By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.
Back in the early 1980s Phil Anez was the talk of the new Sunday morning men’s softball league in Smithfield. A pitcher on one of the teams, he didn’t create a buzz just because he had owned the Pawtucket Red Sox or had an ad agency. It was because he owned a unique glove like no-one had ever seen before. It was an ambidextrous mitt you could wear on either hand.
Today, more than three decades later, he says that he still has it.
After talking with him for a few minutes it seems clear that he also still has the entrepreneurial spirit and colorful character that made him a personality on the diamond and these days on the radio as well. He has been as adaptable as that glove.
He won’t reveal his age, but when he sat down with a writer and shared some of his many experiences and the memories that he prizes, he revealed that he is still playing softball, and it quickly became obvious that he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm.
Chief among his cherished memories is his stint from 1974 to 1978 as owner of the Pawtucket minor league baseball franchise.
“It was the greatest experience of my life,” he says. However, after a pause he adds, “But I couldn’t make any money.”
The problem, he explains, was that back then the major league teams didn’t pay the salaries of the players they were developing. The minor league team owners had to do that. This arrangement, claims Anez, didn’t leave an owner enough margin to make a profit. Today, it’s much different with the big league teams handling the payroll and the team owners running the franchise operation.
The Pawtucket team when he owned it counted four notable future big-leaguers on its roster, including two who became major league all-stars, but Anez says that despite having Don Aase, Ernie Whitt, Jack Baker, and Bo Diaz, the team scuffled. “We didn’t have a good club,” he concedes.
However, he declares that he wouldn’t trade his days owning the franchise for anything. “I met some of the greatest people in the world. I met [Red Sox owner Mr. Tom] Yawkey. I wasn’t successful, but I think anyone who loves sports should have that experience.”
Today, Phil lives back in Smithfield, but his career has taken him to interesting climes. Following his time with the Pawtucket Red Sox he mentions that he wound up on the opposite coast, working as the general manager of the Portland [Oregon] Beavers, the Triple A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. He spent 10 years in the job.
“Baseball people, to me, are the most interesting in the world. It was a fabulous experience,” he observes. “However, when the Beavers moved to Salt Lake City, I came back home.”
He has worked in radio ever since, he reports, noting that during his time with the Beavers he did a radio show on the side and enjoyed it.
These days he is hosting a show called Wake Up America on Woonsocket-based WNRI 1380 AM. The program has a one hour talk show format. It runs from 11 a.m. to 12 noon Monday through Thursday.
“It’s 90 percent political. I’m a little to the right of Rush Limbaugh,” Anez confides with a chuckle. Part of the conversation with his listeners is on-going speculation about his age, which is why he won’t disclose it.
“No-one knows how old I am,” he smiles. “I have gotten guesses anywhere from 40 to 80.”
He describes some of the regular features of the program, among them is one called “Patriot of the Week.” In it last month he saluted Alvin Lannon, the 100 year-old WWII veteran, who was the subject of The Smithfield Times November cover story.
Anez also mentions a popular segment dubbed “Jerk of the Week.” He gets a steady stream of nominees for the title, he claims. There are a lot of regular callers to the show, he says, but he limits them sometimes, too, in order to include in-studio guests or to develop themes that he wants to explore. He has been doing the show for eight years. Sometimes he does remote broadcasts as well.
Although he is on the air for an hour, preparing and organizing for the show, he does his own writing, and he manages his own sales. All in all it takes him four to five hours each day. He loves it, though, he declares.
And he plays in two softball leagues, to boot.