Marty Stone is doing what other baseball fans only dream about. Before almost every Boston home game, he slips into his very own Red Sox uniform (No. 54), goes out to the mound at Fenway Park and pitches batting practice to Yaz, to Jim Rice, to the Boomer, to Pudge Fisk, to Fred Lynn. But that's not enough for Stone, not by a long shot. Now he wants to buy the team. Because he just happens to be a multimillionaire, he may pull it off.
If he does, it would be merely another of the 49-year-old attorney's many distinctions. He was on two of Nixon's enemies lists, took a fling at running for governor of California, helped start Common Cause and a number of other organizations and made a bundle of bucks along the way. After all that, most men would be happy to sit back on their yachts and sip Ch√¢teau Margaux. But Stone much prefers a 20-minute stint on the mound followed by a couple of Fenway franks and a beer in the grandstands. "A lawyer at a cocktail party kept asking me why I do it," Stone says. "Finally I asked him what he does to unwind. Play squash? Drink martinis? I shag flies and throw batting practice.
"Of course, there's a lot of fantasy involved, but I guess I'm one of those people who never grew up," says Stone, who when he was 18 hitchhiked from Los Angeles to his birthplace, St. Louis, because the Cardinals had a 17-game homestand. "When I'm shagging flies, I imagine all sorts of dramatic things. When I'm pitching to Yastrzemski or Lynn or Rice, I like to pretend it's in a game. I even make bets with Lynn that he can't hit a homer off me. Once in a while I win. And once in a while I get a little carried away. When the Sox pitching staff was having some problems a few weeks ago, I had a really good sinker and slider one day and started thinking maybe I could help out. Then Don Zimmer yelled, 'Are you trying to make my pitching staff?' I returned to reality."
Stone admits that his predilection for hanging around ball parks dates back to the time immediately after his graduation from UCLA, when his father persuaded him to go to law school instead of trying for a pro career as a catcher. For the next 15 years his baseball was limited to the sandlots. In 1965, Stone was asked to join a group that was purchasing the Braves, but missed out on the deal because it was closed while he was on a bicycle tour through Europe. A couple of years later, the owners invited him down to spring training to work out.
"A bunch of us were out on the field in uniform when Paul Richards, who was then the general manager, ordered all the owners and their 'blippety friends' off the diamond. I was over on another field throwing to Clint Courtney, the catching instructor, when the last batting-practice pitcher had to quit for some reason. Henry Aaron, Felipe Alou, Joe Torre and Deron Johnson were waiting to hit, and Courtney sent me out there. Aaron was the first big league batter I ever pitched to. The next day my name was listed as a regular batting practice pitcher, and I was addicted.
"I'd throw to the Braves when they'd come out to Los Angeles. Then one day Walter Alston asked me how come I was working with the opposition. 'I'm one of your stockholders,' he told me, so I began regular work with the Dodgers." Stone subsequently went to spring training with the Angels and the Expos. In 1974 he moved to Boston for business reasons and took up with the Red Sox. That got him onto the 1976 All-Star team as the American League's batting pitcher, and it also would have gotten him to all the '75 World Series games. "I had to turn down the Sox' invitation to go to Cincinnati," says Stone. "We had a stockholders meeting those three days, and it would have been hard for the president of a company to tell his investors that he couldn't be there because of conflicting batting practice." The Red Sox voted Stone and Artie Nowell, the team's other batting-practice pitcher, Series shares of $1,000 apiece. That cost Stone money, because he matches his income from the Sox ($15 a game during the regular season) and gives the total to the Jimmy Fund.
Stone's company is Monogram Industries, which among other things makes airplane toilets and electrical insulation. When he took over Monogram in 1961, it was grossing $5 million a year. Its gross is now almost $200 million.
Because of his opposition to the Vietnam war, Stone became involved in politics in the '60s. He was chairman of Eugene McCarthy's 1968 California presidential primary campaign, co-chairman of one of Tom Bradley's two successful races for mayor of Los Angeles, and of California's Muskie for President organization. That pretty much explains how Stone ended up on Nixon's enemies lists. He founded the Urban Coalition of Los Angeles, helped John Gardner set up Common Cause and ran Boston Mayor Kevin White's Youth Employment Program. He was asked to run for governor of California in 1970, but declined because of what he considered the futility of challenging incumbent Ronald Reagan. In 1973 he agreed to campaign for the office, but soon found that he had lost his taste for politics. Instead, Stone decided to move to Boston to be closer to the majority of Monogram Industries' factories.
Stone now concentrates on baseball during his spare time, and in recent months a lot of his energies in that area have gone to putting together an offer to purchase the Red Sox, who are expected to sell for about $16 million. The trust established by the estate of the late Thomas A. Yawkey will accept bids for the Sox up until 1 p.m. on Sept. 1, and Stone and his group of eight Boston businessmen are considered to be one of the four most serious contenders. Stone's competition is expected to come from combines headed by former Red Sox Outfielder Dominic DiMaggio, Boston businessman Jack Satter and San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DiBartolo.
"I've always wanted to own a ball club," says Stone, "but if I do get it, baseball people will run it, not some batting-practice pitcher."