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From the archives | 2006

Members of 1946 Red Sox reunited 60 years later

Members of the 1946 Red Sox threw out the first pitches at the home opener.

David L Ryan/Globe staff

Members of the 1946 Red Sox threw out the first pitches at the home opener.

They rode in a pair of 1946 Ford convertibles, cars that Johnny Pesky admitted “we could never afford.”

In a nostalgic Charles Steinberg production at the home opener yesterday, six of the seven living members of the 1946 AL champion Red Sox threw out first pitches albeit from a distance a few feet shy of 60 feet 6 inches. But for the most part, Pesky, Eddie Pellagrini, Bobby Doerr, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Charlie Wagner, and Don Gutteridge had the time of their lives being reunited at Fenway Park, where their careers took a memorable turn 60 years ago.

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They got a glimpse of the original 1946 AL championship trophy, which was displayed by granddaughters of the late Joe Cronin, manager of that team, whose No. 4 hangs on the right-field facade.

The only missing living member was Dom DiMaggio, who was ill.

The players reminisced about the pennant year as if it happened yesterday.

Doerr, 88, and Wagner, 93, had vivid memories of the 28-hour train rides to St. Louis, the westernmost major league city at the time, and the card games and meals. Doerr had funny anecdotes about Moe Berg, the former catcher who worked as a spy for the United States during World War II.

Doerr felt he needed to set the record straight on misconceptions about Ted Williams that he wasn’t the maverick many portray him as but a very caring man who often visited hospitals on the road but warned teammates not to reveal it to the media.

Ferriss, at 84, was the young-un among the group. He spoke about following Wagner’s career and said, “I couldn’t believe I was playing with him.” He also told the yarn about how he got the name “Boo.” As a youngster, he tried to say the word “brother” and it came out “boo.”

Pesky said of Doerr, “I use to shine his shoes in the [Pacific] Coast League,” and lamented that DiMaggio could not be there with them.

These were men who missed upward of three years of baseball while serving in the war. They spoke about their closeness as a team, though they kidded that all of the hugging and backslapping you see today was taboo in their day. Pesky later acknowledged that Williams became more affectionate later in life.

“We cared for one another,” said Pesky, who was in a walking cast and using a cane, the result of being hit with a line drive while watching a game at spring training.

“This was a way to feed our families. Our families depended on us to earn a living.”

Pesky said that Pellagrini, 88, who was also the longtime baseball coach at Boston College, “has been my friend for 60 years.”

Of course, a discussion of the 1946 World Series wouldn’t be complete without reference to the overstated charge that Pesky “held the ball” on his relay to the plate in Game 7. Pesky said softly, “I don’t want to talk about it,” but Doerr chimed in that the shortstop always “got a bad rap on that.” And Pesky recalls Cronin telling him, “I hope they don’t break your heart,” concerning the fallout over the play.

They didn’t break Pesky’s heart, and he went on to become “Mr. Red Sox,” with his long and meritorious service to the team.

While the roster invariably shrinks over time, the team members have enjoyed 40th and 50th reunions, and these seven remain close through phone calls and meetings like yesterday’s.

They still joke about the old days for example, how Wagner was always the best dressed and therefore earned his nickname “Broadway.” When asked who was the worst dressed, Pesky piped in that it was him. “We got [Wagner’s] rejects,” he said.

Doerr seemed to sum up the feelings of his friends:

“I look back on my years in Boston and it was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me.”

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