Worcester Red Sox, Pawtucket Red Sox, Polar Park, Minor League Baseball

It wasn’t Washington, Adams and Jefferson gathering for drinks along the Potomac, but there were three presidents at Polar Park last Thursday spanning nearly 50 years of history.

The story of WooSox.

This is the first season of the WooSox but they are the direct descendants of the Pawtucket Red Sox, who entered Triple A baseball in 1973. They were owned by Joe buzas, who employed Mike Tamburro as a trainee. Tamburro returned to Pawtucket in 1977 as the new owner that of Ben Mondor managing director and later became chairman.

Tamburro is still with the franchise as a vice president working alongside the current president, Dr. Charles Steinberg. They are linked together by Phil Anez, who bought the franchise from Buzas in 1975 and was owner-president until 1976.

It was Anez’s first visit to Polar Park and, remarkably, his very first meeting with Tamburro who was with the team before and after Anez owned it.

Comparing the landscape of minor league baseball today and 50 years ago is not like comparing the landscape of the earth and the moon. It’s more like Earth and Pluto.

“This place is amazing,” said Anez, looking at Polar Park from behind the plate. “I could never have imagined something like this when I owned the team.”

WORCESTER - Dr Charles Steinberg, Phil Anez and Mike Tamburro at Polar Park on Thursday July 15, 2021.

Anez declined to give his age, but was 35 when he purchased the PawSox in ’75. Enough said. Triple A baseball today, and miners in general, could not have achieved the prosperity of today without owners like Anez half a century ago who ran the business through the dark times.

The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, published by Baseball America in 1993, describes 1963 to 1977 as “The Years of Living.” He concluded that, “For most franchises, survival was the only success.” Teams sold for $ 1. There are stories of the legendary frugal Buzas rubbing old baseballs with milk to make them look newer. When Anez bought the team, it had 84 followers.

The ’75 PawSox, renamed the Rhode Island Red Sox for ’76, was bad on the court and at the box office, but almost everyone was bad at the box office. The PawSox averaged 1,690 fans in 1975 and was the third best in the International League. The Richmond Braves had an average of 969.

“Everyone was in financial trouble back then,” Anez said. “We promoted – we tried everything. One night we gave a donkey, another night we gave a donkey, another night we gave an old car, an old car from 1946. “

Anez bought the Buzas team for $ 150,000 and had to borrow $ 10,000 from a family member to make a down payment, otherwise Buzas would have sold it to someone else. Larry Lucchino and its partners bought the PawSox from Mondor’s property for, this has been reported but never confirmed, somewhere around $ 20 million.

At the end of 1976, Anez was out of money. He considered moving to Jersey City but ran into roadblocks. The franchise reverted to the International League and Mondor bought it from the league and ultimately turned it into a source of money.

“On the one hand, it’s the stadiums,” Anez said of the turnaround, looking at the Polar Park equipment.

The gap between the cost of going to a major league game and that of a minor league has widened over the years. In ’75, a seat at Fenway cost $ 4.75, a grandstand seat $ 2.25. It was still a family spectator sport, but no more. These people are in Polar Park.

The longest-running game in 1981 at McCoy Stadium, ended in a big-league strike, helped raise awareness of the miners and what they had to offer. They went from collapse to boom.

Anez was a baseball fan even though he turned out to be a Yankees fan. He lived and died the way the PawSox did, traveling with them to road games on occasion. He saw Tony Conigliaro make a failed comeback attempt in 1975. He had favorite players like wide receiver Ernie Whitt and pitcher Don Aase.

This passion led to a mistake, however.

“I remember, and that was one of my worst mistakes,” he recalls, “that I accused (the manager of the Sox farm) Ed kenney not to try to earn enough. And that was a fatal mistake. I regret having said it so far. I should never have said that to Ed Kenney because he was a great guy.

Anez was neither surprised nor disappointed when the PawSox left for Worcester. He had handled the inner workings of the Rhode Island government when he owned the team.

“When politics got involved it was judgment day,” he said, “and Mike can attest to that. The saying – everything is politics – that’s what it was.

Anez returned to baseball in 1980 thanks to Buzas, who approached him to work for his Triple A team in Portland.

“I told him I didn’t know there was a minor league team in Maine,” Anez recalls, to which Buzas replied, “There isn’t. It’s in Oregon. , not in Maine, fool.

Anez was there – the board included Frank Sinatra Jr. and Pia zadora – until the team moved to Salt Lake City in 1983.

“I was sales manager, general manager, whatever the job name was,” he said. “It also involved cleaning the toilets, but that was the minor leagues back then.”

He returned to Rhode Island and hosted a talk show on WNRI in Woonsocket, which made him one of the nation’s top 100 political broadcasts. Anez remains a ball player, if not an owner, in a senior softball league.

And while his PawSox teams have lost matches and money, he doesn’t regret the experience.

“It was a dream come true,” Anez said. “No matter what happened, I will never regret it. It was the greatest experience of my life, and I have no regrets, none at all. I have met some of the most amazing people I have ever had. have never met in my life.

And without that dream, there might not be a Polar Park and a WooSox team to play it.

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