Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Day In The Life Of Autograph Alley

The Red Sox limped back home to Fenway Park yesterday, after a frustrating 2-4 road trip to Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field. With last night's game against the Reds, the Red Sox began selling the 3rd edition of the 2005 Red Sox Magazine - the publication that contains the scorecard, line-ups and related stories that is sold throughout the ballpark. Beginning on p. 65 of this edition, fans can read the following article, which I share with my Blog readers with permission of the Boston Red Sox:

A Day in the Life of Autograph Alley


Al Chase

5:30 PM – The gates of Fenway Park open and the curtain rises on another day in the life of Autograph Alley

BoSox Club member, Jack Murray and his daughter, Soo Bee, are today’s Autograph Alley volunteer hosts.

“Welcome to Fenway Park. Would you like to meet former Red Sox catcher, Rich Gedman, and receive a free autograph?”

“Rich Gedman! I used to collect his baseball cards. What do I have to do? How much does it cost?”

“It doesn’t cost a thing. Autograph Alley is a gift from the Red Sox to their fans – a way of saying thank you for your support and a way of connecting fans like you and me to the history and the future of the team. Take this picture of Rich Gedman and he’ll be glad to sign it for you. The line forms behind me, and it seems to be moving pretty quickly this evening.”

As Gara Field and her younger brother, John Robinson, waited in line to meet Rich Gedman, who worked behind the plate for the Red Sox from 1980 through the 1990 season, they talked about their experiences as Red Sox fans:

Gara: “I grew up in Bristol, NH and my day camp would come down each summer. I remember vividly seeing Tony Perez hit a walk-off home run.”

John: “My first memories of the Red Sox are of watching them on TV with my grandfather in Woburn. My first game at Fenway – I was about 8 years old – Nomar hit 3 homeruns, including a Grand Slam. I think it was his birthday.”

As they neared the table where Gedman was signing, brother and sister continued to share their journeys as Red Sox fans:

Gara, who is currently pursuing a Ph. D. degree from UCONN, recalled: “I was still a bit of a “Doubting Thomas” right until the end of the playoffs. When they finally won it all, I cried!”

15 year-old John, the leading scorer on Westford Academy’s lacrosse team, chimed in: “I think I may have shed a tear or two myself! I didn’t think it was possible for people to love the Red Sox more than they already did, but I have seen it happen with my friends.”

Gara: “I think it has to do with the new owners of the Red Sox. They seem intent on treating us fans the way we should be treated. Take Autograph Alley as an example. John, what happened when I heard Rich Gedman’s name a few minutes ago?”

John: “I saw your eyes light up!”

5:48 PM – Noticing that Gedman could use something cold to drink, Officer Jack Murray, 34-year veteran of the Fitchburg Police Department and avid Red Sox fan, brings Gedman a can of Coke.

While talking with them about his baseball career, lefty Gedman adds his distinctive signature to John and Gara’s photos of him, as well as to those proffered to him by the hundreds of other fans who have come to Autograph Alley on this beautiful spring evening for a chance to meet one of their heroes. As the line of fans continues to snake its way up the ramp towards Gedman, Barry and Jonathan Koff, a father and son team from California, arrive in front of the Red Sox star to engage in a quick conversation and to collect their autographs.

Barry: “This is Jonathan’s first time at Fenway. I grew up in NJ and we now live in Orange County, but we are Red Sox fans – except when they are playing the Angels! This Autograph Alley idea is terrific! I don’t know of any other team that offers this kind of service to their fans. Thanks for including us. It makes our visit to Fenway today that much more special and memorable.”

Between signing autographs and greeting those who have waited to meet him, Gedman reflects on the experience of returning to Fenway Park to interact with fans and to sign autographs for them at Autograph Alley:

“It kind of reminds me of Springsteen’s song ‘Glory Days’! It’s a lot different now than it was signing for fans in my playing days. On the field, no matter how many I would sign, there were always people who got left out. There was never enough time for all of them. But now – I can take my time and talk with them. It’s their option to be here and ask me to sign. It’s really special to come back and to feel welcome and wanted!”

Gedman continues ruminating about being back at Fenway and about his reaction to the 2004 Red Sox winning the World Series:

“I was happy for the organization. Of course, it reminded me of ’86. I wish we could have won it all back then, but I feel fortunate to have had a chance to compete in a World Series. I had a different perspective back then. Heck, I was still a kid, and thought it was only about the players. Now, I think about how exciting it must have been for everyone -
the grounds crew, the ushers, the front office staff, the fans.”

6:17 PM – Former Red Sox pitcher Bill MacLeod drops by Autograph Alley with his daughter prior to making their way to their seats in the stands.

Bill is scheduled to return soon for another season of engaging with citizens of Red Sox Nation as one of the former players whom people come to meet at Autograph Alley. Bill responds to a question about how he felt when he was first asked by Pam Ganley, Red Sox Coordinator of Alumni and Archives, to participate in the Autograph Alley program:

“My first thought was: ‘Who would want my autograph? Who will remember me?’ I last played in 1962! But the fans have been fabulous. I am amazed how people remember. I guess it helps that I was a local kid – growing up in on Cape Ann. There are people who still remember that at age 18 – right out of Gloucester High School – I led the Carolina League in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and I batted .375! The fans really appreciate that we take the time here to talk with them. It’s fun to be able to put a smile on a kid’s face!”

6:33 PM – Bill MacLeod remembers his teammate, Dick Radatz

“I had some great teammates during my short time with the Red Sox - Bill Monbouquette, Frank Malzone, Dick Radatz. They are all guys who have enjoyed meeting the fans at Autograph Alley. Radatz loved it! I know he really looked forward to interacting with his fans here that could not wait to meet ‘The Monster.’ We are all going to miss him.”

6:49 PM – Jack and Soo Bee Murray close the line to additional fans, and pause to reflect on what it means to them as a family to be starting their third season as Autograph Alley volunteers.

Soo Bee, a junior at Notre Dame Academy in Worcester: “Working at Autograph Alley has been the best thing that ever happened to us as father and daughter. We have had some of the typical tensions that every teenager has with her parents, but being together at Autograph Alley has brought my Dad and me together. During baseball season, he’s my best friend! It has also given me a different perspective than I had before. I realize how fortunate I am to be here experiencing this place. You know, sometimes you get lucky in life and get to do something really special. This is one of those things. I love it! I love being around the other fans – the kids. People are surprised when we invite them to meet a Red Sox player. It is so great to be to make someone else smile!”

7:05 PM - As current Red Sox player Bronson Arroyo prepares to throw the first pitch of the game from the mound, back in Autograph Alley, former Red Sox stalwart Gedman signs his last autograph of the evening with a flourish.

Gedman, the Murrays, Pam Ganley and Rod Oreste, Red Sox Manager of Publications and Archives slowly stroll down the ramp that leads to Yawkey Way. The ramp that is now home to Autograph Alley is a familiar sight to fans of the film “Field of Dreams.” In the movie, the first scene at Fenway Park shows Ray Kinsella and Terrance Mann walking down a ramp heading towards a refreshment stand. That same ramp is now Autograph Alley. The group share impressions of this day in the life of Autograph Alley. Soo Bee also mentions, almost as an afterthought, that she really loves her class in Shakespeare.

“The teacher is amazing; she really makes the Old Master come alive!”

“Soo Bee, do you see a connection between the Red Sox and Shakespeare?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What kind of plays did Shakespeare write?”

“Tragedies . . . and Comedies!”

“And the Red Sox?”

“Tragedy . . . and Comedy! Yeah!”


1 comment:

Mark said...

Wonderfully written, Al! Thanks for taking me with you to Autograph Alley! :)