There was a somber tone to the 19th annual Oldtime Baseball Game last night when news began to filter across the St. Peter's Field diamond in Cambridge about the passing of Johnny Pesky. Coincidentally, one of Pesky's former teammates, 83-year-old Ted Lepcio, was among those on hand, fulfilling a duty as honorary team captain.
"I played with him,'' Lepcio said. "Sam Mele and I are the only guys left who played with him back from 1952. He was a great teammate."
Mele, 90, played with Pesky from 1947-49. Lepcio, who graduated from Seton Hall, joined the Red Sox on April 15, 1952 before Pesky was shipped to Detroit.
"There was a new manager. Lou Boudreau came in and I think he took that trade very hard,'' Lepcio said. "But playing baseball was what we dreamed about, and Johnny and I were good friends because we lived in the area. I was with him a lot in the offseason at a couple of banquets. He was a great hitter. He was genuine. There was no fabrication.''
Last night, the honor of wearing Pesky's 1942 Red Sox No. 6 uniform went to 18-year-old James Mulry, a Boston Latin left-hander who is headed to Northeastern.
"I know he was one of the best shortstops to play the game. One of the greatest Red Sox to ever play the game, he was a .307 hitter,'' said Mulry, who recalled seeing Pesky at Fenway Park. "He always looked happy to be there. That's why we absolutely want to have fun every minute that we're out there. I'm proud to wear (his uniform).''
The Oldtime Baseball Game is held annually to benefit a local charity. This year it helped raise funds for the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts.
"When we were approached by (OGB founder Herald columnist) Steve Buckley to do this and we were named as a beneficiary, we were extremely excited,'' American Red Cross development officer Guy LeDuc said. "A lot of our clients that we serve are in the immediate area, so it's very exciting for us to be the beneficiary."
Peter Frates of Beverly, who played four seasons at Boston College before graduating in 2007, was diagnosed this year with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and was tabbed to make a symbolic one-pitch appearance at first base.
"It's awesome,'' said BC catcher Matt Pare, decked out in a 1914 Providence Grays uniform made famous by a 19-year-old prospect named Babe Ruth. "I get to play with (BC coach) Mike Gambino for the first time and it's great that Pete's coming out and participating in everything. He's just an inspiration to everyone at BC and going through his fight and how positive he is about his battle and he looks at it as a challenge and he embraces the adversity. It's something to watch.''
Pare, who grew up in Portland, Maine, but now lives in Pompano Beach, Fla., was making his fourth OGB appearance, but he didn't own the keys to the kingdom. They belonged to catcher/outfielder Nick Leva, a 21-year-old Cambridge product who has spent seven years working on the grounds and maintenance crew at St. Peter's. It was his seventh OBG appearance.
"We do all the grounds crew work, do the grooming of the field. Simple building maintenance," said Leva, who plays for the Andre Chiefs of the Intercity League. "It pays the bills."
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