Big men make big promises. Those who keep them become legends.
Her name was Allison Lundy. She was 9 years old, and she had a brain tumor. Her doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital wrote a letter to David Ortiz, who brought it to John Carter, a friend who worked in the team’s TV production department. Contact the family, Ortiz said, and arrange for a visit.
A few days later, Allison Lundy looked up from her hospital bed to see Ortiz entering her room. He spent the morning with her, and when she came to Fenway Park a couple of weeks later to celebrate her 10th birthday, he surprised her with a cake and told her he would hit a home run for her.
It was a miserable night—heavy rain had fallen that afternoon—but in the fourth inning, against Oakland rookie right-hander Graham Godfrey, Ortiz drove a ball into the Monster seats .
That night, as Carter drove home from the ballpark, his cellphone rang. It was Ortiz. He had arranged for someone to retrieve the home run ball, and he wanted to make sure it got into Allison’s hands. A promise kept for a little girl, whose life would end far too soon.
Allison Lundy died that winter of 2011, but not before Big Papi had brought her a measure of joy.
I still come to work at the ballpark, as I have done for most of the last 35 years. But instead of the pressbox, I now have an office overlooking Yawkey Way, just past the “Gate A” sign toward Boylston Street. I walk up the stairs to the mezzanine level, swing past a wall decorated with a display of Red Sox yearbook covers over the years, head down a hallway that takes me past photos of Yaz, Carlton Fisk, Tim Wakefield, Fred Lynn, Tony C., Jackie Jensen, Dave “Boo” Ferriss (remind me to fix the spelling on his nametag) and Trot Nixon. My office is the first door to the right.
Just to the left of my office is an unmarked door. Open it, and I’m in the grandstand, just below the Section 27 sign. I have to admit, I consider that the coolest thing about my new gig, eight days into the job.
For those of you who may have missed the announcement, I left ESPN.com after six years to take a job as Red Sox historian and strategic communications advisor for the Fenway Sports Group. I am not the first sportswriter to cross over. Some sportswriters even become boss, like the classy Fred Claire, who went from writing for the Long Beach Press-Telegram to becoming general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I am not a boss, though in my new position I will be reporting directly to John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon. One of the most appealing aspects of my new job is the opportunity to see the inner workings of a ballclub, after years of observing from the outside. I’ve reminded a few folks that they no longer have to say “Off the record” to me; their confidences are my confidences, and we all have the best interests of the Red Sox at heart.
It is mostly in my role as historian I will be coming here. I have taken the job previously held by the late Dick Bresciani, but I cannot replace him. Bresh worked 43 years for the club, and was a beloved figure around here. I can aspire to continue the work begun by Bresh, and undertake to treat people with the same respect and consideration he did.
It may take a bit of time to bring this enterprise up to full speed, but I hope to make this blog a place for Sox fans to dip into a little history, share some memories, hear from some of their favorite Sox figures from the past, and occasionally discuss what’s going on with the current edition of the club. My plan is to create a podcast, too, where you will hear the echoes of years gone by. The beautiful thing about coming to work at 4 Yawkey Way is the knowledge that I’m surrounded by people for whom the Red Sox mean so much, both within these walls but most importantly outside, too.
Let’s plan on having some fun.