When Jack Spring recently received a letter from the Boston Red Sox inviting him on an all-expense paid trip to attend the April 20 celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park he was not quite sure if this was a “pinch me” to see if it was all the real deal.
Sure, Spring, a 79-year-old Spokane Valley resident, had indeed played for the Red Sox, way back in 1957. But according to the baseball-reference.com Web site, he only appeared in one game. Spring was a left-handed short reliever who faced three batters, striking out two.
Former Boston Red Sox player Jack Spring (center) with sons Chris (left) and John (right) at home plate during Fenway Park’s Centennial celebration.
“I may hold the record for being the alumni with the least playing time,” he said. In those days, teams carried three extra players out of spring training and Jack Spring went with the team to Boston in 1957.
So the elder Spring consulted with his son, Chris, the athletic director at Medical Lake High School to have him confirm the letter was not a scam.
“It was basically an invitation to this event that all former players were going to be invited back, and that they were going to pay all expenses for him and a guest to travel back,” Chris Spring confirmed.
“It was kind of overwhelming when I read it,” Chris Spring said. “The first thing I thought of was ‘who you going to take?’” he said with a laugh. “Pick me, pick me, pick me!”
The competition for companionship was going to be fierce because there are five Spring siblings. They are, in order of age, sisters Vicki and Teresa as well as brothers John, Mike and Chris, the youngest. With limited tickets, Jack Spring said the first person who decided to go was the one he was going to take.
“I thought I’d give my brother the first dibs because he was the oldest,” Spring said. “John and I ended up talking and decided that this was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and regardless of who goes we’re both going to go; regardless of what’s provided for tickets, we’re going to find a way to get into that game and we’re going to watch him walk onto that field.”
After some wrangling, the Spring family was able to secure four coveted tickets to the game with the Red Sox hated rivals, the Yankees, as well as other events leading up to the milestone game.
The entourage departed last Thursday and after a long day in the air arrived in Boston at 5:30 p.m. The Springs were greeted at Logan International Airport by a Red Sox employee carrying a sign with Jack Spring’s name on it.”
They arrived with just enough time to freshen up and be shuttled to a reception at the Fenway VIP area with over 200 former players and their families. Earlier in the day over 50,000 people had toured Major League Baseball’s oldest active ballpark.
At 9 p.m. the special guests headed to the field. “You could go wherever you wanted to go, on the mound, the Green Monster, no boundaries,” Chris Spring said. “They gave us about an hour on the field. The way the Red Sox throw a party is way beyond what anyone can imagine.”
Friday morning all former players were invited to an on-the-field luncheon followed by the game, which the Yankees won 6-2 to partially ruin the day.
But not for the Springs. “I think it was just really neat and moving for me as a son to see him at 79 years old walking out on that field and feeling like he’s 35 again,” Chris Spring said.
Jack Spring is Spokane-born, raised and graduated from Lewis and Clark High School before playing college ball -– briefly -– at Gonzaga in 1951 and 1952 with Washington State.
Spring started his professional career with the Spokane Indians of the old Western International League and was obtained by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1955 as part of a minor league working agreement. He had the so-called “cup of coffee” with the Phillies and was drafted by Boston in December 1956.
In an 18-year professional baseball career, eight in the majors where he played for seven teams and appeared in 155 games, Jack Spring had a 12-5 won-loss record and a 4.26 ERA in 186 innings.
Each winter he would return to Spokane where he and his wife, Vona, raised their family.
Spring finished his career with the Pacific Coast League Spokane Indians in 1969 where he teamed with another future member of the Red Sox. Bill Buckner’s rich and lengthy MLB career is best remembered for a fielding error he committed during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that handed the title to the New York Mets.
Buckner and Spring will reconnect over a beer or two this summer when the Boise Gems come to town. Buckner is a hitting coach with the Northwest League team.
While he didn’t spend much time in a Red Sox uniform, Jack Spring did sit in the same clubhouse as the great slugger, Ted Williams.
Spring returned to Fenway regularly as a player with the Washington Senators, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians. “The funny part of pitching in Fenway was I pitched quite a bit against them when I was with the Angels,” Jack Spring said.
As for Williams, “I had faced him one time earlier when I was with the Washington Senators; I held him to an off (opposite) field single.
“I remember doing quite well against (Carl) Yastrzemski,” he said. “Or course Boston never had a lot of left-hand hitters because the way their park is structured.”
Both Jack and Chris Spring pursued careers in education where they coached and were athletic directors. Jack Spring worked in the West Valley School District. Chris Spring graduated from Gonzaga University where, like his dad, he played baseball. He’s spent the past 20 years at Medical Lake as a teacher coach and administrator
“I wanted to aspire to be just like him except he made it to Fenway and I just got to Pecarovich Field,” Chris Spring reflected.
That was until last Friday of course when he got a second chance.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.