Recent Facebook postings remind us that 2017 is a year for Red Sox commemorations—this being the 50th Anniversary of the pennant-winning 1967 Impossible Dream Boston team that created the modern Red Sox Nation. While young Sox fans have no recollection of that magical year they should better appreciate Boston’s baseball heritage through the anniversary dates the team will be highlighting as the season unfolds.
Some of these Facebook postings from old-timers including reminiscences about first trips to Fenway Park.
My first trip to the Boston ball-yard was on August 9, 1972. My bleacher seat cost $2 and Rico Petrocelli hit a home run as the BoSox beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2. When I played golf with Rico last summer I asked if he remembered that game and he confessed he had no memory of it—in contrast to my vivid recollection.
My first Celtics game was in March of 1978—John Havlicek’s last year. Several fellow Plymouth State students and I drove down to the old Boston Garden to see the Celtics host the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics were terrible and it was easy to get tickets. We drifted down to courtside to stand on the historic parquet floor and then took seats at the scorer’s table adjacent to the Celtics bench. We figured we’d wait there until someone kicked us out, but no ever did. Apparently there weren’t many sports scribes interested in the Celts then.
It was a thrill to be there. Satch Sanders was the Celtic coach and he spied me sitting a few feet away at halftime. He remembered me from some summer basketball camps.
“Groveton Slim. I didn’t know you were a sportswriter!”
“Well, being a writer is my back-up plan if the NBA doesn’t draft me.”
(The NBA didn’t draft me.)
A couple years later I went as a sportswriter, but under someone else’s name—that being Tom Chard of the Portland Maine Press Herald. My friend John was a sportswriter for the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and he’d arranged for press credentials for himself and Chard. When Chard couldn’t go, I assumed Tom’s identity for the evening.
(Presumably the statute of limitations has expired on any possible violations related thereto.)
After the contest John and I went to the Celtic locker room for some post-game interviews. Guarding the door was the ancient Howie McHugh, the Celtic publicist. A standout athlete at Dartmouth in the 1930s, McHugh had been with the Celtics since their founding in 1946. He even helped choose the nickname.
McHugh checked off John’s name against the press list and when I told him I was Tom Chard, he brightened and shook my hand.
“My secretary Mary’s from Portland and she told me all about you,” said Howie. “She said you were the first guy she ever dated.”
I thought I was busted and would be arrested for impersonating a sportswriter. I then smiled and responded.
“Ah, good old Mary. I may have been the first, but certainly not the last.”
Howie gave me a funny look and I realized that my rejoinder may not have sounded quite right.
John rescued me and pulled me into the locker room, where I was ill-at-ease the whole time—waiting for Howie to deploy security cops against me.
Later on, as a bona fide Weirs Times sports columnist, I went to the Garden under my own name—which was much more relaxing. (See photo.)
Howie’s probably looking down on us from sports heaven today, and I hope he’ll accept my belated apology for the minor subterfuge.
And although I never actually met Mary, I’m sure she’d understand how nervous I was about MY first time.
(In the Celtics locker room!)
Howie McHugh’s Celtics played their first-ever game in Boston on Nov. 5, 1946. Who was a Celtic starter that night who later played Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, before becoming one of Hollywood’s top actors? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on February 23 include star baseball catcher Elston Howard (1929), the first African American to play for the New York Yankees and the 1963 American League MVP. He was also a member of the 1967 Red Sox Impossible Dream team.
Sportsquote “You know that ‘Doc’ is just a nickname, right?” – Celtics coach Glenn ‘Doc’ Rivers, on being asked how long Kevin Garnett would be out with a strained muscle.
Chuck Connors was an original Celtic but is better remembered as Lucas McCain on ABC-TV’s “The Rifleman” which ran from 1958-63.
Michael Moffett was a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He’s co-author of the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org