In 1967 Niagara Falls native Sal “the barber” Maglie was a pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox. Sal Maglie had been the only player to have played for all three New York major league teams, Dodgers, Giants and Yankees. The “Barber” was a huge fan favorite in downstate New York because of his ties to the “City”. Sal also had a reputation for being a fierce competitor with a mean streak who you wanted on your side in a big game.

In 1967 Sal Maglie found himself mentoring pitchers for the up-start Boston Red Sox who were in pennant race like no other. It was Boston, Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago all battling for the American League title, just a game apart in the final week. This was long before wildcards and split divisions so only one team from each league made it to post-season, which was the World Series.

Niagara Falls New York is without doubt Yankee territory. Always has been and probably always will be. The reason for that is the large Italian population in Niagara Falls and the many Italian players who were on the great Yankee teams of the 1940’s and 50’s.

Yet in 1967, because native son Sal Maglie was on the coaching staff for the Red Sox and the Yankees were in a distant ninth place out of ten teams, Niagara Falls started rooting for the Red Sox.

Sal Maglie still had a large family in the Falls and one of my uncles, Joe Rizzo,  had married Sal’s niece Maria. Because of that connection I too started following the Red Sox despite being a Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris fan since 61′.

It was while I started following Boston that for the first time I discovered an outfielder by the name of Carl Yastrzemski.

“Yaz” was having the season of lifetime for Boston that year winning the Triple Crown for highest average, most homers and most RBIs’. In the clutch, on the final day of the season, in a must win situation against the Minnesota Twins, tied with the Sox for 1st, Yaz went 4 for 4 and Boston won 5-3.

The Red Sox then went on to the World Series against St. Louis and their pitching star Bob Gibson. I remember being in Junior High and my Study Hall teacher was from the Boston area. He brought a television set into the cafeteria and we watched part of the games. That was when the games were still played during the day and not on past midnight in near freezing temperatures.

Boston went on to lose a very exciting seven game series to the Cardinals, but I was hooked. Because of Niagara Falls’ favorite son Sal Maglie, I and many other area baseball fans became regular followers of the Boston Red Sox.

Carl Yastrzemski also became my favorite player and I followed his long career and suffered through the infamous Bucky Dent game, the 86 Buckner Series against the Mets and the 2003 game seven playoff loss to the Yanks. Finally, in 2004 Boston won the World Series and they did it again in 2007. Now the Red Sox are back to form this season and who knows what the next two months will bring? Either way the “Barber” still has me paying attention to the guys from beantown.


Filed under: Koshinski's Korner

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