Red Sox poet laureate, day-game announcer Dick Flavin, of Quincy, dies at 86
QUINCY − Day-game announcer at Fenway Park, poet laurate for the Boston Red Sox, TV political commentator and lifelong Quincy resident Richard Patrick “Dick” Flavin died Wednesday at South Shore Hospital. He was 86.
"Dick Flavin was a fixture on Boston TV, a familiar face and voice at Fenway, and our own beloved poet laureate," the Red Sox wrote in a statement. "Our hearts are with the Flavin family. His words and warmth will always be part of the organization."
Flavin was born to James and Helen Flavin on Dec. 7, 1936, in Boston and grew up in Quincy's Merrymount neighborhood.
"All of his stories were about 39 Neponset and what a great time he'd had there, how they'd close off the street when it snowed," his daughter, Leslie McCarthy, said Thursday. "We'd go to the Fourth of July parade every year to reminisce. ... (Quincy) was part of him."
Flavin graduated from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree and Stonehill College in Easton. He later took graduate courses in radio and television at New York University. Flavin and Betsy Flavin Gustafson, to whom he was married for 20 years, had two daughters: Leslie McCarthy and Meredith Flavin.
"From a daughter's perspective, we knew we hit the jackpot," McCarthy said. "He was the most fun. Everything he did was a party, for our whole life. It was just the best."
April 2013: Quincy’s Dick Flavin one of the voices of Fenway Park
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He worked briefly at his family’s real estate business, Flavin & Flavin Realty, before becoming the press spokesman for the state Democratic committee in 1963. He was a speechwriter for several Democratic politicians, including Ted Kennedy. He was press secretary for state Senate President Maurice Donahue, and in 1967 he helped run Kevin White’s successful campaign for mayor of Boston. He was press secretary during White’s first administration.
In 1970, Flavin left politics for political reporting. He worked at WNAC-TV in Boston before moving to WBZ-TV in 1973, where he spent 14 years as a political commentator and social satirist. He was nominated for 14 New England Regional Emmy Awards and won seven times. His work as a broadcaster was honored in 2011 with his induction into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
For decades, Flavin was a professional public speaker and supported organizations including The Jimmy Fund and the Genesis Foundation for Children.
Later in life, he dove into his creative side, and in 2008 the New Repertory Theatre in Boston put on "According to Tip," a play he wrote about the public and private life of former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill.
In 2001, Flavin and Red Sox greats Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky drove from Massachusetts to Florida to say goodbye to former Red Sox star Ted Williams, who was gravely ill. During the trip, he rewrote the poem “Casey at the Bat,” turning it into "Teddy at the Bat.” He performed the poem in Florida and was later asked to reprise the recitation at Fenway Park during a Red Sox memorial for Williams.
He went on to perform it all over the country, including at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and with the Boston Pops Orchestra. David Halberstam, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author, wrote a book about the adventure called "The Teammates." Later, ESPN produced a documentary based on the book. Narrated by Flavin, the documentary was nominated for a national Emmy Award.
Flavin went on to be named poet laureate of the Boston Red Sox and served as the day-game announcer at Fenway Park for five seasons, starting in 2013. He replaced the late Carl Beane.
“I have always just loved the experience of the ballpark and the team," Flavin told The Patriot Ledger in 2013. "To be a part of this, in a little way, is a real kick. Just a real kick.”
In 2015, he released a collection of his poems titled "Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses." For the last seven years, he published a weekly blog called “Musings by Dick Flavin" and was a weekly contributor to The Boston Pilot, the oldest Catholic newspaper in the country.
"Writing his obituary was one of the last gifts he gave me," McCarthy said. "He jammed so much into his life, it was just awesome. ... Many people who are in the public eye like that are almost playing a character, but not for him. He was as joyful in private as he was in public. That was just his personality. It was remarkable. He was so wonderful."
McCarthy reflected on a childhood full of stories, jokes and burnt hot dogs that were called the "Dick Flavin special."
He used to say, 'When I go, you're going to laugh when you remember me,''' McCarthy said of her father. "And I would think, 'We could never laugh when you're gone,' but I have laughed so much in the last week. It has been through tears, but I've laughed so much."
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His daughter said there has been an outpouring of love for Flavin since his death, including kind words from the Boston Red Sox organization.
"He loved the Red Sox so much and to know they loved him back, it was just a dream come true," she said. "In a town full of superfans, he was the biggest superfan."
Flavin leaves behind two daughters: Leslie McCarthy, her husband, Rich, and their two children, Bitsy and Duke McCarthy; and Meredith Flavin, her husband, Alan Frank, and their daughter, Helena. They both live in California.
He is also survived by his ex-wife, Betsy Flavin Gustafson; his younger sister, Marilyn (Flavin) Colman, her husband, Richard, and their four children; and many nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, in-laws, cousins and extended family. He is predeceased by his sister Marguerite Flavin and his brother, the Rev. James J. Flavin.
Details for what McCarthy called a "celebration of life" have not been made. In lieu of flowers, they family asks well-wishers to donate to the Genesis Foundation for Children, thegenesisfoundation.org.
The Flavin family shared the following poem, called "The Skinny on Me," written by Dick Flavin in 2009.
"The Skinny on Me"
Here’s the skinny on this Flavin guy,
The one who writes the posey.
He’s Mrs. Flavin's youngest boy
She loved him head to toesy.
His commentaries on TV
Gave politicians hives.
The set designers way back then
Were Currier and Ives.
He skewered parties equally,
Republicans and Demmies.
And got away with so much
That he won seven Emmys.
He wrote a play on Tip O’Neill,
Revealing and quite funny.
It brought him fame and some acclaim
And everything but money.
He writes ditties on the Red Sox
Their victories and losses.
He’ll even rhyme from time to time
To tweak the BoSox bosses.
He’ll give a speech in your hometown.
He’ll do the speaking tour.
Truth is, if it comes to that,
He’ll go door to door.
He’s fooled some folks some of the time
By doing all that stuff.
And that, he’s very pleased to say,
Seems to be quite enough.
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This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Quincy's Dick Flavin, former Red Sox day-game announcer, dead at 86