Red Sox notebook

His gem still shines in Parnell's memory

Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is disgusted as he walks from the plate after striking out in the second inning. Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is disgusted as he walks from the plate after striking out in the second inning. (John Bohn/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / May 22, 2008

Tom Yawkey, owner of the Red Sox from 1933 until his death in 1976, was waiting at the clubhouse door when Mel Parnell completed his no-hitter.

"He had a contract in his hand," Parnell said yesterday. "He said, 'Sign this.'

"I said, 'Mr. Yawkey, you're paying me to do this.' He said, 'Sign it.' Mr. Yawkey was like that. I said, 'If you insist, I will.' "

Time has blurred the amount of money involved. Parnell turns 86 June 13; he threw his no-hitter against the White Sox July 14, 1956, at Fenway Park.

But Parnell, the winningest lefthander in Sox history (123-75), who later was reintroduced to Sox fans as a broadcaster (1965-68), clearly enjoyed summoning memories of his no-hitter, the last tossed by a Boston lefthander before Jon Lester did it Monday night against the Royals.

He also relished the chance to praise Lester, with whom he shares a poignant connection: In 2002, Parnell was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same blood cancer Lester had.

"It's something that's miserable," Parnell said. "Taking chemo just kills you. I'm sure it affected him. His youth was probably beneficial to him. I watched some of Monday's game, but I have the MLB package, so I've seen him a lot. I see a lot of improvement over last year. I'm very impressed by him."

Like the 24-year-old Lester, Parnell's cancer is in remission. His biggest health issue these days, he said, is a bad back. "The effects of baseball," he said.

According to the box score, there were 14,542 fans at Parnell's no-hitter, a fraction of the 37,746 who saw Lester's. "I remember there were showers early," said Parnell, who was 34 and in his last season, having pitched with a torn muscle in his elbow in his final years. "We were all in uniform, sitting in the dugout. The umpires sounded like they wanted the day off. They were going, 'Why don't we call off this thing?' I remember [general manager] Joe Cronin was upstairs and told them, 'Sit tight. The weather department said it's going to clear up.' And it did. It was a beautiful day."

Parnell is amused when pitchers say they're unaware they have a no-hitter in progress. "The fans are constantly reminding you," he said. "You've got that big scoreboard you're looking at."

And then there are teammates - in Parnell's case, right fielder Jackie Jensen.

"Jackie Jensen came up to me and said, 'Look, fella, you've got a no-hitter. Don't let them hit it to me. I'll be the one who breaks it.' He seemed to be dead serious. He didn't want to be the one to mess up the show. I said, 'Forget about it. I'm just going for the win.' "

The White Sox had a potent lineup, with stars like Minnie Minoso, Larry Doby, Sherm Lollar, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, and Jim Rivera, all of whom played that day. But Parnell could recall only one Chicago player coming close to a hit, on a ball second baseman Billy Goodman fielded by the bag.

Like Lester, Parnell walked the leadoff man in the ninth inning, third baseman Sammy Esposito. There were a couple of force plays, and with two outs, Walt Dropo, the American League Rookie of the Year for the Sox in 1950, pinch hit and hit a tapper to the right of the mound. Parnell fielded it.

"I got the ball and ran to first base," Parnell said. "Mickey Vernon, our first baseman, said, 'What's the matter, fella, you don't trust me?'

"I said, 'Mickey, I trust you. I didn't trust myself to make the throw.' "

Roster formalities

Before last night's game, Bartolo Colon's contract was purchased from Pawtucket - he had to be added to the team's 40-man major league roster - and Justin Masterson was optioned to the Triple A club . . . Scott Pioli, the Patriots' vice president of player personnel, was at the game. Pioli became friends with Terry Francona when both were in Cleveland, Pioli working for the Browns, Francona for the Indians, and also is acquainted with former Indians Sean Casey and Colon . . . Sox play-by-play man Don Orsillo has called seven no-hitters. He called four in the minor leagues - by Paxton Crawford, Bill Pulsipher, Tomo Ohka (perfect game), and Juan Pena. With the Sox, he has called the no-hitters of Hideo Nomo, Clay Buchholz, and Lester . . . Brandon Moss, who came to Boston to be checked by doctors in the aftermath of his appendectomy May 4, worked out at Fenway before the game. Moss is scheduled today to join Pawtucket, where he is expected to continue working at first base. "Everything feels good," said Moss, adding that he was disbelieving at first when told that what he thought was a stomachache required surgery . . . Francona hopes third base coach DeMarlo Hale, who left the team Tuesday to be with his wife, Carol, while she undergoes medical tests, may be able to join the club this weekend in Oakland. Bench coach Brad Mills is coaching third base in Hale's absence . . . J.D. Drew, who fouled a ball off his right knee Tuesday, was given the night off.

Curse of Casey?

Casey has not played since the opener of Saturday's day-night doubleheader against the Brewers. Casey, who played in Detroit in 2006 and '07, indirectly became involved in a dust-up between Tigers manager Jim Leyland and former Tigers pitcher Jason Grilli. Leyland blew up regarding remarks made by Grilli, now with Colorado, in which he said, "It seems like they kind of broke up [Detroit's] team chemistry when they got rid of Sean Casey and good people like that. You wanted guys like that around." Leyland fired back: "I really take offense to Jason Grilli's thing about we lost Sean Casey. You've got to be [kidding] me. We lost Sean Casey. I mean, please. Come on. Don't misunderstand one thing. I miss Sean Casey. But Sean Casey has nothing to do with the fact the Tigers are where we're at." . . . Righthanded reliever Daniel Bard, one of the Sox' two first-round picks in the 2006 draft, was credited with his first win in Double A when Portland scored four times in the ninth for a 9-5 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester. Bard gave up a tying home run to Jacob Butler in the eighth, but also had three strikeouts while walking one in two innings . . . Coco Crisp is batting just .250 (8 for 32) since May 10, but seven of those hits have gone for extra bases - four doubles (one last night), a triple, and two home runs . . . Alex Cora has come on for Julio Lugo as a defensive replacement at shortstop in four straight games . . . The Sox have scored a first-inning run in 33 of their 49 games.

Nick Cafardo and Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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