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Saturday, September 10, 2011

You can't play if you can't find the ballpark

With righty Kyle Weiland set to start for the Red Sox tomorrow - and let's hope he's more Billy Rohr than Bobby Sprowl - I thought I'd share a story of a MLB debut culled from the pages of Fenway Park: The Centennial. My newest book will be released in stores nationally on Tuesday, Sept. 13, with book signings throughout New England starting that night (see updated list at right).

Frank Malzone was excited for the chance to see and play in Fenway Park for the first time. Now he just had to find the place.



After spending the previous night at the suburban home of his new Red Sox teammate, Dick Gernert, Malzone traversed the roughly 10 miles to Kenmore Square through twisting, turning roads and those strangest of all New England driving oddities: rotaries.


They told me 'Don't worry, you can't miss it,'" Malzone said with a laugh, recalling his Fenway debut on September 20, 1955. "They figure you know where you're going, but I'm from New York City, so I didn't know. I was used to numbered streets, and it wasn't until I got near the ballpark and saw the lights that I knew I was all right.


After using Fenway's light towers as a compass to guide him on the final approach to Jersey Street, Malzone got his first look at "that thing in left field everybody was talking about" - the Green Monster. When he entered the home clubhouse, he spotted his name on the Red Sox lineup card, playing third base and batting seventh. Malzone had gotten in as a pinch-runner three days before at Yankee Stadium, which was a thrill in itself for a guy who had grown up in the Bronx, but this was his first chance to really play in a big-league game. In the end, he would find it much better than negotiating rotaries.


After grounding out in his first at-bat, Malzone cracked four straight hits - two singles, a double, and another single - in the first game of that afternoon's doubleheader. That earned him a promotion to fifth in the order for the second game, in which he collected two more hits and his first career RBI.


"A 6-for-10, not bad for my first full day," he said, admitting that the performance took some of the sting out of an embarrassing moment. "After my first hit, a single up the middle, coach Del Baker tells me at first, 'OK, this guy [pitcher Bill Wright] has some pretty good moves.' I say, 'Thanks, I appreciate that,' take two steps off the bag, and boom! He throws over and gets me. It turns out he has the best move in baseball! I might be the only guy ever picked off after getting his first hit in the majors."



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