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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fenway first-pitch-and-catch honorees it would be fun to see

The mayor belongs on the mound.

Everybody from Peter Gammons to John Farrell's housekeeper has dissected the Red Sox-Cardinals World Series match-up position by position, so at Fenway Reflections we thought we'd focus on another important aspect of any postseason contest -- the first-pitch throwers.

Sox VP Dr. Charles Steinberg and his crew have always done a great job trotting out honorees for this task, including 2004 heroes Dave Roberts and Bill Mueller during the last two ALCS games at Fenway Park. Tonight it's Hall of Famer and recent statue recipient Carl Yastrzemski handling the chore for Game 1, and it's hard to argue with that choice.

But if we could put pomp and circumstance aside, along with superstitions about past Series lost, wouldn't it be great to see some of these folks stride out to the mound and back behind the plate?


Dick Hoyt to Rick Hoyt

The Hoyts on the hills.

Well known to any true fan of the Boston Marathon, this father-son racing duo has inspired millions through the years. Who hasn't teared up watching Dick push Rick's custom-made wheelchair up Heartbreak Hill or across the finish line? When you learn the story behind their partnership, especially the accomplishments Rick has achieved off the course, your respect can only grow. These guys live "Boston Strong" every day.


Billy Rohr to Russ Gibson 

Not worth much, unless you know the story.

Gentleman Jim Lonborg was the big winner on the 1967 Red Sox, and the Cy Young Award winner has been justly honored as a first-pitch tosser on several occasions including Game Two of this year's ALDS. It was rookie right-hander Rohr, however, who first signaled to New Englanders that the '67 Sox might be worth watching when he came within one pitch of a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in his very first major league game. Gibson, his catcher, was also making his big-league debut that day. That's the kind of stuff Impossible Dreams like 1967 -- and 2013 -- are made of.


Oil Can Boyd / Bob Stanley to Rich Gedman

Gedman tags out Gary Carter in the '86 Series.

Bill Buckner has gotten his moment of first-pitch redemption at Fenway -- actually, several of them, including Opening Day in 2008 before the '07 champions got their rings. He has received his standing ovations, and now it's time for three more members of the near-miss 1986 Red Sox to get theirs. 

Boyd, Stanley, and Gedman were all one strike away from World Series rings, and deserve some love to replace the angst they experienced during the meltdown at Shea Stadium. Stanley and Gedman are both New England natives who became All-Stars for the team they rooted for as kids, and the charismatic Boyd has settled down to make his home here. The Red Sox would not have won the '86 AL pennant without them, and now it's time to let them know they are appreciated. 

Jordan Leandre to Mike Andrews 
Leandre to Andrews would be a beautiful battery.

Leandre first gained Fenway fame as a 4-year-old cancer patient, singing the National Anthem before several games in the magic summer of 2004 and the next few years thereafter. Fans watched him progress from two full-leg casts to a wheelchair to a limp and then a triumphant run around the bases. He's since graduated from the Jimmy Fund Clinic to a healthy career as a teenage pitcher, including a no-hitter in summer-league play.

Andrews, a rookie Red Sox second baseman on the 1967 AL champions, devoted more than 30 years to fighting pediatric and adult cancer as chairman of the Jimmy Fund, and still looks like he could turn a double play at age 70. He's famously shunned the spotlight in the past, but honoring him would be a natural choice in this, the 60th anniversary of the Jimmy Fund-Red Sox partnership 

Bill Lee to Carlton Fisk 
A near-miss battery.

This battery started Game 7 of the 1975 World Series vs. the Reds at Fenway. Left-hander Lee was one botched double-play and one eephus pitch away from a championship toast at his beloved Elliot Lounge, while Fisk -- who had famously won Game 6 with his homer off the left-field foul pole -- just missed a title in his only Fall Classic of a 24-year catcher career. Polar opposites off the field, the stoic Fisk and iconoclastic were in perfect harmony on it.


Thomas Menino to Bill Russell

Russ knows rings.

Sure, he often gets poked fun at for his creative use of the English language, and he sometimes gets his sports facts wrong, but Menino has done much right for Boston during a record five terms as the city's mayor. As he readies to retire from office, this would be a great way to honor the man who stood Boston Proud after the Marathon bombings and many, many other times. 

Celtics great Russell is the greatest champion in Boston sports history and will be getting a statue in his honor here on Nov. 1 thanks in large part to Menino's lobbying. We know Russ doesn't have much of a throwing arm from watching a previous first toss, but it would be fun to see him crouch down for Menino's delivery.



Terry Francona to Jason Varitek 
Two of the great minds behind '04 and '07. 

Yeah, things ended badly for Tito here, but what better way to bury the hatchet? He received a nice Fenway greeting during his return with Cleveland this summer, but an appearance here would bring down the house.

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