bit of a slump and because of the bad press he got over it, so began his career long feud with the media and his love-hate relationship with Sox fans. Williams played two more seasons before joining the service in late ’42 but not before winning his first Triple Crown title. He missed the 1943 through 1945 seasons. Ted returned in the ’46 season with his bat still hot. He won his second Triple Crown in 1947. The Marines called him back during the Korean War and he flew combat missions in 1952 and 1953. He won the American League Batting Title in 58 and had a career total of 521 home runs including one in his very last at bat. He was an All Star 19 times, American League MVP twice, AL batting champion six times, as mentioned two time Triple Crown recipient, and had a career batting average of .344. He later spent several seasons as a batting coach and team manager around the league. He was also an avid fisherman and hosted a TV fishing show and coauthored several books. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in 2000.

Viewing the statue, we see Williams with his bat casually over his shoulder while offering his cap to a young child who looks adoringly up at him. A plaque on the pedestal offers the following info and I quote: “9. TED WILLIAMS. BOSTON RED SOX. The greatest hitter who ever lived, an American patriot, and a pioneer in the development of the Jimmy Fund, Ted Williams will forever be one of the great heroes in the history of baseball, Boston, and America. He amassed 521 home runs despite sacrificing five years in his prime to serve his country during World War II and the Korean War. He was a relentless champion of children, such as this child to whom he is offering his cap, in their battle against cancer, and helped make the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute the world renowned center of research and care that it is today. The memory of Ted Williams will forever be a point of pride for the Boston Red Sox, the people of Boston, New England, and the United States of America. DEDICATED THIS 16th DAY OF APRIL, 2004. Mayor Thomas M. Merino. Mayor. City of Boston. John W. Henry. Principal Owner. Boston Red Sox. Tom Werner. Chairman. Boston Red Sox. Larry Lucchino. President/CEO. Boston Red Sox. Sculptor: Franc Talarico, Scranton, PA. Commissioned by: A. Hank Evanish, Taylor, PA.”

Close by is the Teammates statue by Antonio Tobias Mendez completed in 2010 and features likenesses of Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. Lifetime friends, they played seven seasons together on the Red Sox and all served their country during WW II. Doerr played for fourteen seasons with the Sox, was a nine time All Star, and is a member of the 1986 Hall of Fame inductees. He continued his baseball career as a coach and manager and worked with Carl Yastrzemski before his Triple Crown season. Johnny Pesky spent a lifetime in baseball, spending a total of 61 years associated with the Sox as a player, manager, and coach. The right field pole is affectionately named after him. He was known as a contact hitter and held numerous records over the years. Dom DiMaggio played eleven seasons with the Sox, was a league leading hitter, played ball for the Navy while also serving in Australia and the Philippines during the war. Post baseball, he founded several manufacturing companies and had a successful business career.

We mentioned Yaz a moment ago. He, too, is memorialized in bronze by Gate B. This statue commissioned in 2013 is also by Antonio Tobias Mendez. It depicts Yaz tipping his hit to the fans at his last at bat on Oct 2, 1983 after playing on the Sox for twenty-three years. Among his achievements are 17 All Star games, seven Golden Gloves and a Triple Crown. He definitely was one of my favorite players as a kid growing up in Boston! These statues are actually part of a large collaboration featuring forty-four statues around the country outside of ballparks. Let us know if you’ve visited any of the others!

I would be remiss in my hosting duties if I didn’t also mention another baseball statue in Boston. Thanks to my good curling friend, Marty, for reminding me about this one tucked away on the grounds of what is now Northeastern University. Once the home of the Boston Americans, who preceded the Red Sox, the Huntington Avenue Grounds saw Cy Young pitch there during the first World Series. The Cabot Center now sits where the field once was and out back is a statue of Cy Young peering toward home plate from the mound. The inscription reads “Cy Young.  At this site in October 1903, Baseball’s winningest pitcher led Boston to victory in the first World Series.” Thanks, Marty!

So, there you have it. A little Boston baseball in bronze.

Right about here in most episodes, we make a recommendation of a favorite pub, restaurant, or brewery. But, I think today I’ll suggest one of the famous Fenway Italian sausages loaded up with all the fixings from one of the street vendors outside of Fenway park and washed down with either a Sam Adams Boston Lager or one of my favorites, a Sam Summer Ale.

New England on a Pedestal is the story of New England as told through its many and varied statues, sculptures, monuments, and memorials. We hope that once you have heard one of our podcasts, you’ll be inspired to take a listen to our other episodes. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to us through your favorite podcast platform and consider leaving a review for us. It will help us reach more listeners and expand our audience. Thank you!

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Theme music by Sam Checkoway, mastered by Jake Checkoway. Logo art by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer.

Join us over the next couple episodes as we close out season one with tales of a few other Boston athletes memorialized forever in bronze. Thanks for listening and until next time, be safe, be well, and keep discovering.