“I got my first foul ball on my 69th birthday at the old City of Palms field and I wasn’t going to give it up to a kid,” Ralph said with a smile, “Big Papi autographed it for me since it was my birthday, that was five years ago.” I met Ralph at the current World Series Champions Boston Red Sox’s spring training facility near Fort Myers, he was wearing a sun hat with autographs of players on the underside and it was full of Red Sox pins and trinkets, his wife Dotty was also decked out in Red Sox gear, hat, socks, bag, and shirt. They show up to the complex about twice a week and then everyday when their daughter Kristen comes down. They have been doing this for 12 years, Dotty collects autographs of the players, this particular day wasn’t going so well, she only got 1, but the day before she got 7, usually she will get 25 to 30 of the players before spring training ends. Before they retired they would vacation down here for a week, with Kristen and their son David just to attend spring training, as I talked with Ralph, Dotty would scoot off and try to obtain another signature but the crowd was big, lots of kids down on vacation with their parents, so competition was fierce to get the players attention.
“Big Papi” is David Ortiz, he is the designated hitter of the Red Sox and is very popular with the fans, to read more about him click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ortiz.
The love of the Red Sox is a family affair for the Cornette’s, their daughter Kristen has a website called Red Sox Diehard, click here to check it out, http://www.redsoxdiehard.com/ and a blog http://redsoxdiehard.com/wordpress/about-blog/ that will give you more than enough information about the Red Sox to get you started on becoming a fanatic. Ralph says it was Dotty that infected the family with Red Sox fever, he said that he was done with baseball after the Boston Braves bolted to Milwaukee after the 1953 season, they broke his heart and couldn’t believe they could do that to their fans, Ralph’s connection ran deep with the Braves, his older brother Lewis was signed by the Braves and tried to make 1949 roster as a pitcher but had knee troubles and it didn’t work out. Dotty’s father would take her and her younger brother to games at Fenway regularly when she was young; he always had the game on the radio and he watched whenever they were on TV. While attending Boston State College (UMass) on April 16th, 1964 she talked her physics class into skipping out to attend opening day, back then you could get tickets the day of the game, she laughs when she thinks of her professor showing up and no one was there. She excitedly told me that it was Tony Conigliaro’s major league debut and he was being hyped heavily since he was a local boy, he didn’t disappoint either collecting his first home run in his first major league game that day. There is more to Tony’s story; click here if you are interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Conigliaro.
Dotty and Ralph met at a funeral, Ralph’s cousin was best friends with Dotty and introduced them, they didn’t start dating until a year later since they were dating other people at the time, they felt an instant connection and Ralph proposed marriage within 10 days, 44 years later he still says it was the best decision of his life. Ralph had 7 heart bypasses in one surgery, you read that right 7, he is a medical success story and knows when to go into “cardiac arrest”, while attending a cardiac rehab conference which was attended by recovering cardiac rehab patients, 5 minutes into Dr. William Phillips talk, Ralphs heart knew it was time to test this guy out and goes into full cardiac arrest, Ralph jokingly says that he knew he was in good hands, 3 cardiac rehab nurses were also in attendance and reacted quickly, they were dubbed “Charlie’s Angels” on the front page of Lewiston (ME) Sun Journal. I am glad you have a good sense a humor about such a scary thing Ralph!
Dotty and Ralph explained to me about what it is like to attend Fenway, it always gives them butterflies and the excitement is hard to contain when you start walking up the ramp and you start to see all the green of the ballpark, they say it is overwhelming with so much history. They try to attend a few games a year and would love to attend more but they live in Maine and it is about a 3 hour drive to Boston. When Kristen was in 8th grade in 1986, her school planned a year end field trip to Fenway, it would be Kristen’s first time attending a ball game there, Dotty was having none of it, she said that she needed to experience Fenway with her family first and made arrangements to go to a game in May before the school trip. Needless to say Kristen was infected with Red Sox fever and now attends 25 to 30 games a year.
Ralph says the Red Sox is a part of them he reads numerous articles everyday, reviews all the commentary, emails the ones he likes he will send on to friends and family to get their input, they don’t miss a game on TV and they listen to them all, they have started attending some of the minor league teams games and will attend the Portland Sea Dogs games once or twice a year as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Red Sox. In 1986, Dotty said that Kristen and her son David were sleeping when Boston was ahead in Game 6 of the World Series and was about to win it all since 1918 and finally be rid of the “Curse of the Bambino”, she woke the kids up to make sure they wouldn’t miss this historic moment… well, Bill Buckner, yada, yada, yada… Most everyone knows what happened, so no need to rehash it again, Kristen and David were considering filing a lawsuit against their mother for the pain and suffering she caused because of that nightmare, but all was forgiven when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004.
If you don’t know what the “Curse of the Bambino” is or what happened with Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Red_Sox.
The Red Sox have won the World Series 3 times the last 10 years; 2004, 2007, 2013. Dotty and Ralph were unable to attend the victory parade in 2004 because it was right before one of Ralphs surgeries and he was having knee problems, but they made the trip down to Boston last year and in 2007, getting up at 3am to get there by 6am to get a spot on the parade route. Ralph said that last year it was really nice, everyone was friendly and cordial, he attributes that to the Boston Strong movement that brought the city together after the Boston Marathon bombing, he hopes it continues and he really believes the Red Sox helped the city heal.
As we were walking out of the complex, Ralph was saying hello or good bye to all the security personnel he knew and they likewise to him and Dotty, I got such a kick out of their family story and how beautiful and kind they were, they looked so happy being in this element, please continue cheering on your beloved Red Sox you 2 and thanks for sharing your story with me!
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