SANFORD — The shortstop for the Boston College baseball team, the player wearing No. 4 on his jersey and batting third in the lineup didn’t have to hear the inevitable question: “Hey kid, are you related to Joe Cronin?”
As in Joe Cronin, the former shortstop and playing manager of the Red Sox from 1935-47. The seven-time all-star. The American League president from 1959 to 1973 and the first former player to rise to that position. The man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956. The star whose No. 4 was retired by the Red Sox.
That Joe Cronin.
This Joe Cronin was back in his home state of Maine on Tuesday night. Boston College played the University of Maine at venerable Goodall Park. This Joe Cronin grew up in Scarborough. Friends and family were among the 224 sitting in the covered grandstand.
A good hitting Maine team won 12-3 in a nonconference game. This Joe Cronin had two hits in five trips to the plate for Boston College. He drove in a run and yes, he was disappointed when he walked off the field to meet with mom and dad and grandparents. He had made the last out as temperatures dipped toward the 40s.
“I’ve had some good games on this field (playing for Scarborough High) but not tonight.”
This Joe Cronin knows his baseball history. He appreciates Goodall Park, which has been a jewel to this city for generations. He appreciates that fans ask if Joe Cronin is a grandfather or great uncle. It’s one reason he wore No. 4 throughout his high school career. He wore No. 44 as a freshman who was in Boston College’s starting lineup for much of last season. He got the chance to switch to No. 4 this season.
He met John Harrington, the former Red Sox CEO before John Henry and his partners bought the team. Harrington endows a Boston College baseball scholarship and this year its recipient is Cronin. At a dinner bringing players and benefactors together, Harrington got a photo of Cronin and asked him to sign it. Harrington knows a daughter of the Joe Cronin. This Joe Cronin’s photo and autograph would be a nice gift.
Boston College is struggling through a 21-31 season. The Atlantic Coast Conference schedule is tough with opponents up and down the East Coast. Boston College plays Clemson, a perennial College World Series contender, this weekend.
But baseball is a game of connections. The web of the game, it’s called. Last season, Cronin hit a double off Jameis Winston of Florida State. You would know Winston as college football’s Heisman Trophy winner last fall.
“How many players can say they’ve done that,” asked Jim Cronin, sitting in the Goodall stands while BC took batting practice. He pulls out his cellphone and finds a photo of his son turning a double play against the Red Sox in their spring training game.
The Red Sox typically play their first spring training games in a doubleheader with Boston College and Northeastern. Whichever college team gets the first game takes batting practice with David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and the rest of the Red Sox starters. The college team in the second game faces those players in camp with the Red Sox that are expected to play in Pawtucket or Portland once the seasons start. The college players in the second game take their BP elsewhere in the spring training complex
Boston College hasn’t played the first game this spring or last. “Maybe next year,” said Jim Cronin.
This Joe Cronin has read the Joe Cronin’s biography. He understands the trajectory of the Hall-of-Famer’s career and his impact on the game when it really was America’s pastime.
Jim Cronin understands, too, when he is at a ballpark in North Carolina or South Carolina or Florida when Boston College’s batting order is announced. He can see heads turn when No. 4, Joe Cronin, playing short, is introduced.
Can it be? Is this kid related?
“It’s almost always an older generation,” said Jim Cronin. He smile again. His wife, Terry, and he didn’t know if their baby would be a son or daughter. Casey was chosen as the name if they were blessed with a daughter. If it was a son, the name was a toss-up between Sean Patrick Cronin or Joseph Patrick Cronin.
“We thought Sean Patrick was a little too Irish,” said Jim. “Besides, I did know who Joe Cronin was. Hey, our dog is named Fungo.”
No one knows how far baseball will take this Joe Cronin. He had the second-best average (.271) among Boston College hitters going into Tuesday’s game in this cold and wet spring. He is majoring in communications.
He’s already connecting.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: