Memories of Jackie Robinson’s Fenway Tryout

From Chris Wertz at The Governor’s Sox on March 1:

When I finally dialed the number of the [then] oldest living Red Sox player, and one of only two players from the 1945 Red Sox roster still living, I wasn’t expecting much.

My modest expectations were completely blown away with what I found.  Here was a 95-year-old, cup of coffee, war call-up named William Otis “Otey” Clark of Boscobel, Wisconsin, not just telling me that he had heard of the tryout, but describing important details of the day he threw to the Kansas City Monarchs shortstop and future trailblazer, Jack Roosevelt Robinson. He said, “Joe Cronin would say ‘take a little off’ and all of that.”

I recoiled.  I actually pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at the receiver, wondering if I had heard him right.  I wanted to believe Otey, but I had spoken to too many elderly former players, who remembered their careers frozen in great moments, and then filled in the missing details in no predictable order.  I have heard players say they saw plays while playing for teams they never played on.  I’m not being mean or even cynical.  They weren’t lying. They were aging. And age plays a funny trick on memory.

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Originally published: March 4, 2011. Last Updated: March 4, 2011.