Reflections – Len Hathaway

FIVE GENERATIONS OF RED SOX FANS

I’m the third of five family generations of Red Sox fans spanning over 100 years.  Here are some cherished memories of my family’s love of the Red Sox with some trivia questions thrown in to pique your interest.

My home town had a Red Sox connection in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Do you remember a Sox sponsor whose slogan was, “Hi neighbor, have a ___”?  Answer: Gansett.  Where was Narragansett Beer’s headquarters that was frequently mentioned in their commercials?  Answer: Cranston, RI, my hometown, just 48 miles from Fenway Park but in the days before I-95, a torturously long drive due to traffic congestion and numerous stop lights.

Ted Williams was my boyhood idol and, like so many New England youngsters, I wanted to emulate him and play for the Red Sox. I felt blessed because I batted left and threw right just as Ted did.  But anyone who has seen me play softball at the Villages softball complexes knows that is where the comparison begins and ends!

While I grew up in the heart of Red Sox Nation territory, there were numerous Yankee fans living among us. It was rough facing them at school and on the playground each year saying “wait til next year”.  One of my first Red Sox disappointments was the 1948 playoff game at Fenway Park pitting the Sox against the Cleveland Indians to determine who would face the Boston Braves in the World Series.  I can still recall radio announcer Jim Britt’s call of the final out when catcher Birdie Tebbetts grounded out to third in an 8-3 loss. I guess it was character building to lose graciously. And speaking of Tebbetts, where was he born, where did he grow up, and where did he go to college? Answers: Burlington Vt., Nashua, NH and Providence College.

One day in 1950 while visiting my grandparents in Woonsocket I was playing catch in the backyard with my father and brother.  Suddenly, my grandmother burst out of the house to excitedly exclaim in mixed baseball and poker terminology, “Dropo just hit a home run with a full house”!  Walt “Moose” Where was Dropo, the 1950 Rookie-of-the Year from? Answer: Mooseup, CT.

The 1952 the baseball season opened on a sour note.  I was devastated to hear that Ted Williams was recalled to military service as a Marine fighter pilot during the Korean War. Fans wondered, why did he have to go as he had served three years in World War II? I was heartbroken.  It was of little consolation that in his last at bat before departing for the Marines, he hit a homerun in a 5-3 win over the Tigers.

In the days before Sox games were televised, I faithfully listened to them play on the radio. Most games were played in the afternoon and when my father got home from work I would give him a complete game rundown.  I remember June 8, 1950, when the Red Sox broke the record by scoring 29 runs against the hapless St. Louis Browns and June 18, 1952, when the Sox sent 23 batters to the plate and scored a record 17 runs in one inning.

At a memorable father-son banquet in 1955 the MC announced that a Red Sox autographed baseball was to be raffled off as a door prize.  I said to my father, “I hope they call my number” and luckily, they did!  I still have that treasured ball signed by 33 players and coaches of the 1954 Red Sox including Ted Williams. Another trivia question, whose autograph do your think makes this ball even more valuable than Ted Williams? Answer:  Aristotle George “Harry” Agganis, “The Golden Greek” star football and baseball player from Lynn, MA. and Boston University, whose promising career and life was tragically cut short due to a massive pulmonary embolism on June 27, 1955.

Just days after graduating from college in 1962, a lifelong friend and I saw a memorable game at Fenway on June 26th.  We witnessed the 12th no hitter in the history (18 to date) of the Red Sox. Who threw the no hitter? Answer:  Earl Wilson against the Angels.  He also hit a home run off of Bo Belinsky.

In 1966, Margaret and I were married and living 23 miles from Fenway Park in Stoughton, MA.  During our nine-year Massachusetts residency, a new generation of Hathaway Red Sox fans came along when our son Steve and daughter Christine were born.

1967 was a memorable year. The “cardiac kids”, as they were called by broadcaster Ned Martin, were a 100:1 shot to win the pennant. Miraculously they won the pennant! Oct 11, 1967, was the date of my biggest Red Sox thrill when I attended the 6th game of the World Series.  I still have the ticket for Section 7, Row 24, not far from the Pesky Pole.  Anyone care to guess the face value of the ticket?   Answer: $8!  I witnessed the Bosox set a World Series record hitting three homeruns in one inning. Who hit the homeruns? Answer: Carl Yastremski, Reggie Smith, and Rico Petrocelli. The Red Sox won 8-4 to forcing a seventh game. But, Red Sox Nation suffered another disappointment 24 hours later when the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson won his third game and the World Series flag went to St. Louis. 

In 1998, I made my first of several visits to the Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame at Citrus Hills in Hernando, FL.  The museum displays brought back a flood of Red Sox memories that were such a big part of my youth. But I had trouble reading all of the captions because my eyes misted wishing my late father were there to share with me this emotional experience.

In 2004 the Sox rallied after being down by three games to beat the Yankees and win the American League pennant.  They then swept the Cardinals for my first World Series win. Making the event especially meaningful was that my son Steve attended the series clinching fourth game in St. Louis. Steve represents the fourth generation of Hathaway Sox fans and he personally experienced the thrill of the first Red Sox World Series Championship victory since 1918.

Another personal Fenway Park highlight occurred on January 1, 2010.  Who can tell me who played on that date?  Answer: the Boston Bruins in the NHL Outdoor Winter Classic.  I am a lifelong hockey and Bruins fan and I could not get enough of this event and even watched the time lapse photographs on the Internet of the rink being constructed from left field to right field.  Now second base was center ice.  And the Bruins winning goal was scored into the goal nearest third base from a shot in shallow left field that once was patrolled by my idol Teddy Ballgame.

The fifth generation of family Red Sox fans was ushered in by the birth of my two grandsons Andrew (3) and Will (1), who are card carrying Red Sox Kid Nation members.  My son Steve has made a family purchase of a brick commemorating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park.  In 2010 my daughter Christine, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, took my granddaughter Cate, who was six at that time, to her first Red Sox game against the White Sox at US Cellular Field.  She was decked out in her navy blue Red Sox jersey with #34 Big Papi, her idol.  While surrounded by White Sox fans she cheered loudly for the Red Sox.  When she was asked why she was a Red Sox fan she hit a home run with her answer – “because I was born that way”