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dan shaughnessy

A look at Patriots popularity, then and now, and other thoughts

Gillette Stadium is always packed with fans on game day. And if you want season tickets? Get in line.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Picked-up pieces while wondering why Red Sox fans still root against the Yankees when the Yankees are playing the Rays and Blue Jays — teams the Sox need to leapfrog to get a wild-card spot …

▪ Two unrelated correspondences this past week made me appreciate just how big the Patriots are in today’s New England sports market.

A friend forwarded an e-mail that had been sent from “Patriots Members Services” regarding how long it might take to move up on the team’s season-ticket wait list:

“Our records indicate that you joined the List in April of 2016. To give you a point of reference, waitlist Members who joined the Patriots Season Ticket Waitlist as late as December of 2003 were offered season tickets prior to the start of the 2022 season.”


Wow. Nineteen years to clear the wait list. That’s a very long wait. That’s a lot of demand for the product.

On the day I read these amazing numbers, I had a conversation with Pat Sullivan, former general manager of the Patriots and son of the late Billy Sullivan, who invented the Patriots when he cobbled together $25,000 and was awarded the eighth and final franchise in the upstart American Football League in November of 1959.

“I was clearing out stuff in our family home in West Newton,” said Sullivan. “And I found a telegram my father got from John F. Kennedy before our first home preseason game against the Dallas Texans in August of 1960.”

The soon-to-be-president-elect wrote:

“I join with thousands of spectators who will cheer the Patriots Sunday when you open the football season at Harvard Stadium. While another engagement prevents me from attending I look forward to enjoying a game from the stands before your season ends. You have my best wishes for a winning season and many years of success as the New England representative in your league. (signed) John F. Kennedy.”


While another engagement prevents me from attending.

Love that part.

courtesy Patrick Sullivan

In August of 1960, Senator Kennedy was running for president against Vice President Richard M. Nixon. On Sunday, Aug. 14, JFK was in Hyde Park, N.Y., making amends with Eleanor Roosevelt (FDR’s widow had supported Adlai Stevenson for the Democratic nomination) while Hank Stram’s Dallas Texans defeated Lou Saban’s Boston Patriots, 24-14, at Harvard Stadium. A week later, the Patriots beat the Bills in another exhibition game at Holy Cross.

The Patriots and Texans drew 11,050 for that first home preseason game. There was no local sports talk radio, no Channel 4 “All Access,” no “Madden NFL,” no DraftKings, no Scott Zolak screaming in the booth, no twin Patriot Boeing 767 aircraft, and Saban did not say, “We’re on to Worcester,” after the loss.

Oh, and there was no waiting list for season tickets.

The 1960 Patriots drew 21,597 for their regular-season opener at Boston University against the Denver Broncos. As late as 1992, they drew 19,429 for a game at Foxboro Stadium against the Colts.

Who knew what this would become?

▪ Quiz: Name six pitchers who won the Cy Young Award in both leagues (answer below).

▪ The 20th WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon returns to Fenway Park next Tuesday and Wednesday when the Sox are home against the Blue Jays. The 36-hour fund-raiser is the highlight of every Sox summer and has raised $62 million over the last two decades.


▪ Is it possible that the 2022 Red Sox are going to finish in last place and exceed the luxury-tax threshold? Has this ever been done? If Chaim Bloom achieves this double embarrassment, perhaps it merits a laundry-cart ride in the baseball ops offices on Jersey Street.

Folks need to stop saying that Bloom ran the show in Tampa before he came to Boston. Bloom was never the top guy for the Rays. He’s learning on the job here in Boston.

▪ Imagine the once-thunderous Boston Red Sox featuring an everyday cleanup hitter (Alex Verdugo) who has seven home runs in the third week of August.

▪ I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see if the Baltimore Ravens beat Arizona in preseason football Sunday night. The Ravens are 21-0 in preseason games going back to 2016. John Harbaugh must really care about these things.

▪ Now that he has tested positive for steroids, Fernando Tatis Jr. is not necessarily DQ’d from the Hall of Fame years from now. You never know when baseball commissioner Rob Manfred might issue another presidential pardon, reminding everyone to not necessarily believe the reliability of MLB’s testing.

▪ Speaking of Manfred, he is no doubt aware that his lofty job was created in the wake of the 1919 scandal when some members of the White Sox got into a partnership with gamblers and threw the World Series. Gambling threatened to kill baseball at that time, so a commissioner (Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis) was brought in to clean up the sport.


More than a century later, today’s commissioner has embraced gambling with enthusiasm, recently stating, “In-game betting, so-called prop betting, is going to be the growth area. And most of that betting is going to take place on mobile devices.” Whee! Pete Rose, come on down!

▪ Albert Pujols passed Stan Musial for second place on the all-time list for total bases. The career leader is Hank Aaron with 6,856. Pujols is at 6,143.

It’s an underrated baseball stat. When Jim Rice gathered 406 total bases in his MVP season of 1978, it was the first time any batter had cracked 400 since Aaron in 1959. Rice was the first American Leaguer to get 400 since Joe DiMaggio (418) in 1937.

Nobody got to 400 after Rice until Larry Walker (409) in 1997.

Albert Pujols is congratulated in the Cardinals dugout after hitting a grand slam Thursday.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty

▪ When I asked Alex Cora if he has the same freedom to make managerial decisions that he had here in 2018 under Dave Dombrowski, he answered, “100 percent.”

▪ Franchy Cordero wore a construction hard hat as he watched from the dugout when the Worcester Red Sox beat the Rochester Red Wings at spectacular Polar Park Wednesday afternoon.

▪ Sixty-five former Mets players and managers are expected at Citi Field for Old Timers Day Aug. 27. That includes Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Ron Swoboda, Cleon Jones, Mookie Wilson, Pedro Martinez, Pat Mahomes, and the one and only Bobby Valentine.


▪ Maybe we should roll back expectations for the retiring Serena Williams at the US Open. Williams was smoked, 6-4, 6-0, by Emma Raducanu in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, Tuesday. At this juncture, the great Serena is Willie Mays circa 1973 with the Mets.

▪ How much does MLB fear the almighty NFL? None of this year’s (potential) seven World Series games will be played on a Sunday.

▪ NHL iron men: Boston-born Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle, who may be headed for retirement this offseason, holds the NHL record with 989 consecutive games played. Would you believe that free agent Phil Kessel, a Bruins rookie in 2006, is the NHL’s second all-time iron man with an active streak of 982 games?

▪ The death of 90-year-old Togo Palazzi hit the Holy Cross community hard last weekend. Along with Tommy Heinsohn and Ron Perry Sr., Togo was part of HC’s 1954 NIT championship team. Red Auerbach drafted Palazzi in ‘54 and Togo played six NBA seasons before moving on to a lifetime of coaching young people.

Jim Nairus, a 6-10 four-year player at Holy Cross, now an orthopedic surgeon at New England Baptist Hospital, was in Alaska when Palazzi died and wrote, “He was like a father to me and he has tried to motivate my high school son to be a better basketball player. Saying goodbye to Togo was the saddest moment in my life since my mother died. The last thing he told me was to remind my son that the key to his basketball success was rebounding. Togo was a coach right up to the end.”

▪ Congrats to coach Jim Kavanagh, who has stepped down after coaching Holy Cross track and field for 52 years, 46 as head coach.

▪ Eighty-four-year-old Jim Hennessey is retiring after umpiring Little League, high school, and adult softball games in Brookline for 63 consecutive seasons. He’ll be making his last call at Brookline Avenue Park later this month. He’s estimated to have worked more than 7,000 games.

▪ The 28th Oldtime Baseball Game will be played at St. Peter’s Field in Cambridge at 7 p.m. Monday. Dennis Eckersley and Lou Merloni will be on hand to honor the late Jim Corsi, and all donations go to the Jimmy Fund. Admission is free.

▪ Quiz answer: Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay, Max Scherzer.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.