Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ted Kennedy, 1932-2009: A Red Sox Fan I Liked
The ailing Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy threw out the first ball at the Boston Red Sox' home opener at Fenway Park this season. His grandfather, then-Mayor John F. (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald threw out the first ball at the very first Fenway game in 1912.
Ted spoke of how the Sox' 1967 "Impossible Dream" season was the last time he, his brother Bobby, and their father Joe, confined by a stroke to a wheelchair, were all together. When the Sox and Minnesota Twins played each other in the regular-season finale, Ted had Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a former Senator from Minnesota, as his guest.
I don't like the Red Sox, and I've written here about how their 2004 and 2007 World Championships are less than legitimate. But I'm glad Ted Kennedy lived long enough to see them win a World Series, by whatever means. He was a real fan.
He also played football at Harvard -- and was much better at it than his brothers. In fact, by the standards of 1950s Ivy League football, he was pretty good. He played end, both ways, making him, in today's terminology, both a tight end and a defensive end. Supposedly, the Green Bay Packers -- a terrible team in those post-Curly Lambeau, pre-Vince Lombardi days -- were willing to give him a tryout, but Joe put the kibosh on it. The University of Michigan retired Gerald Ford's Number 48, I wonder if Harvard will retire Ted's Number 88? Probably not, the Ivies tend not to do that sort of thing.
I've seen, on TV or on the Internet, nice messages from Ted's political rivals. From both George Bushes. From Nancy Reagan. From John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Bill Bennett, Mitt Romney, even Pat Buchanan, who hates everything the Kennedy family has stood for. Yet there are some who cannot put partisanship aside and show the class that these Republicans have shown. These others lead me to think that Jack Kemp, an even better football player who achieved much in politics, who died earlier this year, may have looked at what his party has become and died of a broken heart.
As I said in an earlier post, I was in Boston and Hyannis over the weekend, hoping that Ted wouldn't die then, making it a traffic and media snarl of epic proportions. He didn't. But there was a sense that it wouldn't be long.
I was at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 1999, and it wasn't until a couple of days later that I found out that John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn, then missing, had been at the same game. Another eulogy Ted had to give.
Who can do it for him? Caroline? Bobby's son Joe? Maria Shriver, still in mourning over the loss of her mother Eunice earlier this month? Whoever does it will have huge shoes to fill.
(UPDATE: His son, Ted Jr., did it, and was fantastic.)
I close with words he used for his brother Bobby... and with words he used for his own supporters:
"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’"
"For me, this campaign ended a few hours ago. For all those whose cause has been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
For Ted, the campaign has finally ended, at age 77, and after 47 years in the U.S. Senate. But because the last campaign of his life got Barack Obama elected President, the dream is more alive than ever.