Monday, August 22, 2011

George Kimball on the Jackie Robinson Tryout with the Red Sox

[If you don’t care too much about the details of the Fenway Park tryout of three Negro Leaguers on April 16, 1945, please skip my rambling preamble and go right to George Kimball’s email response far below.]

To be frank I was unfamiliar with George Kimball's work when I read a column he wrote for the Irish Times entitled "Boston cursed by their own racist policy". [It’s available at the link by subscription only. If you don't have a subscription or proquest access, email me and I'll send you the story.] Later, when I read a little bit about him, I recognized him as a Boston writer I vaguely knew; I probably even read him before. But I'm terrible at reading and worse at remembering whom I've read. So I judged the story for what it was, yet another take on the tryout of three Negro League players by the Red Sox on April 16, 1945, and how it related to the reputation for racial tension the city of Boston harbored for lo these many years. That I was very familiar with.  I’d even written a bit about it myself and planned on writing a lot more.

Unfortunately, Kimball's story was no better than 90% of the stories on the subject.  

First of all, it was too short. It felt like he knew more about what happened, but chose not to go into it. Instead he wrote one sentence paragraphs - like bullet points in the outline of a draft - drawing a bland description of a much less than bland event.  Also, when it came to details, he repeated some of the same tired assumptions and mistakes many past writers on the tryout have. Other than a few wrinkles he added, which were so new I thought he had to have just made them up, Kimball basically wrote a piece that couldn't stand out from any amateur blogger's take on the tryout.

The new wrinkles though were enough to compel me to reach out to him just on the off chance there was some truth to them.

For one, he was sure Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was in fact at the tryout. There weren't any sources other than Kimball's, as far as I knew, which could confirm Yawkey's presence there that day.  Most had assumed he was there, because it was his team and his ballpark, and why wouldn't he have been there?  But Kimball said, "Thomas A Yawkey, the millionaire sportsman who owned the ball club, arrived later." That was more than just an assumption; he was there, according to Kimball. That implied to me that he had direct evidence to the fact. I asked him what it was.

Next, Kimball mentioned that Sam Jethroe, one of the three players to tryout out, confirmed to him that the mysterious shout from the grandstand shadows, "Get those niggers off the field", actually happened.  That was news to me too. I had read everything I could find written on the subject, and I had never found anything where Jethroe said it had happened.  The truth was, there was not one confirmed witness to the tryout who ever claimed to have heard it. Jackie Robinson never said it happened. And the other player, Marvin Williams, said he never heard it. The third man, Sam Jethroe, suddenly spoke up from his grave.  I had to know where this interview happened.

Lastly, Kimball wrote that the former Boston Globe reporter, Clif Keane, the only man ever to have claimed to have heard the slur said in person, pinned the tale on Yawkey, General Manager Eddie Collins or Manager Joe Cronin. I've read two accounts from Keane on that day. In the first one, in an interview he did with Larry Whiteside of the Boston Globe in 1979, he said he didn't know who said it. The second account came in Dan Shaughnessey’s book, "The Curse of the Bambino", where Keane said, "It wasn't Yawkey. Yawkey wouldn't do that."  I assumed Kimball was just being sloppy here by remembering that Keane claimed to have heard it, but not bothering to research the text of the claim.  Then again, I thought Kimball likely knew Keane and could have spoken about it with him himself.

I wrote Kimball an email with those three questions and received back a column of my own via email, much better and more complete than the Irish Times piece. In it, Kimball backed off of all of the claims slightly. He even told me he researched the subject before writing me. Well, I researched Kimball in the meantime, and was flattered such an accomplished writer admired by so many of his peers, took the time to write me the fascinating account below.

Kimball not only offered some new information about the tryout, but a terrific treatment about the subject in general from a man who was at times both a Boston insider and an outcast.  His perspective was genuine and he even wrapped his narrative around a Bill “The Spaceman” Lee story.  (He had me at Bill Lee.)

In the email, he doubted himself and doubted the stories he'd heard. He retraced his steps and retold the tale. He drew on his experience as a writer and friend of sports to uncork the spirit of the tryout, its legacy and effect on how we write about it.  It was perfect.

The truth was that Kimball discussed the tryout all of about three minutes with Sam Jethroe in a New York City bar in 1980. It wasn't an interview. It was a coincidence.  Jethroe happened to walk into the bar, he said, and the tryout came up over drinks.  At that time, the tryout wasn't thought of as important in any way. It wasn't until later, when writers tied the Red Sox's missed opportunity to sign Jackie Robinson with a long, poor record on race relations by the team. Then, the tryout became the origin story of a super villain who would not die.  

His account of that day was terrific.  It was graceful and personal. It was even plausible, yet I was disappointed, because Kimball's story in the Irish Times, by comparisonseemed ghost-written. It had no guts. It made false claims. It had easy facts wrong, like the year of Jackie Robinson’s debut.  He even gave complete credibility to Clif Keane’s account in it, yet told me later that he had never spoken with him about the tryout and completely hated him, and then went so far as to blame Keane himself for uttering the slur! 

He explained that Jethroe never explicitly said he heard the slur shouted. And he really had no proof Yawkey was at the ball park other than remembering Jethroe saying it.

So why the change in tenor?

The problem with his Irish Times piece became obvious at its end.  Despite his insistence to me that it was a column and therefore somehow entitled to opinion, it was actually a sort of advertisement for his friend’s book on the subject of the Red Sox and race, “It Was Never About the Babe: The Red Sox, Racism, Mismanagement, and the Curse of the Bambino” by Jerry M. Gutlon. Near the end of the story, he made an awkward segue from the World Baseball Classic to a pitch for the baseball book. Just before disclosing that he’d known Gutlon for decades, he called the book “a comprehensive accumulation of anecdotal evidence delivered from that perspective”. “Anecdotal evidence” is not exactly the stuff of source material.  And Kimball had referred to it before writing me back.

To be sure “It Was Never About the Babe” was heavy on anecdotes and light on evidence. In it, facts were replaced with urban legends and the most repeated myths about the Red Sox. Yet people bought it and read it and believed it and, sometimes, reprinted its contents.

By all accounts, Kimball was a great story teller, and I’m sure he appreciated Gutlon’s anecdotal approach to history.  But it was obvious to me from Kimball’s response that he cared and understood quite a bit about the facts surrounding the Robinson tryout, and maybe even regretted not delving into it more himself.  It’s too bad he never did interview Jethroe formally, or give up his grudge with Keane long enough to cross examine him.  He could have written the authoritative piece on the tryout and what it really meant to the Red Sox.

George E. Kimball III died on July 6 of esophageal cancer at the age of 67. His email to me was written while in very poor health, just a few months before his passing. Of the many writers who praised his work, I think Charles P. Pierce, a former colleague at the The Boston Phoenix, remembered him best in the Boston Globe:   George Kimball, 1943-2011

I'm glad that, as far as I know, this letter was his last take on the tryout. But I'm sorry it's being reprinted as a testimonial.  I’m sharing it because I thought it should be public record for anyone interested in Kimball, the Robinson tryout or just good writing.


chris wertz


On Sat, Feb 12, 2011 at 10:15 AM, George Kimball, "" wrote:

HI Chris,
First of all, The Irish Times piece was written as a column, not an article, and while I have reason to believe everything in it to be accurate (with one nagging exception, which I’ll get to later), there’s no smoking gun here, but I’ll try to provide you with what I know and what I think I know, but bear in mind that nearly as much time has elapsed since I met Sam Jethroe as had gone by since he was part of the Fenway Park tryout then.
I wish I could retrieve the pretty extensive collection of notes I assembled for Jerry Gutlon a few years ago, but I can’t even find that. It may have been on one of this computer’s predecessors. As have you, I’m sure, I’ve also looked back at four separate accounts – Gutlon’s book, as well as Howard Bryant’s, Glenn Stout’s, and Mark Armor’s – in an attempt not just to reconstruct the episode, but to refresh in my mind my own thought processes when I wrote the column. (Obviously I wouldn’t have relied on Jerry as a source on the subject, since in point of fact I was one of his.) I know I’ve talked about the Robinson/Jethroe/Williams “tryout” with Glenn as well, though not recently, and I’ve exchanged emails with Clark Booth and Leigh Montville.

I can’t pinpoint the date of the Jethroe encounter, but it should be pretty easy for you to track down if you’re so disposed. It was in 1980, on the night before Bill Lee was to have appeared before Bowie Kuhn to hear his appeal after Kuhn fined him for saying he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes. A couple of lawyer friends of Bill’s and mine were representing him pro bono, and had prepared some pretty extensive briefs challenging the ruling on both first amendment and procedural grounds that I imagine would have succeeded in pretty much any court the case got to, if it ever had.  Kuhn was a lawyer himself and I imagine he pretty much knew his legal position was constitutionally hopeless. In pre-hearing conference that day the commissioner’s office had made it clear that they didn’t want to make a big deal of this and just wanted it to go away quietly without them losing face or diminishing the authority of the office. By the time we got to New York, they’d already brokered a settlement where Bill would pay a $250 fine, but he could donate it to any charity of his choice, so he wound up donating it to some cause he’d have contributed to anyway, and that was the end of it. I vaguely recall that it may have been some Eskimo mission. 
So now we’re in New York -- me, Lee, a couple of lawyers (Alan Silber, who lives here, and Mary John Boylan, who’d come down with me from Boston. I knew her through the Ted Kennedy campaign, and she would not long afterward be appointed Assistant US attorney for Massachusetts) and a ten-pound stack of briefs that have already been rendered obsolete and are never going to see the light of day. It was a bit late to turn around and fly back to Boston, so we stayed the night as planned at the Gramercy Park Hotel, and that night we all went out to dinner at the Lions’s Head, which was my longtime saloon in New York.
We were there all night, first eating and then drinking at table in the back room. Later in the evening, either one of the bartenders or Wes Joice, the owner, brought back Sam Jethroe and introduced us, so he joined the party and we sat there talking for a couple more hours. I honestly couldn’t tell you how Jethroe came to be there, but Monte Irvin sometimes hung out at the Lion’s Head and was a friend of Wes’s. It’s possible that they came in together and Monte had left, or maybe Monte recommended the place, or maybe Monte had nothing to do with it and Jethroe just happened in. At least a couple of the bartenders were Boston guys who’d grown up in his era and would have recognized Sam Jethroe by sight. In any case, they knew we were there and brought Sam back. They figured we’d all hit it off and they were right.
A couple of things here: One is that I came from an era in which it wasn’t that unusual for sportswriters to socialize with ballplayers. It almost never happens now because the relationship has become essentially adversarial, but I hung out and drank with and chased women with a lot of the Red Sox guys in the 70s, and it was always clearly understood that what happened in the bar stayed in the bar. This didn’t mean that if something really newsworthy came up I wouldn’t have written about it, but under those circumstances I’d have felt obliged to clear it with the payer first. So I wasn’t taking notes or anything. This was just baseball banter and reminiscence conducted over many drinks, and in fact the subject of the Fenway tryout actually consumed a relatively small part of the night’s conversation. So when you ask if it was on the record or off the record, that never came up, because neither of us in any sense regarded it as an “interview.”
Two, I didn’t realize at the time, and didn’t for many years, how little Sam had said on the record about the 1945 tryout. His part in all of my anecdotal knowledge was so widely known that I assumed he must have addressed it many times. If I’d known then that this might be some sort of breakthrough revelation or that I was onto some kind of exclusive, I imagine I’d have at least asked Sam if it was OK if I wrote about it, or quoted him. I figured at the time he was just saying things he’d said many times before, and in fact he probably had – just not in the presence of a newspaperman.
And three, I can’t be absolutely certain of this without knowing the date, but I think this occurred within the stretch of about four months between the time I left the Phoenix and signed a contract at the Herald when I wasn’t even working for a paper, so it wasn’t as if I started rubbing my paws together thinking “Wow, this might make a neat column tomorrow,” because I’d have had no place for it to run anyway.
At some point the conversation turned to the tryout. I don’t remember that Sam said he had actually heard the “get those niggers off the field” line, but there didn’t seem to be any question in his mind that it had been uttered. (By then it admittedly was such a thoroughly accepted part of the lore, particularly in the black community that he would have believed it anyway.) His reasoning was that Yawkey had arrived at the park late, and when he did, the whole tryout came to a screeching halt; I think Sam never even got a chance to hit that day, so he’s saying something like ‘They bring you all this way and don’t even watch you hit and then they call it a tryout?’ To him it had been a dog and pony show, a charade, and to be honest, Jethroe seemed more bitter about the waste of time and the essential dishonesty of the exercise than about the verbal line and the use of the ‘N’ word. He’d have been used to that. 
The official excuse made for cutting the workout short, by the way, was that the team “had a train to catch.” Joe Cronin, obviously, had to be on it; I don’t know whether Eddie Collins was going on the trip or not. The beat writers who were there would also have been taking the same train. But Fenway isn’t that far from South Station, and I think the train actually was leaving in a couple of hours.
So if it was said, who said it? Cronin had been there throughout the tryout, although by most accounts he wasn’t exactly attentive. It wouldn’t have made any sense for him to suddenly blurt out something like that, and besides, a lot of people would have heard him – even some of the black writers were sitting with him, or near him, and would have known where it came from. I can’t be sure of this, but I believe even Muchnick was also near Cronin, and it isn’t something he would have let gone unnoted. I don’t know that Collins was in the stands at the time the remark was uttered but in every account I’ve read he was at Fenway Park when the tryout started, and at Fenway Park when it was over, which is why I placed him there. (On their way out, Collins told the guys that they would hear from him, or from the Red Sox, but of course they never did.) But for whatever reason, the whole exercise was cut short and everybody was suddenly running around picking up equipment and hurrying Jethroe, Robinson, and Williams off the field, so it obviously hadn’t a wisecrack from a groundskeeper, which is another story you hear. If you accept that somebody said it – and Jethroe, as I said, didn’t seem to doubt that it was said – then it stood to reason it had to have been Yawkey.
Bill Lee loved Yawkey, and that night he argued that it would have been very out of character for the man he knew to say something like that. Sam said something like – and I may paraphrasing here -- “Well, if it wasn’t him, who was it? Because when he said ‘Get those niggers off the field,’ they chased us niggers right off the field.”

In looking through what I have available, my basis was for saying in the story that Clif Keane believed it was “either Cronin, Collins, or Yawkey” appears to have been Mark Armour’s biography of Joe Cronin. In every account other I could find, Keane either says it was Yawkey, or that he thought it was Yawkey.
And in answer to your other question, Keane never told me anything. I quit speaking to the asshole at least 35 years ago and never regretted it.
Which brings me back to the one troubling aspect of the whole story. I didn’t know Tom Yawkey well, but Lee is right in that “Get those niggers off the field” doesn’t have the ring of something Yawkey would have said, at least aloud, even if it was what he was thinking.  On the other hand, it sounds exactly like something Clif Keane would have said, trying to get a laugh, and was easily within the man’s capabilities to have said it himself and then tried to put the words in somebody else’s mouth.
I’d be prepared to entertain that possibility but for one thing, which is that it resulted in a precipitate and unscheduled conclusion to the events. So unless you believe “Get those niggers off the field” to have been some fanciful urban legend – and there are those who claim that it was – Jethroe’s version of the experience seems to me the most persuasive.
I don’t think there’s any question that the tryout was a sham to get Muchnick off the team’s back and that the Red Sox would never considered signing any of the players no matter what they’d shown at Fenway that day, but this reflected an institutional bias, not some pervasive anti-black sentiment in the city of Boston. Yawkey might have been the most conspicuous anti-integrationist among team owners of his era, but there were a lot of other owners who shared his view, and the racial discontent that would later characterize Boston was still decades away. (Look where Jethroe played when he finally did get to the majors.) Cronin was right about one thing when he later pointed out that the Sox would have had no place to send him even if they had signed Jackie Robinson. The major league season had already started, and their triple-A team was in Louisville. If Jackie had a rough ride in Montreal, imagine what that experience would have been like!
Hope this helps,
George Kimball

[In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I interviewed Alan Silber, Mary John Boylan and Bill Lee in the last couple of days, and, although they all remembered drinking together at the fabled Lion's Head on that night in 1980, none remembered Sam Jethroe being there.  In fact, two of them, Lee and Silber, were sure he wasn't there.  But they all said that they missed George Kimball very much.]

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Spaceman Film is Taking Off!

Hello Bill Lee Backers,

The word from the makers of the new Spaceman film is good, very good.  They've reached their initial goal and then some, and are moving full speed ahead. See the update below and click through to the Kickstarter page. Kudos to all of you who helped. Why not join Bill for a drink in Boston on Monday?

Dear Backers - Thanks to you, we did it ... and we're still going! Nearly 30,000 projects have launched (or attempted to launch) by way of KickStarter since 2009, and HAVE GLOVE, WILL TRAVEL is earning its stripes amongst the best of them. So far we have raised over $40k, exceeding our minimum goal of $37k in 37 days. Currently we are working on the details for SPACE CAMP, and making a final push to end the campaign with a BANG. There are just a few spots left for Bill's Inaugural event. We are hosting a special dinner event with Bill at Anchovies Restaurant in Boston's South End (433 Columbus Ave between Braddock Park & Holyoke St) this coming Monday, starting at 6pm. The Spaceman will be there giving a play-by-play of the Red Sox game, we'll be holding a silent auction, and ringing a not so silent gong. If you're in the Boston area, drop by for what promises to be a great night of baseball, food, and drinks. ONE WEEK TO GO then it's on to phase two - let the games begin. In sincere gratitude, Brett

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Integration of Fenway Park

On July 21, the day was marked, as it is most years, with stories describing the anniversary of the 1959 debut of the Red Sox first black player, Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green.  That event is remembered yearly because it happened an astounding twelve years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in April, 1947. Many writers took this opportunity to vilify the ghosts of Red Sox past for being at the lead of discrimination in a racist institution. Others allowed the shame to be passed on to the citizens of Boston at the time for not demanding a rapid change.  Regardless of where the blame belongs, the sad truth is that instead of Green’s place in history being celebrated as an accomplishment, his belated promotion in 1959 marks the end of the segregation era for Major League Baseball, and leaves the Red Sox with the appalling distinction of being the last team to field a black player. That fact should not be seen as an indictment of Sox fans or the city in general.  Many Bostonians were eager to see equality finally come to baseball, and were actively campaigning to achieve it. When the first black Major Leaguer came to the plate at Fenway Park on this day in 1947, he was greeted as no visiting player was before. He was applauded every inning.

Hall of Famer, Willard “Home Run” Brown was 32-years-old and had a reputation as a slugging outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League, when he was chosen to be one of four black players signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1947. St. Louis was desperate for homeruns and home fans, and they thought that Brown could help them with both.  He made his Major League debut against the Red Sox in St. Louis, on July 19, but it wasn’t until July 25 that he integrated Fenway Park by being the first black Major Leaguer to play there.  When he came to bat in the second inning, 34,059 fans stood to applaud him.  Brown responded with a line-drive double off of the center field wall. When he trotted out to right field at the end of the inning, they applauded again. And again, when he batted for the second time, they applauded. Brown smashed his second double of the night (the second of his career). With each plate appearance, and each time he took his position in right field, the Fenway faithful greeted Willard Brown with cheers which grew as the game progressed. 

According to Jack Barry of the Boston Evening Globe, "[Brown] received a fine ovation from the crowd as he trotted to his right field position at the close of each round." 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, "Willard Brown, the cat-walking Negro rightfielder of the Browns, who runs like a hurried panther, last night earned some of the loudest cheering Boston has given to a visiting ball player here in years."

Jack Malaney of the Boston Post was equally impressed: "The crowd received him almost as they would Doerr or DiMaggio so far as applause was concerned, and credit for something done." 

The overwhelming turnout and warm welcome given to Willard Brown at Fenway could have been interpreted by Red Sox ownership as a clear sign that integrating the home team would not result in low attendance.

In fact, Dave Egan, the firebrand of Boston sportswriters, writing in the July 28 Boston Record, seized on the fanfare and prodded the baseball owners of the town to integrate the sport locally.  He dared them to not allow Boston to be “traitors to our heritage.” He even noticed how perfect a fit Brown’s right-handed swing would have been for Fenway’s wall, and wondered if Sox owner Tom Yawkey heard the applause.  Perhaps, he hadn’t.

Although the Boston Braves were among the first teams to integrate, the Red Sox languished nearly twelve years after Willard Brown’s historic debut at Fenway.  When Pumpsie Green made his own debut in Boston on August 4, 1959, the fans were true to form that day, receiving him as they had Willard “Home Run” Brown, with loud applause and appreciation. He too answered the standing ovation with a base hit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez-san

Kampai! Gonzalez,conjured his inner Ichiro in belting this three-run homer.
Read here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Radioactive Item Found in Boston

Update:  This turned out to be a link from some old surveying equipment.

This is the only news I've seen of it so far:



Thursday, April 28, 2011

$9 Flights to Boston?

Johnny Went to Boston.
Johnny Went to Town.
Watch out Johnny-wait a minute. Johnny paid 9 bucks? Ok, you can't fly to Boston for $9, because you have to buy a return trip ticket to Newark. Hell, blow off the flight back if you want and it's $18 for one-way.

Today only this deal is available here (Wicked Good Flying Deal).  Fly from Newark, NJ to Boston, and back for less than $20.  Have fun!

If you buy this, let me know. I still don't believe it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


For Immediate Release
April 20, 2011

Club Invites Fans and Community to Join Planning Effort

BOSTON, MA—The Red Sox today provided fans with a preview of preparations for the celebration of Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary in 2012.  As preparations begin, the Club invited all Red Sox fans to join the planning process by sharing their ideas, suggestions, stories and memorabilia.  The announcement was made 99 years to the date of the first Major League baseball game played at Fenway Park, on April 20, 1912.

2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, the oldest operating Major League facility in the United States.  The celebration will highlight Red Sox history over the past hundred years and will also commemorate the wide range of other sports, music, civic, philanthropic, and community events that Fenway Park has hosted during its first century. 

“Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary will be an unprecedented and historic celebration,” said Red Sox Principal Owner John W. Henry. “From Day One, the preservation of this ballpark has been an issue of paramount importance to our ownership group. Without a doubt, Fenway Park is renowned for its architectural and aesthetic charm. But the character of this ballpark has always been a reflection of the fans who call it home, and we encourage citizens of Red Sox Nation to share their stories and thoughts about what an appropriate celebration should entail.”

“From the moment we assumed stewardship of this franchise and ballpark, our ownership group made a sacred commitment to preserve all that’s good about Fenway Park,” Chairman Tom Werner said. “Now that our decade-long series of major, annual Fenway improvements has concluded, it’s only appropriate that we formally kick off our preparations for this historic anniversary. With a celebration built around the sentiments and ideas of our fans, we plan to honor this iconic ballpark’s connection to New England and a Nation.”

“Fenway Park’s scope of sports and civic history is virtually unparalleled,” said President/CEO Larry Lucchino. “Through jubilation and heartbreak, victories and near-misses, this jewel of a ballpark has not only endured but thrived.  Now, after more than $285 million in total investment over the last decade, we stand on the eve of a momentous occasion and celebration.  We are deeply grateful for the help of Mayor Thomas M. Menino and our friends in the Fenway neighborhood who have worked collaboratively over the last 10 years to preserve and protect this ballpark for generations to come.  As we commemorate this living museum’s past, we look forward to a celebration of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark that both citizens of Red Sox Nation and baseball fans will find fitting.”

As part of the first phase of preparations, the Club today unveiled four major elements of the 2012 celebration:

·        Official Fenway Park 2012 logo:  The Fenway Park 2012 logo was officially unveiled at today’s announcement.   It is a look that is timeless, contemporary and with a simplified direction that takes into consideration all the various elements inherent to Fenway Park.   The keystone from the original 1912 façade that sits above Gate A acts as the primary backplate, and serves as a metaphor to speak to the relationship between Fenway Park and the Red Sox.  The “FENWAY PARK” font and location are taken from the façade, and other fonts in the logo are taken from various signage around the park.  The “100 YEARS” is housed in a backplate inspired by the Green Monster scoreboard. 

The logo was designed by Michael Mikulec, an independent creative director and graphic designer, and a lifelong Red Sox fan.  Michael’s career began at ESPN television, and his previous work has included developing brand identities for ABC, MTV, the CW and the NFL Network and, perhaps most notably, Michael's logo was selected as the official mark for NBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  He recently worked with the Red Sox production team to help develop their strategy for the new HD videoboards at Fenway Park.   

·        Official Fenway Park 2012 website: The official Fenway Park 2012 website (, designed in conjunction with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), features information and images on Fenway Park’s history, including the ballpark’s architecture and changes over time, information about current and former Club owners, managers and players, and video clips about special features that make Fenway Park unique.   The site, which is the first of its kind for a Major League ballpark in terms of depth and breadth of information, already includes more than 450 unique pages, 90,000+ words of text, over 160 photos and 36 videos, and it will continue to expand over the next two years to include more historical and current content generated by the Club and our fans.
·        Fenway Park 100th Anniversary Brick Program and Seat Sale: The Boston Red Sox today announced a special opportunity for fans to literally put their mark on the historic ballpark.  Fans will have the chance to have a brick with a personalized message placed in the Fenway Park concourse area inside Gate B and Gate C.  Bricks will be available in two sizes – 4”x8” and 8”x8” – and each purchase will also include a replica brick and display case. The bricks will be sold for $250 and $475, respectively, plus applicable taxes and fees.  The sale of the bricks begins on Thursday, April 28, 2011, and more information is available online at

The team also announced the final opportunity for fans to bring home a pair of authentic seats from Fenway Park.  Since 2002, the Red Sox have made annual offseason improvements to Fenway Park. One major component of the 2010-2011 offseason improvements was the replacement of the seats in the lower Right Field seating bowl.  From these seats, fans have watched the 2004 and 2007 World Series games and witnessed other historic events such as Dave Roberts’ 2004 legendary steal of second base, Carlton Fisk wave the ball fair in 1975, several no-hitters, as well as the 2010 NHL Winter Classic, Frozen Fenway College Hockey Doubleheader, Football at Fenway, and many memorable concerts.  Seats are from the Right Field Box, Loge Box, Field Box and Dugout Box locations, and are red plastic with either blue or red metal frames.  Quantities are limited.  More information can be found online at and by calling 617-226-6800.

·        Open invitation to fans to join in the Fenway 2012 celebration planning: The Red Sox are encouraging fans to get involved in the anniversary preparation by submitting celebration ideas, sharing personal memories and stories, as well as their memorabilia of historic value.  Fans can provide their input and ideas on the 2012 website (, by sending an e-mail to or sending a letter to Fenway 100, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA  02215.   

Throughout the 2011 season, the Club will continue preparations for the anniversary celebration, which will include a variety of baseball and other events in 2012, as well as the production of various collectible items to commemorate Fenway Park’s rich history.  The anniversary celebrations are expected to highlight a range of historical objects and images, multimedia presentations, and exhibits at Fenway Park and other locations.  Along with fans and the general public, the Club’s owners, corporate sponsors, neighborhood organizations, government and civic leaders, current and former players, and Major League Baseball staff are expected to participate in the planning. 

Additional information about Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary celebration plans will be released over the course of this year, along with recognition of additional dates that have historical significance.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

On this day, in 1947, Jack Roosevelt Robinson made his Major League debut, playing first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, at Ebbetts Field in front of 26,623 fans, against the Boston Braves, breaking the color barrier in baseball.

Shortstop Dick Culler led off for the Braves by hitting a ground ball to third baseman Spider Jorgensen, who fielded it, and tossed it to Robinson at first base for an easy out. The crowd was enthusiastic, but tentative in its open support. 

It was the first out of an historic season that would end in a National League pennant for Brooklyn, and with Robinson winning baseball’s Rookie of the Year award.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Goodbye Professor Thom's

“The Party’s Over”, “End of the Road”, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”, “Is This The End” (yeah, I have to have New Edition) --- Oh, sorry.  You caught me in the middle of making a mix tape for my latest breakup…

No, my marriage is fine, better than ever, in fact.  The breakup I’m referring to is between me and that tempestuous girlfriend of mine named Professor Thom’s.  She kept me up many a boozy night, even carried on with anyone that came in the door, and I kept coming back.  But no more.  The party’s over, Doris Day.

As of last Friday, April 1, I have left Professor Thom’s.  I sold my ownership and moved on. Some of you, I’m sure, are shocked.  Some of you are thinking, “Who the hell is this guy?”  Well you’re both right. 

I was the guy behind the bar who forced you on to this email list.  (To be clear, I am not pictured above. That is Pez.) I am the guy who cannot buy garden shears from a garage sale in New Jersey because they think I keep saying “garden chairs” and want to sell me two beat-up blue folding chairs for 10 bucks.  “Oh, you mean the SHE-AIRRRSS.” I painfully digress.

Truthfully, I stayed a year longer than I should have.  The only thing that was keeping me there was the terrific staff and customers new and old in the bar every night.  I learned more about being a New Englander in the five years since I opened Professor Thom’s than in the 20 years I spent growing up in Boston. 

I found across the bar in most of you a mild recalcitrance in common, some dogged unwillingness to completely open up until it was safe to do so.  And the bar sure was safe.  I learned from you that my guilt-obsessed, overly reserved, insecure, mistrustful personality was not just an awkward vestige of my Calvinist forbearers, but a true, not so subtle mark of being a New Englander. We’re guarded and then some.  And we’ll be damned if we let on how we feel. 

When you ask a New Englander, “How are you?” Generally, “OK” means fine, “Fine” means “great”. And “Great” means “terrible but I don’t want to burden you with my problems.” That is, until you become close to the person. At that point the answer is always “terrible”.

Furthermore, and most important, I now know where some of the Massachusetts suburbs are in relation to Boston. Whitman is south and South Hadley is west. 

I know that Everyone from Brookline lives in New York City. Most of Newton too.

People from New Hampshire will never tell you which town they’re from because they assume you’ve never heard of it, even though we have all driven through almost the entirety of New Hampshire.

Rhode Island is small.  People from there do all know each other.  They just need five minutes (and three beers) sitting at the bar to work out how.

Mainers are nuts.

People who say they are from Lowell are from Haverhill, unless they say they’re from Haverhill.  In that case, they’re from Dracut.

If you tell someone in New York you’re from Boston, you will be asked if you are from Southie. [Editors note: Since the release of “The Town” and its subsequent popularity, some have replaced the assumption of Southie with Charlestown.  Same thing.] However, until the Afflecks do a movie about Brighton (where Old Benny boy shot “Zoom” as a tot) no one will understand that Brighton is part of Boston.

Those are but a few of the takeaways for me.

This isn’t meant to be negative. I already miss every single detail listed above.

I understand that not everyone that came into Thom’s was from New England, and, gasp, not everyone was a Sox fan. That’s what made Thom’s work.  No matter where you were from, you could feel at home.

Also, I take with me terrific memories of Sox games and Celts and Pats games which are immortalized on YouTube and on DVD. Among other highlights were Clamapaloozas, a kick-off for Narragansett 3 years before they came to New York and dozens of Harpoon events. How about Bill Lee’s birthday party and Luis Tiant’s film premiere party?  How about Freddy Lynn just hanging out at the bar drinking?

Although, I am not at Thom’s I still retain the honor of being Governor of Red Sox Nation for the state of New York.  As such, I will host watch parties all season and a World Series Trophy party as season’s end.
Follow this occasional newsletter or my blog for updates on Sox parties and some of the writing I’m doing about baseball.  Hell, follow me on Twitter.

If you have questions or comments about any of this, feel free to email me or post it on the blog or on Twitter.

Thank you sincerely for the past 5 years.


Is this the end? are you my friend? 
It seems to me, you ought to be free.
You used to be mine when the chips were down.
You used to be mine when I weren’t around.

- Jonzun, Michael; Starr, Maurice

Friday, April 01, 2011

RIP Lou Gorman is reporting that former Red Sox GM Lou Gorman passed away this morning.  Best wishes to his family.

I'll try to dig up some interviews I did with him a few years back.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Red Sox vs. Yankees: This Time It's Impersonal

This is big. Really big. Like Tron big. Yeah, that's it, Tron big.  It's a lot of bling and build-up and TV special effects, which ultimately will give way to a hackneyed storyline.  No, it's not Senior Tiger Blood's Charlie Sheen Circus.  I'm talking about Red Sox versus Yankees in a game I like to call "Spring Training".  And you can see it all tomorrow night at Thom's.

Think of all of the money you saved by not schlepping down to boring, sunny Florida for this otherwise meaningless game.  So, come to Thom's tomorrow and spend some or all of that money!  Yeah!  Meaningless? Who said meaningless? This is a blood feud.  Come to Thom's and get your drink on and get angry.  'Member what they did to us that time? Me too!  It is on! Oh man, it is on.  It may not be the first game of the year, but it's the first one that matters.  See you there.

Who wrote the book of love?  Harvey Frommer did.  Didn't you know?  Oh yeah.  A few days ago the long awaited release of "Remembering Fenway Park" finally happened.  Now you can own a book brave enough to feature both me and Triviamaster John Quinn among its interviewees.  All Tron aside, this book is great and dang purty.   The pre-sale price is still good on Amazon, so snatch it up while you have a chance. Harvey will be at the bar in a couple months to sign your copy and talk about the book.

Need more Sox scribbling? Read this little "once upon a time" about your favorite team. It's a doozy.

Triva answered: When did the Red Sox first wear Red Socks?  Here's the answer and then some.

Tell me, tell me, tell me

Oh, who wrote the Book Of Love

I've got to know the answer
Was it someone from above

(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, mmbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

-Warren Davis, George Malone and Charles Patrick

...If You Ain't Got That Ring.