It was some years ago when I was at Fenway park doing research and interviewing for one of my baseball books. My son Fred was then a teenager and he accompanied me to the park dressed in a red sweater and packing his baseball glove—just in case.
We arrived at the legendary park quite a few hours before game time as is my practice when I am working. Fenway was empty. There was no one in the stands but my son anxious to catch a ball.
I interviewed one player and then another and then interrupted Johnny Pesky who was hitting fungoes and interviewed him. Gracious, enthusiastic, informed, the man they call “Mr. Red Sox” gave me more than the time of day.
So I figured I could impose.
“See that kid in the outfield stands with the red sweater. Could you hit a ball out to him?”
“And if I hit him on the noggin, then what! We are all in trouble.”
“You are right,” I said, and walked away to interview others.
Minutes later through the empty ballpark I heard my son’s voice and saw him running through the stands to the home plate area. He was shouting: “I got it. I got it.” And he had a ball in his hand.
Pesky was near me and yelled. “Get me that ball. The kid isn’t supposed to have it.”
I went over to my son and got the baseball and brought it to Pesky.
“What’s your son’s name?”
I told him. He autographed the ball “To Fred. Great catch. Johnny Pesky.”
That was my first meeting with Pesky and immediately I knew I had come into contact with a mensch, good guy.
But since I am an oral historian and know there are various remembrances of things past, equal time now for my son who today is an AP correspondent based in Washington, D.C.
FRED FROMMER: My first time at Fenway Park was September 6, 1981. I’d come along very early with my father who was down on the field interviewing players during batting practice for a book he was writing. I was a huge baseball fan, and I had never been in a stadium that seated fewer than 50,000. Now, I had this 34,000-seat ballpark virtually to myself; it felt like a backyard.
From the first row behind the short right field wall by the foul pole, I could see balls careening all over the field like pinballs and my dad talking to Red Sox coach Johnny Pesky, who was hitting fungoes.
“That’s my son out there, by the foul pole,” I heard him say. “Can you hit a ball to him?”
“No way,” said Pesky. “What if it hits him in the head?”
“He’ll catch it,” my dad assured him. He was confident the endless evenings he had spent hitting me fly balls would pay off.
But Pesky shook his head. “Sorry, I can’t do it.”