One of the joys of being part of the Pawtucket Red Sox family is working for Ben Mondor (shown here with my son Sam).
The PawSox owner is extremely generous – as any civic cause in Rhode Island will quickly attest – and he treats the Pawtucket players and staff as if we were family.
He’s also one of the all-time great storytellers.
I love to drop by Ben’s office and throw out names of some of the great players who have worn the Pawtucket uniform. Here are Ben’s off-the-top-of-his-head memories of five all-time PawSox legends.
“He’s the best. A great guy and he’s very misunderstood by the media because he’s a private guy. It’s an insult that they waited 15 years to put him into the Hall of Fame. This was the most feared hitter in baseball in the ’70’s. Look at his achievements – they’re unbelievable. Good God, he won the Triple Crown when he was here and it hasn’t been done since. Nobody’s even come close.”
“A good friend . . . and a pain in the butt. He won five batting titles and people used to rave about his bat control. You know how he developed that? When he was with us and we had a homestand, he would walk in practically every morning and want to take batting practice. So I would take a kid working on the ground crew or somewhere else and I’d say, ‘Look Wade, this kid is not going to be able to throw strikes. They’re going to be high, low, inside, outside,’ and he would say, ‘That’s what I want.’ And he would do that for two or three hours a day. And when they were finished, they would go pick up the balls and do it again. That’s how he developed that great bat control – right here at McCoy against kids who couldn’t throw proper batting practice. He made a heck of a name for himself.”
“He was a great athlete. When the Red Sox promoted him from Trenton, Ed Kenney called me and said they wanted me to keep an eye on him because they were worried that they were bringing him up to Triple-A too fast. So we would just sit down and talk. I tell you one thing – he shot one of baseball’s theories to hell: Not swinging at the first pitch. He would always swing at the first pitch and hit about .347. He was a great fielder, he could turn the double play like nobody’s business and he didn’t toot his own horn.”
“If want to win a free beer from your buddies at the saloon, ask them this question, ‘What’s the only team that Roger Clemens pitched for where he finished with a losing record?’ It’s Pawtucket – he was 2-3. He was just a young kid out of the University of Texas and he was only with us for a couple of months. The guy could pitch. I used to watch in his later years and think half of it was intimidation. He threw so hard and was so good that they were never comfortable in the batters box.”
“Manny was my favorite ballplayer of all time. He spent a month with us on rehab and he loved it here. He lived like a king, didn’t have to worry about all of those major league rules, and he supplied us with a lifetime of stories in one month. I remember one game, it was about the fifth or sixth inning and I heard the manager say, ‘Where’s Ramirez?’ because there was nobody in left field. It seems that Manny had been talking to a clubhouse kid whose father had a barbershop on Newport Avenue. So he hopped in his car and went to get a haircut in the middle of a game – uniform and all. The manager went nuts, but we thought it was hysterical. Like him or don’t like him, he certainly entertained us.”
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