Friday, November 14, 2008

Bill C Buried with Full Honors!

McKay Club Beacon "Brain-Less Trust" at a game during the summer of 2008. Pictured: Manager - Dave McKay (L) and Assistant manager - Bill Cunningham (R)



Many thanks to all of you - who took the time to be a part of this farewell to Bill Cunningham this morning. Remembering is important and today is a day to remember Bill and his life. His brother and other family members are gathered to look back and say good bye. Bill’s extended family from Dorchester, Gillette and Baseball also have gathered these past two days to reflect on the contributions he made to our community in a quiet and effective manner.

Someone wrote: “I LIVE FOR THIS” as an exclamation of ones love for the Game of Baseball. Well – they must have had Billy C in mind when they wrote that phrase.

In dreams and reality Bill was a “True Baseball Head” – many called him Baseball Billy! He lived the Game at Fenway Park, Ronan Park, City of Palms Park or any grassy area: where there where white lines painted - a bump in the middle of that grass with a rubber for the pitcher to stand on - and three bases inside a diamond with players dressed in old time garb as they chased a white stitched round ball.
Baseball teaches us many life-lessons. Some of them bitter, but most sweet... Bill had a handle on how to enjoy the benefits of being a part of the Game. He played ball in the Boston Park League and had a shot at the Bigs. BUT – I feel the most fun he had was sitting on the bench being a part of a generation of mad-cap players who populated the McKay Club Beacons in the Yawkey League of Boston.

McKay Club Team Captain – Jack Owens reflected upon hearing of Bill’s passing that The Beacons were Bill’s family. That was no slant on Bill’s namesake family, but he did spend 15 years with us chasing a Yawkey League Championship. He came close in 1998 & 2000. He also had an opportunity to coach 5 games at Fenway Park. One day - our team beat the Colorado Silver Bullets – Women’s Professional Baseball Team before a Saturday Red Sox Game in front of 20 thousand people. The other four were games he was the bench coach of the Yawkey league All Stars. Not too many guys can say they accomplished that in their life!

We all know Bill as a very quiet man. Bill made his home in Dorchester and was known as a good guy who never hurt anyone. He worked very hard his entire life. He also served his Nation with distinction in the US Army.

Bill suffered these past few months. His trek began as he watched his boys on the McKay Club compete at Ronan Park on a warm summer evening. Bill was dressed in his full uniform and ready to help his team win. He suffered a stroke that night doing the thing he loved to do the most. As we spoke on the phone after Tampa defeated the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS Bill reflected, “Well I guess we will have to wait until next year again. I hope I am around to see another World Series. If I am not around, I will be satisfied that when I got sick I was at the park in uniform watching a baseball game – when it happened.”

Bill traveled with me every March to Florida. Along the way we both made tremendous friends and had a great time at all of the Grapefruit League training sites. We bumped into many former and current ball players in the informal settings of Florida. One of the most exciting of those encounters was a private gab fest we had with Johnny Pesky. Pesky asked Bill what the ring he wore signified. The ring that Bill wears to his rest today is that ring – a ring that was given to those who had the opportunity to play or coach a Yawkey League All Star Game at Fenway Park over the years. Pesky took the ring and placed it on the finger next to his 2004 World Series Ring. The look on Bill’s face was magic.

Joe O’Hara – the Vice President of the Yawkey League wrote to me the other day, “The League has lost a great baseball person. Be comforted that Bill is at his peace and now gets to hang out in the most majestic and magnificent baseball field he could imagine. A field where no one strikes out and every hit is a round tripper - I even heard the Umpires in Heaven are GREAT as well!”

I am sure that Bill would want to thank every one of you for your attendance this morning. He would want to extend his hand to the health care folks who provided him with expert care these last few months. I also know that he would want to thank his nieces and nephews for showing him love and care during his time of need. He would want to wish his Brother Neal well as he recovers from his recent illness. Also, he would extend a note of thanks to those he bumped into at the Public Houses he frequented along his path in life. Those who would sip an amber colored beverage with him at the Blarney Stone, Emerald Isle, Sonny’s Pub in Dorchester and those at Kitty O’Sheas and The Time Out Tavern in Florida as well.

It is time to send Bill to his rest. It is time to say a final farewell. Before we do that, I would like to provide this final reflection on that “Perfect Ball Park” that Joe spoke about.

This final reflection is entitled:

Between the Lines

"When I step between the lines, I become a legend. With my head held high and hat to my chest, the words "Oh say! can you see," remind me of what I am: A catalyst of tradition, striving to measure up to the heroes from past and present. Through countless hours of dedication and hard work, I live my dream. My heart is filled with a true love for this game knowing I, too, could be one of the all-time greats. I exist solely to experience the senses that are unmistakable and sacred to "America's Game." The smell of freshly cut grass. The distinct sound of a ball meeting the bat. Sensations of holding the glove to my face as the sun warms the back of my neck. These are the immortal rewards in baseball. This passionate game has created who I am, a member of an elite group: The Boys of Summer. Then I hear those timeless words of "PLAY BALL!" which once again remind me game time has arrived. It has always been at this very moment, between these lines, that I become frozen in time, when I am pure! And now, as the sun paints another beautiful picture of our national pastime, my heart begins to question who the better player will be today. Who has worked harder? Who will be tougher? Who wants it more? No matter who this may be, the humbling game of baseball will neither care nor remember the next time we step Between The Lines."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Billy C will be greatly missed. A total class act. A humble guy who not only loved baseball but loved people.

Kevin George