Bob and Jean Hannon had their first date at Fenway Park. The tickets were $2.50 each, and even though the Red Sox were playing the St. Louis Cardinals in a World Series game, Bob was able to get bleacher seats at the gate.
He was 24, working for New England Telephone. She was 20 and had skipped classes at Emmanuel College to go to the game. “Wow, did you see that 4-6 double play?” she exclaimed.
Impressed with her baseball knowledge, Bob said he remembers thinking, “I’m going to marry that girl.”
That was 1946, and in the 67 years since, the Hannons have been to hundreds, possibly more than a thousand, Red Sox games. In fact, Bob has been to each of the three World Series in which the Sox have faced the St. Louis Cardinals: 1946, 1967, and 2004. Jean only missed the 1967 series, home with five kids. “But we watched on TV,” she said.
And if there is a Game 6 in this World Series, Bob, 91, and Jean, 87, will be there, too.
On a recent afternoon, the Hannons sat in the Milton home they bought in 1956 and discussed their love affair with the Red Sox, and with each other. Their son, Bob, who also lives in Milton, was there to reminisce, and prompt memories. On the mantel of the neat-as-a-pin home was a Ted Williams bobble-head doll.
The elder Hannon had initially hoped for a sweep, but reality intruded Saturday night and now he said he is hoping that the Series will return to Boston.
His prediction? The Sox, four; Cardinals, three.
“Pitching will dominate,” said Bob, who is somewhat stooped but still has a good head of white hair and a ready smile.
“They’ve both got good pitchers and that’s the name of the game,” Jean agreed.
Neither was pleased with the controversial obstruction call against Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks that ended Game 3 on Saturday, giving the Cardinals a 5-4 win.
Jean missed the call: “I’m one of those people who hates to see the Sox lose, and they were behind most of the time, so I went to bed.”
Bob dozed off in his chair toward the end, but saw the replays. Ever the good sport, all he said is: “I believe all these officials make some bad calls, but I’m not saying this was a bad call. I don’t think that Middlebrooks did it intentionally. It just happened.”
The details the couple remembers about past games, with an assist or two from their son, are remarkable. In 1946, it was the Cards winning in seven games, with “Teddy” — as Jean calls Ted Williams — and the iconic moment that resulted in the Johnny Pesky question. Did Pesky hesitate before throwing to home, thus losing the Series, or not?
Nearly seven decades later, diehard fans still debate the Pesky question. “It’s hard to say,” said Bob. “It’s such an instantaneous thing, you know? I never blame any of them. Things happen.”
He talks about the Sox with respect, even reverence. Don’t let anyone say that Ted Williams was off his game in the ’46 Series. “In that particular Series, things didn’t matriculate well for him,” is all Bob said.
Jean said Williams was “a strange guy who was not very friendly, who didn’t do interviews.” But watching him play was magical: “He was 6-foot-4 and really galloped around those bases. It was really quite exciting.”
For the 1967 World Series, the family patriarch, who spent his career at New England Telephone, did not have a ticket, but managed to get himself into a game at Fenway.
“There was a telephone garage right by Fenway Park at the time,” Bob said. “I had my tool box, and I said to the guy at the gate, ‘Telephone man here.’ The guy let me in, and I wound up in the Red Sox dressing room while the guys were getting dressed.”
That was the game, he said, when “Bob Gibson was throwing peas.”
“A fast ball, so fast you can’t see them. They look like peas.”
At the time, there were no Green Monster seats, of course, and no advertisements in the ballpark. Bob stood up in the back of the stands, sitting on his tool box when he tired. The Red Sox were called “The Impossible Dream” team, because it was their first winning season since 1958.
It was also the year, Bob said, that Carl Yastrzemski earned the Triple Crown: He led the American League in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in.
At the Series, Cy Young ace Jim Lonborg pitched. “They called him Gentleman Jim,” said Jean.
“He’s a local guy, a dentist now,” said Bob.
The Cardinals won that World Series in seven games.
In addition to good health and longevity, the Hannons have been blessed with a third crucial factor in their Red Sox outings: “Our favorite son-in-law, Big Mike,” said Jean.
That would be Mike Quinn, who is married to their daughter Jane. The couple lives in Bridgewater, N.H., and Quinn has long had Red Sox season tickets, which he shares with his favorite — and only — in-laws, Bob and Jean.
Because of him, the Hannons were at one of the playoff games against Detroit in early October, and they saw the Sox beat the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series. On one vacation, the couple did a baseball stadium tour: to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit, St. Louis, New York, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. They had tickets to the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park.
During this month’s pennant race, when they sat in Fenway Park, the message board lit up: “Congratulations to Bob and Jean Hannon, who had their first date at the 1946 World Series!” When the couple married in 1951, they honeymooned in Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For the 2004 World Series against the Cardinals, their son-in-law’s seats went to Bob and Jean for two games. But when the series was 3-0 Boston, Quinn was on a mission. He had promised his father-in-law that he would be at the game when the Sox won a World Series.
“We need to go to St. Louis tomorrow,” Quinn told the younger Bob Hannon.
So the three of them — Quinn, the then 82-year-old Hannon, and his son Bob — flew to St. Louis with no tickets, no hotel, no rental car.
“People laughed at us,” said the son. “They said, ‘You’re going to see the Red Sox? Good luck.’ ”
They arrived at 3 p.m. on game day. From the airport, they started working the phones and managed to find a hotel room. They got a rental car, too, and drove straight from the airport to Busch Stadium.
“Big Mike might have greased a few palms along the way,” said the younger Bob, smiling.
“Money talks!” said his dad.
In the stadium parking lot, they paid scalpers $300 each for three tickets that had an individual face value of $150. It was worth every penny, to hear them tell it.
“Johnny Damon, the second pitch of the ballgame, got a lead-off home run,” said the elder Bob. “Trot Nixon got three hits in that game. I think Manny was the MVP of the series.” (He’s correct.)
They were seated among St. Louis fans who congratulated them on the win. So Bob wrote a letter to the Cardinals’ management, telling him how nice the fans were.
Jean proudly shows the letter he got back from a Cardinals’ vice president, congratulating the Sox and adding: “Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to host you next year during the 2005 World Series.”
Well, it took nine years, but the opportunity has arrived. Bob and Jean Hannon are ready. They have high hopes for their favorite team and favorite players, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.
“Pedroia, he does everything, and he gets his uniform dirty,” said Bob.
If it goes to Game 6, the Hannons will be there at Fenway Park, in their seats along the third-base line.
“I’m very confident the Sox will get there,” Bob said.
“The Cardinals have a pretty good kid named Wacha,” he continued, referring to 22-year-old pitcher Michael Wacha. “But don’t forget. We’ve still got Lester and Lackey and they both pitch well.”
Controversial call or not, Bob Hannon, who has cheered on the Red Sox for more than eight decades, is philosophical about it all: “It’s good to be alive to see all this.”