Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenGILFORD — An 82-year-old retired Methodist minister who shined shoes for fans during Sunday doubleheaders at Fenway Park in the 1940s is one of 30 finalists for the job as Boston Red Sox public address announcer.
The Rev. William Morley, who now lives in Wesley Woods, sent a tape of his voice to the Red Sox last year after they announced they were looking for candidates to replace Carl Beane, whose booming baritone was the voice of the Red Sox at Fenway Park from 2003 until he died last May in a single-car accident in Sturbridge, Mass., after suffering a heart attack.
Morley, who can still recall seeing the legendary Connie Mack, owner-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years until he retired in 1950, seated stiff as a ramrod in the visitors dugout with his straw hat, suit and tie and freshly starched shirt, says he was thrilled when late last month he received an invitation to attend a tryout for the announcer's position.
He was one of 170 who showed up for the tryouts on Saturday, January 26. Today he's headed back to Fenway Park, one of 30 who received a callback from the Red Sox for a second listen.
''It's quite an honor. It was a real thrill to sit in the announcer's booth and do a play by play of the Red Sox and Yankees,'' says Morley, who, before he moved to Gilford served more than 40 years as a Methodist minister in the rural eastern Maine town of Orrington, not far from Bangor .
A high school dropout who went to work at the GE Foundry in Everett, Mass., right after World War II, Morley had eight older brothers and weighed only 115 pounds when he joined in U.S. Air Force in 1950, shortly after the Korean War broke out.
He says that his earliest memories of Fenway Park are from 1939, Ted Williams' rookie year, before the bullpens were built in front of right field stands and he always recalls the incredible green of the park when he first entered it.
''You could watch Tex Hughson warming up right in front of you in the seats. I used to take my shoebox right into Kenmore Square and onto what is now Yawkey Way and set up there and start shining shoes during the Sunday doubleheaders. At the end of the day I'd come home with $10 for the family. We could really use the money then, although later we got to be pretty prosperous ,'' says Morley, who added that a good time to work his way into Fenway Park without paying admission was during the National Anthem — when the ushers and police were distracted.
He said that a police officer once caught him going through the turnstile but other than that one time he always made it into the park.
Morley says the best place to watch a game was from the bleachers and that he got to see many of the greats over the years, like Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra, who liked to fool around and kept up continual chatter with the fans.
''DiMaggio was different. He was very quiet and serious and didn't take part in any horseplay. In between innings he'd sit in the dugout and have a cigarette and a cup of coffee'' Morley remembers.
He also remembered Williams for his temper and his feuding with the fans, but also as the most feared hitter of his era and perhaps of all time.
''He had a temper and once during batting practice threw his bat and it lodged way up in the batting cage. Manager Joe Cronin made him climb up the cage and bring it down,'' says Morley.
But as much as he liked the Red Sox his real favorites were the Boston Braves, who moved to Milwaukee in 1953 after having been a fixture in Boston for over 75 years.
''I loved the Braves' game and watching Warren Spahn and his high leg kick. I remember Sam Jethroe, the first black ballplayer in Boston.'' says Morley, who says that the Red Sox were more popular with the Irish Catholic population of Boston while the Braves seemed to have a larger following among Protestants.
He said that there was real excitement in Boston during 1948 when the Braves won the National League pennant and the Red Sox tied with the Cleveland Indians for first place and the prospect of Subway Series loomed. But the Red Sox lost the playoff game in Fenway Park 8-3 to the Indians when Lou Boudreau, the Cleveland shortstop and player-manager, hit a pair of home runs.
Morley, who served in the Air Force and played as a drummer in bands at a number of Air Force bases in the west, recalls that he and a trumpet and sax player once landed a gig in Las Vegas at $25 a man..
For whatever reason the gig was raided and while the trumpet and sax player were able to make it out the door with their instruments, he was left behind with his mother of pearl Air Force drums and was arrested, an event which caused his commanding officer to take away two of his stripes.
He later won those stripes back and after he was honorably discharged in 1954, returned to the Boston area, where he met his wife to be while attending a service at a Methodist Church.
''I always had a love for the church but didn't have an education. But the Methodist Church needed ministers in rural areas and worked with me and sent me to a theological school in Bangor, Maine. It was tough because we had to learn Greek and Hebrew and I wasn't very good at them. Summers I'd go the theology school in Boston and by 1968 was a full minister,'' says Morley.
Morley, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and has diabetes, says that he's taking one day at a time and enjoying life and getting lots of fresh air and eating a healthy diet as he prepares for tonight's broadcast challenge.
''I'm going to give it a try. Win, lose or draw, it's been a great experience.''
CAPTION SLUGGED MORLEY
The Rev. William Morley, a retired Methodist minister from Gilford, still keeps up with his drum playing. He is one of 30 who was called back to Fenway Park for a second audition tonight as the new public address announcer for the Boston Red Sox. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)