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Massive Fire Sale at Fenway:  Sixties Swamp Time Looming

 

In a spectacular and almost unheard of salary dump, the powers that be with the Red Sox have decided 2012, the 100th anniversary year, is a lost season.

Jettisoned to the Dodgers  - -Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett and along with this talent Los Angeles takes on almost $250-million in salary.   

It is not exactly the 1960s at Fenway, but it could be  -  -soon.

In 1963, Johnny Pesky, on the scene as manager since the end of the ’62 season, got his “country club” group off to a hopeful  start. At the end it would be the same sad story - - a 76-85 record, a seventh place finish, 28 games off the pace.

Dick Stuart and Dick Radatz  were two “cult figures” who performed in the sixties for the Sox. Richard Lee Stuart was with the team in 1963 and 1964. Richard Raymond Radatz had a longer tenure, 1962-1966.

On June 23, 1963 first baseman Stuart, known as "Dr. Strange Glove" for his challenged ways as a fielder, established a major league fielding record, grabbing three first inning grounders and tossing them to pitcher Bob Heffner for putouts. The Yankees, unfortunately, bombed the Sox, 8-0.

Sox fans delighted in giving Stuart the mock cheer. There was a game when wind was whipping about Fenway as was customary at times.  Stuart, known also in some circles as “Cement Glove,” without losing a step, deftly snatched up a piece of paper that had blown his way.  That effort provoked the crowd into rising up and giving him a standing ovation.

Radatz was a top relief pitcher and a powerful presence on the mound. In 1963, he entered a game against the Yankees with the bases loaded. Reaching back for a little extra, he struck out Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Elston Howard -- all American League MVPs at one time -- on a total of 10 pitches. Mantle afterwards, as the story goes, complained about what it was like to hit against that “monster." Dick Radatz became “Monster” Radatz. 

STEVE FOLVEN:  I went with my friend Billy Brooks and his uncles by car.   We drove down Commonwealth Ave, parked on a side street across from BU (Boston University)and walked to the park.

The Yankees were winning 1-0 in the last of the ninth.  Stottlemyre was still pitching.  And Yastrzemski led off that inning with a triple.    And then the Sox filled the bases with one out.  And I said, “They’re finally going to win. “ 

Malzone hit like a line drive to third. Clete Boyer, the vacuum cleaner,  just scooped and made an incredible play, threw to second  - the ball went to first, double-play. They lost 1-0.

Leaving, you just went under the bleachers.  It was like the solemn march.  Nobody said too much.  I just remember Billy Brooks’ uncles, as we would go back from these games,  saying, “Yeah and every time we go, we lose.  Every time we go they lose.”  These guys are like 50 or 60 years old and I’m going like, “Don’t take it so seriously, will ya?”   

Many fans took it seriously. Johnny Pesky was sacked as manager with two games left in the season.  The Sox finished 1964 in 8th place in a 10 team league and drew 883,276 to Fenway.

SAM MELE: I came into Fenway a lot when I managed Minnesota from 1961 to 1967. My home was still in Quincy, Mass. So I slept in my  own bed.  It was funny. I was managing against the team that I loved.

In 1965, we beat Boston 17 out of 18 times, 8 out of the 9 at Fenway.  It actually hurt me, to beat them.  I felt sorry because in my heart I was a Red Sox fan.  I had played for them, I had scouted for them.  Tom Yawkey would come in my office. And we would talk a lot.  Oh yeah, geez, he had me in his will. 

Tony C, (Conigliaro) also put together a “day” for himself on the 27th of  July 1965 at Fenway. He stroked three home runs, two in the opener of a doubleheader and a grand slam in the nightcap.  Boston, however, was a loser in both games to Kansas City.

     The losing, the miserable attendance, the doom and gloom that pervaded Fenway was on parade big time on the 16th of September. The tiniest crowd of the season made its way into Fenway Park  - - just 1,247 paid and 1,123 in on passes. Dave Morehead opposed Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians.  A no-hitter for Morehead!

After the game the news came out that Tom Yawkey, as was his practice, would rewrite Morehead’s contract and give the 22-year-old a $1,000 bonus. That was the good news - the bad news was for General Manager Pinky Higgins. He was let go and replaced by Dick O’Connell.

Fenway was a ghost town of a ball park in 1965 when the team drew but 652,201, an average of 8,052 a game . The worst came late in the season. On September 28th against California only 461 showed to watch the sad Sox. The next day was even worse against the same team – just 409 in the house.  Finishing 9th in the ten-team American League, the Sox lost 100 games and won 62. The nadir had been breached.

Managers kept coming and going. Top prospects somehow never made it for one reason or another. Billy Herman was in place as the 1966 season started.   Early on Dave Morehead, just 24, regarded as a brilliant future star, suffered an injury to his arm and was never the same. Posting a 1-2 record in a dozen appearances, he symbolized the Red Sox of that era - promise but pathos.  Sound familiar? 

#  #  #

You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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