|Subject: Bobby Doerr, Hall of Fame player for the Boston Red Sox, aged 99 ....
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Date Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 05:45:26am
By Ian Browne / MLB.com | 7:24 AM ET
BOSTON -- Baseball Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, whose steady brilliance on the field was matched by an unflappable grace off of it, died Monday at the age of 99.
Until his death, Doerr was the oldest living Hall of Famer, as well as the oldest living Red Sox player.
Doerr played his entire 14-season Major League career with the Red Sox between 1937-51, missing 1945 while serving during World War II.
The second baseman was known as the "silent captain" on the strong Red Sox teams of the 1940s and early '50s that also included Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and Dominic DiMaggio.
The late Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam wrote the well-received 2003 book "Teammates" about the poignant and long-lasting friendship shared by those four men.
In particular, the close friendship between Williams and Doerr -- which started in 1936 when they were teammates with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League -- was compelling because of their opposite personalities.
As Halberstam wrote, "Ted somehow understood that he needed Bobby's calm, and he seized on his friend's maturity and took comfort in it from the start."
Those who knew Doerr best said that he was so mild-mannered, it was difficult to remember a swear word ever coming out of his mouth. Doerr was known for his exemplary work habits, quiet confidence and the ability to lead by example.
From a team standpoint, the highlight of Doerr's career was in 1946, when the Red Sox went 104-50 and lost to the Cardinals in a seven-game World Series. But Doerr's talent shone through in that Fall Classic, as he hit .409 against St. Louis.
The one regret for Doerr in his career is that he was never able to play for a World Series winner. He often lamented how different things could have turned out if three key Red Sox pitchers -- Boo Ferris, Tex Hughson and Mickey Harris -- hadn't had sore shoulders in '47. Medical science was not as advanced at the time, and none of those three pitchers ever returned to form. Boston fell one win short of the pennant in '48 and '49.
Doerr once confided to long-time Boston television personality, poet and author Dick Flavin, "If that didn't happen to our pitchers, we'd be reading about the Red Sox dynasty instead of the Yankees dynasty."
Still, when the Red Sox finally did win the World Series in 2004, snapping an 86-year drought, Doerr was one of several former players who received a ring. He was overjoyed by the gesture from team ownership.
"[Owner] John Henry called me and said he would like to give me a ring and wanted to know what my size was," Doerr said in 2005. "I tell you, when he said that, actually I had some wet eyes. I thought that was quite a nice gesture for them to do that. We had our chance in '46, '48, '49. I just think the Red Sox are just a wonderful organization."
Williams died in 2002, but Doerr remained close with DiMaggio and Pesky until their deaths in 2009 and '12, respectively.
"To be friends of 65 years or more ... I talk to Dom once every 10 days, two weeks. We still keep in touch with Johnny," Doerr said in '05. "They're coming out for a fishing trip in September, we're going to catch some big salmon on the Rogue River."
Yes, fishing. That might have been the only thing Doerr was as accomplished at as hitting a baseball. It was a skill and pastime he shared with Williams. Together, they would often fish in the Florida Keys, if Williams was hosting, or in Oregon near Doerr's home.
On a more personal side, friends marveled at the way Doerr took care of his wife, Monica, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the early 1940s. Until Monica's death in 2003, Bobby was known to dote on his wife and give her the best care possible.
Doerr's playing career was cut short by back woes, but he was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1986. His retired uniform No. 1 is displayed on the right-field facade at Fenway Park.
A nine-time American League All-Star, Doerr belted 223 homers over his career while notching 1,247 RBIs. He produced a solid line of .288/.362/.461.
There were always debates in the '40s over who was the best second baseman in the American League -- Doerr or Joe Gordon, who played for the Yankees and Indians and was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2009.
Aside from his offensive heroics, Doerr was known for his rock-solid defense at second base. He also did the little things, evidenced by his 22 sacrifice hits in 1938.
After his retirement, Doerr scouted for the Red Sox for close to a decade and was the first-base coach on the "Impossible Dream" pennant-winning team of 1967.
Though Doerr couldn't accompany Pesky and DiMaggio on what amounted to a farewell trip to see Williams in Florida in 2001, he was on everyone's mind. Flavin was also on that trip.
"Someone said, 'Jeez, it's too bad Bobby can't be here,"' Flavin recalled. "Pesky said, 'Yeah, but we wouldn't be able to talk this way if Bobby was here.' The language quickly deteriorated into locker-room kind of language because Ted was leading the conversation. Not that Dom or Johnny in their normal conversation wouldn't talk that way, but it deteriorated into locker-room kind of talk and they wouldn't do that if Bobby was around."
Doerr was born in Los Angeles but settled in Oregon in the 1930s, claiming primary residence there for the rest of his life. Until a few years ago, when he moved into a nursing home, Doerr continued to search for the big fish on those quiet lakes of Oregon.
The last public appearance for Doerr in Boston was the lavish 100-year anniversary celebration of Fenway Park in April of 2012. On a sun-splashed afternoon, former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield brought Doerr onto the field in a wheelchair while Jason Varitek did the same for Pesky.
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