My Grandfather: The Sox' First "Bonus Baby"

Many young boys only have one dream: to play in the pros. As they suit up in their football gear or pull on a baseball cap, they all play their hearts out as if they were playing alongside their favorite athletes.

Only the best of the best will ever actually reach stardom and step onto that perfectly groomed football field or baseball diamond as a job and not a fan. I know one of those lucky boys, although he’s not a boy anymore. My grandfather, Bill Moniak, nearly reached stardom, playing baseball in the minor leagues for the Boston Red Sox for six seasons.

He grew up like any other boy, playing sports all year long. Although he played football and ran track, his heart always belonged to baseball. Growing up in Pennsylvania, he couldn’t play baseball year-round due to the weather. He played when he could, however, and focused on other sports in the meantime.

When he hit high school, he did not play for his school; they did not even have a team. He played football and ran track instead and played baseball outside of school. He was offered several scholarships to play football. His speed and size sparked interest from many schools. None of the schools sparked interest to him, however. His passion was in baseball, and that was what he was going to play.

During high school, he attended several baseball tryout camps. Scouts would follow him to his games if they took interest. Several teams did take interest in the young talent, but didn’t offer Moniak as much money as he wanted. The Boston Red Sox heard of him and sent a scout by the name of Socko McCary to watch him at one of his games. Moniak had a good game and was on his way to Boston the next day.

While in Boston, he watched a game and then got to meet the team. The star stuck kid would then workout at the legendary Fenway Park for a few weeks. Tom Yawkey, Boston’s owner, and Joe Cronin, Boston’s president and a Hall of Famer shortstop, called Moniak into their office after the workouts were complete. They asked him how much money he wanted. He asked for $25,000. They gave it to him without hesitation.

That was in 1958. Prior to that year, if an athlete was signed for more than $4,000 he had to be placed on a major league roster. No teams, however, wanted a young 18-year-old on their major league roster. The rule was abolished that year, and that was how Moniak became Boston’s first “Bonus Baby.”

Moniak had six good seasons in Boston’s farm system. He wishes he could have made it one step further and into the major leagues, however. He was happy in Boston, though, and loved playing there every minute. Moniak now lives in San Diego, where he still proudly sports Red Sox attire daily. He is the proud grandfather of 16 and I am lucky enough to be one of them.

My grandfather is an inspiration to many, especially to his grandkids. He lived out his boyhood dream as he actually got to play alongside some of his favorite athletes. Now we, his grandkids, are longing to live out our childhood dreams. So, who knows, maybe one of us will follow in his footsteps and become one of the best of the best.

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