Everybody knows Massachusetts is a blue state. It’s been a blue state for a long time. Can anyone explain why that is? Is there anything about baseball as played at Fenway Park that throws light on that puzzle. Let’s go back to late June, 1949 when the Yankees came to to town for a crucial three game series. Joe DiMaggio was set to play his first games of the season, having sat out half the year with a bone spur in his right heel. I was eighteen at the time and attended the first game with my father on a Friday night. Our pitcher was the blinding rookie left hander, Maury McDermott. He didn’t blind Joe who blasted a home run, followed that with two more homers and six RBI on Saturday, and finished the job with another round tripper on Sunday to sweep the Sox out of their minds, stunning the Sox loyals. You would think Sox fandom would aim death threats at DiMaggio. Instead, they cheered him to the rafters, demonstrating a fan characteristic in Bean Town, not in vogue elsewhere then or now, of giving merit its due. The same reaction was shown in a 1958 game I attended when hard throwing Detroit right hander, Jim Bunning, no hit the Sox, and left famous and failed for a day Ted Williams flailing weakly at his slants. That is what one does when a master shows his grit. That is the same Jim Bunning who later pitched a perfect game in 1964 for the Phillies, the first one in the National League since the 19th Century, was later voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and also elected United States Representative and Iater Senator from Kentucky, thus becoming the sole MLB player to be elected to both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Senate. As a politician, Jim Bunning compiled an eccentric ultra right wing record diametrically opposed to Massachusetts Blue State beliefs. Those accounts seem to be an accurate, albeit anecdotal, answer to why Massachusetts is and has been blue. One thing is for sure. When I get to talk baseball with a true baseball believer like my articulate and informed interlocutor, Jordan Rich, anyone listening is sure to learn a lot about baseball history, the guys who played it, and what that means in the context of our lives. They are all in this episode, from the charming “Little Professor,” Dom DiMaggio, the unfairly maligned, Johnny Pesky, the smooth fielding and the power hitting keystone sacker, Bobby Doerr, and partner in power with Teddy Ballgame, Vern “Shoulders” Stephens, of my youth; the power throwing right fielder, Dwight Evans, Hall of Fame slugger, Jim Rice, smooth center fielder and MVP, Freddy Lynn, elegant infielder and home run threat, Americo “Rico” Petrocelli, and Rick “The Rooster” Burleson of my mid-years; to Nomar, Youk, Dustin, Manny being Manny, brave Jon Lester, and the incredible Mookie, of my later years.
“C’mom along and listen to….”
People, Always people.