BY TOM DALTON
---- — DANVERS — In his playing days, Phil Morse was a right-handed hitting first-baseman for The Plains, a team in the old Danvers Twilight League.
Today, the 72-year-old Morse is a retired businessman, a grandfather and ... oh, yes ... one of the owners of the Boston Red Sox, who head into Game 3 of the World Series today against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Danvers native tries to play down his role with the team, but if you do an Internet search for the Red Sox front office, his name appears near the top. Vice Chairman Philip H. Morse is listed right under Principal Owner John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner, and President and CEO Larry Lucchino.
“I’ve really taken a step back and spent a lot more time with the grandkids,” said Morse, who for a decade served on the stadium committee, which oversaw the expansion and improvements to Fenway Park.
Morse made his fortune when he sold a medical device company to Pfizer Inc. He declined to state his investment in the Red Sox, although published estimates in 2002 put it at $25 million or more.
Now living in Lake George, N.Y., and Maine, Morse made it to Fenway Park a few dozen times this year. Even when he wasn’t in the ballpark, he kept a close watch on this Cinderella team.
“I’ve seen every game, whether at the park or on TV,” he said.
Morse took several of his grandchildren to the World Series opener Wednesday night along with his brother, Jim, and some old friends — Larry Duffy and Barry Robertson, who played football with him at Danvers High in 1959, and Alan Riley, a football player and fraternity brother at the University of Maine.
“We were on the Budweiser right-field roof area,” Morse wrote in an email. “It was great getting together.”
Morse admits he is as shocked as anyone over the success of the Red Sox, who split the first two games with the Cardinals heading into today’s game in St. Louis. Morse, by the way, flew out to St. Louis to be with the team.
In spring training, Morse said he thought Toronto would win the division, followed by Tampa Bay and Baltimore, with the Red Sox and Yankees fighting it out for the basement.
“There was one point in the season ... when the standings were exactly the opposite of what I thought,” he said.
Does he credit the beards for the miracle turnaround?
“I’m not a huge fan of it,” he said with a chuckle. “But it certainly works, and they’ve gotten a lot of fun out of it.”
Morse said he couldn’t be happier for the players, especially those who had to endure last season.
“They can win or lose (the World Series), but it can’t take away from what they’ve accomplished,” he said.
“This year, David (Ortiz), Pedey (Dustin Pedroia) and some of the other guys are strong standouts as leaders, but basically it’s been a team effort. Statistically, I can’t tell you how many games have been won by different players, but it must be six or seven guys who have won key games. I think that’s what keeps them together — it’s truly a team effort.”
Morse also credited manager John Farrell and the front office, especially General Manager Ben Cherington and Luchino.
“I think Ben and John work together so well,” he said. He called Luchino “an extremely intelligent guy who’s done a great job.”
This winning season has made Morse’s life a lot brighter — and safer.
“It’s been such a departure from the last couple of years,” he said, “and certainly from last year, when I was almost afraid to go out (for fear) people would beat me down.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.