BOSTON -- From Ted Williams to Will Middlebrooks, the torch has been passed, and one of the most iconic partnerships between a sports team and its community is in a milestone year.
The Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund are celebrating 60 years together in 2013.
"This is probably the example that everyone's trying to follow around the game," Sox manager John Farrell told a crowd Thursday inside the lobby of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute before almost literally running to catch a midday flight back to Florida. Pitchers and catchers officially report in five days.
The Red Sox put together 100 Acts of Kindness to celebrate Fenway Park's 100 years in 2012, and the final act of the set was a $60,000 check to the Jimmy Fund. New for 2013 is a suite at Fenway Park that Jimmy Fund patients and families will be able to use all season, as well as the creation of a Jimmy Fund Chorus that'll perform at Fenway.
As usual, the annual Red Sox Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon -- in its 12th year -- is set for late in the season, on WEEI and NESN on Aug. 27-28. More than $31 million has been raised for research and treatment.
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was on hand Thursday, and before he came to Boston to run a baseball team, he came to Boston to save his life.
Now 67, Lucchino was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma a week after he turned 40, in September 1985. He was a vice president with the Orioles then, when cancer treatments were not nearly as advanced as they are today.
"I was told at that time that I had about a one-in-three chance," Lucchino said Thursday of his prognosis.
Lucchino estimated he was the 33rd patient to receive the treatment he was administered for his disease. He left the Baltimore area, which has its own heralded hospitals, and came to Dana-Farber, then and now one of the world's foremost cancer institutes. Lucchino had a bone marrow transplant, and because his immune system was compromised, he had to stay in isolation.
"Would've been the spring of '86," Lucchino said. "I went in the hospital in April, I got out almost six weeks later. So it was like the end of May, early June. And the Red Sox were at home. ... Because of your compromised immune system, you got to be in isolation for a long period of time. I remember telling my doctors I had enough and I was leaving after three days. And they said, 'You're not going anywhere, no matter how strongly you feel about this. You walk out of this room, you're a dead man.' So I ended up staying."
Nearly the first thing Lucchino did when he was finally able to leave isolation: go to Fenway Park, just a short walk down Brookline Avenue. He had never been to a game there before. Former Red Sox CEO John Harrington helped get Lucchino a booth where he could still be away from the crowd and lessen the chance of infection.
"I had the very good fortune to be directed to Dana-Farber," Lucchino said. "It certainly brought to me, brought the focus for me, the quality of this institution and the quality of health care of people who live in this area. This is an institution that we all have to help, that we all have to work with. It plain and simple saves lives, it eliminates misery, it prevents some of the worst experience of emotions that one can have in life."
Harrington was also on hand Thursday, as were Dana-Farber President/CEO Dr. Edward Benz Jr., Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy and Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Monbouquette -- another Dana-Farber patient.
"Coming in as a player in the late '80s and the early '90s, you began to quickly understand the connection between the Jimmy Fund and the Red Sox," Farrell said. "Since coming back as a coach and now a manager and probably getting more of an understanding of the depth that this relationship has not only in this city, between the two organizations, but certainly in this region, it's an impressive thing."
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who's been at almost every community event the Sox have hosted this winter, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the Jimmy Fund's co-captains in 2013. The team's association with the Jimmy Fund dates to 1947, when Williams began visiting patients, often doing so on his way to the park. The Jimmy Fund was formally launched the next year.
"It's truly an honor to be a part of the Jimmy Fund, to be a co-captain with Jarrod," Middlebrooks said. "I want to get out in the community, I want to do things with the fans, because I know that's part of Red Sox Nation."