Used a Rolodex lately?
Didn’t think so. For the benefit of young folks, a Rolodex is a plastic wheel loaded with alphabetized cards that store phone numbers of people you may need to contact. Watch “Mad Men.’’ Don Draper’s secretary always flips through her Rolodex after Don asks her to reach a client.
I’m not a Rolodex guy, but I still travel with a black leather “At-A-Glance” address and telephone book that I pull out of my work bag every time I need to call Curt Schilling or Jonathan Kraft. It is at this moment that some wiseguy usually asks me if I’m about to dial Austin Powers or Marty McFly. We know that everybody now stores contact information in their phones. Almost everybody, that is.
I was clutching my beloved address book while sitting in the palatial offices of the Globe sports department recently when one of my bosses trumped me in a big way.
“Wait until you get a load of this,’’ he said, as he pivoted in his chair, reached to a shelf behind where he was sitting, and hoisted a metal cabinet drawer that was stocked with about 500 weathered index cards. “This is the old Globe sports directory,’’ he said. “One of the secretaries gave it to me when she retired and I’ve never been able to throw it away.’’
Amen. Why would anybody toss this piece of history? The heavy, clunky cabinet starts with Weston Adams Jr. (former Bruins owner) and takes you all the way to the late Don Zimmer. It is an archaeological dig of 20th century Boston sports.
God bless those who assembled this thing. We can see the work of dozens of reporters through decades of sports seasons. I see the fingerprints of Will McDonough, Jerry Nason, Ray Fitzgerald, Ernie Roberts, and Fran Rosa all over this thing.
It was probably started by the late Peg Carson, who worked at the Globe from 1949-81 and served as executive secretary to multiple sports editors.
According to Dave Smith, sports editor at the Globe from 1970-78, “There was a point in time when I tried to get everybody to share their contact numbers. To some degree, it was a battle. Will McDonough had more contacts than anybody and he was fairly private with them. We just tried to consolidate as many of the key contact numbers as possible so they would be available for anybody any time they needed them.’’
“That box of numbers must have been handed down from the chain of secretaries we had there,’’ said Vince Doria, who succeeded Smith at the Globe in 1978 and recently retired after a long career at ESPN. “I’m pretty sure [former Globe reporter] Neil Singelais had something to do with it. He was in the office a lot and if we needed to find someone, Neil would find him. Stan Musial? No problem. Neil would be on Stan Musial like a bad coat.’’
Pausing for a moment, Doria asked, “How many of those guys in that thing are still alive?”
Some. A lot of them are gone.
George Allen, Mel Allen, Lyle Alzado, Sparky Anderson, Houston Antwine, Gene Autry, Ace Bailey, Jim “Bad News” Barnes, Mark Belanger, Joe Black, George Blanda, Manute Bol, Bob Brannum, Herb Brooks, Jerry Buss, and Walter Byers are all gone. And that’s just from the A’s and B’s.
Muhammad Ali is still with us. I tried calling the Los Angeles phone number we have on file for the champ. Alas, a recording at the other end explained that “the person you called has a voice mail box that has not been set up yet.’’ Hmmmm. Probably won’t be happening soon. Our Ali index card also noted — “possibly can be reached through his personal friend, Howard Bingham, also his agent.’’
Boxing was big with the Globe back in the day. We also have cards for Joe Frazier and Floyd Patterson. Also both dead.
The Globe has old phone numbers for Wilt Chamberlain, Red Grange . . . and Red Auerbach. Our Auerbach index card has six phone numbers, including one from the Woodmont Country Club golf shop in Rockville, Md., where Red played cards every day during the summer.
Our Larry Bird index card has eight phone numbers, including a number for Larry’s mom, Georgia, and the number of the Springs Valley Herald, a weekly paper that covered Larry when he was young. We also have the number for the closest hospital for Bird’s Indiana home.
Don Cherry’s card identifies him as “former Bruins coach, now Colorado Rockies Coach.’’ Cherry coached the Rockies in 1979-80. The Rockies today are the New Jersey Devils. And Cherry is a Canadian television institution. We have no updated number for “Grapes.”
We had contact numbers for Tony Conigliaro, Chuck Connors (“also, the Rifleman,’’ it reads) and Howard Cosell. We have a card for Joe DiMaggio, who evidently lived at 2150 Beach Street in San Francisco. Our Patrick Ewing index card has the star’s Cambridge phone number and explains that Patrick’s mother, Dorothy, works in the dietary department at Mass General Hospital.
We had cards for Bob Feller and Sherm Feller. Archie Griffin and Calvin Griffith. All the important H's: Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Sam Huff, and Bruce Hurst. Our Jerry Kapstein card identifies him as “agent for Fisk and several other Red Sox players.’’ The Robert Kraft card has no mention of the Patriots, but explains that Kraft was “former owner of Boston Lobsters’’. It includes Kraft’s phone numbers at “international Forest Products Corp.’’ In case you need some information on corrugated cardboard.
I tried the Willie Mays number. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I got a voicemail from a guy named “Rob.’’ I did not leave a message.
Our index card for former Red Sox hurler Roger Moret had only one phone number: a drug rehabilitation center in Ponce, Puerto Rico. We have two numbers for the late Joe Paterno. Joe Pa’s office extension is no longer working.
Our “R” section is classic. Brooks and Frank Robinson. Mary Lou Retton. Pete Rose. And Ruiz, Rose who is identified as “marathon fraud — 1980.’’ We have Rosie’s New York City home phone and a couple of New Jersey numbers for a man from the New York Athletic club “who serves as Rosie’s mouthpiece.’’
Harry Sinden’s ancient home phone number from our vault is the same one that works today. Ditto for Brookline based sports agent Ed Kleven. But those are rare. Let’s remember that cellphones hadn’t been invented when this treasure was assembled.
Our Williams file is voluminous: Buck Williams, Dick Williams, Edward Bennett Williams, Hot Rod Williams, Pat Williams, Ray-Ray Williams, Sly Williams, Tommy Williams, and Ted Williams, who is modestly identified as “former Red Sox great’’ (in case you didn’t know). The Ted file includes “Sears office in Chicago — ask for Mr. Morris — 312-875-6750.’’
When you dial that old number, you hear, “The number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service.’’
Just like our ancient metal file drawer.Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.