These discussions, whether they take place around the kitchen wood stove or the office water cooler, range from the teams storied history to the prospects for the upcoming season. The heroes of the past, Yastrzemski, Williams, and so many more, are recalled, as are the more recent stars, such as Schilling and Ramirez.
At times, fans reminisce about a young man who, although his career was cut tragically short, continues to inspire through his athleticism, competitive spirit, and generosity. His name was Aristotle George Agganis. His friends called him Harry. He will always be remembered as the Golden Greek.
Harry Agganis was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1929. Although he is known as a baseball player, he first made his mark in football as a star quarterback for Boston University. As a sophomore in 1949, he set a school record for touchdown passes. He left school in 1950 to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
When he completed his service to our nation, he returned to college, setting a school record for passing yards, winning the Bulger Lowe Award as New England's outstanding football player, and becoming Boston University's first All-American in football. Upon his graduation, he was offered a lucrative contract to play football for the Cleveland Browns but choose instead sign with the Red Sox so he could remain near his widowed mother.
Here are a few stories that illustrate the character of this young man and the esteem in which he is held.
While still a student in 1953, Harry Agganis was inducted into the new Boston University Hall of Fame. He declined gifts of a car and $4,000 from his classmates and instead asked that the cash equivalent be put toward establishing a scholarship for Greek-American students with financial need.
On June 6, 1954, he homered at Fenway Park and scored the winning run as the Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers. Following the game, he changed into a cap and gown in the Sox clubhouse, ran down Commonwealth Avenue in time for the graduation ceremonies on the B.U. campus, and received his bacholors degree in education.
As the 1955 season opened, he was off to a good start, but on June 2 he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He rejoined the team 10 days later but fell ill again. He died on June 27 of a pulmonary embolism. Ten thousand mourners attended his wake.
His career was brief, but his name lives on. In 1956, a 1,000-seat baseball facility, Harry Agganis Stadium, was dedicated in his honor at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he served. A memorial plaque placed at the field reads, Endowed with peerless talent, Corporal Agganis exemplified the finest in competitive spirit and sportsmanship. An All-American football player, and later a professional baseball player, his outstanding accomplishments in the field of athletics were an inspiration to other Marines who served and were teammates with him during his career in the Marine Corps.
He was inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1995, Gaffney Street in Boston was re-named Harry Agganis Way. In 2004, Agganis Arena was dedicated in his honor on the Boston University campus. Each year, members of the New England Sportswriters Association present the Harry Agganis Award to the outstanding New England college football senior. His character and accomplishments have been set to music by a talented songwriter and devoted Red Sox fan in Bangor, Maine, named Joe Pickering, Jr. Joe recently retired after 30 years of dedicated service as Executive Director of Community Health and Counseling Services in Bangor. It is my pleasure to enter his inspiring lyrics into the record:
The Golden Greek
Time washes away people who depart
You who remain cherish heroes of the heart
They seldom grace earth but, not for long
The Golden Greek lives in this song
Too many athletes spell team as m-e
The Golden Greek knew team meant only we
This All-American truly stood apart
The Golden Greek was simply pure of heart
Four hundred churches honored for forty days
The man who touched many hearts in so many ways
Fifty thousand said goodbye as his church choir
Sang love for the man who set the sports world afire
Harry Agganis stirred heart and soul
Did God take him so he would never grow old?
Heroes live forever though harry died young
The song of the Golden Greek will always be sung
Thousands of marines in the Carolina sun
Named a field for the marine who left no deed undone
The first Olympic heroes won olive wreaths
His silver wreath from the king and queen of Greece
The seventh child of immigrants born in Lynn
Learned playing the game right was the way to win
He hit major league pitching at fourteen years of age
Then went on to glory on the sports page
This Hall of Famer scrambled forty yards from the pocket
He threw feather passes or shots like a rocket
Though he looked and played like a Greek god
This flesh and blood hero was one with the lord
He gave to the poor and church, gifts he received
Harry lived the golden rule, as he believed
His smile warm and bright like sunshine in July
Why at twenty-six did this Red Sox star die?
The NFL played games in honor of his name
All for a man who never played a pro game
He planned to play for the Sox and the NFL
What might have been only God can tell
This hero of the heart was like no other
His last words: were “take care of my mother”
In the pantheon of sports, the Golden Greek reigns
His mem’ry glowing like the Olympic flame
Attention! David Groen the Executive Director of the National Sports Casters and Sports Writers of American gave special note to this 13 year-old Blogs about baseball! Keep up the great work Matt. His blog Baseball with Matt (http://www.baseballwithmatt.blogspot.com/) is a new blog about baseball history for kids who don't know much about it, written in an engaging, snappy style by a 13 year old kid. Matt is a 7th grader who loves video games, ice cream with rice krispies, and especially baseball. His favorite team from the 21st century is the Yankees. But he also loves the whole history of the game, the great old timers, teams, events and ballparks of the past -- so his blog focuses on all of this. Matt dreams of one day either playing for the Yankees, being a sportscaster or becoming a lawyer.