No Wellesley story has gripped me more over the years we’ve been doing The Swellesley Report as that of Jack Sanford, a 1947 Wellesley High grad who went on to become not just a major league baseball player, but the 1957 National League Rookie of the Year and a starter in three games of the 1962 World Series for the Giants vs. the Yankees.
If things had turned out differently in Game 7, a contest that Sanford and the Giants lost 1-0, there would be a field named after the hard throwing righty in town, and maybe even a statue or plaque (there was a pitching award in his name given to WHS pitchers for a while).
I’ve written about Sanford a few times, including in this WellesleyWeston Magazine article (Jack Sanford — The greatest Wellesley sports star you probably never heard of ), and created a webpage dedicated to Sanford years ago (Jack Sanford: Wellesley;s Major League Baseball Star — the page needs updating). I had actually been approached by Sanford’s son John about writing a book about his dad, but I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule and he found a more seasoned sportswriter to take the job anyway.
The result is a new book — a quick read — called “Jack Sanford: From Blightville to the Big Leagues.”
Blightville, as a couple of members of Sanford’s family told me a few years back, was the name they gave to the area around Oakland Circle where they grew up and that was considered the wrong side of the tracks in town. In the book, Sanford’s nephew Jim refers to the areas as “the slum section of Wellesley. We actually had outhouses.”
Sanford, as the book chronicles, always considered himself to be something of a scrapper, having to outwork others to make his way through the Army and 7 years in the minors to crack the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 28 and become an all-star as a rookie. Sanford was no scholar at Wellesley High, and is quoted in the book as saying “Most of the time I wasn’t available for sports in the second semester. Usually my marks were a little low.” He was a good pitcher for Wellesley High, though no sure thing to become a professional player.
Sanford turned in a solid career marked by a couple of truly standout seasons. In 1962 he finished second in Cy Young voting for the National League’s top pitcher and won 16 straight decisions at one point during the season. But he really never got over losing Game 7 of the World Series, a classic in which a line drive by the Giants’ Willie McCovey ended the game but could have won it if it had only been hit a couple of feet one way or the other. Sanford, who won Game 2, pitched well in Game 5 and had 3 hits in the series, would most likely have been the Series MVP if the Giants had won (Ralph Terry, the pitcher who won for the Yankees in Game 7, earned that honor). Sanford was up against legendary sluggers like Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.
Sanford became a pitching coach (including for Red Sox favorite Luis Tiant, then with Cleveland) and worked at golf courses in Florida after retiring as a baseball player. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 70, but this new book will help to keep Sanford’s story alive.