CHATHAM – Fifty-five years have passed since the 1967 Boston Red Sox pulled off what affectionately became known as “The Impossible Dream” after the team posted its first winning season since 1958 and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1946.
Peter Fraser was among the thousands of young kids who fell in love with the ’67 Sox while growing up in Massachusetts.
There were a lot of players to love – shortstop Rico Petrocelli, right fielder Tony Conigliaro and George Scott at first. There was right-handed pitcher Jim Lonborg on the hill and Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith in center. And then there was left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, one of greatest ballplayers to ever step on the diamond.
“There was Yastrzemski bread,” said Fraser, 66, a Chatham retiree who fell in love with the ’67 Sox while growing up in Cohasset. “There was Yaz this and Yaz that. People would put No. 8 on their garage doors and roofs and everything. On a team that wasn’t really that good until ’67, he carried the load.”
The Impossible Dream season came at the perfect time for Fraser and his buddies, who were about 11 and 12 years old at the time. They idolized the Red Sox players when they were able to make it to Fenway Park to catch a game, but they didn’t have to make it into Boston to feel close to the stars.
All they had to do was shuffle through their collection of baseball cards.
“You’d play whiffle ball in the morning and pretend you were the players and then go get cards in the afternoon,” Fraser said. “We’d buy like five packs for 25 cents and that would be plenty. It’d be 25 cards to play with on a Saturday afternoon. We’d trade them and eat the gum they put in every pack.”
Baseball cards date all the way back to the late 1800s, so they were hardly new by the time Fraser and his pals grew into the hobby. Card collecting experienced another boom in the 1990s when card shops started popping up around the country, and now there’s another splurge in which the demand seems to far exceed the supply.
That wasn’t always the case. In fact, Fraser and his friends had to find a way to put their extras to good use.
“If you had doubles or triples, which you inevitably do when you buy some, you’d put them on your bike [wheel] and they’d flap,” Fraser said. “Now I think, ‘Gee, maybe I had doubles or triples of Yastrzemski or Roberto Clemente or something like that and I probably threw it away.’ So, if we were ever focused on monetary incentives, we certainly weren’t smart.” Many of those cards now sell for hundreds of dollars.
Fraser never stuck with card collecting beyond the time he fell in love with that ’67 team. He proudly displays his affinity for the team with a homemade display he made with his set of cards from that year.
He took a poster of Fenway Park that he said is from either ’67 or ’68 and put the various players’ cards in each of their positions on the poster.
“I’ll always look at in and see Yaz in left under the monster,” Fraser said.
Although Fraser didn’t keep up with collecting in the decades that followed – he made a living as a real estate lending officer and even helped Ted Williams secure financing to purchase a Florida hotel long after The Splendid Splinter’s retirement – he did grab the 1988 Cape Cod Prospects Collection, which included some prominent Cape League alumni, including Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn and Jeff Bagwell.
Fraser still loves going to Cape League games each summer and watching the young prospects try to make their mark. Just being at a ballpark brings him back to sitting at Fenway in ’67, the season that not only intensified his interest in collecting cards as a kid but also baseball in general.
“You’d get tickets at the beginning of the season when they’d come out. Some years they were terrible and half the stadium was filled,” Fraser said of the Red Sox. “In ’67 the place was just jammed because it was a pennant race – the first time there had been one in years.
“It was a fun hobby to have and a good way for friends to kill some time trading them and sticking them in the wheels of our bikes.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.