By Saul Wisnia
As the baseball world gathers at Citi Field in New York City for tonight’s All-Star Game, here’s a look back at 60 years of all-star partnership between the Boston Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund – which supports cancer research and care at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The Red Sox adopt the Jimmy Fund as an official team charity in 1953, when owner Louis Perini of the National League’s Boston Braves appeals to Sox owner Tom Yawkey to take on the cause after the Braves leave New England. Future Hall of Famer Ted Williams visits the bedsides of young patients and fundraises at cookouts, drive-in movie theaters, and anywhere else he is asked.
Yawkey erects a Jimmy Fund billboard over the right-field grandstands – where it will remain for a half-century. In 1967, when the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox capture the American League pennant, team captain Carl Yastrzemski appeals that the club give a full World Series bonus share to the Jimmy Fund in honor of Yawkey. Yaz’s teammates unanimously agree.
The Red Sox rebuild the Green Monster left-field wall after the 1975 season; portions of the old wall are sold to benefit the Jimmy Fund. A new generation of players including Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk emerge as spokesmen and longtime Sox broadcaster Ken Coleman steps to the plate as Jimmy Fund executive director.
Carl Yastrzemski plays his final game at Fenway in 1983. He changes his jersey each inning –and all the jerseys are later auctioned off to benefit the Jimmy Fund. Former Sox second baseman Mike Andrews succeeds Coleman as Jimmy Fund executive director for what will become more than 30 years of leadership.
Red Sox owner Jean Yawkey continues her late husband’s tradition of support to the Jimmy Fund. This is perhaps best personified on the field by first baseman Mo Vaughn; the slugger homers for young Dana-Farber patient Jason Leader on the boy’s 11th birthday, and later helps him throw out a first pitch at Fenway.
The new Red Sox ownership group led by John Henry, Tom Werner, and team president Larry Lucchino – a two-time cancer survivor treated at Dana-Farber – keeps the connection to the Jimmy Fund alive. The WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon debuts in 2002, and becomes an annual Fenway event that has collectively raised more than $31 million for research and treatment. When the Sox break through in ’04 and win their first World Series title in 86 years, pitcher Tim Wakefield brings the trophy to Dana-Farber so patients and staff can share in the joy.
All-Stars Wakefield and David Ortiz – both winners of Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award for community commitment – follow in the footsteps of fellow legends Williams and Yastrzemski as Dana-Farber devotees. Two current Red Sox players now serve each year as Jimmy Fund Co-Captains. The Co-Captains raise awareness and build support for cancer research and care at Dana-Farber by supporting Jimmy Fund events, visiting patients, thanking donors, and more.
In addition, the 60th anniversary of the Red Sox-Jimmy Fund partnership is being celebrated throughout this baseball season, including performances at Fenway and other venues by the Jimmy Fund Chorus, a new singing group comprised of current and former Dana-Farber patients, staff members, their families, and friends.
Learn more about the Jimmy Fund/Red Sox relationship.