by George Ross
It was the summer of 1946 and I was 16 years old. We lived in Richmond, Virginia at the time, but my mother was from Massachusetts so we made frequent trips to the northeast to visit our family. In the summers my mother and my grandmother would rent a cottage in Kennebunk Beach, Maine, as a place for our family to converge for great fun, food and fellowship. I have good memories of these summers spent in Maine, especially fond ones that involve the friends I made from the area who I would see each summer. Bobby Ward’s family owned a house in the area and the Ward’s were big Red Sox fans, therefore, I became a Red Sox fan too.
Out of the countless memories I made with my family and friends during those summers of my youth, there is one day that left an indelible mark on my life as I became a baseball fan of the Boston Red Sox. On this particular day, my Maine friend Bobby Ward says to me, “Let’s go down to the game at Fenway.” Like most any teenage boy of the 40’s, I was up for an adventure, but unsure how he thought we would get there. I was 16 years old, but didn’t have a driver’s license myself, supposedly Bobby did, yet it didn’t do us a lot of good as he didn’t have a car either! So our journey to Fenway began.
The Ward’s had a family friend who’s son was a Highway Patrol Officer for the State of Maine. After Bobby poses the question to his Mom, Mrs. Ward says, “I’ll ask [family friend’s son] if he’ll stop somebody and see where they’re going. If they’re going to Boston then maybe you can ride with them.” I had never hitchhiked before in my life….until that day.
The officer told to go to someplace on U.S. Route One in Maine, so we did. Would you know that we met a guy driving a milk truck going towards Boston and he said he’d give us a ride to Fenway Park! That milk truck had a manual transmission and no air-conditioning, but then again none of the cars had air conditioning in that time. I sat on the middle seat, with Bobby to my right and our new friend the milk truck drive to my left behind the wheel for our 90 mile adventure from Maine, skirting New Hampshire and into Massachusetts.
I was in so much awe of Fenway Park. In those days as a teenager, this was “Gosh, I’m actually here,” kind of stuff. I actually don’t remember much of the game. I don’t recall who the Red Sox played that day, I don’t remember the score, whether my Sox won or loss or exactly where I sat, but you’ll have to excuse me as it has been over 70 years and I’ve lived a little life since then. I do recall this that much to my disappointment, the great Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams did not play that day. Fortunately years later when I was in the Army stationed in Aberdeen, Maryland, I saw Williams play against the Baltimore Orioles. That would be the only time I ever saw him play in person.
I was a fan of Ted Williams, but my favorite player from my childhood back then was DiMaggio. No, not Joe, but his brother, Dom! Today, my favorite player is Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. He’s been hurt a lot this year and did not play in the World Series. Pedroia is one of these guys that hustles like crazy, falls on the ground to get a ball and then picks it right up.
I’ve been a baseball fan since 1946 and until this past decade or so, the Red Sox have usually disappointed me throughout the years. They actually lost the World Series that year that I first became a fan in ‘46 to St. Louis. Twenty-one years later in ‘67, my Sox would lose again to the Cardinals – the year of the “Impossible Dream.” In ‘75 all Red Sox fans thought we were finally going to win it all after Carlon Fisk waved his walk-off HR fair in Game Six versus the Cincinnati Reds, but it was not meant to be. How could anyone forget losing the ‘86 World Series to the Mets? It seemed like Boston might not ever win another World Series in my lifetime until the 2004 team overcame the mighty Yankees to advance and finally beat the Cardinals for some great October redemption.
It was exciting to see the Red Sox put it all together this year and win a franchise record 108 games. At 88 years old, I never really thought much about making it back to Fenway Park until June walked in the living room the day before the World Series began a few weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to go to Game One. I said, “No, honey. That’s a lot of money!” But it had been over 70 years since I’d been so how could I say no to such an opportunity? So as we you know we quickly packed our bags that day, had an eventful few hours on the flight and at the hospital, but we safely made it to Game One and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was not only excited to go back after seven decades, but I was just as excited to take June who had never been to Fenway before. It was a fun day and my Red Sox beat the Dodgers 8-4!
Looking back, I would like to thank my Maine friend Bobby Ward for inviting me and that milk truck driver for letting us hitchhike to Fenway. Come to think of it, I haven’t made a trip to Fenway yet that was planned well in advance – they are all spontaneous and last minute, which makes it fun. Go Red Sox!
a young George Ross, circa 1946
*George’s story was dictated to lifelong Red Sox fan R. Zachary Sanzone in the team store prior to the start of Game One of the World Series. The audio was then delivered to Mark Jent for transcribing George’s baseball story.