Lynn's Fraser Field gets modern facelift for 2014 (continued)

The Lynn, Massachusett diamond has been graced by the heroic Boston Red Sox of many moons ago with Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio. Also, the Boston farm team -- the Lynn Red Sox -- called Fraser home sweet home for three seasons in the old New England League when they had a lanky first-sacker named Chuck Connors, who became "The Rifleman" on TV.

Presently, huge yellow plows and cranes have been digging up the hallowed infield at Fraser. This time the new and improved artificial turf will cover not only the grass areas, but also the traditional infield dirt on which flashy fielders such as former Red Sox star Harry Agganis and Dale Long performed their magic. This marks the second time in the past 12 seasons new turf has been applied to the Fraser "field of dreams".

The only real dirt on the diamond will be at the pitchers mound, where such twirlers as Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Ken Hill, Mike Pazik, Bump Hadley, Mike Garcia, Oil Can Boyd, Warren Spahn, John Tudor, Wilbur Wood and Ferguson Jenkins starred. Lynn Community Developmentís John Kasian, who oversees operations at Fraser and Manning fields, has stated that the outfield will remain real grass, and that overall drainage issues were taken care of last year.

The park's first artificial turf was installed in 2003 when the Independent League North Shore Spirit, owned by generous Nick Lopardo, brought modern construction and professional style here for five seasons.

Built in 1940 and funded with $220,000 by President Franklin Roosevelt's Work Project Administration, the park was named in honor of Eugene B. Fraser, a then 68-year old city councilor and minor league official. Many Lynn area men during the depression years worked on the baseball structure. The minimum wage was 45 cents an hour then.

At the time, the baseball-loving city of Lynn had to pay $48,000 to help with construction at the 365 Western Avenue baseball site. This time, 73 years later, the turf work alone will cost the city an estimated $300,000.

It is reported that $200,000 would come from the $4 million bond the Lynn City Council approved last spring, and $56,000 will come from Boston's Fisher College license agreement. The remainder will come from the Navigatorsí lease agreement, which classy Navigators owner Pat Salvi paid up front.

The Navigators, with experienced and enthusiastic Bill Terlecky as general manager, are making grand history of their own. And the Navs are among the best around in honoring the North Shore's rich and treasured baseball backgound. Indeed, Lynn is a hot bed for baseball stardom, with 23 Lynn-related stars joining the Major League ranks, including American League home run champion Tony Conigliaro, Billy Conigliaro, former NL all-star hurler Ken Hill, all-star catcher Jim Hegan, Harry Agganis, John Tudor, Mike Pazik, Christian Howard, and Blondy Ryan, for example.

(Even Lynn-born songwriter Joseph Pickering, now of Bangor, Maine, keeps Lynn in the national limelight with his classic songs of Boston/Lynn baseball. See kingoftheroadmusic.com)

It was during the beginning of World War Two when Fraser Field's Opening Game drew more than 9,000 fans on June 18, 1940, the exact same day England's Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his stirring "This is England's finest hour" war speech.

Of all teams that first day, it was the National League Pittsburgh Pirates who batted first at Fraser against the "Lynn Frasers," a skilled Lynn semi-pro outfit. Pirates outfielder Vince DiMaggio, a brother of Dominic and Joe DiMaggio, walloped the park's first home run. Vince had to hoof it out around the infield bases since there was no outfield fence set up yet. Pirate Auckey Vaughn, a Hall of Famer, got the park's first hit.

Six years later, the park's first Minor League home run was swatted by future Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella of the Nashua Dodgers. It was the nation's first Minor League game in which black players (Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe) participated.

Home Run slugger Jimmie Foxx even selected Fraser Field on which to play his final game.

For 73 summers, Fraser has been "home field" to no less than four Lynn schoolboy squads, English, Classical, Tech, and St. Mary's, as well as Fisher College of Boston, which has a contract with the city to use Fraser.

The Lynn baseball cathedral, which sits next to equally historic Manning Bowl/Field (football, once used by college and NFL teams) also features a unique cantilevered roof (supported only at one end) over the grand stand which can seat more than 4,000 fans. However, as many as 10,000 folks filled the stadium during a General Electric Company employees rally in 1950. The Beach Boys drew 9,000 during a concert in centerfield in 1984.

Pro teams attracting huge throngs at Fraser include the Cleveland Indians, Boston Braves, Kansas City Monarchs with Satchel Paige; the Seattle Mariners minor league Lynn Sailors with Hal Reynolds and Marty Barrett; Pittsburgh's Lynn Pirates, who were beaten in the playoffs by Roger Clemens, a Red sox rookie with Bristol; Detroit's Lynn Tigers; Manager George Scott's Massachusetts Mad Dogs; the King and His Court 4-man softball team, and even a game in which Heisman Football Award winner and former Patriots QB Doug Flutie not only played infield and then drums in a band on top of the Navigators dugout, but also drop-kicked a football from the pitchers mound over the grand stand roof.