Archive for December, 2012
Posted by athomeatfenway on December 20, 2012
Posted by athomeatfenway on December 19, 2012
Rico Petrocelli, the Brooklyn boy who became an all-time fan favorite in Beantown spent the evening of Dec. 17 with 180 rabid fans at the World Series Club dinner in West Hartford. http://www.worldseriesclub.com/
Rico was a multi-sport star athlete in High School. NC State, Cal & Wisconsin all offered the young quarterback a full scholarship. But he was too smart to bite on a football career. He was also a power pitcher in High School. 8 MLB clubs were after him until he snapped a ligament in his throwing arm. The interested teams dwindled to 4. The Sox signed him as an amateur free agent on June 2, 1961.
Rico’s talk at the WSC was frequently related to the tale of 2 teams: the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox.
Rico roomed with Dalton Jones when the Sox were a young and undisciplined team. They formed a keystone combination that was mostly in place from 1964 to 1969.
When Rico & DJ came up to Boston, the Sox led the league in batting average but committed the most errors with 330. They finished 8th. 3 years later they made 142 errors and approached the summit of baseball.
In 1967, the team was coming off 190 losses in two years. According to Rico, they could not field, throw or run. Dick Stuart (’63-’64) was a prime example of fielding incompetence. “For every 3 RBI he got, he allowed 4 unearned runs to score.”, said Rico.
In 1966, when the Twins were top-top, the Sox beat them only once, and they needed an error and an unearned run to make that happen.
The 1967 Sox hated Dick Williams because he was a stickler. Williams stressed fundamentals right from spring training. He had a conniption when Conigliaro air mailed a throw over 3rd into the 15th row of the grandstand. He roared. He laid down the law.
And things started to change in Boston. After 8 consecutive losing seasons some magic took hold. O’Connell, the new General Manager swung some deals. The discipline-oriented Williams established order. A young batting champ and slugger named Yaz reported in fantastic shape from an off season of heavy conditioning.
The pitchers were pitching, the hitters were hitting and the fielders slowed their rate of making errors.
Rico pointed out, “We came out of the All Star break and went on a 10 game winning streak. That’s when it happened. We never looked back.”
That streak was July 14 to 23, 1967. The morning it started, the team stood at 42 – 40. They went 50 – 30 the rest of the way, a .625 clip.
The big difference between the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox was the tension level.
The ‘75 Sox were laid back. When Manager Darrell Johnson wandered out to the mound to pull the pitcher, they’d tell him to get back in the dugout…and he did !
One of the closest friendships that Rico continues to keep with a ’75 teammate is with Luis Tiant. “Luis Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame. He belongs.”
Tiant was Mr. Laid Back himself, speaking in a calm, high pitched voice. He enjoyed creating special nicknames for his mates. Petrocelli was Salami for obvious reasons. Bob Montgomery was Mr. Ed because he had a head the size of a horse’s. Carlton Fisk, due to his imposing & squarish build, was tabbed Frankenstein, and Tiant delighted in doing the Frankenstein walk with extended arms when he teased Pudge about it.
–When asked about how it was to face Koufax, Rico said, “The ball whistled when it went past. You had no chance.”
–When asked what moundsman he hated to face, Rico said, “Well, there was this guy named Nolan Ryan who threw 98, but when he needed to crank it up he threw 102. Sure, when Nolan was pitching and I got in the on deck circle, he just used to get this little smile on his face.” A contented smile, to be sure.
–Rico has 4 sons: Michael, James, Bill and Danny, and improbably, one of them is 6 foot 7 inches tall.
–On John Lackey: “If he had been on one of our Sox teams and had stared down his teammates like he did (in 2011), we’d have freaking choked him right there on the mound.”
–On Ted Williams: “Ted came to spring training. I talked to him many times about hitting. I should say HE talked to ME about hitting. You didn’t talk to him about it, he did the talking. And he was always loud. Ted was a loud person. It was like he had 3 lungs.”
Gotta love Rico.
Posted by athomeatfenway on December 18, 2012
I guess most Editors would say that Jim Murray’s fame & success as a columnist emanated from his clever ability to turn a phrase. His depth of character and street-wise upbringing were equally important.
There is no doubt he was a phrase turner.
“I always regarded Steinbrenner as Heaven’s punishment visited on the arrogant Yankees for their sins of pride.”
On Pete Rose…
Pete liked his women flashy. Just go find the nearest beehive hairdo, the shortest mini, the wad of chewing gum being cracked, and you would find Pete Rose’s women. They had probably been cheerleaders in their youth and were not too intellectual.”
On the Indianapolis 500….
“Gentlemen, start your coffins.”
On John Wooden…
“He was so square he was divisible by 4.”
Jim Murray came from a unique place.
He grew up in Hartford and West Hartford, CT. His uncle, a card playing, crap shooting, scamming hustler was his strongest role model. He gave the kid quite an education on angle playing by the time he reached puberty.
Murray graduated from Hartford Public High and Trinity College. He soon wrote for the Hartford Times and New Haven Register. Fate brought him to Time magazine, where he was the Hollywood reporter in the glamorous 1940’s and ‘50’s.
He lunched with Cary Grant. He sunned poolside while his buddy went in a movie producer’s house to have anonymous, casual sex with Marilyn Monroe. He knew that Bogie was the farthest thing from a thug.
While based in L.A., Time called upon him to write the odd profile or cover story about sports figures such as Ben Hogan, Mel Patton, Patty O’Brien, Bob Mathias, and Bobby Layne.
Thus was Murray drawn into Time-Life’s plans to launch a weekly Sports magazine. He joined in the design, writing, photography and editing of the December 1953 and April 1954 Dummies of Sports Illustrated, and remained on hand from its debut in August 1954 to 1961, when he left to become a newspaperman again.
His last S.I. story was about the Lakers and was titled Ten Tall Men Take a Trip. In the years to come, he continued to write about roundball, the sport without audience.
His career as a columnist at the L.A. Times is legendary. 14 times he won the NSSA’s Sportswriter of the Year Award, 12 of them consecutively.
While doing so, he detailed many things, including, but not limited to, television’s transformation of sports from insignificant past time to the new American Religion; professional basketball’s evolution from a sport without a following into a powerhouse; the emergence of team owners who were more interested in celebrity than profitability; Boxing as it journeyed from blue collar entertainment to the Art of Ali. Collegiate Coaching as it morphed from true scholar-athleticism to arrogant win-at-all-costs fuglyness.
Murray comments on all this in 21 short chapters.
It isn’t all sports and roses. He explains how he lost a son to the drug culture of the 1970’s. Ricky Murray failed to wake up after drinking a soda that had been laced with codeine for recreational purposes at a party.
He shares how just months after Ricky’s death stole the light from the eyes of his wife Gerry, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed within a year of her son.
He describes how he lost his left eye and later the vision in his right eye, and how the L.A. Times supplied him with an assistant to make his life feasible and his work meaningful.
Murray is patently honest. He admits his shortcomings. He knows what mistakes he made.
He has Sports in perspective, as shown in his concluding paragraph.
“The ancient Romans described the secret of successful rule as ‘Bread and Circuses’…..I covered the Circus. I felt privileged to do so. Some of the happiest hours of my life were spent in a pressbox. Sure, I helped keep the hype going, the calliope playing. I can live with that. That’s what I am…I would have made a lousy President.”
Jim Murray, An Autobiography, was published in 1993. This book supports the theory that if you want to read a well written, funny, enlightening sports book instead of a dull research-laden one, or a disastrous speak-into-the-microphone player autobio, you need only stick to the guys and gals who wrangle words for a living.
Don’t miss this book. It’s an A+.
RIP, Mr. Murray.