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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Radatz was a full 6 feet 5 inches and 240 pounds when he was baseball's most dominating reliever, his size accentuated by his signature gesture, a triumphant march off the mound with his fists thrust overhead after subduing another overmatched opponent.
One summer's night in 1963 in Fenway Park cemented his place in Sox annals. "It was the top of the ninth inning, a warm night in Boston, a full house, and Earl Wilson was pitching a helluva game," Johnny Pesky, who was the Sox manager, recalled yesterday morning. "I had Radatz up in the seventh, loosening up, just in case. We were ahead by a run, and Earl loads the bases in the ninth, nobody out, and Mantle, Maris, and Elston Howard coming up. He's sweating, and he's thrown maybe 130 pitches. He wants to stay in, but I look at [catcher Bob] Tillman, and he shakes his head. So I tell Earl, `The big guy is ready in the pen.'
"Radatz comes in, and says to Earl, `Big boy, crack a couple of cold ones and I'll be up there in 10 minutes.' He told me to get my little ass in the dugout, which is something he told me a lot of times. He strikes out the three of 'em, Mantle, Maris, and Howard, on 10 pitches."
Down went the Bombers, up went the fists, and a persona was born, its name springing from some audible grumbling by Mantle about "that monster." For three seasons, from 1962 to 1964, there may never have been a reliever quite like him. Pitching for pitiful Sox teams, Radatz either won or saved 118 of the Sox 224 wins in that span.