ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD HEROES
I’ve been in this business a long time. Nearly all of my adult life. I’ve had the chance to meet everyone from Michael Jordan to Arnold Palmer to Johnny Unitas to Ted Williams. Some have been positive experiences, others not. My point is, I don’t get too excited about the chance to interview anyone. It’s part of the job, a part that I thoroughly enjoy. I will admit to being a little happy on Friday night, as I had the opportunity to sit down with Rico Petrocelli. Rico played shortstop and third base for the Red Sox from 1965-1976. He was a two time All Star and is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Petrocelli was at McCoy for Legends Night, which coincided with the unveiling of the statue of late PawSox owner, Ben Mondor. Petrocelli, who managed the PawSox in 1992 has fond memories. “Ben couldn’t do enough for you. Every single day,’everything alright, ya need anything?’ More baseballs, food. It didn’t matter. You wanted to go out there and bust your butt for that man.”
Rico reflected back on the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967, when the Sox lost the World Series to St. Louis in 7 games. “We defied 100-1 odds to win the pennant. We were hoping to get into the first division (fifth place or better). There were no playoffs, just the World Series. It was a four team race. We had so much fun that year. Our manager, Dick Williams was very strict, very tough. Maybe it got the guys closer. We had fun on the planes and in the clubhouse. Good, clean fun. Playing in the World Series, what a thrill that is. I’m so grateful I got to do it twice.”( ’67 and ’75)
Rico reflected further on that magical season and his long-time teammate, Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski, the last man to win the Triple Crown. “It’s extremely tough. Most guys that are sluggers, don’t hit for a high average. There are exceptions, of course. A type of player like Josh Hamilton might be able to do it. It’s tough. All the injuries. A player has to almost go the whole distance, 162 games to put up those numbers.”
Auguast 18, 1967 is a dark day in Red Sox history. Outfielder Tony Conigliaro was hit in the eye by a pitch from Angels’ hurler Jack Hamilton. It essentially ended the career of Tony C- one of the youngest and most prolific sluggers in Major League history. “Tony had a home run swing. He was a power hitter. A prototype. I think with the DH in the American League, he might have hit over 500. He was fearless up there. Outside corner to the middle of the plate, forget it. He’d kill it. Inside, he couldn’t move quickly enough. That’s what I think happened when he got hit in the face.”
Petrocelli was no slouch when it came to the home run, himself. He hit 210 in his career, all with Boston. In 1969 he set an American League record (since broken) for home runs by a shortstop, with 40. “I thought I could have had more, but there was a stretch late in the season I was pressing. No doubt about it. I struggled a while, but it was a big thrill. I never thought I could do that.” He quickly added, with a smile in his voice- “And no, I didn’t take steroids! I had gained 20 good pounds, I felt strong. It was a fun year.”
Next time, we conclude our visit with Rico Petrocelli. Thanks for reading! “Hydes”