MARBLEHEAD — Bill MacLeod, 69, wasn't a baseball star like Carl Yastrzemski or Carlton Fisk, but he was in their league.
His time lasted little more than a month in 1962. MacLeod, whose arm was aching at the time, was brought up in September to pitch relief for the last-place Red Sox.
"We were playing the Yankees," the lefty remembers. "I came out onto the field during infield practice. ... It was the thrill of a lifetime."
He looked about at all the spectators and wondered, "How many of these people are from Gloucester?"
Some months earlier, they might have seen him pitching and hitting for the Gloucester High School team. As a kid he had journeyed to Fenway to watch and glory in the grounds where people like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Joe Cronin had played.
"I really thought about all that," he says of the moment when he stood on the same field. "It was really exciting."
The Marblehead resident was part of last night's alumni celebration at Fenway, and he'll be there today, as well. Prior to the Yankee game, he will join festivities with scores of former Sox players wearing the same style uniform tops they wore as players.
"Since I woke up this morning, all I could think about was all the players I'll be meeting who I haven't seen since 1962," MacLeod said yesterday afternoon, calling out names like Dave Morehead and Pumpsie Green. "I'm really looking forward to it."
When first asked to pitch in a big league park, MacLeod admits there was a little nervousness.
"But the nervousness went away after the first pitch," he says.
He never got into a game at Fenway Park. He did warm up in preparation for a turn against one of the most explosive lineups in baseball history, a latter-day Murderers' Row including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris and Moose Skowron.
He wasn't called on, however.
Later, he played in two games on the road, taking the loss in one of them. When his month with Boston ended, he never again reached the Major Leagues.
MacLeod was signed by the Sox in 1961. In Boston, he joined a pitching crew that, despite its low standing, included quality hurlers like Bill Monbouquette, Dick Radatz, Gene Conley and Rookie of the Year Don Schwall.
"We could have beat anybody in basketball," MacLeod laughs, noting that most of the staff soared over 6 feet, particularly Conley, who spent his off-season playing for another local team: the Boston Celtics.
In spring training the following year, MacLeod was told he was being groomed as the left-handed reliever, working in tandem with Radatz, a right-hander.
"But I only pitched three innings, and I wasn't impressive in them," MacLeod says.
Radatz's fastball was impressive, especially to MacLeod, who believes "the Monster" puts modern throwers in the shade.
Despite his bad luck, MacLeod did not stop trying, pitching in the minor leagues until 1969. At one point, he won 23 straight games, but eventually, his pitching career was ended by bursitis.
In the minors, he befriended a lot of future Red Sox stars — including Reggie Smith, Rico Petrocelli, George Scott and Mike Andrews — men he's eager to see again.
After baseball, MacLeod went to college and worked as a manager at restaurants and bars. He has twin daughters. For the last 15 years, until he was sidelined by recent medical ailments, he was a teller at the National Grand Bank.
The minimum salary when he played was $7,000 a year, MacLeod says.
Even so, "A lot of people will say I was playing in the correct era. People played because they wanted to play. Not because of the money."
MacLeod wasn't a guy who found great success in baseball. He is nevertheless part of a baseball brotherhood. He is the man in the arena "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood," in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, whose "place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."