As I write this, we’re counting down the days until baseball season. I’m not a sports fan, but as a history buff, I enjoy learning about the sports figures who hail from our town. Our most recent baseball hero, and one that I imagine most of us know of, is Brian Wilson. Brian grew up in Londonderry and graduated from Londonderry High School in 2000. Although he was offered a contract by the Cleveland Indians, he decided to attend Louisiana State University instead, and was drafted into the MLB in 2003. He began his career in the majors in 2006, pitching for the San Francisco Giants. He was known for his beard, his mohawk and his orange cleats. He had elbow surgery in 2012, which prevented him from taking part in the World Series that the Giants won that year. (As an aside, I was in San Francisco when that Series was played. It was fun to vicariously participate in the local fans’ excitement.) After his surgery, Wilson moved to Los Angeles to play for the Dodgers. His last season was in 2014 and he’s now retired from baseball.

Probably the most well-known ball player associated with our town is Dominick DiMaggio, who spent his entire career playing for the Boston Red Sox, from 1940 to 1953. Dom was born and grew up in San Francisco (there’s that city again!) but lived in Londonderry for a few years in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He began his professional ball career in 1937, playing for the minor league San Francisco Seals, after which he was signed by the Sox. Dom’s famous brother, Joe DiMaggio, played for our archrival, the New York Yankees, but despite this, Dom and Joe were close and supported each other, always giving credit to the other’s abilities and even providing tips. In a 1940 series, for example, after Joe suggested that center fielder Dom move back a little because the ball carried well in that part of Yankee Stadium, Dom caught a fly ball hit by none other than Joe himself! By the time he lived here in town, Dom was long-retired from sports, but owned several businesses and served as a trustee at St. Anselm’s College. He left Londonderry in 1981, and died in Massachusetts in 1992.

Another local who garnered much attention in the early 2000s was Red Sox outfielder George “Duffy” Lewis. Duffy didn’t actually  live in town, but does now reside  here, i.e., he’s buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. Duffy spent his major league career, from 1910 until 1921, playing for the Sox, the Yankees, and the Washington Senators. He was a Sox player in 1912 when the team moved to Fenway Park, which featured a 10-foot high mound in front of left field, now the site of the Green Monster. Lewis did so much practicing on this mound that it became known as “Duffy’s Cliff.” (The mound was removed during renovations of the park in 1934.) Guess where Duffy was born? That’s right – good old San Francisco! After his baseball career, Duffy and his wife, Eleanor, retired to Salem, New Hampshire, where he died in 1979. So why, pray tell, was there a bunch of hoopla about him in the local news in 2000? Well, it turns out that this well-known ball player’s grave was unmarked . Local columnist John Clayton brought this sad state of affairs to the public’s attention when he wrote an article about it for the Manchester Union Leader . After that, donations poured in, including a sizeable one from the Red Sox, and a nice black granite monument was erected for Lewis.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another ball player from our community, George “Lefty” Tyler, who was born in Derry. Lefty’s career spanned the period from 1910 to 1921. He played for the Red Sox before they were the Red Sox! In fact, the team was known back then as the Boston Doves, and later, the Boston Braves. Lefty was traded in 1918 to the Chicago Cubs, where he was the winning pitcher in Game Two of the World Series (lost, of course, to the Red Sox that year!)

Photo credits:  Brian Wilson: by Thephatphilmz (own work), Sept 25, 2011.  George Duffy: This work is from the Harris & Ewing collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.  Dom DiMaggio: This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice.  Lefty Tyler: This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1927, and if not then due to lack of notice or renewal.