For almost a decade, Kevin Kennedy has searched for proof that Babe Ruth's upright piano sank to the bottom a Massachusetts pond. Although he's always come up empty, new information from two brothers who remember an ancient piano crumbling on the shoreline four decades ago has given Kennedy hope his search might have hit the right note.
For almost a decade, Kevin Kennedy has searched for proof that Babe Ruth's upright piano sank to the bottom of Willis Pond in Sudbury.
Although he's always come up empty, new information from two brothers who remember an ancient piano crumbling on the shoreline four decades ago has given the Sudbury resident new hope his search might have hit the right note.
Babe Ruth rented at least two different houses near Willis Pond, say brothers Steve and Charlie Barry, who spent their boyhood days in the area. The fact that there were two locations may drive home why no one has found evidence of the former Red Sox pitcher's piano near Butler Road.
Ruth also stayed in a cabin across the cranberry bog on Lakeshore Drive.
Kennedy began his search of the pond nine years ago. After receiving information from the Babe Ruth Museum, he narrowed his hunt to the part nearest Butler Road.
"An old-timer and family friend, the late Barney Meampaa, told us that Babe Ruth used to live up at the Borden property on Lakeshore Drive," said Steve Barry. "Other old-timers also told us he lived there."
Ruth's piano played a major role in the Barry brothers' boyhood days, and that new information has brought new life to Kennedy's search.
Steve and Charlie Barry, who now live in Grafton, not only remember the piano, they know what happened to the instrument left rotting on the shore of Willis Pond along Lakeshore Drive.
In April, the men learned that rotting piano had probably belonged to Ruth, who took the Red Sox to three World Series before he was traded to the Yankees.
"Hearing the story of Babe Ruth, we never thought that would have been his piano," said Charlie Barry. "We never had an explanation for the piano on the shore, but we used to find so many things -- including cars and a motorcycle.
"Around 1973, my friends and I wanted to clean up the area and the moldy piano that was falling apart was in the way," said Charlie Barry. "It had been stripped of its brass pedal and ivory key caps. The area was littered with trash, old rims, tires and a sofa, so we burned the piano along with everything else. The keyboard section was waterlogged, so it mostly smoldered."
Charlie Barry and his friends had planned to use the metal harp plate to cook on, but they nixed the idea and rolled the heavy plate into the pond.
"The strings, which we had removed from the harp, were thrown into the bog," he said. "We had planned to use the strings to make bows for arrows, but we never got to it."
The brothers remember first seeing the piano on the shore in 1963, when they were 5 and 9.
"At that time, the piano was upright and intact," Charlie Barry said. "But it was quite bleached by the weather. The black keys were white, so it had been outside for a few years."
The men's story may not be out of left field.
Babe Ruth and other Red Sox players stayed in cabins along Willis Pond, said Lee Swanson, curator for the Historical Society in Sudbury. "He stayed in the area after he was traded," Swanson said.
The curator told the second-hand story of a man who lived on the pond and was there on a winter day around 1919 when Ruth took the piano outside on the ice.
"Whenever Babe visited the area, word spread quickly and an instant party was created in his little cabin," said Swanson. "Babe and his wife both played the piano and they took the piano outside."
That area is now overgrown, and the shore of the pond eroded.
After hearing the brothers' story and visiting Willis Pond with them, Kennedy has sent an e-mail asking the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources if his reconnaissance permit allows him to look under the bog to confirm if they find part of the piano.
"If someone, without a permit, takes or disturbs the harp, it becomes worthless because an archaeologist has to confirm how long it has been there by the level of silt, etc." said Kennedy.
If Kennedy gets state approval, he would have to get an experienced diver to document the finding and apply for an excavation permit.
"I've never been more encouraged," said Kennedy. "Evidently, the legend of the piano is not tied to one location."
After Wednesday's search, Swanson said he was saddened when he learned that the Barry brothers set fire to the piano and threw it in the pond.
He remains optimistic about finding fragments of the instrument.
"It has a real possibility of finally coming true," he said.
MetroWest Daily News