- Purchase/rental options available:
NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 12.2 (2004) 147-149
[Access article in PDF]
Tom Simon, ed. Green Mountain Boys of Summer: Vermonters in the Major Leagues, 1882-1993. Shelburne VT: New England Press, 2000. 190 pp. Paper, $24.95.
Green Mountain Boys of Summer is 190 pages of biographical essays and photos (nearly 200 of them) of the thirty-six Vermont boys who made it to baseball's highest level, the Major Leagues. It's a striking book, well edited and beautifully presented. But perhaps the real hero of this book's saga is the editor, Tom Simon, a lawyer in Burlington, Vermont. An enthusiastic baseball fan and researcher, Simon breathed life into the Vermont Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research about ten years ago. It was at a quarterly SABR meeting that he proposed this project and solicited participants to do the research and write the biographies. [End Page 147]
Of the thirty-six essays, the most extensive are appropriately devoted to Vermont's "Big Three": Larry Gardner (after whom the Vermont SABR chapter is named), Ray Collins, and Ray Fisher. Vermont-born Carlton Fisk also has an extensive presentation. These three players all played about the same time, and along with Fisk each had sterling Major League careers.
Enosberg Falls, Vermont's Larry Gardner, who was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2000, was a teammate of Babe Ruth's on the Red Sox team during the glory days of the second decade of the twentieth century. He played in three World Series and knocked in the winning run off Christy Mathewson in the deciding game of the 1916 Series. His lifetime batting average was a very respectable .289 over seventeen seasons. After his playing days he served for two decades as baseball coach and athletic director at the University of Vermont.
Colchester, Vermont's Ray Collins was Gardner's teammate at UVM and on the Red Sox. He won 84 games (19 shutouts) in seven big league seasons. He won 39 games in 1913-14 and once pitched both ends of a doubleheader and won complete-game victories. He retired prematurely from baseball in 1915 at age twenty-nine and returned to farming and local governmental service in his hometown.
Fisher, who was born in Middlebury, Vermont, and graduated from Middlebury College in 1910, won 100 games in the majors. He started the third game for Cincinnati in the famous Black Sox World Series of 1919. In 1920 he left professional baseball to become the baseball coach at the University of Michigan, a position he held for thirty-eight years with great distinction. He returned to Vermont every summer to the family cottage on Lake Champlain and coached for years in the Northern League of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Ironically, perhaps the greatest baseball player ever born in Vermont (in Bellows Falls), and the man responsible for perhaps the most dramatic moment in New England sports history (the game 6 winning home run to even the 1975 World Series with Cincinnati) doesn't consider himself a Vermonter. Carlton Fisk grew up across the Connecticut River in Charlston, New Hampshire. It's just that Bellows Falls had the nearest hospital.
The Fisk essay documents his baseball career in Vermont, where he played American Legion baseball, to Charlston, New Hampshire, high school, the University of New Hampshire, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
As great as these players were, the beauty of this book is as much in the stories of the bit players whose baseball lives were modest but whose lives taken as a whole were anything but: players such as Rutland, Vermont's Arlington [End Page 148] Pond, who had a cup of coffee with the Yankees in 1943 but spent most of his life as a medical missionary in the Philippines, where he is a national hero; Williston, Vermont's David Keefe, who won only 9 games in the big leagues but...