Friday, November 02, 2007

In honor of the Boston Red Sox and the Greek Festival this weekend

You know those fun "did you know" we tag each with? Well, one thing I do not think I have mentioned in the past is that we had a Boston Red Sox team member in our family. My dads cousin was Harry Agganis. Now your think, OK and why would I care? I will share with you why. He was dubbed "The Golden Greek".

Here is some of the information written about him - besides "Harry Agganis was one of the greatest," said Red Sox teammate Ted Williams, the all-time great who had been his mentor.

"Harry was a football, basketball, and baseball phenomenon at Lynn Classical High School; seventy-five colleges including Notre Dame tried to recruit the young sensation. Harry's mother - with whom Harry was close - had been widowed in 1946, and Harry wanted to attend a college that allowed him to stay near her while he pursued his academic and athletic goals. Boston University was a perfect fit. Agganis more than fulfilled his athletic promise while attending Boston University, winning awards for his exploits on both the gridiron and the diamond. After his sophomore year, Harry's collegiate career was put on hold when he was activated for the Korean War; he ultimately served fifteen months in the Marine Corps in 1950-51. Never called to Korea, Harry spent his service time at Camp LeJuene in North Carolina, where he played football and baseball and was named Most Valuable Player of the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kansas. Harry had long dreamed of becoming a professional athlete; it was simply a matter of choosing which sport to play. As a junior, he turned down a lucrative offer to play football as the number one draft choice of the Cleveland Browns, opting instead to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox as the team's starting first baseman. A left-handed batter, Harry quickly became Boston's best hitter, achieving an impressive .313 batting average. One memorable Sunday in June 1954, he hit a home run at Fenway Park, and then raced up Commonwealth Avenue to receive his Boston University degree. Sadly, a vibrant young life and a promising future were cut tragically short on June 27, 1955, when Harry Agganis died of a massive pulmonary embolism at the age of twenty-five. His legend endures nearly fifty years later, particularly at Boston University and in Boston's thriving Greek-American community. The athletic stadium at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, a public square in his hometown of Lynn, a street on BU's Charles River Campus, and a BU scholarship are all named in his honor. "The Golden Greek" is also memorialized at the Sports Museum of New England at Boston's Fleet Center. Boston University is proud of the new Agganis Arena in the Student Village, the most recent tribute to this extraordinary individual who left us far too soon.

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