Remembering local kid 'Louie' Merloni's Red Sox moment and his parents' pride (2024)

An offbeat dash of history was jotted into the Red Sox scrapbook on the night of May 15, 1998. In the bottom of the second inning of Boston’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals, a local kid, Framingham’s Lou Merloni, batting at Fenway Park for the first time in his brief major-league career, socked a three-run homer off lefty Jose Rosado.


The dash of history? By taking Rosado over the Monster, Merloni became the third Italian-American who was born and raised in the Boston area to hit a home run in his first Fenway Park at-bat. The others: Eddie Pellagrini (1946) and Tony Conigliaro (1964).

OK, in the annals of Red Sox history, it’s not exactly Ted Williams hitting .406, or Roger Clemens registering two 20-strikeout games. Besides, there was some for-real history made that night, even if nobody knew it at the time: future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, finishing out his career via a one-season cameo with the Red Sox, recorded a save in Boston’s 5-2 victory. It was the 390th — and last — save of Eckersley’s brilliant career.

But I have my own reasons for remembering that game.

It was Lou Merloni’s parents — Louis E. Merloni and his wife, Sandra — who stand out in my memory. I had ventured down to the grandstand behind home plate that night to get some observations from Lou’s parents after their son had hit his big home run, and, naturally, Mom and Dad were quite happy and proud. But what registered with me that night, and I was thinking about it on Sunday when I attended Papa Lou Merloni’s wake, was that they represented every parent of every kid from New England who ever dreamed of playing big-league baseball at Fenway Park.

Lou the elder was 84 years old when he died, after battling Alzheimer’s Disease. He was a regular guy who lived his entire life in Framingham, and he was a longtime Little League coach. Counting practices and tryouts and pick-up games, how many times did Lou and Sandra see their son and their daughters Lisa and Jill engage in youth activities over the years? Hundreds of times? Thousands?

And then you add in all the Little League games big Lou coached, and, man, that’s a lot of baseball for a lot of years. No wonder the line was out the door on Sunday afternoon at Matarese Funeral Home in Ashland. It’s likely some of these people played for Lou.


But let me take you back to that night in 1998 and that ballgame at Fenway Park. Lou and Sandra’s son had been playing baseball since Little League, and there’s a charming video floating around on YouTube showing little “Louie” Merloni smashing a grounder to third that turned into your classic Little League home run: A missed catch here, an errant throw there, and next thing you know Louie is crossing the plate with the winning run.

Young Lou later played baseball at Framingham South High School, and then Providence College. He was selected by the Red Sox in the 20th round of the 1992 amateur draft, and then he was off to the minors, to places like Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, Trenton and Pawtucket. When he was called up by the Red Sox in 1998, he was 27 years old and in his sixth minor-league season.

Now Lou and Sandra were watching their son play for the Boston Red Sox. Lou’s mom later let me in on a little secret: She didn’t actually see her son’s home run that night. She saw the swing, but, she said, “I thought the outfielder was going to make the catch and I put my head in my hands. I didn’t see it all until I got home later that night.”

My guess is that Lou’s father saw everything. The pitch, the swing, the ball going over the Green Monster. That’s what good coaches do. They see everything. And, yes, he had to be popping his buttons as his kid rounded the bases.

I wasn’t sitting with them when Lou hit the home run. I arrived a little later to barge in on the celebration, but there was something about them that suggested they’d have been just as happy had they been at Fallon Field in Roslindale watching their son play for Mass Envelope of the Boston Park League.

Know how I know this to be true? Here’s how: Years after young Lou had played his last game in the big leagues, wrapping it up with the Cleveland Indians in 2006, he was still appearing in the Oldtime Baseball Game, an annual charity event in Cambridge on whose board I sit. Young Lou was in his 40s by then and working in radio and television, but it made no difference to his father. He’d show up every year and grab a piece of bench on the little wooden grandstand behind the plate

The look on his face was exactly the same as it was on that May 1998 evening at Fenway Park. He just wanted to see his kid play baseball.

(Photo of Lou Merloni and his father, Louis E. Merloni: courtesy of the Merloni family)

Remembering local kid 'Louie' Merloni's Red Sox moment and his parents' pride (1)Remembering local kid 'Louie' Merloni's Red Sox moment and his parents' pride (2)

Steve Buckley is a columnist for The Athletic. He was previously a sports columnist for the Boston Herald and The National Sports Daily. Earlier stops include covering baseball for the Hartford Courant, Tacoma News Tribune and Portland (Maine) Press Herald. Follow Steve on Twitter @BuckinBoston

Remembering local kid 'Louie' Merloni's Red Sox moment and his parents' pride (2024)
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