Wit and Wisdom from the WA

Herb Crehan:  My New Year’s resolution is to enjoy every inning of the 2013 Red Sox season!  What’s yours Frank?

Frank Sullivan: Eighty-two years later I find not making any is the best way to win.

Herb Crehan: Do you see another World Championship in the Red Sox near future?

Frank Sullivan: How near is near? If John Lackey comes back strong and Lester straightens up and flies right they could put a scare in the division but to win it all would be an amazing event this coming year. But you can be assured I’m rooting for them.

Herb Crehan:  The big story in January is the Hall of Fame voting.  You pitched to Yankee Hall of Fame members Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra: who was tougher for you?

Frank Sullivan:  Both were tough. Mickey was more lethal but Berra was hard to pitch to because he was a bad ball hitter. I haven’t looked at the record books but I would say they were about even.

Herb Crehan:  How many home runs do you think Mickey Mantle would have hit if he had used PEDs?

Frank Sullivan: I have no idea but I know boats on the Charles River would have been endangered.

Herb Crehan:  You pitched against Hall of Fame members Early Wynn and Whitey Ford.  Which one was tougher on the Red Sox?

Frank Sullivan:  Again, both were tough on our club. Whitey with his mediocre stuff but pin point control could put a whole team in a slump. Early was a different problem altogether. While being a teddy bear off the field he became an enraged grizzly bear when pitching. He was the most intimidating pitcher of my time. If you so much as looked at him you could count on him seeing if you could hit lying down, and that went for the opposing pitcher as well.

Herb Crehan:  The only stimulants the players took in the 1950s were chewing tobacco and bubble gum.  Am I correct?

Frank Sullivan: Towards the end of the 1950’s there were some guys using a green pill that seemed to stimulate their conversation if nothing else.

Herb Crehan: Pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.  What did you used to do to get in shape?

Frank Sullivan: Run my ass off. And Herb, I hated running! I never got faster or at ease with it.  Jim Kaat [283 major league wins] refused to run because he said Jessie Owens never won a baseball game.

Herb Crehan:  How much fun was spring training in Sarasota, Florida, in the 1950s?

Frank Sullivan: It was wonderful. Good morning work-out and [Leo] Kiely and I had a standing order at the fishing camp out on the end of Siesta Key.  They had a boat ready with a few suds, 24 live shrimp in the well, and a hot sandwich for each of us.

Herb Crehan: How did you get the nickname “WA”?

Frank Sullivan: After my Division (1st Cavalry) was pulled out of Korea we were taken to Hokkaido Japan. I spent the whole year there (1952) and besides baseball I played on a very good basketball team that went undefeated (32 wins) and I happened to be the high scorer.

I was being interviewed by a Japanese reporter who was stumbling with his English while I was crawling with my Japanese and when he asked me how I got to score so much I told him that when our fast-break failed the plan was to give the ball to the watashi.  It was one of the few words I knew, and it meant “Me” or “I” in Japanese. Two of my teammates were standing by and heard me say it and from that time on I was the watashi. They then shortened it to Watash and even had me answering back to WA. Naturally I also answer to a lot of other things like, “Hey! Fool!” and much worse.

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Herb Crehan is in his 21st season as a contributing writer for Red Sox Magazine, the team's official program. He is the author of two books on Red Sox history and he has contributed to five other books. He speaks frequently on Boston baseball history and he is the Editor of www.bostonbaseballhistory.com.

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