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Fenway at 100: Park holds special memories for oldest living former Red Sox employee Al Rocci 04.17.12 at 9:34 am ET
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Former longtime Fenway usher Al Rocci poses in right field during a visit to the park in 2006. The now-95-year-old Medford resident recalls passing notes to female fans from Ted Williams, one of the players he befriended.

Throughout his life, no matter how poorly things went, Al Rocci knew he could never complain. Regardless of what direction his life was headed, he always knew that his retreat from everyday realities and struggles, Fenway Park, was never far away.

His official job title at the ballpark was usher, but after manning the gates, aisles and concourses of Fenway for 39 years, from 1936 until 1975, a more fitting title would be historian. It was where he watched Ted Williams step up to the plate and Johnny Pesky take the infield, where he watched the Red Sox make pennant runs, only to inevitably break the Fenway faithful’s collective heart.

What was once a chance to make some extra money in 1936 became a powerful presence in his life, one that left an indelible impact on the man that he is today.

With Fenway set to celebrate its 100th anniversary Friday, the 95-year-old Rocci stands as a remarkable and important relic of the ballpark’s storied history, as the Medford resident has the unique designation as the oldest known living Red Sox employee.

Rocci’s time and connection with the Red Sox is one that has spanned decades and one that has seen the drastic changes with both Fenway and the Red Sox organization itself.  But Rocci’s long and well-defined connection with the Red Sox began in humble enough circumstances.

Growing up in the perpetual economic struggle and turbulence of the Great Depression, a time in which Rocci said that his family had to “scrimp and scrape” to get by, Rocci was forced to go to work before and after school in order to make money for his family. Matters were complicated by the fact that Rocci’s father passed away when he was just 3 years old, something he described as “one of my worst setbacks” in his life.

Though a part of Rocci’s early life was characterized by a series of setbacks, things quickly started to change as he was unknowingly about to begin a 76-year relationship with the team he grew up idolizing.

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Fenway to host Liverpool-AS Roma soccer game July 25 03.28.12 at 12:59 pm ET
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Fenway Sports Management announced Wednesday that the English soccer team Liverpool will play the Italian club AS Roma at Fenway Park on July 25 as a part of Liverpool’s preseason North American tour.

Liverpool is owned by Fenway Sports Group, and the group’s principal owner, John Henry, said he is excited about the opportunity for Liverpool to play at the iconic ballpark.

“During its 100-year history, Fenway Park has hosted some of the best in athletic competition, and a match between Liverpool and AS Roma — two of the world’s most well-known and respected clubs — is an appropriate way to help celebrate Fenway’s 100th anniversary and showcase our ballpark to an international audience,” Henry said in a press release.

Liverpool last traveled to the United States in 2004 for a tour that included games in Connecticut, New Jersey and Toronto. The club’s 2012 North American tour will begin in July and will last 12 days, with the team playing at least two matches in that time.

The match will be a part of Fenway’s 100th anniversary celebration. Tickets for the event go on sale April 28. More information can be found at lfctour.com.

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Tito returns: Not ‘just another day at the office’ for Terry Francona 03.22.12 at 5:29 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The arrival was treated with enthusiasm and curiosity by Terry Francona‘s former players. Dustin Pedroia chastised his former cribbage partner for talking to the media “now that you’re one of them.” David Ortiz stopped in for a hug. Darnell McDonald likewise wanted to see Francona, the man who gave him his most meaningful big league opportunity.

This is Francona’s new job. He is an analyst for ESPN, and so he is making the rounds among big league ballparks for broadcasts. But his arrival in the city where he spent the previous eight springs as Red Sox manager was…different.

“If I sat here and said, ‘Yeah, this is just another day at the office,’ that wouldn’t be true,” said Francona. “I’m excited to do the game, but I’ll be a little glad when the day is over. It’s a little awkward for me.”

That is in part because his Red Sox experience remains something of an emotional tangle, something that became clear when Francona was asked if he would consider returning to Fenway Park if asked for the celebration of the ballpark’s 100th anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »

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Carl Crawford accepts John Henry’s apology 02.25.12 at 10:17 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Before heading out to the batting cage to take 30 swings, Carl Crawford sat down with John Henry to hear an apology from the Red Sox principal owner about remarks he made last October, indicating he never wanted to sign Crawford.

“It went extremely well,” Crawford said of their meeting that lasted over 10 minutes. “He was apologetic and I accepted his apology and we both agreed to just move and go from there.”

A career .293 hitter, Crawford batted just .255 last season, including .155 in April, with 11 homers and 56 RBIs, after signing a seven-year, $142 million deal prior to the 2011 season.

“When someone is genuinely sorry for something, you can tell,” Crawford said. “I think he was genuinely sorry for it. I apologized for the season I had. Had I played better, he wouldn’t had to say that so we just both exchanged words that were good. I thinke we were able to clear the air and now it’s just time to move on.”

Crawford said he felt very comfortable talking with Henry during the early afternoon meeting.

“It felt really good. I like those kind of meetings where you just kind of clear the air and make everything better,” Crawford said. “I think it’s best for the organization and best for everybody that we all get along and that’s the way it should be. He’s the kind of guy who is really soft-spoken, really easy to talk to. He actually came in with a smile on his face so I knew things were going to be good from there.

“He handled it really well and made it really easy for me. It wasn’t nothing I had to get off my chest. It wasn’t like I hated the guy or nothing like that. It was just like ‘I accept your apology, let’s move on. I have no hard feelings for you or anybody else around here.’ I think we both share the same goal which is to help the Red Sox win. We’ll be better off. We’ll become stronger and the bond will be closer from his saying that. That’s the way I look at it.”

Meanwhile, Crawford said he’s been taking swings in the cage all week and hopes to be ready for opening day after offseason wrist surgery. Manager Bobby Valentine said Crawford is at about 80 percent, taking 30-35 swings a day and did not rule out Crawford being ready for the April 5 opener in Detroit.

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John Henry: Terry Francona ‘will always be a part of the Red Sox family’ 02.20.12 at 9:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — Two days after a report in the Boston Herald suggested that he had not returned several phone calls from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona this offseason, Sox owner John Henry wrote in an email that he had not been trying to avoid contact since the former manager parted ways with the Sox. Henry said that he did talk to Francona on Monday, in the process dispelling misunderstandings that the two might have had, and that the two plan to get together in Fort Myers this spring.

“I called Tito about this today. We spoke also about a number of things, but regarding what you inquired about, he said he had called on my cell phone but didn’t leave any messages. We simply missed each other apparently a few times,” Henry wrote. “Had he left me a message, I would have certainly called him back. We talked extensively and agreed that we had waited far too long in speaking and both of us had probably come to some wrong conclusions as to why we hadn’t. We are looking forward to sitting down in Ft. Myers this spring for lunch or a game. He will always be a part of the Red Sox family.”

Henry also praised his former employee, who managed the Sox for eight seasons, reaching the playoffs five times and winning two titles.

“Tito was the best manager the Boston Red Sox ever had,” he wrote. “We won two World Series together. He’ll be terrific on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. And no one can doubt that he will be managing again very soon.”

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Bobby Valentine thanks Red Sox ownership for giving their blessing to Ben Cherington 12.01.11 at 11:45 pm ET
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Bobby Valentine couldn’t have been more grateful on Thursday at Fenway Park for the chance to lead a major league team, 10 years after his last season managing the New York Mets.

But the opening of his acceptance speech in the State Street Pavilion raised a few eyebrows. He thanked John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino for giving their stamp of approval to GM Ben Cherington for hiring him as the 45th manager in team history.

“I’d like to thank Ben and his front office staff. I’d like to thank John and Tom and Larry for giving the blessings to Ben on his decision,” Valentine said.

The irony in that statement is that most are assuming that this wasn’t Cherington’s decision at all but instead a hand-picked choice of ownership.

“I’d like to thank all my friends, family who have supported me,” Valentine said. “Many of you people out there who have said a kind word or two to allow this to happen because this day is a special day. It’s more than a special day. It’s the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything I ever thought.

“The talent, the players that we have in this organization is a gift to anyone. And I’m the receiver of that gift. I think we’re going to do this, man. I really and truly appreciate this opportunity.”

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Transcript of Larry Lucchino on D&C: ‘You guys might want to live in September 2011 forever, but we don’t’ 10.28.11 at 3:48 pm ET
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Larry Lucchino

Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to defend his boss, John Henry, talk about the Theo Epstein/Ben Cherington situations, and update the masses on the Red Sox’ managerial search.

Lucchino also discussed how the team is dealing with misbehavior by the pitchers in the clubhouse. Josh Beckett has been identified as one of the key participants, but he has yet to step forward and address the issue like some of his teammates. Lucchino said he has spoke with the veteran right-hander.

“I think he is on the same page, just less willing to deal with the media right now,” Lucchino said. “He craves his privacy I think a little more. But he was a highly motivated guy when I spoke to him. I think he feels like we as a team have something to prove, they as a pitching staff have something to prove. And I think you will see a highly motivated Josh Beckett. I know you will next year.

Asked if Beckett apologized, Lucchino said: “I didn’t ask for an apology. But we spoke about what the circumstances were. I should let Josh speak for himself when he decides to do that. Let’s just say he appreciated that there were some things going on in the clubhouse, but he felt that they were dramatically blown out of proportion by the media.”

Pushed on the matter, Lucchino said he was tired of rehashing the September collapse.

“I don’t want to play the blame game,” he said. “I don’t want to go back. You guys might want to live in September 2011 forever, but we don’t. We want to move forward. I probably made a mistake simply by indulging you guys in the conversation about that. It’s time to move forward. It’s not time to dwell on who drank a beer or had a piece of fried chicken. If you believe that that was the cause of the collapse in September, I think you’re mistaken.”

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