Ex-major leaguer Fanzone, Dowd teammates until the end
PITTSFIELD -- Carmen Fanzone took the red-eye flight on Saturday night from Los Angeles to Hartford, Conn.
From there, he traveled to the Dwyer Funeral Home. On Sunday, he joined the family and friends of the late Paul M. Dowd, his former minor-league teammate with the Pittsfield Red Sox.
Fanzone, who played in the major leagues with both the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, and Dowd both played for Pittsfield's Eastern League franchise in the mid-1960s when they were members of the Red Sox organization.
Both natives of Detroit, Dowd and Fanzone remained best friends to the end. This weekend, Fanzone came east to bid a final farewell to his former P-Sox teammate.
Dowd, 66, a civic icon in Pittsfield, died on Labor Day following a three-year battle with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Fanzone traveled to Pittsfield with his wife, Sue Raney, a Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist. Fatigued but energized, the couple shared stories with Dowd's family. Saddened, they celebrated the life of the former Pittsfield city councilman and Berkshire County Jimmy Fund president.
"We stayed in touch and I visited him a few times," at Duke University Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. where Dowd underwent treatment for ALS, Fanzone said.
"I'll tell you what: Cancer is the worst, but what Paul dealt with is an awful disease," he said. "But I never heard him complain. In fact, he'd cheer me up. Paul would tell me that those kids with cancer had it worse than he did."
As youngsters, Fanzone and Dowd both attended and played baseball at Ferris State University in Michigan. They also played for the same high-level sandlot baseball team, but not at the same time. They never actually met until both were members of the Red Sox organization.
"We actually were signed by the same scout," Fanzone said. "The difference was that Paul was given a signing bonus of about $100,000, while I signed for $25. I signed the final year before baseball had a draft, and Paul came a little later."
Dowd, who was a pitcher, could bring the heat, Fanzone said.
"I told Paul once that there were nights when he was pitching that I felt sorry for the other team," Fanzone said. "He could throw hard."
Raney also shared some baseball stories on Sunday. The Kansas native recorded her first album at the age of 17, and regularly sang the national anthem at Los Angeles Dodgers games for a while. She also recorded a single called "Van Lingle Mungo" that the Dodgers use to sell at their souvenir stands.
Mungo, who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was a favorite of former Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda. The song, written by jazz pianist Dave Frishberg, is made up entirely of the names of major leaguers who played in the 1940s.
"We were told that the record is part of a display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.," said Fanzone, who looked at his wife before adding, "Well, at least one of us made it."
Fanzone was invited to and attended Fenway Park's 100th birthday celebration last year, and is hoping to attend the centennial celebration for Wrigley Field that the Cubs are hosting in 2014.
In addition to baseball, Fanzone had a long career as a trumpet and flugelhorn player. While speaking about Dowd, he drifted back in time for a moment to September 1968. That was the month Dowd married his late wife, the former Rosemary Brown. The couple met while Dowd was playing in Pittsfield.
"I was in Paul's wedding one weekend and the next weekend I was part of Jim "Thunder" Thornton's wedding," said Falzone, recalling another Pittsfield teammate's nuptials.
"I remember because my mom was visiting me in Pittsfield during that time and I brought her to both of those events."
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