Reluctant foray yields a sports mother lode

Posted Oct. 23, 2010, at 12:59 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:46 p.m.

It was the best $2 I ever spent. I rarely leave my ZIP code these days, as a result of a combination of sweet ennui, aggravated by gas prices and a thirsty Tundra truck. But Blue Eyes insisted last week that we motor all the way to Belfast, a good 15 miles away, to check out the Ocean State Job Lot store, sort of a sprawling Filene’s Basement.

In between the motor oil and the tarps was a display of magazines. I idly scanned the selection, complaining all the while about the sheer injustice of this forced trip. Then I saw it. It was a collection of Boston Globe sports pages from 1882 (honest to God) to 2002 for a mere $4.

All right, it did not have coverage on the soul-satisfying World Series wins in 2004 and 2007. But the sign said it was 50 percent off.

Hadda have it.

Growing up in Boston, our sports heroes ranked second only to the pope in our pantheon. If they won a title, they became more important than the pope (shhh).

After some introductions (not bad) by Globe sports writers, the first sports page is from Feb. 8, 1882, with coverage of Boston boxer John L. Sullivan pounding the unfortunate Paddy Ryan of Troy, N.Y., in only 11 minutes. “It was a short, sharp and decisive fight,” read the subhead.

The second page is front-page coverage of the Harvard-Yale game that I never cared about. For your information, Yale won 22-2, according to the Friday, Nov. 20, 1882, Globe. There were no pictures on the front page but plenty of ads for roller skating, lightning protection devices and rheumatism medication.

By 1892, the Globe had added drawings to the front page, just in time for the Sept, 8, 1892, edition covering the pummeling that James J. Corbett gave our

man John L Sullivan in 21 brutal rounds. It was, naturally, “The Battle of the Age.”

Winning the World Series was no big deal in 1903 because the Red Sox did it all the time. Still no photographs in the Oct. 14 edition, but a nice drawing. The Red Sox beat the Pirates (it was 1903, after all) and won about $1,280 apiece. That would be weekend meal money for today’s players.

I just love the front page from April 21, 1912 (5 cents for the Sunday edition), which has the opening of Fenway Park sharing space with the sinking of the Titanic.

Another Boston World Series (ho hum) victory is on the Oct. 14, 1914, front page, this time for the Boston Braves (remember them?) in four straight over the Athletics. The player’s share ballooned up to $1,950. The Sept. 11, 1918, front page trumpeted another Red Sox series win, this time over the Chicago Cubs. Little did we know that would be the last for the Red Sox until 2004. The Cubbies still are waiting. A report about a troop ship being torpedoed ran well under the baseball story.

The 80 years of baseball agony started when “demon slugger” Babe Ruth was sold to the hated Yankees. The Jan. 6, 1920, front page reported that Ruth was sold for $100,000 — money used by team owner Harry Frazee to finance a Broadway show for his girlfriend. Thanks, Harry. The paper still was 2 cents.

The Boston Bruins were not forgotten. Their first Stanley Cup was celebrated on March 30, 1929, when they beat the Rangers. Harry Oliver, naturally, was the star.

By 1941, front-page photos were no big deal. The July 9, 1941, edition had a picture of baseball greats Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. The headline “Williams’ 3-run homer wins for American All Stars” ran above “Red Armies Drive Nazis Back,” telling all you have to know about Boston and it’s sports teams.

“Rocky” Marciano is standing over a vanquished Jersey Joe Wolcott, becoming the first “white champion” in 15 years, according to the Sept. 24, 1952, Globe. The 13-round bout was “drenched in blood and drama.” His surprise retirement is announced in the April 27, 1956, Globe. “I am comfortably fixed and I want to start living,” Rocky told his fans.

Then Ted Williams retired after hitting a home run in his last at-bat. (I swear I was there with Bobby Hagerty.) The Sept. 29, 1960, Globe reported that Williams finished in the top 10 with a batting average of .344. The same sports page reported that right fielder Jacky Jensen signed a contract for the unheard-of salary of $75,000.

Then Bob Cousy retired from the Celtics, covered in the March 18, 1963, edition. We all remember that some gravel-voiced fan yelled “We love ya, Cooz.” And we did.

I have gotten up to only 1963. I will save the rest for a snowy Maine morning.

Best $2 I ever spent.

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