Yes, there it is my name is up in lights, daylights that is and don’t think I don’t love it.
I have always been a Red Sox fan. I probably went to my first game before I started remembering all that I remember. My father was a big sports fan and it trickled down to me. He used to love to go to Bruins and Red Sox games. The Celtics came to Boston long after he was a teenager so he did not see as many of those games. I remember him taking me to afternoon Celtics game; coming home and then he would take my mother and go back to the Garden to see the Bruins at night. Since he worked most weekends, it was a big deal if he was off on a Sunday. My parents especially liked when the Montreal Canadians were playing as the fans would sing French songs and the Garden would be in a festive mood.
We grew up with family all around our neighborhood and my Uncle Jack Burnim, a real Red Sox fan, would go to a Sox game every chance he had and many times offered to take me with him. The only problem with going with him is if you were with him you had to eat a hot dog almost every inning and lots of popcorn too (to mix in all the Fenway tastes). To hear his grandson, Judge David Lowy, tell the story, after a while it became torture to eat so much junk food.
Jack took us to many games; one being the Memorial Day game against the Yankees in 1961, the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. I just Googled the box score and although I remembered all the home runs by Mantle and Maris I did not remember Bill “Moose” Skowrun’s 2 homers along with Yogi Berra hitting one that day. Mantle had 2 home runs that game, his #12 and 13 of the still-early season, and Maris hit 2 home runs, bringing his total so-far to 11. Both were well on their way to challenge Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in one season. Since that season, my standard for judging whether someone was going to break Babe Ruth’s years’ record of 60 in a season has been if the person has reached 11 or 13 homers by Memorial Day like Mantle and Maris did that year.
When I think about how mesmerized I was by Mark McGuire’s quest to break Maris’ record only to find out it was tainted; it still pisses me off. Such a big deal breaking it, but really not a big deal. That is what asterisks are for. I think most people in 1961 were rooting for Mickey Mantle to beat out Maris for Ruth’s record but an injury late in the season took him out of the running. According to the movie “61” about the chase, Mantle was rooting for Maris to pull the feat off anyway.
Going to Fenway Park was an easy task when you grew up in Revere. When there was nothing to do you could always hop on the train at Revere Beach Station, ride to Government Center (it was called Scollay Square back then) transfer or walk to get to Park Street Station and then get the trolley to Kenmore Square. You had to make sure you got the right trolley otherwise you ended up in never, never land somewhere off of Huntington Avenue and no one from Revere would know where they were.
Of course you probably would not have walked from Scollay Square, as it would have been another fee of a nickel to get back on a train at a different stop. Those trolleys were great back then; you would rock and roll all the way there. The old cars were shaky, crowded and not air-conditioned. Can you imagine a non air-conditioned train after spending the day in the hot sun at Fenway, not fun! After a day game we would go to the Kenmore Hotel to the little ice cream parlor and get a delicious Sundae (and I mean delicious) costing a quarter.
Any night a crew of us hanging around in the 50s and 60s could go to Fenway watch Dick Raddatz mow them down along with the other 10,000 people who may be in attendance. Jim Piersal, a long time Red Sox center fielder, visited our local grocery store, Arthur’s Creamery, while endorsing a chocolate drink and, yes, I got his autograph.
Tom Yawkey was probably the only reason the Red Sox stayed in Boston with the small crowds in attendance. It all changed in 1967, the “Impossible Dream Year” when sellouts became normal business. Back then, there were no playoffs, you were the best team in baseball in your league or you ended your season when the season ended. With the two number one teams playing the World Series you got the best of the best, at least supposedly.
Dick Williams showed up as manager in 1967 and things just came together. I did not cover any of the games as a photographer but I had a press pass and could go to any game I wanted and sit in the photographer’s box. I did not take as much advantage of the perk as I should have. This was before the photographer’s box next to their dugout. Everything was shot from above or you floated around looking for an aisle seat. A big treat going to a game with the press pass was to be able to eat in the press lunchroom, where there was delicious food and it was free. A tip of $1.00 was the standard and where could you eat as much as you want of good food for a buck.
The weekend the Red Sox won the pennant in 1967 everyone was working. I was in the lab at the paper. We were playing the Minnesota Twins and had to win both Saturday and Sunday’s game while one of the other teams in the league lost. I was very busy with many rolls of film being shipped in to make our many editions. Then it was over, the Sox won and John Landers had a great photo of Jim Lonborg being carried off the field on his teammate’s shoulders after beating the great pitcher Dean Chance in what you could call a non-playoff, playoff game, winner take all.
I went with photographer Kevin Cole to St. Louis for the World Series that year. I never got to the park as I worked out of the St. Louis Post Dispatch doing all of Kevin’s lab work and transmitting over 60 photos back to Boston to be used in our editions. Kevin did his usual great job catching all the action.
Earlier in the season Lonborg got engaged and the hunt for his fiancé was on and I was on the chase. There I was at Fenway Park looking for his fiancé, not knowing where to look, all of a sudden a car pulls up by the player’s entrance, Lonborg gets out of the car and she was driving. Very graciously, she held up her hand to display her ring. I probably yelled out asking her to hold up her hand, thankfully I knew which hand the ring was on and if you were driving the left hand is on the window side. Lonborg did not marry this woman, and went on to be a South Shore area dentist. I have never seen him again in person.
When Ken “Hawk” Harrelson (now the Chicago White Sox announcer) had his cast removed from leg injury I was at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital and asked him to throw the cast away for the camera. He was a very media savvy athlete. Harrelson came to the Red Sox during their Pennant drive to replace the injured Tony Conigliaro.
In the Conigliaro era there was always something going on. Whatever he did we did. There was the night he got into a car accident in Somerville and was taken to the hospital. Then I was covering his younger brother Richie playing football for Swampscott High School and the whole Conigliaro family was there. I was assigned to show everyone. I was taking some photos of the family and Tony came playfully charging at me like he was going to tackle me. Of course, I wasn’t sure whether or not he would throw me to the ground so I moved out of the way. I met his brother Billy several times as he was in high school with a friend of mine from Swampscott, Susan Feldman.
In 1975, when Carleton Fisk hit is game winning home run against Cincinnati in the World Series I was in the photographer’s box shooting color film watching Fisk waving his home run ball fair. I ran out on the field with everyone else and it was fun. Still haven’t found those slides.
Bucky Dent hits his game winning 3 run homer and I was the floater for the one game playoff with the Yankees in 1978. I was walking around trying to get “different photos” for the later editions. I was behind the home plate screen taking photos of Mike Torrez pitching and keeping an eye on his wife Danielle who also behind the backstop. Dent came up to the plate and hit his blast and the Red Sox season was over. Danielle knew it also and I had this really good photo of her expression, which got a one column cut in the paper. The front-page headline the next day was this very, very, very small type, which said “Red Sox Lose” and you were not a baseball fan you would not have noticed. Sam Cohen our great sports editor always had great ideas to be different.
Of course there was Bill Lee, Red Sox pitcher; talk about someone who danced to his own drummer! Must have been a Wednesday night when he walked off the team or something like that as I was working and I was dispatched to his Belmont home to get a shot of him. I was in front of his house when he came jogging up the street. I stood there and took some photos of him arriving, followed him down the driveway and of course he knew I was taking his photo as he acknowledged my presence. Next week I heard from Jerry Buckley the Red Sox photographer back then that Lee had said he was stalked and I came out behind the bushes to get his photo. Two sides to a story, he was dancing as far as I was concerned.
When Oil Can Boyd (a Red Sox pitcher) flipped his lid so to speak reporter Ron Gollobin and I were sent to his Chelsea apartment trying to seek him out for whatever he wanted to say. It did not go to well. He came out the door, spotted us and took steps towards us. He was yelling at me flaying his arms and Gollobin stepped between us. He created a real photo opp. In that same era while honeymooning in Hawaii I bumped into the very friendly Dwight Evans and his wife vacationing there.
There were many sidebars through my years of Red Sox coverage. There were the 4 people murdered at Sammy White’s Bowling Alley, September 22, 1980 in Brighton. The former Red Sox catcher owned the alley. I was outside when the police investigation was taking place and got a photo of a distraught relative waiting for word from the Boston Police.
In 1986, Red Sox vs. the Mets for the World Series, everyone was excited. I was with reporter Susan Wornick, Neil Ungerlieder (now head of our internet site, “thebostonchannel.com) and Channel Five Berraneck Fellow, Rebecca Rowlings. We were doing a story about the prostitutes doing business in Boston. We pulled over on Washington Street near the former Wang Theatre to watch the end of the game, as my company car was equipped with a TV.
Neil who is a very big Red Sox fan commented, “the Red Sox are going to win a World Series!” We were very intent watching; knowing if they won our story would change to local celebrations. Then it happened, Bill Buckner missed the grounder to first in the tenth inning after the Red Sox were up 3 to 2 in games and everything unfolded. It was over, and all that was left was the Red Sox to try and recover the next night. We all know what happened after that, it took 18 more years to finally win a World Series bringing the total up to 86 years between championships.
I was at Fenway Park when the Red Sox came home in the early morning hours. In those days we were a welcome sight to the players and had good access to the bus and the players. Pitcher Bob “Steamer” Stanley one of the nicest athletics you could ever meet got off the bus and there was a fan yelling, “Bob you’re the best!” It was just after the ongoing controversy of whether he threw a wild pitch or the catcher Rich Gedman had a passed ball. Most think it was a passed ball but he took the hit graciously. A little name-dropping here, his daughter Kristin worked at Channel Five as a producer and I went to her wedding in 2010.
After that there was the time reporter Jack Harper and I went into the Red Sox dressing room, before yellow tape, when all you needed to do was show up at Fenway show your Fenway Pass and walk around including the locker room. We walked in and there were a couple of players sitting there (must have been after the “86” loss) including Jim Rice. Everyone knew Mr. Rice did not like the media back then. If looks could kill Jack and I would not be here now.
Today, I do very little Red Sox coverage although I was there in the 90s after they won the Pennant by beating the Angels in the playoffs, ran out on the field with everyone else to the pitcher’s mound for the celebration and got excellent video. I covered the local celebrations after they won the Series in 04 and 07 and hope they do it again while I am still working.
But my highlight of Fenway will always be getting my birthday wish up on the bleacher screen unless I ever get to throw out the first pitch and make a fool out of myself when I cannot reach the plate.