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Separating trash from sports treasure is a chore

Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy struggles with decluttering his home office which consists of nearly 40 years worth of sports memorabilia which include a wide range of items such as audio and video tapes, books, media guides and press credentials.
Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy struggles with decluttering his home office which consists of nearly 40 years worth of sports memorabilia which include a wide range of items such as audio and video tapes, books, media guides and press credentials.

I am overwhelmed by stuff. I've been a sports fan for more than a half-century, and a professional sportswriter for 40 years. I look around my home office and see book posters, press passes, boxes of old newspapers, and stacks of media guides from, BC, BU, Harvard, and Holy Cross. I am drowning in a sea of C's, B's, Sox, and Pats publications. I am the Hub Hardball History's episode of "Hoarders.''

It's difficult to throw stuff away.

But I'm trying.

The New York Times last week stated that household decluttering has become a national obsession. A book entitled "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up'' has lived on the bestseller list, so I spent a couple of vacation days trying to comply. My neighborhood's trash/recycling day is Thursday, and I've pledged to place overfilled bins and barrels on the curb. This is not easy when you've spent more than 40 years covering sports for newspapers.

How to best proceed with this triage of trivia, trinkets, and tradition?

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Dan Shaughnessy’s home office is an occupational shrine to local sports teams and athletes.
Dan Shaughnessy’s home office is an occupational shrine to local sports teams and athletes.Photo courtesy Dan Shaughnessy

I could start by tossing dozens of Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins media guides, some of which date to the 1970s. Many professional teams don't even print these any more. All of the information is online now. Everything is in the cloud, right? That's why decluttering is a national obsession. Folks say pretty soon we won't even need libraries anymore. So why do I cling to a 1979-80 Celtics media guide that features rookie Larry Bird and new acquisition M. L. Carr on its cover?

Because it's Larry's rookie year! How am I supposed to put that out on the curb? These old media guides are gold, Jerry. You just never know when you're going to need a thumbnail sketch of Craig Janney, Tony Eason, Wayne Kreklow, or Calvin Schiraldi.

Maybe someone can explain why I'm holding onto all these boxes of VHS cassettes. I don't have a machine that plays them anymore and I doubt I could find one at Tweeter or Circuit City (yeah, yeah, out of business. I know). Still, how can I let go of "Banner Years — The Official History of the Boston Garden" or a clunky black cartridge that documents Bob Lobel interviewing Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, and Bird on "Sports Final"?

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Keeping the audio cassettes seems even more stupid. Who plays cassette tapes anymore? But I look at the labels ("Mo Vaughn tirade") and I know what's on there and it's hard to throw history in the trash. Leigh Montville actually borrowed some of my taped Ted Williams interviews when he was researching his book on Ted. I cling to the notion that someday a baseball historian may rejoice when he discovers a tape of me talking to Wade and Debbie Boggs poolside at the Winter Haven Holiday Inn in 1989, but deep down, I know that I'm kidding myself. The world doesn't need an old audio of Mo dropping a fusillade of F-bombs on my head back in 1998. Same goes for the recording of a guy doing Lou Gorman imitations on Eddie Andelman's show. Then again, I still regret taping over an hourlong Mickey Mantle interview at the Ritz Hotel in 1994. Maybe I should keep the tapes.

My press pass from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final stays. I carried that to Vancouver and back three times in two weeks and the Bruins won the Cup for the first time in 39 years. I'll toss the laminated pass from the 2013 Cup Final, even though it doesn't do much to fill the bin.

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A lot of the old newspapers have got to go. I've been able to part with stacks of Globes from October 28, 2004 — the day after the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. The "YES!!!" front page adorns a number of dens and barrooms across New England and it's all in the cloud and I figure it's OK if I just have one copy. My yellowed newspapers from 1967 represent something else. I've got the Globe, the Herald-Traveler, and the Record-American from the day after the Red Sox won the pennant on the last day of the season. These papers are dusty and brittle. No doubt they exist in the cloud. But I bought them at Dixon's Drug Store when I was a freshman in high school. That was a life-changing season for the Red Sox. And me. They don't take up that much space. Minimalism is overrated.

What about all these sports books . . .

I put a box of 'em on the curb every few months for a guy who brings them to a local veterans center, but I still have hundreds of neatly organized sports tomes (the baseball biographies are in alphabetical order). I'm probably the only guy with a copy of Mike Felger's "Tales From the Patriots Sideline" and a signed copy of George Will's "Bunts." Nothing could make me part with Red Auerbach's 25-cent paperback, "Basketball for the Player, the Fan and the Coach'', which Red gave me when I visited his Washington D.C. home in 1995.

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On and on it goes. Decisions need to be made. Thursday waits. The bins aren't even half full. And my sacred sports stuff mocks me.


Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.