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Remembering Yaz (Part II)

A statue honoring Carl Yastrzemski now is part of the environment outside of Fenway Park — and justifiably so. This piece and the one that previously appeared (hopefully you read it) merges oral history with narrative to bring back some of the life and times of one of Boston’s greatest ballplayers.

WALTER MEARS (former editor at AP): Tip O’Neill went to Rome that fall and saw the Pope. When he came back he was at some function with Yaz and told him the Holy Father had spoken of him. Yaz wanted to know what the Pope had said.

“Tip,” he said, “How the heck could Yastrzemski pop out in the last of the ninth with the tying run on third? ”

BRUCE TUCKER (fan): We’re finally at Fenway. Carl Yastrzemski is getting close to his 3000 hit. We’d bought tickets hoping he didn’t get that big hit before our game. Every time we went down to the bathroom, someone would yell, “Yastrzemski’s up!” The bathroom would clear because even if he wasn’t really up, no one wanted to be the one that said, “I wasn’t there, I was in the bathroom!”

NED MARTIN: (GAME CALL, WSBK-TV September 12, 1979): “There goes a ground ball…base hit! Number 3,000…Yastrzemski’s got it! And all hell breaks loose at Fenway Park!

BRUCE TUCKER: In his third at-bat, he got a base hit up the middle. It almost looked like the guy just kinda let it go, like he didn’t bend down quite far enough.

“I’ve been in pennant pressure, playoff pressure and World Series pressure situations and wasn’t bothered by any of them,” Yaz said afterwards. “I think it was the way the fans reacted the last three days. I wanted to get that base hit for the fans…”

With 34,000 plus fans chanting his name, the Red Sox favorite stepped up to a microphone with his son and father beside him, extended a lot of “thank yous” and made special mention of his “two biggest boosters,” his mother and Tom Yawkey. For Yaz, 1979 was a dream season.

BRUCE HURST (former Red Sox pitcher): I grew up with a picture of Yaz up over my bed and then I became a teammate of his. He was a phenomenal player at the end of his career. If he had a rough day or two, once the game was over he would wait for the stadium to clear out and he’d still take extra batting practice. What a great worker he was, how much he loved to play the game.

LENNY MEGLIOLA (veteran sports writer and editor): For Tom Yawkey, Yastrzemski was almost like an adopted son. And Yaz took advantage of that. He was, after all, the best player on the team. He had a director’s chair in the Red Sox clubhouse with a glass holder on one side and ashtray on the other side and cigarettes. He sipped wine after the game and smoked.

He was king of the hill and he exercised that status. But I always felt bad for him because he was uncomfortable with the camera on him. Basically all he ever wanted to do was play the game. He gave very few interviews and was extremely private even in the unprivacy of a baseball clubhouse.

When he was in the mood, he could be expansive, charming — even self-effacing. But if he went 0-4: watch out.

There were a lot of people who didn’t like Yastrzemski because of his personality and some begrudged him his body of work, his great accomplishments.

ART DAVIDSON: (sports editor of Boston area MetroWest Daily News): When I was still very new on the beat in the final years of Yaz’s career, he would be one of the first out in the trainer’s room sitting in his long underwear with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in another. He didn’t enjoy interplay with the media, but if you wanted an answer he would certainly provide you with one although it may have been brief. By his last game at Fenway he at least knew my face if not my name.

HOWIE SINGER (TV Director MSG network): There was Yaz bread, Yaz sausages. There was a song about Yaz.

I grew up as a Yaz guy. He started playing in 1961 when I was two. I had watched him from elementary school through my college years and then my first year in the workforce. I was at his last two games.

The day before his last game was Yaz Day. They gave posters out and the Painter’s Yaz Day hats.

DANIEL MCGINLEY-SMITH (M.D.): I got a painter’s cap that day that had “Thanks Yaz” on it and a button with his picture and his signature. I still have the newspaper headline: “One Last Fenway Go-Around for Yaz” hanging on my office wall.

TED SPENCER (former Chief Curator of the Baseball Hall of Fame): October 2, 1983. I’m there for his 3,308th game. As an officer of the Hall of Fame, I had a season’s pass allowing me in the door with one guest. The pass just got you in the door. I had to stand up behind home plate, behind about 4,000 other people who were watching or trying to.

That October 2nd Yaz played left field for the first time all season and went 1-for-3. His last hit was Number 3,419. In his last at he popped out against Dan Spillner and was replaced in left field by Chico Walker. The Red Sox icon took one more “final lap” at the end of the game.

ART DAVIDSON: Yaz signed a few baseballs and gave them over to media members, sorta like a thank you. He also spent about an hour signing baseballs outside Fenway.

BOB SANNICANDRO (former Red Sox club-house attendant): During the game I had knocked on that clubhouse door. “You know I worked in ’72. Any chance I could talk to Yaz after the game?” I was told.

“Come around the players’ parking lot after the game.”

Yaz came through the parking lot. He still had his uniform top was on, it was unbuttoned.

I said, “Yaz, you probably don’t remember me but I was a batboy in 1972 and you used to call me Blondie.” I think he had a bottle of champagne in his hand. I got to talk to him a little bit.

Then he said, “I gotta run. I gotta go upstairs.” We shook hands and off he went.

Coming Soon: New York City Baseball

***Harvey Frommer is at work on an oral history book on Super Bowl I. Anyone with stories about that game and time, please contact him via e-mail.***

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