Then Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr, mainstays of the 1940s Red Sox, All-Stars local icons, and two of the four teammates celebrated by the late David Halberstam in a 2003 best seller, shared their memories.
"There were so many things that happened in our lives as ballplayers," said Pesky, the former shortstop. "You remember the good things plus the bad things."
They remembered the mean guys and the dust-ups: the nasty Philadelphia A's, Chicago's Taffy Wright, who would kick Pesky when he slid into second, and Joe Page, who threw not one but two straight fastballs at Doerr's head.
"It seemed like in those years, it was a different game," Pesky said. "There was a lot of, I'd say, animosity with certain guys, I guess. Some guys played hard. And if you were a little guy getting in their way sometimes, they'd resent it."
They remembered the sweet moments: the road trips and friendships.
"Ted [Williams] and Dom [DiMaggio], Johnny and me, we were awfully close," said Doerr, the Hall of Fame second baseman, who will be honored with the 60th annual Bobby Doerr Day at Fenway Park on Thursday. "And it's just amazing to me, looking back, to think that we knew each other all this time. We say friendship, but it was, like Johnny says, it was like a family. I don't know, it's hard to explain."
Most of all, they remembered Williams.
Williams, as Pesky said, was the "king" of the outfit. He was the most outspoken of the teammates, the most "vociferous" one. He was rarely wrong, and he knew it.
Williams was the "most generous" of the teammates. Unlike the others, all of them from the West Coast, he grew up without the twin blessings of love and family. Only Williams, married three times, couldn't get the hang of marriage. He gravitated to his teammates for friendship. Always, Williams was available. Always, he was ready to help.
"He was just ... I wish people could know the real Ted Williams," Doerr said. "All you hear now is what a devil he was, or how mean he was."
"He was a person that you liked very easily," Pesky said. "He tried to be stern and stuff like that. But he was a pussycat. He really was. He was the most generous and kind man we've ever met."
"And I think that's why Dom and Bobby and I became such good friends," Pesky said. "We had great love for one another. I say that unashamedly."
Bobby Doerr Day will take place at Fenway for the 60th straight year on Thursday. Doerr, dubbed "the Silent Captain" by Williams, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox play the Orioles. Pesky, former pitcher Dave Ferriss and Maureen Cronin, the daughter of late Red Sox manager Joe Cronin, will attend.
DiMaggio will be unable to make it; his legs, the engine behind his own career as a stellar center fielder, have been troubling him, as friend Dick Flavin noted during a luncheon on Wednesday.
Doerr, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, was one of the greatest second basemen to play the position. He finished his career with 223 homers and a .288 lifetime average in 14 seasons, and served a year in the Army during World War II.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.