It wasn’t players, nor equipment, nor the fans (several hundred, if not a thousand, came out.) It wasn’t runs – though those did take a while to show up, as the Abbot Financial Management team overcame five scoreless innings to win the 19th edition of the charity game, 6-0.
What was missing at St. Peter’s Field was two of the Oldtime Game’s biggest champions: Harvard baseball skipper Joe Walsh and Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky. Walsh, who had devoted time and resources to the game for several years, passed away unexpectedly on July 31st. Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley, coordinator of the Oldtime Baseball Game, took the microphone at the start of the game and remembered how Walsh would lug equipment to the field every year and ask how he could help. To pay tribute to the beloved Walsh, his widow Sandra threw out the game’s first pitch.
Buckley wrote about Walsh in the game program, “The term ‘one of a kind’ is too loosely thrown around, but it certainly applies to Joe. He was baseball to the bone…” Those words also describe another longtime supporter of the game, Johnny Pesky, who passed away mere hours prior to game time. Before the game began, Buckley reminisced to the crowd that the former Red Sox shortstop inquired about participating in the game just a few years into the initiative. The staff acquired a replica Red Sox uniform for him to don at his Oldtime Game debut in 1999, but the goodhearted Pesky noted that the uniform wasn’t “form-fitting” enough, and decided to wear his own authentic jersey from his playing days.
Despite the obvious sadness surrounding the event, there was a fighting spirit evident as well. Former Boston College outfielder Peter Frates started at first base for the Abbott Financial Management team, playing his first game since being diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gerig’s Disease last year at only 27 years old. The tall Frates was given a standing ovation after addressing the crowd with his message of hope and perseverance. He played a pitch or two at first base before being subbed in, and when he left the field, he was surrounded by players from both benches in the game’s most emotional moment.
Among the game’s participants was RIT’s Skip Flanagan, a Framingham, MA native and first hearing impaired player to take place in the OldTime Game. Flanagan showed he could hit at the plate, sending two balls flying towards the outfield. Before the game, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington made a special presentation to both Flanagan and Frates, presenting Frates (who wore the #3 jersey for the Eagles) with a custom #3 Red Sox jersey and Flanagan with a Ted Williams jersey.
The OldTime Game included current and former players from Boston College, Northeastern, Holy Cross, as well as several other Division II and III programs. The Abbot Financial Management squad was coached by Suffolk University head coach Cary McConnell and Boston College head coach Mike Gambino. The Injured Workers Pharmacy team was led by former Newbury College head coach Brian Carey and Babson head coach Matt Noone.