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Monbouquette, still a fan favorite, regaining health

Pitcher Bill Monbouquette (left) with Red Sox teammate Frank Malzone after a 2-1 victory in 1962. Pitcher Bill Monbouquette (left) with Red Sox teammate Frank Malzone after a 2-1 victory in 1962.
(Associated Press/File)
By Maureen Mullen
Globe Correspondent / September 8, 2011

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Bill Monbouquette does not waste words. Just as he never wasted pitches.

Oct. 3 will mark the three-year anniversary since the Medford native underwent a stem cell transplant to knock out the acute myelogenous leukemia that was ravaging his body.

“Monbo,’’ who turned 75 last month, is in remission now and enjoying life - and health.

“I feel fine,’’ said the former Red Sox righthander who threw a no-hitter against the White Sox in Chicago on Aug. 1, 1962, and was the ace on some weak Sox teams of the early 1960s.

“I have to go see my doctor every month, every five weeks, whatever, and they’re happy. I’ve got to trust my doctors, right?

“I still get tired. I can’t do things that I used to. That bothers you. I don’t walk as much as I should, and when I do I go about a mile. I should probably try to push it.’’

Still, he’s able to do more than he could a few years ago, just after the transplant, when he had to limit his contact with people for fear of germs.

These days, he’s pretty much back to normal. This past spring, he helped out with the Medford High baseball program.

On Sunday, he was at Fenway Park, greeting fans, signing autographs, and talking baseball, one of a half-dozen trips he has made to the park this season.

Monbouquette watched the game from the Legends Suite, reserved for Sox alumni and others who pay for the privilege of watching the game with them.

“I enjoy it,’’ he said. “[Sunday] was a nice day. There were real nice people. We laughed. Johnny Pesky came in, and of course they were happy about that. It probably made their day.’’

Part of what makes his days on these trips is the chance to visit with players he got to know as a coach in the organizations of the Mets, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Yankees.

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is one of his favorites, and Texas third baseman Michael Young, who came up through the Toronto organization, is another.

Monbouquette laughs when he tells of introducing his wife, Josephine, to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, leaving her speechless. He is enjoying the magnificent season of Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander.

Monbouquette, who won 114 games over 11 seasons with the Sox, Yankees, Tigers, and Giants, worked with Verlander, the likely American League Cy Young winner this season and an MVP candidate, one spring training.

As could be expected, he didn’t go easy on the Tigers’ No. 1 pick (second overall) in the 2004 draft.

“I happened to get on him one day,’’ said Monbouquette.

“He’s a right-hander and [his delivery] was heading toward third base instead of to home plate. And I said to him, ‘Where are you going?’ . . . I explained to him that from that angle if you try to get over, you could make a lot of mistakes, leaving the ball in the middle of the plate. And he said, ‘Well. . .’

And I said, ‘Don’t even.’ I said, ‘Just do what you’re told, because this is the quickest way to get to the big leagues.’ And when I stepped back my boss was there and said, ‘Boy, you were a little tough on the kid. I said, ‘Tough? That’s not tough.’ ’’

When Monbouquette’s picture was shown on the giant video board in center field late in the game on Sunday, he was treated to a rousing ovation from the Fenway crowd.

Clips of his career were also shown, with the song “Monbo Time’’ as the soundtrack.

The song by The Remains, a local band that was an opening act for the Beatles’ 1966 tour and is performing again, is “intended to capture several aspects of a Red Sox fan’s experience, ranging from going to Fenway Park for the first time, to the passage of time from the perspective of a longtime fan,’’ according to the band’s website.

It pleases Monbouquette that the band has pledged 50 percent of the song’s revenues to cancer research and treatment.

But the former tough-as-nails pitcher couldn’t imagine having his own song played when he took the mound.

“Uh, no I don’t think so,’’ he said. His message “either came from the pitching coach or the manager: ‘Just get ’em out.’ Things have changed. It’s a new ballgame.’’

Maureen Mullen can be reached at mullen_maureen

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