I was stunned to learn on Monday morning that Ben Mondor had died. He was 85 years old and had been ill for some time. Nonetheless, when it comes, I don’t think you are really ever ready for it. I’ve just finished my seventh season behind the microphone for the PawSox, but I have known Ben since my stint as a PawSox salesman back in the mid 80’s. Back then, the staff was much smaller. Mike Tamburro, Lou Schwechheimer, Bill Wanless, Mick Tedesco were there then and they still are today. That is rare in any business, especially a transient business lke minor league baseball. The reason was obvious why everyone stuck around. Ben Mondor. Ben, even back then, treated everyone like his kids. Every day, he’d send someone out to buy lunch for the entire staff. The catch was, you had to eat whatever Ben was having. There was no messing around. 7 orders of fish and chips. 7 cheeseburgers. Everyone had the same thing, and we loved it. Young guys who were getting the proverbial free lunch.
Ben had a very playful side. If he busted your chops, it meant he liked you. At least that’s what I like to think. Back in those days, he was very active with the National Guard. He was hosting an event at a large hotel in Newport. Myself, Bill, Mickey and Chris Parent were “invited”. When we arrived, ready to hobnob with the big shots, we were ushered to separate bars, where we spent the remainder of the evening, serving drinks to the bigshots. A memory we laughed about for years. I know I made him laugh as we posed for the final team photo he’d appear in this August. I got the time wrong and as I “sprinted” (as fast as a middle aged, “plus-size” broadcaster could sprint) out onto the field, the entire team was laughing, no one louder than Ben.
I’ve met very few people that can “hold court” like Ben Mondor. Had he been so inclined, he could have been a broadcaster. He had the gift. Ben brought so much to the region. He’d always use the same line on me when I’d ask him a baseball related question. “I’m not a jock like you guys. I’m a businessman.” The businessman part was certainly true. We all know how he saved baseball in Rhode Island. But I never, for a single moment believed that he didn’t live and die with every pitch and swing of the bat of “his kids”.
Ben was a generous man. Several times a season, he’d give the team enough money so that they could all go out to dinner on the road after a day game. Luckily, the radio guys were always included. I’ve been fortunate to be named the state sportscaster of the year 3 times in the last 4 years. It is very gratifying to be recognized by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. It meant just as much when Ben would call me in his office and tell me that I made him proud and he appreciated the way I represented his organization. Absolutely priceless.
I was honored when I was able to attend his induction to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in November of 2004. A great night that we were priviliged to share with him. I will miss a lot of things about Ben Mondor. We all will. I will mostly miss his stories. Stories of sitting in on meetings with the late Jean Yawkey. Stories of clinics held at the park for a group of blind children. Stories told with great pride and enthusiasm.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the church will bursting at the seams on Thursday for his funeral service. He touched the lives of so many. Whether you knew him personally, or not, you’re feeling the loss. Ben was beloved. A combination of Santa, the Easter Bunny and Gandhi rolled into one man. I dare you to find anyone who had a better or more well-deserved reputation. Knowing Ben, he’d probably roll his eyes and laugh if heard what folks will say about him in their eulogies. Even though it’ll all be true.
Rest in peace Ben. And thanks for everything!