“REE – CO! REE – CO! REE – CO!”
The Green Monster reverberated with this chant from the Fenway faithful from 1965-1977, imploring #6, Rico Petrocelli, one of the most popular players ever to don a pair of red socks, to deliver for them.
And deliver he did. A member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, two-time All-Star, flawless fielder at short and third, potent batter, and valued team leader, Rico Petrocelli helped propel the Red Sox from the nadir of the American League in ’65 and ’66 to the “Impossible Dream” of 1967, to seven more winning seasons, and then to 1975 and one of the most exciting World Series ever.
Bob Ryan of the “Boston Globe” put that 1967 season into perspective in 2006 when he wrote of the Red Sox’s 21st Century successes, “Everything the Red Sox are today, all the sellouts, stems from 1967. That team can never be honored enough. 1967 is the great dividing line in Red Sox history.”
Rico has written a superb chronicle that replays the historic magnitude of that season, “Tales from the Impossible Dream Red Sox.” He brings to life the diamond exploits of the “Cardiac Kids,” who won so many games in so many late innings, and the “Cinderella Sox,” who made the “Fall Ball” on the final day of the regular season.
Rico also relates the problems of the “country club” Sox in the early 60’s and traces the team’s fortunes up to his retirement in 1977, but mainly he brings to life all the players who made Fenway Park a special place in that special year. His final line poignantly reminds us all, “It wasn’t just a dream.”
Rico, who currently lives in Nashua, NH, and runs the Petrocelli Marketing Group, has become an avid golfer and belongs to Sky Meadow Golf Club in Nashua.
NEG: What was your reaction to the 100 year “Homecoming” at Fenway in April?
RP: In one word—terrific! A real thrill. I talked to my old teammates and those from other eras. There were 212 of us. I was really glad to have been a part of it.
NEG: With which teammates do you remain in touch?
RP: Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, Jim Rice, Bob Stanley, George Thomas, and Luis Tiant.
NEG: What will you always remember about that magical 1967 season?
RP: (1) Yaz’s unbelievable Triple Crown year [.326, 44 HR, 121 RBI]. (2) Our 10-game win streak after the All-Star break that made us contenders and made us believe in ourselves. (3) When the Angels beat the Tigers to secure us the pennant. Absolute mayhem in the locker room. Tom Yawkey, a great man and owner, celebrated with us. He was so happy. Deservedly so.
NEG: The equally impressive 1975 season?
RP: (1) The awesome rookie performances of Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, our excellent pitching staff, our clutch hitting. (2) Sweeping Oakland in three for the pennant. (3) An incredible seven-game World Series.
NEG: What are some other great memories from your career?
RP: (1) My first ML hit in my first game, a double off the wall. (2) My two homers in the 6th game of the ’67 WS. (3) Hitting 40 homers and batting .297 in ’69 and knocking in 103 RBI’s in ’70. (4) Playing in two All-Star games.
NEG: Who were the toughest pitchers and the best players you faced?
RP: Pitchers: Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal—and that was in spring training! Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, and Luis Tiant with Cleveland. Best: Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Brooks and Frank Robinson.
NEG: Critique your golf game?
RP: I am very serious about my game. I haven’t taken any formal lessons, but with my handicap at 15, I know that, to take my game to the next level, I have to practice more. I’m pretty consistent with the driver and can hit it off the tee around 250 yards.
NEG:What are your favorite courses in New England and elsewhere?
RP: International, Marlboro where I had my first ace, New Seabury, Sky Meadow, Stowe, and Willowbend.
NEG: Who should be in your Dream Foursome today or of any period?
RP: I’d need fivesomes: Jack, Tiger, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead.
NEG: What is the “Links Fellowship”?
RP: It’s a very popular nationwide Christian Fellowship group. I started the local chapter four years ago at Green Meadow GC in Hudson, NH. We meet for lunch, have a scripture reading, end with a prayer, and then play golf. I enjoy the spirituality and fellowship very much.
NEG: What goes on in your Petrocelli Marketing Group?
RP: We are a full-service marketing team. We cover any and every thing that needs promotion: advertising, branding, brochures, catalogs, consulting. Much of my business comes from golf tournaments.
NEG: Do you have any final words for today’s Red Sox fans?
RP: Yes, to be patient with this team. The organization is trying to rebuild while at the same time trying to win. The young players have to be brought up and played. The team has to rebuild through its farm teams, trades, and free agents. I think another Championship could be possible in the near future.
(Photo Credit: Vicky MacKay)