The phone rings and I spring out of bed. I scramble for my glasses and make my way to the bedroom door stumbling over various stuffed animals that I swear my 7 year old son leaves in my way on purpose. My wife looks at the clock and asks me with a drowsy whisper in her voice,
“Who is that?”
I say only one word “Lepcio”.
I had been playing phone tag with former Red Sox utility player legend Ted Lepcio over the past month or two and he finally had time for me on March 18, 2011…..it was a Friday morning.
“Hello”, I answered enthusiastically.
“Hello Dave? Ted Lepcio here, How ya doing?” he asked, clearly more awake then I.
“Hey Ted!!! Good, how are you?” I responded as I wiped sleep from my eyes.
Ted told me he would be calling in the morning and excited as I was to talk with him, I must admit, mornings were never my strong point. Ask anyone who knows me. But this was an opportunity to talk to one of my favorite players. The reason I was so interested in Ted Lepcio was because I am a big fan of the utility player, and to be one of the few during the 50’sand 60’s that could play 3 or more positions, to me was the hidden gem of any team, and I believed Ted Lepcio was that for the Boston Red Sox.
“I’m sorry to call so early Dave but it was the only free time I had for you, I apologize.” Ted said.
Here was Ted Lepcio apologizing to me, when I’ve been calling his house for a month like a stalker.
“Were you up”, he asks with a chuckle.
“Oh yeah, of course…..well actually I was sleeping but I was ready mentally for the interview”, I admitted. Ted laughed out loud over the phone.
“Ted if you don’t mind my wife Tracy is gonna listen in on the other line and take short-hand notes for me, is that ok?” I asked.
“Whoa, we got a whole production going here huh?” He chuckled sarcastically.
I introduced him to my wife and war time consiglieri on baseball. He said hello and they exchanged pleasantries.
“Ok Dave, whatta ya wanna know?” he asked without wasting any time.
“Well I know that you’re busy, so I’ll just ask a bunch of questions about your career and baseball in general, and if there are any you don’t feel like answering just tell me and we’ll move on.” I assured him.
“Ok Dave sounds good, go ahead.” He said happily. “But before we start, tell me what this is for. Who are you writing this for?” he asked inquisitively.
So I proceeded to tell him how I got this writing gig and about my editors Jamie, Brad, and Ryan’s baseball career. I filled him in on the website and he thought it was outstanding.
TTFB: Since retiring from MLB, what made you stay in Boston?
“Well I’m from Utica, NY, and it was mainly a mill town, a real working class town. It wasn’t a very exciting place”, he chuckled. “It reminded me a lot of Lowell and Lawrence actually. After playing in Boston for a year, I really liked the people and the town overall and just decided to stay.”
TTFB: What made you pursue baseball? Who were your favorite players growing up?
“Since I was a boy, maybe 5,6, or 7 years old, I dreamed of becoming a baseball player. I got a scholarship after high school and attended Seton Hall for college, and then I got my chance when I was signed, and the rest was history. Being from NY, I mostly followed the NY teams like the Yankees, but The Cardinals at the time were very popular, so I really enjoyed Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial, those were the teams that I flirted with the most.”
TTFB: As a utility player, you had the skills it took to play many positions. Do you feel that gave you an advantage as a player and as a team mate?
“At the time there were only a few guys that could play more than one position, so I really think it helped me stay in the big leagues for as long as I did which was ten years. It was all about hitting too when I was a player. If you could hit, you were in the line-up plain and simple. The more prominent players played just one position, and sometimes I would get a little jealous that I wasn’t at one position all the time, but like I said being able to play multiple positions had its advantages. I have talked with Nomar Garciaparra and Lou Merloni about the same topic and they agreed that utility players now like themselves played much more frequently than in my day. Sometimes you wouldn’t play for two weeks, before you knew it all the sudden you’d be in the batter’s box against someone like Herb Score and say “Ahhh geez”.”
TTFB: Do you feel that players had more durability then than they do now?
“Players these days, some not all, aren’t afraid to take time off. Like Jacoby Ellsbury with his rib injury for example, he wasn’t taking any chances. He had a serious injury and I was glad to see him not push himself and make it worse. When you’re hurt, you’re hurt. During the 50’s and 60’s you played through the pain. We had ankle injuries, broken bones in our hands, sometimes you couldn’t even grip the bat. But you played hard to stay in the majors, we were afraid to go because there were so few farm teams back then. You would find yourself in Louisville or Scranton and some guys didn’t make it back. We had more seasoned players in AAA too, so the talent was easier to call up”
TTFB: Do you still keep in contact some of your old team mates?
“Oh sure!! Harmon Killebrew and Al Kaline I usually talk to around Christmas every year, and I talk to Bill Monbouquette, Dave Sisler, Pete Daley, and Dick Gernert. We talk about the old days of course, the game now and it’s players, and of course salary”, as he let out a laugh.
TTFB: Do you have any advice for the young players?
“A long time ago I would’ve said to stay in school. But with the money players make now, why not go after your dreams. The pay that players get now, does make it easier to go back to school and further one’s education if one chooses. So I say let them play, but keep in mind that an education should always be a priority, whether it’s before or after.”
I thanked him up and down for the opportunity, and he made sure that Tracy got everything he said by calling her “ The Little Secretary”.