The Jolly Green Giant will meet the Green Monster today. It’s not a Godzilla movie, just a 6-foot-6, .576 hitter from Dartmouth debuting in Fenway Park.
“I’ve always had a dream of playing in Fenway,” said Tim Whall, 23, of Roslindale. “Dreams of sliding in the dirt, of touching the Monster.”
Whall is a part-time lifeguard, a one-time high school math teacher, a full-time job-seeker and a spare-time first baseman in the Park League.
He picked the right time to hit .576, because his Park League All- Stars will play the US Olympic team tonight at 5.
Whall looks bigger than 6-6, 235 pounds when he’s strolling beside the Jamaica Plain municipal pool in his Big Green muscle shirt. But big enough to be almost two .300 hitters in one?
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I’ve always been known as a glove man more than a hitter.”
Through 18 games for Triple D’s, Whall has 34 hits and 36 RBIs in 59 at- bats. This after good but unspectacular years at Boston Latin and Dartmouth, the latter of which he was graduated from last year.
“He’s as good a baseball player as you’ll find in New England,” Dartmouth coach Mike Walsh said. “He was a tremendous leader, the kind of guy who had a lot of fun playing. I think one reason he never got drafted was he was hobbled most of his senior year with a bad ankle.”
Today is his chance for vindication against the college stars he never faced because of Dartmouth’s meek baseball reputation. In fact, his only links to sports lore are the face jobs Patrick Ewing gave him in a basketball game.
“I was a senior at Latin and he was a sophomore at Cambridge Rindge & Latin,” Whall said. “It was the state semifinals. I remember the first two inbounds plays. On the first, I fronted him and they lobbed to him, and he caught it and dunked in the same motion. The next time, I got behind him and they bounced it in to him. He backed in for another one.”
It was the beginning of a humbling process that may explain why Whall is so congenial and modest. (“I’m really not that good – .600 can slide to .220.”)
The process accelerated with lean years in Hanover, N.H.
Whall endured the Big Green’s seventh, eighth and ninth straight losing seasons. Ron Darling, now with the New York Mets, faced Dartmouth only oncebecause Yale wanted to save him for Harvard.
“For some reason, they brought him in in relief one game,” Whall said. “I think I grounded out.”
Dartmouth went 14-13 in 1983 and Whall was an All-Eastern Intercollegiate. He hit .313 that year with 16 RBIs, making his career totals .326 and 76.
“Although his last year was solid, he would have needed an eye- popping year to get drafted,” Walsh said. “That ankle really hurt his chances. He has a lot of self-confidence on the field, but he pokes fun at himself a lot.”
Despite his size, Whall is a contact hitter who often hits to right-center field.
“I don’t know the reason for hitting .576 now,” he said. “I’m not doing anything differently. I’ve been getting a lot of breaks, like seeing-eye hits all the time. It’s a lot of luck. Maybe it’s because I was an assistant at Tufts and am practicing what I preached. But I have no illusions of pro ball. The bubble will burst.”
He would give his finest Ivy Izods for that bubble to stay intact today. Billy Swift, from the University of Maine, will pitch against the Park League team, which consists of collegians, ex-collegians and ex-pros.
“The Olympians are the cream,” Whall said. “Everybody thinks we’re going to lose – except us. They have the potential to beat us, 20-0, but that won’t happen. If we play really well, we can win.”
Win or lose, the Jolly Green Giant will be poolside next week. Dreams are short-lived.
Copyright © 1984 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Jeff Hardie.