For the whole time I was in the hospital Mr. Yawkey came to see me every day. So did a lot of my teammates, guys like Ryan and Rico and George Scott. But I never heard from Dick Williams at all. He never came up to the hospital and he never dropped me a line or anything.
This upset me. I felt I had contributed something to the ball club and had given the man everything I had. I was hit in the face by a baseball and nearly lost my life, and I felt the least he could do was show me he knew I existed. Sure, my relationship with Williams hadn't been a great one—but I did my job. I played ball and didn't give him any trouble. I guess we just started out disliking each other and things never got any better. We first met back in 1964, when I was a rookie trying to make the ball club and he was a veteran trying to hang on. Somehow they roomed us together for a short time. We never got along. I didn't like him because he was cocky. Johnny Pesky was the manager then and Williams was always talking behind Pesky's back, saying how he would have done things differently. He acted like he knew it all, and I couldn't understand what he had to be so cocky about when he never could hit a baseball very well in his whole life.
Time dragged on in the hospital. By the third day the sight in my right eye came back pretty close to normal and the left eye opened slightly. The Red Sox put me on the 21-day disabled list, which meant I couldn't play anytime before Sept. 9. But now I was beginning to realize that it was going to be quite a battle getting back before the season was over. A few days later I felt this even more, when the Red Sox picked up Ken Harrelson to play right field. I didn't resent the move. Anytime you get a guy with Harrelson's home-run bat you're helping yourself offensively.
But I felt cheated and angry because of what I was missing. This club had such youth and spirit and desire that it was just ungodly being around them. Every game was a big one, and we were all too excited to be tired. At the time of my beaning I was having what was probably my best all-round year. I was hitting .287 and had 20 homers and had knocked in 67 runs. The only time I had ever hit for a higher average in the majors was my rookie year of 1964, when I batted .290. The next year I was the American League's home-run champion with 32, the youngest player ever to lead the league in homers. The way I was hitting the ball in 1967 I think I could have come close to .290 and finished with 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Anyway, I wanted to get back and help.
The last day I was in the hospital a Dr. I. Francis Gregory, the ophthalmologist at Sancta Maria, came to see me. He was a nice little man and he kept calling me "my boy" all the time. He ran some tests on my left eye and told me I was 20/80, which wasn't too bad considering how recently I had been hit. My right eye was 20/15, and they concluded that my left eye must have been about the same before the injury. I left the hospital with the understanding that I would come back later for more tests.
My family lives in Swampscott, which is on the North Shore about 11 miles above Boston. It's a nice quiet place that becomes a resort town in summer. Even though I've had my own apartment in Boston for several years, I go back there often and really regard it as my home. Now, my father's not a rich man, but he's not a lazy one, either. The reason we were eventually able to move to Swampscott is that he worked hard all his life and managed to put enough money together so we could live well. He worked at many jobs. Right now he's plant manager at the Triangle Tool and Die Company in Lynn. He's never afraid to take a chance. One time he got some chickens and planned to sell them at a profit, but they all got sick and died and he lost his money. Another time he and his brother Guy bought up a lot of Christmas trees and told themselves, boy, we're going to get rich. They stood on a street corner every day for weeks, but nobody would pay them what they were asking. They lowered their price and wound up making about $3.85 and catching pneumonia.
The point I'm trying to make is that my father is a pretty big man to me. He's always there when you need him. When I was a kid, if my mother called him and told him she was having trouble with me he'd leave work no matter what time it was and come home to see about the problem. He handled it, usually with his hand, but he handled it. So when it came time for me to leave the hospital who else but my father would be there to take me home?
The day after I got home my parents and I went away for a vacation. For a while I felt my eye was improving, but when we got home after two weeks I could see very little change. I had double vision, and I found that if I didn't want to do silly things like tipping over glasses I had to reach for them slowly.
I phoned Dr. Gregory and set up an appointment. The first thing he did was give me an ordinary eye test. I could make out the big E on top with my left eye, and not much else below it. He looked a little grim at this point. "This is not so good, my boy," he said. "Something's happened to the eye. Something is seriously wrong with the seeing part of your eye. Look, let's go down to see my friend Charlie Regan at Retina Associates. He's equipped to do things I can't do here. This is a retinal job and I want him to see it."
I felt weak all over. My throat stuck and I didn't know if I could talk. I was as scared as I've ever been in my life. I finally managed to say, "What does this mean? Will it get better?"