Sports

Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette dies at 78

Bill Monbouquette in 1965.
FILE/GLOBE STAFF
Bill Monbouquette in 1965.

Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette was one out away from a no-hitter against the White Sox at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The date was Aug. 1, 1962, and the pitcher known as Monbo, who had been signed by Boston seven years earlier after graduating Medford High School, threw a slider on an 0-and-2 count to Chicago shortstop Luis Aparicio.

“The umpire was Bill McKinley and he called it no swing, and even the Chicago fans got on him,” Mr. Monbouquette told the Globe in 2000. “One of them yelled out, ‘They shot the wrong McKinley.’ But then I struck Aparicio out on a nasty slider and I must have jumped 6 feet in the air.”

The 1-0 gem was Mr. Monbouquette’s finest moment in a career that included selection to four American League All-Star teams. He had a 114-112 record and 3.68 earned run average during 11 major league seasons.

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Mr. Monbouquette, whose baseball career spanned more than 50 years and included stints pitching for the New York Yankees and as a pitching coach for the New York Mets, died of complications of leukemia Sunday in Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He was 78 and lived in Gloucester.

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An inductee to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2000, he was honored with a World Series ring in 2004 and two years later joined Boston’s farm team in Lowell for one night as a coach so he could officially retire as a member of the organization.

“Bill was a great all-around athlete and a workhorse on the mound,” said former Red Sox second baseman Chuck Schilling. “He went out, did his job, and never complained about the outcome.”

Another former Red Sox teammate, infielder Ted Lepcio, said Mr. Monbouquette took pride in going the full nine innings.

“He was a gutsy guy, straightforward, and not only a very good pitcher, but an excellent teacher of pitching, and we remained friends ever since our playing days,” Lepcio said.

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Mr. Monbouquette started 263 games and went the distance 78 times, an example, said former Boston hurler Dave Morehead, of his courage and talent.

“My makeup was, you had to finish what you start,” Mr. Monbouquette told the Globe in 2008.

Born Aug. 11, 1936, William Charles Monbouquette was a multisport athlete in high school and one of five children from a working-class family.

To celebrate his no-hitter, officials paraded Mr. Monbouquette from Logan Airport to Medford with an escort of fire engines.

He said that the day of his signing, in 1955, was memorable in more ways than one.

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“I pitched batting practice at Fenway Park that day and then joined my father and mother in the stands, and a couple of drunks spilled the stuff on my folks,” he recalled in the 2000 interview. “Well, my Dad and I got into it with them and I had to explain who I was to the cop.”

He moved up to the Red Sox for good in 1958, when Ted Williams was in the twilight of his career. Mr. Monbouquette left via a trade to the Tigers seven years later.

Mr. Monbouquette’s Red Sox teams never had a realistic chance to finish ahead of the Yankees, or several other teams in the American League, for that matter, but he said he never let that bother him.

“I was a kid from Medford who never had anything handed to him, so I appreciated how far I had come,” he said in the 2000 interview, “and you know, even after I left the Red Sox, I helped them out when they won the pennant in ’67 because I pitched and beat a couple of teams in the race, Chicago and Minnesota, when I was with the Yankees.”

As a Red Sox player, Mr. Monbouquette visited patients and signed baseballs at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, sometimes with Williams, his fishing buddy.

“When you’re there, you’d think about your kids,” he said in 2008.

In recent years, Mr. Monbouquette was treated at Dana-Farber himself, and after seeing his oncologists would continue to visit patients.

“Bill fought just as bravely against his leukemia as he did against batters who stepped to the plate against him,” said Dr. Richard Stone, one of his oncologists. “He had a stem cell transplant in October 2008. That’s a very serious procedure, and at 71 he was no spring chicken, but he lived for another seven years fighting a disease that normally would kill someone much sooner.

“That’s a great testament to his strength.”

Mr. Monbouquette, whose first marriage ended in divorce, leaves his wife, the former Josephine Ritchie of Gloucester; three sons from his first marriage, Marc of Dover Point, N.H., Michael, a Marine lieutenant colonel stationed in Kailua, Hawaii, and Merric of New Boston, N.H.; two brothers, Teddy of Natick and Jack of Brunswick, Ga.; two sisters, Danielle Moreno and Catherine Ferguson, both of Medford; and three grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Saturday in Immaculate Conception Church in Malden. Burial will be in Oak Grove Cemetery in Medford.

“I can still remember those days at Medford High when the teacher would say, ‘Stop dreaming about baseball,’ ” Mr. Monbouquette said in 2000. “Playing for the Red Sox was something beyond my wildest dreams. As a coach, I just want to see kids fulfill their dream, one that came true for me.”

Mr. Monbouquette was 96-91 with the Sox and in 2000 was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame. He is seventh in team history in innings pitched with 1,622 and 10th in strikeouts with 969.

Mr. Monbouquette set what was then a club record in 1961 when he struck out 17 Washington Senators. Only Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez have since reached that mark with the Sox, with Clemens holding the record of 20. Mr. Monbouquette also was known for his control. He averaged only 2.1 walks per nine innings and hit 20 batters in his entire career.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.