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Former Red Sox Pitcher From Suffield, Enfield Shares His Thoughts on the Fenway Park Centennial

Bill Spanswick was one of 212 Red Sox alumni who took the field Friday at the Fenway Park 100th anniversary celebration.

Bill Spanswick will never forget April 18, 1964, when the longtime Suffield resident and graduate of made his memorable major league debut for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The 6'3" lefthander pitched three hitless, scoreless innings of relief against the Chicago White Sox, whose lineup included former American League Rookies of the Year Ron Hansen and Gary Peters, and future World Series champions Don Buford, Al Weis and J.C. Martin. He even singled to center field off Peters in his first major league at-bat that day.

Forty-eight years and two days later, Spanswick returned to Fenway Park as one of the 212 Red Sox alumni who came to pay homage to the old ballpark on the 100th anniversary of its opening.

In a telephone interview with Enfield Patch Tuesday, Spanswick, 73, marvelled at the of Major League Baseball's oldest stadium.

"It seemed like I knew almost everyone there," said Spanswick, who was a charter member of the in 1996, and now resides in Naples, FL. "I hadn't seen some of those guys in 50 years."

Some of the returnees had been teammates with Spanswick in the minor leagues, including a young man who roomed with him in Raleigh in 1959 by the name of Carl Yastrzemski.

After being voted the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year after striking out 209 batters in 185 innings with the Seattle Rainiers in 1963, Spanswick was promoted to the Red Sox for the 1964 season. Despite his excellent start, he soon fell victim to the short distance to the Green Monster in left field at Fenway, long considered a graveyard for lefthanded pitchers.

He appeared in 29 games that season, including seven starts, finishing with a 2-3 record and a 6.89 ERA. The following year, he was farmed out to Boston's new Triple-A club in Toronto; two years later, after bouncing between Toronto, Seattle, Hawaii and San Diego, he was finished with pro baseball at age 29.

Spanswick said his return to Boston last week was among the most memorable times of his life.

"We had a beautiful reception (Thursday night) on top of Fenway," he said. "The owners couldn't have been any nicer. They put us up at different hotels throughout the city, and we had police escorts guiding our buses to the park."

Spanswick was reunited with seven teammates from the 1964 Red Sox: Yastrzemski, Eddie Bressoud, Bob Heffner, Frank Malzone, Bill Monbouquette, Dave Morehead and Rico Petrocelli. Also present was Johnny Pesky, the manager of that ballclub. "It was wonderful to see John Pesky again," he said.

Spanswick and the other alumni emerged single-file from the center field tunnel during the ceremony. He came out immediately behind Pumpsie Green, whose debut in 1959 made the Red Sox the last major league team to feature an African-American player.

"I was standing in there with Jose Canseco and some other guys, and then it was my turn," he recalled. "I was behind Pumpsie Green, but he wasn't walking too good and I actually passed him."

Crossing the outfield grass, Spanswick headed for the mound and joined dozens of other pitchers, each wearing a jersey representative of the time in which he played.

"My shirt was like wearing a woolen jacket," Spanswick laughed. "You put it on and it was hard to bend your arm. I could not believe we actually played wearing those."

The numeral 14 on Spanswick's jersey later became one of the most honored numbers in Red Sox history.

"Ike Delock, who also lives in Naples, had that number before me," he said. "After me, Ben Oglivie wore it, and then it went to Jim Rice."

Rice was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Red Sox retired his jersey number that same year.

Though Spanswick's big league career lasted just five months, the only Enfield product ever to play in the major leagues has nevertheless secured a spot in Fenway Park lore.

"It was one of the greatest thrills of my life," he said.

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