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If Bobby Orr played with the Red Sox instead of the Bruins, they would have to build a new public library to hold his clippings. Even now, Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro appear to be regular features, like the horoscope or Dear Abby. Before he ever strode to home plate in a major league game, some kid infielder named Alvarado had been come at so many ways during spring training that he was beginning to resemble the bridge at Chappaquiddick. Was Alvarado ready? Should he play third base or short? Switch Petrocelli to third? Are you crazy? Will this affect Petrocelli? Will it, in fact, affect Petrocelli if he even thinks Alvarado is being considered for short? Will it affect Alvarado if he thinks Petrocelli is affected by this possible switch? What will this do to Petrocelli's hitting? His fielding? Alvarado's? What do teammates think of this situation? Opponents? Rival managers? Alvarado? Petrocelli? After weeks of all this, by which time Alvarado had become a name and psyche familiar to every man, woman and child in the area, the season opened with Petrocelli at short and Alvarado at third. By June Alvarado was back in the minors.
Despite the overkill, Boston writers do not live up to their image. For one thing, their potential power is limited by the fact that the money and the eggheads still scorn the Boston papers, except for occasional ventures into The Christian Science Monitor. Tennis, which draws from the upper-class element, is likely better served by advance publicity in The New York Times than in local papers. Nor are Boston writers exceptionally critical. Many are downright avuncular. Only one, Clif Keane of the Globe, may be classified as a character. Certainly none resemble Dave Egan, "The Colonel," who was the "Splendid Splinter's" nemesis.
Irascible and unpredictable when in his cups, which was often, Egan was a child of mixed parentage—Hearst, out of Harvard. The conflicts showed. He had an almost brilliant capacity to infuriate, and he came, before his death in 1958, to personify The Boston Sportswriter. It was bad casting. In reality, Ted Williams created a monster. Not only did Williams drive Egan to escalate their feud, but the stature Williams gave Egan caused other writers to try to emulate him as a knock artist. None, however, could match The Colonel's artistry of invective. "You couldn't help but laugh," Jackie Jensen says, "even if it was your best friend he was knocking." Besides, Egan was not all the blackguard Williams made him out to be. He often stooped to mercy. He was an original and flamboyant defender of Williams when most Hub Men had taken it upon themselves to launch vicious personal attacks against him for being a draft dodger and unfit father. Moreover, The Colonel was an utterly charming man when sober, and then his writing could become almost gooey. "He used to write columns about me that would embarrass my mother," Cousy says.
Definitely, there is a market for that kind of blarney in Boston, and elsewhere, too, as evidenced by the fact that Curt Gowdy used it as a springboard to national prominence. He was so popular in Boston that when disc jockey Bob Elliott and announcer Ray Goulding began to mimic Gowdy's drippy tag line—"This is Curt Gowdy, rounding third and heading home"—their popularity began to soar, too. "This is Steve Boscoe, rounding third and getting thrown out at home," Ray rasped hopelessly, and they promptly went on to national fame.
With the possible exception of Philadelphia's Bill Cosby, no comedians have ever leaned so heavily on sports material as Bob and Ray. This is in keeping with the surroundings, for there is a general awareness of sports in Beantown. They are accepted. Sports talk is not compartmentalized, escapist fare. It laps over into any conversation, on equal footing with politics, the Catholic Church, sex, The First National Bank and traffic on Route 128. George Frazier, the author and style arbiter, returned recently to write a regular column for the Globe. The column can deal with any subject—local, national, international, serious, funny. Frazier was asked by a Boston friend what subject his first column would cover. It was going on the front page. A man can write on anything in the whole damn world. What does he start with? "Joe Cronin must go," Frazier said quickly. The friend nodded, satisfied with the choice. Who are these Hub Men?
Walking down the street one day in 1867, a Hub Man by the name of Patrick S. Gilmore saw a vision of "a vast structure" in his home town. Gilmore turned the dream into reality and had a gigantic Temple of Peace constructed in only three months in 1869 at a cost of $120,750.68. The monster temple measured 500 feet by 300 feet, with the ceiling 100 feet high. It had a capacity of 50,000, and as such was the last structure erected in Boston that would satisfy the seating requirements of the National Football League. Sadly for Billy Sullivan, the Temple of Peace was blown down in a storm.
Two reactions to the construction of the temple survive, and they are applicable to all incipient Boston stadium projects. One is that before the temple was built there was a political squabble concerning its site and the planned location had to be changed. The other is that when Gilmore arrived home to tell his wife of his vision, she fixed him with a curious stare and said: "Are you crazy?" Stadium plans are still welcomed this way in Boston.
Harvard did build its football arena—seating 37,000—in 1903, and the Red Sox, also with private funds, put up Fenway Park within the city limits in 1912. There are smaller fields that the Patriots have used at Boston University (15,000) and Boston College (27,000), but that's about it for stadiums in Boston.
Fenway Park is not really a stadium anyway. It holds only 33,000 because, essentially, it is a left-field wall with seats. For years people laughed at it and said it was the ruin of the Red Sox. Especially they laughed when all over the country taxpayers were approving what were called all-purpose stadiums. They are called all-purpose because they are perfectly suited for football and also for drum-and-bugle corps competitions. These stadiums are nearly uniform, being round and deep and bearing a resemblance to a large toilet bowl. For baseball, everybody is equidistant from the plate—all too far away. All of a sudden, the best thing that ever happened to the Red Sox was to be stuck with queer old Fenway Park.
Bill Veeck says: "We're in the process of institutionalizing everything we do, standardizing all our surroundings. The wall gives Fenway a life of its own. So do the young people who attend. There is an intimacy to the park, so that you feel part of the game. I had franchises in Cleveland, which is the largest park in baseball, and in St. Louis, which was one of the smallest, and, believe me, given the choice, I'd much prefer to operate out of the smaller stadium."