Monday, October 24, 2011

94. Sam "Mayday" Malone: Cheers to a TV Icon


A few weeks ago I finally got around to drawing a card for "Cheers" bartender Sam Malone. Ted Danson's beloved character on the long-running tv show was at one time a relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and his former pitching coach named, well, "Coach" was an employee behind the bar in the shows early years. Although I wasn't a particularly devoted fan of the show when it was on, I have always wondered what a "Mayday" Malone baseball card would look like. After a few hours of work at the drawing table I had my answer, but, like I said, Cheers wasn't my favorite show (I was more of a "Rockford Files" kind of guy) so I decided to ask for help with this week's post. Enter Tom Zappala. Tom, besides being a Red Sox fan, is also author of a book - "The T206 Collection - The Players and Their Stories" - of which I own a well-used copy. Tom and his co-authors wrote a nice biography of each and every player featured in the famous T206 tobacco card set and for a fan interested in baseball at the turn-of-the-century, this book is a must-have. So not only was I happy to get some time off from researching a story, but I got to meet the author of a book I particularly enjoy. So with out further chit-chat, I'll let Tom tell you about Sam "Mayday" Malone...

If Sam “Mayday” Malone paid as much attention to honing his pitching skills as he did to booze and beautiful women, he would have gone down in Red Sox annals as one of the greatest relief pitchers in the history of that organization.

One of the most colorful characters to ever don the Red Sox uniform, Sam was drafted as a “bonus baby” in 1966 right out of Sudbury High. Known for his “slider of death” as well as his nasty curve ball, Malone at 6 feet 3 inches tall was a can’t miss prospect. However, he languished in the minors for six years because of poor pitch command and poor judgment outside of the lines.
In 1971 Malone finally put together a decent season in the minors, going 7-2 as a reliever, while being mentored by Pawtucket Red Sox pitching coach Ernie Pantusso. As a result, Malone was finally called up to the big dance in 1972. In his first MLB appearance, he hit the two first batters he faced and then proceeded to strike out the next three.
Over the next six years “Mayday” showed flashes of brilliance, but became a gate attraction because of his off-field antics. The nickname was given to him because one never knew when disaster would strike while Sam was on the mound. A key member of the American League Pennant winning team in 1975, Malone walked over to the Boston Beer Factory in uniform after the clincher, jumped over the bar and became the unofficial bartender for the remainder of the night. Unfortunately, he drank more beer than he served, and was suspended from the playoffs.
For the next few seasons Sam Malone toiled for the Sox. He was released in 1978 after he gave up 4 consecutive home runs in a game and walked off the field while tipping his hat to the crowd that was actually cheering for him, because they had never seen anything like that before!
Malone eventually addressed his drinking, successfully completing a rehab program, and today, although a green tea drinker, is a very successful tavern owner in Boston. Not only does he accommodate patrons and fans with pictures and stories about his MLB days, but he is also one of the most charitable sports personalities in Boston. “Mayday” Malone has raised thousands of dollars for children's charities and elderly causes throughout the city of Boston. His “Mayday Charity Baseball Game” held the first Saturday in May at Fenway draws thousands. Today he is a beloved Boston hero, and his antics during his playing days simply add to his renown.

Tom Zappala
is a businessman in the Greater Boston area who has a passion for anything related to baseball history. He has had a particular interest in the T206 collection for about 20 years, focusing on player profiles and backgrounds, and enjoys the hunt for new and exciting information on the lesser-known players. He is also the cohost of a popular talk radio show broadcast in northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. He loves his wife, his four great kids, and his Red Sox. Those things, along with a Grey Goose martini and two baseball-size olives, make life great.

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