By Jean DePlacido Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — Harry Agganis will forever be known as the Golden Greek, a legend on the football and baseball fields where he performed incredible feats. The handsome athlete from Lynn was only 26 years old and hitting .300 as the first baseman for the Boston Red Sox when he died suddenly from a blood clot in his lung on June 27, 1955.
Now after six long years in the making, a documentary about his life called “Agganis The Golden Greek, Excellence To The End” will be shown at the AMC Loews Boston Common Theater on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. The showing will be followed by an after party at the Gypsy Bar.
Harry’s grandnephew Greg Agganis and his father Michael are the executive producers. Cramer Production of Norwood is producing the documentary which is narrated by Clark Booth.
All proceeds from the premiere will go to the Sports Museum’s educational Stand Strong program to help at risk kids in the Greater Boston area. This endeavor builds character and emphasizes the virtues and values Harry Agganis stood for.
“We’ve been waiting for this night for a long time,” said Greg Agganis, who owns the Akron Aeros baseball club which is a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. “It’s a labor of love and my passion is getting the word out about Harry’s life. I want to continue and spread his legacy.
“Despite the fact that he died at such a young age his legacy is even stronger now because of the Harry Agganis Foundation, and Boston University naming the arena for him along with that great statue. He is known all across the country and beyond. When I went to Greece people knew who Harry was.”
Michael Agganis bought the Lynn Sailors back in 1981, and the family has been involved with baseball teams since then. What could have been a tragic ending when Harry Agganis died so unexpectedly has instead become a living legacy thanks to the ongoing efforts of his family and friends, who have never forgotten the wonderful young man with a smile that lit up the room.
“My grandfather Jimmy was Harry’s oldest brother,” said Greg. “Harry’s foundation is growing all the time, and we’ve added more sports to the Agganis Classics over the years which means more scholarships are given out. It’s great for the community of Lynn. We have worked very hard on the documentary which is not just a sports story about Harry’s athletic talents, but also has a human interest appeal about his heritage, family, and Greek culture.
“We wanted Booth to narrate because he also has a passion for Harry and has written articles about him for the Boston Globe magazine,” Greg Agganis said. “We only put ticket information on the website (www.agganismovie.com) a couple of weeks ago and have already sold tickets for 200 of the 300 seats available. If people want to see it they should act fast, and everybody is considered a VIP. We’ll have the red carpet ceremony first and a big party afterward which is open to all.”
The movie trailer shows black and white film of Harry Agganis as a high school star at Lynn Classical and later as a BU Terrier. He was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1952 draft, but stunned everybody by signing with the Sox instead so he could be close to his widowed mother. Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams both talk about the gifted athlete in glowing terms.
Sponsor packages are available for $2,500, and general admission is $100 which includes a DVD copy of Agganis The Golden Greek, Excellence to The End” (tickets can be purchased online). Greg Agganis is on the board of directors for the Sports Museum, located at levels 5 and 6 of the TD Garden.
“I thought this was a great way to tie in Harry’s story with the museum, especially the Stand Strong program which emphasizes character, teamwork, responsibility, and fairness,” said Greg, who is also a BU grad. “All those things go back to the qualities Harry had. It’s almost 60 years since his death, but we are still expanding his legacy.”
“We’re thrilled to be associated with the Harry Agganis movie premiere,” said Rusty Sullivan, who grew up in Topsfield and is the executive director of the Sports Museum. “Our programs teach the value of determination, courage, and all the other hallmarks of character that he represented. We use as a platform all that is good in sports, and there is a lot of good. Agganis embodied all those qualities. These are things that lead to success not just on the field but in life as well.”
“It’s a proud night for the Agganis family. There have been a lot of great high school athletes in the history of Massachusetts over the last 50 or more years, but never any greater than Harry Agganis. He died so young and tragically there is a bitter taste of what might have been if he had lived. But there is also a lot to celebrate in his life even though it was cut short.”
Greg Agganis said the response has been wonderful, and he would love to see the theater sold out. He said the next step is getting the documentary televised, possibly on a cable network. He has been talking to people about it.
“The goal is to get national recognition for Harry,” he said. “ It’s really a wonderful story that is just as timely today as it was right after he died.”