Eighteen years have not dulled the memory Charlie Ebersol. He vividly remembers his last conversation with his 14-year-old brother, Teddy, as their 18-seat charter plane taxied down a snowy Colorado runway.
Charlie, returning to college at Notre Dame, sat in the back of the plane, while Teddy, obsessed with the Boston Red Sox, sat in the front with their father, legendary television executive and avid New York Yankees fan Dick Ebersole.
“My dad and Teddy are talking up front,” Charlie said. “We haven’t taken off yet. And my dad says to Teddy, “Why baseball?” And Teddy said, “I wanted something you and I could talk about.” And my dad’s like, “Wow,” and then my dad thinks for a second and he’s like, “Okay, but then why the Red Sox?”
“And Teddy said, ‘See Charlie over there?’ He’s a Yankees fan and sits in the back of the plane. I’m a Red Sox fan and I’m talking to you.’
“Thirty seconds later the plane crashed and Teddy was killed.”
Dick Ebersol explores this unspeakable sadness at length, having lost his youngest child in it devastating plane crash of 2004in his upcoming memoir, From Saturday Night to Sunday Night, which will be released in September.
“We’ve always felt so incredibly embraced by so many people, the entire Red Sox nation,” said Dick, who was critically injured in the crash — the plane failed to take off and crashed on takeoff — and was carried by an unconscious Charlie from the wreckage moments before the plane burst into flames. The captain and flight attendant died with Teddy.
“People who reached out, who didn’t hesitate, whether we were in Boston or somewhere in New England, coming up and saying, ‘Can I give you a hug?'” he said, his voice barely audible at this point. “It was pretty phenomenal.”
On the banks of the Charles River, six miles from the site of the U.S. Open in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, is Teddy’s eternal memory, Three Balls in Downtown Boston, a community complex that was the brainchild of Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner and is diligently maintained by the team. on the team’s territory.
The outfield features a granite bench with Teddy’s name on it, the Red Sox slogan “Curse Reversed 2004” — a reference to their first World Series victory that ended an 86-year drought — and a bronze baseball glove, a replica of Teddy’s constant companion, who also died in the crash. . His original glove was bright turquoise and white, and he was always ready to play with his father, brothers or sister.
Werner is a close friend of the Ebersols, as is New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who also contributed to the project. Mitt Romney, who was governor of Massachusetts when the fields were created in 2006, also played an instrumental role. Ebersole and Romney have been close friends since working on the Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Ebersol, which resigned as chairman of NBC Sports in 2011, he traces a distinguished career that began when he dropped out of Yale in the early 1970s to work for ABC’s Rune Arledge as the first televised Olympic reporter, and included landmark stints on “Saturday Night Live” and “Sunday Night Football”.
His constant inspiration in the best and worst times of those times was his wife, actress Susan St. James, whom he met while she was hosting “SNL” in 1981, and married a year later. She has been an open book about the loss of her son, helping countless other parents through their worst nightmares.
“Tim Russert was a close friend of the family and his summer house was 20 minutes away,” Ebersole said, speaking from his home in Litchfield, Conn. – He worked in the news at NBC, and I was involved in sports. He had Susie on the “Today Show” three or four days after the accident.
“When you watch it, you get an incredible sense of how strong she was. It affected thousands of people across the country. The amount of mail was incredible. She touched so many hearts. It wasn’t her feeling sorry for herself or her family. She tried to tell the many other families that she knew were suffering from grief in our country, how to deal with it.”
The Ebersols are a blended family. St. James was previously married to makeup artist Tom Lucas, and they have a son, Harmony, and a daughter, Sunshine. Ebersole and St. James later had sons Charlie, Willie, and Teddy.
“We don’t use the terms stepfather or stepfather in this family,” Ebersole said. “[Harmony and Sunshine] there is their dad whom they love. We all kind of get along.”
Nowhere was this more evident than in the depths of despair, when the family grew even closer after Teddy’s death. The accident occurred on November 28, 2004, one day after Matt Leinart threw for 400 yards in the leading USC over Notre Dame 41-10, in the Coliseum. Willie was at USC; Charlie at Notre Dame.
The four Ebersoles—the parents, Charlie, and Teddy—had flown out of Van Nuys that Sunday morning and headed for Colorado, where Susan planned to have the family’s vacation home in Telluride ready for Christmas. The plane landed in Montrose, Colorado, where it was refueled and Susan got out.
“The fire was astronomical because the plane had just been fully refueled,” Ebersol said. “Meanwhile, Susie doesn’t know anything has happened because she’s in the mountains and can’t get a cell signal. It was only when she reached the one point in the mountains where she could get a signal that Charlie reached her and told her that there had been an accident.’
Since Teddy’s glove was lost in the accident, the Ebersols turned to Mizuno for a glove that was identical to the last piece. Then the family sent it out so everyone could have a chance to break it. The glove was then bronzed in the same foundry that produced the famous Duckling Road sculpture in the Boston Public Garden.
It’s not just soccer fields named after Teddy. The Liberty Hotel across the street, owned by close friends of the Ebersole family, has renamed it the Presidential Suite. Copper beeches in Litchfield were planted in his memory and the school named its library in his honour.
Even now, for Charlie, some reminders make the world stop spinning.
“You know the song ‘Drift Away’ by Dobie Gray? … “Give me a beat guys and set my soul free, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and go away,” he said. “It was Teddy’s favorite song. When I’m driving and this song comes on the radio, I have to pull over because I’m on the verge of tears.”
Sunny has a favorite photo. It’s her daughter Rowena, then 16 months old, kissing the bronze glove on Teddy’s field.
“I think Teddy touched me the most when I had my own children and I realized how devastating it would be if something happened to them,” she said.
Rowena turned 14 this year, the same age as the uncle she never knew.