Author Topic: Bobby Doerr, RIP: The last of "The Teammates"  (Read 64 times)

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Online EasyAce

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Bobby Doerr, RIP: The last of "The Teammates"
« on: November 14, 2017, 12:31:55 PM »
By Yours Truly

A certain Yale University professor of Renaissance literature turned Yale president had no such ambition
when he was a boy in New England. “I wanted more than anything,” baseball’s eventual commissioner
A. Bartlett Giamatti once said, “to be Bobby Doerr.”

When Giamatti became president of the National League, before his sadly short-lived commissionership,
he met the former Red Sox second baseman and told him, shamelessly, that he admired him more than
any baseball player he ever saw growing up.

“Bobby had been surprised and awed that this accomplished, erudite man always sought him out at
baseball gatherings and always wanted to talk to him at great lengths,” wrote the late David Halberstam
in The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, that lyrical ballad of the sweet, salty, lifetime friendship
between Doerr and his Red Sox mates Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams.

Doerr’s wife, Monica, herself a former schoolteacher, thought the idea of her husband being the idol of a
scholar whose academic specialty was Dante was a little bit too much.

“Mr. Giamatti,” Mrs. Doerr replied, “you’re the former president of Yale. You’re a hero to people like us.”
That, Halberstam observed, was “something Bobby should have said himself . . . but had somehow not
managed to say, and so when she had said it, Bobby Doerr knew exactly why he had married her and
why their marriage had been so successful.”

Doerr was baseball’s oldest living former major leaguer and oldest living Hall of Famer until his death
at 99 Monday. He was also the last man alive to have played major league baseball in the 1930s and to
have played against Lou Gehrig. But he was unable to make the trip chronicled in The Teammates,
trekking to visit the dying Williams, because his wife’s multiple sclerosis kept him homebound all but
full time.

The son of a Los Angeles telephone worker, Doerr took up baseball to escape a future with the old Ma
Bell. He also never lost his own penchant for a little baseball hero worship, even as a player: he once
scurried to his locker to grab a bat for an autograph when Babe Ruth turned up in the Fenway Park
clubhouse. Discovered on the same scouting trip that landed Williams for the Red Sox, Doerr accepted
the haunted Williams’s cantankerousness as a sign that Williams simply had no taste for mediocrity.

“And I was in that mediocre class,” said the nine-time All Star who parked 223 home runs, led the
American League in slugging percentage in war-depleted 1944, and had six seasons of 100+ runs
batted in, a mark for second basemen that stood until fellow Hall of Famer Joe Morgan broke it with

Doerr was a superb all-around second baseman who often led the American League in turning double
plays, putouts, and assists, and once attributed his infield agility to the hours he spent bouncing and
retrieving an old fashioned pink rubber ball off his family’s Los Angeles stoop. Yet the man who looked
the most like an executioner among The Teammates was probably the gentlest of the four.

Williams may have hounded Doerr about his lesser dedication to the art of hitting, but he respected
the modest Doerr’s surety enough to name him “The Silent Captain.” They also shared a passion for
fishing, though even that had its limits: once, Doerr acquired a bamboo fishing rod Williams himself
designed and named for him, but Doerr still had to pay for it.

“Success always came relatively easy for Bobby Doerr,” Halberstam wrote, “and he handled it with
grace and modesty.”

He never coveted anything that was not his. He was respectful of people
who were different, and while he loved playing baseball and was pleased
that he was rewarded so handsomely for it—if not in financial terms, at
least in terms of admiration—he never let it distort his priorities. He always
knew it was a game, and that there were limits to its social value. He knew
there were many people who did other things, whose names were not
known to the general public, but who were of far greater importance to
society than baseball players. He did not simply say this, he believed it
as well, and it shaped the way he treated people.

After the 1936 season in which Doerr played for the San Diego Padres of the old Pacific Coast
League, he took a fishing trip to Oregon. Attending a dance at a one-room schoolhouse, Doerr
met and fell in love with the schoolhouse’s teacher. Monica Terpin came from South Dakota stock,
the daughter of ranchers who moved to Oregon hoping for better times.

It wouldn’t be fair to say the future Mrs. Doerr chased him until he caught her, but when they
attended another dance in 1937, across the Rogue River, she responded to the freezing temperatures
aboard the boat ferrying them to the dance by laying her black overcoat over an icy seat so her
future husband wouldn’t freeze his tail off when he sat down. “Why,” Doerr would remember,
“she lassoed me right there.”

Doerr went to one World Series, the ill-fated 1946 set remembered best for Cardinals outfielder
Enos Slaughter’s rip home from first on a fly to center that late Game Seven insertion Leon
Culberson threw high enough to Pesky that Pesky would be remembered unfairly for holding the
ball a fraction too long before throwing home. Doerr hit .409 in that Series with three runs batted
in and one home run.

It was a harsh finish to what was one of Doerr’s most successful seasons, driving home 116 runs
and handling 414 chances at second base without an error, a record at the time. Doerr swore for
years to follow that the only thing keeping his generation of Red Sox from more pennants was
one more relief pitcher. He retired in 1951 after two seasons’ worth of back issues made playing
impossible at last.

He spent his winters and then his retirement in Oregon raising his son and ranching, before he
returned to baseball as a Red Sox scout until manager Dick Williams hired him as the first base
coach for the 1967 miracle pennant. He also acted as their unofficial batting instructor, credited
with helping Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski learn to pull just enough to turn Yastrzemski into a
Triple Crown winner that season.

Doerr quit when Williams was fired during the 1969 season, eventually becoming the Blue Jays’
batting instructor from their birth through 1981. The Red Sox retired his uniform number 1 in
1988, two years after the Veterans Committee elected him to the Hall of Fame. When the Red
Sox broke their eight-decade-plus World Series championship drought, they presented Doerr
and Pesky with World Series rings.

Monica Doerr’s multiple sclerosis went into remission for twenty years until that 1967 pennant
race. When it returned to stay, her husband joined her in refusing to let it weaken their bond;
they made the annual trips to the Hall of Fame by hook, crook, car, airplane, or almost anything
else they could think of. Until her death in 2003—the same year The Teammates was published—
that bond was stronger than any pennant race.

“People ask, ‘Don’t you wish you played now?’ No. I know the money is better, but I just feel
fortunate to have played then,” said Doerr in 1990. “I think we had more fun. We played the
game hard, but there is so much pressure on these guys.”

A man who plays through broiling 1940s pennant races, becomes Ted Williams’s best friend
on the team, and nurtures enduring love no matter the insidious disease sapping his wife of
65 years knows too much about pressure and more than most about how not to let it beat
you. May the last survivor of The Teammates have a sweet reunion with his beloved Monica
and his three brothers in arms and fishing poles. And in that order.

Doerr (third from right) with his wife, Monica (right), Johnny Pesky (second from left), and
Pesky’s wife, Ruth, at a Boston radio station in the 1940s.

@Polly Ticks
@Cyber Liberty
@Mom MD
« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 02:31:55 PM by EasyAce »

Offline GrouchoTex

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Re: Bobby Doerr, RIP: The last of "The Teammates"
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2017, 01:41:33 PM »
Thanks @EasyAce,
I a very nice article.

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