The All-Star game in New York City on July 16 will provide the usual big-name, big-star atmosphere as best players from both the National and American Leagues square off.
But the game this season also has given attention to a person who was involved in some of baseball’s biggest events. And he lived and died in New England.
Artie Gore, a big Red Sox fan, grew up in Belmont, moved to Lexington, and later lived in Wolfeboro, N.H. where he passed away on September 29, 1986.
If you don’t know the name, the story and life is amazing. Three surviving nephews — one of them Richard Flaherty of Falls Church, Va. — not long ago rummaged through their uncles’ belongings and found some interesting items, including a ball dated April 15, 1947.
That was Jackie Robinson’s major league debut at Ebbets Field. It was also the day Gore, a respected umpire of his era, made his debut. Imagine the coincidence of Gore umpiring the same game Robinson broke the color barrier?
Gore went on to call 1,464 games between 1947-56, two World Series and two All-Star games.
The ball and many other items belonging to Gore will be auctioned off by Hunt Auctions at the All-Star FanFest at the Javits Center in New York on July 15 and 16.
As you dig more into Gore, who was a former minor league infielder for the Red Sox, you find he was also a lifetime friend of Ted Williams.
“As far as we could piece together, my uncle had about a 40-year relationship with Ted,” recalled Flaherty, who grew up in Watertown and has fond memories of his uncle. “I remember Ted called my aunt to offer his condolences when Artie passed away and I know they kept in touch when he was alive.”
In fact, the biggest item in the auction other than the Robinson ball is a Williams game jersey. The early online bidding was at $72,000. Bats and balls that once belonged to Williams also will be auctioned.
Gore’s career as an umpire was more significant than that. He was dismissed by National League president Warren Giles for reasons that weren’t clear at the time. It was framed as Gore, who was 49, being replaced by a younger umpire.
But the dismissal coincided with Gore being one of the umpires who were trying to unionize the major league umpires. When Gore was dismissed, he never accepted the official “retirement” idea that Giles offered as an excuse. It wasn’t until many years later that umpires got their union, but Gore was certainly one of the early pioneers.
Gore became a court officer in Middlesex County and a sheriff in Wolfeboro. The family has photos of him sitting with The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, in the courthouse for his trial.
“As a family we agonized over the selling of the items,” Flaherty said. “There are three of us and it’s hard to split a ball. So we decided to let it go and use the money for some college tuition, which I know our uncle would have approved of.”
For years, Gore also ran the popular Boston Globe baseball clinics.
“He grew up in East Cambridge and was friends with Tip O’Neill. It just seemed he knew everyone – mayors, governors, senators,” Flaherty recalled.
Then one thing Flaherty was never able to retrieve was an All-Star game ring his uncle had given to him as a kid, one of the two All-Star games Gore worked.
“I lost it on a playground in Watertown years ago near the Cunniff School,” Flaherty said. “I remember looking and looking for it and never was able to find it again.”
The blog At Home at Fenway referenced Gore’s affection for the neighborhood kids in Belmont. He took a liking to one little boy with polio who had lost a mother to a stroke and over the course of time gave him eight balls, including team balls from the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, one signed by Harry Agganis.
Tuesday’s All-Star game may be all about Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Mariano Rivera, Yadier Molina, David Ortiz and other big stars, but Artie Gore will also get his recognition.