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May 20, 2005
Visit by Red Sox legends DiMaggio, Doerr and Pesky honors friend, teammate's memory

Johnny Pesky showing off his World Series ring with Stephanie Jean of the Jimmy Fund Clinic.

Johnny Pesky's World Series ring is a hit with Stephanie Jean of the Jimmy Fund Clinic.

More than 50 years after they helped spread the word about Dana-Farber in its earliest days, Boston Red Sox legends Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Johnny Pesky returned to the Institute last week to honor both a friend treated here and the memory of their late teammate Ted Williams.

The trio of octogenarians, who starred together on the great Red Sox teams of the 1940s and early 1950s, were on hand May 17 with DiMaggio's wife, Dana-Farber Trustee Emily DiMaggio, to help in the making of a documentary about Williams by their friend Stephen Brown – who was treated for melanoma at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital this past winter. Brown was so moved by the excellence of his care that he arranged for the visit and interviews with the four celebrities and Jimmy Fund Chairman Mike Andrews about the pivotal fundraising role they and the entire Red Sox organization have played in Dana-Farber's growth. Williams, who died in 2002, is acknowledged as the Institute's all-time leading spokesman.

Johnny Pesky, Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr enjoying the Red Sox visit.

Left to right: Johnny Pesky, Dana-Farber President Edward Benz Jr., MD, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr enjoy the Red Sox visit.

In addition to meeting with members of Brown's care team, which was led by oncologist F. Stephen Hodi, MD, of Dana-Farber and surgeon David Lautz, MD, of Brigham and Women's, the group toured the Jimmy Fund Clinic and chatted with young patients in the playroom and private infusion areas. The biggest thrill for many of the youngsters was trying on Pesky's mammoth 2004 World Series ring, which he received for being a special instructor with last year's championship club. "We're married now," he joked with one young lady as he slipped it on her finger.

"Dana-Farber has just grown so fantastically, it's unbelievable," Dom DiMaggio told Brown in his documentary interview after seeing the newly refurbished clinic. In addition to his fundraising efforts as a player, he and his wife made a gift to helped establish the Institute's pediatric psychosocial unit, and for several years the couple sponsored a golf tournament to benefit DFCI. The couple, along with Doerr and Pesky, have all received the Thomas A. and Jean R. Yawkey Award – the Jimmy Fund's highest honor, named for the former Red Sox owners and DFCI benefactors.

"We used to visit Dr. Farber at least twice a year en masse as a team," added Pesky in his portion segment. "Seeing the looks on the faces of the kids was an incredible feeling, and I can't tell you how much it meant to us. When I get letters from fans and they send along something for me to autograph, I send it back with a note that says, 'I'll sign this if you make a donation to the Jimmy Fund.'"

For Brown, the event offered a way to thank the place "that saved my life." He had been referred to Dana-Farber by Emily DiMaggio when a Florida doctor recommended his arm be amputated after a cancerous growth was found. It turned out that the tumor was removable through a sentinel lymph node biopsy, and his arm was spared. He explained that he is currently in remission and being seen by Hodi and Lautz every three months.

"I knew after I came here for treatment that I had to include Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund in this documentary," said Brown, a friend of Williams for 40 years. "Ted had a saying: 'For life's sake, put back more than you take.' This is my way of doing that."

As Andrews told Brown for the film: "It's absolutely amazing to think of the impact these teammates have had on this institution. When they started coming, most of these kids didn't go home. Now so many of them are saved, and it's all because of what these players began."