Honoring Mike Ryan: Haverhill native and baseball legend

·3 min read

Jul. 19—HAVERHILL — When Mike Ryan was a kid he sharpened his baseball skills at Swasey Field.

The popular public park on Blaisdell Street will become a field of remembrance and honor when the city dedicates the major league diamond and a granite bench to the Haverhill native who made it big in the world of professional baseball.

Mayor James Fiorentini invites the public to join with friends and family of former Boston Red Sox 6-foot 2-inch catcher and Haverhill native the late Michael James Ryan Friday, July 22, at 10 a.m. for a formal dedication at Swasey Field, which is located in the city's Mt. Washington neighborhood.

The mayor's office has sent invitations to about 35 people from a list provided by Ryan's family. The commemorative granite bench was installed earlier this summer at the park at 59 Blaisdell St. and was paid for with donations raised by Ryan's family.

Ryan, who died at 78 in July 2020, signed a contract with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in October 1960 and began his professional career in 1961 with the Olean Red Sox of the New York-Penn League. He went on to spend 35 years in professional baseball, including his first seven in the Red Sox organization as a player. A former catcher, he played in 79 regular season games for the Red Sox during their 1967 Impossible Dream season, also appearing in Game 4 of the 1967 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Born in Haverhill on Nov. 25, 1941, Ryan attended St. James High School and always maintained great affection for his hometown, particularly for the time he spent playing baseball at Swasey Field, according to the mayor's office.

A few months after Ryan's death, the City Council agreed to name the major league size diamond at Swasey Field in memory the Red Sox "impossible dream" season catcher.

"I remember being contacted by (School Committee member) Maura Ryan-Ciardiello about the Ryan family wanting to dedicate a bench so I reached out to the mayor's office and during our discussions it was decided to dedicate the baseball diamond at Swasey Field to Mike Ryan," City Councilor Melinda Barrett said.

Vincent Ouellette, the city's human services director, said the popular Swasey Field also has two Little League diamonds along with basketball court, a spray park, playset and walking paths.

"I remember as a kid around the time Mike Ryan was drafted and seeing a banner at Tyler Park, which is just before the I-495 overpass heading to Plaistow, congratulating him," Ouellette said. "I also remember his playing for the Red Sox before he was traded to Philadelphia."

Ouellette said the granite bench is no ordinary bench as it displays an image of Ryan along with his baseball career highlights.

"It's a beautiful bench," Ouellette said. "I think this recognizes the playing career of a Haverhill boy who was drafted by a local team and went on to a very good career as a player and coach who never lost his affinity for Haverhill and the field where he played when growing up."

Along with an image of Ryan in his Red Sox uniform, the granite bench includes Ryan's career highlights, including:

Championships: 1967 Red Sox, 1974 Pirates, and 1979 Phillies

World Series: 1980 Phillies, 1983 Phillies, and 1993 Phillies.