I asked former Fenway office boy, Monsignor Thomas Daly. He knew the ins and outs of everyone and everything that went on at Fenway Park in the mid-forties. He could still recite the address of almost every employee of the ball club in 1945 (including Lefty Grove’s in Lonaconing, Maryland). Daly had attended the Negro League exhibitions at Fenway in the mid-forties, but he had never heard of Jackie Robinson auditioning for the team.
I even asked former Yankee General Manager, Lee MacPhail, now 93-years-old, who started working for the Yankees in 1945 when his father Larry became a co-owner of the team. All I received back was a curt, non-memory of the event. “No. I never heard of that.”
When I finally dialed the number of the oldest living Red Sox player, and one of only two players from the 1945 Red Sox roster still living, I wasn’t expecting much.
My modest expectations were completely blown away with what I found. Here was a 95-year-old, cup of coffee, war call-up named William Otis “Otey” Clark of Boscobel, Wisconsin, not just telling me that he had heard of the tryout, but describing important details of the day he threw to the Kansas City Monarchs shortstop and future trailblazer, Jack Roosevelt Robinson. He said, “Joe Cronin would say ‘take a little off’ and all of that.”
...Otey told me that his manager, Joe Cronin, called him up the day before and asked him to be at the ballpark at 10 am. He explained, “Cronin chose me because I had good control.” When he got there, he dressed and went out to the bullpen to warm up. According to Otey, Robinson hit well, but didn’t have a strong enough arm to play shortstop. He said, “I didn’t think he could throw from the hole behind third.”