Tommy Harper Highlights Al Thomas Baseball Club 2006 Dinner
Degnan, Feehily, Toland Enter Hall of Fame
Former Boston Red Sox player and coach Tommy Harper was the featured speaker at the annual Al Thomas Baseball Club Hall of Fame Dinner held on January13th at the Quincy Neighborhood Club. Harper, who was the Red Sox’ MVP in 1973 and still holds the single season stolen base record for the Red Sox and the Seattle Pilots, received a standing ovation for his remarks and poignant answers to various questions from the audience.
Soft-spoken and articulate, Harper spoke of his early days in baseball, playing American Legion and high school ball, encouraging, “Never give up your dream if you really want it. Keep working hard and go for it. You never know what might happen!”
Now a Player Development Consultant for the Red Sox, Harper brought and autographed three dozen baseballs and presented each one to members of the 2005 Al Thomas Club and the American Legion Post 114 baseball team, which was also being honored at the dinner. At the program’s conclusion, he graciously met and spoke with numerous fans and admirers who sought an autograph, a handshake or a particular nugget of baseball information. He was the last person to leave the building, further solidifying his reputation as a gentleman and a class act.Former Al Thomas manager, Paul Degnan, longtime pitcher, Mike Feehily, and retired catcher, Mike Toland were inducted into the team’s prestigious Hall of Fame. Each inductee spoke of the kindness of Al Thomas, the quality of his teammates, the many friendships forged over the years, and the unabashed pride with which he wore the Al Thomas uniform. One-hundred-and-forty people gathered for this event to celebrate this wonderful family that has become Al Thomas Baseball. What started as a timid knock on a local businessman’s door some 25 years ago has flourished into a collection of friends who share a passion for the game of baseball, as well as a respect and admiration for each other. And along the way there has been some pretty good baseball, with the A’s capturing five league championships and14 Division titles. And the team has sent 30 to 40 players to Fenway Park to play in the Yawkey League’s annual All Star game. The Al Thomas fans share the same integrity, devotion and enthusiasm as the players. Over the years, it is the fans that have inspired the team to greater glory. It has always been the fans, the loyal followers who travel night in and night out to support the club. Whether it’s a glance, a wave, a shout, a high-five or even just a smile, their presence is always felt, and it is and always has been appreciated more than any member of the team could ever communicate. Two ‘Fan of the Year’ honors were awarded to dedicated followers in 2005 - Bob Hannon and Brian & Gail Powers.
Al Thomas and his team were honored to give recognition to the Milton American Legion Post 114 Baseball team for its great run in the summer of 2005. Finishing at 18-1, the team won its district and made it to the final three teams in the state before bowing out of the tournament. The foundation of the Al Thomas Club was built on players from this Legion team. Legion coach and former Al Thomas player Pat Bryan spoke briefly of his team’s accomplishments, and then the team assembled onstage to receive a commemorative baseball, autographed and presented to them by Tommy Harper.
2005 saw the Al Thomas Baseball Club post a league best 25-6 record which included a 10-game winning streak early in the season and a six-game winning streak to end the season. Newcomer Scott Jamieson blazed his way into the league with brilliant outings game after game, including a no-hitter at Cunningham Park on June 18th. He joined Aidan Powers, Leo Corcoran, John Kostas, Pat Dolbeare, Paul Bonner, Brian Kennedy & George Grant to form the best pitching staff in the YBL with a team 1.46 ERA, including 5 shutouts and 12 games allowing no earned runs. In the first round of the playoffs, Jamieson, Kostas and Aidan Powers picked up wins as the A’s swept West Roxbury in three games. In the semifinals, Jamieson outdueled Medford’s ace in game one for a 1-0 win, Kostas picked up a win in relief in extra innings in game two, and Leo Corcoran took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of game three before settling for six innings of one-hit shutout ball in the clinching game. Chris Bucci and Andy Doyle crushed the ball throughout the playoffs, with Doyle seemingly knocking in a run every time there was a man in scoring position.
After jumping out to a 2-0 game lead in the finals, the Thomas Club gave the six-time defending champion Somerville a little too much breathing room, and they took care of business in a thrilling seven-game series. Although the A’s didn’t achieve their ultimate goal, it was one of the greatest seasons in team history, and the team was more honorable in defeat than most teams would be in victory.
One thing that made this team stand out was that it was an incredibly unselfish team. From day one through the last out of the season, there were 18-19 guys virtually every single night. Some guys didn’t get to play as much as they would have liked to, but they never complained and kept showing up night after night. It was such a great testament to the character of this team, individually, and as a whole.
The Yawkey League awards were announced recently, and several Al Thomas players received accolades. Andy Doyle (catcher), Greg Lovely (shortstop) and Chris Bucci (centerfield) won Gold Glove Awards; Chris Malloy won a Silver Slugger Award; Scott Jamieson cleaned up with the Cy Young Award and the Rookie of the Year Award; and Joe O’Hara was voted as Manager of the Year.
Honors given at the Banquet included Mark Daly with The Tenth Player Award; Paul Bonner as The Comeback Player of the Year; Tri-Rookies-of-the-Year Chris Burke, Andy Doyle and Matt Hallisey. Paul Bonner with the Riley Rocket Award (for the longest bomb allowed by a pitcher during the season); Matt Thayer and Chris Bucci winning team Gold Glove Awards; Jim Flavin collecting The Unsunk Hero Award; and Scott Jamieson capturing the team MVP with an 8-1 mark and a sizzling 0.23 earned run average. Longtime friend and Yawkey League Commissioner Dan Tarpey was ceremoniously presented a team jacket to fittingly close out the awards program.
With a gracious host, Al Thomas, an exciting guest speaker in Tommy Harper, the Al Thomas Club, the Legion Post 114 Baseball Team, three worthy Hall of Fame inductees, and a room of wonderful friends, the event was a special night of celebrating baseball in Milton. Congratulations to Al Thomas on a night to remember!