By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
A FEW ODDS AND ENDS
* There was a standing-room-only crowd on November 30 th at the Grove Manor
Estates assisted living facility in Braintree. People were there to celebrate a great baseball
Mary Pratt turned 100 years old.
Mary was a member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was
immortalized a quarter of a century ago in the movie, A League of Their Own.
A left-handed pitcher, she played from 1943-1947 for the Rockford, Illinois, Peaches and
the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Comets. In ’44 she won 21 games for Kenosha, including a no-
hitter. Previously she had played for the Boston Olympets, a long-forgotten team that
played its home games at, of all places, the Boston Garden. Following her five years with
the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League she resumed her teaching career,
which lasted for 48 years, mostly for the Quincy Public School System. She also spent
fifty years officiating softball, basketball, field hockey and lacrosse games. In addition,
she served on the AAGPBL board of directors. A life well-spent.
Her suitcase from her time with the AAGPBL, adorned with stickers of the places she
visited, is housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. To
honor her centennial, the Red Sox sent a goody-bag that featured a World Series t-shirt, a
Red Sox cap, and a Xander Bogaerts bobble-head doll.
Like Fenway Park, Mary has reached triple digits in age and is more beloved than ever.
* I wonder if ballplayers realize the impact that even small gestures can have on
people. The other day, while speaking in Somerville, I asked those in the audience who
their favorite player was. A woman in the second row immediately raised her hand; she
said, “Dustin Pedroia.” When I asked why, she explained that some years ago, to
celebrate her mother’s 82 nd birthday, she took her to a Red Sox game. They were seated
behind the dugout while some of the players were warming up before the game, and she
called out to Pedroia that it was her mother’s birthday. Pedroia looked at her mother,
smiled, and mouthed the words, “Happy birthday.” I’m sure he has long forgotten the
incident, but that woman and her mother will never forget it.
* The Big Fella, Jane Leavy’s riveting book on Babe Ruth and the ground-breaking
way he was marketed to the American public, is the ideal Christmas gift for anyone who
likes baseball and/or American history. Reading it brought to mind a posthumous story
about the Babe that I have never seen in print. There are two statues on display at The
National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; one is of Babe Ruth and the
other is of Ted Williams. Each was sculpted out of a single piece of basswood by
renowned artist, Armand LaMontagne.
LaMontagne once told me that when he was commissioned to do the Ruth statue, one of
his first chores was research. He studied hundreds, if not thousands of photos of Babe in
action; and he noticed that in some pictures the Yankee cap he was wearing appeared to
have a white button on its crown while in other photos photos it did not. None of the
other Yankee players seemed to have a white buton on his cap. He checked with the
Yankee office and was assured that their caps never had a white button, that the button
was always the same color as the cap itself. That’s the way LaMontagne sculpted it.
In 1984, when it came time to unveil the finished work of the Babe taking his stance at
home plate, a preview unveiling was held for Babe’s daughter, Julia, George
Steinbrenner, and a few baseball bigwigs. When the sheet covering was pulled back,
Ruth’s daughter had one comment. She said, “Where’s his gum?” Apparently when he
came up to bat he’d take out his chewing gum and plunk it on the top of his cap.
Incidentally, if you ever want to see footage of Ted Williams overcome by emotion,
check out on YouTube his reaction at the unveiling of his statue at the Hall of Fame.
* Did you know that Bing Crosby once looked into buying the Boston Braves?
Neither did I, but, according to a new biography, Bing Crosby Swinging on a Star: The
War Years, 1940-1946, that’s what happened during World War II when the team was
known as the Boston Bees and was managed by Casey Stengel (before Casey became a
genius; it’s amazing what good players can do for a manager’s reputation). But
commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, taking note of the fact that Crosby owned and
bred race horses, put the kibosh on the deal before it ever got off the ground. Later, after
he got out of the horse racing business, Crosby did buy a 14% interest in the Pittsburgh
Pirates. Nowadays baseball is proud to do business with gambling interests. Times
* Do you think that Bryce Harper will regret turning down the Washington
Nationals’ $300 million offer? That’s 30 big ones a year for ten years, guaranteed! I think
he’ll rue the day he didn’t snap it up. He’s young yet, only 26, but he’s got a career
batting average of .279, only .249 in 2018. He’s got power, but if this year’s market for
free agents is as lousy as last year’s, my guess is that he’ll be spending a lot of time this
winter waiting for the phone to ring.
* It’s no surprise that Craig Kimbrel turned down the Red Sox’ qualifying offer of
$17.9 million on his way to free agency because he’s looking for a multi-year deal. But
he damaged his reputation as an elite closer by getting consistently knocked around
during the playoffs, and that’s just when everyone is watching. It makes one wonder if he
would have been better off taking the $17.9 million for a year and using the time to
rehabilitate his standing in the game.
* Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers on February 13. My God, that’s only
about a week and a half away.