TigsTown: After a 10-year Major League playing career, have you kept yourself actively involved in baseball over the years?
Ted Lepcio: Not at any professional level. I did my usual stint with Little League, Babe Ruth League, and all that kind of stuff. I’ve been close to the Red Sox scene, and still am with the Red Sox organization as far as doing some community service and going to the park to do some autographs.
TT: Do you miss being involved in the game on a day-to-day basis, or are you enjoying your time as a casual observer?
TL: No, I just miss being a competitor. At one time you envision yourself having played there, and I just miss that type of thing. But overall, I would miss playing now, with the money we all talk about, that’d be different.
TT: There is often a lot of press devoted to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Growing up in New York, being born in Utica, did you harbor any dislike for the Red Sox prior to joining the organization in 1951?
TL: No, I never did to tell you the truth. You sort of grew up being a Yankee and New York Giant football fan, because that is all we had up there, you know. But as far as the rivalry, that didn’t creep up on us until we signed professionally. I went to Seton Hall University, and got a little more New York taste being down there for four years, and after graduation.
But during the summer time, the Red Sox showed a lot of interest with some of the guys. In fact, we played up in Augusta, Maine for three summers, which was the equivalent of the Cape Cod League that you hear about now. So the Red Sox had most of their prospects up in Augusta. They had seven teams up there, and we played three summers up there. It was hard not to sign with Boston, even though I could have signed with several other teams, but they showed a big interest during college days, and stayed with us. That’s how it all happened.
TT: You reportedly signed for quite a substantial signing bonus coming out of Seton Hall; wasn’t that somewhat unusual at the time?
TL: It was not that substantial at the time. What they were doing, it was before the bonus rule even came into effect, what they did was to lump in three years of salary at a AAA level, and gave it to you as a lump sum. You know, a so-called bonus. Everyone misconstrued that as being a gigantic bonus. But Billy Consolo, two years after we were here, he signed for $60,000 out of California. That’s when the bonus rule came into effect, about a year or two after I graduated.
TT: How did rookie contract negotiations of the 1950’s differ from those of today?
TL: That’s a good point. We were totally inadequate as far as trying to challenge the general manager, and tell them how worthy we were to the ball club. In those days, they still owned everything. They owned the players outright. We didn’t have much voice in it, and we didn’t have any third-party representation like the guys do today. Therefore, it was all a one way street. The owners would send you a contract and say ‘See you in spring training.’ Almost indirectly telling you to take it or leave it. That’s the biggest thing that helped these modern day players; the third-party representation.
TT: After starting your career in Boston and playing seven full seasons with the Red Sox, was it difficult to hear that you had been traded to Detroit early in the ‘59 season?
TL: Oh yeah! It was my eighth season when I got traded to Detroit. The first trade, you ask any player, is a shaking up period after being somewhere the length of time it was. Even in those days, guys didn’t play with a club going into eight seasons. But then, when I got to Detroit, we were still in a league with only six or eight teams and I knew the players very well. You know, playing against them in spring training all those years. So I knew them very well. After the slight adjustment period, I really enjoyed playing with the Tigers. They were a great bunch of guys. We had a pretty good team.
TT: With so many players today invoking no-trade clauses to block deals, do you wish you could have taken similar action to remain in Boston?
TL: I think once you stay as long as we had in one city, provided you were still a pretty productive player, I think it would be a great thing. I think it would have been great to say ‘Hey, I’d just like to stay here.’
TT: You are one of the few players ever to have been a teammate of both Ted Williams and Al Kaline. Is this fact something you hold in high esteem?
TL: I certainly do. I certainly do. And, you can add Harmon Killebrew to that list; so I played with three greats. Not only are they great players, but they are great guys too. I consider them friends today, outside of Teddy of course passing away. Al and I are very good friends, Harmon and I are very good friends as well, and of course, Teddy and I played a lot together.
TT: Do you still talk to Al and Harmon? How about other teammates?
TL: Yes I do, during the holidays. I do keep in touch with former teammates. My roommate for a long time was Dick Gernert; he’s down in Reading, PA. We talk almost every other week. And I talk to Billy Consolo in California every other week. I talk to Mel Parnell almost once a month; he’s down in New Orleans, Louisiana. Those guys, I have a considerable amount of correspondence with over the phone. Now, we’ve got a bunch of guys that live around Boston that I see, that I played with. Like Frank Malzone, [Johnny] Pesky, guys like that that we played on the same team, I see them occasionally.
Stay tuned for part two on Tuesday, where Lepcio examines more about the men he played with, the situations he endured, and what's going on in the game today.