Memorable tales from 'Monbo'

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

For Bill Monbouquette it was an ordinary day.

The man who pitched 11 years in the majors spoke at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. The subject was baseball: Pitching, salaries, today's players and where the game is headed.

Then, the former Blue Jays coach and his wife, Josephine, stopped for dinner on the way home to Medford. Today, he heads to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for another round of chemotherapy.

Real life happens.

Monbouquette is on trial drugs. His acute myelogenous leukemia is in remission. He needs a bone marrow and stem cell transplant -- if doctors can find a match.

"Hopefully at the end of the month or the first week of the August I could get one," Monbouquette says. "Paul Beeston called the house the other day to check on me, but I missed the call."

In all, Monbouquette, 71, worked 12 seasons in the Jays system, mostly as the pitching coach at class-A Dunedin. Former Jays president Beeston was checking on the health of his loyal former employee.

When manager Cito Gaston's was hospitalized due to a bad back in 1991 and Gene Tenace took over as interim manager, Monbuquette was recalled to be bullpen coach.

"I really thought we'd beat Minnesota," he said.

The teams split the first two games in the AL Championship Series, came back to the SkyDome and the Twins won three straight.

"Mike Pagliarulo hit a pinch-hit homer in the 10th off (Mike) Timlin to win Game 3," Monbouquette said. "I went to high school with Mike's father, Charlie."

The coach players called "Monbo" has always faced challenges head on since the day he was signed in 1955.

"It's another fight," Monbouquette said about the cancer, after downing his bowl of clam chowder.

"I tell kids I've had more fights than Willie Pep. And they say: 'Who the hell was Willie Pep?' "

Pep was a world champion featherweight boxer who had 242 fights during in his 26-year career.

"The only the difference between Willie and I is that Willie won most of his fights," Monbouquette joked.

Richie Hebner, then a Jays minor-league hitting instructor, told us to ask Monbo how his alumni high school hockey game went in the early 1990s.

Well, in the Medford High School alumni game against the varsity it was decided there would be no contact.

"Ah, that was back when I was feisty," Monbo says, playing down the incident.

"We had a no hitting rule, but this kid starts hacking at me and called me a 'slow, old man,' " he recalled. "We go into the corner and I gave him a little bump."

After the period the varsity coach came to the alumni dressing room. He said he was not putting his team on to the ice if the alumni was going to try to injure his players. Someone explained what the wise-cracking kid called Monbo.

"Didn't know that," the coach said. "We'll see you guys out on the ice."

Monboquette pitched a no-hitter in 1962 to beat Hall of Famer Early Wynn and the Chicago White Sox 1-0. He whiffed Luis Aparicio for the final out. He won 114 career games, including 20 in 1963 for Boston.

'HAD SOME BATTLES'

Monbo helped David Weathers, Dennis Boucher, Scott Brow, Huck Flener, Xavier Hernandez and Timlin get to the majors. Timlin and Weathers are still pitching.

Each spring Monboquette would see Ron Taylor, the Jays club doctor.

"We had some battles over the years, like when he and I hooked up opening day 1962 at Fenway," he said.

They took turns on the mound in the first, Monboquette for the hometown Sox and the rookie Taylor, in his major-league debut, for the Cleveland Indians. They were there in the seventh with only zeros on the Green Monster's hand-operated scoreboard. And they were there in the 11th with nothing but zeros.

Carl Yastrzemski tripled to lead off the bottom of the 12th. Indians manager Mel McGaha had Frank Malzone and Russ Nixon walked intentionally. Carroll Hardy hit a grand slam.

That qualifies as a battle. Monbo pitched a 12-inning shutout allowing four hits and striking out five, while rookie Taylor gave up 10 hits and whiffed five. Sorry, no pitch counts available.

"Man, that was 46 years ago, where did the time go?" Monboquette asks.


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